Category: Premium Enthusiast Compact Camera
Conclusion - Pros
- Very good JPEG image quality in 6MP capture modes
- EXR sensor technology provides impressive dynamic range and noise performance
- Fast, very sharp zoom lens with an f/2.0-2.8 aperture
- Image stabilization that offers roughly a 3 stop advantage
- Extensive manual control points including a mode dial and two Fn buttons
- Good range of image quality parameters
- Excellent in-camera raw conversion
- Good handling
- Bright optical viewfinder
- Robust build quality
- Accurate AF system
Conclusion - Cons
- Image quality of 12MP JPEG files is lacking compared to peers with more conventional sensors
- Poor image quality of Raw files processed via the bundled (and other third party) software
- Live view is partially obscured by menu overlay
- Optical viewfinder placement means the lens barrel is visible at wide to medium focal lengths
- Very limited manual controls for video recording
- Visible artifacts in video capture
- No manual focus in video mode
- Large footprint compared to competition
- Poor battery life
- Non-standard lens filter threads
The Fujifilm X10 is an attractive camera - in a literal sense - for photographers who prize 'old school' camera design. It also holds great appeal for those who crave external, versus menu-driven manual control. And the robust, confidence-inspiring build quality stands out among its (admittedly less expensive) peers. Most importantly though, the X10 is an enjoyable camera to use in the field that can consistently deliver good-looking images with a minimum of fuss.
The X10's contrast-detect AF system is (not surprisingly) almost unfailingly accurate when it locks focus. And the time it takes to do this is on par with its competitors. Yet, for a camera with such unabashed enthusiast-oriented aspirations (not to mention steep price point) we can't help but wish for faster AF performance that rose above, rather than simply matched, its peers.
The X10 is first and foremost, a stills-oriented camera in both design and function, with a video implementation that feels very much like an afterthought. There is no direct record button (a standard feature on even entry-level compact cameras), no manual focus option and zero exposure control save for the exposure compensation dial. Once you iniate recording you have to simply hope for the best. And the resulting video files are average at best, with visible stairstepping artifacts.
For users who desire pocketability, the X10 - though comfortably small in the hand - will be less attractive than the genuinely compact Canon PowerShot S100, for instance, but the trade-off is worth it in our opinion for the X10's fast 28-112 (equiv.) zoom lens which can be shot at f/2.8 at its long end. The X10 has an optical glass viewfinder that is brighter and more pleasing to look through than those found on either the Nikon Coolpix P7100 or Canon PowerShot G12, and also has a hotshoe to which you can attach one of Fujifilm's flash units.
The X10, as we've come to expect from Fujifilm's X-series lineup, delivers satisfying images with very nice colors, pleasingly accurate white balance (in most conditions - there is a tendency for overcast shots to look a bit purple) and well-judged exposures. You've also got a comprehensive amount of control over image settings like, sharpness, noise reduction, color and contrast controls. Add to this the well-chosen selection of film simulation modes and you've got no shortage of options for tweaking camera output to taste.
The X10's EXR sensor-enabled implementation of both dynamic range expansion and noise reduction is clever and effective, although the implementation of DR mode is confusing at first. We wish Fujifilm were more forthcoming with documentation of these features, but for all intents and purposes they do what they're intended to do impressively well. The ability to tune the camera on the fly for greater dynamic range or lower noise using the DR and SN EXR modes is, to us, well worth the trade-off in resolution (6MP vs. 12MP) output that can come with their use.
We appreciate in-camera Raw conversion in any camera, but with the X10, this control is absolutely crucial. Why? Because third party support for the X10's raw files is far from universal among the more popular raw converters on the market. And even worse, among the raw converters that do support the EXR sensor, the results are disappointing.
The inevitable downside to a non-standard sensor design is that it requires a different set of demosaicing algorithms for optimum results. In the raw converters we've used - including the SilkyPix version that ships with the camera - image resolution and fine detail are significantly worse than the X10's in-camera JPEGs. The converted Raw files appear very soft and are clearly not displaying the best image quality the sensor can produce. You can see this for yourself on both the Raw mode and studio comparison pages of this review. As it stands, you get significantly better image quality in terms of sharpness and resolution from processing Raw files in-camera than you do with external software.
