8.0
Score

Surely you’ve heard that camera phones destroyed the compact digital camera market years ago, right? And yet, how many of you still like to have a small, lightweight camera with real buttons and dials, full manual control, and raw image capture?

As a full-time photographer, I must admit that I’m still not a fan of camera phones. (Do they even still call them that? Phone Cameras?) Sure, they’re good enough for an Instagram story or other mobile device platforms, but that’s about it for me.

Here’s what I want… I wish I had a camera that was about the size of my phone, yet offered so much more control and quality.

Let’s be honest: most of the “point-and-shoot” cameras that disappeared in the last 10 years deserved to go extinct. They had poor quality sensors and junky lenses that were so much of a compromise in image quality, it was pointless to use them instead of just grabbing your cell phone. Really, what good is a compact camera these days if it can’t even shoot sharp raw images?

Fuji XF10, “Classic Chrome” Film Simulation | 1/15 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600

And on that note, here’s the Fuji XF10. It’s one of the smallest cameras ever to offer an APS-C (DX, 1.5x crop) sensor, plus a good quality lens and full manual controls. It’s smaller (and just a little thicker) than most cell phones, and it costs just $450.

[Related Reading: Unorthodox Review of the Fuji GFX 50R | The Medium Format Camera I Might Actually Buy]

So, is it actually worth it? Or is this all too good to be true? In this review, I’ll explain how this camera manages to impress, and where does leave some things to be desired. Read on!

Fuji XF10 Specifications

Sensor: 24 megapixel, APS-C (1.5x), Bayer-Pattern (not X-Trans)
Lens: fixed, 18.5mm (28mm full-frame equivalent), f/2.8
Stabilization: No
Video: 4K (15p), 1080, (60, 30, 24, 23.98p) microphone port, no headphone port
Size: 113x64x41mm (4.45×2.52×1.61 in.)
Weight: 279 g (9.84 oz)
Mechanical Construction: Mostly metal, rubber grip
Flash: Yes, Built-in
Viewfinder: None, rear LCD only
Filter Threads: None
Battery & Charging: NP-95, 1200 mAh, 330 shot estimated, USB charging
Memory Cards: SD, SDXC, etc
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth LE
Price: 449$ MSRP

Fuji XF10 Review | Who Should Buy It

Fuji XF10, Provia Film Simulation | 1/20 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400

If you’re skeptical about why you should buy a compact digital camera instead of just using your fancy new cell phone with its dual-lens, portrait bokeh magic options, don’t worry, you should be skeptical indeed. The latest cell phones have some amazing camera technology in them!

If you’re never going to go beyond Instagram or Facebook with your photos, and you aren’t interested in editing your images with anything more than Instagram’s built-in filters and adjustment sliders, (which are quite good!) …then let’s not pretend that you NEED this camera or any other for that matter- you’ll be fine with whatever cell phone you already have, as long as it can focus decently well and isn’t completely useless in dim lighting.

However, if you’re a serious photographer, and are curious about a basic raw workflow, and maybe enjoying your photos on a 4K TV or computer display, or printing them out to such sizes as 20-30” or larger, whether portraits or travel/landscapes, then yes, you should strongly consider getting something more than just a cell phone. You will definitely see the difference if you push the envelope of what is possible with high-contrast situations, low-light or even nightscape situations.

Orange County Fair | Yes, That’s Cinnamon Toast Crunch On a Cinnamon Roll
Fuji XF10, Fuji Provia Film Simulation | 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600

Just how serious are you though, really? Because, if you jump right from “I don’t care at all” and go straight to “I’m an aspiring professional”, then you should probably skip a basic fixed-lens camera and going for an interchangeable lens system such as the Fuji X-mount, or even a full-frame system. (No, we’re not going to recommend that your FIRST camera be a Fuji GFX medium format system, of course, even though you might one day want one for landscapes or editorial portraits. ;-) )

So, here’s the niche that the Fuji XF10 is made for: serious photographers, who want to shoot professional quality images in casual or incognito situations.

[Related Reading: Fuji X-T30 Review – Outstanding Performance In A Tiny Package]

This might be experienced photographers who already appreciate the full control of a serious camera, but who don’t always want to lug around a big ILC system everywhere they go.

Or, this could be beginner photographers who know they want more than what a cell phone can offer, but who also know that they’re still hoping for something portable and simple that they can learn photography on, for simple things where unobtrusiveness is valuable, like street photography, environmental portraiture, or just candid journalism.

