Fuji DX-10 digital camera
Fuji combines low cost, ease of use, and advanced exposure control into an ideal "first digital camera."
(Review first posted 17 May, 1999)
|810,000 pixel sensor
|1024 x 768 resolution
|106x digital zoom
|Fixed-focus lens w/macro
|Flexible "manual" exposure mode
Fuji is a longtime player in the digicam marketplace, having produced some excellent units over time, and finding some unique market niches. (For instance, their VGA-resolution DS-220 had a unique macro attachment with built-in flash that made it a runaway favorite for oral surgeons documenting patient treatments.) Recently, they've been making significant inroads in the megapixel-plus market, with the petite (may we say "sexy"?) MX-700, and the 1.5 megapixel MX-500, one of the true bargains in the megapixel-plus market.
A number of manufacturers these days (May, 1999) are trying to penetrate the mass consumer market with very low-priced 640x480 ("VGA") resolution cameras. In our view, this is the wrong approach, because the 640x480 resolution level just isn't enough for quality printed output at anything more than perhaps 2x3 inches. Also, these very low-end cameras generally lack any sort of exposure controls, making it difficult to obtain good pictures in anything less than ideal conditions.
In the DX-10, Fuji is taking a higher road to the low-end market, producing a surprisingly capable digicam, with enough resolution (1024x768) to produce reasonable print quality. Despite the image quality and feature set, the price is still low enough for it to fit into many budgets. Very unusual in a camera this inexpensive is the extensive control it provides over exposure conditions, duplicating most of the controls of its "big brothers", the MX-500 and MX-600 Zoom. Despite its expanded capabilities, we found the DX-10 to also be an easy camera to use. Its ease of use, combined with a very compact, portable form factor, should encourage even reluctant digicam converts (spouses of digicam fanatics?) to carry the camera along for casual snapshots.
High Points Overview
- 0.8 megapixel, 1/3 inch CCD sensor for great resolution
- 1024x768, 640x480 image sizes
- Fixed-focus f/4-f/8 lens, equivalent to 40mm focal length on 35mm camera
- 1.6x digital zoom extends effective focal length to 64 mm equivalent
- Macro focus to 10cm (3.9 inches)
- Both optical and LCD (1.8", 70K pixel) viewfinders
- Internal 4-mode flash
- "Synchro" slow-shutter mode to eliminate fluorescent flicker problems
- 64-zone through the lens (TTL) exposure metering
- Exposure compensation of +1.5/-0.9EV for ambient illumination
- Exposure compensation of +/- 0.6EV for flash (!)
- Video output (NTSC US/Canada, PAL European models)
- 1/4 to 1/1000 shutter speeds
- ISO 150 light sensitivity, f/4 maximum lens aperture
- Uses SmartMedia memory cards, comes with 4MB unit
- Uses 4 standard AA-cell batteries
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The Fuji DX-10 is a very compact 0.8 megapixel digital camera, that's truly a "shirt pocket" design, at 4.3 x 3.0 x 1.3 inches (110 x 77 x 33 mm), and only 7.1 ounces (200g) without batteries, easily fitting into even the smallest pocket, to take along anywhere. (We're big believers in the idea that the surprising and memorable moments of life aren't recorded by cameras sitting in the drawer at home!)
Overall, we found the DX-10 to be a surprisingly capable camera, particularly given the low price it's intended to sell at. (Rather than list a price here that will constantly need to be changed, we encourage you to just click on the advertiser's links in the navigation bar, and see what it's currently selling for: Trust us though, it's cheap...) The 0.8 megapixel resolution is enough to produce good-looking prints up to about 5x7 inches, and color and general image quality is quite good, certainly relative to other cameras in its price range. It's basic image size is 1024x768 pixels, with a smaller 640x480 picture size available as a menu option. Likewise, there are two image-compression options, depending on how you want to trade-off image quality for storage capacity. The lens is a fixed-focus, fixed focal-length design, with a focal length corresponding to a 40mm lens on a 35mm camera, a slight wide-angle. A 1.6x "digital zoom" crops down to the central 640x480 pixels of the sensor array, producing an image of that size, but taking in a correspondingly smaller portion of the overall subject.
