A user experience - Fuji x10
I won't go into too much technical detail here, there are many excellent reviews online HERE & HERE that have done a much better job than I can, I can however describe the experience i've had with the Fuji X10 and show you a few samples i've taken in the last few days. I've found a users point of view on a new camera is as useful as all the technical detail in the world and since i used a lot of these when purchasing this camera i felt it my duty to return the favour. (and since i've got a taste for reviews i may do one for the a65 and a35 too)
I'd been pondering on getting a capable compact for a while because my a65 and all the equipment i've bought for it was getting heavy and making my daily commute a pain. I wanted something powerful enough to take nice shots on my day-to-day trips to work, the shops, walks out etc so i didn't have to take my jammed camera bag everywhere i go, which, weight aside, increases the chances of damage or getting them stolen the more i carry them around with me (i've done full nights out, legless, clutching onto my camera bag whilst dancing!) I spent a good six weeks researching different compacts but found the x10 to be best value for money compared to the Sony Nex, Canon g12 etc. Granted, there's no interchangable lenses but i figured the x10 has the same focal range I'm used to working with. I don't do wildlife or have any other reason for a telephoto capable lens with my a65, so it stands to reason i'm definitely not going to need a long zoom for my day-to-day back up compact. It's replaced my smaller Sony a35, which, whilst small for a DSLR/T, is still cumbersome and doesn't really provide the benefit of a 'small camera'.
Fuji x10 it is.
What photographer doesn't get excited when opening a shiny new box with a shiny new camera inside? I rushed mine back to work and opened it at my desk.. ooof! It's a lovely looking camera with a nice weight to it. Fuji have really captured that old rangefinder feel on the front of the camera, just a bit smaller! At the front we have a focus mode flip switch, with AF-S, AF-C and manual options, a small round Af illuminator and the front of the optical viewfinder. There's a small ridge for your right hand to grip and the lens, which most cameras have at the front.... is marked around the barrel with the focal ranges available, 28mm-112mm (taking into account the crop factor, not in 35mm terms). Also on the lens barrell is an 'off' marker, to turn the camera on you rotate the lens until it clicks, nice touch. The front of the camera is dappeled metal and the lens cap is a nice solid metal too.
Turning the camera round to view the back things are a lot different, there's a much more modern feel to it, mostly thanks to the LCD screen (which old cameras definitely didn't have!) but also due to the rotary dial and mounting around the view finder. The usual buttons make an appearance, AEL/AFL, play, preview magnification, WB, flash, timer and a horizontal wheel for changing aperture. Interestingly there's also a RAW button (i've yet to find a reason to have a dedicated button for RAW options, but thankfully it's programmable so can be changed to suit my needs!) and a macro button (the little flower companies seem to associate with Macro photography). All the buttons are well placed and easily found after a few times thumbing around whilst peering through the viewfinder.
The top of the camera is quite attractive, in my opinion, I love dials and threaded shutter buttons so i'm happy here! Over to the top left is a discrete flash that pops up when you slide a slider on the back of the camera. In the middle there's a hot shoe for Fuji's various 'flash guns' (i'm not sure which are compatible) and then the usual P/A/S/M mode dial featuring the usual modes as well as two customizable options (c1 & C2), Movie mode, SP, Adv, full auto & EXR. There's also a rather well placed expsoure compensation dial and a very small Fn button just next to the shutter...which just seems to change ISO and nothing else...
At the bottom there's a standard tripod shoe insert and thankfully a battery and SD compartment at the far right, enabling removal of the momery card or battery whilst still mounted to the tripod, essential for any stop motion projects or if you need to empty your memory card but don't want to move the camera.
In summary, first impressions were fantastic:-
I've only had the camera a week so i'm still not completely clued up to all of it's functions and idiosyncrasys but I have given it a good whirl. The x10 seems to excel at street photography, its size alone provides an advantage over DSLRS because I can place it in my inside jacket pocket with the neck strap on so when a situation i want to shoot arises i can be switched on and taking shots in under 5 seconds. Another thing i've foudn useful in this respect is some of the automatic modes. The exposure comensation wheel and a few of the other functions such as 'Film mode' provide the the ability to let the camera decide the exposure but give you enough creative input to get the shot you want, not the shot the camera wants. This is a big thing to me, i usually ignore automatic modes other than occasional use of aperture priority. Admittedly I've missed quite a few shots because of this, no matter how quick I can dial in my shutter and aperture settings on my a65 the x10 can be ready to go with two or three clicks. For shots where my subject is stationery i'll always take time to expose the best I can but for those shots where that person, animal, pet cat etc is only going to be in the right place for a second or so the x10's EXR mode does very well indeed, obviously, with the added RAW ability of the x10 any exposure errors can be fixed later using the RAW software provided with the camera.
