Friday, August 17, 2018

FIRST LOOK REVIEW FUJIFILM XF10

A month ago, Fujifilm announced their latest "compact fixed lens" X-series camera, the XF10! As an X-Photographer, the fine guys from Fujifilm Middle East borrowed me a sample version, for a weeks of test shooting in different environments. Below is my first hand experience using it. Although not a production copy, it looked very close to what an XF10 customer will see once the camera becomes available over the coming days.

WHATS IN A NAME?

For the ones that are familiar with Fujifilms naming conventions, until now "XF" stood for the higher end X-series lens line. Now it also seems to be a new camera line... Yes, I know there was an XF1 6 years ago, but I guess most have forgotten about this outsider. After the confusion between X-100T and the recently announced X-T100, there seems to be more confusion on the way! Did the person responsible for naming stuff at Fujifilm have one sake too much? 😉  




X70, SUCCESOR? 

When Fujifilm announced the X70 just over two years ago, it got the attention of a lot of existing X-series shooters. Was this the camera that a photographer would always take with him/her whenever the big camera was staying home? Well this small fixed lens (18.5mm focal length) camera could easily be placed in a small pocket. Just before its release in early 2016, I took an X70 on a two day trip to San Francisco; click here  if you want to go back more than 2 years in time! 

The X70 wasn't perfect and over the last year or so, a lot of photographers have been speculating on an upcoming X80! What I personally was hoping for was a new 24Mpx sensor, faster processor providing better autofocus in low light and maybe an optional hotshot mounted Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). The rest was pretty much perfect on the X70!


Well, the fact that the camera wasn't called the X80 probably already says enough... Although it has a lot of similarities it doesn't feel like an X70 successor to me! 





DESIGN

The overall design appeals to me; it feels well built and doesn't feel plasticky. It has a small thumb grip which given it is a very light and small camera, feels just about right for the average hand. It comes with a (fake?) leather hand-strap which I did find quite useable. It does however only come with a single strap point on the right hand side; connecting a standard strap will need to be done through that single point and/or by using the tripod connection at the bottom.     

The XF10 is available in black and "champagne gold" colour like the X-T100; personally I'm not a fan of the new colour but taste obviously various. 
If one wants to blend in for Street Photography, black is the way to go! 


Compared to the X70, it is virtually the same size; the only difference being the depth, which is 3mm less on the XF10. At 279gr the new compact weighs in about 20% less than the X70.


BUTTONS AND DIALS

Like on the X-T100 (review here), the old D-pad (4-way controller) is replaced with the new flick gesture controls on the touchscreen; something I actually don't mind for a small compact camera. Beside the camera has the popular and well designed, "joystick".

The button layout at the back has been simplified quite a bit, making for a cleaner interface. 





The top plate has seen the biggest overhaul... no more shutter and dedicated ISO dial but instead a PASM dial and a function dial on the right that can be used for Exposure compensation or shutter speed when in Manual mode; a set-up similar to the X-T100. 



The PASM mode dial also has a variety of automatic modes such as Night, Sport, Portrait, and a clever SR Auto mode where it automatically recognizes scenes and subjects. Not something I would personally use, but fun to test!  

I'm a strong believer that anybody who wants to seriously learn photography, is better off by using semi-manual modes like Aperture and Shutter speed priority; needless to say that these modes are obviously available as well.

There is no front or back dial, but they have included a dial around the shutter button which acts like a front command dial; this can be used for changing  aperture or shutter speed depending on the shooting mode. Yes, it is right, unfortunately the manual aperture ring we had on the X70 is also gone! A great loss if you ask me. 


What has remained is the front of the lens, which has a rotatable control ring; depending on the mode you are in and how you program it, it can control Advanced filter settings, ISO, White Balance or activate the Digital Teleconverter.  The last one allows one to digitally zoom in with the fixed lens to either 35mm or 50mm; this function only works in jpeg mode. The whole thing does some kind of a pixel magic (non-official technical term), while maintaining the 24Mpx file size it degrades the image quality slightly but provides good useable images; similar to upscaling an image in Photoshop.  



EVF and LCD SCREEN
Like the X70, the XF10 has no Electronic View Finder (EVF); this is obviously why the camera can remain so compact. Connecting an external optical viewfinder for shooting in very bright conditions, is not possible since the hotshot mount also been removed; unlike the X70. 

The LCD consists of a nice 3 inch 1040K dot screen, with touch screen functionality but with it is fixed! Yes, that is right no flip/tilt screen on the XF10... I know there are still a few people out there that don't care for tilt LCD screens, but to me this is the biggest showstopper. A year ago, I decided not to buy any camera anymore that does not have one. Since the size of the X70 is virtually the same I have a hard time seeing why a touchscreen was not included. The only reason I can potentially see is because of the lower price point. I would happily pay 100,-USD more to have one!  