Normal focusing is from 28 inches (0.7 m) to infinity, while a macro option allows focusing as close as 3.9 inches (0.1 m). Lens apertures switch between f/4 and f/8, in response to the available lighting, and shutter speed runs from 1/4 second to 1/5,000 of a second. Equivalent ISO "film speed" is 150, and the camera captures usable images down to about EV10. Five different white-balance settings are provided to handle different lighting conditions, and the exposure system is unusually flexible, allowing variation of both ambient and flash exposures.
Both optical and LCD viewfinders are provided, the LCD being the more accurate of the two, with the optical finder providing a nominally accurate view, but one that's subject to some interpretation (see the main review, below). The built-in 4-mode flash has a range of up to 9.8 feet (3 meters), and also has the added capability for "slow-sync" operation. The unit ships with a 4 Meg SmartMedia memory card, connects to the computer via an RS-232 serial interface, and has a video output as well.
We found the DX-10 to provide both an unusually flexible exposure capability, as well as a completely "hands off" automatic mode. Combined with its good image quality and low cost, we feel it would make an ideal "first digital camera", allowing easy operation with minimal manual-reading. As your comfort level progresses though, the camera provides a range of exposure controls not usually found in an entry-level product. Intrigued? - Read on for full details!
The first thing that struck us about the DX-10 was how compact it is: At 4.3 x 3.0 x 1.3 inches (110 x 77 x 33 mm), and only 7.1 ounces (200g) without batteries, it's one of the smallest digicams we've tested to date, very easy to slip into a purse or pocket to bring along most anywhere. (We're a big fan of highly-portable cameras, believing that a camera in the hand is worth several in the drawer back home!) It's case is molded high-impact black plastic, and we found it easy to hold despite its small size and our rather large hands.
As with basically every digital camera we've tested, the DX-10 is "right-handed," with most of the controls set up for use by the thumb and fingers of the right hand. Overall, we found its design, ergonomics, and user interface to be very good: The camera controls and menus are easy to navigate in normal shooting, and even the complexity of "manual" mode was quite easy to maneuver through. For the dexterous, the DX-10 can be operated entirely with one hand (the right one), but most users will likely adopt a two-fisted approach when navigating menus or operating the function wheel.
As with most digital cameras today, Fuji has chosen to provide both optical and LCD viewfinders in the DX-10. The optical viewfinder on the DX-10 is clear and bright, but we found it rather difficult to use accurately. If you squint and look to the edges of the viewfinder to see the maximum possible area, it actually takes in about 20% MORE area than the CCD eventually captures, contrary to most digicam viewfinders, which show less area than the CCD records. The LCD viewfinder is much better, but still not perfect, revealing about 89% of the final image area. (Surprisingly, it's common for LCD viewfinders to crop the image as well, even though you'd think they could easily show the full output of the CCD.) The area shown by the LCD viewfinder is consistently well-centered in the actual field of view of the sensor though, and it's very predictable, making it easy to frame subjects accurately with it, once you're used to its behavior.
In addition to the lack of precision in the optical viewfinder, we also felt that it had a rather low "eyepoint", meaning that your eyeball needs to be very close to the back element of the finder in order to see the full viewfinder frame. Even with our eye quite close though, we found that we could see more of the subject area if we moved our eye from side to side or up and down, contributing to some confusion as to just what would be included in the final image. As eyeglass-wearers, the low eyepoint made the optical 'finder somewhat difficult to use accurately. Fortunately, the LCD finder is quite bright and sharp, with a very high refresh rate that makes tracking even fast-moving objects quite easy. It does, however, share the tendency to wash out badly in direct sunlight that we've observed in all but a very few LCD screens.
In addition to the "live" image itself, the LCD shows a number of useful information displays when used as a viewfinder, including date & time, current image quality and size settings, digital zoom mode, and a "shake" warning when the camera has selected a slow shutter speed, with the flash disabled. In "manual" mode, the current status of essentially all of the adjustable settings are shown on the LCD, including exposure compensation, white balance setting, flash exposure setting, and whether "synchro" mode is enabled or not (more on this option later). We found the on-screen information and menu overlays a particularly effective user-interface design, but also appreciated that we could turn them off when we wanted an unobstructed view of our subject in the LCD.
