Fujifilm X10 Review
X10 vs. Fuji X100 Mini-Review
The big brother to the X10 is the X100, which was released about a year earlier and got a lot of positive press. The X100 has an APS-C sized sensor, a fixed 23 mm lens, and a $1,200 price tag.
The image quality of the X100 is every bit as good as one would expect from 12 MP APS-C camera and suitable for enlargements up to 20 x 30 inches, and possibly beyond.
While image quality is most important, the camera also has to be usable, and here the X100 disappoints to such a degree that we find it very poor value for money.
The concept is great: A retro-styled range finder like (Leica like) camera with a classic control layout. This is combined with a bright optical viewfinder with exposure information and an image frame that shifts with the distance the camera is focusing at, thus compensating for parallax error. And at a flick of a switch the optical viewfinder becomes an electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage - most handy for macro shooting and in low light - you get the best of two worlds with this view finder. This hybrid viewfinder is the best viewfinder we've ever seen on a non-DSLR camera.
The accessories are in a separate box so as to not take away from initial impression of this camera being something special. The accessories include a strap, eyelets, battery and charger, CD ROM with software and a user's manual.
The key specifications are:
- Sensor: 12.3 MP CMOS, 23.6 x 15.8 mm, square pixels
- Lens: 23 mm f/2.0, 9 blades
- Min. focus distance: 80 cm (2.6 ft)
- ISO 200-6,400, extended range 100 - 12,800
- 256 segment metering
- Shutter speeds 30s to 1/1000s at f/2, increasing to 1/4000s at f/8
- Optical viewfinder: 0.5x magnification, 90% coverage
- Electronic viewfinder: 1.4 million dots, 100% coverage
- Monitor: 2.8 in, 460,000 dots
- Shake reduction: No
- Flash: Built-in as well as hot-shoe for dedicated flash
- Movie mode: 1,280 x 720, 24 fps, stereo sound, max. 10 minute clips
Alas, while the viewfinder is fantastic, the rest of the camera is a poor implementation of a great concept, as reported below. Our initial excitement for the X100 was soon replaced by disappointment.
Our recommendation is to go for the Fujifilm X10 at half the price and with a much more versatile lens. Or if you want fixed focal length and an APS-C sized lens, consider a camera like the Pentax K-r with the DA 21mm Limited lens. It will cost less and be much more satisfying to use. Should you in the long run get tired of the one focal length, you won't be stuck with the K-r as you'd be with the X100.
Fujifilm X100 in Use
The X100 doesn't have the many restrictions and inter-dependencies between shooting parameters that the X10 has. A coupling between shutter speed and aperture is the only one we found. Although you can set f/2.8 on the lens and 1/4000s on the shutter dial at the same time (and you can actually fire), the shutter speed will be slower than what you set. On the monitor and in the view finder the shutter speed is shown in red in this case to remind you to select a slower speed.
The camera is shown here with the lens set at f/5.6 and the shutter speed dial set to A. This setting gives you Av (aperture priority) exposure automation. This traditional layout provides an easy to understand way of setting the camera in P, Av, Tv and M exposure modes. It is perhaps not as fast to operate as a DSLR with two command wheels but it is more intuitive.
The X100 has a manual focus ring on the lens barrel. The ring has no mechanical coupling to the focusing mechanism but drives the auto focus motor which does the focusing. It is unfortunately so sluggish that it is close to impossible to achieve correct focus. There is a good time lag between the movement of the focusing ring and the lens actually focusing and odds are that the lens then will move past the focusing distance you intended. We found that manual focus cannot be used in practice.
On the left side of the X100 one finds the sliding switch that changes the focus mode between AF continuous, AF single shot, and manual focus. The switch moves so freely that it is very difficult to hit the middle stop which unfortunately is the most important one, AF single focus. Our advice is that you forgo not only manual focus for the reason mentioned above, but also AF continuous, and just leave this switch alone in the middle position.
The four way controller on the X100 is used for menu navigation and for quick access to macro mode, drive mode, flash mode and white balance. It is on the small side, but worse, it is of such a design that when you intend to click the OK/Menu button in the middle you engage one of the four directions and won't achieve what you intended. The four way controller on the X10 is much better in this aspect. The four way controller also includes a command dial - notice the tiny protruding rim. It is very difficult to operate. Fortunately it is not necessary for anything important.
It is not all bad. The shutter speed dial works nicely and can easily be turned with your thumb. The exposure compensation dial has somewhat weak click stops but you soon learn to be careful and avoid that it turns too far for you. There is no command dial here. What looks like one is a left/right toggle and it provides a secondary way to adjust some settings but it is fortunately not really needed since it is fiddly to use. The aperture is set on the aperture ring and the shutter speed on the shutter speed dial, and ISO with the four way controller.
Don't look for a grip for your thumb on the X100 because there isn't one! The X10 is better also in this area.
The tripod mount on the X100 is off the optical axis but to the wrong side. When the camera is mounted on a tripod there is no access to the battery and SD card which both are located behind the door in the bottom plate. Fujifilm probably realized this since they got it right on the X10.
You cannot fault the image quality of the X100. Click on the image to the right for a 100% crop. Note thet the X100 has a traditional sensor with square pixels in the Bayer pattern and therefore doesn't have the resolution issues that the X10 exhibits.
For a comparison with the X10, click here for a 100% crop from the same scene shot with the X10.
The aspect ratio of the X100's APS-C sensor is 3:2 whereas the X10 has an aspect ratio of 4:3. Bear this in mind when you compare the two 100% cropped images. The do not contain the exact same crop from the scene.
The original uncropped JPG images of this scene are provided here:
As mentioned earlier we find the X100 too quirky to use, and if image quality is of the essence, we would pick an entry level DSLR with a prime lens instead. For a compact versatile camera to be used primarily in auto exposure mode, the X10 fits the bill. The X10 is does a darn good job in its EXR Auto mode in most situations.
If You Want to Buy a X10 or X100
Fuji has adopted an interesting marketing strategy with these two cameras: to send out shipments to retailers in small bursts, so that the cameras are frequently out of stock. If you want one, chances are you will have to put it on your watch list at B&H or Adorama and wait until they become available. Chances are that each shipment will sell out within a day or so of arriving:
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