Originally Posted: February 16, 2012
Last Updated: July 11, 2012
The Fujifilm X10 ($599) is a premium compact camera that shows interchangeable lens cameras don't get to have all the fun. The X10 has a cool retro design, solid build quality, a large optical viewfinder, and a ton of manual controls. It's also the little brother to the FinePix X100 that I (generally) enjoyed using last year.
Here are some of the highlights of the Fuji X10:
- Very solid, retro-styled magnesium alloy body
- Larger-than-average 2/3", 12 Megapixel EXR CMOS sensor
- EXR sensor and processor allow camera to prioritize high resolution, wide dynamic range, or high sensitivity & low noise
- Fast, high quality F2.0-2.8, 28 - 112 mm zoom lens; zoom is adjusted manually, with the power switch integrated into the lens ring
- Optical image stabilization
- High resolution 2.8" LCD display
- Large optical viewfinder with 85% coverage
- Full manual controls, with RAW support and four types of bracketing
- EXR Auto mode selects the proper EXR and scene mode for you
- Electronic level
- 360 degree sweep panorama feature
- In-camera RAW editor
- Full HD video recording at 1080/30p
All that doesn't come cheap, as you might imagine. at $599, the Fuji X10 is one of the most expensive fixed-lens cameras on the market. Is it worth the premium? Find out now in our review!
|Note: Fujifilm has recognized the "white orb" problem described in this review, and redesigned the sensor to avoid this issue. X10 owners can send their cameras in to Fuji and get the sensor replaced at no charge. While we've been unable to obtain an updated X10 to test, apparently the problem has been fixed.|
What's in the Box?
The X10 has a fairly typical bundle for a compact camera, though it comes in a fancier box. Here's what you'll find when you open everything up:
- The 12.0 effective Megapixel Fujifilm X10 digital camera
- NP-50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Shoulder strap
- Metal strap clips w/protective covers
- Clip attaching tool
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring MyFinePix Studio, FinePixViewer, and RAW File Converter
- 129 page camera manual (printed)
Unlike most fixed-lens camera, Fuji hasn't built any memory into the X10, nor do they include a memory card. So, unless you have one already, you'll need to pick up an SD, SDHC, or SDXC card if you want to actually take photos. I'd recommend picking up a 4GB card if you'll be mostly taking stills, and an 8 or 16GB card if movies are your thing. Picking up a high speed card (Class 6 or higher) is a smart idea, and if you're really hardcore, the X10 supports UHS-I SDXC cards for the fastest speeds possible.
The X10 uses the NP-50 lithium-ion battery for power. This battery contains 3.4 Wh of energy, which is on the low side for a camera in this class. How does that translate into battery life? See below:
The X10 is a bit below average in the battery life department, with only the Nikon and Sigma below it. Therefore, I'd recommending picking up a spare battery, which will set you back around $30.
When it's charging time, just pop the NP-50 into the included charger, which is designed to also hold another Fuji battery. It takes around 150 minutes to fully charge the battery.
The X10 inside its optional leather case
There aren't too many accessories available for the X10. I've compiled what you can buy into the table below:
In case you just skimmed that table: the X10 supports 52mm filters, though you'll need to buy the lens hood in order to get the proper adapter.
Fuji includes a number of software products with the X10, and the first I want to mention is My FinePix Studio. This Windows-only product can be used for transferring photos from your camera to a computer, after which you can edit or share them. On the main thumbnail screen you can filter through your photos in a number of ways (people, events, location) and create "Smart Albums", like in iTunes. Here you can also view a slideshow, print or e-mail a photo, or upload them to YouTube or Facebook.
The editing features in MyFinePix Studio are fairly basic. You can do an auto image enhancement, or adjust the brightness, contrast, and gamma manually. You can rotate or crop a photo, and remove redeye. There are also numerous special effects, including classics like grayscale and sepia. Unlike with JPEGs, when you double-click on a RAW image you won't get the screen you see above. Instead, the RAW File Converter software mentioned below will load and open the image you selected.
