The Fujifilm XF10 is the best camera. I’ll explain why this is so in a few minutes. For now, just know I truly mean that bold statement.
A few weeks ago Fujifilm released an ultra-compact, fixed-lens, fixed-focal-length, wide-angle, low-budget, APS-C sensor camera. The XF10 is a brand-new camera, but it borrows much of its design and features from other Fujifilm cameras, as well as a non-Fujifilm camera. There are a lot of similarities between the XF10 and the X70, including the same exact 28mm (equivalent) f/2.8 lens. The X70 was essentially a smaller, lighter, cheaper, and more wide-angle X100T. While the XF10 is noticeably influenced from the design heritage of Fujifilm’s rangefinder-style fixed-lens cameras, there’s a touch of the X-E3 and X-T100 in it, as well. Oh, and Fujifilm even took a little from the Ricoh GR series.
I don’t want to go all that deep into the stat sheet of this camera. You can readily find that information online. I’ll talk about what I feel is important and perhaps what I believe others want to know. I will do my best to keep this review from reading like all the rest, which, by the way, brings up a point that I want to clarify right from the start. I paid for this camera myself. Fujifilm did not give or loan me an XF10. You can rest assured that this review is strictly my own opinion and not influenced by a corporate gift. If someone did offer me a camera I would not turn it down because, well, I like free stuff as much as the next guy, but that has never happened and probably never will.
The elephant in the room is that the XF10 uses a 24-megapixel sensor with a Bayer color filter array and not an X-Trans array. It’s the same sensor that’s found in the Fujifilm X-A5 and X-T100. Also, the processor is not the same one found in X-Trans III cameras, but a generic one that seems related to the processor found in X-Trans II cameras. What this means is that the XF10 feels more like an X-Trans II camera, but with subtly inferior color rendition. It does have more resolution and slightly better high-ISO performance than X-Trans II, but overall it’s a lot closer to X-Trans II than X-Trans III and not exactly like either.
One thing that’s missing on the XF10 is the Acros Film Simulation, which, in my opinion, is the very best in-camera JPEG option on any digital camera ever. It’s a shame that it’s not on this camera, but it’s omission is understandable. There are also no faux film grain options. Adjustments max out at plus or minus two instead of four like what’s found on X-Trans III cameras. For the JPEG shooter, the XF10 will not quite produce the wonderful analog-like photographs that one can achieve with an X-Trans III camera, but that doesn’t mean the images don’t look good because they do.
All of the common film simulations, such as Classic Chrome, Velvia, Astia, Provia, etc., are found on the XF10. The odd thing is that you can only save one custom setting. On any Fujifilm camera that I’ve owned before, there are nine custom presets that one can create and save for quick recall, but not so on the XF10. I was extremely disappointed by this at first, because I have tons of great film simulation recipes that I like to use (none of which are directly compatible with the XF10), but after awhile this setup grew on me. I found freedom in the limitation, and for the XF10 it’s actually great because it plays into the camera’s philosophy.
The XF10 has a minimalist design. There’s no hotshoe. There are no threads on the lens. The rear screen doesn’t tilt or swivel. There are fewer buttons, knobs and wheels than one would find on other Fujifilm cameras. It’s like Fujifilm took a look at their cameras, such as the X100F and X-T20, and asked, “What’s unnecessary?” What is left is a camera that has just what you need, nothing more, nothing less. There are exactly the right amount of controls for everything, thanks in part to the touch options on the rear screen. The gesture touch controls are a nice addition, although it’s very particular and one must do it just right for it to work well, which for me took some practice. If there is one complaint about the camera’s design, it’s the darn PASM dial, which I don’t care much for. I would appreciate dedicated controls for aperture, shutter and ISO like on my X100F and X-Pro2, but the XF10 is designed for a different group of photographers.
Fujifilm tends to have a certain group in mind when they design a camera. That’s why they have so many different models that are similar to each other. The differences between the X-T100, X-T20, X-T2, X-H1 and now the X-T3 aren’t huge, yet each is clearly intended for a different faction. The X-A5, X-E3 and X-Pro2 are quite similar not only to each other but also the previous list, yet they are meant for different groups. The X100F and XF10 could be grouped together, but the XF10 wasn’t designed for and is not marketed towards the same group that purchased the X100F. That doesn’t mean those who own the X100F shouldn’t buy it or won’t appreciate it. It simply helps us to understand why the designers made the choices that they did.
What I have come to appreciate about the XF10 is the simplicity of it. I’m thinking less about camera settings and more about the image itself. The camera becomes less important. It fades away at the end of my hand. That’s not necessarily what Fujifilm intended. What they were attempting was simplicity for the inexperienced photographer. They wanted something that a novice could pick up and use without trouble, something that wouldn’t seem overwhelming to the beginner. They achieved that, but in the process made a camera that’s fantastic for the experienced user to just shoot with. That should be the camera’s slogan: Just shoot it. Perhaps Nike wouldn’t care for that, so I digress.
