Fujifilm X10: X Marks The Spot

 

 

Fujifilm X10

Fujifilm X10

Is the retro-styled Fujifilm X10 possibly be the best advanced compact camera we have ever tested? K Madhavan Pillai reports.

There is so much more to the Fujifilm X10 than meets the eye. The unpretentious look is a refreshing change from all the red, pink and white cameras we have recently tested. While these sleek, colourful cameras may be conversation starters, the X10 does not get a second glance. The fact is… when I am shooting, I would rather not have a conversation at all.
The X10 is meant for a serious user. It is Fuji’s answer to the Olympus XZ-1, Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX5 and Canon PowerShot S100. Despite the nondescript appearance, the X10 is quite a different animal on the inside.

Features
The 12 million pixel X10 has a sensor that is about 30% larger than its rivals and about double the size of those found in regular compact cameras, this gives the X10 an edge over the others. Fuji’s EXR-CMOS sensor stems from its proprietary SuperCCD sensors first seen in 2003. The X10 contains the eighth generation of this sensor that offers three EXR modes—HR for higher resolution, DR for wider dynamic range, and SN for high sensitivity with lower noise. This is enabled by using hexagonal pixels instead of square-shaped pixels, letting each of its RGB pixels sit adjacent to similarly coloured pixels in the array.
While you can manually select these modes, the EXR Auto uses information from the sensor, lens and the sensor’s motion detection abilities to recognise 99 scenes from landscapes to portraits. Then, it adjusts every camera setting automatically for each scene, before choosing the right EXR mode for it.
The X10 sports an image stabilised, seven-bladed 28–112mm (35mm equivalent) f/2-f/2.8 lens. To optimise the lens for the sensor, three aspherical and two Extra-low Dispersion lens elements have been used. The lens can focus down to 1cm in the Super Macro Mode.
Unlike other compact cameras, this is a manual zoom lens that is mechanically linked to an optical viewfinder to provide a corresponding view. With no motors to drive the zooms in both viewfinder and lens, battery power is conserved for shooting instead.
The camera can shoot at 7fps in full resolution and 10fps at 6MP. It also supports Full HD video, high speed movie shooting at lower resolutions for slow motion, and the creation of panoramas of upto 360° with a single sweep of the camera.
The X10 can capture RAW images. It can also process RAW files in-camera. The only other camera in its class that can do this is the Olympus XZ-1. RAW conversion with the X10 allows you to change almost every control that the user can set on the camera while shooting JPEGs, including Film Simulation modes, Dynamic Range modes, White Balance modes with a separate WB Shift for fine adjustments, Colour Tone, Sharpness, Highlight Tone and Shadow Tone settings, Noise Reduction and Colour Space settings. Additionally, you can also pull and push process RAW images, which is essentially decreasing or increasing the exposure by a stop.
Of particular interest are the Film Simulation Modes. These modes simulate the colour and tonal effects of various legendary Fuji films. Standard colour is provided by the Provia setting, vivid colours by Velvia and soft colours by Astia. Three B&W modes emulate the use of red, yellow or green B&W filters, followed by a dedicated Sepia Mode.
Of course, the camera has the expected P, A, S, M modes for advanced users. Playing it safe, Fuji has decided to retain a bevy of 16 Scene Modes for everything from underwater scenes to fireworks, and the ‘mindless-auto’ mode, in the unlikely event of a beginner buying this camera.
Interestingly, apart from bracketing exposure, the Fujifilm X10 can also bracket for ISO, Film Simulation modes and Dynamic Range settings.
The X10 detects faces. You can also train it to recognise individuals and later search for images with those faces in them. The manual pop-up flash can be set to Slow-Sync and can be compensated too.

Handling
While shooting, there are direct access dials, buttons or switches for almost every important setting and function. ISO, focus, flash and metering modes, exposure compensation, bracketing are all easily accessible through dedicated controls.
The importance of exposure compensation cannot be overstated. Despite metering accuracy, it remains for the photographer to decide tonal values. And exposure is the one single factor that cannot be tweaked much with RAW. So I was very happy with the large compensation dial on top of the X10. Additionally, live view on the wonderfully sharp OLED display, along with a live histogram help make exposure decisions.
Two Custom Mode positions on the mode dial can be preset with every setting for quick, easy access. A separate Function button can be programmed as well.
Where does the X10 falter? It does not have any exposure or focus information in the viewfinder, making it quite redundant. Basic autofocus SLRs have had this for nearly two decades. I am fond of good viewfinders. Yet, with the X10, I would have preferred an articulated display to the optical viewfinder.
With my photography, either I keep the camera set to record RAW + JPEG, or just JPEG. Rarely do I need to quickly switch between them for just a single shot. I had little use for the RAW button, especially since it could not be customised to any other function. I also found the button to respond quite sluggishly.
The tactile feel of the manual zoom ring makes zooming faster and more accurate. However, the manual focus leaves you frantically rotating the rear input dial to focus, especially at the shorter distances.
These quirks apart, the full-metal, retrostyled X10 is a real pleasure to handle.

Performance
The X10 is a speedy camera which necessitates the use of high-speed SD cards. AF locks quickly and works well in low light. The camera startup time is minimal with the Quickstart Mode turned on, which consumes some battery power. Battery life is excellent. The X10 uses a battery that is common between several other FinePix compact cameras and it is not too expensive to buy a spare.
The X10 does extremely well when it comes to lens optics and noise at higher ISO values. Flare is well-controlled, there is no visible fringing, and the lens shows a good degree of sharpness all across the frame and through the aperture range. Colours can be adjusted to your liking. My personal favourite is the Vivid mode. Tonal details and dynamic range are exemplary. In terms of performance, there is little to flaw the X10 on.

Conclusion
I want the X10. After getting my hands on it, the number of pictures I shoot everyday has increased. The manual zoom, control layout, excellent optics and superb image quality are deal clinchers for me. Yet, I will give it a good second thought because it costs USD 600 (about Rs. 30,000). With the taxes added, the price for the X10 will get me the PEN E-P3 kit, or the APS-C sensor Sony NEX-5 at a much lower price. Unless Fujifilm sets the price aggressively in India, I would recommend that you consider your options as well.

Final Ratings
Features
Fast lens, larger sensor, RAW, hot shoe,mechanical zoom, optical image stabilisation
19/20

Performance
Excellent optics, dynamic range, detail, andcolours. EXR modes work superbly well.
36/40

Build Quality
Die-cast magnesium alloy, milled aluminium
14/15

Ergonomics
2.8-inch OLED display, easy access to keyfunctions like compensation, metering
13/15

Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty
5/10

OVERALL: 81%
Value For Money: 3/5 stars

Tags: Advanced Compact Camera, December 2011, Fujifilm X10, K Madhavan Pillai