When it comes to exposure options, the X10 has you covered. This camera has more custom options than I've seen on a non-dSLR camera in some time, with varying levels of control depending on your needs or wants. For those who want the look and feel of a rangefinder type camera in digital form, but don't have the skill or knowledge on how to use a full manual camera, the X10 boasts Fuji's proven EXR Auto exposure program, along with various Scene modes. What I consider intelligent auto on steroids, EXR Auto performs wonders in what seems like tenths of a second. Not only does it take care of choosing all of the relevant exposure (ISO, Aperture, Shutter speed) and scene (white balance, exposure compensation, saturation, sharpness, etc.) settings, but it also chooses from three EXR Sensor modes; High Resolution mode, High Sensitivity and Low Noise mode, and Dynamic Range mode. With the aid of Motion Detection, Advanced Anti Blur and Advanced Scene Recognition technologies, the X10 can recognize 54 different shooting situations, and then choose the perfect exposure and scene settings; along with the ideal sensor mode. This gives beginners and novice users the ability capture results that are likely unobtainable with standard Auto exposure modes; or even Smart or Intelligent Auto settings on other brands. Fuji claims this combination allows the camera to recognize 99 different scene "patterns", and adjust the camera's settings accordingly to capture the best possible results.
For those who craved to be in control, the X10 gives you as much control as you desire. On top of offering varying levels of control with modes like Program AE, Shutter Speed Priority, Aperture priority, and full Manual; the X10 offers a plethora of custom settings via the menu and Fn buttons. These include various Film Simulation (aka Color) modes, RAW format recording, Noise Reduction control, Dynamic Range control, adjustments for sharpness, color, tone, and so much more.
Like we mentioned earlier, the X10's body gives off a retro look and feel, with a rangefinder type camera layout. This not only makes the camera pleasing to the eyes, but provides very good ergonomics. While not a compact camera, the X10 is much smaller than a dSLR, and thanks to its collapsing lens it can be tucked into a small bag easily. The controls are positioned in a comfortable manner, and all are within reach of your thumbs and finger tips. The dual control wheels on the back serve various functions, and come in handy when navigating the menu system, or when making changes to exposure settings in S/A/M modes. The enlarged grip on the right side serves two purposes; it gives you a firm grip on the camera, and allows for the larger Li-ion battery pack to fit inside the slim frame. In conjunction with the nice rubber thumb stop on the back, this grip offers a comfortable hold on the camera, and makes one-handed shots a breeze.
Fuji opted to ditch the hybrid viewfinder from the X100, and included a zoom-coupled optical viewfinder on the X10. This was likely done to help cut costs, as that awesome hybrid viewfinder could not have been cheap. While the OVF offers a nice clear image and diopter adjustment, it only covers about 85% of the frame, is off center, and gives you no heads up display of camera settings. This means that the image you frame in the OVF will look a bit different than the one you captured, and you have to remove you eye from the viewfinder when wanting to double check settings. Not only will you have captured 15% more of the scene, but alignment will be off slight as well. This is not a huge deal, and it's common with OVFs that are positioned off to the side of the lens. But, it's worth noting, and it personally kept me from using the OVF much.
The only controls we had trouble with were the exposure compensation dial on the top, and the zoom ring mounted On/Off control. While the EV Comp.'s dial is located in a handy position for quick adjustments, I found it was easily bumped. This came into play mostly when pulling the camera in and out of a camera bag, and on more than one occasion forced me to retake a set of photos due to not realizing the EV Comp. setting hand been changed. It normally only changed the setting by 1/3 of a stop, which isn't enough to totally throw off a shot. However, it's something you'll want to keep an eye on for sure. To turn the camera on and off, you simply rotate the zoom ring from the Off position to one of the focal length measurements, and back to Off again. While this is a neat concept, I found that spinning the ring too quickly would result in the camera not turning on. This is a pretty big concern, as it did cause me to miss a spontaneous photo opportunity, as I fumbled with the camera trying to get it to turn on after quickly spinning the zoom ring to try and catch a quick shot. I tested this again in the office, and was able to repeat the issues quite easily. So, when wanting to turn on the X10, rotating the lens ring slowly.
Shooting performance from the X10 was very robust. Power up to first image captured measured only 2.2 seconds, and this included the delay in grabbing and rotating the lens to turn the camera on. I believe if it had a dedicated power button, this time would have been even shorter. Shutter lag is less than 1/10 of second when the camera is pre-focused and between 2/10 and 3/10 of a second including autofocus; depending on lighting and focal distance. Shooting in single shot mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 9/10 of a second between frames without the flash, and about 1.7 seconds with the flash firing.
