Wednesday, December 28, 2011

REVIEW: Fujifilm X10 – 2011 Point & Shoot of the Year (UPDATED: 12/28/11)


Fujifilm x10 (Actual Size)

When I reviewed the Fujifilm X100, I really loved the image quality and a few of the features. However, the price was obscene, the focus indoors was a joke, and the single fixed lens was ludacris. Despite this reality I was somehow drawn to keep using it as there was something about it that made photography so fun. I hated sending that camera back to B&H, but I had high hopes that the X10 would be more user-friendly and similar in image quality. Now logically I thought that wouldn’t be possible because if the image quality of the X10 was even similar to the X100, then why would anyone buy the X100?

Living with the X10


f/2 for 1/150 sec @ ISO 800 EXR Auto Mode

I haven’t been this excited about using a camera since I got my first DSLR. The great image quality and wonderful EXR, Adv, and SP modes do such a great job that I began to trust them enough to really just point and shoot. I felt confident that the white balance would be close enough to fix even with an in-camera JPEG, that the dynamic range would be excellent, and the noise would be satisfactory even at ISO 3200. As a result, I found myself tinkering around shooting everything in sight – even stupid things just because it was fun to see what the camera would do. However, what really impressed me during all of this was the number of in-focus frames I had! This camera’s AF logic and performance is excellent so I just got clear shot after clear shot which gave me time to experiment more and get drawn further in to the magic of this camera.

No other point and shoot camera has been happier in my hands than the X10, and that even includes the Canon G12, Canon Powershot s100 and the Nikon 1 V1. I just got addicted to this camera and wanted to take it with me whenever I went anywhere. In fact, there were a few times where I probably should have brought out the DSLR but I chose to use the X10 because I knew I could quickly get the shot and move on.


f/2.2 for 1/60 sec at ISO 1600 (11.7mm) – In Camera JPEG – Full Auto
The x10 was a hit at Thanksgiving with my guests
and represented 84% of the keeper shots

I have let several people, including my wife and a novice point and shoot photographer, use the X10, and everyone loves using it. Unlike the X100, it is pretty easy figure out what most of the controls do, and quickly start having success shooting. In fact, I had all four cameras from my point and shoot comparison article on the table for Thanksgiving dinner and 21 of the 25 keeper photos all came from the X10 (with everyone taking turns with all of the cameras).

This camera has a solid feel that makes it feel closer to an X100 than it does a typical point and shoot, which is a bit different than what I experience with the unit I held at the PhotoPlus Expo. Users immediately comment that this must be an expensive camera due to the solid feel. At 12.3 oz (349 g) it isn’t light (it’s 2x the weight of the Canon s100), but it 2 oz (56 g) lighter than a x100. Ironically it is almost identical to the weight of a Canon G12 (12.4 oz / 352 g), so I didn’t really have an issue with the size.

Model Test

Mouse over to 400 ISO, mouse out to 1250 ISO 
f/2.5 for 1/150 sec at ISO 1250 Aperture Priority – In-Camera JPEG AWB
(Hover Over for 2nd image - f/2.5 for 1/50 sec at ISO 400 AWB)

Despite the fact that I shot at the same exact time under ideal studio conditions as the other cameras I’ve tested, the X10 was the easy winner with all of its shots in-focus and sharp. Aperture Priority with Auto ISO worked very well. Hover over the photo above to see a lower ISO shot and mouse out and click it to see a high ISO shot version.

Battery,  Lens Cap, and Camera Strap Disappointments

The battery was one disappointment as I found that I would need an extra battery to be on the safe side for a full day of casual travel shooting, but at $32.95 (on 12/1/11 at B&H)  it wasn’t as expensive as the s100’s batteries. I also hated the fact that there is a separate lens cap. While the quality of the lens cap is outstanding (felt-like interior & metal exterior), the fact that it isn’t integrated like the G12 or at least permanently tethered was a disappointment. While I’m used to lens caps with DSLR’s, their thin size make them easy to slide in my back pocket and keep shooting. The size of the lens cap for this camera made me put it in my front pocket, but because of the felt interior I’d usually set it down somewhere and lose it.

One final gripe I have is about the camera strap. It’s a bit cumbersome to put on and the leather-like material doesn’t feel very comfortable on the neck. I’d rather a traditional point and shoot wrist strap.

Photographing Children


You can get lucky indoors, but kids are still a huge challenge at night

I have a very active 2 1/2 year old son who I let get amped up on birthday cake and run around the house at night while I tried to photograph him. While the burst mode was much better than the s100 and G12, it still struggled to get a clear shot of him in these difficult conditions. Best results required the use of Shutter Priority and 3200 ISO, but the camera’s auto modes seemed to favor being at the ISO 1600 – 2000 range which resulted in shutter speeds of  1/70 sec or less – (far below the minimum 1/250 sec or faster required for my son). It would bang out enough shots where you’d occasionally get lucky though, so the success rate was significantly better than any other point and shoot I’ve used before.


Grandma’s during the day are no problem ;-)

Naturally during the day or even better outdoors on a bright day, kids aren’t an issue – it can keep up quite well.

