After the success of the fixed lens retro APS-C format X-100, Fuji has applied the same design criteria to a digital compact camera with a built-in zoom in a bid to rival the likes of the Canon G-12, Panasonic Lumix LX5 and Olympus XZ-1. It differs from those models by adopting a 2/3-inch type Fuji made EXR CMOS sensor, that’s at least 25-percent larger in surface area while still maintaining a compact size body and fast f/2.0-f2.8 zoom lens. The Fuji made Fujinon-branded metal barreled zoom is not quite as fast as the f/1.8 Zuiko on the XZ-1 but it’s the same 28-112mm equivalent range and is not a great deal larger overall. Surrounding the lens is an unusual inclusion, a nicely knurled manual zoom ring that doubles as a power-on switch. It’s an attractive feature, certainly in-keeping with the retro design, and an improvement over the usual powered zoom options found on rivals, but the mechanism doesn’t feel particularly durable.
Under the satin black magnesium top cover the inclusion of an optical viewfinder using glass elements and prisms as opposed to the more common plastic construction is another welcome feature. It lacks the sophistication of the hybrid LCD/optical viewfinder of the X100 but it’s more useable than that found on Canon’s G-series. As Fuji claims, the image is bright but what they don’t say is that the lens barrel obscures the lower right corner of the frame at the shorter focal lengths. With coverage at 85-percent very careful framing is required and as there’s no viewfinder information it’s tempting at times to use the rear fixed 420k pixel LCD. If you’re familiar with the X100, the info display is very similar.
Manual focusing is possible using the rear command dial, and the distance and depth-of-field scales are shown but it’s a fiddly arrangement. Autofocus, on the other hand, is generally very reliable, with few shots lost from inappropriate AF point selection. If greater reliability is required, however, a centre AF spot, aligned with the viewfinder’s cross hairs, is a comfort for more conservative users at up to 7fps (in Large Fine quality).
Layout of the X10 mimics that of its larger sibling, the X100. The easily dislodged exposure compensation dial of the earlier model has been replaced with a more highly tensioned unit, but the main dial on the top plate no longer shows shutter speeds but exposure modes instead. The X10 also loses the aperture ring from the lens and follows most rivals, the exception here being the XZ-1 (which has a very useful control ring surrounding the lens) but means shutter speeds and aperture values must be selected from the X10’s rear command dials, and checked using the rear LCD. This extra step means you can make reliable adjustments when using the viewfinder, and it’s the same when selecting sensitivity.
The X10 has a programmable Function (Fn) button close to the shutter release, so you can customize it to display ISO settings on the rear screen but it can only be used for one function at time. I would have preferred a scrolling feature with an option for several functions or even a dedicated ISO dial, perhaps in place of the EV compensation control. Fuji’s main menu system isn’t as logical or intuitive as the current best (from Canon and Olympus), indeed, it’s fairly troublesome to navigate; in part due to the structure but also because of the somewhat fiddly direction-pad. Of all the niggles, it’s perhaps the most perplexing, though you can pretty much avoid it once the camera has been set-up.
To be fair the X10 performed well. Like other Fuji cameras the Film emulation settings (Velvia, Provia, Astia as well as some B&W options) are attractive when looking for in-camera produced JPEGs. Fuji’s EXR sensor and Fujinon lens is capable of producing files with excellent tonality and sharpness, as well as a high degree of resolving power. Some slight fringing was noticeable on high contrast edges, and the lens can flare heavily but an optional lens hood is available. Images are usable up to ISO800 before noise and detail are at odds and the movie clips are surprisingly clean. Fuji’s decision to include recording times of up to 29-minutes at 1920x1080p betters many DSLRs while both the manual zoom and focus options become more relevant. Rivals with articulated screens, such as the Canon G-12, Nikon P7100 and the Olympus XZ-1 using an optional EVF may be the more user-friendly for video and cost less (the exception being the XZ-1 EVF combination) but they can’t compete with the X10’s graceful lines and only the Olympus comes close to matching the Fuji’s files in colour and imaging quality.
Fuji X10 set at 7.1mm (28mm equiv) f/4.0 at ISO100. Auto EXR mode.
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