Fuji X-S10 review: Big features in a simplified package



(Pocket-lint) – The Fujifilm X-S10 has arrived to shake up the Japanese camera maker’s typical dial-heavy design with something altogether simplier. Well, that’s how you might see it if you’re already invested in an X-series camera, such as the X-T4.

But the X-S10 isn’t really for existing Fujifilm users, this is the company’s long-distance wave to prospective Canon and Nikon users in some regard – the ones who, since those companies pushed hard in EOS R and Nikon Z respectively, probably can’t keep up with the expected cash flow of such pricey bodies and new lenses.

Now, the X-S10 isn’t ultra-budget by any means – as in, it’s under four-figures, rather than costing a couple of grand – but as a solid investment it might make sense. It’s got much of the X-T4’s capabilities – the same sensor, the same autofocus system – but at a cut of the cost. So what gives?

X-S10: Design

  • Body dimensions: 126 x 85.1 x 65.4mm / Weight: 465g
  • 2.36m-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • 3-inch vari-angle LCD touchscreen
  • Single main mode dial
  • Not weather-sealed
  • New large grip

The principal thing about the X-S10 is that it doesn’t have a series of dials strewn about its body. At least, not in the same way as most Fujifilm X-series cameras – which typically have a shutter dial, exposure compensation dial, ISO sensitivity dial, and aperture ring on the lens (this one doesn’t go away, depending on the lens). The S10 instead opts for a single main mode dial to control between Auto, Custom (four setups), and the Manual (M), Aperture (A), Shutter (S) and Programme Auto (P) modes.

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That doesn’t mean it’ll be a cinch to use for total newbies wondering what the whole “P, S, A, M” letters above are all about. But if you’re used to your camera layout being more menu and button led – a la Canon – then this Fujifilm is likely to make a little more sense.

Conversely, however, we find it more confusing. Because we always use the dedicated exposure compensation dial and the shutter dial, so a quick glance lets us know what fixed setting we’ve selected rather than having to look at the screen or jump into various menus. It’s each to their own viewpoint, we suppose, but we prefer Fujifilm’s unique selling point of multiple dials – as it sets the brand apart from others.

But what about those other dials you can see? They’re thumbwheels, the two top-positioned ones – one of which lapses over the rear tip of the camera – which can be rotated to make quick adjustments to various settings. It’s these that ensure the X-S10 is still easy enough to use and quick to make adjustments. That, after all, is part of the point in buying a dedicated camera these days – you have to have some hands-on physical control, otherwise the phone in your pocket would likely have more appeal.

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In terms of specification the X-S10 doesn’t quite match up to the X-T4 – as you would expect, given the price differences. The S10 is not weather-sealed, for example, but we doubt that’ll affect a huge portion of users (and if it does then there are other, pricier options, within the range). The built-in electronic viewfinder is super, but not quite as high resolution in the S10 either – not that it looks poor to the eye by any means.

The X-S10 is a little smaller than many of Fujifilm’s other X-series cameras, and lighter too, while the design incorporates a large grip – ensuring that, whatever lens you have attached to the front, it should continue to feel balanced.

X-S10: Performance

  • 8fps burst mode (20fps w/ electronic shutter)
  • 5-axis in-body image stabilisation
  • 425 selectable AF areas

We’ve only had the X-S10 for a short period – literally a day – so haven’t been able to take heaps of photos using it, given our other duties. But it’s clearly a performer that avoids the typical “entry-level” stamp.¬†

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The autofocus system, for example, is the same one as you’ll find in the higher spec X-T4. So it’s a corker.

The camera uses a massive 2.16-million phase-detection pixels embedded across its sensor’s surface, with 425 AF areas, designed to cover the full width from edge to edge. That means you can focus anywhere in the field of view. The AF point can be adjusted between a variety of point sizes, too, by using the rear thumbwheel.

If you’re more into automatic shooting or want to use your fingers on the screen then that’s possible too. Press where you want to focus and fire the shutter, which makes using the camera super easy – or you can switch this off and use the rear joystick control for precision instead. We prefer the latter, but the camera caters for all kinds of uses.

