Monday, May 18, 2015

FIRST LOOK: FUJIFILM X-T10 CAMERA review ( part 1 )

May 2015 has been a very exciting month for FUJIFILM photographers; first the announcement that the X-T1 will get a complete new firmware upgrade 4.0, and then came today's double announcement: the new 90mm f2 lens and a brand-new camera, the X-T10.


As an X-photographer, I was offered a pre-production copy of the new camera, a week ago by the guys of Fujifilm Middle East in Dubai. As always, I need to highlight that this camera is not necessarily the exact same as the final product, which in the UAE is expected to be available in about one month (June 18th). The X-T10 I used had a 1.30 firmware number, while all lenses had the latest firmware updates.


WHERE DOES THE X-T10 FIT IN?
Although Fujifilm have not said so, to me the X-T10 almost feels like a replacement for the X-E2 which was announced in October 2013. Their looks however are very different; a bit like two brothers with a different dad but the same mum! The clear difference being that the X-E2 (and X-E1) has a rangefinder look, while the X-T10 looks like an old style SLR. Time will tell, whether we will eventually see an X-E3...


X-T10 SIMILARITIES TO THE X-T1
As stated before, the X-T10 looks and feels like a scaled down mini version of the game changing X-T1, which made me leave Nikon for Fujfilm in July 2014. More at Bye Bye Nikon, Hello Fujifilm.

The camera has the exact same 16.7 million X-Trans CMOS II sensor as the X-T1 and X-E2. So image quality should be on par with these two cameras as long as the same lenses are used. This is completely in line with my observations during my weeklong use of the X-T10. Just like on the other two, I regularly shoot at ISO 1600 and did not think twice before bumping it up to ISO 3200 if needed. Sample images will be posted in part 2 of the review.

Batteries: One thing Fujfilm has been very consistent in, is the choice of their batteries. Cameras like the X-A1, X-M1, X-Pro1, X-E1, X-E2 and X-T1 all share the same NP-W126 battery. A big advantage for those of us that mix X-series cameras during shoots. Having said so, battery life is still not great. Even though the manual says "350 shots", practically I count on about 250 shots depending on the amount of "chimping" (looking at the LCD screen after the shot is made). For a typical full day shoot, I've been taking a minimum of three batteries with me and it looks like the same will be needed on the X-T10.

Just like the X-T1, the viewfinder is placed in the middle; unlike the "rangefinder like" cameras such as the X-Pro1 and X-E1/2 where one finds it on the left hand side. Being a "left-eye" person having it in the middle definitively works better for me

Bracketing: the number one request for myself and a lot of other photographers that regularly do exposure bracketing, is to have the option to shoot larger brackets; e.g. -2, 0 and -2EV rather than the maximum -1, 0, +1EV. Unfortunately this has been missed again! I stand to be corrected, but I really don't see how from a technical standpoint this is such a big challenge!

Using the Camera Remote app on an iPhone and iPad, the X-T10 has the same Wifi functionality as the latest Wifi enabled X-series cameras.



X-T10 DIFFERENCES COMPARED to X-T1
Unlike the X-T1, the new camera is not weather sealed, but still maintains a good overall solid feel. The owner's manual, limits its use to temperatures between 0C and 40C, while the X-T1 is -10C to 40C. Having said this, these are likely no hard limits as I've taken images well beyond both limits with the X-T1.    

Earlier rumour reports mentioned it being a plastic camera; the body is however clearly built of magnesium alloy like the X-T1 and weighs in at 380g compared to 440g for an X-T1.

The X-T10 will come both in a silver and a black finish. The silver version is not to be confused with the Silver Graphite which for the moment is only available on the X-T1 for a premium price.


It has the same size 3 inch "tilt" LCD screen of the X-T1, but its resolution is slightly less at 920K dots rather than the 1040K dots the X-T1 and X-100T have.  Although a small difference on paper, the difference in resolution is noticeable, especially for those of you with less than a 20/20 eye-sight trying to read some of the smaller characters on the LCD. Even though, I was initially quite sceptical about tilt screens, it is something I can't live without with anymore for any of my Street Photography cameras.


Button layout at the back is similar but not identical. The two main differences are the fact that the front Fn button is moved to the backside and that there is no more dedicated Focus Assist button. Checking the focus can however still be done by pressing on the rear command dial; similar to the X-E1/2. It is good to see that Fujfilm seems to be maintaining the same configuration for most of the buttons on their recent X-series cameras.
Unlike the ones on the X-T1, the four-way buttons on the back of the new camera feel perfect! Another sign how Fujifilm is listening to their customers.

More about buttons, the X-T10 has one more programable Fn (Function) button than the X-T1; 7 instead of 6 since the front dial can also be pressed and be used as an Fn button. Beside unlike its larger brother, the function of the video button can also be changed. 