The DX-10 sports a fixed-focus Fujinon lens, with a focal length equivalent to a 40mm lens on a 35mm camera. (This translates to a slightly wide-angle view.) A 1.6x "digital zoom" is also available, that crops down to the central 640x480 portion of the sensor array. The maximum lens aperture of f/4.0 (wide-angle to telephoto) is a bit "slower" than most current digital cameras, a fact compensated for somewhat by the slightly faster ISO 150 rating of the image sensor. In operation, the lens aperture switches automatically between the f/4.0 maximum opening and an f/8.0 aperture as directed by the exposure system.
The focus range for the lens runs from 28 inches (0.7 m) to infinity in normal mode, and down to 3.9 inches (10cm) in macro mode. (Note that the fixed-focus lens design means that the focusing range for macro work will be fairly limited.) In our tests, the minimum area covered by the DX-10 in macro mode was 2.5 x 3.3 inches (6.3 x 8.4 cm).
The DX-10's construction is such that no threads are provided on the lens assembly for attaching accessory filters and lenses. While we normally strongly prefer filter threads on cameras, we recognize that the DX-10's intended market does not consist of people likely to be obsessed with adding front-of-lens optical accessories. Thus, we reserve our normal harsh judgment against non-threaded lenses in the case of the DX-10. We would like to have seen some sort of lens cover on the DX-10 though: While the lens itself is protected behind a glass cover, and the cover is in turn protected somewhat within a slight recess in the camera's front, it still strikes us as being a bit too easy to scratch or smudge with a fingerprint. - Not a critical fault, but our hope is that our repeated raising of the issue will help prod manufacturers to pay more attention to lens caps in the future
The DX-10's sensor is rated by Fuji at an official ISO equivalent of 150, slightly faster than most of the current crop of digital cameras. The combination of its slightly "slower" lens though, and a maximum exposure time of 1/4 seconds translates to fairly modest low-light performance: Taking the official ISO rating, maximum aperture, and maximum exposure time produces a minimum effective light level of about EV 10.5. This agrees fairly well with our own testing, in which we were able to obtain usable images down to EV 9 or 10, but found the best results at EV 10 and above. Not to despair though, as this light level roughly corresponds to well-lit residential interiors: Don't expect to use this camera for true night shooting, but it should work very well in typical home and office environments.
The DX-10 uses a surprisingly sophisticated 64-segment matrix metering algorithm that produced very good exposures under a range of conditions, although we found it to be slightly less accurate than the exposure of its "big brother, " the MX-600. Nonetheless, we feel the camera fits the description of "point and shoot" quite well in this respect.
As we mentioned at the outset, the DX-10 provides an unusual degree of control over image exposure, in several ways: Most digital cameras these days allow the user to adjust the camera's automatically-determined exposure somewhat, to handle subjects with difficult lighting. (Such as backlit subjects, which require more exposure than the meter will indicate, since the exposure calculation is based in part on the brighter background area.) The DX-10 goes most of the competition a step or two better in this area though, by providing not only a wide range of +1.5 to -0.9EV in 0.3 EV steps for ambient lighting, but a range of +/- 0.6EV in 0.3 EV steps for flash exposure as well! The ability to adjust flash exposure is very rare in our experience, and is a feature we'd like to see more digicam manufacturers incorporate in their products. (We've found that reducing the flash exposure somewhat in indoor shots frequently produces more-natural lighting overall.)
Another common exposure-control feature incorporated into the DX-10 is an exposure lock function, when the shutter button is half-pressed. This can be useful for situations where a subject is off-center, or as a means to achieve more-accurate exposure by excluding strong light sources near the subject from the exposure determination. (With patience and a tripod, this can also be used as a way to balance the exposure for multiple shots used as part of a panorama.)
We particularly liked the DX-10's automatic image "preview" in manual mode: After each picture is captured, it is displayed on the LCD screen, giving you the option to either save it to the memory card, or discard it. The image remains more or less indefinitely, but if you take no action, it will be lost when the camera powers-down automatically to save power. (We'd probably prefer it if the camera defaulted to saving the image after some reasonable time, perhaps 15 seconds or so.)
Special Exposure Mode: "Synchro" Mode
As part of its unusually-sophisticated exposure-control capability, the DX-10 provides a special "Synchro" exposure mode, which combines use of the flash (see below) with a longer shutter speed, to allow more of the ambient light to enter the camera during flash exposures. It's useful for shots under artificial light (particularly fluorescent lamps, as the longer exposure time tends to prevent problems caused by the fluorescents' flicker). It also is handy for fill-flash work in dimly-lit conditions, when you want the ambient light to contribute as much as possible to the exposure.
