my Fuji X10 review – the perfect travel camera?

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Fuji X10 review

After shooting with the Fuji X10 for several months, I decided to write a short review. I will not review all the specifications as other websites do a very good job in this.

Fujifilm X10 at a glance:

  • advanced compact digital camera with manual controls
  • a large 2/3″ 12megapixels sensor, Fujifilm EXR CMOS deisgn
  • 28-112mm equivalent bright F2.0-2.8 lens
  • manual zoom lens
  • optical viewfinder (85% coverage) (no information in the viewfinder though)
  • 2.8″, 460,000 dot back LCD
  • RAW shooting (in Fuji RAF format) and in-camera Raw conversion
  • shooting up to 7fps at full resolution or 10fps at reduced 6 megapixels

Gondolas in Venice - photo from the first holiday with the Fuji X10
Gondolas in Venice – photo from the first holiday with the Fuji X10
What I will try to do in my Fuji X10 review is to talk about the good and the bad, features and quirks and offer my opinion on this camera. Some of the observations are general, but as  I use the camera especially when I travel the focus is on features that help me with travel and street photography..

The big question, and the one that I will try to answer here, is this: is the Fujifilm X10 the best travel camera? And the answer is….’yes’, but it depends. It is very close to everything I need, it ticks most of my travel needs, it’s just that sometimes the Fujifilm X10 make me feel like pulling my hair out. But the X10 is the closest thing I have found to that elusive ideal travel camera.

I should start the Fujifilm X10 review with a short info about my history with cameras. The Fujifilm replaces my Canon 550D and Canon EF-S 17-55 f2.8. This is a high standard to beat, or even get close. Were I to expect DSLR image quality from a (premium) compact, I would’ve been disappointed. However, I was looking for a portable solution, low profile street camera – and the Fuji X10 gets a lot of things right.

Before the details of my review, a short list of features and problems with the Fuji X10. I feel that this list should give a clear idea of what I like about the Fuji and what I expect from a camera.

Fuji X10 as travel camera, in Burano ItalyFujifilm X10 positives

  • bright high quality lens
  • good high ISO performance
  • decent AF speed but high accuracy
  • beautiful colours and details for street photography
  • beautiful colours and details for portraits
  • great dynamic range in EXR mode (EXR DR mode)
  • great build quality
  • can become completely silent
  • macro mode, face detection, ‘mechanical’ zoom and good auto-ISO

concert photography with the Fuji X10Fujifilm X10 negatives

  • AF sometimes misses or hunts a lot and there is not a clear sign why
  • the optical viewfinder, for me, is mostly useless
  • it eats batteries like popcorn
  • RAW (RAF files) are not well supported in Lightroom
  • full resolution (12MP) files are below other premium compacts (Sony RX100 or Canon G15)
  • white orbs are a reality, and they are annoying. Fuji solved this issue by replacing the sensor in newer models, and to a lesser extent through a firmware upgrade
  • sometimes when I start the camera (by rotating the lens) the X10 refuses to start. Usually turning it off and again on solves this problem.

My Fuji X10 review explain the previous points. Please bear in mind that some features, or lack of, which were not interesting for me are not included. I would have liked articulated LCD, GPS or a lower price, but when I bought the camera I already knew about the lack-of.

the (in)famous Fuji X10 white orbs

white orbs (specular highlisghts) with the Fuji X10I will start my Fuji X10 review with the number one, most famous, problem with Fuji X10.

Yes, the white orbs are present and there are enough of them to notice but most of the time my photos work (or don’t work) regardless of these orbs. The white orbs are specular highlights that went crazy, and appear as white discs in photos.

I think the most problematic scenarios are cityscapes at night, photos of metallic surfaces and to a lesser extent powerful lights in the frame.

Fujifilm developed a new sensor, and any camera bought now should have no problems with this. If you have one of the older models you can (and should) install the Fuji X10 firmware update. This will improve the white orbs problem, and add a lot of improvements to the camera.

bright high quality lens

20120721-DSCF5097.jpgThe lens, made by Fujifilm (famous for Fujinon medium format lenses), runs from 28mm to 112mm (4x zoom range), and has an impressive 2.0 – 2.8 aperture. This means that telephoto is usable in low light (I think compact digital cameras with F4.9 or F5.6 at tele are useless). Also the control of depth of field is comparable to a DSLR (APS-C) or m4/3 with its kit lens.

So while it is not possible to manage the creamy out of focus portraits one can do with a full frame DSLR and an 85mm F1.8, the Fujifilm X10 can do some good subject isolation.

 

good high ISO performance

dusk in Venice - Fuji X10Not in the same league as micro 4/3 or APS-C DSLRs, the large sensor on the Fuji manages to get good results at high ISOs (800 and 1600 ISO).

The EXR noise reduction mode – a clever technique enabled in EXR Auto – manages to get clean 6mp JPEGS even at ISO 3200. The camera manages to do this by averaging two frames, and the result is very good.

great dynamic range in EXR mode

dusk in Venice - Fuji X10This is one magic trick Fuji does that makes me love this camera! Analysis of the special characteristics of the Fuji sensor (it is not a Bayer one) is beyond the scope of this Fuji X10 review. Suffice to say that at DR400 and at 6mp JPEGS, the results are stunning.

