XF10: First Shooting Impressions

· 1.August.2018

The XF1 was the first X Series premium compact camera that Fujifilm released that had ‘X’ DNA embedded into its design. It had a manual zoom lens, a retro look but with modern control features. The 2/3” sensor was competent for its time, but soon became outdated once the 1” sensors began appearing. Combine that with the popularity of smartphone photography, Fujifilm decided to kill the under-selling premium compact camera line-up, including the popular X10, X20, X30 series. When the X70 was released, it was the ‘odd’ camera that bridged the premium compact camera with the higher end X100 series. It had the same sensor and processor as its big brother, but was compact enough to carry with you everywhere. It maintained its premium compact status because it didn’t have a built-in viewfinder (like most of the competition). The X70 wasn’t a best seller for Fujifilm, but according to Billy Luong of Fujifilm Canada, they were ‘pleased’ with its global sales performance, and many were looking forward to its replacement sometime this year. Instead of an X70 replacement, Fujifilm recently announced the new XF10. Is it a replacement of the X70 or is it the continuation of the original XF1/XQ series from the past? It’s a bit of both.

From a hardware standpoint the new XF10 appears to be the replacement of the X70. It has an APS-C sensor (although it’s been updated to 24MP) and even uses the same 18.5mm f/2.8 Fujinon lens (this has been confirmed with Fujifilm). What’s different from the X70 is that the new XF10 does not use an X-Trans sensor, but the standard Bayer type sensor with no low pass or AA filter. How much of a difference will this make when you take pictures? Well, the bigger question is how well does the Bayer sensor work with the image processor? On the GFX 50S, the combination of the 50MP Bayer sensor and X Processor Pro imaging processor makes for beautiful images. The XF10 does not use the X Processor Pro, but the generic no name processor that’s also found in the new X-T100 and X-A5. How is the image quality then? We’ll discuss this at the end of the article.

These are the internal differences, but how about external? Comparing again with the X70, the XF10 does not have an articulating screen, a flash hot shoe, a dedicated shutter speed dial, a dedicated exposure compensation dial, nor the traditional D-Pad. This sounds like a lot of missing features, but it’s not that simple. The XF10 has a dedicated function dial on the top, with two more customizable dials which can be programmed to be your shutter speed and exposure compensation dial if you choose. You can also customize the front dial surrounding the lens, thus giving you 3 custom dials. In aperture priority mode, the default setting is the rear dial is exposure compensation and the front dial surrounding the shutter button is the aperture control. As a custom function, I have the lens dial as my ISO dial. In practice the 3 custom dials work great, especially if you don’t like Fujifilm’s standard configurations. 

The missing articulating screen and flash hot shoe might be a deal breaker for some, but I understand why Fujifilm eliminated these two much-loved features. When the X70 initially came out, many pointed out that the Ricoh GR was still smaller and truly pocketable. The new XF10 is now basically the same size as the Ricoh GR (slightly taller but slightly narrower), and only slightly bigger than the previous XF1/XQ1/XQ2 compact cameras. I recently attended a funeral and carried the camera inside the suit jacket’s inner pocket, so the XF10 can definitely replace my Ricoh GR as my formal wear EDC compact camera. As much as I love the X70, it was not a carry everywhere camera, and I would be willing to lose the articulating screen to keep the camera thinner and lighter. However, I do wish they kept the flash hot shoe (the Ricoh GR maintains a flash hot shoe).

In terms of shooting experience and image quality, I must mention that my review copy was pre-production and so I can not make a final conclusion about the UI or IQ of the new XF10. I can say that it shoots very similar to the X70, except with the addition of a very functional joystick (AF Lever). Much like the X-E3, the combination of joystick and touch screen negates the need for the D-Pad in most situations, including the addition of 4 swipe Fn functions on screen. The touch screen, including touch AF is similar in speed to the X70, but I will need a final production copy to confirm this. As mentioned earlier, I found the default custom dial functions very intuitive, although the ability to change them around is great for anyone who has unique access requirements.

I tried the Snap Focus feature (similar to the Ricoh GR) which can be assigned to a custom Fn button (including swipe), and it’s great for street photographers. I do wish there was more than just 2m or 5m options, but with a 28mm equivalent lens, 2m and f/8 is just fine. The camera stays in Snap mode even when turning the camera off, so remember to turn it off if you don’t need it. In terms of buttons, I didn’t like having a separate on/off button (although I understand why, since there’s a dial surrounding the shutter button). However, since it’s not a physical switch, Fujifilm should allow to view images by long pressing the PLAY button, instead of having to turn the camera on first (lens extends and goes into shooting mode) and then press play. It’s a small thing but something that can be fixed in firmware.

Finally the most important thing about any camera is the image quality. Again, since I have a pre-production copy and I could only do RAW in-camera conversions, this is just my initial thoughts about IQ. Overall I’m very pleased with the images. With a 24MP Bayer sensor without an optical low pass filter, the Fujifilm film profiles looked slightly different, but still great. I can tell the difference between this sensor-processor combination versus the current X-Trans sensor and X Processor Pro. Is it better or worse? I would say it’s different, but for my taste I still prefer the X-Trans + X Processor Pro combination. I’ve done some 100% zoom screen shots in Lightroom of the JPEGs so you can see the skin tones. Until I can look at the RAW files, I don’t want to give too critical of an analysis, but the IQ is basically the same as the X-T100 and X-A5. 

In conclusion, who is this camera for? If you love the idea of having a compact point and shoot but with the largest sensor possible, there’s only two choices currently available new: The Ricoh GR II or the Fujifilm XF10. The 24MP Bayer sensor without a low pass filter can take beautiful images with Fujifilm’s great film profiles (no ACROS however) and a fast 18.5mm f/2.8 lens. In a pinch, you can take professional quality images with this set-up, and then put the camera back into your pocket. If you can live without a viewfinder (and don’t consider your smartphone as a ‘real’ camera), there aren’t a lot of choices. In daily use I found the camera very practical as I took the XF10 with me everywhere and didn’t even feel I had a camera on me. Using the Bluetooth/WiFi feature to transfer my images to my smartphone and then sharing to social media was super fast and easy, although Fujifilm really needs to update the Cam Remote app.

If you love your X70 because of the articulating screen, flash hot shoe and the WCL-X70 converter, then this camera is not for you. Let’s hope for an X80 or X70S model. If you’re hoping this camera will be expandable with tons of accessories (like the X70), think again. According to the manual, there are no plans for any extra accessories other than battery, cable, charger and lens cap. This camera is all about compact size and the 24MP APS-C sensor. I am blown away at the resolution coming out of such a small camera. Yes I actually own the Ricoh GR and believe the lens is superior to the X70/XF10, but at only 16MP, it just can’t keep up with the XF10. Although control features aren’t as refined as the Ricoh GR, the snap focus works well, touch focus is decent, and you can use the back custom function button (above Q button) for AF-L while in manual focus mode. The UI can be improved (integrate more touch control) and sped up, but a firmware update can fix much of this. Overall, this camera is the premium ‘compact’ camera for those whose priority is image quality and not video capability, super zooms, or a selfie screen. For me, it’s the new XF1/XQ2 but with a huge sensor and a decent quality lens. Once I get a production copy I will submit a full review in the near future. For now, enjoy the pictures, keep on shooting, and we’ll talk to you next month. Peace.

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