The Fujifilm X-T10: first impressions

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The Fuji X-T10 camera in nature

It’s true, most professional travel and action photographers use a DSLR camera. It should be a hefty black brick with a formidable lens on the front because let’s face it, when you’re a serious photographer you don’t mess around with any of those smaller “toy” cameras, right? Admittedly, that has been my mindset since I began shooting professionally over 10 years ago. For the most part, that assumption held water, and I stayed loyal to my usual full-frame DSLR models.

However, for the past couple years there has been an increasing buzz surrounding the mirrorless revolution. It finally dawned on me that maybe there was something to it and perhaps I should challenge my dusty, old assumptions. Could mirrorless technology actually compete with the traditional DSLR? Is it possible this could be the next evolution of professional photography? Why aren’t Canon or Nikon competitors in this arena? With so many questions swirling around in my head, I decided to take a chance on the new Fujifilm X-T10 and get some answers.

Some basic specs are as follows:

  • 16 megapixel / APS-C CMOS sensor
  • 77 autofocus points with contrast and phase detection
  • 8 frames per second
  • Built-in intervalometer
  • 3″ tilt screen
  • 2.36 million dot EVF (electronic viewfinder)
  • Wifi
  • Built-in flash
  • 1080p video

Hands on with the Fujifilm X-T10 mirrorless cameraThe size-weight-image quality ratio.

Immediately I was taken aback by the size, weight and tactile feel of this camera. It is so much lighter than what I’m used to! The camera body is smaller because they removed the clunky mirror that has slapped around inside SLRs for decades. This is advantage numero uno with these systems. They’re essentially like miniature SLR cameras. They’re smaller, lighter and a lot more comfortable to carry around. I find this to be a major advantage because I’m much more likely to get great images when my camera is on my shoulder or in my daypack and not left in the car or stowed away somewhere because of its heft. Also, the camera is much more discreet for street photography and for candid moments. With the tilt-screen facing up I can be even more stealthy by holding the camera at my waist. Also, the shutter sound is virtually imperceptible versus the “ca-chunk” of my DSLR.

Camping at Devil's Tower National Monument, Black Hills Forest, Wyoming (©2015 Seth K. Hughes)Sensor / image quality

The sensor and image quality were my biggest concern with this mirrorless setup. I’ve always preferred full-frame over cropped sensors because of their inherent wide angle, depth-of-field and megapixel advantages. Fujifilm cameras max out at 16 megapixels which was really hard for me to swallow. I haven’t been so limited in resolution since my first DSLR which I bought 10 years ago. I carefully considered this sacrifice and my research revealed that what Fujifilm’s X-Trans CMOS sensor lacks in resolution, it makes up for in low-light capabilities and dynamic range. I verified this by scouring sample images at dpreview.com and comparing noise levels of other camera brands and models. The verdict? Fujifilm held its own against comparable mirrorless Sony cameras and even surpassed some current DSLR models including the Canon 6D.

The electronic viewfinder (EVF)

Yes, there are two options for framing up your shot which is nothing new. The viewfinder and LCD back. However, the game changer is that the viewfinder is electronic, and it is glorious! It is a bright, beautiful view of what your lens and sensor are actually seeing without a mirror getting in the way. They’ve been able to remove that mirror because electronic viewfinder (EVF) technology has gotten so damn good at a 2.36 million dot resolution. After taking a picture there’s no reason to review the sensor’s exposure because you just saw it in realtime before capturing it. Not the optical view of a DSLR that may or may not expose how you intended. This cuts in half your time spent “chimping”! Better yet, you can see a realtime histogram through the viewfinder before snapping the shutter. No DSLR has ever had that capability.

Lens options

The lens options are very important to consider before investing in a camera system. What focal lengths are available? How fast are they? How many prime and zoom lens choices do I have? These are all good questions to ask yourself. After reading several reviews I felt confident that Fujinon glass was up to snuff. Starting out, I decided to go with two prime lenses that represented a couple of my favorite focal lengths. The 14mm f2.8 (21mm equivalent) and 35mm 1.4 (50mm equivalent). So far I am blown away by the sharpness and clarity of the 14mm which is excellent. This makes me very happy because these days I shoot wide angle most often.

Learning curve

When using new camera systems there’s alway an awkward learning curve to overcome before the camera feels natural to use and all the settings can be easily accessed and fully utilized. Here we have no exception. The manual controls on top of the X-T10 look cool, but I’ve already experienced a fair amount of finger fumbling trying to change basic settings such as shutter speeds. Only time will smooth this transition. I will report back with more opinions, info and images after diving deeper under the hood of this mirrorless system.

Stay tuned!

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