Review: Fujifilm X10
- — 12 September, 2012 22:00
|Name||Digital compact camera: Fujifilm X10|
|At a glance:||4x optical zoom lens (28-112mm equiv.),12-megapixel 2/3-inch CMOS sensor,2.8-inch, 460k-dot LCD, plus optical viewfinder,Limited manual control in video mode|
|Summary:||Five-star build quality and still-image performance, weak on video and value-for-money.|
The X10 is the entry-level camera in Fujifilm’s ‘prosumer’ compact range, which also includes the X100, X-S1 and the interchangeable-lens X-Pro1.
With the number of digital compact cameras on the market, we only tend to bring particularly interesting models through the PC World labs. The X10’s entry was mostly down to its manual controls, though admittedly its solid construction and ‘classic camera’ styling may have had something to do with it.
This compact puts a 12-megapixel, 2/3-inch (8.8mm x 6.6mm) CMOS sensor behind a 4x zoom lens. That zoom provides the equivalent to 28-112mm on a 35mm film camera, and nicely covers a wide range of shooting conditions, from landscape to close-up portrait and macro shots. The only thing it lacks is the ‘super zoom’ capability of travel compacts, which can have anywhere from 10-20x optical zoom. As the lens isn’t interchangeable, this is not ideal to capture minute detail from far off.
There’s both a 2.8-inch (7.1cm) LCD display and an optical viewfinder. However, the latter is ‘oldschool’ optical: there’s no heads-up information as you’d find on most DSLR viewfinders. Due to the viewfinder’s positioning, when fully zoomed out the camera’s lens blocks a little of the bottom-right of the image. Personally, I ended up using the LCD for everything despite having grown up shooting through a viewfinder.
Construction is very solid, and a textured grip makes the camera easy to hold. All the controls are within easy reach, and the on/off switch is cleverly built into the lens: twisting the zoom ring to pop the lens out of the camera body also turns it on, and retracting the lens fully turns it off. Convenient, but with one small downside: you can’t turn the camera on without uncapping the lens, which means if you just want to review the photos you’ve already taken, you must do so with the lens exposed to dust, scratches, etc.
Image quality is brilliant, with very low noise even in low-light conditions. Photographing several indoor events, I rarely needed to use the pop-up flash, even as my fellow journalists fired theirs off like strobe lights at a rave. The wide aperture (f2.0 wide, down to f2.8 telephoto) helps out there.
Colours were true, dynamic range was excellent, and JPEG quality was very high. You can opt to shoot in RAW, but for once I found very little advantage in doing so: try as I might, I couldn’t get better results from the RAW output in Adobe Camera RAW than I did from the X10’s own JPEGs. Honestly, I’m not sure whether to praise the camera’s JPEG export engine, or criticise its RAW format. The in-camera RAW conversion allows you to edit settings, so you can have the best of both worlds.
The manual controls I was so excited about were indeed useful. If you’re using automatic focus (and therefore don’t need a focus wheel), you have separate wheels for shutter speed and aperture: something missing from most compacts that offer manual controls. Manual focus works well, zooming in on the viewfinder as you adjust the focus to help you get things just right, but I never really needed to use it given the speed and accuracy of autofocus.
My greatest disappointment was in the video mode. For all the camera’s fancy manual controls and customisability, the video recording display is fixed (you can’t customise the information shown, display guides, etc), and control is severely limited. There’s no ‘tracking autofocus’ for following moving objects while shooting video, and the only adjustments available are white balance and exposure compensation. If you’re just shooting holiday clips, fine, but this is not a camera you’d film interviews or important events on.
The X10 served me so well in the still-image department, that I desperately wanted to award it a five-star ‘PC World Platinum’ rating. Given its build quality, excellent manual controls and brilliant still-image quality, I almost did so. However, $898 is a lot to pay for a compact camera. Most of its competition in that price range include great video functionality – with the X10’s video mode feeling like a weak, tacked-on extra, it’s hard to justify the price.