Will the Fujifilm FinePix X10 win over amateur shooters?

Fujifilm capitalizes on the buzz around its X100 to enter the enthusiast compact market with a very different, yet still retro-looking model.

Top view Fujifilm

There are two ways to look at the Fujifilm FinePix X10. You can view it as a cynical attempt to capitalize on the fanboy frenzy of the X100 with a camera that looks a lot like it, but that lacks everything that made it desirable to the fans. Or you can look at it as Fujifilm's first serious entry into the enthusiast compact market, going up against stalwarts from Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic (and newcomers like Olympus), with a design and specs that don't look too shabby in that crowd. I'm taking the latter view.

Keep in mind, however, that Fujifilm hasn't released the price, which makes it close to impossible to say anything meaningful about the camera. So I'll frame it this way: unless it can deliver absolutely stellar, X100-class photo quality, which I doubt, then anything more than $599 is too much.

With that in mind, here's how I picture its competition:

 Canon PowerShot G12Fujifilm FinePix X10Fujifilm FinePix X100Nikon Coolpix P7100Olympus XZ-1Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Sensor (effective resolution)10-megapixel CCD12-megapixel EXR CMOS12.3-megapixel CMOS10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD
1/1.7-inch2/3-inch23.6 x 15.8mm1/1.7-inch1/1.63-inch1/1.63-inch
Sensitivity rangeISO 80 - ISO 3200ISO 100 - ISO 12,800ISO 100 (expanded)/ 200 - ISO 6400/ 12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 3200ISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 80 - ISO 3200
Closest focus (inches)0.4n/a3.
Continuous shooting1.1fps
frames n/a
10 JPEG/8 raw
90 JPEG/ n/a raw
23 JPEG/8 raw
2.5 fps
JPEG/n/a raw
ViewfinderOpticalOpticalOptical/EVF switchableOpticalOptional EVFOptional OVF or EVF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
11 area
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Meteringn/an/a256 zones256-segment matrix324 arean/a
Shutter15-1/4000 sec30 - 1/4000 sec30 - 1/4000 sec; bulb to 60 min60-1/4000 sec60-1/2000 sec; bulb to 16 min60-1/4000 sec
Hot shoeYesYesYesYesYesYes
LCD2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch articulated
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed OLED
610,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
Image stabilizationOpticalOpticalNoneOpticalSensor shiftOptical
Video (best quality)720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
720/30p Motion JPEG AVI720/30p AVCHD Lite
Manual iris and shutter in videoNon/aIris onlyn/aNoYes
Zoom while recordingNon/an/an/aNon/a
Mic inputNon/aNon/aYesNo
Battery life (CIPA rating)390 shots300 shots (est)300 shots350 shots320 shots400 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches)4.4 x 3.0 x 2.04.6 x 2.7 x 2.25.0 x 2.9 x 2.1 n/a4.4 x 2.6 x 1.74.3 x 2.6 x 1.7
Weight (ounces)14.212.3 (est)15.8 14 (est)9.69.2
Mfr. Price$499.99n/a$1,195.95$499.95$499.99$440
AvailabilityOctober 2010November 2011March 2011September 2011January 2011August 2010

Let's start with the sensor. Fujifilm won't reveal exactly how big it is, only stating that it's smaller than APS-C but bigger than 1/1.6. Given that it also adds more pixels than the current 10-megapixel 1/1.6-inch sensors here, I'd guess that the higher resolution eats up whatever size advantage it might otherwise offer. But that particular SuperCCD EXR is a bit of an unknown. Though not a new size--a few years ago there was an 11-megapixel version--it's a new resolution for the size.

Back view Fujifilm

The lens and build quality do sound relatively nice. Though it's not the longest lens in the bunch, it's got a wide aperture and good coatings. The zoom operates via a manual ring, but that goes into the plus column for this crowd. The body has a magnesium alloy chassis and an aluminum front, and obviously takes after its more expensive sibling in the looks department--retro all the way. But don't look for the X100's hybrid viewfinder; this is a plain-old straight-through version like the one on the G12 and P7100

Performance will be important as well. These are not terribly fast cameras as a rule, and the X100 is really slow; Fujifilm's point-and-shoots rarely take the lead for speed. The company claims it has fast autofocus, but companies rarely admit their cameras are slow until they've got a faster replacement in the wings. The LCD also looks a bit disappointing: relatively small, low resolution and inarticulate.

There's enough here that the X10 could possibly successfully challenge the incumbents; while they're a good group of cameras, none is an obvious leader of the pack. Let's hope Fujifilm doesn't price it out of the competition.

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