Mac users get their own piece of software, but it's not really worth installing. FinePixViewer for Mac hasn't changed in several years, and it's basically limited to viewing, cropping, rotating, and placing text onto your photos. It can't view RAW images at all, so you'll need to use the RAW File Converter software below, or just do everything in iPhoto or Aperture.
The bundled software for working with the X10's RAW images is known as RAW File Converter EX. If it looks familiar, it should -- it's SilkyPix, which many other manufacturers use as well. This is a very powerful RAW editor, though the interface is clunky, and some of the English translations are a bit strange. Both Mac and Windows versions of RAW File Converter are included.
If you'd prefer to use Adobe Photoshop instead, just make sure that you're running version 6.6 or newer of their Camera Raw plug-in.
Thankfully, Fuji still includes an actual printed manual in the box with the X10. The manual won't win any awards for user-friendliness (or depth), but it should answer most of the questions that may come up when using the camera. Documentation for the included software is installed onto your Mac or PC.
Design & Features
If there's one thing you can say about all of Fuji's X-series camera, it's that's the build quality is extremely high. And that the camera is made in Japan (Fuji makes that very obvious). The X10 features a magnesium allow body, with a sort of faux leather rubberized finish on the front and back. The camera is super-easy to hold with one hand, but since the zoom is operated manually, your left hand will be involved, as well.
If you like buttons, dials, and switches, then you'll love the X10. I'd definitely say that it has "button clutter", though thankfully most everything handles just one function. I'm a fan of the dedicated exposure compensation dial on the top of the camera, as well as the buttons for white balance and RAW on the back. One control I don't care for is the four-way controller / scroll wheel combination on the back of the camera. First, it feels cheap compared the rest of the camera. The scroll dial spins too freely, making precise adjustments difficult, since you can't feel it "click" as you adjust things like shutter speed. I'm not entirely sold on the "lens ring as power switch", either.
Let's take a look at how the Fujifilm X10 compares to similar cameras in terms of size and weight:
As you can see, the X10 is the second largest camera in the group, with only the new PowerShot G1 X (which has an even larger sensor than the X10) coming in ahead of it. The X10 isn't what I'd call a "jeans pocket" camera, but it will travel in larger pockets or over your shoulder with ease.
Let's take a tour of the Fuji X10 now!
One of the highlights of the Fuji X10 is its lens. This F2.0-2.8 lens is somewhat unique in that it's stays "fast" across the 28 - 112 mm focal range. Some of the competition's lenses get slow quickly -- like the Nikon P310, which goes from F1.8 - F4.9 -- while the Canon G1 X is slow to begin with. What all this "speed" stuff means is that the X10's 4X zoom lens brings in more light than a typical fixed-lens camera, and does so at all focal lengths.
The lens is operating mechanically, with the power switch tied right into the zoom ring. Thus, when you want to turn on the camera, you rotate the zoom ring to the 28mm position, and you're ready to go. That said, I found myself longing for a more traditional power switch.
You'd expect a premium compact like the X10 to have image stabilization, and it does indeed use a system of the lens-shift variety. What this means is a lower likelihood of blurry photos, and shake-free videos.
Another big part of the X10 is its 2/3" EXR CMOS sensor, which is about 50% larger than what you'd find on a typical compact camera (though not as large as the giant 1.5" sensor in the PowerShot G1 X). Having a larger sensor means that more light is collected, thus improving resolution and sensitivity. The EXR sensor's unique pixel arrangement also allows it to prioritize high resolution, wide dynamic range, or high sensitivity & low light, though not all at the same time. I'll have more on this subject after the tour.
To the right of the lens is a switch for setting the focus mode. You can choose from single or continuous AF, or go manual. Unfortunately, the X10 lacks a manual focus ring, so you'll be using the scroll wheel on the back of the camera, which was very slow in making adjustments.
Directly above that switch is the camera's pop-up flash, which is released manually. The working range of the flash is 0.5 - 7.0 m at wide-angle and 0.8 - 5.0 m at telephoto (at Auto ISO ), which is quite good.