Getting a bonus of 2 – 4 more EV (my estimation) with a beautiful per-pixel sharpness and detail make for some great images.

My time spent in Lightroom decreased to a very manageable few minutes per picture. While on my Canon I felt the need to tweak a RAW’s shadows, highlights and contrast, in the case of Fuji I usually just crop and straighten  This is an amazing thing for me. I am very lazy processing pictures, and anything that helps me time-wise is great.

You can read some more information on how I set my Fuji X10 here .

auto-focus speed and accuracy

macro with the Fuji X10I will admit: I am a face detection fan. When shooting on the street, taking someone’s portrait, and even in general photography – I keep face detection on. Being almost guaranteed to have a good focus on the subject is great. This is especially useful in harsh light when the LCD is hard to see, therefore I have to use the optical viewfinder. I even set my Fn button (customization button) to deactivate the face detection function for the occasions when I do not need it (or it returns false positives).

In good light the AF speed is very fast – it is close enough to my Canon. And it is faster than DSLR live view mode. As the light drops, the focus struggles somewhat but mostly this can be helped by searching for high contrast details. AF illuminator and decent focus confirmation help reduce the problems. The problems appear when light drops to a level that I have to use ISO 1600 @ f2.8 with 1/4 – 1/30s  (pretty low light!).

the optical viewfinder

I used to shoot with a viewfinder (and I find electronic VFs not that great), so the optical viewfinder on the Fuji seemed like a great idea. Suffering from parallax error (unavoidable in this camera design) and seeing the barrel of the lens make the viewfinder less than ideal. The lack of any visible focus confirmation or a cross-hair type of marking for the center focus point make shooting with the optical viewfinder very frustrating.

A Fuji X10 review cannot really explain the benefits and annoyances of the  viewfinder so it is best to visit a local store and experience it for yourself.

miscellaneous pro’s and con’s

close-up photography with the Fuji X10

  • the camera feels very solid and well-made (+)
  • the on/off system is brilliant as it give great feedback and I hope lower battery consumption (+)
  • the Fuji X10 really needs one or two secondary batteries as I cannot get more than 200 photos per charge (-)

Fortunately third-party batteries for Fuji X10 are pretty cheap and the ones I use hold good charge and save me from missing photo opportunities.

  • in silent mode the camera is completely silent – a nice change from the loud mirror slap of a DSLR, especially when shooting bracketing bursts or using the panorama function (+)
  • the macro mode is limited to the wide-angle of the lens, so I have to get pretty close to the subject (-)
  • the macro mode however saves me carrying  a dedicated lens on the DSLR (+).

I could not continue the Fujifilm X10 review without the most important yet hard to quantify feature. The camera feels great in use, is very responsive and I never wait for it. Once I found my preferred custom mode settings it feels great taking pictures.

is Fuji X10 the best travel camera?

If weight  and size are the important factors, yes I would say that the Fuji is an amazing choice. While not perfect, it is great to use. For me, the Fuji X10 is the current travel camera.

If you feel OK taking a DSLR with fast lens, or prefer having a wider range of shooting possibilities the Fuji loses some of its appeal. But if those extra lenses – or even the DSLR – stay in the bag most of the time, maybe the Fuji X10 is the right choice.

update: A step-up from a premium digital compact like the Fuji X10 are the various mirrorless systems. They have better image quality, a growing choice of lenses and size somewhere between a compact and a DSLR. I chose a Fuji X-E1 and got the great Fuji colors and very high image quality.

Do I need the most image quality in every shot, all the time? As I do not, and I enjoy photography more for the creation process, I am very happy with my Fuji X10. Were I to sell stock photography or be on an assignment – I would probably take the DSLR.

In the end – every photography tool makes compromises. It is not really possible to have great image quality, low-cost, low weight, lens flexibility, speed, all in a very small, good-looking package. We just try to find a good balance.

conclusion of the Fuji X10 review

While not perfect, this camera gets very close to my ideal travel camera. It is not a DSLR killer (nor does it pretend it is), but offers great photo features. And taking into account its quirks, one can do some amazing stuff with it.

Fuji X10 in more detail

other opinions and reviews

If you read all the way through my Fuji X10 review, and would like more information about this camera and maybe even buy it, here are a few more reviews on the Internet. studiofd.com, the  dpreview.com complex analysis or kenrockwell.com all are a good start.

The Fuji x10 is available on Amazon, with a hefty price reduction, so if you do not need the advancements in the X20 this might be a good time to buy.

feb 22, 2013 update: is it time to upgrade?

This post about the Fuji X10 proved very popular. After a few more months I still find the camera very helpful and producing consistently pleasing results. Is it perfect? I think no camera can do it all. But one can dream…and read a lot about the Fuji X20.

The Fuji X20 is the upgrade to the camera presented here and has just started to hit the virtual shelves on Amazon. At least on paper it is a great successor. If you want to see what are the main improvements over the Fuji X10, you can read my piece  is the Fuji X20 a worthy successor to my X10 ?

 

Series Navigationhow to set your Fuji X10 for best results »

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