Special Exposure Mode: "Consecutive Shots"
Another feature we didn't expect to find in such an inexpensive digicam, was the special "Burst" mode, in which the DX-10 splits a single frame into 9 smaller ones, and grabs 9 successive shots in about 2 seconds. In practice, we're not sure how many people would actually use this function (the manual suggests it as a tool for studying a golf swing), but it's a fun feature. The 9 sub-frames can be individually viewed by using the 3x zoom playback function (see the user-interface section below for a fuller explanation of how this works). A nice touch is that if you hold down the left or right arrow on the 4-way rocker control, it will cycle through the 9 images at roughly "real time" relative to their initial recording (that is, taking about two seconds to cycle through the full set of nine).
We found the on-board flash of the DX-10 worked very well, offering 4 different exposure modes. Its official range is from 2.3 to 9.8 feet (0.7 to 3.0 meters), although we found that it worked surprisingly well in macro mode, with the intensity turned down as far as it would go. Available modes are on, off, auto, and auto red-eye reduction. In our tests, we were surprised to find how well the built-in flash's illumination blended with the tungsten room lighting in our indoor portrait shot. This is an unusual and highly desirable capability: Many cameras produce unnatural bluish highlights under these conditions. We at first were disappointed in that it appeared that the DX-10 disabled the onboard flash when in macro mode. (This is a somewhat problematic use of flash anyway, since the lighting tends to be so uneven when you get the onboard flash that close to the subject.) We were pleased to discover then, that this only occurs when the flash is set to "Auto" mode: Other modes do indeed fire the flash for macro shots, and it does a reasonable job of throttling-back its output to produce decent exposures at macro distances. (For even better results, we found that a slip of white bond paper taped over the flash tube's window provided both a reduction in light output, and a diffusion of the light, producing a much more natural final result.)
We described the "Synchro" feature earlier, but will mention it again briefly here, as it relates to flash exposure: In the Synchro mode, the flash always fires, even if it is disabled on the Setup screen. We found an error in the DX-10's manual regarding Synchro mode, though: It stated that if Synchro mode was enabled, all flash options except red-eye reduction would be disabled. In fact, we found that all flash options remained available, the only override being that it would fire in normal "auto" mode even if it was turned off in Setup.
The DX-10 provides five different white-balance settings, including auto, sunny, cloudy, warm fluorescent, cool fluorescent, and incandescent. The white-balance settings are available in the "Manual" record mode, accessible via the 4-way rocker control on the camera's back panel. We found the DX-10's automatic white balance operated rather subtly, relative to those of most other cameras we've tested. It would correct for relatively minor color casts fairly well, but had little effect on the strong yellow cast of our "indoor portrait" test shot. By contrast though, the "incandescent" manual white-balance setting worked quite well with this scene, producing a surprisingly well-balanced image. This is almost the opposite of what we've found with other cameras, which oddly tend to do better with the heavy incandescent lighting in their "auto" modes than in their "incandescent" ones. Overall, while we'd like a little more aggressive auto white balance on the DX-10, we prefer an "incandescent" setting balanced for household lighting (as the DX-10's appears to be), rather than professional studio lights (which is what most digicams seem to be set up for). Other manual white balance options on the DX-10 include daylight, and two flavors of fluorescent, to accommodate both warm- and cool-white bulbs.
Shutter lag and cycle times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture-taking experience, we now routinely measure it, using a little Windows utility developed by Digital Eyes.
We found the DX-10 to a bit faster than most cameras we've tested, requiring about 0.8 seconds for a full autoexposure cycle before the shutter tripped. (Not needing to wait for an autofocus mechanism undoubtedly contributes to this improved speed.) Presetting exposure by half-pressing the shutter release in advance of the exposure itself reduced the lag time to about 0.2 seconds, fairly typical of the current range of cameras shooting under that condition. Shot-to-shot cycle times range from 8 seconds in large/fine mode with the display enabled, to 4.7 seconds in 640x480 mode with "Basic" image quality selected, neither the slowest nor the fastest camera we've tested to date. Interestingly, in common with the MX-600, we found that turning the display off improved cycle time performance by about 1.4 seconds.