Other items of note on the front of the camera include an AF-assist lamp, stereo microphone, and the optical viewfinder.
While your eyes may first jump to the optical viewfinder, I first want to talk about the X10's LCD display. This screen isn't the largest out there, but I think most folks won't notice the difference between the 2.8-inch display here, and the 3-inch ones on other cameras. The screen is very sharp, with 460,000 pixels, and outdoor visibility is excellent. In low light, the view on the LCD brightens up very nicely, so you still see your subject.
Now onto that viewfinder, which has become such a rarity on compact cameras these days. It's big, bright, and shows 85% of the frame. Something else you'll see is the lens blocking a small portion of the frame (lower-right side) when you're at the its wide end. The viewfinder is set back nicely from the camera, so your nose won't smudge the LCD when you're using it. You can adjust the focus by using the diopter correction wheel to its left.
To the left of the viewfinder is the flash release button. Below that we have buttons for entering playback mode, and adjusting the metering, AF, or white balance setting.
Toward the top-right of the camera is the main command dial, which you'll use for adjusting things like shutter speed and aperture. Under that we have buttons for AE/AF Lock, toggling what's on the LCD (and backing out of menus), and quickly switching to the RAW format. As of firmware 1.03, the RAW button's function can be customized, much like that of the Fn button that you'll see on the next tab.
In the middle of those buttons is the four-way controller, which has the secondary dial (what I'm calling the scroll wheel) wrapped around it. I already told you that I'm not a fan of the feel of the dial, but I haven't said much about what it does. It too is used for adjusting manual exposure settings (as well as focus), and it also handles menu navigation and image playback. The four-way controller has direct buttons for drive mode, and macro, flash, and self-timer settings.
The first thing I want to point out here is that Fuji has left enough room for your fingers when the flash is popped up.
Speaking of flashes, if you want to use a more powerful one, just attach it to the hot shoe that you see in the middle of the photo. If you are using one of the two Fujifilm-branded external flashes that I mentioned earlier, then everything should work automatically. Fuji is pretty vague about flash sync speeds. It seems that the Fuji-branded flashes can be used at 1/4000 sec. If you're using a non-Fuji flash, plan on adjusting exposure manually, though I'm not sure what the x-sync speed actually is.
To the right of the hot shoe is the mode dial, and I'll tell you about the items you'll find there after this tour. Continuing to the right we have the exposure compensation dial, shutter release button (which supports a screw-in remote release), and a customizable Function button.
The only thing to see here is the lens in the "off" position. You can see the focal length markings on the lens, which is a nice touch.
On the opposite side of the camera are the I/O ports, which are kept under a plastic cover. The ports here include USB + A/V output and mini-HDMI. The optional AC adapter (if you can find all the parts) feeds through that slot at the base of the camera body.
The lens is at the full telephoto position here.
On the bottom of the camera you'll find a metal tripod mount, which is strangely not in line with the lens. The only other thing to see is the battery/memory card compartment, which is protected by a reinforced plastic door of decent quality. Since the tripod mount is so far away, you will be able to access the memory card or battery while the camera is on a tripod.
The included NP-50 battery can be seen at right.
|The display in live view mode is totally customizable. Here you can see that I have the live histogram and electronic level turned on||If you're shooting with the optical viewfinder, an info screen can be shown on the LCD instead of the live view|
I'm going to begin my discussion of the X10's features by talking about the options found on the mode dial. They include:
There are two auto modes on the Fuji X10, and I'm not quite sure why. The regular Auto mode is almost completely locked down, and you don't get to take advantage of the camera's EXR sensor, since it always shoots at high resolution in this mode. So, I'd recommend that my point-and-shoot readers set their mode dials to EXR mode instead. There, the camera will select both the EXR and scene mode automatically. Something else available in EXR mode is Advanced Anti Blur, which combines a series of exposures into a single, blur-free image. I'd show you an example, but you can't actually force the camera to use that feature.
