#246 – Fuji X10 – initial impressions

I’ve used a Panasonic LX3 for the past couple of years and, like the top end compacts from Canon and Nikon, it has a reputation as a photographers camera – well built, wide angle (24mm) lens, the ability to shoot raw, manual controls, etc.

Much as I liked the camera, it never fitted in with my style of shooting. That’s not a flaw of the camera, I just found it slowed me down. I recently found out that Joe Cornish uses one (not as his primary camera, but alongside his large format), and if you read any of his books, you’ll realise that his style of landscape photography is a slow, considered one, and the little LX3 is ideal for that.

So ultimately, after nearly two and a half years I only took 1100 photos on it, which is only a few more than I’ve taken on my mobile phone in half that time.

I liked the idea of the Fuji X100 that was released a year or two back, but the idea of a fixed 35mm prime was off-putting. Nothing against primes, but the fact that it wasn’t interchangeable for other primes was off-putting. That functionality has now arrived on the XPro1, which looks awesome, but the cost is way to high for me to consider. I do like Fuji products – I had an F31 for several years before the LX3, which was a vastly underrated camera primarily because it had ‘only’ 6mp, when the megapixel race was in full swing. It was usable at ISO1600, a revolutionary concept for compacts 6 years ago, let alone in 2012. Unfortunately, it’s limited zoom range (35-70) and lack of manual controls limited it’s usefulness to me, but it was a surprisingly capable little camera, that I actually sold for more money than I paid for it two or three years earlier.

When I read about the Fuji X10 on it’s release last year, and read the subsequent glowing reviews, I thought, ‘wow, that’s the compact that I wanted the LX3 to be’. Unfortunately, I thought it was rather overpriced at launch, so I decided to wait until the price came down to what I thought was a more realistic level. After all, I wasn’t missing out as a) I already had a camera, and b) I barely used any of my cameras in the first three months of 2012.

Finally, prices started to come down (although checking on camerapricebuster.co.uk shows that some dealers are still living in a dream world with their prices), and when I heard that refurbished cameras direct from Fuji were cheaper still (and with a warranty), I opted for the refurb option instead. With the money I saved, I bought an upgrade to Lightroom 4, so that I could access the X10’s raw files (v2.7 wouldn’t take them, alas).

First impressions were good – the camera is all metal, and feels solidly built, almost like my old Nikon FM. It also looks the part in all black and the design is lovely – I’ve always liked the look of rangefinders, and have often thought about buying a new style Voigtlander Bessa, but couldn’t justify spending so much money on a film camera that I wouldn’t use much. The thing I like most is the lens – you twist it to turn it on, and then keep twisting to zoom in and out, like an SLR lens. I’ve never really got on with the electric zooming lenses of all other compacts and quite surprised that it’s taken so long for someone to come up with such an obvious alternative. The viewfinder is, for a compact, quite usable, although it only gives about 85% coverage, and I’ve found myself using the back screen more often. Seeing the lens in the viewfinder is also unusual.

Full details of my trip to Dinorwic with the camera are in the upcoming posts, but my initial thoughts are:

Like:
Twist the lens to turn it on and zoom.
Fast, stabilised lens.
Image quality is very good. Tried a few at 1600 ISO and it’s better than I thought.
Good macro mode – although all compacts can do this.
Ability to create a shallow depth of field effect is good.
Sweep panorama is brill! I love doing panorama’s this takes away all the faffing in Photoshop.
Looks and feels like a proper camera
Plenty of buttons, not all menu driven, so quick and easy to access functions.
Nice size – bigger than my LX3 (need a new bag of it) but fits nicely in the hand.
Velvia film mode is nice!

Not so keen on:
VF only 85%
EXR mode to improve the dynamic range doesn’t seem to have much effect, but this might be operator error on my part.

Dislikes:
The camera kept moving to from jpeg to raw when changing from program mode to other modes such as EXR and panorama (not sure if the firmware upgrade will rectify this).

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