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Speed is decent too, with an eight frames per second (8fps) burst mode maximum, or 20fps using an electronic shutter. That’s ideal for capturing fast-moving subjects – and that autofocus system really can keep up. Or it can auto-track faces and eyes in both humans and animals, to help get that perfect shot.

With a decent lens on the front and the X-S10 ought to be a formidable shooting machine. However, it’s not really destined to come boxed up with the very best Fujifilm glass – as the target here is keeping the cost down.

Of the four options on offer – body-only, 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6, 18-55mm f/2.8-4, 16-80mm f/4.0 – we’d suggest getting the 18-55mm for the faster aperture potential, which gives better options for shooting in low light, expanding background blur, and maintaining sharpness at stop-down aperture settings.

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There’s no reason you can’t put any Fujifilm X-series lens on the front of the camera though, and there’s plenty to choose from. So whether it’s zoom, macro, telephoto, wide-angle, or whatever floats your boat, the range of options are here if your wallet can manage it.

X-S10: Image Quality

  • 26-megapixel X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor
  • ISO 160-12,800 (80-51,200 ext)
  • 12 Film Simulation modes

So to image quality. Like we say, we’ve only had time to shoot a handful of shots. But there are no surprises – with the same 26.1-megapixel sensor as found in the X-T4, the quality you’ll get from the X-S10 is much the same.

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Indeed, the X-S10 even includes a reworked version of the 5-axis image stabilisation system that you’ll find in the pricier camera. Here the mechanical unit has been made smaller to fit into this smaller body, but that’s seen hardly any reduction in capability – and it’s a really great system to aid handheld shots in staying that extra bit sharp.

As for the actual image quality. What we noticed, having taken shots throughout the ISO sensitivity range, is how clean the images look even at the much higher settings – meaning even low-light shots will look great (like the ISO 12,800 example below). That’s because this sensor is backside illuminated, with the copper wiring placement beneath the photo diodes in the sensor, in order to create a cleaner signal path.

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There’s a whole host of Film Simulation modes too – we count 12, although Fujifilm tells us there’s 18, shrug – if you want to emulate classic film stock. That ranges from Sepia, Monochrome, to Pro Neg, Velvia, and more.

Just as we said of the X-T4: the X-S10’s image quality is exemplary. Although, as we said in the section prior to this, a lot of that comes down to the lens on the front of the camera.

X-S10: Video

  • 4K30 video maximum (no crop)
  • 1080p at 240fps possible
  • 3.5mm mic jack
  • Clean HDMI out

Video is on the rise in buyers’ expectations, so the X-S10 ensures a decent spec in this regard too. It’s possible to capture 4K Ultra-HD quality at up to 30fps (25/24p are also available), with a dedicated mic jack for recording off-camera audio if you so wish.

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The HDMI port will cater for 10-bit if you want a clean 4:2:2 out, too, or it’s 8-bit direct to card. There’s just a single SD slot to the base of the camera, by the battery port. Oh, and there’s USB-C charging of the battery direct into camera, which is great.

First Impressions

The Fujifilm X-S10 is a new proposition in terms of design. It’s attempting to simplify the multi-dial layout of other X-series cameras to appeal to a whole new audience. While it may pare back the dials, though, it doesn’t necessarily pare back the camera knowledge that you’ll need to use it.

While the design is new, the feature set is a familiar proposition: within this small body is a highly capable autofocus system and image sensor – the same as you’ll find in the pricier X-T4 camera. So the smaller body doesn’t mean compromising the core pillars of image quality and capabilities, which is great news.

So how has Fujifilm cut several hundred pounds out of the X-S10 compared to the X-T4? The build is different, it’s not waterproofed, while some of the admittedly excellent features – such as the electronic viewfinder – aren’t as top-end in spec.

Whether you’ll find the absence of multiple dials a perk or a pain is down to your view on what a Fujifilm X-series camera should be all about. But now there’s the option and thus the choice – and with so much focus on much pricier full-frame cameras from Canon and Nikon, and Olympus about to bow out of the Micro Four Thirds game (well, possibly, maybe), we can see why the X-S10 is swooping in to try and make a name for itself.

Writing by Mike Lowe.



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