In this blogpost the review for the Fujifilm X10 Digital Camera (Black) which I bought during a recent visit to B&H in New York.


For years I’ve been using the Canon G9 and although it was a very nice camera at the time I bought it, and it gave me some images that I normally would not be able to get I never really felt a “warm” feeling when shooting the camera, it did what it had to do and that’s it. Because time continues to give us better cameras and my G9 was due to replacement the last few months I’ve been looking at which camera would replace the G9. For me one of the first things the camera had to do correctly was higher ISO, I don’t expect the performance from a good DSLR but an usable ISO1600 was something I really wanted, and to be honest after playing with the X100 a while ago I also wanted something with a nice “vintage” look and feel.

After putting everything together eventually the choice was easy and I bought the X10.
Now some people will claim that a point and shoot can never replace a DSLR, and of course they are 100% right, however what they seem to miss, is that sometimes it’s just not “possible” to bring your DSLR, and trust me, I always carry my camera with me. Take for example when flying, on the airport shooting with a DSLR is often possible but sometimes you will be called on by security, when shooting with the G9 this actually never happened. During the flight it’s not “my thing” to go into my bag and grab my DSLR to do some occasional shooting through the window, I’m a big guy and we fly Economy (plus) in 99.99% of the cases, meaning that when I sit getting up and grabbing something out of my bag is not something that is “easy to do”, and carrying my DSLR with me all the time is impossible in the plane. However a small camera you can just put in the seat and take it out whenever you want to.

 

And this is not the only time it’s great to use, think about restaurants, you will need some flash and the 5DMKII and III doesn’t have a popup flash and bringing a flash just for some images that are purely for fun is not something I’m willing to do. But most of all the small cameras are great for places where you are normally send away with a DSLR, think about live concerts, shooting inside a restaurant (even private shots have sometimes been forbidden by waiters), in the Metro/Train or just on the street. I think owning a small point and shoot camera is a wonderful addition for the gap between the DSLR and my iPhone 4S (Which makes great images by the way).

The best camera
Is actually the camera you have with you, and I always carry my iPhone 4S with me, however with a fixed focal length and a not so long lens this is incredibly limiting. And…. the best camera is the camera that gets you the shot, this is also why I don’t really care that much about megapixels, actually one response from someone was that he did not understand I did only get a 12MP camera and not a 16MP version, when I told him that 12 were more than enough and I rather have a 12MP image that was good instead of a 16MP file that was limited to JPG and was noisy he mumbled something like “amateurs”……

 

This reaction does say a lot by the way, a lot of people are focussed on megapixels and forget about the fact that a camera is a “tool” to get a picture/tell the story. In reality it really doesn’t matter what you use to shoot the image, as long as you get the image, so why choose the X10 than ?

Specs
Let’s first look at some of the specs (for the techno lovers)

 

