This camera is most definitely my new favorite suggestion for those folks who ask me what camera they should buy. There is no one camera to suggest for everybody’s needs, but almost everybody who asks is in the looking-to-step-up-to-something-nicer-than-my-point-and-shoot category. For those buying a professional or serious amateur choice, I am rarely asked what I think, because they know what they want without asking me. So, almost everybody is in that middle range: no more point-and-shoot cameras and no felt-need for $1000+ purchases.
For the needs of most, I would suggest the Fujifilm X10. My coworker once asked me, after watching me suggest different cameras for different people, “Why do you suggest different cameras and why do you never suggest your own camera?” I try my best to understand the primary concerns people have, what they want out of their camera, what has been the biggest problem with their current camera, and what kind of photography they will be doing. More often than not, price is the driving concern, and the X10 provides much more for your money than any camera I know of in a similar price range.
The big difference is that lens. Sure, the zoom range is wider than all of the kit lenses which come with entry-level SLRs (starting about as wide, but stretching longer), but that is little more than a nice side benefit. The really big news is the aperture. This is where most folks who would be buying this camera tune out and dismiss what I am saying as techno-garble. Up until now, the differences between most of the lenses on entry-level cameras were all but identical, so this was not much of a point to argue. This lens, though, completely changes the practical usage of the camera and flexibility in when you will still be able to get that shot.
Almost every kit lens out there is an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. Those are dismal, but important numbers. The f/… numbers are the maximum aperture of the lens, or how wide it will open up, thus how much light it can take in. So, those kit lenses will be f/3.5 at 18mm (at the wide angle of the lens) and f/5.6 at the zoomed out end, 55mm. More light is good, because those low-light, indoor shots of the family will be blurred less and those sport shots in fading light might actually be crisp more often the more open that aperture can be.
And those are fractions, obviously, so f/3.5 is more open than f/5.6. Well, the lens on the Fujifilm X10 is f/2-2.8. At the wide end, that is more than twice as bright all the way through the lengths of the zoom. That is a big deal, so I will use the international language of money to explain more clearly. Lens prices are directly related to the aperture: big aperture, big money. If you had an SLR and wanted to buy a zoom lens similar to these, f/2.8 from wide to telephoto, you will spend at least $1200 for the lens alone. So, that lens is twice the price of an X10, AND the lens on the X10 is is even more bright than that, being f/2 at the wide end.
For $600, the Fujifilm X10 is a truly amazing camera. The big drawback for many out there is the fact that the lens is fixed on the camera; you cannot interchange lenses. On the other side, though, I can think of precious few photographers who have an entry-level camera and more than just a kit lens or possibly two kit lenses of equally abysmal quality.
For the folks out there who want to step up to a nicer camera and do not think they are going to branch far outside of the kit lens which comes with it, I would highly recommend the Fujifilm X10. Not only is the lens far superior to anything even far above its own price category, but it is all accomplished in a far smaller package than interchangeable lens SLRs.
Summary: it is small, cheap, and excellent quality. If you are going to spend $600 dollars on a camera, I can think of nothing which would come even close to the Fujifilm X10.