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has the same 2360K dot resolution as the X-T1 but it has a smaller magnification; 0.39,-in. instead of the 0.5,in. of the X-T1. Practically speaking one still has a 100% view but since I've been using an extended eye-cub (EC-XT L) on my X-T1 for some time own, the difference is even more accentuated. 

On the pro side, the EVF has an AUTO EVF Brightness function just like the on the X-100T.

Just like the X-T1, the diopter adjustment for the ones with less than perfect eye-sight, goes from -4 to +2. Something the X-100T with its -2/+1 diopter is lacking. Like the X-T1 there is no optical viewfinder; something I can personally live without with.


The top of the X-T10 is a bit different as well... It does not have the double dials like the X-T1 has; no more ISO setting (left) and metering mode (right) dials. Rather than having to go into the Menu, the best option is to allocate a Q-menu button for quick and easy access. On the positive side, the AUTO ISO has now three different settings (AUTO ISO 1,2,3) which can all be programmed in one of the 7 Custom settings (C1 to C7).

The X-T10 has an Auto switch (on the shutter dial, top right), which gives access to some of the automatic scene modes such as landscape, night, sports, fireworks, sunset, snow, etc... Not something I personally would be using but useful for the layman photographer.

Improved Shutter Speed dial operation: like on the X-T1, one can select T (Time) mode on the shutter dial (top right) for long exposures and then change the shutter speed with the front command dial. Shutter speed could however only be changed between 2s and 30s. The X-T10 (and X-T1 with firmware 4.0) now allows to change the shutter speed in T mode over the whole range; 1/32000s to 30s. This is especially useful if shooting in M (Manual) or Shutter Priority mode.

Exposure compensation: there is a -3 to +3 exposure compensation dial on the top right, but like most of the dials/buttons it is significantly smaller than on the X-T1 and a bit harder to move without taking your eye of the viewfinder.  


The camera comes with a pop-up flash which is very well built in. Unfortunately the flash can not be pulled backwards to bounce of a ceiling like the one on the X-E1 and X-E2.

In order to save space, the memory card shares the same opening at the lower part with the battery. This is similar to the X-E line of cameras. Unlike the X-T1 it does not take any UHS-II SD cards. 

Autofocus: the biggest difference is obviously the new autofocus system on the X-T10. I have left it out on purpose and will address it in part 2 of this review; please refer to the last paragraph of this post for more info.

Image processing: When using the CH Focus mode, both the X-T1 and X-T10 shoot at 8 frames/sec by the book. The difference however is that the buffer on the X-T10 fills up much faster on the X-T10. The difference is much larger when shooting in RAW. 

A real-life test, shooting a 5 secs burst with the exact same manual settings  in jpeg format, on a 240MB/s (write speed) SD card delivered the following results:
  • X-T1: 43 images, end of writing 14s after start of burst
  • X-T10: 31 images, end of writing 9s after start of burst (shorter end of writing time because less images needed to be written)
On a slower 30MB/s SD card the difference in the number of images shot on the X-T10 goes down considerably.

To add to the complexity, the new X-T10 seems to use less compression when shooting jpegs; on average its files are about 25% larger than the exact same X-T1 jpeg files.

Post-edit:
*It seems the card I used, (Toshiba 16GB SD HCII Write speed 240MB/s) is not fully compatible with the X-T10. While it is useable, it is not able to use its full speed potential.



HOW DOES THE X-T10 HANDLE?
As the camera is smaller than the X-T1, my main concern was that it would be too small for the average male hands. After having used it for a week with a large variety of lenses, I do feel that especially with the heavier/longer lenses (50-140 comes to mind), the camera needs an optional grip; not a battery grip but rather the handgrip I have on my X-T1 (MHG-XT) since pretty much day one. Fujifilm seems to have covered this as the manual lists the new MHG-XT10 as an available accessory.


On the contrary when using smaller lenses like the 14mm, 18mm or 27mm pancake lens, the X-T10 feels well balanced. The combination with the 27mm will do pretty much all the X-100T does, plus some extras like having a tilt-screen and a better auto-focus system. As long as one can miss the optical viewfinder of course!

NEW AUTOFOCUS...
Last but not least, the new autofocus is clearly what makes the X-T10 stand out!  Today, its autofocus is a big step ahead and it is the best autofocus I've used on any X-series camera. End of June, X-T1 owners should be getting virtually the same functionality through the 4.0 firmware upgrade.

As with all new autofocus systems, there is a bit of a learning curve involved and I'm still discovering some new items as I write this. I'll therefore explain the new autofocus in more detail in Part 2 of this blogpost. 

As this post goes live, I'll be flying back to Dubai from Dallas, TX, where I will have attended a warbird aircraft show with the new X-T10 and the 50-140 f2.8 lens; a perfect test case for the new autofocus tracking!

Expect Part 2 with a more detailed explanation about the new autofocus system, sample images and overall conclusions, to be released on May 19 around 1300GMT.


Till then, 
Happy X-shooting,

BJORN

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