  • 12Mp Resolution
  • 2.8″ LCD Screen
  • 28-112mm Telephoto Manual Zoom Lens
  • 4x Manual Optical Zoom
  • Die-Cast Magnesium Alloy
  • Upper Control Deck w/ Mode Dials
  • 1080p HD Movie Recording
  • RAW Shooting & In-Camera Processing
  • Manual Pop-Up Flash
  • Manual Shooting Modes: P/A/S/M
Now that we got this out of the way let me focus on what I think makes the X10 my choice.
Concerning megapixels I think 12MP is enough for a point and shoot camera, you can print relatively big and as long as the image is low on noise you can very easily blow the images up without too much loss if you really need it, however I’ve prints in the studio from an 8 MP camera on A2 that are razor sharp, and I honestly don’t think I’m gonna print much larger than A2.
What I immediately loved about the X10 was the manual zoom lens, that really is a big plus.
I always hated the “press the button to zoom” approach from most (if not all) point and shoot cameras, having a lens that you can twist very quickly between wide and tele simply rocks and makes working much easier.
Also important is the option to shoot RAW, and that’s possible with the X10.
But also the different modes like Manual and AV/TV are of course important, and although most can be found on other point and shoot cameras I love the fact that the exposure compensation and selection of the modes are all selectable with a nice turn dial, making operating the camera a breeze and fast (very fast).
Although there is a small pop up flash I also want a hotshoe on my camera, not for adding a strobe (will never do that), but for triggering my studio strobes… and yes I know that you think “why would you use a point and shoot in your studio when you own a Medium format camera ?” Well this is actually quite easy to explain.
Learning
For the smaller group workshops it’s very nice to be able to show the students exactly how I work when making my composition, I use the display for this and show where I put my focus and how I will make the composition after that and take the shot. But it’s also a vital part of my workshops to show people that the camera REALLY doesn’t matter in creating “good” work, of course there is a HUGE difference between my main camera and the X10, but in the end it all boils down to the image and it’s refreshing for most people to see that if you know your stuff you can make “great” images with literally every camera.
Strobes outside
For me this is a bit of a non issue because my camera supports leaf shutter lenses that will make it possible to shoot up to 1/1600 outside with strobes (remember this is with studio strobes), however when you are “limited” to a DSLR you will often not be able to break the 1/125 X-sync speed with studio strobes/outside battery packs. Because cameras like the X10 don’t use mirrors and shutter curtains you can sync much higher, meaning you can fight the sun with a little camera that would be impossible with let’s say a Canon 5DMKIII. For example see the next shot, this was shot in the full sun with a Quadra from Elinchrom. You can achieve a similar result with slower strobes and the Pocket wizard TT1-5 but remember that a set of TT1 and TT5 will cost you app the same as the X10 :-)
I hear you ask “How about the limitation of shooting on F11?”
Well that’s not really a problem, it will take some “knowledge” from the photographer however.
You can shoot with strobes that meter F22 on the X10 without much problems, what you have to realize is that a strobe will not fire all it’s light at once, it will “slowly” build the spike and after that the spike will drop down. If you set your shutter on the X10 just at the right time it will actually cut off some of the light and you will be able to shoot on much higher strobe settings than F11. And of course normally you will lower the output of the strobe to match the F11 of the X10, but sometimes this is not possible, for example when using two cameras at the same time, by using this trick you can shoot with the X10 without a problem for some quick in between shots.
Why would you shoot with the X10 if you have a DSLR/MF with you?
I know, and I agree, there is no need…..
However since owning the X10 I’ve constantly felt the need to shoot some images with it while doing workshops and photoshoots, and really don’t ask me why, it’s just a great feeling. I compare it to shooting the Mamiya RZ67ProII with the same Leaf digital back as my Phase One DF camera. With the Phase One I have quick AF, great viewfinder, quick response and wonderful results plus I can handheld the camera. With the RZ67ProII I have to manually focus, the viewfinder is mirrored (but awesomely big and sharp), I have to shoot from a tripod (and a big one) and I have more “missed” shots than with the Phase One DF….. but the fun with the RZ67ProII is so much more than with the Phase One DF, and sometimes boys and girls it’s also about the fun factor… shooting a few images with the X10 in between the shoot and seeing the responses from the students or client is priceless, especially when they see the results…..
And for me it’s also the fun of showing people that you can shoot “my images” also with the X10, because believe it or not but the images in this blogpost are ALL shot with the X10, and do remember I only have owned the camera for about 1-2 weeks, and we’ve only been home for 1 week, in other words I’ve hardly had time to drag it with me on some more complicated shoots, but I did try extreme backlights and of course the higher sync speeds, overall I’m very impressed with the camera….
Conclusion
Without a doubt there will be point and shoot cameras out there that are better for you. Maybe even better for me, but the X10 gives me without a doubt the fun and quality I expect from a point and shoot camera, the twist zoom lens is great, the hotshoe and RAW is a must and to be honest I’ve seen some ISO3200 shots that I think will be perfect for prints up to A3. And when I compare that with the ISO400 from my G9 I can only say “they’ve come a LONG way, the G9 I actually never used above ISO400.
The autofocus works fast and as far as I can see rather accurate, as you can see the shot above is timed rather well and this was my second try (first time I tried capturing speed), after this shot I nailed the pose every time, meaning the camera is more than enough responsive.

Are there things I find disappointing?
Well yeah of course.
I would LOVE to see an indicator in the viewfinder that you have achieved focus and where, now you just see the parallax view and nothing more, meaning you will probably hardly use the viewfinder but the display, and there’s nothing wrong with that of course, I love using the display on these kind of cameras, but it would be nice.
Also the panorama option was a disappointment, just sweep and the panorama is created, now that’s cool. However they don’t tell you that the height is limited to 1080 pixels, meaning that it’s probably just a movie that’s shot and stitched. A nice option without a doubt but I would have preferred a normal panorama mode where you have to shoot 2-3-4 exposures and just put them together in camera.
One option I’m playing with is the “portrait pro” option, you shoot an image and the camera makes the background go out of focus, it’s fun to see what the camera does with it, but to be honest if needed I will do it in Photoshop which is much more accurate of course.
I could go into the dynamic range of the sensor which is awesome by the way, however the main problem is that this is great for JPEG shooters, for me (and many with me) I shoot in RAW and when I use my RAW developer I can get the same dynamic range out of the RAW file without too much effort, so great for the JPEG shooters but it’s not something I’m mentioning in the review, however….. the dynamic range of the sensor itself is impressive for a point and shoot, maybe some sites that measure it will say something else but the shots I made inside restaurants and convention rooms are great with not too much blown areas and nice detail in the shadows. I will not say it’s a scientific conclusion but let’s say that I expected it to be much worse.
Should you get one?
Well it depends on yourself.
If you want something that’s fun to shoot, gives you great results and you love the more “vintage” looks and value a good sensor than you really can’t go wrong with the X10 I think, it’s not a super cheap camera but to be honest I think $599 is also not expensive for a camera with these specs. And seeing the fact how I love the camera I think that if you’re in the market for a new camera the X10 should be very high on your list…. however it’s always personal.
PS.
Don’t think I choose easy things to shoot, as you can see in these images I used a lot of angles in the light and often shooting almost straight into the light, the G9 autofocus would often just quit on me, the X10 AF actually worked flawless in 99% of the shots, at one setup I had some trouble using the AF but that was a setup where even the Phase One struggled.

 

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