Ever since it was announced back in August, the Fujifilm X10 has been on every photographer’s radar. Upon first glance, the camera woos the vintage crowd with architecture that rivals an old Yashika film SLR. On the inside, the X10 is a manual control dynamo with plenty of advanced features to keep the semi-professional crowd happy. The camera has 1080/30p HD video to satiate the digital videographers as well. Fujifilm also went with a brand new 2/3-size EXR CMOS sensor, which I found to be quite a viable competitor when lobbed against those of the X10′s fellow contenders. But the most intriguing facet of the Fujifilm X10 is the fact that it’s a fixed lens model. That’s right folks, no interchangeable lenses here.

As a result, the Fujifilm X10 is still considered a point-and-shoot in a market that is transmogrifying at an alarming rate. Thanks to the Fujifilm X10 and Canon PowerShot G1 X, point-and-shoot cameras are being gifted larger sensors that challenge the Micro Four Thirds and DSLR crowds. Because of this, Micro Four Thirds cameras might be at risk, especially considering the fact that it’s far cheaper to buy an advanced fixed lens point-and-shoot model like the X10 than it is to invest in a niche lens family. Advanced photographers can have the best of both worlds with a model like the X10, as it’s the perfect portable companion to a humongous Canon EOS 1D X or Nikon D4. But is the Fujifilm X10 worth six Benjamins, or should we wait to see what gems will be uncovered in this flourishing fixed-lens point-and-shoot market? Read on to find out.

Fujifilm X10

Pros

  • Professional quality design, especially that manual zoom lens
  • Droves of advanced and pro features
  • Great overall still image quality
  • Nice optical viewfinder
  • Stellar Macro capabilities

Cons

  • The infamous “white orbs” sensor defect (on older models)
  • Non-rotating, fixed LCD
  • Sporadic “Card Error” glitch forced several camera restarts
  • Minimal battery life
  • Limited controls in Video mode

Ideal for: Advanced hobbyists, journalists, students and semi-pro photographers.

Find it at: http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_x10/

Suggested Retail Price: $599.99.

Fujifilm X10 Design

Fujifilm-X10-TopThe external design of the Fujifilm X10 will make any true photographer swoon. It’s a blatant throwback to the beloved film SLRs of yesteryear, featuring that classic textured grip material along the front and rear of the body. A formed, rubberized thumb grip rests along the back while a hot shoe and popup flash reside along the top of the camera. One of the most useful features on the Fujifilm X10 is its high quality glass optical viewfinder, which puts the plastic excuse for a viewfinder on the Canon PowerShot G1 X to shame.

Buttons and dials abound on the X10. We get an Exposure Compensation dial, Function button, set of control dials and several shortcut buttons. In fact, the layout is very similar to Fujifilm Super Zoom and DSLR cameras. But the highlight of the Fujifilm X10′s design is the 4x optical manual zoom lens with a nice, bright f/2.0 base value. The camera also powers on via a twist of the lens, which is James Bond worthy. There’s a handy Focus mode switch right next to the X10′s lens, so when it came to optics, the X10 was better equipped than most in its class.

Unfortunately, the non-rotating, fixed LCD is rather limiting, especially when compared to the Canon PowerShot G1 X and its vari-angle LCD. Also, I noticed that the lens interferes with the viewfinder at wide angle, and the camera gave me an occasional “Card Error” glitch, which forced me to power off and back on again. Aside from that, the Fujifilm X10 has one of the best designs in its class. The thing is made in Japan, for crying out loud, which is somewhat of a rarity in the camera world these days.

Fujifilm X10 Features

Fujifilm-X10-EXRWhile the X10 excels with its quality external construction, the camera is packed with plenty of tricks on the inside as well. If you’re not familiar with Fujifilms, the company utilizes a form of technology called EXR. This is a sensor tweak that enables the camera to achieve superior levels of resolution, dynamic range and low light sensitivity. The X10′s EXR CMOS sensor will shoot two images, one at a high sensitivity and one at a low sensitivity, and blend them together to achieve a better dynamic range. Fujifilm uses “Pixel Fusion” technology, which blends pixels of the same color together, providing a better sensitivity, which is like pixel binning. Finally, to achieve a higher resolution, the sensor’s pixel arrangement is actually oriented at a 45-degree angle in order to improve horizontal and vertical resolution. In addition to individual EXR modes, there’s an EXR Auto mode that selects the best EXR mode for the immediate environment.

The Fujifilm X10 has a nice suite of manual controls, including an ISO range that tops out at 12,800, 30-second shutter speed and f/2.0-f/11 aperture range. The only downside about the ISO range was that anything past 3200 could only be captured at lower resolutions. The White Balance mode not only offered a great Manual adjustment and presets, but I could actually dictate the Kelvin temperature and make WB color shifts via sliders. I really liked the digital focal length meter and digital level meter, in conjunction with the light meter, and for the most part, controls were easy to access. Although I preferred the Canon PowerShot G1 X’s menus over the X10′s because the layout was more intuitive, the Fujifilm X10′s interface was an improvement over models I’ve seen in the past.