Even someone who is looking for a portable camera that is capable of shooting decent landscapes and nightscapes might check this camera out, considering that it’s got a relatively large APS-C sensor and a relatively fast f/2.8 lens!

Fuji XF10 Review | Pros

Let’s dive into the advantages of the XF10. Hint: it’s all about that sensor and the lens. Plus the price tag and portability!

RAW Image Quality

Orange County Fair | Real portrait depth, no dual-lens magic required
Fuji XF10, 1/75 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600

Hands-down, the biggest advantage that comes in this very small package is the image quality, thanks to both the sensor and the lens. The XF10 is certainly one of the smallest compact cameras to have an APS-C size sensor, and although it’s a traditional Bayer design instead of Fuji’s legendary X-Trans sensor design, the image quality is impressive. It is on par with any other ApS-C sensor, and actually just as good as some of the oldest full-frame cameras!

At ISO 200, (The XF10’s base ISO, not 100) you’d have to pixel-peep at 100% to see any difference between images from this $450 camera, and images from a $4,500 Sony a9. What does that translate to? It means that if you’re only printing 8×10 or so sized prints, let alone just sharing on Instagram, the images will look like they were made with a very professional camera.

Prickly Sharpness And Soft Bokeh (Ur doing it right!)
Fuji XF10, 1/1600 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

Incredible image quality can only be achieved if both the sensor and the lens work together, though. And in this regard, the Fuji’s lens does not disappoint its amazing sensor. There’s some incredible (professional, really) sharpness in the center of the image, very good sharpness at the rule-of-thirds area, and the corners go from “pretty soft” wide open at f/2.8 to “very sharp” by f/5.6. Again, this should be jaw-dropping for such a tiny lens…

Let’s talk about the other aspects of image quality besides sharpness. The fixed lens on the Fuji XF10 is quite good, but not perfect. Although it’s amazingly sharp, crisp, and vibrant throughout most of the image area, it does have a fair amount of softness, vignetting and aberrations in the corners. It’s really not much at all even wide open at f/2.8, though.

Distortion is barely visible, in fact, for such a small lens the lack of distortion might be the most impressive thing about the optics! Unless you have a habit of putting straight lines right at the very edge of your frame all the time, you’ll never notice any distortion.

[Related Reading: Fujiflm X-T100 | Hands-On Review]

Now, back to the sensor itself: Dynamic range is quite incredible, at ISO 200, and is on par with any of the other APS-C cameras out there from Nikon or Sony or Canon. It’s a shame the camera doesn’t offer ISO 100, for that next level of clean image detail, but at least the shadow and highlight recovery is there.

The Big Wheel (Air Conditioned Cabins!) Orange County Fair
Fuji XF10, 1/550 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200

The high ISO performance is, surprisingly, also incredible. Fuji is known for its APS-C sensors that have great image quality at ISO 1600 and even 3200. If this wasn’t impressive enough, I found the camera to actually deliver good results at ISO 6400, at least in the highlights of well-exposed images.

By the time you get to ISO 3200 and 6400, dynamic range is suffering severely, so your shadows start turning to mush. Don’t under-expose your images, and you’ll get amazingly good raw image quality at ISO 3200, and you’ll be able to use ISO 6400 or even 12800 in a pinch.

At all ISOs, of course, there’s about ~1 stop of extra noise compared to a full-frame sensor, which is to be expected. But ~1 stop is not much, for such a tiny, tiny camera. As I said before I do wish the camera offered native ISO 100, for even cleaner low-ISO images. There’s a 100% crop image sample coming up if you’re curious…

JPG Image Quality

While this camera does deliver gorgeous raw files that are very welcomed if you’re used to a raw post-production workflow in Lightroom or whatever your choice of raw editor is, we can’t ignore the fact that Fuji is famous for the “look” of their JPG images, almost as much as they’re famous for so many decades of gorgeous films.

Indeed, on the Fuji XF10 you’ll find modes for legendary slide films such as Velvia, Provia, and Astia, or negative films in the form of a slightly more generic-named “Classic Chrome” or “Pro Neg”. Of course, there’s also a handful of great monochrome modes including color filters, though without any specific Fuji film names.

Elitist photographers may scoff at the idea of shooting in JPG mode, especially on a camera that offers a RAW setting, but they’re really missing out. Anyone who remembers or is curious about the not-so-lost art of film photography need only grab a Fuji camera and play with the various film simulation modes. Enjoy the challenge of getting an image that looks right at the moment of capture!

