Fujifilm X-T10 Review: Retro refined

by | Jun 9, 2015

It’s been over a year since we reviewed a Fuji camera at Pro Photo Supply and that camera, the X-T1, remains a favorite of mine to this day. I love the classic design, high resolution viewfinder, professional style controls, fast performance, and amazing image quality straight from the camera. Now, Fuji has taken almost all of the great things about the X-T1 and put them into a smaller, lighter, less expensive camera: the X-T10.

The X-T10 represents the second SLR-like design from Fuji. I’m not sure if this means they are transitioning away from the rangefinder-style line (XE, X-Pro), or if both lines will continue to be developed concurrently. Personally, I prefer the SLR style look and control layout, but I know many Fuji purists who love their X-Pro 1’s despite how long in the tooth that model is, so I would expect both lines to carry on strong.

Fujifilm X-T10 Black

The guts of the X-T10 are essentially the same as the X-T1, including the EXR Processor II and the aging yet still remarkable 16MP X-Trans sensor. This means there isn’t anything new to say about image quality, but I will reiterate that photographs are rendered with an indescribable, pleasing subtlety of contrast and color that is just not like anything else. Performance in general is exactly on par with the X-T1, including an ISO range of 200-6400 (in raw) and a continuous shooting rate of 8 frames per second. Even the battery is the same, which is a huge plus for photographers considering the X-T10 as a backup to an X-T1. And yet, this new Fuji costs just $799, a full $500 less than the X-T1. That’s significant. So what’s the catch?

For starters, in order to make the body smaller and lighter, Fuji had to remove the weather sealing. The X-T10 is over 2 ounces lighter than the X-T1, and while this may not sound like a lot, the difference is immediately noticeable in real-world use. Thankfully, the camera still features a magnesium alloy build, so it feels very solid. The lack of weather proofing, however, means this camera won’t be as appealing to outdoor adventurous types, who otherwise would benefit from the reduced size and weight (the camera actually weighs even less than the smaller Olympus OM-D E-M5 mark II.)

Fujifilm X-T10, not a film camera

Secondly, while the EVF still holds nearly 2.4 million pixels, it is smaller than that of the X-T1, offering less magnification. Interestingly, the tilting LCD screen is the same size (3 inches) but lower resolution (920,000 dots compared to 1.04 million). I didn’t find either downgrade to be a huge deal, but it is something worth noting. One “good” thing about the smaller viewfinder is that it allows for a built-in flash, which pops up via a mechanical switch with a very satisfying, old-school kerchunk sound (now that’s innovation!)

One of my only complaints about the X-T1 was that the controls felt a little cramped, with the command dials being squeezed between everything else. Luckily, despite being smaller, the X-T10 doesn’t feel any more cramped than its predecessor, even with the addition of an “auto” switch on the top. The other controls are laid out largely the same way as the X-T1, although there is no dedicated ISO dial. This is unfortunate, as I find controlling ISO via Fuji’s quick menu to be a rather laborious process. Fortunately, there are 7 programmable function buttons, so you can pretty much get one-button access to any setting your heart desires. Also unlike the X-T1, the shutter button is threaded for a standard cable release (just like many of Fuji’s other cameras). Honestly, I prefer the softer feel of the X-T1’s shutter button, but—wait, hold up a second, am I really going to go off about a shutter button? You press it; it takes a picture. Moving on.

I do have one major issue with Fuji’s control layout, however, and that is that they can’t seem to just pick one paradigm and stick with it. When they first introduced the X-series, all XF mount lenses had aperture rings and the lone camera model (the X-Pro 1) just had a shutter speed dial. As Fuji came out with more consumer-friendly X-series cameras, they offered kit lenses sans aperture rings, meaning they needed to add an aperture control to the camera body. On the X-T10 with a lens like the 35mm f/1.4 attached, you have two separate controls each for both shutter speed and aperture, and two separate ways to put the camera into automatic mode (either by turning the lens aperture ring and shutter speed control dial to “A” or by flipping the aforementioned “auto” switch). I suppose redundancy isn’t inherently bad, but Fuji’s original plan of returning to a simpler time of exposure adjustments seems to have backfired. At this point, I can’t help but wonder if a standard PSAM mode dial wouldn’t simply make more sense now.

The one area of technical improvement over the X-T1 comes in the new autofocus system, which features true 3D subject tracking and finer contrast differentiation (leading to better focusing in dim lighting). The good news, however, is that both of these features are also coming to the X-T1 via a free firmware update later this month. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test the systems side-by-side, so I can’t speak to level of improvement. I will say that with phase-detection-capable lenses, the AF is very fast; lenses that rely on contrast-detection (like the 56mm f/1.2 R APD) still hunt briefly before achieving focus.

The true genius of Fuji’s X-Series cameras, however, has never been image quality, performance, or any other quantitative metric (despite how highly they rate in these areas). What really makes them stand out is simply how enjoyable they are to use. To be honest, this is why I wasn’t immediately impressed when I first picked up the X-T10. I had grown so accustomed to the feel of the X-T1, that the smaller, lighter body of the X-T10 conveyed a notion of cheapness. It just didn’t feel right. However, after using it for three days, I have completely changed my mind. I comfortably carried the X-T10 and 35mm f/1.4 over my shoulder all day and barely noticed it was there. And when I pulled it out to take pictures at a wedding, I didn’t feel like I was upstaging the hired professional (or “pulling an uncle Bob,” as they say). And the people who do notice you shooting with it will approach with an air of curiosity, asking such things as, “Is that a film camera?” By the end of my time with it, I simply didn’t want to put it down.

At $799, the X-T10 offers an incredible value. I didn’t expect to say this, but I actually think I would choose it over an X-T1. If you can live without weather sealing and a PC sync port, go for the X-T10 and put the extra $500 towards one of Fuji’s fantastic prime lenses. You won’t regret it.

Camera tested with near-final firmware.

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