Camera startup is quite fast, at just under 3 seconds if the flash is disabled, or about 6 seconds with the flash turned on (the additional time is that required for the flash circuitry to charge), and shutdown occurs almost instantly. Switching from record to playback mode (with a large/fine resolution image to be displayed) requires about 5 seconds, while the change back to record mode is almost instantaneous. (You can take a new picture pretty much as soon as you rotate the function dial back to either the manual or auto record position.)
Operation and User Interface
As we noted earlier, we found the user interface of the DX-10 very easy to navigate, despite the range of functions and picture-taking controls it offers. Major operating modes are selected via the large function wheel in the upper right-hand corner of the camera's back, as shown at right. (We generally like function-wheel user interfaces, feeling that they make for easier, faster operation, with less-crowded on-screen menus.) Although much of the DX-10's user interface is similar to that of the MX-500 and MX-600, there are some differences. While largely cosmetic, these differences do impact the user interaction, sometimes adversely, in our view. (We suspect that some of the negative impact is deliberate, to create a stronger differentiation between the DX-10 and it's higher-priced companions. On the other hand, it's possible that Fuji sought to remove some of the complexity from the camera's "auto" mode of operation, which makes sense given the camera's price point and intended market.)
Our specific gripe with the DX-10's user interface is that several functions we find ourselves using quite frequently are located on the "setup" menu, rather than being accessible from an LCD menu within one of the capture modes directly. Specifically, flash mode, image compression (fine/normal) and image size (1024x768, 640x480) settings require rotating the function dial to the setup position to make your choices, rather than simply being menu entries on the LCD screen. This may be an area where our mode of using the cameras is biasing us unfairly against a user interface design that actually makes more sense for the typical user: In the course of testing cameras, we VERY frequently change image resolution and compression settings. By comparison, the typical user will most likely pick a particular resolution/compression combination they're comfortable with, and do all their shooting at that setting. For such folks, having these settings on the "setup" menu makes eminent good sense, as it relieves them from having to confront this infrequent choice every time they enter the camera's menu system.
The net of this interface design is that there are no menu options available in Auto capture mode, with all of the options that would otherwise be present there having been moved to the Setup menu. Thus, in Auto" mode, the camera is truly a "point and shoot", as there are essentially no adjustments to be made there. (Strictly speaking, you can still take Macro-mode shots while in Auto mode, simply by sliding the switch on the left-hand side of the camera to the "macro" position. Likewise, you can also enable the 1.6x digital zoom in Auto mode, but again that is accomplished without requiring any menu activity.)
In Manual capture mode, functions are selected from an LCD menu system, using the two controls just above and to the left of the rear-panel LCD screen, as shown at left. The manual-mode menu system controls white balance settings, exposure compensation for both ambient and flash illumination, "synchro" mode for slow shutter speeds in conjunction with flash exposure, and the Continuous Shooting function. In manual mode, you can immediately select any of the 5 menus by pressing the left or right arrows on the 4-way rocker control, and then using the up/down arrows to choose the desired option. You save your choices by pressing the "Menu/Exe" button, upon which the up/down arrows on the 4-way control return to their normal function of controlling the 1.6x digital zoom option.
We found the combination of function wheel and LCD menu system very easy to navigate: We generally like "function wheels", because they separate major camera operating modes, and reduce the "overloading" of functions on the various control buttons. In our opinion, this usually produces an operating interface that is easier for novices to learn quickly, and which is quick to navigate in actual use. As noted, we had a minor quibble with the extent to which Fuji has moved functions off the main menu structure in Auto mode, but recognize that this may reflect our personal biases more than the needs of the DX-10's likely users.
With the preceding as an overview, we'll now delve into our standard enumeration of camera functions, stepping through the major operating modes one at a time.
Setup mode produces the LCD menu shown at right. Options available here are as follows:
- Flash (Always On, Off, Auto, Auto Red-Eye Reduction) - Self-explanatory, although flash mode is probably the one function that we could argue "typical" users would like to have closer at hand
- Quality (Fine, Normal) - Image compression setting. The Normal option produces a compression ratio of 11:1 for both image sizes. The Fine option produces a 5:1 compression at the 1024x768 pixel image size, and a 8:1 compression at the 640x480 image size. When Fine mode is selected, the word "Fine" appears on the LCD screen (when the LCD is turned on), no indication appears when in Normal mode.