EXR mode menu
If you want to pick the EXR mode yourself, EXR mode is the place to do it. You can choose from three modes:
- Resolution priority: this is the default mode, with the camera saving photos at 12 Megapixel
- High ISO & Low Noise: the camera combines adjacent pixels to double the amount of light captured, which greatly improves high ISO performance. resolution is cut to 6 Megapixel, though
- D-Range priority: the camera uses the adjacent pixel layout to take two exposures, which are combined into a single image with improved dynamic range
If you want a nice illustration of how all this stuff works, check out this page on Fuji's site. Now, here are some real world examples of the High ISO and D-Range Priority features:
|ISO 400||ISO 1600|
While the X10 already performs pretty well through ISO 400, you'll want to use the High ISO & Low Noise mode for best results at sensitivities above that. The most impressive photo above is the ISO 1600 of my trusty sidekick Flame. If you view it at 100%, you'll see plenty of noise, but 1) it looks great when printed at smaller sizes or downsized for web viewing and 2) most compact cameras couldn't produce something of this quality at ISO 1600. The downside of this mode is that the resolution is cut to 6 Megapixel, which reduces your maximum print sizes from enormous to large. The High ISO mode is only available in EXR mode (which is totally point-and-shoot), though you can achieve similar results by just setting the image quality to medium in the other shooting modes, or downsizing in Photoshop.
If there's one thing the X10 does frequently, it's clip highlights. Fortunately, you have a weapon against this annoyance: the dynamic range compensation feature. You can use it in any shooting mode, but if you want the 800% and 1600% options, you need to be in EXR D-Range Priority mode, which will drop the resolution to 6 Megapixel. In either case, you'll want to have the ISO set to Auto (400) so the camera can use the full range of DR correction. Below is an example of how well it can work:
View Full Size
View Full Size
View Full Size
View Full Size
View Full Size
View Full Size
The image I selected to be the default in the above comparison was taken with the DR Correction set to Auto -- you can see that it does a pretty good job. However, if you're trying to minimize noise and have the ISO fixed to 100, you'll be stuck with the DR 100% setting, which has strong highlight clipping on both the arches and the opposite wall. Once you get to 200%, things look a lot better, and things continue to improve as the DR correction level goes up. If you want good overall DR correction then I'd stick with the Auto DR mode, but remember that this requires the ISO to be set to something above 100 so the camera can work its magic. The best option, as I mentioned above, is to use Auto ISO (400). You will get more noise in your photos, but it should not be a huge issue, at least when shooting at 6 Megapixel. At the full 12 Megapixel resolution, noise will be more obvious.
Some other point-and-shoot features are found (ironically) at the Advanced spot on the mode dial. There you'll find:
- Motion Panorama 360: pan the camera around and it'll automatically stitch together a panorama ranging from 120 to 360 degrees
- Pro Focus: the camera combines three exposures into a single image, with the subject sharp and the background blurred; in the past I've found it very difficult to actually get this feature to work.
- Pro Low Light: the camera combines four exposures into a single image, reducing noise and blur
Below are examples of two of these features:
As you'd expect from a camera in this class, the X10 has plenty of manual controls, as well. You can adjust the shutter speed and aperture (of course), though do note that the full shutter speed range is only available in full "M" mode. There's also manual white balance control, four types of bracketing, and support for the RAW format. And that's in addition to the custom button and spots on the mode dial. One thing I should point out about the X10's RAW support is that you cannot use it above ISO 3200, which is arguably when you'll need it the most, at least if noise is your main concern.
White balance fine-tuning
Now I'd like to provide more detail on two options that are controlled by buttons on the back of the camera. First up is white balance, where you can choose from the usual presets, use a white or gray card to set the white point, or set the color temperature. There's also an underwater option, which is interesting, considering that there's no housing available for the camera. White balance can be fine-tuned in the red-cyan or blue-yellow directions, and you can also bracket for it.