Although the Fujifilm X10 really doesn’t offer any fun digital filters or image effects like the ones present on the Canon PowerShot G1 X, Nikon Coolpix P7100 or Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, the camera has Film Simulation modes. These modes emulate classic Fujifilm SLR styles like Velvia (vivid) and Astia (soft). But there were several black and white modes with different color filters like Monochrome Ye (yellow filter) and Monochrome R (red filter). I was able to achieve stunning results with the black and white modes, and even the color Film Simulation modes. The X10 also offers individual control over Color Saturation, Sharpness, Highlight Tone, Shadow Tone and Noise Reduction with several parameters, so the in-camera imaging manipulation abounds on this thing.

The X10′s Manual Focus was actually surprisingly useful, especially with the digital focal length meter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the optical viewfinder to manually focus, but the autofocus was extremely quick and accurate. In addition to Exposure Bracketing, the camera had a slew of Continuous burst framerates, including a 10fps mode at lower resolutions and 7fps at full resolution. Macro mode was excellent on the X10, allowing me to get withing millimeters of my subjects, and the camera included Advanced modes like Motion Panorama 360 (360-degree sweep method), Pro Focus (blurs background) and Pro Low Light (opts for high ISO levels in low light). Oh, and there’s a slew of Scene modes for beginner shooters. I wasn’t crazy about the fact that the X10 lacked substantial Video mode controls and I could only capture videos when the Mode dial was shifter to Video mode, but for the most part the Fujifilm X10 proved itself as one of the most power-packed fixed-lens compacts I’ve ever tested.

Fujifilm X10 Image Quality

Fujifilm-X10-Shooting-ScreenFujifilm went with an unconventional sensor size with the X10. The camera is equipped with a 12-megapixel 2/3 sized CMOS chip, which is smaller than a 1-inch Nikon 1 sensor, yet larger than a 1/1.7-inch sensor found in cameras like the Canon PowerShot G12 and Nikon Coolpix P7100. The X10′s sensor is definitely dwarfed by the Canon PowerShot G1 X’s near-APS-C monstrosity, but its performance is just as good. In fact, the X10 was such a good performer that most people would not be able to tell the difference between it and a rivaling DSLR.

But before I sing any more praises, we’ve got to clear something up. Early on, it was discovered that the Fujifilm X10 suffered from a sensor-based abnormality that plagued white light reflections. Rather than exhibiting star burst type patterns, the X10 produces white orbs in harsh reflections, as showcased in the crop below. See those little round white orbs in the grooves of the key? Those should look like the star burst in the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. The good news is that Fujifilm has outfitted the X10 with a brand new sensor that fixes the issue, after attempting to solve it with an unsuccessful firmware update.

Fujifilm-X10-White-OrbRegardless, this problem rarely surfaced, and will only annoy those who shoot lots of shiny things. If you order a new X10 today, white orbs will be nonexistent. But as I was saying, the Fujifilm X10 is a dazzling performer. Its detail and clarity is superb, while noise management at high ISO levels is excellent. Colors are naturalistic, and the monochrome images look like they were taken with a film SLR. This is what happens when a manufacturer with a long history of film creation designs a semi-professional camera. As far as still images were concerned, the Fujifilm X10 really challenged the Canon PowerShot G1 X. I honestly could not decide which one I liked better.

The Fujifilm X10 could shoot HD videos at 1920×1080/30, which bested the G1 X’s 1080p/24 mode. Video quality was great, and I found nothing major to complain about. At times, underexposed, intricate patterns showed traces of compression, but for the most part the X10 was excellent in bright light and handled motion with ease. The autofocus in Video mode was right on target, and the camera proved itself a versatile adversary to the G1 X.

Fujifilm X10 Still Image Samples

Fujifilm X10 HD Video Samples

Fujifilm X10 Conclusion

Fujifilm-X10-FrontThe Fujifilm X10 lived up to the hype, and that’s a very difficult thing to do in the digital camera industry. Take the Canon PowerShot G1 X, for example. I was excited beyond all excitement over the release of that monster, but it came up short after I fully tested it. The Fujifilm X10 is chock full of goodness on all three levels. The camera has benefits from a fantastic, quality design crafted in Japan. Its shooting features are so plentiful that I sometimes got lost in the sea of options. And the best part is that the Fujifilm X10 cranks out beautiful images and impressive videos. The X10 is more of a still shooter than a video machine, but it’s one of the best fixed-lens point-and-shoots on the market. At the moment, the Fujifilm X10 wears the advanced fixed-lens point-and-shoot crown.

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