There are two ways to look at the Fujifilm FinePix X10. You can view it as a cynical attempt to capitalize on the fanboy frenzy of the X100 with a camera that looks a lot like it, but that lacks everything that made it desirable to the fans. Or you can look at it as Fujifilm's first serious entry into the enthusiast compact market, going up against stalwarts from Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic (and newcomers like Olympus), with a design and specs that don't look too shabby in that crowd. I'm taking the latter view. But despite a nice design, I think there are some practical and conceptual problems with the X10 that may turn off some photographers.
For example, the camera is capable of producing some very nice photos, but it does its best low-light work in its special reduced-resolution, complete auto modes. To me, extra features on enthusiast cameras only matter when they add creative options--not when they're there to compensate for deficiencies in the hardware. And in the case of the X10, they're all automatic, which defeats the purpose of a camera ostensibly for people who want to play with the settings. And Fujifilm claims the camera goes up to ISO 12,800--but that's in an automatic, super-reduced resolution mode. The highest manual sensitivity is ISO 3200, just like the rest of its class. The ability to change the shutter and aperture give me creative control; switching into EXR High ISO/Low Noise mode doesn't. Even if Fujifilm's EXR sensor were the greatest tech ever, it's simply too high maintenance.
In its manual shooting modes, the X10 delivers mixed results. At low ISO sensitivities Fujifilm doesn't overdo it with the luminance noise reduction for JPEGs, so you end up with grainier photos than most, but without the concomitant loss of sharpness. However, it produces an odd aliasing-type artifact on fine details, and midrange details like text never really cohere. But at high sensitivities this approach manages to preserve detail a bit longer than luminance smoothing usually allows. As long as you don't have much detail in the photos, the JPEG quality at ISO 1600 isn't bad. You can see some yellow splotches that indicate poor blue-channel processing, but it's relatively sharp.
I was able to get photos I liked from the X10, but the photos generally just have too many issues. The colors are pleasing and the exposure generally looks great in a variety of lighting situations, but the lack of a neutral color profile and an oversaturated default resulted in completely blown-out hues in some cases. There's also a known artifact from seriously bad blooming in highlights that results in large, flat blown out areas which Fujifilm reportedly plans to address in a firmware update.
With only a couple of exceptions, the X10 performs extremely well for its class, tying with the XZ-1 for the lead. Even though you have to rotate the lens ring to power on, it takes less time to power on and shoot than most--0.9 second. It can usually focus and shoot very quickly, 0.3 second in good light and 0.6 second in dim. I stress "usually" because I ran into a few situations where it simply couldn't lock focus, for no apparent reason and no matter what I tried (until eventually something worked). Two sequential shots runs about 1.1 seconds, for either raw or JPEG, and I have no complaints about its speed during raw+JPEG shooting. Flash adds about 0.4 second to that time. Its burst shooting sounds fast, but it's pretty limited: 7.5fps for one second. Aside from the autofocus, the battery life is also a disappointment.
|Canon PowerShot G12||Fujifilm FinePix X10||Fujifilm FinePix X100||Nikon Coolpix P7100||Olympus XZ-1||Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5|
|Sensor (effective resolution)||10-megapixel CCD||12-megapixel EXR CMOS||12.3 megapixel CMOS||10-megapixel CCD||10-megapixel CCD||10-megapixel CCD|
|1/1.7-inch||2/3-inch||23.6 x 15.8mm||1/1.7-inch||1/1.63-inch||1/1.63-inch|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 80 - ISO 3200||ISO 100 - ISO 3200||ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded)||ISO 100 - ISO 3200||ISO 100 - ISO 6,400||ISO 80 - ISO 3200|
|Closest focus (inches)||0.4||0.4||3.9||0.8||0.4||0.4|
|Continuous shooting||1.1fps |
frames n/a raw
8 JPEG/n/a raw
10 JPEG/8 raw
90 JPEG/ n/a raw
23 JPEG/8 raw
|2.5 fps |
|Viewfinder||Optical||Optical||Optical/EVF switchable||Optical||Optional EVF||Optional OVF or EVF|
|11 area |
|Metering||n/a||256 zones||256 zones||256-segment matrix||324 area||n/a |
|Shutter||15-1/4000 sec||30 - 1/4000 sec||30 - 1/4000 sec; bulb to 60 min||60-1/4000 sec||60-1/2000 sec; bulb to 16 min||60-1/4000 sec|
|LCD||2.8-inch articulated |
|2.8-inch fixed |
|2.8-inch fixed |
|3-inch articulated |
|3-inch fixed OLED |
|3-inch fixed |
|Image stabilization||Optical||Optical||None||Optical||Sensor shift||Optical|
|Video (best quality)||720/24p |
H.264 QuickTime MOV
|1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo||720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo||720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV |
|720/30p Motion JPEG AVI||720/30p AVCHD Lite |
|Manual iris and shutter in video||No||No||Iris only||n/a||No||Yes|
|Zoom while recording||No||Yes||n/a||n/a||No||n/a|
|Battery life (CIPA rating)||390 shots||270 shots||300 shots||350 shots||320 shots||400 shots|
|Dimensions (WHD, inches)||4.4 x 3.0 x 2.0||4.6 x 2.7 x 2.2||5.0 x 2.9 x 2.1||n/a||4.4 x 2.6 x 1.7||4.3 x 2.6 x 1.7|
|Weight (ounces)||14.2||12.4||15.8||14 (est)||9.6||9.2|
|Availability||October 2010||November 2011||March 2011||September 2011||January 2011||August 2010|
I like the design overall, both aesthetically and for shooting. The body has a magnesium alloy chassis and an aluminum front, and obviously takes after its more expensive sibling in the looks department--retro all the way. But don't look for the X100's hybrid viewfinder; this is a plain-old straight-through version like the one on the G12 and P7100. Surprisingly, I didn't use it all that much; in part because it's difficult to accurately frame scenes using these types of viewfinders with zoom lenses (you can't put in parallax framing lines), but mostly because I had no problem viewing the LCD in bright sunlight.
While Canon and Olympus take the approach of using a ring on the dial for adjusting settings, Fujifilm using the lens ring to power on and manually zoom. I like that there are focal-length indicators on the barrel, and the zoom has a good feel--not too tight and not too loose. The grip is small but in combination with the rubber thumb rest proves sufficient for single-handed shooting.