In recent years photography enthusiasts from all stripes have kicked to the curb most point-and-shoot cameras in favor of the heavier, more professional-looking, and in most cases, more versatile DSLR models. The truth is, any professional or would-be professional was right to do so. Until now, most compact point-and shoot models were entirely manufactured for consumers who used them mainly for snapshots, and moderately at best. Suddenly, the game has changed. All the improvements have now made many high-end compacts capable of delivering a competitive level of quality in image detail, speed, memory capability, lens versatility, post-production editing features, and more. As it turns out, the compact Fuji X10 point-and-shoot is among the best choices for the amateur and semi-pro consumer market.
First, let’s talk quality. The Fuji X10 has it in spades. Its body is made from ultra lightweight die-cast magnesium alloy, which feels great in the palm of your hands, manages to resist fingerprints, and provides the camera with a no-slip grip.
Visually, the Fuji X10 is designed to look and feel authentically retro, almost like the more famous (and much more expensive) Leica models of yesterday. Even the X10’s interface, button arrangement, and retractable zoom lens mimics the classic Leica (without the expensive price tag) and looks, from a distance, just like it. In fact, if you’re a design connoisseur, this is most definitely the camera for you.
Aesthetics aside, the Fuji X10 packs more punch than any other point-and-shoot camera, period. Its superior EXR CMOS 12-megapixel image sensor delivers as much detail and quality as the major DSLRs in less than half the size and weight. That alone makes it a top choice for slinging around your neck for vacation shots, road trips, walks with Fido, or even that school play that your daughter doesn’t want you to attend. Coupled with a retractable Fujinon zoom lens that ranges from a 28mm wide angle to a 112mm telephoto, you’re ready for any shot that might come your way from super-tight interiors to grabbing a decent photo from the stadium (even if you’re stuck in the nose-bleed seats). And fear not if you have a tendency to fall victim to camera shake: The Fuji X10 lens has image stability built right inside.
Changing your metering range is also simple, with just a quick turn of the aluminum-milled lens ring located around the circumference of the lens itself, which couldn’t possibly be more intuitive. The four-time manual zoom also doubles as the camera’s on/off switch. We even got great macro shots, as the X10’s lens enables users to get as close as an inch away from your subject while still obtaining brilliant detail. Just as responsive was the camera’s ability to freeze the action while taking random street shots making the X10 a perfect gem for on-the-go street photography, either from the hip or not. We were simply shocked at this little camera’s amazing results with moving subjects and while shooting at night at slow ISO settings without the use of a tripod.
In terms of picture-taking modes, the Fuji X10 keeps things simple by offering just three main choices (SN/Signal to Noise or highlight sensitivity and low noise, DR/Dynamic Range, or a greater range of lights and darks, and HR/High Resolution, which produces the greatest detail). Each selection is optimized for the best possible outcome in any lighting situation, which may be enhanced further depending on your choice of ISO speeds that go as high as 6400. Specific settings on the mode dial can also be programmed to either shoot fully automatic or fully manual, much like Canon’s aperture-priority and shutter-priority functions.
When taking images on the fly, you’ll be impressed with Fuji X10’s overall speed. Its ultra-fast image professor can shoot as many as 7 continuous frames per second in the HD setting (10 fps on less detailed settings) and playback takes place on a generous 2.8-inch LCD screen, complete with options to zoom into shots to check for accurate focus, a detail often missing on most compact models.
Still, the Fuji X10 does more than take photos. It’s also an exquisite video camera that shoots video in high definition and was voted best in class for its video capabilities alone. Surprisingly enough, the creators of this impressive little camera also offer users the ability to take full, seamless, 360-degree panoramic shots in a pinch: Just change your settings to ‘Panorama’ and let the fun begin. Slowly panning from left to right, the Fuji X10 communicates every detail and then magically stitches the photo together for a gorgeous 360-degree image that will blow your mind.
More favorite attributes of the X10 are its ability to shoot both JPEG and RAW files as well as its selection of eight different filters that include several Fuji film stock types, such as Velvia (color reversal with deep color saturation), PROVIA (color reversal fine grain), and ASTIA (a slower-speed film excellent for portraiture) and several super-rich black and whites. Other photo-centric attributes include four different types of programmable bracket settings (great for testing various exposures, ISO, and other settings against one another) and an on-LCD histogram display to see exact image gradation for each photo.
Our single complaint about this camera has nothing to do with the camera at all — it was its less-than-useable strap. Using that flimsy strap (if you could manage getting it assembled at all) is akin to pushing 30 clowns in a telephone booth; it just wasn’t possible.
Overall, it comes as no surprise that the Fuji X10 flew off store shelves as soon as it came out. This camera not only looks fabulous, but it performs well in most any situation, straight out of the box. The menus are easy to follow and very readable, even for someone previously unfamiliar with the subtleties of using a programmable DSLR. While it may be a “little brother” to the more expensive Fuji X100, for you it will act and perform like the only child you ever wanted.