The other thing I wanted to mention are the drive options. Here you'll find:
- Top (burst mode): details in next section
- Best Frame capture: takes a burst of photos, with a pre-shot buffering feature, which is adjustable; in other words, the camera will save photos before and after the shutter release was fully pressed
- AE bracketing: camera takes three shots in a row, each at a different exposure value; the interval between each shot can be ±1/3, ±2/3, or ±1EV
- ISO bracketing: similar to above, but with ISO sensitivity; camera will never drop below ISO 200 or go above ISO 1600
- Film Simulation bracketing: camera takes one photo at Provia/Standard, a second at Velvia/Vivid, and a third at Astia/Soft; more on Film Simulation modes later
- Dynamic Range bracketing: camera takes on photo at 100% DR, a second at 200%, and a third at 400%; the ISO will be set to 400 when using this feature
Now it's time to talk about some of the interesting options that you'll find in the Fuji X10's menu system. The menu system itself looks dated, but it's easy enough to work with. While help screens would be nice, I don't think the X10's target audience really needs them.
- ISO sensitivity: choose from regular Auto, Auto with an upper limit (ranging from 400 to 3200), or a fixed value from 100 to 12800 (with lots of stops in-between)
- Image size/aspect ratio: you've got large, medium, and small, with four aspect ratios to choose from (4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1)
- Dynamic range: choose from Auto (100% - 400%) or manual (100% to 1600%); the top two settings are only available in the D-Range Priority EXR mode; the ISO will be boosted if you use high DR settings
- Film Simulation mode: simulates different types of film (in case the name didn't give it away); select from Provia/standard, Velvia/vivid, Astia/soft, monochrome, monochrome+yellow/red/green, sepia)
- WB shift: fine-tune white balance in the red-cyan or blue-yellow direction (described earlier)
- Sharpness/highlight tone/shadow tone/noise reduction: adjust these from low to high (5 steps total)
- Intelligent Digital Zoom: boosts the focal range by 2 times, with a minimal loss in image quality; this feature is showing up on more and more cameras
- Advanced Anti Blur: available only in EXR Auto mode, this will take several exposures in a row and combine them into a blur-free image (in theory) with less noise than you'd get otherwise
- Face detection/recognition: naturally, the X10 can detect faces; the camera can also learn to recognize faces, and you can attach a name, relationship, and birthday to up to eight people; recognized faces get focus priority when they appear in the scene
- External flash: use this when a non-Fujifilm external flash is attached; if the built-in flash is popped-up, it will fire once to signal a remote slave flash
- Custom set: save your favorite settings to the two "C" spots on the mode dial
- Display custom setting: choose what's shown on the LCD when its in the custom mode (which you reach by pressing the Disp button a few times); options include guidelines, AF/MF distance indicators, a live histogram, and an electronic level
- Quick Start mode: this one and all that follow are on the setup tab; reduces startup time at the expense of battery life
- Function button: here you can define what the custom Fn button handles; by default, it's the ISO sensitivity, and plenty of other choices are available. Firmware update 1.03 added this functionality to the RAW button as well.
- Dual IS mode: choose from continuous+motion, continuous, shooting+motion, shooting only; the "motion" part means that the camera will boost the ISO to freeze moving subjects -- if you're using a fixed ISO, then that feature won't do anything
- Redeye removal: digitally removes any redeye found in a photo you've just taken; only works with face detection on
- RAW: while this option is buried in the setup menu, you can also turn it on by using the button on the back of the camera; choose from RAW or RAW+JPEG; you cannot shoot RAW in the auto shooting modes, which includes EXR mode, nor can you use it above ISO 3200. A RAW image is about 19MB in size.
Now onto movie mode. The X10 can record Full HD videos at 1920 x 1080 (30 frames/second) with stereo sound, using the H.264 codec. You can keep recording until the elapsed time reaches 30 minutes. If you don't need 1080p video, you can also record at 720p or 640 x 480, as well.
As you'd expect, you can use the optical zoom while filming a movie, and the X10 will keep everything in focus (though refocusing is sluggish at times). The image stabilizer is available, as well.