- File Size (1024x768, 640x480). Self-explanatory. When in 640x480 mode, a "640" indicator appears on the LCD screen when it is enabled. No indication appears in 1024x768 mode.
- Sharpness (Hard, Normal, Soft) - Like most digital cameras, the DX-10 normally provides some degree of "sharpening" for its pictures, whereby image contrast is locally enhanced wherever an abrupt tonal change is encountered. (In other words, at a light-to-dark transition, the light side is lightened further, and the dark side darkened, right adjacent to the transition itself.) This tricks our eyes into seeing a "sharper" edge than we would otherwise. Unlike most cameras though (and especially unusual in so economical a unit), the DX-10 allows the user to specify how much of this effect is applied. The "Hard" setting applies quite a lot, the "Normal" option is about typical of most digicams, while the "Soft" setting appears to apply no artificial sharpening at all (possible even blurring the image slightly). The ability to turn off in-camera sharpening can be a real boon if you prefer to apply "unsharp masking" in Photoshop or other high-end imaging program after the fact, for tricky subjects. In the case of the DX-10, we found that the "Soft" setting got rid of some image artifacts that were present when sharpening was enabled.
- Frame No (Cont, Renew) - In the "Cont" setting, the DX-10 will continuously increment the frame number used to create the file name for each image. This helps avoid problems of accidentally overwriting images on the host computer's hard disk that have the same file name as those coming from the camera.
- Beep (On, Off) - Turns the soft annunciator beeps on or off.
- Date/Time (Set) - Takes you to a menu screen for setting date and time.
- Reset (Exe) - Single menu option resets all camera settings to their factory defaults. (Useful for quickly resetting multiple manual-mode settings, combined with sharpness, color, etc.)
The self-timer option has its own position on the function dial, which unfortunately means you can't use it with any of the special options from the manual-record mode. In self-timer mode though, all of the normal automatic-mode options are available, including flash mode settings, image compression, file size, and the macro option. While we'd really prefer a self-timer that permitted use of the camera's advanced exposure features, we appreciate being able to use it in conjunction with the macro function.(We frequently find ourselves using self-timers in macro mode, to avoid camera shake on the rickety copy stand we use for our macro shots.)
Manual Record Mode
The level of exposure control the DX-10 provides in Manual capture mode is unusual even in high-end digicams, and unprecedented in units selling at the low price point of the DX-10! Five menus are available here, directly from the LCD viewfinder display:
- W.B. - White balance setting. Options include auto, sunny, cloudy, warm fluorescent, cool fluorescent, and incandescent.
- EV - Ambient exposure compensation. Settings range from +1.5 EV to -0.9 EV, in 0.3 EV steps.
- Flash - Flash exposure compensation(!) Settings range from +0.6 EV to -0.6 EV, in 0.3 EV steps.
- Sync (On/Off) - Slow- Sync option for the onboard flash. Options are on and off. When set to On, a longer shutter speed is set for use with the on-board flash. This permits more of the ambient lighting to affect the final exposure, letting more of the background appear in flash exposures than would otherwise be the case. As noted earlier, we found an error in the manual in this function, in that it actually permits use of various flash modes, not just Red Eye Reduction mode, as stated in the manual.
- Cont (On/Off) - Continuous-shooting mode. This enables the continuous-shooting mode we described earlier, in the "Exposure" section of the review. When enabled, the camera will capture 9 sub-frame images in about 2 seconds, storing the shots in a single frame of image memory.
Auto Record Mode
In Auto record mode, the LCD display screen doesn't illuminate unless you press the "Disp" button just above it. The Auto capture mode has no LCD menu associated with it, as the only options available in it are set either by explicit switch actuations (for Macro and Digital Tele), or via the Setup menu described earlier.
The DX-10 provides several unusual in-camera effects in playback mode, that may be applied to pictures without resorting to the use of a host computer. Applying a special effect to an image leaves the original untouched, producing a new image in the camera's memory.
- Playback (Exe) - Begins a "slide show" playback of images in the camera's memory, at about 7 seconds per image at the 1280x1024 pixel size, and 4 seconds per image at the 640x480 size.
