Review: Fujifilm X-T10

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Review: Fujifilm X-T10

Probably the best value camera you can buy.

All gadgets are about compromise. Whether phones or laptops or TVs or cameras, you just can't get design, performance, speed and smarts in one body without spending a fortune. 

On the face of it though, Fujifilm's X-T10 looks to be the camera that has it all. It shares the quality retro looks, APS-C sensor and photographer-friendly controls of the flagship X-T1, but not the premium price. 

Surely, this snapper must fall short somewhere? I spent a few weeks with it to find out.

Take the design. Like the X-T1, the X-T10 is small, beautifully crafted and stylishly retro in a way that'll make you nostalgic for the days when you could buy a house for less than a million.

Unlike the X-T1 it's not weatherproof and the body is mostly plastic with magnesium top- and bottom-plates. But against that, it's noticeably smaller than its big brother and weighs 60g less. It shapes up well against most rival compact system cameras too, being roughly the same size as the Olympus OMD E-M10 II and Sony A6000.

Looks-wise, it's a cracker. It retains the X-T1's stylishly retro visage and wears its many manual controls proudly on the top-plate. This is a camera you'll be itching to pick up and dying to show off. It feels great in the hand too, with its grip and thumb rest nicely placed and all of the controls within easy reach.

Round the back there's a 3in flippable rear LCD screen with plenty of pixels, plus an electronic viewfinder that's similarly well specced: it's an OLED with 2.36 million dots. The LCD is pretty much identical to the one on the X-T1 but the EVF suffers a bit in comparison, with only a 0.62x magnification to the X-T1's 0.77x. Still, it's better than nothing and indeed better than many rivals, serving up rich colours and keeping up with movement without too much smearing.

Battery life is passable. You're never going to get DSLR-bothering stamina from a compact system camera, so I'd suggest buying a second battery as soon as possible. Fuji reckons you get 350 shots per charge, and that sounds about right here. Note that the X-T10, like the X-T1, has a tendency to drop very quickly from one-bar-remaining to sorry-suckers-I'm-outta-here status.

Fujifilm's X Series cameras have long been praised for their handling, with aperture controlled via a ring on the lens (in most cases) and dedicated dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation. They're the kind of cameras you operate via feel rather than having to constantly take your eyes away from the viewfinder to look at a screen.  

The X-T10 continues this tradition and - shock horror - even beats the X-T1 on this front. 

Yes, it lacks the dedicated ISO dial of the X-T1, but given that many people (myself included) have found that dial to be a touch fiddly, I'm not putting that down as a compromise. In its place there's a simple mode dial offering easy access to the various burst and bracketing options, which is far more useful for most novices. Better still, there's a lever on top that lets you switch to auto mode. The X-T1 doesn't even have an auto mode.

Elsewhere, there are front and back dials, both of which cleverly also act as buttons, a switch for selecting manual mode, and another dozen or so buttons controlling various other options. Indeed, seven of them are fully customisable. It's all terrible exciting to a button nerd like me.

Any flaws? Well there's no dedicated metering switch as on the X-T1, though you can of course assign that to one of the customisable buttons, and the camera's smaller size does make the exposure compensation dial a little hard to operate. That's about it though. Big deal.  

Of course comparing the X-T10 to the X-T1 is one thing. The important thing is how it shapes up against other CSCs? Really, there's no contest. None of the other system cameras I've used offer anywhere near the tactile joy you get here. Maybe some people would rather hunt around in a menu than flick physical switches and dials, but I'm not among them. 

Image quality is a much more subjective issue than build and handling, and it's here that the X-T10 will likely prove a more divisive camera.

In terms of differences with the X-T1, there are none - it has the same 16MP X-Trans sensor and images taken with both appear to be identical. But against other systems, it's a different matter.

Why? Well the X Series' X-Trans sensor has a different pixel array to that in the Bayer sensor found in most cameras. Don't worry, we're not going to get too technical about it, but essentially the X-Trans processes images in a different way, and that's both a good and bad thing.