While I’m sure that the XF10 has a lot of plastic in it, the camera feels solid and sturdy, like it could take a beating and still function just fine (I have no plans to test this). It doesn’t look or feel cheap. It seems higher-end than the price would suggest. However, something I’ve noticed in the short time that I’ve owned the camera is the paint on a couple of the corners is already starting to wear. I’m sure that this is from shoving the camera into pockets, but it seems much too quick for the paint to be rubbing off. That’s really too bad.
Like the X100 series, the XF10 has a leaf shutter and fantastic built-in fill-flash. The camera seems to balance the exposure and flash perfectly every time, which is just fantastic! This is something that Fujifilm does better than anybody. A side effect of the leaf shutter is that it is nearly silent, making this camera particularly great for street photography. Just be sure to turn off all the artificial noises that the camera is programmed to make.
There’s a feature on the XF10 that should be on every single camera manufactured today. It’s called Snapshot, which is a zone focus system where the focus and aperture are at predetermined settings. There are two options: five meters, which utilizes f/5.6, and two meters, which uses f/8. Both of these settings will give you a large depth-of-field where much of the scene will be in focus. I wish that there was a one meter option using f/11, but there’s not. What’s great about Snapshot is it makes street photography or even pictures of the kids as they play extraordinarily easy and quick because focus and aperture are already taken care of by the camera ahead of time. As quick as auto-focus systems are becoming, there’s still nothing faster than focus that’s been preset. I love it! If Snapshot sounds familiar, it’s because the Ricoh GR series has a nearly identical feature.
While Snapshot is quick, the XF10 as a whole is not particularly fast. Auto-focus, startup times and even frames-per-second aren’t bad, which is what one usually thinks of when it comes to camera quickness. It’s the general responsiveness to adjustments that’s noticeably slow. My fingers can fly through the menus and buttons faster than the camera can keep up. The camera can be painfully slow if it’s writing to the SD card, as it seems to have a hard time doing that and other functions simultaneously. I think that shoving this camera into such a small body required some compromises (maybe more than “some”), and the speed of the processor is certainly one of the trade-offs.
The camera is small and lightweight, noticeably smaller and lighter than the X100F. It fits into a pocket without trouble. The X100F also fits into a pocket, but more so in the winter when pockets are larger and less so in the summer when pockets are smaller. What makes the XF10 the best camera is that it fits into your pocket all of the time. It’s easy to carry around with you wherever you go. It’s never in the way. It’s just there in your pocket when you need it. As Chase Jarvis coined, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” This camera is great because it’s always with you.
Image quality on the XF10 is quite good. The lens has noticeably less distortion than the one on the X100F despite being more wide angle. There’s a little vignetting and corner softness when wide open, but stopping down fixes that. Bokeh is rather pleasant, which is not typically all that important on a 28mm lens, but with the close focus distance of about 4″ it’s possible to get some nice out-of-focus backgrounds and foregrounds. The camera controls lens flare only moderately well, but I kind of like the way it renders it, so this could be positive or negative to you, depending on if you like it or not. There’s not very much negative to mention about the images that this camera produces. If you’ve ever used an X-Trans II camera, that’s pretty darn close to what you can expect from this little camera.
I’m not a video guy, but 4K at 15 frames-per-second isn’t anything to get excited over, and that’s the best this camera can do. I suppose it’s fine if there’s not much movement in the scene and you are using a tripod. The camera can do 1080p at 60 frames-per-second, which is awesome for casual family movies. I think, as far as video goes, the best feature on the XF10 is 4K time lapse at 30 frames-per-second. That’s actually useful if you enjoy making time lapse videos.
Is the XF10 an upgrade over the X70? In some ways it is, in some ways it’s essentially the same camera, and in some ways it’s a downgrade. If you already own an X70 then you are probably better off keeping what you already have. If you’ve been considering an X70, the XF10 is a good alternative, but you may want to consider the differences between the models before choosing one over the other. If you’ve been thinking about a Ricoh GR II, the XF10 is a similar camera with similar features, but there are pluses and minuses to both that should be considered. As with any camera, one must look at what’s important to himself or herself and judge if the camera will meet those needs or not.
The XF10 comes in two colors: black and champagne-gold with faux brown leather, which is
hideous an interesting choice that you’ll either love or hate. I chose black for myself. You can’t go wrong with black. The XF10 has an MSRP of $500 (at Amazon here), which is a good value for what you get. In fact, it’s the cheapest compact camera with an APS-C sensor on the market right now. I had a coupon so I was able to snag my copy for only $425.
The conclusion to this review is that Fujifilm has a new camera that’s smartly designed, pocket-sized, produces quality pictures, and doesn’t cost very much at all. One could start a list of all the different features not included, and it would be easy to judge this camera based on that list, but the experience of the XF10 isn’t about what’s there, it’s about the simplicity of capturing an image. It’s about having an uncomplicated tool that’s always with you and is never in the way to capture quality pictures of the fleeting moments that often don’t get photographed. The best camera is the one that’s with you in the moment that you need one. The XF10 is the best camera because it will be there in that moment eagerly waiting to be used.
Example photographs, all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs (with the exception of some minor cropping) captured using the Fujifilm XF10:
See also: My Fujifilm XF10 Film Simulation Recipes