The XF10 has the new flick gesture controls, we first saw being implemented on the X-E3 but now can also be found on the X-T100. This allows a left/right/up/down swipe to be programmed to specific menu items and which actions like an on screen D pad (four way controller).

Like most of the newer X-series cameras (including the Medium format GFX50), the touchscreen can be used to select the auto-focus point and/or function as shutter button. I did find the touchscreen probably just a little less responsive compared to the X-T20 and about the same as the X-T100; possibly because of the slower processor installed in the camera.




MENU 

The camera has the older style menu system; similar to the X70 and X-T100; something that is more than likely linked to the slower processor. Not a deal breaker for me, but as I have stated before, I much prefer the newer interface seen on the X-T20, X-T2, X-Pro2...

Something I really like on this camera is the new Snapshot mode; for the more experienced photographers it is basically zone focussing using the hyperfocal distance. One can choose between Snapshot OFF, 2m or 5m. In simple words, it is a manual focus mode, where the focus is preset to either the 2 or 5 meter point and a certain aperture is automatically selected; f8 for 2m and f5.6 for 5m. This way, everything from respectively 2 or 5 m till infinity will be in focus. It looks like this is something Fujifilm has "borrowed" from the Ricoh GR system. 


Especially for Street Photography this is a great way to have more keeper images. I do however wish to have at least one more selection; Fujifilm please add 1m and possibly 1.5m to the set-up like the Ricoh GR has through a firmware update. Lastly having the Snap Focus mode like the GR, would make it perfect! This would allow one to use the new Snapshot mode whenever the shutter button is fully pressed without waiting for the AF mode to kick in. The best of both worlds. 


Another first, is the Square image mode; clearly aimed at Instagram users, with the press of a programable Function button, images will be taken and stored in square mode; something that does not work when RAW only is selected. 

Some other items which were first seen on the X-T100 in the drive menu are now also available in the XF10; the two that stand out are a 4K Burst mode and Multi Focus mode. Both are using 4K Video for still images. The first one records a short 4K clip (at 15fps) and allows the photographer to choose a specific frame after the burst is taken. Needless to say that the output image is limited by the 4K video and will not be a full 24Mpx image. 

Multi Focus mode, takes several images at different focus distances in a 5 second video clip and then blends them together. One needs to use a tripod in order to have reasonable results with this. Especially for close-up shots, this is something that might come in handy, although it doesn't always seems to do a great job. I personally prefer to do the focus stacking myself in post-processing in order to use the full resolution of the camera. As you are basically shooting a video file, it will only work if you have a fast enough shutter speed; faster than 1/15s. When this is not the case and your lens is wide open (largest aperture), bumping up the ISO is the only other option. The processing of the final image takes a considerable amount of time; easily more than 2 mins for a single image. 


Yes the camera does shoot video, but needless to say it is mainly a still camera; especially since it does not have a tilt screen... 4K Video is available but limited to 15fps, which is ok if you are videoing your granddad in his rocking chair but too slow if shooting your kids at a soccer game. There is of course 1080p (Full HD) which is plenty for most (if not all) consumers. There is a 2.5mm microphone jack, but where do we put it since there is no microphone jack?





SENSOR AND PROCESSOR
The camera has the same sensor like the X-T100; a 24Mpx APS-C CMOS sensor. While most of the other X-series cameras have the X-Trans sensor technology which is supposed to have a higher "perceived resolution", the X-T100 has a classic bayer pattern sensor. I understand this was done to reduce the drain on battery while it also allows for a slower processor to be used. Again not a showstopper as the new 24Mpx non X-Trans sensor does a good job! 

Unlike most of the other recent X-series (except X-A5 and X-T100), the XF10 does not allow for lossless compressed shooting in RAW, likely also because of the slower processor. I consistently use lossless on all of my cameras as I don't see a difference in quality and makes for a much smaller file size.  A quick comparison using the same scene and settings shows a 43.5MB file size for the XF10 versus 26.5MB for a lossless compressed file on the X-100F/X-T2. 


Using a 240MB/s Toshiba SDHC II card, I was able to shoot the following number of RAW only shots before a slow down:


- at 3 fps 16 frames

- at 6 fps 11 frames

For you jpeg shooters, the X-T100 comes with most of the great Film Simulations like; Provia, Velvia, Astia, Pro Neg Hi and Pro Neg Standard, Monochrome (with different colour filters) and luckily Classic Chrome; my favourite Street Photography colour  Film Simulation. Unfortunately the great Acros Black and White is not available as more powerful image processor is needed to create these. 

  
LENS AND AUTOFOCUS
The fixed 18.5mm lens, which is the same as the one found on the older X70, becomes a 28mm in full frame equivalent. For some Street Photographers this might feel wide compared to the 23mm they are likely used to, but it is something one will get used to quickly. Like the X70, the lens still suffers from a slower autofocus with the occasional focus hunting, whenever shooting in low light. This is where the new Snapshot mode comes in handy. 