The X10 boasts several high-speed capture settings, with four "Top" burst mode options: Super High-speed, High-speed, Middle, and Low. Fuji claims they allow capture rates of 10fps, 7fps, 5fps, and 3fps; respectively. During our tests, the X10 exceeded those claims in several of the options; meaning the X10 is one fast camera. Three of the four settings allow you to shoot at full 12-megapisel resolution, with High-speed mode netting 8.9fps for up to 8 frames before slowing down due to a full buffer. The Super High-speed mode drops resolution to 6-megapizxels, however that's still plenty of resolution to create large prints. During playback and menu navigation we saw no issues with interface lag, etc. All of our tests were completed using a SanDisk Extreme (Class 10) 4GR SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO Auto, full wide angle, Flash Off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. All times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media used, etc.
Looking at the X10's 4x optical zoom lens more closely, we can see that Fuji spent some time developing this unit. On top of offering a very pleasing focal range that covers a great deal of photographic needs, the lens is very well built. Fuji boasts that this lens is built for superb brightness thanks to its f/2.0-f2.8 maximum aperture range, and they note using superior optics in the lens' design. The lens is comprised of 11 elements in 9 groups, including high-quality aspherical, ED (extra-low dispersion), and high-refractive index lenses; all of which are coated in their proprietary Super Electron Beam Coating (EBC).
While shooting with the X10, I truly enjoyed the operating the lens. While I did yearn for a bit wider view, the 28mm end of the zoom works well for various indoor and outdoors shots; like group portraits, landscapes, etc. The mid to full telephoto range is great for close ups; especially macro shots thanks to the cameras 1cm focusing ability in macro focus mode. Looking over our samples, we saw very few distortions or aberrations throughout the zoom and aperture ranges. This is great news, and further proves that Fuji did a knock up job of creating this fine piece of glass. While we wish the X10 offered an interchangeable lens system, the quality of the 4x lens does suffice for most of your typical shooting.
During our testing, the lens helped the camera produce pleasing images thanks to the inclusion of high quality glass, as described above. However, we noticed that the lens seemed to produce the sharpest images when the aperture was kept between wide open and the middle of the available aperture range. For example, shooting a landscape scene at say f/5.6 would produce sharper results across the entire frame than shooting the same subject under the same circumstances at say f/11.0. We believe this is due to the fact that the X10 uses a smaller image sensor compared to a dSLR or EVIL camera, and therefore the required aperture needed to get everything in the frame nice and sharp is reduced when compared to larger sensor cameras. The downside of this is that it's usually harder for smaller sensor cameras to create that pleasing bokeh effect (blurring of the background) that many enjoy; especially in portraits. This is also the case with the X10. While shooting at the maximum aperture will help you blur the background, even when using the telephoto end of the zoom you don't get the same effect that you would see from a camera using a larger sensor at the same aperture and focal settings.
While out taking samples photos, the X10 was a pleasure to use in most any circumstance. By definition, EXR Auto should produce the best quality images. However, I found while testing the X10 that Program mode produced the clearest and sharpest images. While EXR Auto was able to create vibrant colors and greater dynamic range, it also displayed increased noise levels in all of the photos we captured; no matter what sensor mode was chosen. I found using Program mode helped me produce the most natural looking images, with photos showing the least amount of imager noise, but the greatest amount of fine detail. Colors were also more natural. This comes as a surprise, considering EXR Auto is touted by Fuji as being a super intelligent exposure program, which they claim helps the X10 create the best quality images possible thanks to choosing one of three sensor modes. That said, if you only view images at full screen resolution or print average sized photos (4x6 - 8x10s), even the files taken with EXR Auto look excellent. It's when you zoom in to pixel level (aka 100% or pixel peeping) that you see the rise in artifacts; which I believe is caused by the increase in processing these images receive.
Shooting portraits with the X10 proved to be pleasing in most conditions, especially when wanting to use natural or ambient lighting. Thanks to the faster aperture options, and the available ISO settings, the camera does very will in ambient lighting. We noticed that the X10 would choose not to use the flash often when it was pop-up up and set to Auto flash mode. The images created in these marginal conditions still look quite good, with the exception of some increased noise at the pixel level. This causes a loss of sharpness due to noise reduction processing; basically, edges a smoothened to help "hide" the visible effects of image noise due to higher sensitivity settings. Popping up the flash and setting it to Forced on doesn't help too much. The built-in flash on the X10 is dismal at best, offering an output that is more comparable to a compact point-n-shoot than a prosumer or enthusiasts camera. When shooting our M&M man shots, we had to boost the ISO to 800 to get a half-way decent exposure; and even at that setting the flash's output was still weak. Thankfully the camera is able to produce some very nice images using available light, and you also have the option of using an external FujiFilm flash unit thanks to the built-in hot shoe. If you plan on taking a lot or portraits with the X10, we highly recommend you look into adding a high power flash to your purchase.