The x10 isn't just a back up for speedy street snaps though (which are quite forgiving when it comes to quality!), it really does do well when taking landscapes or portraits and the macro function isn't too shabby either. I'll always use my a65 when I can but if on my day-to-day routines I see something that needs a little effort i'm more than happy that the x10 can cope with it.
Fuji's EXR mode copes very well when dealing with contrasting scenes. If a 'fleeting chance' shot arises I'm confident the 'Dynamic Range priority' mode can deal with it without me missing the shot. I've not fully explored EXR yet but so far I like it a lot and plan to use it when ever there's a family snap, crazy Dad dance or low light action I wish to record for my own personal amusement (not all photos are street scenes, I do like a family photo here and there!)
I've learnt, perhaps wrongly, from my a65 that high ISO produces nasty noise and loss of detail. Well, that's really not the case with the Fuji x10, i'm shocked at it's high speed ability. I can happily go up to 1600 and still get usuable results. I've never really exceeded 800 on my a65. I'm aware it's ISO ability isn't famed but i'm still shocked that a camera that cost £300 beats a camera that cost £1000 (at the time, with lens, meh!). This makes it even more attractive since the whole reason i bought the x10 was to lighten the load, i.e no tripod. I've posted a few samples at 400,800 & 1600.
The x10 is also discrete. I'm not the sort of photographer who sneaks shots of pretty girls walking down the street or does close ups of compelte strangers goign about their business but I do like a street shot with figures in. Pointing a DSLR at someone can make them nervous, it looks a bit wrong, intrusive even, but how many times do you see people takign shots with point & shoots without thinking anythign of it? It's a done thing to take hoiday snaps so no one realy minds or takes notice, combine that with my 'how to take street shots' blog post and you're practically invisible! Similarly some places don't like cameras with large sensors or other photography equipment such as tripods..no problem with the x10...it's just a compact camera (and will excel in low light, so win win!)
Another thing about the x10 is that it really comes alive when you reduce the resolution to 6mp. I've not full tested or understand this yet but it's well document via other reviews i've read.
There are a few niggles though, not many and they're small but a niggle is a niggle. There are two wheels to change the exposure parameters, aperture is altered with a horizontal wheel, which I like, but the shutter speed is on the rotary dial you'd usually use to navigate the menus with. I find this quite annoying with my big hands because i had to bend my thumb awkwardly to change the exposure whilst framing. It would be nice to be able to depress a button whilst turning the horizontal wheel so i can alter the shutter, oh well! There are a few other things which i think are down to my not fulyl understanding the camera. For instance, i wanted a long expsoure, say 20 seconds, but the x10 woulnd't go slower than 4 seconds. This was strange since i'd taken a 30 second exposure the night before. Not to worry though! There are just a few limitations. In this case the ISO was up high (around 1600, i'm terrible at leaving the ISO unchanged from a previous shoot) which trips the camera into restricting the shutter speed.
Another thing which I think is just me being used to the new SLT technology is the viewfinder doesn't show you anything other than the frame. No exposure settings, no AF points (there are 49 by the way, wow!) etc which means i have to look at the LCD screen..like an amateur! Okay, so that's a bit big headed but it is a massive pain having to re-frame if I have to resort to the LCD for information.
Aperture - f2.0 -f11
Shutter speed - 4000-30"
Zoom range - 28mm-112mm (7.1mm-28m in 35mm terms)
ISO range - 100-12800
Built in flash (guide number TBA)
Threaded shutter release (for old style cable release)
Adv (in camera effects, panorama,vertorama)
+two programmable presets
Full HD movie
The Fuji x10 is a great camera that produces good quality results. It's exactly what I want from a compact. It has far exceeded my expectations and the few negative points are far out weighed by its ability to produce good quality results.