Camera design, much like life, is often marked by a series of compromises. Fujifilm engineers and product developers no doubt had to wrestle with several when they conceived of the X-T10, a less expensive alternative to the company’s flagship, and largely well-regarded, X-T1. In this case, Fuji developed a camera that hues very closely to its flagship on most of the core features, while making a few delicate compromises along the way. We tested the X-T10 with a 16-55mm XF lens to see if the tradeoffs were worth it.
The X-T10 boasts a 16-megapixel, APS-C-sized X-Trans CMOS II sensor with a native ISO range of 200-6400. You’ll compose your scene through a 3-inch tilting display or a 2.36 million dot electronic viewfinder with 0.62X magnification. The X-T10 features a brand new AF system for the X-series (one rolled out to the X-T1 via firmware update), with new modes to help keep moving subjects in focus. You’ll have Wi-Fi for remote control and image transfer to mobile devices and the use of Fuji’s 11 film simulation modes for both stills and video. The modes are previewed live on both the LCD and electronic viewfinder.
You’ll enjoy mechanical shutter speeds up to 1/4000 sec. but you can jump into an electronic shutter mode to hit speeds as high as 1/32,000 sec., though rolling shutter becomes an issue in this mode.
The X-T10 channels the by-now-familiar retro esthetic that Fuji’s X-series is known for. The top of the camera has dedicated dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation, and a shooting mode dial in place of the X-T1’s ISO dial. It’s a great design, in general, but it’s not without its tradeoffs. The camera is physically compact and sturdy with a premium feel, but loses some comfortable ergonomics, like large hand grips, to get there. At 0.8 pounds, it’s in the sweet spot for mirrorless models in its class—a bit lighter than the Sony a6000 but slightly heavier than Olympus’ new E-M10 Mark II.
We found the movie record button so flush with the camera that it was often frustratingly difficult to trigger. Our other pet peeve with the design was the location of the tripod socket. It’s off-center, so if you attach a tripod plate you can’t open the X-T10’s battery/memory card compartment.
We do love how customizable this camera is: A full seven exterior buttons can be programmed to instantly access camera settings. Between the programmable buttons and settings accessible in the dials, there’s very little need to jump into the camera’s main menu.
With the same image sensor and processor as the X-T1 under its hood, we weren’t surprised to find the X-T10 delivered excellent still photo quality. Color reproduction was superb, with greens especially popping nicely. Fujifilm’s 16-megapixel sensor won’t deliver the higher resolutions that crop sensor DSLRs are achieving, but it’s on par with its mirrorless competition in terms of still images.
When shooting in RAW, the ISO tops off at 6400, though the files retain a fair amount of dynamic range to bring back details in the shadows. If you shoot JPEGs, you’ll be able to push beyond the camera’s native ISO to as high as 51,000. We found an acceptable level at noise at ISO 3200 but did notice a slight color shift in the reds when we pushed JPEGs to 6400. At ISO 12,800 the details held up well but we noticed a more pronounced color shift. Not surprisingly, sharpness degrades rapidly at 25,600 and especially at 51,000.
As pleased as we were with the stills quality, we were underwhelmed with the video performance. When shooting 1080p24 video at the beach, the waves pixelated visibly. Shooting trees swaying in the breeze, we noticed similar loss of sharpness in background objects in motion—a consequence, we suspect, of lower-than-average bit rates. The camera’s continuous autofocus mode was moderately effective at keeping moving objects sharply in focus but it trails competitors like Panasonic and Sony in this regard. A few other extras that videographers would use—like a headphone jack for audio monitoring—are also missing. In short, if video is a critical factor in your camera purchasing decision, you’ll want to give the X-T10 a pass.
One area where Fuji has been trailing the competition is in AF performance, especially tracking. The X-T10 aims to correct that, throwing a combination of 15 phase and 77 contrast detection sensors and two new modes—Zone and Wide/Tracking—at the problem. The phase detect points are in the center of the frame, in a 5×3 grid. In Zone mode you can set the camera to use the 5×3 phase points or a smaller 3×3 grid of them to narrow down your focusing area. In Wide/Tracking, you’ll leverage all the AF points across the frame. We had much better luck with moving subjects than on previous models, but we still occasionally failed to lock focus in lower contrast settings.
The X-T10 clocks in at a very respectable 8fps but the buffer is a miniscule eight frames. On the plus side, rather than choke up completely, the camera drops to 3fps once you’ve passed the eight frame limit and will shoot at this pace until your card is full. At this point, we found the X-T10 to be a bit inconsistent—we didn’t enjoy a smooth 3fps but staccato bursts.
Mirrorless camera battery life has always trailed DSLRs and the X-T10 is no exception. You’ll enjoy a battery life of up to 350 shots per CIPA standards. While it lags far behind cameras like the Nikon D5500 (at 820), it’s directly in line with similarly priced mirrorless competitors.
For someone with $800 to spend in the mirrorless market, the X-T10 compares favorably with the competition as far as its image quality and low-light performance. If you prize the more retro esthetic and compact body over larger hand grips, the X-T10 should appeal to you. Across other metrics, though, it’s not top-of-the-class. AF tracking performance, continuous shooting and video features trail models like Sony’s a6000, Panasonic’s G7 or Nikon’s J5. The X-T10 lacks the touchscreen, impressive stabilization and sharp viewfinder you’ll enjoy on the new Olympus E-M10 Mark II, but shares the retro sensibility. The X-T10 will certainly be appealing to those who lust after an X-T1 but don’t quite have the cash. It’s a great enthusiast camera—fun to use with a design that emphasizes experimentation and the craft of manual photography.
PROS: Retro design; excellent image quality; fast operation; tilting display; sharp EVF; Wi-Fi.
CONS: Tiny buffer inhibits continuous shooting; movie button hard to depress; tripod socket too close to battery/memory card slot.
PRICE: $800 (body)
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