If you had read my Fujifilm FinePix X100 review of a few months ago, you would have deduced that I fell head over heels in love with the camera. Typical rangefinder looks, excellent manual controls and a fixed lens didn't make it the most user friendly camera in the market, but it did succeed in having photographers go gaga over what was probably the most original and innovative camera launched last year. Unfortunately, the X100 did not appeal to the masses and in order to bridge that gap, Fujifilm announced the FinePix X10, a camera with the similar retro looks of its predecessor with many more user friendly controls and a zoom lens.
The X10 borrows from the X100 in many ways, looks included. It features the same magnesium alloy-leatherette finish, although instead of the silver metallic colour, the X10 is an all-black unit. The 4x zoom lens offers a range of 26-112mm on a 35mm equivalent and there are handy markings on the lens itself to indicate zoom level. Zoom is adjustable via the zoom ring, with no toggle switch to zoom in and out – a very DSLR feature.
While the controls of the X100 were very minimalist, the X10 has a lot more buttons on its body. The mode dial and exposure dial remain, as does the Function button which is by default set to adjust ISO, but can be customised. The shutter button is very responsive and features a threaded socket for attaching a cable release.
The 2.8-inch 4,60,000 dot LCD is bright and clear and is great for framing shots. Serious photographers will appreciate the inclusion of a viewfinder with a dioptre on the top left corner. Unlike the X100's dual viewfinder (electric + optical), the X10 features only an optical viewfinder, with no focus points available so it's difficult to isolate focus. There's also a small pop out flash with a dedicated button – it's not very powerful, but there is a hotshoe for attaching an external flash.
Next to the LCD is a clickwheel with the usual buttons for Macro, Timer, Drive and Flash. There's also an AF/AE lock button, dedicated RAW and White Balance buttons and a dial to adjust Aperture and Shutter speed in the manual modes.
In terms of size and weight, the X10 is almost on par with the X100 with the same rubberised thumb grip and protrusion on the right side to enable one-hand shooting.
The X10 does have a unique feature and that is the very unusual power switch. It took me a while to figure out how to turn it on. Basically the zoom ring must be turned to power on the camera and ‘Off' in small lettering indicates how far you have to twist it to turn it off. It's actually pretty easy to get used to but the disadvantage is that if you don't rotate the zoom ring completely the camera stays on, draining the battery.
A plastic flap on the side conceals a mini USB port and a HDMI port.
The X10 features a 2/3-inch EXR CMOS sensor which is not seen on many modern cameras anymore. This sensor basically enables three types of shooting – high resolution shooting at full 12-megapixel mode, Low Noise which shoots at 6-megapixel with no flash in low light conditions and the Dynamic Range mode which achieves optimum balance between shadows and highlights. In case you can't decide which mode to use, you can just select EXR Auto which will choose the appropriate mode for you. In addition to the EXR modes, P,S,A and M modes, video mode, Full Auto mode and two custom modes, there is also an Advanced mode which lets you easily shoot photos which would otherwise require manual adjustment. The Pro Focus mode provides good depth of field to the subject, Pro Low Light lets you shoot subjects in low light and the 360° Panorama mode let's you take panorama shots. In addition, there's a Scene mode control which lets you choose from a bunch of preset scenes common on most consumer digicams – something that I feel does take away from the camera a bit, considering that the X100 was very heavily focussed on manual controls. The on-screen menu is very intuitive and simply laid-out and I was able to tweak settings very easily. From within the menu you can also select Fujifilm's popular Film Simulation modes: Provia, Velvia and Astia, as well as Black and White and Sepia modes. By default, the setting is left at Provia.
The X10's lens offers an amazing aperture range of f/2 at 28mm and f/2.8 at 112 mm which is great for fast shooting. Macro mode lets you focus up to 10 cm away from your subject and the Super Macro mode is even better, allowing focus 1cm away from the subject, making it ideal for macro photography of any sort. Shutter speed can be adjusted from 30 sec to 1/4000 sec in manual mode. ISO ranges from 100-12,800 although you can only shoot up to ISO 3,200 at full 12 megapixel resolution.
There is virtually no shutter lag in the camera and in continuous shooting mode you can click as fast as 10fps but that's only when shooting at 6-megapixels. If you're shooting at full 12-meg resolution you get a speed of 7fps which is still pretty good.
Although Fujifilm has opted for many zoom ring functions seen on DSLRs, one thing they haven't taken into account is manual focus. There's no focus ring on the lens so you'll have to do it in menu. Once you frame your shot, you can select a focus point in the frame and turn the circular dial surrounding the clickwheel near the LCD screen until it focuses. There is a focussing scale that shows up on the LCD which indicates focussing distance and depth of field, but using the ring to focus takes a long time which means you can rarely use it if you need to take a quick photo.
In the Macro mode I was able to get some stunning shots with clarity and detail preserved even when I was almost touching the subject with the lens. The only problem is that the camera sometimes annoyingly will not focus where you want it to so you'll have to reframe the shot before trying again.
There are plenty of options to choose for low light shooting, like the Low Noise EXR mode, Pro Low light mode, Night mode, etc. I tried shooting low light photos in all the different modes and with manual settings as well and most of the time I found that while noise was not very visible, colours did tend to look very washed out and the photos lacked vibrancy. Photos shot in the Dynamic Range EXR mode for the most part captured detail well in bright sunlight but on occasion did tend to look a bit dark.
Despite the X100 being an amazing camera, it was definitely more of a collector's piece. The X10 by comparison has enough and more consumer features coupled with easy to access manual control, making its target consumer base much bigger. However, the price is a bit too steep and I wonder how many casual users would opt for the X10 as a primary camera when there are plenty of excellent digicams available at a much more affordable price. That said, the X10 is a piece of art and is capable of delivering some amazing results if used well.
Love: Manual controls, retro looks
Hate: Power switch is iffy, steep price
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Keywords: Fujifilm X10