Advantage No.1 is colour. Oh, the Fuji colours... If John Keats were alive today, we're pretty sure his muse would be an X-Trans sensor array rather than a nightingale. I could marvel at them for hours. Is it that they're more accurate? Or more vivid? Or more nuanced? Who cares - all I know is that they look great. 

It's also watch-out-you'll-cut-yourself sharp, especially when paired with one of Fuji's superb (if pricey) XF lenses. Images are hardly noise-free, with a slight grain visible as early as ISO 800, but its film-like quality is such that it rarely detracts from the picture and you'll be too busy marvelling at the sharpness and rich, vivid tones to notice anyway. 

Thirdly, it takes the best JPEGs you'll ever see. Now I'm not the kind of person who likes to spend hours in Photoshop perfecting RAW files - I'd far rather be outside shooting more pictures - so this is a big deal for me. Of course RAW is still here as an option if you do want to spend hours in Photoshop, you saddo. 

Against that? Well picture size is the biggie here. Fuji's sensors currently max out at 16MP, whereas most rivals go to 20 or 24MP. Obviously that means smaller prints, less room to crop and potentially less detail. Is it enough to worry about? Nah. A 16MP image can still be printed at about 17in x 11in and it's not like you're planning to hold an exhibition any time soon, is it?

That said, you can count me in for a 24MP X-T20.

The other stick some people beat the X-Trans around the head with its RAW processing performance. There are War And Peace-length forum threads dedicated to debates about whether Lightroom handles the files correctly and how foliage renders. I did mean to spend a good amount of time researching the issue, but I got bored and went off to shoot some great JPEGs instead. Sorry about that.

Lensman
The Fuji X system is decades younger than Canon or Nikon's offerings, and a few years behind Micro Four Thirds and Sony's CSC systems. As such, it can't compete in terms of number of lenses. Still, what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality.

The obvious kit lens for the X-T10 is the Fujinon XC 16-50mm, and at the price it's something of a steal. Build quality is so-so - it's a resolutely plastic affair - and the aperture range of f/3.5-5.6 is nothing special. But it takes great pictures and goes a little wider than most kit lenses.

Step up a little and you've got some truly superb lenses at your fingertips. Fuji understands that you can never have too much light, so its premium kit lens, the XF 18-55mm, is a speedy f/2.4-4.0. Better still, there's a slew of stunning primes such as the unbeatable trio of XF 16mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2. Stick them on the front of your X-T10 and you'll really see what it's capable of. 

Focus on the X-T10 is an oddly hit-and-miss affair - so much so that I've ended up thinking of it as almost two distinct cameras.

Use a single AF point in AF-S mode and you'll be in heaven, with its hybrid autofocus set-up usually locking on to a subject so swiftly you're not sure it's started. And in that mode it's almost always accurate too; unlike with old-school DSLRs, you can be pretty sure that if something looks sharp through the viewfinder it'll look sharp on the image.

Things aren't so certain in dim light, where the X-T10 can be Tory-like in its love of hunting, but then that's a failing shared by most CSCs. Less forgivable is its performance when selecting an autofocus zone rather than a single point. The X-T10 has a tendency to plump for the wrong subject, especially when you're shooting against a busy background. For this reason, I almost always prefer single-AF mode but given that it's my favoured way to shoot on any camera, I've never found it to be much of a drawback.

A bigger problem is the X-T10's continuous tracking capability, which is at best erratic. Fire off a burst in AF-C mode and you might get some shots in focus. Or you might not. Sometimes they'll all be sharp; other times none will be. It's frustrating to say the least, and leaves the Fuji lagging behind almost all DSLRs and several CSCs, especially the class-leading Sony A6000.

Offsetting that, though, are the X-T10's manual-focusing abilities, which are superb. They don't quite rival those on the X-T1, due to the fact that it lacks that camera's dual-screen option, but shooting manually is nonetheless a dream here: twiddle the focus ring on any lens and you'll see a zoomed-in image, with the sharp bits highlighted in the colour of your choice. It's incredibly easy to use.