- Zoom (On/Off) - When selected, this option zooms the playback display to 3x its normal size, making the LCD display a "window" into the larger image. In this mode, the left and right arrows on the 4-way rocker toggle let you move around the enlarged image. (Although, curiously, the up/down arrows don't provide motion in those directions.)
- Effect (Sepia, Gold, Silver, Concave, Convex, Wide, Slim) - These options apply various special effects to the current image, without having to resort to the use of a computer. - A definite novelty value, but we're not sure what someone would actually use any of these for...
Image deletion is handled in the MX-600Z through a separate setting of the function wheel. Three options are provided, to erase either one frame at a time, all frames in the camera, or to reformat the memory card. In single-frame erase mode, you can either step through full-size images, or switch to the 9-up "thumbnail" display mentioned earlier, by pressing the "Disp" button.
As you take pictures with a larger memory card, you'll sometimes want to snap a number of exposures quickly, then "weed out" the ones you don't want to keep. One way of doing this is to use the "protect" mode to lock the images you want to keep, then go back to the Erase mode screen and use the "erase all" option to delete all the unprotected pictures in one fell swoop. Regardless of how you use it, the DX-10's ability to protect selected images against accidental erasure is a useful option.
Computer Connect Mode
The DX-10 has a built-in serial interface port that can be used to connect it to a host computer for image downloading. To use this interface, set the function wheel to the "Connect" icon shown above.
Image Storage and Interface
The DX-10 stores its images on the tiny SmartMedia removable memory cards. It ships with a 4MB card, and supports cards as large as 32MB, the largest currently manufactured. SmartMedia cards are slated to grow as large as 128MB over the next year, and we don't know whether existing cameras will be compatible with those larger sizes or not. Regardless, 32MB is a LOT of image storage, corresponding to probably 100-110 pictures at the DX-10's maximum image size and quality setting. (The furnished 4MB card stores anywhere from 13 to 61 images, depending on the image size and quality setting.)
As noted earlier, the DX-10 connects to host computers via a standard "RS-232" serial connection. While entirely functional, like all such interfaces, it's slow. We clocked a data-transfer time of about a minute for a 307K maximum-resolution file, a transfer rate of roughly 20KBytes/second. This actually isn't at all bad as serial connections go, but is still far slower than other methods available. The optional FlashPath floppy-disk adapter (typically available for about $80 or so, as of this writing in May of 1999) can move the same file in only 10-12 seconds. Card readers that attach to your PC's parallel or USB port work much faster yet. Of course, for the casual, get-your-feet-wet user, serial is just fine, and has the advantage of low cost, and essentially universal availability on both Mac and Windows computers. (Some of the newest Macs lack a serial connection, but accessory cards are available to let them work with devices like the DX-10.)
As mentioned earlier, the DX-10 has a jack for a video-out cable. When plugged in, it turns off the internal LCD monitor, and routes all signals out through the video port. We've found this a very handy function for grabbing screen shots of whatever would normally appear on the LCD screen, and it makes for a great way to share images with friends or colleagues. US and Canadian models of the DX-10 will support the NTSC standard, while European models presumably will support PAL.
Like the majority of digicams these days, the DX-10 uses four standard AA-size batteries for its power source. Although the DX-10 appears to be fairly thrifty in its power consumption, we still strongly advise that you purchase a few sets of good-quality NiMH rechargeable batteries and a charger to go with them: Standard alkaline cells are little more than a bad joke in most digicams, and NiMH rechargeables are now widely available for very reasonable prices. (~$10 for a set of four, and anywhere from $10 to $40 for a charger.) Fuji also offers an optional external AC adapter for the DX-10, which could be useful for extended downloads to the computer, or for long working sessions in a studio. We doubt the latter will be a common usage, and since you could probably buy another 4 or 5 full sets of NiMH batteries for the cost of the adapter, we recommend that most users stick with rechargeable batteries.
The battery compartment was the source of a minor beef we had with the camera, although we suspect this would only affect fussy camera-testers, and not the typical users the camera was designed for: When we mount cameras on our tripod, we commonly twist them slightly once mounted to align them to be square with the tripod's movements. When we did this with the DX-10, the friction against the tripod's mounting plate would frequently cause the battery-compartment door to unlatch. Not a big deal by a long shot, we offer the comment here more as feedback to Fuji for future models than as any sort of consumer-level criticism of the design...
