Fujifilm X-S10 review – a versatile camera with an extensive feature set

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  • VERDICT

A very versatile camera with an extensive feature set crammed into a small package that will find a market among those after a professional feel to results with minimal effort in the capture.

How things can change dramatically in a short time. In my previous review for Tech Guide, COVID restrictions were in force and there was barely anyone on the streets. This time, with the Adelaide Fringe Festival in full swing and restrictions eased almost all the way back, the opportunity to “shoot street” with the Fujifilm X-S10 could not be left begging.

In fact, as the official photographer for one of the Adelaide Fringe venues, it was in my remit to fulfill a shot list that could in part lean on the X-S10’s small form factor and responsiveness to capture people shots in a shoot-from-the-hip style with an emphasis on spontaneity.

The most usable shots based on this approach came from switching into the 10fps burst capture mode and enabling face recognition, which meant the camera could be held aloft at an awkward angle that I couldn’t achieve using the EVF or even properly preview on the rear-mounted articulated display, though its tilt/swivel capability came in handy for roughly framing up the shot in these situations.

Adding something extra to this capture method was the X-S10’s image stabilisation, allowing for a lower ISO and a slow shutter speed that allowed for some movement in the frame, which heightens the sense of activity in the shot.

Its accurate face recognition was no small help, either, even in scenes that often confuse this feature.

Let me just add here that an experienced shooter with a strong working knowledge of depth of field and the characteristics of certain focal lengths could do all this without the electronic assistance of face detection and auto-focus and so on, so what the X-S10 offers is an assisted shortcut to a specific outcome, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, this is largely what this camera is all about.

Let’s flesh that out. I was rather confused about where this camera sits in Fujifilm’s product line.

This started with the model designation. It doesn’t fit. Same can be said for the form factor, control layout and feature set. Just who is Fujifilm aiming this camera at?

I asked Fujifilm’s roving ambassador Warwick Williams about this model. Here’s what he had to say.

“Many years ago I speculated that a beginner would benefit from a more advanced camera but would tend to avoid such a product because of its complexity and price. Entry level cameras usually don’t offer the high speed focus, face detection, AF tracking, colour features, etc. of their more advanced and substantially more expensive stable mates,” he said.

“The X-S10 was a way of combining those features plus the processing speed and capability of the X-T4 and putting them into a more economical and easy-to-use package.

“X-S10 is a bit different and in spite of new models arriving after it (not just from Fujifilm) X-S10 still has the unique Advanced Automatic setting that can decide not just the best shooting solution but the best film simulation and colour tweaks for any given image.

A very powerful feature (hence why the camera needed the processor from X-T4) and very clever too.”

The X-T4, if you’re not familiar with the Fujifilm line-up, is the maker’s flagship APS-C mirrorless camera and its image processor is top notch.

“Very clever”?

Warwick explained that the Advanced Automatic setting is the result of a team of international photographers, among them Warwick himself, who were given an extensive and exacting shot list, the results of which went to Fujifilm which combined all the visual data into a scene analysis algorithm.

When you point this camera at a scene using the Advanced Automatic setting, it will work out everything that the scene needs in order to be rendered the best possible way, extending even to picking the best Film Simulation to apply to the scene.

If you haven’t used a Fujifilm camera and you like the look of traditional film, Fujifilm film filters should thrill you.

Image taken by Chris Oaten with the Fujifilm X-S10

You know, going back in the day, Fujifilm actually made film (indeed they still have film products on the market) so they know better than most how it should look when transforming a digital file into something to look like it was taken in 1982.

Fujifilm emphasised the X-S10’s newly developed Image Stabilisation in its press release for the camera, claiming “despite its small size of just 450g, the X-S10 delivers up to 6.0-stops of five-axis image stabilisation”. The “small size” part of that sentence I’m completely down with.

This is not a “compact” style camera in the usual sense but it is small enough and light enough to be fit for purpose as a travel camera. The “up to 6.0-stops” part is a little harder to grasp, probably because “up to” is hard to define but here’s how I approached it.

Image taken by Chris Oaten with the Fujifilm X-S10

Without bracing the camera, I can shoot at 1/30 sec and get a vibration-free image, so if the claim asserts I can get another six stops with the IS, then I’d expect a stable image all the way to a one-second exposure.

Certainly, with other cameras boasting this kind of IBIS, the one-second handheld shot without wobblies has held true.

Astonishingly so, with some models. With the X-S10, not so much.

It’s good and given the size and weight of the camera at 415g (excluding battery) it’s impressive, but I wouldn’t lean too heavily on it.

If you’re shooting stills slower than 1/15, you’ll want to firmly brace the camera when shooting, which in any case is good practise.

Image taken by Chris Oaten with the Fujifilm X-S10

That said, the stabilisation is at its most assistive when shooting video, adding smoothness to a handheld capture that looks like you’re using a gimbal. Don’t think I’m not impressed with what Fujifilm has done with its IS feature in the X-S10.