BATTERY 
The XF10 comes with the smaller NP-95 Lion battery (same as on the X-100 series, except X-100T, X30 and X70); it is good for more than 300 images; a realistic number I managed to easily achieve myself, even when leaving Bluetooth on all the time. Somehow I have a feeling, that the classic Bayern sensor draws less power than the X-Trans sensors but that is definitively not academically proven.  



Interestingly enough the camera does not come with a separate battery charger, but with a small wall USB to camera charger which works just fine.

WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY
A camera like the XF10 will mostly be used by the younger generation, which has been brought up in the social media era. Good connectivity is a must and the camera doesn't disappoint. Like the top of the line X-H1 and X-E3, low power Bluetooth is used to pair the camera with smart phones and/or tablets, while the actual image transfer is still done through WiFi. While life Geotagging (embedding the present position in the image file) is available, I didn't find it to be always 100% reliable. It would occasionally drop out, needing to restart the Fujifilm Remote app on my phone in order to receive updated positions. What I'm really looking for is a one stop solution where one starts the Remote app once you go out and end when the shoot is finished. Although much better than initially, there is still some work in process here Fujifilm on making the geotagging more stable and reliable. 



The camera also works very well together with the Instax Share printer line. 

IMAGE QUALITY AND SAMPLES
Overall I'm happy with the image quality of both Jpegs and RAW files. Although the more expensive X-Trans II sensor is slightly sharper and has a little bit better high ISO  and dynamic range performance, the differences are becoming marginal. Like the X-100 series cameras, when shooting close to the minimum focus distance (10cm), the edges of the frame become really soft. I don't see this necessary as a negative as it can be used creatively; refer to the "69" image below to see what I mean. 

I'm perfectly fine shooting the camera at ISO 6400. Shooting at higher ISO (max native 12800) I reserve for those moments where it is absolutely necessary. 

Please click on the individual images below to see a full screen view. 



1/90s, f8, ISO 6400 
1/50s, f11, ISO 6200 


1/200s, f7.1, ISO 200 


1/400s, f8, ISO 200 


1/400s, f5.6, ISO 1000 





1/45s, f8, ISO 6400 
1/320s, f8, ISO 1250 

1/800s, f8, ISO 200 


1/320s, f16, ISO 3200 


1/320s, f11, ISO 2500 


1/320s, f11, ISO 400 




1/320s, f11, ISO 1000 

CONCLUSION
Well by now you probably know that I'm disappointed that the XF10 does not have a tilt screen. For me this is the main drawback when it comes to new camera functionality with the lack of a hotshot a close second. Some might say that the form factor and its small size don't allow those features to be installed... Well, the X70 did have them and its size is virtually the same, right? Was it done in order to keep the costs down? Maybe since the cost is 200,-USD cheaper than when the X70 was launched. At 499,-USD the XF10 camera does offer a lot of camera for the price; there is no denying here.

I do doubt experienced photographers will be rushing out to buy the XF10 as their "take everywhere camera"; something I was hoping for myself. Or maybe we will eventually see an X80 with the missing items? No, I do not have any inside info here. If that is the case however, I'll buy it in a heartbeat! 

Now, who is the XF10 then for? Fujifilm is likely aiming at people that only use their Smartphones (no tilt screen on a smartphone 😜) and are looking for a larger sensor. Those will likely be happy with their purchase. The second category might be the small group of die-hard "tilt screen haters" that want a small back-up for an X-100 series camera. 

Lets finish with a closing question: Is the XF10 a bad camera? Obviously not since image quality, form factor and overal design are very pleasing. But, yes it could have been a "great little camera"!   

On a side note, today I discovered that my blog is part of the TOP 10 DUBAI PHOTOGRAPHY BLOGS - thanks to all the readers for your continuous support! More about the Feedspot blog competition can be found here.

BJORN





2 comments:

Juli said...

Yes, I own a fujifilm x100f and a Sony rx100m3 as a second camera and I am considering to buy a fuji xf10 to be my second camera in place of the Sony.
Main Pros: film sims, fuji menús, APS-C Bayer sensor (like my original X100), pocketability...
Main cons:no EVF, no ND filter, no Acros.

Anonymous said...

I own a X70 myself and was really hoping Fuji would bring a X80. For me the XF10 is a big let down. As you i was looking for a faster AF, but on top of my list was an optional EVF for the hotshoe.
I don't think that this is a camera for smartphone photographer, because what smartphones lack even more than low light ability is zoom. One of the Sony Rx100 seems to be the better choice for this group.
(As a sidenote: One of the best things on Fuji cameras is to get rid of the PASM-dial. If I want a camera with that, therenis a lot of competition out there.)