What else can shooting RAW give you if you nail your exposure and WB?
Slightly better control over noise and sharpening, of course. 

To those elitists: shooting JPG is not about being lazy, or being afraid of mastering a raw workflow. It’s a fun, creative challenge that can help teach you to pay close attention to your images’ tones and colors in the field. It is also a huge time-saver for capturing beautiful images in casual photography situations, of course. If you’ve never tried Fuji’s Film Simulations as a digital photographer, you’re missing out.

Portability

Almost as important as the image quality of the Fuji XF10 is, of course, its portability. This thing has a smaller overall form (height and width) than my modest-sized cell phone and is no thicker than an average wallet or 2-3 cell phones. In other words, it’s just as convenient to toss in your pocket as your phone or wallet, if you’ve got more than two pockets.

And yet, it still offers full manual control, including dual command dials (not even Canon Rebel DSLRs have that!) and a focus ring around the lens that doubles as an ISO control ring, plus a tripod thread mount. The battery life is mediocre as expected, though, and there’s the usual annoyance of the battery door (and memory card slot) being blocked by most tripod plates.

Durability

The XF10 feels extremely well-built. It’s hard to tell if everything is metal or if there are some plastic parts to the main framework, but overall it feels like a lot of metal, a solid little camera that is built to last. No weather sealing, but I suspect it would be fine in light rain. Just don’t get any grains of sand in that lens’ mechanics!

Value

No thank you! I’m too old for that. | Orange County Fair
Fuji XF10, Velvia Film Simulation | 1/6 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

[Related Reading: The First 5 Lenses You Should Buy For Your Fujifilm Camera]

Simply put, this is some of the best “great image quality in a tiny package” that you’ll ever find for $449. Most other fixed-lens cameras with an APS-C sensor cost at least twice as much, and are much bigger.

Most other cameras that are the same size as the Fuji XF10 have a much smaller 1” type or Micro 4/3 sensor, thus falling far behind the image quality offered by this Fuji. If you want a basic, fixed-lens (28mm equivalent, f/2.8) camera that is tiny and yet delivers pro camera image quality at most ISOs, this is it.

Fuji XF10 Review | Cons

As amazing as the images are, such a tiny camera apparently includes some significant drawbacks. I hope the following issues could be improved upon, but if you’re on a $450 budget and want a camera this tiny, this is what you get…

Control Layout & Ergonomics

There’s no avoiding it: if you want an extremely portable camera, you’re going to have to deal with tiny buttons and fiddly joysticks. However, I think you could still make a camera this size and have it be easier to use.

I really dislike the tiny, smooth textured joystick knob. It’s a bit slippery and clumsy to use for my large thumbs, and I can’t imagine it being much better for any one with small fingers, either.

The joystick-button should be bigger and rubberized, period. I feel this way about all of Fuji’s cameras that have this little nub of a control stick, by the way, from their APS-C flagship X-T3 to their medium format GFX series.  Why such a small joystic, even on the larger cameras? I’ve gotten spoiled by Nikon and Canon (and now Sony’s) large rubber joypads, and I think even a compact camera could fit something larger than what the XF10 has.

Having said that, the future definitely lies with touchscreens, and Fuji has a nifty feature there: You can swipe up, down, left, or right to quickly access a customizable set of functions such as white balance, bracketing, film simulation, and many others.

Autofocus Performance

Those are fireworks. Just pretend they’re in focus. Orange County Fair
Fuji XF10, 1/850 sec, f/2.8, ISO 12800

Even more un-avoidable, unfortunately, is the fact that the autofocus is simply not up to par with any of its more expensive siblings, or most of the competition. It hunts quite a lot in terrible light, and even still hunts from time to time in decent or good light. Despite its 6FPS shooting speed, this is no action sports camera, and can even be a bit frustrating to shoot static scenes with in dark conditions.

Also, unfortunately, due to the size and resolution of the rear LCD, you won’t know for sure if your shot is in focus, unless you magnify it and check.

In-focus image (If the tiny lens front element gets smudged, you’ll know!)

Another mis-focused image (I cleaned the lens, though!)

Personally, I just started manual focusing everything in terrible light. Which is certainly not going to work for action type situations, but as a walk-around camera for basic snapshots, in environments where I actually want that “oldschool” photography experience, it’s totally fine. (It’s also totally fine for serious landscape and nightscape work, of course!)

But, let’s not make excuses or talk about workarounds; the autofocus still should have been better, period. Hopefully, this can easily be improved by just putting a faster processor in the camera next time.