The DX-10 Zoom ships with a basic software package, allowing image acquisition and manipulation, on both Windows and Macintosh platforms. Software on both platforms includes an application called "Picture Shuttle" that handles communications with the camera, for downloading images. Picture Shuttle maintains a "desktop" metaphor, showing the camera and any "albums" it knows about as icons in a desktop-looking window, as seen in the screen shot below. (We say "desktop-looking" because it actually is a separate window, and not part of your computer's normal desktop, although you can drag & drop items to the desktop or Windows Explorer.)
When the camera is "opened" in Picture Shuttle, you see an index display of the pictures it contains, as shown below. (You can choose to see thumbnails of the pictures as shown, or turn the thumbnails off to speed up the initial display of the camera's contents.)
When a picture is selected and downloaded, PictureShuttle automatically opens the "EZtouch" application, which provides for rudimentary image manipulation. The EZtouch screen is shown below.
Besides the PictureShuttle application, two TWAIN drivers are provided, which allow image acquisition directly into applications supporting the TWAIN interface (which include most applications on the Windows platform, and a few on the Mac). The normal TWAIN driver functions much like Picture Shuttle, allowing downloading of already-captured images. In addition to this, the SNAP TWAIN driver allows you to "snap" (capture) pictures with the camera while it is tethered to the computer. In our own testing, our Windows machine had reached a rather delicate state of too-many-drivers, and so we weren't able to successfully test the TWAIN software. (For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with Windows, it periodically is necessary to completely "wipe" the hard drive and re-install Windows, if you're in the habit of installing and removing software applications on a regular basis. - We really needed to do this on our main Windows box, but couldn't afford the time out of our schedule to do so in time for this review.) We did however, find Picture Shuttle to be a very functional downloading application, although it was rather slow, as reported earlier. (We strongly recommend the optional FlashPath adapter for any serious users of the DX-10: The difference in speed relative to the serial port is dramatic, and ultimately makes the camera much more usable.)
The final software package included with the DX-10 is Adobe's ever-popular PhotoDeluxe. This program provides a broad range of image-manipulation and "project"-oriented capabilities, and has versions for both the Mac and Windows platforms.
In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings: For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the DX-10's "pictures" page.
As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed: Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the DX-10 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.
Overall, we felt the DX-10 did very well in the picture department for a camera in it's price range. It's exposures were quite accurate, and color and tonal rendition were very good as well. The single fault we found in the images was a noticeable "checkerboard" artifact pattern visible around strong horizontal lines in the subjects. This was apparently largely the result of the in-camera image-sharpening algorithm employed, as it almost entirely disappeared when the camera was used with sharpness set to "Soft" in the Setup menu.
Color rendition was quite accurate, with good saturation in the strong primaries, yet no over-saturation evident in either the primaries or the difficult pastel colors and flesh tones. Overall, the DX-10's automatic white-balance circuitry produced the same results in our tests as the manually-set "daylight" option. On the difficult, incandescent-lit "indoor portrait" shot, the DX-10 did very well, both using the "incandescent" manual white-balance setting, and in matching the color balance of its on-board flash unit with the ambient light. Outdoors, colors were clean and bright, yet natural and not over-saturated.
Resolution was very much in line with the 0.8 megapixel sensor size, producing a visual resolution of 575 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions.
Macro performance was also quite good for a fixed focal-length lens, covering a minimum area of 2.5 x 3.3 inches (6.3x8.4 cm).
We feel that the DX-10 would make an excellent "first camera" for people just entering the digital realm, or for that matter, just entering photography via the digital route. It not only functions very well in the fully-automatic point & shoot mode, but provides an unusual level of exposure control, easily accessible as your picture-taking skills and interests grow. (Its small size and flexible exposure control would also suit it for use as a "take anywhere" camera for a more advanced user.) Its resolution is adequate for printing images as large as roughly 5x7 inches on high-quality inkjet printers, yet it enters the market at a very low price point relative to other units of similar capability. Overall, hard to beat as a "first" camera!
Reader Sample Images!
Do you have a DX-10 camera? If you'll post an album of your samples on one of the photo-sharing services and email us at [email protected], we'll list the album here for others to see!