photo mag home
Fujifilm F10 camera review
It won't win any beauty competitions, but Fujifilm's superb F10 is in a class of its own
(by Mike Slocombe for Digital Lifestyles, 2 Dec 05)
It may have won the accolade of European Camera of the Year, but it has to be said that the first impressions of Fujifilm's compact F10 camera are distinctly underwhelming.
With a clunky, chunky form factor suggesting that the product designer was off sick for the day coupled with a limited set of exposure controls, the F10 looks unlikely to impress holidaying snappers or the tripod-touting cognoscenti.
But lurking inside its bland, all-metal exterior is an astonishing point'n'shoot camera with unique features capable of producing incredible results.
The camera is the first of a new generation of Fuji cameras sporting the new Super CCD HR sensor which - unlike previous models - doesn't rely on interpolation jiggerypokery to deliver its 6.3 megapixel output.
A newly developed 'Real Photo Processor' serves up an impressively wide ISO sensitivity range, starting from 80 ISO all the way up to 1600 ISO, allowing flash-free, low light shots and less chance of camera blur.
It's a snappy performer too, with an ultra nippy start-up time backed up by a claimed 0.01 second shutter lag.
We can't count as fast as that, but it certainly proved to be one of the fastest compacts we've tested to date, with no perceivable delay after pressing the shutter button.
The camera comes with a 3x optical zoom lens (f2.8 - f5.0 36mm - 108mm, 35mm equiv.) and a large and bright 2.5-inch 115k LCD.
In tests, we found the LCD easy to read in all but the brightest of sunlight although an optical viewfinder would have been a useful addition.
A handy LCD brightness boost switch helped compose shots in dim light, although we found it prudent to turn off the dazzling, kryptonite-like green focus beam which was so bright that you'd end up with pictures of people covering their eyes and screaming.
The battery life was hugely impressive. Fuji claim a class-leading 500 shot-per-charge and we certainly had lots of juice left after taking - and enthusiastically previewing - 200+ shots taken around New York.
Essentially a 'point-and-shoot' camera, the F10 offers little in the way of real manual control, with just four main modes on offer: scene mode, full auto, manual (auto with limited exposure overrides) and movie mode (VGA, 30 fps, .avi format).
Out on the streets, the camera proved fast to start up, responsive, quick to focus and produced some excellent quality images, capturing impressively high levels of detail.
Where the camera really excelled was in low light, with the extended ISO sensitivity allowing natural images to be taken without the use of flash.
Compact cameras generally produce horrendously noisy images when the ISO racks up beyond 200, but Fuji's Super CCD HR sensor is capable of producing very smooth, detailed images with little noise all the way up to 800.
At 1600 ISO there's notable evidence of noise and some 'smoothing' by the built in noise reduction, but the images are still eminently usable for smaller prints and are leagues above anything the competition can muster - this really is an incredible low-light performer!
We remained impressed with the camera throughout the testing period, although some gripes surfaced: we found the lack of any real manual control frustrating at times and the less-than-intuitive menu system made some tasks unnecessarily fiddly.
We would have killed for a manual focus mode because without the green beam'o'death, focussing could struggle a bit in low light.
There was also a little more "purple fringing" than we would have liked (thin purple lines around objects in high contrast scenes) and the camera sometimes seemed far too keen to needlessly jump to high ISO sensitivities (but this could be easily fixed by manually setting the ISO rating).
But what we really, really, didn't like was the plug-in 'terminal adaptor' that had to be lugged about to charge the battery or transfer images. Sure, it's not particularly large, but it's just another annoyance that could end up being lost or forgotten on a trip.
Despite minor complaints, the F10 represents an astonishing achievement; it may not have the slick looks of its rivals or a shed load of fancy-pants, advanced features, but when it comes down to sheer image quality, low light performance, battery life and speed of operation it leaves most - if not all - of the competition standing.
Currently available for around £225 ($385, €330), the Fuji F10 represents excellent value for money. We highly recommend it.
Photographers put off by the lack of manual controls should note that the a new version featuring aperture and shutter-priority modes, the F11, is about to hit the streets.
Ease of Use: 8/10
Image Quality: 10/10
Overall: 9/10. Highly recommended
» Fujifilm F11 camera review