DCRP

Fuji X10 Review

Performance & Photo Quality

While overall the X10 is a good performer, it does have some rather frustrating quirks that pop up from time-to-time. Here's a summary of what you can expect from it, performance-wise:

Timing Measured Performance How it Compares
Startup 0.8 sec * Above average
Autofocus
(Normal light, wide)
0.1 - 0.4 secs Above average
Autofocus
(Normal light, tele)
0.7 - 1.0 secs Above average
Autofocus
(Low light)
~ 1.0 secs Average
Shutter lag Not noticeable Above average
Shot-to-shot
(JPEG, no flash)
~ 1 sec Above average
Shot-to-shot
(RAW, no flash)
~ 1.5.sec
(for 3-4 shots)
Above average
Shot-to-shot
(With flash)
~ 3 secs Average
* It's hard to measure the startup time of the X10 since the lens ring power switch makes it difficult to detect the moment when the camera is powered on. Actual time is probably lower than above.

As you can see, the X10 is a pretty snappy camera. There are three areas in which things can be improved upon, though:

  • AF will fail to lock sometimes, for no apparent reason; in most cases, just trying to focus again got the camera to lock
  • The menus cannot be accessed while the camera is saving images to the memory card, most notable when shooting bursts or RAW+JPEG images; this can last for up to fifteen seconds
  • You must hold the shutter release down for about a second to wake the camera from sleep; usually you just press any button for a moment

Now let's talk about continuous shooting performance. There are four speeds to choose from, though the top two are reserved only for JPEGs. The super-high speed mode also lowers the resolution to 6 Megapixel, and locks the ISO at 200. Here's what kind of performance you can expect:

Image quality Low Middle High Super High *
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG 6 shots @ 3.2 fps 5 shots @ 5.0 fps N/A
RAW 6 shots @ 3.2 fps 6 shots @ 5.0 fps
Large/Fine JPEG 12 shots @ 3.0 fps 7 shots @ 5.0 fps 7 shots @ 7.5 fps 16 shots @ 10.0 fps

* Resolution dropped to 6M, ISO fixed at 200

Tested with a SanDisk Class 10 SDHC card

As you can see, the Fujifilm X10 is capable of some pretty impressive burst speeds -- especially for JPEGs. You probably also noticed that these bursts are short-lived, as there's not a lot of buffer memory available. If you're shooting RAW images, the camera will be totally locked up for about ten seconds, while it writes the images to your memory card. You won't be able to change settings or open a menu for an additional five seconds after that. Those aren't hard limits in the table, by the way -- the camera will keep shooting, just at a much slower rate.

That does it for camera performance -- let's talk about photo quality now!

The Fuji X10 did a pretty nice job with our macro test subject. Colors are fairly accurate, with the reds being quite saturated, though the photo has a bit of washed out look to it. The subject itself is sharp, with a good amount of detail captured. Noise levels are low here, as they should be.

There are two macro modes on the X10. The standard one has a minimum focus distance of 10 cm at wide-angle and 50 cm at telephoto. If you want to get closer, switch to super macro macro, which reduces the distance to just 1 cm. Do note that you'll need to put the lens at full wide-angle in order to use super macro mode.

The night shot results are a mixed bag. On the one hand, the camera took in plenty of light and the buildings are sharp across the frame. There is no sign of purple fringing, either, which is a testament to the quality of the lens. The problem here is two-fold: the X10 clips highlights like crazy (the US Bank sign is illegible), and it has an issue with what are colloquially known as "white discs" or "white orbs". These discs, best seen in the full size image, are round areas of blown out highlights which are several times larger than the actual light source. I've been taking this photo for over a decade, and I've never seen anything like it before. I could've used a smaller aperture, but then I'd have a shutter speed approaching 30 seconds. I also could've tried the dynamic range tools, but that requires increasing the ISO sensitivity, which defeats the purpose of the test. In other words, there were no great solutions for this particular scene.

Let's leave the topic of white discs for a moment to talk about noise at high sensitivities. I stopped this test at ISO 3200, as that is where the image size drops and RAW no longer becomes available. As you'll see, there's really no point in shooting at the highest sensitivities, anyway.


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

The X10 starts off mostly noise free at ISO 100, with just a slight increase at ISO 200. At ISO 400 noise is noticeable, but you should still be able to print an 8 x 10 at that sensitivity. ISO 800 is probably a good stopping point for JPEG shooters, though may be able to squeeze out a bit more detail if you shoot RAW. I would avoid ISO 1600 and 3200 unless you're really desperate, as they're quite noisy, with the ISO 3200 shot having some horizontal banding, as well. The white discs do get smaller as the ISO went up, probably due to the faster shutter speeds.

Can I make that ISO 3200 shot look a little better by shooting RAW and doing some easy post-processing? Let's find out.

ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

As you can see, the converted RAW image is very noisy. That doesn't leave much room for improvement, though I got a bit more detail and better color out of the deal. Those of you who are RAW gurus might be able to recover some highlight detail, as well.

The X10 is capable of taking redeye-free photos, but only if face detection is turned on. Turning FD on will use the AF-assist lamp to shrink your subject's pupils, which sometimes helps. If you add the digital redeye removal tool into the mix (which is found in the setup menu), it'll eliminate any redeye that was found in the photo you just took. If that still doesn't do it, there's a removal tool in playback mode, but it only works on detected faces.

There's mild to moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the X10's 28 - 112 mm lens. There's no corner blurring or vignetting (dark corners) to be found, which tells me that Fuji did not cheap out on this lens.

Now it's time to see how the X10 performed in our studio ISO test. Since these photos are taken under consistent lighting, you can compare the results with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. Unlike the night shot test, I took the sensitivity all the way to its maximum of 12800. Do note that the resolution drops to medium at ISO 6400, and small at ISO 12800. Here we go!


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400 (6M)

ISO 12800 (3M)

ISO 100 and 200 are both relatively noise-free. At ISO 400 there's a bit of grain, as well as a slight drop in color saturation, but it's still usable for midsize and large prints. The ISO 800 is just a little bit worse, and is definitely something you can work with. Noise becomes a lot more obvious at ISO 1600, so this is a good stopping point, and I'd stick to small prints or switch to RAW if I were you. ISO 3200 is best avoided, as are the two sensitivities above it, as they're low resolution and noisy. I should add that I don't think that the X10, with its larger sensor, has less noise than other high-end compacts, at least when you're looking at full resolution images.

It's time for another RAW vs. JPEG comparison, again at ISO 3200, which is the highest sensitivity at which you can use RAW.

ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

While there's a slight improvement in terms of color here, you don't get a whole lot of detail back. I think the X10's sensor is just too noisy for ISO 3200 to be usable.

Overall, the Fuji X10's image quality is good, but there are a few important negatives to bring up. Exposure was generally accurate, though there's a slight tendency to overexpose. Colors are nice and vivid -- especially the reds. Images were slightly soft to my eyes, and if you agree, you may want to turn up the in-camera sharpening a notch. As the previous tests show, noise is kept under control through ISO 400, though after that things go downhill. Using the high sensitivity & low noise EXR mode (or just dropping the resolution to 6MP) will give you better results. Thankfully, the X10 goes easy on the noise reduction, so detail smudging is not an issue. Purple fringing levels were generally low.

Now, the bad news. One fairly minor issue is that the X10 sometimes gets a case of the jaggies, as you can see here and here. A much more significant problem is highlight clipping. If you've got the ISO fixed at 100, which is what you'll want to do to avoid noise, virtually every highlight in the photo will be blown out. The solution is a simple one: adjust the Dynamic Range setting upward -- 200% or 400% will do. You can do this manually at full resolution, or by using the D-Range Priority EXR mode, though keep in mind that most settings are locked up in that mode. The downside of this is that the ISO must be boosted to 200 or 400, which will put more noise in your images. Given how strong the highlight clipping is on the X10, I'd be willing to make that trade-off.

That brings us to the X10's most notorious problem: the "white discs". This phenomenon isn't something you'll encounter often, but when you see it, you'll wonder how Fuji missed this one when they developed the camera. In certain situations, bright light sources in a photo -- usually lamps -- will get a circular shaped disc or "orb" around them, like so:


Big discs in the night photo


Smaller orbs in the train station

While the discs in the train station photo aren't bothersome, what I saw in my night shots was like nothing I'd ever seen before (and I've been doing this for 15 years). The discs appear anywhere there's a bright light source in the night shot, making the photo look like something out of Missile Command. The thing that makes this story even more frustrating is that I took the night photo after installing a firmware update that Fuji said "reduced" this problem! Bad news for Fuji: it didn't help at all. My thought is that this is a flaw with the EXR CMOS sensor itself, and not something that can be fixed with a firmware update.

So what can you do about these discs?

  • Shoot at a smaller aperture: this will reduce this effect, though you'll need to boost the ISO in order to get a proper shutter speed
  • Increase the Dynamic Range Correction: again, this will increase noise, as the ISO must be increased for this trick to work
  • Hope that Fuji magically fixes this via a firmware update or a recall (both highly unlikely)
  • Buy something else altogether

My advice is that if you're really sold on the X10, buy it from a place with a generous return policy. If the white discs/orbs are a problem for you, then exchange it for something else. Remember that I only had it come up in two situations, so it's not a common occurrence.

That was a lot to digest, so why not pour over our X10 photo gallery and see if the photo quality meets your needs?

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