Viewfinder has great glass, but 85% coverage is a joke

While the X10 only uses an optical viewfinder (with adjustable diopter) compared to the crazy cool hybrid viewfinder found on the X100, the quality is very good – especially for this price point. It’s a little odd in that its location causes you to see the lens barrel from 28mm until 50mm. At 50mm the distraction goes away and its similar to your average entry level DSLR. The problem is that what you see is only 85% (at best) of what your sensor sees, so in practice the actual image taken is not even close to what you saw in the viewfinder. Now some will call this “rangefinder charm”, but I call it crap. Personally I prefer to use the LCD for focusing on any camera of this size, so I didn’t really give a hoot about the viewfinder issue.

The Flash

The built-in flash is near useless like most point and shoots. What’s worse is the fact that flash exposure compensation can only be accessed via a long voyage through the menus makes it even more useless. However, there is a hot shoe for an external flash (EF42 or EF20) which opens up the possibility for a better flash experience. I didn’t have a chance to try the external flash during my testing though.

Image Quality


f/2 for 1/120 sec at ISO 800 Handheld Flower SP Mode

I’m pleased to say that in my subjective testing, I find the image quality of the X10 to be visually similar in real-world applications. Pixel peeping will put the X100 ahead, but not by a significant amount. Given the fact that the X100 was nearly tied with the Canon 1D Mark IV for image quality (click here), I couldn’t believe my eyes that the X10 was nearly as good.

Super Macro Mode

The minimum focus distance of this camera is insane. See the shot above for “super macro mode” where I got the shot of the s100 control dial (which was a crappy shot in poor light), and below shows where the lens was in relation to the subject for this shot.


1D Mark IV shot showing the minimum focus distance
of the X10 in super macro mode

Controls


Most of what you need is on the nicely designed rear panel (Actual Size)

The rear panel design is very nice. The LCD image quality is excellent and plenty large. The buttons included are useful, but I’d rather have the “RAW” button be a programmable button so that I could assign it something more useful like flash exposure compensation. There is a  assignable Fn button on the top of the camera (which I frequently forgot about), but it doesn’t allow flash exposure compensation to be assigned. I felt that was pretty lame, especially since you could assign silly things like intelligent digital zoom (at least in firmware version 1.02).

The controls on the top are nice as well, but the blunder of the year goes to the stupid design that requires you to zoom the lens out to turn the camera on. At first I thought it was kinda neat and cute, but myself and others who I gave the camera to always struggled to remember to rotate the lens to turn it on. Fortunately my blog reader, Joshua Patterson, pointed out that you don’t have to remove the lens cap and rotate the lens just to turn the camera. All you need to do is hold the Play button for a few seconds and the rear LCD will turn on for photo playback.

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after 
Overhead View (Actual Size)
Notice the lame on/off switch on the lens
Extend the lens to turn the camera on, and retract to turn it off

The menu system is a little bit confusing and cumbersome to use, but it’s usable. I’d rather a design closer to what Canon offers, but there’s lots of good user-configurable options that can typically be found reasonably fast. A favorites menu would be handy to have as well.

On the mode dial on the top of the camera are three very useful modes – EXR, Advanced (Adv) and Scene Position (SP). All three are brilliant on this camera and are worth trying. While you do lose some control and there is no RAW support for these modes, the output images are typically good enough to call it a day for personal memento snapshots.

UPDATE: Since this is now my full-time point and shoot camera, I have used it for Thanksgiving, a trip to Hawaii and Christmas (including shooting outdoor Christmas lights). I’ve become so satisfied with the in-camera JPEG results for my snapshots that I’ve spent most of my time using this camera in EXR (Auto) for general purpose, Adv (Pano or Low-Light) for killer panos and tough low-light situations, and SP for fast great results (i.e., beach, sunset, night, etc…). My wife loves this camera and really trusts it to get results, and I’ve been leaving my DSLR at home more for simple family activities. In fact, this Christmas I shot all of my photos with the X10 and never even picked up my DSLR (first time since 2006).

The exposure of this camera is always bang on so I rarely find myself needing anything more than the exposure compensation wheel (rarely) when I’m set to Auto ISO (3200). The face tracking AF has been solid, but I prefer the manual AF point for non-people scenarios. This cameras controls and performance are great enough that it is truly a point and shoot that just gets it right 95% of the time. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun to use!

Sample Images

Click here to find more A LOT more sample images along with their originals (when on smugmug click the photo to open the lightbox and choose O to view originals).


In-Camera 120 degree (180, & 360 also avail) pano – unmodified from in-camera result
(must be viewed at original size and use browser horizontal scrollbars)

SP Mode – Sunset Setting – Point and Click (with food in my hands!!!!)


Super Macro Mode Rules!


I wish my Canon cameras had this light meter!


Lights are hard but a monopod and –3ev help!


Fill Flash was good for P&S


I still can’t believe this 180 degree pano came out!!!!


Auto White Balance was better than this Tungsten version,
but the dynamic range is insane!


