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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fujifilm X10: It's really, really good BUT, BUT, BUT . . .

Burj Al Arab Beach, Dubai, UAE.  As techy as the camera is, it can also be as simple as the most idiot-proof gadgets.  Here, I had no problem handing it to someone who's not familiar with the camera to take my picture with the Burj Al Arab.

The title of this blog should have been "Dubai and Abu Dhabi Through the Lens of the Fujifilm X10", but I thought it was very long and sounded more like a travel blog than a camera review.  I've had the X10 for over a month now and have been using it for some casual shoots.  I've been liking it so far but when I took it to Abu Dhabi  and Dubai for a weekend trip, that's when its negative qualities began to show up.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE.  The X10 has 3 levels of dynamic range optimizer, and handles into-the-light and high contrast scenes rather well.

For the first day of our trip, we stayed in Abu Dhabi meeting up with old friends we have not seen in a long time.  So most of the day was spent dining and chatting and sitting around coffee shops and restaurants as we catch up on each of our own lives.  No problem there for the Fuji X10.  It delivered plenty of beautifully exposed and memorable souvenir pictures of our little reunions . . . plus a little bit of sightseeing.

Doha International Airport Departure Lounge.  Passengers waiting.  The X10's compact size makes shooting scenes like this a lot more discreet.  I would never have dared to take this shot with a DSLR.

And then, one of them (one of our friends) has just recently bought a brand new Honda Pilot.  He was happy about this car and was excited to drive it for a long trip in the excellent roads of the United Arab Emirates.  So he offered to drive us to Dubai the next day and go around town.  How do you say no to such an offer?  We didn't had any definite plan for that day anyway so we took it.  I decided to leave the 7D for this.  I bought the X10 for the purpose of travelling light anyway, so I thought, might as well get used to it.

Aston Martin DB9.  Shot in aperture priority mode.  Other cameras, including my 7D, would have overexposed this shot due to the dominance of dark areas.  But the X10 handled the exposure spot-on.

For the record, I still think it is a very wonderful camera and the results it has produced so far are just simply amazing.  I would still be confident to take it for pleasure trips and use it most of the time, but with my EOS 7D as backup (we'll get back to that later).

Dubai Mall Food Court.  One of the features of this camera that really flips me out (in a good way) is the auto-focus system.  In other cameras, one has to lightly press the shutter button to prefocus before taking the shot.  With the X10, prefocus is not necessary.  You can press the shutter all the way and your picture will be focused almost every time.  If the face detection mode is activated, it will focus based on that.  The photo above was a grab shot without pre-focusing.  The camera simply detected her face on capture and focused accordingly.

I was shooting in various modes - Aperture Priority, Manual, EXR Mode in some occasions sometimes with flash but mostly with available light.  Plus a few videos.

Much have been written about this camera's sparkling qualities and how good it is so now, let me write about some of its frustrating design and negative qualities.


If there are cars that we call "gas guzzlers", this is the camera version.  Okay, I know from the start that it is power hungry and a 1 fully charged battery will not last for a whole day of shooting.  But 2 fully charged batteries??????  I was able to click just less than 400 shots with both batteries - those were 2 fully charged batteries.  I don't know if I want to invest on a third battery, I don't travel that much nowadays.

That is ironic because it's a camera that inspires you to shoot.  But with poor battery performance, you might have to pace your shooting to last through the day.  You can not turn off the LCD screen and simply rely on the viewfinder (however good and bright it is) because you will have no way of knowing if the lens focused on the right spot.  The viewfinder is simply a window and no other info can be seen inside it.

Each battery will take around 2 hours to charge fully.  During a trip, I usually plug in one battery in the evening upon return to our station (hotel or friend's house) and it will be usually charged while I do my file transfers, shower and a little TV and drink.  Then I would plug in the 2nd battery before going to bed and I'd be good to go the next morning with a fresh pair of batteries.  A third battery to charge means either buying another charger or I'll have to wake up at dawn to plug it in and charge it.  After a tiring day, that would be such a major inconvenience to do.  And this is the reason why, I would still need my EOS 7D to take over when the X10's batteries die.


This is perhaps one of the cameras biggest hindrance to spontaneous shooting.  First, let me tell you how it is with my EOS 7D (and perhaps every other DSLR in the market).  You turn it on and usually, during idle moments, it will switch to sleep mode.  But when a photo opportunity arises, a light press to the shutter button is all it takes to wake it up.  I wish they could implement the same system on the X10 because it is so frustrating to miss a shot when you put the camera up and then find out that it won't shoot - it won't wake up when you press the shutter button.  You will need to turn the lens' focal length ring to OFF, then wait a couple of seconds before turning it back on.

I have encountered situations like this during the trip - too many to get me frustrated enough.  You can set it to sleep after a longer duration (an hour, maybe) of inactivity but then, you shorten the battery life even more.


The other frustrating thing is that the live view is not exactly an accurate preview of your shot.  I don't know why it was designed in such a way that exposure is always perfect in live view but when you take the shot, it's either under or overexposed.  I suppose that's fine because you get to see an exposure meter to let you know whether you should compensate or not.  But the white balance, at least should be represented correctly in live view.  It's not.


It is an absolutely very good camera that I'd be happy to take on my travels.  (Have I said that already?  Too many times?)  Personal pleasure or even business trips, if I know I won't be doing files for large-printing and the X10 lens' focal range will be sufficient.  It is highly capable of wonderful images - rich in colors and details . . . and bokehOf the 400+ photos taken with the X10 during the 2 days trip, I'm generally happy with the results.  There are even a few that I think would be worth printing large.

Dubai Mall Food Court.  If you're still in doubt of the X10's image quality, I believe the above photo represents what it is capable of. 

But the three issues I pointed out above are major frustrations that could be counter-productive to the camera's ability to inspire.  Having said that, the Fujifilm X10 is still highly recommended - but if you're bringing it for vacation trips, bring 2 extra batteries, an extra battery charger - or - you can bring a backup camera.



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