A month or two ago Fujifilm released the X10 advanced point and shoot camera. I read the press release, then the reviews and drooled over the photos. My trusty Canon S95 goes almost everywhere with me and as much as I love it, the gearhead in me couldn’t help but think that the X10 would be even more super awesome. Living in Moab certainly has its advantages but on the down side, you can’t just run out to the nearest camera store to fondle new equipment. Last week I finally made it to my favorite camera store, Pictureline in Draper, Utah, where Nick ever so kindly took a few moments to show me the very drool-worthy Fujifilm X10. I didn’t walk out of the store with it but I did spend enough time handling the X10 to develop some initial impressions.
In a word, phenomenal. Too many point and shoots feel cheap and fragile in hand. Not the X10. It’s heavy, but not in a bad way. The metal body feels rock solid and whatever material is used to provide the leather-like texture provides a nice, non-slip grip. The manual zoom lens is as smooth as silk and I love that zooming involves turning a ring around the lens instead of using your thumb on some teeny-tiny lever on the top or back of the camera. The dials for mode and exposure compensation turn easily but lock firmly in place. No complaints at all about build quality.
One of the main features that attracted me to the X10 is the incredible frame rate – 7 FPS at full resolution. My S95 captures a whopping 1 FPS. For some, this may not be a huge deal but the X10 and it’s 7 FPS would certainly make it easier to go light when peak-bagging, canyoneering or mountain biking while still capturing action images that could be sold as stock.
The X10’s lens runs from 28mm on the wide end to 112mm telephoto with an impressive f/2.0 – f/2.8 aperture range. This would make it a good choice for photographing action in low-light, such as inside a slot canyon. Inside the store, which wasn’t exactly low light but it wasn’t really bright either, the X10 focused remarkably fast.
A real viewfinder! Ok, so you only see about 85% of the scene through the optical viewfinder, and when zoomed out the lens consumes the bottom right corner, but I still prefer to hold a camera up to my eye when I make a photograph. For one, it’s easier to stabilize than when you’re holding it in front of you while staring at the LCD, especially if it happens to be windy outside. Secondly, the LCD on the X10 isn’t all that great to look at. It’s bright and it works, but it’s half the resolution of many newer LCD’s, making it difficult to use when checking an image for critical sharpness at 100% zoom.
While most advanced point and shoot cameras allow you to make exposure compensation adjustments, it usually requires fumbling around in an on-screen menu or trying to find some tiny button. The X10 has a nice, big knurled knob on top for this purpose and it adjusts +/- 2 stops, in 1/3 stop increments. Genius, if you ask me.
The on-board flash is located in a good position and my grip didn’t seem to interfere with its operation. This is one of my gripes with the S95. When holding the camera in a normal, comfortable grip, my index finger is over the flash. When it tries to pop up, it can’t because my finger is in the way and I have to turn the camera off and back on again to re-boot it. The X10’s flash is quite powerful for it’s diminutive size and it seems to do a good job of intelligently selecting the correct power. However, for those who prefer more manual control over flash exposure, you’re limited to +/- 2/3 stop. I find that I often have to reduce fill flash on the S95 to -2 stops to avoid blowing out the foreground. Perhaps the X10’s flash is more intelligent and +/- 2/3 stop is plenty, but it seems a little too restrictive to me.
A couple miscellaneous items worth mentioning: fast start-up, no discernible shutter lag and the Function button. To turn on the X10 you twist the ring surrounding the lens. Start up was nearly instantaneous, meaning you’d be less likely to miss an opportunity while waiting for your camera to fire up. I could discern no shutter lag at all. The X10 has a customizable “Function” button on top that can be assigned to perform any number of tasks. My S95 also has one and I love being able to dedicate that button to a commonly used function.
I haven’t decided whether the X10 is for me. I love the feature set, the way it feels in my hands, the optical viewfinder and, from what I’ve seen, image quality appears to be quite impressive. So what’s my hesitation? It’s not exactly pocketable. The S95 (and it’s replacement, the Canon S100) are small enough to fit easily into a jean or jacket pocket and if a camera is easy to carry, you’re more likely to do so. The X10 is quite a bit bigger. Yes, it handles better because of the size but that’s not a benefit if you don’t have the camera with you. I need a camera I can easily fit in the pocket of my motorcycle jacket and I’m not sure the X10 will work. But, if you don’t need a pocketable camera, or you’ve just got really big pockets, the X10 might be just the camera for you.