If you're looking for manual controls in movie mode, you won't find them on the X10. About the only thing you can adjust is the Film Simulation mode. You can take a 6 Megapixel still image while you're recording a movie by pressing the OK button.
A high speed movie mode is also available on the X10. Choose from 70, 120, or 200 frames/second, with the resolution declining as the frame rate goes up (640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 320 x 112, respectively). Movies recorded in high speed mode are played back at normal speed, which produces a slow motion effect.
Below are two separate videos that I spliced together. They're taken at the Full HD (1080/30p) setting.
Anyone else notice the jaggies and compression artifacts in that sample? I also found that the continuous AF tends to "hunt" a lot, which makes your movies look awfully strange.
|Playback menu||In-camera RAW editing|
The X10 has a pretty good playback mode. Image editing tools include redeye removal, image rotating/cropping/resizing, and RAW conversion. The RAW conversion tool sounds pretty neat, but it returned a "write error" on several occasions. You can filter your photos by date, category, faces, favorites, file format, and more, and tag them for uploading to Facebook or YouTube. The camera can also create photo books, which can be viewed on the camera or in MyFinePix Studio.
There are, unfortunately, no video editing tools on the Fuji X10 -- not even a basic trimming tool.
By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos. However, if you press the display button, you'll get a lot more, including a histogram and a display of over/underexposed areas of your photo. Use the main dial and you can see even more shooting information.
As you'd expect from a camera in this price range, there's no delay between photos. You can move through images slowly with the four-way controller, or really book it by using the subdial.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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?
The Fujifilm X10 is a very well designed premium compact camera. It's generally a joy to use, and it's retro-style body will certainly turn some heads. That said, it has a lengthy list of flaws; some are minor annoyances, while others make you wonder how this camera got through the testing phase. The camera itself is exceptionally well built. Its magnesium alloy body, plethora of dials, and faux rubber surfaces give it a rangefinder camera feel. The X10 is easy to hold, and while it's loaded with buttons, you wouldn't be overwhelmed. It also has a unique lens ring, which serves as the power switch in addition to its focal range adjusting duties. From a design standpoint, the only things I didn't like were the free-spinning subdial and the off-center tripod mount. The highlight of the X10 is its lens, which has a fast maximum aperture range (F2.0-F2.8) and none of the issues that come up on lesser lenses (like corner blurring or purple fringing). Combine the fast lens with the X10's sensor-shift image stabilization system, and blurry shots should be a rare occurrence. On the back of the camera you'll find a very sharp 2.8" LCD display with excellent outdoor and low light visibility, as well as an optical viewfinder. The X10 has a powerful built-in flash, as well a hot shoe for even better flash photos.
Another big feature on the X10 is its larger-than-average 2/3" EXR CMOS sensor. While I didn't see any big improvements in terms of noise and especially highlight detail on the X10, the EXR sensor does allow the user to choose between high resolution, high sensitivity, and wide dynamic range. You can let the camera choose which is best for the scene, or do it yourself. The high sensitivity & low noise EXR mode does indeed produce better-than-average low light photos, though the resolution is cut in half, to 6 Megapixel. The D-Range Priority will cut the resolution to 6 Megapixel as well as boosting the ISO as high as 400, but it works very well at reducing the highlight clipping that plagues the X10. You can also increase the dynamic range at full resolution, but only up to 400% (instead of 1600%).
So there's your point-and-shoot experience -- how about manual controls? The X10 features them all, including those for exposure, white balance, and focus (though the controls for this are clunky). There's also support for the RAW format (with a built-in editor), two customizable buttons, and two spots on the mode dial for your favorite camera settings. Do note that RAW is unavailable above ISO 3200, as the image size drops as you go above that sensitivity. The X10 also features a multi-shot low light mode, a Pro Focus mode which blurs the background for you, and an in-camera panorama feature that can cover a full 360 degrees. The Fuji X10 can record Full HD video at 1080/30p with stereo sound, continuous autofocus, and use of the image stabilizer. Video quality isn't the greatest, though, and the AF system tends to "hunt" more than I'd like. There aren't any manual controls or editing tools for movies, either.
