One would be forgiven for thinking Fujifilm's distinctively styled X10 looks strikingly familiar. Besides dating you as a Gen Xer (or older), that hunch is well-placed, since the X10's good looks – and several of its more appealing functions – harken back to film-era cameras. In our view, that's a terrific starting point for an exceptional top-shelf point-and-shoot camera.
The X10 seems to occupy a transitional role in the evolutionary line of cameras, as we cruise relentlessly ever onward toward smaller and more powerful ones. Distinct from the current rage of so-called MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) models being made by virtually every camera company (which include micro Four-Thirds, NEX, and PEN, among others), the X10 has a fixed 28-112mm lens. But it does share those cameras' slimmed down profile, optional manual controls, and absolutely gargantuan sensor. In this case, a 12-megapixel, 2/3-inch EXR CMOS that's twice as large as those found in a typical point-and-shoot, and which allows it to capture images that approach if not rival ones you'd snap using a far bulkier digital single lens reflex (DSLR) model. Yet because its lens retracts into the body via a nifty zoom ring (which doubles as the on/off switch) instead of jutting out from the camera body, the X10 has most of the versatility of an MILC and a slightly larger body, but is overall more pocketable in many cases.
Dimensions aside, the X10's use of mechanical dials and buttons over buried touchscreen menu options is a welcome change, something veteran shutterbugs will appreciate. And while it's not strictly accurate or necessary (if you opt to use the external LCD), the crystal-clear, glass rangefinder completes the retro styling and is just a fun and comfortable way to line up shots (though we discovered some parallax and framing errors, just as one would with traditional rangefinders).
Up on top, there's a functional hotshoe, but also a pop-out flash, and then an exposure compensation dial and a partly programmable mode dial with the usual manual and automatic suspects (aperture, exposure, or shutter preference; automatic mode; movie mode). One unexpected setting is the Advanced mode, which reveals a couple useful, and in one case just plain fun options. The first is the ability to snag 360-degree panoramic shots – you snap the shutter then turn in a circle until the camera signals it's seen enough. The other is a Pro Low-Light setting, which sharpens images in low-light settings (like a candlelit dinner or a campfire at dusk). But we loved most the Pro Focus mode that creates a seriously shallow depth of field (and gorgeous background fuzziness), which are especially great for portrait shots. The effect is all the more pronounced thanks to this camera's exceptionally big f2.0 aperture.
Still, at its heart the X10 is a point-and-shoot, and users, whether they are enthusiasts or noobs, will have a blast and marvel at the results (our tests fell during a family visit and resulted in an email from a father-in-law to express his amazement and envy for the X10). We weren't particularly in love with the cluttered and confusing menu system, but we didn't have to access it too often thanks to most controls being handled by mechanical dials and buttons. Using the smooth manual zoom ring was a welcome return to an old habit. The X10 may not represent the future of cameras, but its throwback functionality reminds us so much of our old cameras that we couldn't help but fall in love with it. [$599.95; shopfujifilm.com]