Fujifilm X10 review
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Anyone with £400 to spend on a compact camera is faced with a difficult decision. On the one hand there are cameras such as the Canon PowerShot S100, which are essentially normal compact cameras but with superior image quality and far better controls. Then there are compact system cameras (CSCs), with image quality that's comparable to SLRs and the versatility of interchangeable lenses, but aren't quite as small as the likes of the Canon S100.
We were initially a little sceptical about the Fujifilm X10. It has a fixed lens and uses a 2/3in sensor – marginally bigger than the Canon S100's but much smaller than the sensors in most CSCs. The camera itself is fairly bulky, though, and much closer in size to a CSC than the S100. Is this the worst of both worlds?
Our scepticism disappeared once we had the X10 in our hands. This is a seriously beautiful camera. Its leather-effect texture over a magnesium alloy body and variety of buttons and dials give it an air of retro style that seems to be a natural by-product of its superbly thought-out ergonomics.
Optical viewfinders are rare on compact cameras, and the few examples tend to give an extremely small view. This one is much better, being a little bigger than the viewfinders on consumer SLRs. It zooms in tandem with the lens, and although the view is blurred towards the edges, it still shows much more detail than the 2.8in LCD screen. It's disappointing that the screen isn't articulated, especially as it looks like it might be with its slightly raised profile, but it's bright and reasonably sharp.
There's a pop-up flash and a hotshoe for an external flashgun. There are only two flashguns designed specifically for Fujifilm cameras, but we were able to use our generic flashgun on manual exposure settings. For some reason our wireless trigger system wouldn't work, though. There are similar reports on web forums of problems with PocketWizard triggers.
All those dials and single-function buttons make it quick to adjust settings. There's a mode dial, plus another for exposure compensation that falls neatly under the thumb. A command dial sits just below, and the navigation pad doubles as a wheel. This wheel and the command dial control the shutter speed and aperture in manual exposure mode, but they duplicate each other's function in priority modes. It's surprising there's no direct access to ISO speed, but a Fn button beside the shutter release can be assigned to this role. Various other buttons are labelled for quick access to all the key controls, from drive mode to focus point, so there's rarely any need to visit the menu. Our only gripe is that some options can't be selected at the same time, such as super-macro and flash, or continuous mode and dynamic range boost, and it's not obvious why options are sometimes greyed out or buttons don't respond.
The 4x zoom function is controlled via the lens ring, which also acts as a power switch, powering up when the lens is extended and down when it's retracted. It's a smart idea but it's slightly diminished by a three-second wait before shooting can commence. When we pressed the shutter button too early, the camera did nothing rather than shooting as soon as it was ready. Another performance-related issue is one we've seen many times before on Fujifilm cameras: while it's possible to take photos in quick succession – a shade under one second in this case – it's not possible to adjust settings while data is being saved to the memory card.
On the upside, data is saved pretty quickly. After taking a photo, controls started responding again after two seconds for JPEGs and three seconds for raw. Continuous JPEG shooting is at 6fps, slowing to a still-respectable 2fps after seven frames. In 6-megapixel mode (see below), it ran at 7fps for 18 shots before slowing to 3.8fps. This is much faster than the Canon S100, but there's no option to shoot in continuous mode with updating autofocus between shots. Even in single drive mode with the switch on the front of the camera set to AF-C (autofocus continuous), focus updated while composing shots but locked once the shutter button was half pressed.
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