As far as video image quality is concerned, the X10's video quality is mediocre at best. While the camera does provide 1080/30p output, the resulting video clips are less sharp than we'd like and stairstepping artifacts are very apparent. The files are usable though, and it feels a little unfair to hammer the X10 for its video performance given that Fujifilm is clearly not pitching it as a tool for video enthusiasts..
The X10 features a reassuringly solid magnesium alloy body, metal camera strap lugs, a textured hand grip that evokes the vulcanite grips of old and a mechanical zoom ring that is silky smooth throughout its range. It is by no means a pocketable camera; its fast f2.0-2.8 lens and viewfinder add too much bulk for that. Yet the X10 fits nicely in hand and sports comfortably sized buttons that are sensibly positioned for use with your hand in the shooting position. In the simplest terms, it feels like a 'proper' camera.
We're a bit disappointed that Fujifilm's obvious attention to aesthetics and function appeared to stop at the camera's menu system. Much like the FinePix 100, the menu system on the X10 feels outdated. And the needless scrolling required to move through all of its options is rather inefficient. We much prefer the newer design found in the company's X-Pro1. This complaint does little to dim our enthusiasm for daily operation and handling of the camera though, since a wealth of external control points, including two (with firmware version 1.3 and higher) customizeable function buttons means that you shouldn't need to spend too long diving into the menu system.
The Final Word
Fujifilm makes no bones about the intended user base for the X10. If its high price doesn't scare off point and shooters, its massive array of dials and buttons will likely do the trick. Yet for those who desire quick and easy access to shooting modes and exposure parameters, the X10 offers a degree of manual control that rivals many entry-level DSLRs.
While the X10 is not without a few oddities and questionable feature implementations - it is a Fujifilm camera after all - it is largely free of the types of behavior that plagued its big brother, the FinePix X100 upon its release. The question for anyone still on the fence about the X10 really comes down to priorities. If you're looking for a truly pocketable large-sensor compact, you may be better served by considering the surprisingly small Sony DSC-RX100. If you're set on a nearly APS-C sized sensor in a reasonably compact form factor, then the Canon PowerShot G1 X is very tempting.
Yet the Fujifilm X10 can make a compelling case in its own right. It offers good image quality with a wide range of processing options, a fast zoom whose CA is very well-controlled, an impressively solid build quality and the types of external controls that will make any DSLR user feel at home when using the X10 as a second camera. The lack of sensible Raw support, even from Fujifilm itself, is frustrating, but ultimately we must give credit to a company that so aggressively challenges the status quo with new sensor technology.
Speaking of sensor technology, we're very glad to find that the X10's much-publicised 'white orbs' issue has been solved by a hardware fix. Our replacement unit with the modified sensor now behaves as expected. Unfortunately though, although Fujifilm will replace any units which have the problem, we've received no definitive answer from Fujifilm on how consumers can determine whether that X10 sitting on a camera store shelf or purchased online has the original or updated sensor.
We enjoyed shooting with the X10 and were able to consistently come away with pleasing images with a minimum of fuss, while always having access to the settings we wanted. All this in a camera that is small and light enough to carry around comfortably all day long. The X10 offers much to like for those who are willing to sacrifice pocketability for external controls. As such, it easily earns our Silver award.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Ergonomics & handling
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Movie / video mode
Users who want external controls. Those who often shoot in high contrast conditions.
Not so good for
Users who want a pocketable camera. Those who plan to regularly shoot video.
The Fujifilm X10 combines retro-styled attractiveness with excellent build quality, a fast zoom lens and all the external controls you could want in a compact camera. The camera's EXR sensor technology allows for impressive dynamic range and in combination with the X10's relatively large sensor allows for very good high ISO performance.
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 preview
- Canon PowerShot G1 X review
- Article: Fujifilm X10 'Orbs' Investigated
- Canon PowerShot S100 review
- Buyer's Guide: Enthusiast Raw-shooting Compact Cameras
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 review
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