No, this isn’t HDR, this is EXR in Auto mode – DSLR’s would struggle here!

Sample Video

Click here to see my video comparison article. Here’s a couple more examples:


High Speed Slow Motion Video (Hand Held)
 

1080p Video (Hand Held)

Conclusion

This is the best point and shoot I’ve ever used. In fact, I love it so much that I’ve actually purchased my evaluation unit. I’ve also awarded it my first ever Point and Shoot of the Year (2011) award as this is the pointing and shoot that really does allow you to leave the DSLR at home.

Due to time constraints, I was unable to finish this article at this time. However, I have decided to share what I have in the spirit of holiday shopping.

See what I think about other cameras in my article entitled COMPARISON: Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, & Canon s100 (plus Fuji x100 and Canon G12 & s95).

Click here to order the X10 from B&H, Amazon or  Adorama.

Disclosure

While most popular blogs have mechanisms for generating revenue, few disclose it. I believe in transparency so I will disclose that B&H has given me an extended return period to review this cameras, but I decided to purchase it so they are giving me a discount for this used camera.

If you make a purchase using links found on this blog I may get a commission. I thank you for your support of more articles like this by your using my links when you are ready to make a purchase. If you are unable or unwilling to use my links, then a donation is appreciated for countless hours I spend while you sleep so that I may bring articles like this to you.

On behalf of my family, we thank you for your generous support!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

16 comments:

Pankaj said...

No doubt about it.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to twist the zoom to watch pics. Just press the Play-button and hold for a sec or two; Presto!
Turn it off with a short push on Play.
And: To avoid changing settings by accident while shooting, press and hold OK for a second or two; Controls locked!

Ron Martinsen said...

Thanks for the tip Anonymous - I'll update the article tonight.

Normally I try to read the manuals cover to cover, but given the timing of this roundup I've only been able to scan through them.

James B. said...

I like the super macro for sure..

Graffiti Photography said...

Ron, thanks for the nice review, I may just get this as I wanted something like the X100 for street photography, sounds like this one may be better.

I saw this on a review of the X10 on amazon and thought I would pass it along

I found the perfect strap right here on Amazon, an Op/Tech for some $8. It fits snugly around the wrist, and has a quick disconnect at the camera to detach when desired: OP/TECH USA 6704062 SLR Wrist Strap, Neoprene Camera Wrist Strap (Royal)

Bryan

Anonymous said...

Nikon V1 - the new king!

Mark - Devon Wedding Photographer said...

I considered the X100 as I fancy something when a dSLR is overkill but like you I couldn't get over having a fixed focal length. That's fine for a dSLR as I can switch it to something else depending on where I'm going, but as a compact (ish) where you are stick with that seemed like a bit of a one trick pony. This does seem to solve a lot of issues and still have fast glass. I'm concerned about the coverage from the viewfinder, now that you've used it more do you find that a major issue?

Ron Martinsen said...

I never use the viewfinder ;-)

Baadier Sydow said...

Great review Ron and some great tips in there. Looking forward to trying some of it out over the weekend.

Rene said...

Ron,

Have you printed any of your photos from the X-10? I generally print in mid to largish sizes (10 x 15 to 14 x 20 inches). In your experience/opinion, canI get a good print out of X-10 files in this size range?

Rene Theberge

Ron Martinsen said...

Rene,

With JPEG Fine resolution images in their original native 16:9 or 4:3 (full sensor) format, if you have a good image you can make a great print out it - just like you would from an entry level DSLR. You might need Perfect Resize (discount on my blog) for the best results when upscaling, but it does a good job.

I love the Pano's, but you can't print big copies unless you plan to hang them where the viewing distance is at least 4x the width of the Pano.

To be fair though, I've only done limited printing from the X10 at this point. Your mileage may vary, but the bits are there to get the job done.

Ron

Dan Turkewitz said...

Hey Ron. I'm interested in the high speed slow motion clip you posted in your review. I've been looking at the specs of the camera, and can't see where the Fujifilm X10 will shoot anything but 30 fps. So how'd you shoot that? Thanks.

Ron Martinsen said...

Hi Dan,

Rotate your knob to the movie mode, select movie mode, then choose the last option 320x112 200fps. All the high speed options have HS next to them and they are only possible in 640 or 320 pixels tall so you sacrafice size.

Ron

Rob said...

Hi Ron,

I think you'll be happy to hear that Fujifilm has released a new sensor that (seems to at least) fixes the white-orb issue with the x10.

http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/04/26/Fujifilm-X10-white-orb-update

Ron Martinsen said...

Hi Rob,

Yes, I had heard of Fuji's plans, but honestly unless I hear of something else compelling that they've done I don't really have the need to send my unit it. I've never had any white orbs in my testing, and even the examples I've seen look a heck of a lot like what I'd call lens flare on other cameras.

I'm glad Fuji is offering the fix for those who are obsessing about it, but I'd only send mine in if I were selling my X10. I don't plan to do that soon, so for now I'm happy to keep enjoying it.

Mikethedeaty ngdoca said...

I had a fault with my X10 and I returned it to the shop