One area where the X10 excels in macro photography. Fuji claims this lens can focus on subjects as close as 1cm from the front of the lens in Super Macro Focus mode, and during our tests we found the camera had no problem focusing on close-up subjects. Our macro shots show excellent detail, and when the camera chooses the maximum aperture (like f/2.0 in our example on the samples page), you get decent background blur. For those who take product photographs, macros, or other close-up type photographs; the X10's performance is sure to please.
While we mentioned the X10 does a great job of producing pleasing photos in lower lighting conditions, we did find that the AF system struggles in these same situations. While capturing the portrait samples found on the samples page, we found the camera had a lot of trouble focusing. I found myself constantly adjusting composition, focal length, and angle to try and help the camera see better. This was very frustrating to say the least, and surprising at the same time. My subject was being lit by outdoor light coming in from our huge picture window, and there was sufficient light for the camera to not fire the flash to capture a nice image. That said, the AF system still had issues. During these instances, the AF Illuminator was turned On.
Looking at our M&M ISO series we can see traces of luminous noise even at the lowest ISO 100 setting. However, the X10 controls noise levels well for a camera with a 2/3-inch sensor. As you increase the sensitivity, noise levels slowly rise. I personally felt that the camera produces excellent results up to ISO 2000, and even the maximum full resolution setting of 3200 looks usable. After 3200, resolution drops to approx. 6-megapixel, which is still plenty larger enough for good sized prints. These remaining options, from ISO 4000 - 12,800, still show a good amount of noise. However, fine detail is retained well up to ISO 6400, and at full screen resolution on my 24" Dell monitor, our M&M man shot still looks usable. The maximum 12,800 is not really usable in my opinion, however it a bind you might be able to squeeze a 4x6 out of photos taken at this setting. Overall, the X10 shows us some impressive noise control, as long as you don't mind a small amount of visible luminous noise when pixel peeping. One issue we ran into while capturing our ISO series of photos was with the resolution or image size settings. Like we mentioned, when you exceed ISO 3200, the camera automatically drops the resolution to about 6-megapiels from ISO 4000 - 6400, and only 3-megapixels for the 12,800 setting. The problem is, when you change the ISO back to a setting of 3200 or below (where the camera can shoot at full resolution again), the X10 does not change the image size back to the previous setting. So, if you are not paying attention, the rest of the photos you shoot will be at a reduced resolution until you manually change it back. This is something that I found very aggravating, and I sure hope Fuji corrects it via a firmware update down the road.
The X10 offers a wealth of video options, and overall the quality from the this unit is quite good for a digital camera. While most will use the default, Full 1080p HD setting, the X10 boasts some fun high-speed options, along with lower resolution settings like 720p HD, and standard definition 640x480. Our full HD examples play back smoothly on a PC (even my older laptop), and they show good overall exposure and focus. Since the zoom is manual, you can use it while recording. I found that the AF system was able to catch the focus up quickly, making zooming a good experience; the slower you zoom, the better the results. The only real issues we had with out videos was wind and background noise; which is quite common with digicams. The stereo mics produce nice audio, however they pick up the slightest breeze and lots of background noise.
The high-speed modes were quite enjoyable, especially if you are into sports like golf, target shooting, etc. With options for 70fps (640x480), 120fps (320x240), and 200fps (320x112); you can slow down some seriously fast movement. The only downfalls are no sound, and you get a very limited field of view as you increase the frame rate. We have various examples on the samples page, so be sure to check them out.
Battery life from the FinePix X10 is rated at approx. 270 photos on a fully charged NP-50 battery pack. This is a bit lower than we would expect to see from a camera in this category and price range, however I think that 270 frames in a very conservative number. We captured over 300+ photos, along with a good amount of video with the X10, and we only recharged the battery one time. We didn't charge it because it was dead, but because it was getting low and we wanted to make sure we had a fully charged pack for a photo / video opportunity that had come up. That said, we still think it's a great idea to add a spare battery pack to your purchase, especially if you plan on taking the X10 on vacation, or an extended day of shooting. With the external battery charged, you can easily charge up a spare pack to keep ready at all times.
Bottom line - FujiFilm's FinePix X10 gets an overall thumbs up from the staff here at Steve's. I personally found myself grabbing the X10 over some of the other cameras in the bag when out taking photos; due to its comfortable ergonomics, good image quality, and form factor. While the X10 has some pitfalls, this camera still offers great bang for your buck with the quality and features you are receiving. The retro styled body is not only pleasing to the eyes, but it fits your hands very well; even those with large hands like myself. With all that said, we highly recommended the X10 to anyone who wants a rangefinder like camera that's loaded with manual and custom options. However, with a price tag of $599 USD or less, you're getting into the price territory of many EVIL cameras, as well as some entry-level dSLRs. These cameras offer superior speed and image quality; not to mention the added versatility of interchange lens systems. So, be sure you consider what's most important to you before pulling the trigger.
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