Video Performance & Features

Last but not least, the spec sheet says “4K” but when you look closer you’ll notice that it’s only 4K at 15 frames per second, meaning it’s not really good for any type of active conditions. Really, you’ll probably be using the camera in its 1080p mode, which offers the usual 60, 30, 24, and 23.98 frames per second.

This isn’t a video-oriented review, as you might have guessed since it’s written and not in video form. Suffice it to say, the video quality itself is not particularly amazing, nor is it terrible.

Fuji XF10 | Compared To The Competition

The other Fuji camera you might be considering, (before you realize the huge price difference, that is) would be the Fuji X100F. At first glance, it’s a bigger, much more retro-styled version of the XF10, with a 35mm equivalent lens instead of a 28mm equivalent lens. Personally, I’d rather have the 28mm lens, but that’s just my style.

Both cameras have an APS-C size sensor, which is the whole reason for grabbing a camera like this instead of just grabbing your iPhone. The image quality from both cameras is incredible.

Unfortunately, the X100F is nearly $1300, and the XF10 is just $450. That’s a wild price gap!

Speaking of similar cameras and wild price gaps, the one camera that is most similar to the XF10 is, of course, the Ricoh GR III. It’s got an APS-C sensor that hits 24 megapixels and a 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens. Unfortunately, it also has a couple of other similarities to the Fuji XF10: mediocre battery life, and underwhelming autofocus. Since the Ricoh GR III costs about $900, twice the price of the XF10, the nod goes to the Fuji. There is also the Ricoh GR II, which comes in at just $550, however, it has a much older 16-megapixel sensor

Of course, if you have a budget closer to the $1000 mark, then you might consider the Canon G1X III (mk3) as well. It’s one of the other few compact cameras with an APS-C sensor, and a 24-70mm equivalent f/2.8-5.6 zoom lens. More importantly, probably, is the fact that it includes Canon’s impressive dual-pixel autofocus, which is certainly going to be night-and-day different from the XF10’s autofocus reliability in any light.

So, you have to ask yourself not only what you can afford, but why you want a compact camera, instead of a MILC (interchangeable lens camera) or a phone: Do you want something that looks awesome and retro, and you’re OK with the larger size of the X100F? Then save up for it!

Alternately, are you specifically looking for something as portable as possible, that is phone-sized but delivers amazing image quality with raw file workflow compatibility? Then hopefully the XF10’s drawbacks aren’t going to stop you from getting it.

One alternative, in the XF10’s overall size, might be the Sony RX100 series, or HX series. These cameras have much smaller sensors, and their image quality isn’t up to par at the higher ISOs, but at their lower ISOs they do offer great image quality, solid video quality,  and some sort of zoom lens instead of a fixed lens. I can’t decide which feature is most important to you, but hopefully, with this knowledge, you’ll know.

If you want a fixed-lens compact camera with an APS-C sensor, there’s just not many options that come close to the $450 price tag of the Fuji XF10. You’re really just buying a great sensor and lens.

Fuji XF10 Review | Conclusion

Orange County Fair Sky Chairs (Ski Lift)
Fuji XF10, Fuji Provia Film Simulation | 1/20 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600

Okay, let’s recap:

Pros:
Great image quality (RAW and JPG!)
Extreme portability
Good durability
Great Incredible value

Cons:
Poor control ergonomics
Unreliable autofocus
Poor video feature set
Base ISO of 200 instead of 100

I’ll be honest: The XF10 isn’t for everybody, in fact, with its 28mm equivalent lens and limited features, it’s really only made for those few photographers who want an extremely compact camera with maximum image quality and enough manual control to give that satisfying manual control feel.

Otherwise, you might be better off getting a 1″ type sensor camera, whether with a fixed lens or a zoom, or maybe even a MILC. Fuji does make some X-mount mirrorless cameras that are extremely portable, too!

Then again, a lot of those options, even with the much smaller sensors, cost at least twice as much, many cost well over $1000. So, we keep coming back to the amazing price and the image quality you get for it. That’s really it.

For those of you who are looking at the sexy Fuji X100F, by the way, you can get this XF10 in a silver finish with a red-brown leather-textured grip that looks very chic, if you’re into that type of thing.

All in all, if you can stand to be a little patient with the focusing system at times, (or if you have the inclination to just focus manually in bad light) then this ultra-compact camera with its great medium-wide f/2.8 lens and impressive image sensor has the best ratio of price to image quality that we’ve ever seen from a compact camera.