All I’m saying is there’s room for improvement, which I fully expect to be the case given this feature is a first in its class for Fujifilm.

The camera’s performance can be improved by enabling the Boost Performance option but on the down side this will chew through your battery faster.

Image taken by Chris Oaten with the Fujifilm X-S10

You’ll want to use Boost judiciously or have at least one spare battery when you head out to shoot.

If Fujifilm cameras have a consistent Achilles Heel it’s the life of their batteries.

The camera’s specs state a battery life of 325 still images in normal mode and 260 with Boost enabled.

In a timelapse capture, I got 284 frames before the battery gave up. Further, the specs state about 40 minutes battery life when shooting video.

Image taken by Chris Oaten with the Fujifilm X-S10

I don’t really need to recommend a second battery comes along for the ride, do I?

My favourite feature of all in this camera is the ability to capture 4K/30p 4:2:0 8-bit video on the internal SD card in F-log, though if you want 10-bit 4:2:2 pulldown, capturing out to a drive over HDMI is necessary.

If you haven’t shot in F-log, think of it as analogous to shooting RAW instead of JPEG.

The science isn’t quite the same but the benefit is: the ability to take deeper control of the image in post-production.

Compared to the standard video capture method, you’ll be able to control colour rendering and highlight and shadow detail when capturing with F-log that otherwise would have been lost.

ISO comparison

For me, this further underscores the idea of the X-S10 being an excellent travel camera for anyone who loves to shoot video but especially so when encountering difficult lighting conditions, as is often the case when travelling under an itinerary preventing a return for more favourable light.

Of course, you’ll need to have the post production skills to make the most of F-log. If you do, or you want to delve into it for the first time, you could do a lot worse than the X-S10.

Also, if F-log capture is new ground for you, the X-S10 will provide a basis to begin researching the wonderful world of colour grading with LUTs.

On the flip side, if you want to trust the camera to capture stills and make all the decisions for you, the Advanced Automatic setting will do that. There’s a lot of scope in this camera’s functionality.

Image taken by Chris Oaten with the Fujifilm X-S10

In terms of handling, I found it comfortable in the hand thanks to the well-sized grip but, as I have always found with Fujifilm cameras, the eye-detect feature is way too sensitive.

When using the camera at arm’s length with the display flipped out to monitor the capture, an inadvertent swipe of the hand or arm across that eye sensor causes the display to black out as the camera thinks you’re holding it up to your eye.

As with previous Fujifilm models, it’s the first feature I disable as it drives me batty. The other nuisance was that when switched into movie mode, the camera seems to not want to wait for you to press the record button.

I repeatedly found the camera capturing when I hadn’t intended it to but I’m still not sure whether it was because of clumsiness on my part or recording actually is too easily activated because of the control layout.

Neither of these nuisance factors is a deal-breaker but you’ll want to be mindful of them when using the camera. If only the sensitivity of the eye detection sensor could be adjusted.

The quality of still images was none too surprising, with excellent files delivered off the 26.1MP APS-C sensor looking crisp and sharp.

Along with Panasonic with its Lumix cameras, Fujifilm seems to have mastery over getting the most out of this class of capture device, though with its X-trans sensor Fujifilm brings something to the party that is unique in the market.

Images off an X-trans sensor have a particular characteristic that helps define the maker. The loan unit supplied for review came with two of Fujifilm’s somewhat ordinary lenses, which based on prior experience with Fujifilm’s top-notch pro lenses led me to think the supplied glass let down the camera a little.

If I were buying this camera, I’d be sure to pair it with great glass such as the XF 24mm f1.4 to get the best out of the X-Trans sensor.

Price-wise, the RRP reflects the technology and mountain of R&D that went into this camera. You’ll want to be serious about exploiting this camera’s capabilities before you lay out the dosh.

As Warwick asserted, it is priced well under a model such as the X-T4 but it’s still a considerable investment.

Curiously, and this is nothing I’ve ever said before, the opposite is also true.

If you really want to just concentrate your energy on taking pictures while trusting the camera to figure out everything needed for the best result, the X-S10 will deliver on that front, too.

I get the feeling this camera is a test-bed concept for Fujifilm.

As the black sheep of the maker’s line-up, perhaps it will get the chop if sales aren’t what they should be.

That would be a shame, because it would end up in that litany of market failures studded by such cameras as the Olympus OM-4ti, an awesome camera that marked the end of that company’s SLR line.

By no means am I suggesting the X-S10 will kill Fujifilm but what I really mean to suggest is those who do embrace this camera may come to think of themselves as being blessed for making that choice while they still could.

Price: $1749 body only; $1899 with 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 OIS PZ.

VERDICT

A very versatile camera with an extensive feature set crammed into a small package that will find a market among those after a professional feel to results with minimal effort in the capture.

Chris Oaten is a professional photographer from Insight Visuals

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