To Be Determined Journal

To Be Determined is a journal of cycling, adventure and photography, curated by a NYC-based cycling team known as TBD Racing or Team TBD. From criteriums to cyclocross to product reviews and travel diaries, it is all part of the TBD Journal.

Fuji XF10 Review: First Impressions

As a self-diagnosed camera geek I have an at times distracting habit of browsing the photography focused stretches of the interwebs to daydreaming about the latest and greatest camera introductions. That daydreaming wanders between everything from medium format cameras to point and shoots but there is one constant: my endless search for the best on the bike camera.

Over the years I have primarily used two cameras while riding. For special rides, be it mountains in France or fall days in New York, I’ll break out my trusted Leica Q whose images truly never cease to amaze me but whose cost also makes it a bit nerve-racking to bring on the bike. For everything else I have relied on the Ricoh GR II which features an APS-C sensor in an easily pocketable format. Unfortunately after five years my Ricoh GR II is officially in its death throes. And while the next generation GR looks very promising, the rumored price point (“sub 1,000 euros”) is a bit worrisome given the beating the cameras can take (dust on the sensor being a not entirely uncommon issue - one that is currently plaguing my GR).

All of which led me to the recently introduced Fuji XF10, another pocketable point and shoot that fits in the same spiritual vein as the GR. The Fuji has the same APS-C sized sensor as the GR but with some extra pixels to boot (24 vs 16) and a variety of other features you would expect from a current generation camera (touch screen, GPS tagging via Bluetooth, etc) that are missing or less practical in the GR. And to top it all off the Fuji comes in at just $500 while the aging GR II still runs $600. So is the Fuji XF10 the perfect on the bike camera? It’s too early for me to say and there are one or two potentially significant issues but a few first impressions follow below.

Fuji XF10 First Impressions

From a size perspective the XF10 and GR II are shockingly similar. If anything the Fuji might be a hair thicker but the cameras seemingly have more physical similarities than differences. The Fuji has a larger display which is a nice touch, though it also lacks some of the physical controls found on the GR II. That said I rarely find myself adjusting settings on the bike - I’m definitely of the ‘don’t let photos interrupt the ride’ mindset so I shoot on auto/program mode the vast majority of the time and I doubt I’ll miss the physical controls. The power/shutter button layout on the Fuji is more compact on the GR, which I could see being a problem once we’re in full glove weather - on the Fuji there isn’t much room to access the power button between the three raised circular dials on the top of the camera.

The biggest physical difference between the XF10 and the GR is probably the lens protection - unlike the retractable lens on the GR, the Fuji comes with a plastic lens cap that must be physically removed for shooting. Off the bike this would be no big deal, but on the bike its a more difficult exercise. At one point on my first ride with the XF10 I rested it on my headset cap to replace the lens with two hands and immediately put some deep scratches into the brand new touchscreen (ugh, ugh, ugh). I would consider going sans-lens cap on the Fuji but then I worry about the risk of dust penetration. So I don’t yet have a solution here, but hopefully one surfaces in the coming weeks (maybe a permanently affixed filter?). More research to come on this front.

Physical attributes aside my initial experience shooting the Fuji was all positive. Pairing the camera with a phone for GPS tagging was super easy (way easier than with my big Sony A7) and the camera appeared to pair with the phone almost instantly when it powered up (again, unlike my at times problematic experience with the Sony). As you would expect from a camera with a big APS-C sensor the image quality is definitely there with the XF10. I definitely need to fine tune the minimum shutter speed ISO settings, but the camera handled low light situations fairly well on this first ride and the finished product had decent dynamic range. Autofocus seems fast in test shots, though I probably missed the focus on more shots than I expected on this first outing so I’ll have to monitor the AF over time.

Overall the most pressing issue with the Fuji is figuring out the lens cap situation - one of my favorite elements with the GR was just how quickly you could pull it out of a pocket mid-ride when you were surprised by particularly good light or the perfect backdrop. The Fuji isn’t as fast thanks to that lens cap but in just about every other respect the Fuji seems to live up to the high bar set by the GR III, all while doing it at a more reasonable $500 price point.

Is the Fuji XF10 the perfect on the bike camera? I’m not ready to say that but I am excited to see how it performs in the coming months. Now if I can just keep from scratching the display any further…

Fuji XF10 Initial Gallery

It’s early days for my XF10 so I haven’t had the opportunity to fine tune the settings and test it in a variety of conditions but a small initial gallery from a fall day riding in New York City follows below. All images were shot in program mode / RAW image format and then edited briefly to taste in Lightroom.