Fujifilm's X10 compact camera is a more affordable, more compact version of Fuji’s Leica copying X100 offers similarly gorgeous styling
Want a camera that makes heads turn and your own heart beat faster? Fuji follows up its well-received Fujifim X100, essentially a cheaper but no less gorgeously designed version of the £1400 Leica X1, with a new more consumer orientated compact in the 12 megapixel X10. Although less pricey than its literally bigger brother, it’s not obvious any corners have been cut. The X10 feels rock solid gripped in the palm and again there’s blast-from-the-past retro styling that makes it resemble a classic 35mm film camera. In others words it’s the X100 Junior.
Though the size is near identical to compact system cameras on which the lens can be changed, the bright f/2.0 maximum aperture lens on the X10 cannot. Instead of the fixed focal length of the X100, however, here Fuji is broadening the remit with a still modest 4x optical zoom, equivalent to 28-112mm on a 35mm film camera, so wider than the X100’s exact 35mm equivalent lens. Here the lens is stabilized to counterbalance hand wobble and lessen blurring.
But the X10 is not really about how big the zoom is, or isn’t, but rather how large the sensor. A bigger sensor equals better light gathering, equals better quality images.
The X10’s sensor at 2/3-inch is twice the size of the chip at the heart of its premium compacts, such as the F600 EXR, though smaller than the DSLR-sized sensor in the X100. So once again we’re being offered a camera with greater potential than your average compact, if falling slightly short of the kind of spec offered by an actual digital SLR.
Fujifilm X10: Controls (ease of use)
Although offering slightly different proportions to the X100, the X10’s control layout is largely the same. Again ‘inspiration’ has been taken from photo junkie’s favourite brand Leica with a rangefinder-like array of top plate dials. While there’s no dedicated dial for adjusting shutter speed as found on the X100 however, there is instead a separate five pence piece sized shooting mode dial crammed with 11 options that will be more familiar to snapshot camera users.
These range from program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual to Fuji’s EXR picture mode. The latter is a feature of compacts such as the F600 and uniquely allows the sensor to be utilized in three separate ways, with a choice of High Resolution, High Dynamic Range or low noise and high sensitivity settings. Alternatively there’s a default auto EXR setting if you cannot decide which of the three is best suited to a given situation.
If that sounds unnecessary, then further smart auto, 360° panorama, scene modes, movie mode and two custom settings follow as you work your way around the ridged dial. Put simply there’s the choice of those who want to taking full control or those who don’t merely pointing and shooting.
The other dial on the top plate is like the X100 one for adjusting exposure, with the ability to lighten or darken an image incrementally by twisting it to a modest +/- 2EV.
The other feature worth noting up top is an accessory shoe for adding a flashgun, with a small pop-up flash sunk unobtrusively into the top plate, and an array of small-ish backplate controls that bring to mind a mix of those usually found on a digital SLR and those found on a compact. Hence as well as a multi-directional command dial with central ‘menu/OK’ button, display and playback buttons, there is a joint auto exposure lock and auto focus lock button and dedicated white balance and even Raw capture control. Not many compacts offer the latter feature, though we would expect the ability to shoot uncompressed, unprocessed files on a camera circa £500 and built as much with the enthusiast in mind as the consumer.
Fujifilm X10: Screen
One of the Fuji’s most impressive features is the purist pleasing large and bright optical viewfinder that actually prevents the need to rely purely on the LCD screen, that that in itself more than does the job with a 460k dot resolution spread over 2.8-inches.
As a result of having an alternative viewer, there’s the opportunity to fill the back screen with the kind of shooting information digital SLRs (DSLRs) used to provide before the advent of Live View, such as here a 49-zone metering matrix. Or alternatively you can of course utilize the LCD to relay the subject before the lens as any other compact would provide. We don’t get the ability to deploy an electronic viewfinder as well though, as was additionally provided on the X100.
Fujifilm X10: Speed and performance
It’s worth noting that the X10, while marginally more approachable than the X100, is still too chunky to fit in a pocket and it’s not the easiest to initially get to grips with. A slight curveball is thrown from the off in that there’s no obvious on/off button.
Instead the camera is activated with a twist of the lens to the left, with focal range settings from 28mm to 112mm marked on the lens surround. Though the camera is slow to get going on initially powering up, with subsequent twists we were up and running in just over a second.
Busier scenes and low light did find the auto focus struggling to pin point a subject, though a second half press of the shutter release button helped it along. On pressing down fully to take the shot, the camera is prompted to make what can only be described as a spitting noise as the shutter fires. A full resolution Fine, Large JPEG is committed to memory in 2-3 seconds. Incredibly opting to shoot an optimum quality unprocessed Raw file didn’t slow the camera down at all.
For action shooters there’s the ability to capture up to 10 frames per second, or seven if you want to maintain a Large file size.
Fujifilm X10: Battery
A wafer-like NP-50 lithium ion battery slots into the base of what could be loosely described as the X10’s handgrip, although it has a rather flattened profile. The battery takes 150 minutes to fully charge via the supplied mains adapter and provided plug attachment, with around 270 shots captured before the battery gives up the ghost.
Fujifilm X10: Pictures and video
This being a Fuji camera there’s a nod back to the brand’s film heritage with user selectable film simulation modes, providing another ‘USP’ in addition to that EXR sensor. Our preferred look is always the colour boosting Velvia option on drab days, though the standard Provia setting provides the default option and delivers a marginally more naturalistic result.
Thanks in part to the constantly bright aperture offered by the camera, and zooming in on close up subjects, we were able to achieve some lovely DSLR-like blurring of the background while our foreground or middle ground subject remained sharp. Thus we were able to achieve some more ‘professional looking’ results with minimal effort.
For low light shooting without flash, the X10 offers the ability to manually choose settings between ISO100 and a practically see-in-the-dark ISO12800 with a multitude of steps in between. Unsurprisingly at maximum ISO, detail is soft at the edges and there’s a fine dusting of grain, but it’s no worse than cheaper models can muster at the much less challenging ISO1600 setting. However at one setting back, ISO6400, pictures are remarkably clean and although noise is there the setting is very usable. In fairness this is partly because resolution is steadily decreased after ISO3200 to further limit fuzziness.
Though there’s no dedicated video record button here – instead the shooting dial needs to be turned to that setting and the shutter release button pressed as if you were otherwise taking a still – videographers will relish being able to shoot 1920x180 pixels HD video with stereo sound and at a frame rate of 30 fps. What’s more, because operating the zoom is a manual process – you simply twist the lens barrel to zoom in or out – the full extent of the optical range can be utilised. Auto focus is also fairly swift to catch up with any framing adjustments, sharpness being achieved a mere moment later.
Fujifilm X10: Verdict
There will undoubtedly be some wondering why Fuji didn’t go the whole hog and allow the lens to be swapped on the X10 too, especially as this camera’s build quality and feature set will appeal to a similar market. Our spies tell us that such a camera is due to be announced at the CES trade show in January next year. In the meantime, for those who have been loving the look of the £999 X100 but hating the price, the X10’s cost is an almost reasonable £529. This camera might still be a little quirky and a little fussy for mass market uptake, but it is good to see Fuji continuing to aim higher than its usual stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap offerings and it bodes well for the future.
Fujifilm X10 availability: Out now
Fujifilm X10 price: £529