The X10 is generally a very solid performer. The camera starts up quickly (depending on how fast you can turn the lens ring), and has impressive focus speeds, even in low light. I will point out that there were times when the AF system would fail, for no apparent reason. Shutter lag wasn't a problem, and shot-to-shot speeds were good, save for when the flash was used. The X10 has a fast burst mode, though 1) the buffer fills quickly, 2) the fastest burst rates are reserved for JPEGs only, and 3) the camera will be locked up for up to 15 seconds while the images are saved to the memory card. Speaking of delays, the X10 is more difficult to wake from sleep than most cameras -- you must hold the shutter release down for about a second. Battery life on the X10 is slightly below average among premium compacts, so picking up a spare isn't a bad idea.
That brings us to photo quality, which is the area in which the X10 needs the most improvement. On the positive side, exposure is usually accurate, colors are saturated, and purple fringing levels are low. Redeye is well-controlled, but only if the camera detects a face in the scene and uses its digital removal system. Images are a little bit soft for my taste, though that's easy enough to fix. The camera's biggest problems are jaggies, highlight clipping, and the occasional white disc/orb. Highlight clipping is shockingly bad for a camera in this price range, though if you're willing to increase the ISO sensitivity and use the DR correction feature, it becomes much more manageable. The white disc issue won't appear often, but when it does, you'll certainly notice. My view is that this is due to a flaw in the sensor design, and that it will not be fixed. The last few Fuji compacts I tested had some questionable quality control, and with the X10 I'm starting to wonder what's going on over in Japan. As I mentioned earlier, for those of you set on the X10, make sure you buy it from a store with a nice return policy, in case the white orbs (or highlight clipping) becomes unbearable.
Overall, the Fujifilm X10 is an intriguing, fun-to-use camera with a fairly long list of cons. Is it a camera I enjoyed using? Yes, quite a bit. Would I buy it? Probably not, though that's due more to the highlight clipping than the white disc issue. Should you consider it? Definitely, but check out the competition carefully.
What I liked:
- Good photo quality when using dynamic range correction
- High grade, professional quality body with rangefinder-style design and manual zoom ring
- Fast, high quality F2.0-2.8, 28 - 112 mm lens
- Sensor-shift image stabilization
- 2.8" LCD is fluid, sharp, and easy to see in all conditions
- Large optical viewfinder has 85% coverage
- EXR CMOS sensor produces better-than-average high sensitivity photos (at 6MP, though) and dramatically reduces highlight clipping (though the ISO must go up)
- Full manual controls, with RAW support (and in-camera editing), custom buttons and spots on mode dial, four types of bracketing, and more
- EXR Auto mode chooses both the scene and EXR mode for you
- Fast burst mode, though buffer fills quickly, highest speeds limited to JPEGs, and long write times
- Always handy electronic level
- Anti-redeye system does the job, as long as a face is detected
- 360 degree panorama tool
- Hot shoe for external flash
- Full HD video recording with use of optical zoom, image stabilization, and continuous AF
What I didn't care for:
- Strong highlight clipping (use the DR correction to reduce, though noise will increase)
- Unusual white disc/orb problem makes photos look awkward (to say the least)
- Some "jaggies" in photos
- EXR sensor's most useful features require drop in resolution, increase in ISO
- AF system occasional fails to lock focus, then works fine a second later; adjusting focus manually is clunky and slow
- Camera locks up for 10-15 seconds after taking bursts, or several RAW images
- Highest sensitivities at lower resolutions, RAW unavailable
- Design annoyances: subdial spins too freely, tripod mount off-center, UI getting a bit dated
- Waking camera from sleep more difficult than it should be
- Video quality isn't great; continuous AF tends to "hunt"; no manual controls or editing tools for videos
As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera or electronics store to try out the Fuji X10 and its competitors before you buy!
Check out our X10 photo gallery to see how the image quality looks!