Another negative is the annoyingly small buffer when shooting in burst mode. While the X-T10 can rattle off shots at 8fps, you'll find that when you do so it pauses regularly - which kind of defeats the point. By comparison, the X-T1 can keep shooting forever.

So as I said, it's a mixed bag here. If, like me, you mostly shoot static(ish) subjects - landscapes, portraits, macro etc - the X-T10 will prove a fine performer. But if you're into sports, you might want to look elsewhere.

The X-T10, like every camera in 2015, has built-in Wi-Fi and can be operated via an app. Also like every camera in 2015, actually connecting to the app is an exercise in tedium that lies somewhere between waiting for a bus and having a tooth extracted.

When it finally connects - usually on the third or fourth attempt - you get a disappointingly basic app that lets you shoot remotely but doesn't give you much control over what you're doing. What's really annoying is the way in which you have to set up the camera prior to connecting to the app. If it's on auto aperture, for instance, you won't be able to set the aperture in the app without first quitting it, changing it on the camera, then re-connecting. Stupid.

There's a built-in flash, which is something that's missing on the X-T1, but it's no substitute for a decent hotshoe model. And then there's video, which I'm including in the 'extras' section because it's very much an afterthought on the X-T10.

You do get full HD footage at 24-60fps, but there's no 4K and precious little in the way of manual controls while shooting. Autofocus when in movie mode is pretty average, too - certainly not close to what you get on Canon's latest DSLRs at any rate.

There are several extra shooting modes, for those who like that kind of thing. The Advanced Filter option gives you Toy Camera, Soft Focus, Partial Colour and other gimmicks that you'll use once or twice then forget about, but the panorama mode is good and there's a powerful bracketing option which lets you shoot bursts of shots at different exposures, ISO levels, dynamic ranges or white balances. 

The best extras, though, are Fuji's Film Simulation filters, which I love so much I'd choose them over my girlfriend, kids and even Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie. You get six classic film simulations: Provia, Velvia, Classic Chrome, Astia, Pro Neg Hi and Pro Neg Std and between them they make Instagram's filters look like the preserve of amateurs.

Velvia is my go-to option - it gives you rich, vivid colours that really make a landscape sing - but I've also got a soft spot for Classic Chrome and its moody tones. I guarantee you'll quickly hit upon your own favourites.

While all gadgets are about compromise, not all compromises are equal. And while the Fujifilm X-T10 does have a few flaws, its many charms more than offset them. 

Compare it to the X-T1 and the pros and cons are obvious: the X-T10 is smaller, easier for a novice to use and much, much cheaper; against that it lacks waterproofing, a big viewfinder and a fast buffer. 

In my time with it, I've regularly reached for the X-T10 over its better-featured brother for the size difference alone, and it's rare that I've regretted it. There's no doubt the X-T1 is the better camera overall, but the money you'd save with the X-T10 could buy you another lens. Choosing between the two is no easy matter.  

Pitch it against other compact system cameras and DSLRs and the decision is easier, in that it mostly comes down to what you shoot.

For rich landscapes, detailed macro shots, stunningly sharp portraits and everyday photos of small children doing what small children do, it hands down beats most other choices at any price, let alone $859. It also looks great, handles beautifully and can be paired with some of the most consistently superb lenses you'll ever find. But if you spend a lot of time snapping wipeouts on the waves or falcons in flight - or if you care about video - you should still probably look elsewhere. 

So it's not quite a camera for everyone, or one without any compromises. If I had a spare $900, though, and needed a new camera, I know what I'd be buying.

This article originally appeared at Stuff.tv

Review: Fujifilm X-T10
5 5
Verdict
The Fujifilm X-T10 would be a great camera at any price, but at this one it's unbeatable.
Overall
Specs
$859 AUD
• Fujifilm
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