Fuji X20 £469

25th Mar 2013 | 17:24

Fuji X20

Fuji puts X-Pro1 technology in an X10 body

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

With the X20, Fuji continues its dominance in the corner of the market reserved for high-end compact cameras with superb image quality that exude retro cool. No other manufacturer manages to mix those two qualities together quite so well as Fuji.

Like:

Retro design; Manual controls; Film simulation modes; Viewfinder;

Dislike:

No touchscreen; Creative filters can't be shot in raw format; Fairly limited zoom range;

Introduction

Fuji's FinePix X10 really impressed when we tested it, so naturally we are pleased to learn that the Fuji FinePix X20 that replaces it is fundamentally the same, but with a sensor based on the one in the superb Fuji X-Pro1.

However, while the Fuji X100S and the Fuji X-Pro1 have APS-C format sensors, the Fuji X20 uses a 2/3-inch X-Trans CMOS II device with 12 million effective pixels.

The key feature of the X-Trans CMOS II sensor is that it doesn't use a Bayer RGGB filter array like most cameras. Instead, it has a 6 x 6 RGGB filter array pattern, with a random arrangement of colour filters within each block of 36 photo receptors.

Fuji FinePix X20 review

This makes the Fuji X20's sensor less susceptible to moiré patterning than the Fuji X10's, and consequently Fuji has been able to omit the low-pass filter. Low pass or anti-aliasing filters are normally employed to reduce moiré patterning, but they also soften the image a little.

As a result of this filter design, the Fuji X20 is claimed to be able to resolve more detail than the Fuji X10. And thanks to its Lens Modulation Optimiser, Fuji says this is better maintained into the corners of the frame.

In fact, the company also believes that, thanks to its sensor and EXR Processor II combination, the new camera produces images with 30% lower noise levels than the Fuji X10.

Fuji X20 review

Another benefit of the new processor is that it enables a faster start-up time of 0.5 sec, shutter lag of 0.01 sec and a shooting interval of 0.5 sec.

Fuji tells us that it has made 50 improvements on the Fuji X10 for the Fuji X20, but one of the most useful (after the sensor upgrade) is the addition of a Digital Trans Panel in the viewfinder.

This highly transparent layer displays key information such as shutter speed, aperture, sensitivity and the focus area. Cleverly, it also changes colour according to the scene and shooting conditions, going green in very dark situations, so that it remains visible. A sensor also detects when the camera is held to the eye, and responds by switching off the LCD screen.

Fuji X20 review

As with the Fuji X100S, the Fuji X20 has a hybrid AF system, and some of the green pixels on the sensor double up as phase detection focus pixels. Fuji claims that this system, in combination with the new processor, enables the Fuji X20 to focus in 0.06 sec - faster than the 0.08 sec of the Fuji X100S.

Manual focusing has also been enhanced on the Fuji X20 with the addition of Focus Peaking Highlight, which indicates the areas of highest contrast.

Like the Fuji X10 before it, the Fuji X20 has a Fujinon 7.1-28.4mm f/2-2.8 lens, giving the equivalent focal length of 23mm. This is a good choice for landscape and street photography.

The Fuji X20 is priced at £499.99/US$599.95/AU$652, putting it in the same sort of price bracket as the Canon G15 and Olympus XZ-2.

Build and handling

The Fuji X20 uses the same chassis as the much lauded Fuji X10, so if you're thinking of upgrading, the move will be pretty much seamless. As the company has become famous for, the Fuji X20 exudes the same retro charm as its predecessor and others in the X series.

Its design, which includes a protruding lens, means that this is not a jeans pocket-friendly compact camera, but you might be able to squeeze it into a reasonably large jacket pocket.

Switching on the camera requires a twist of the lens, which is the same as the Fuji X10 and the more recent Fuji X-F1. This takes a little getting used to at first, but it is handy for quickly grabbing shots because the lens is ready to go as soon as it powers up.

Fuji X20 review

One slight annoyance here is that if the camera automatically powers off after a couple of minutes, you'll need to twist the lens in and out to switch it back on again.

However, if you navigate through the menu, you can find standby mode, which means you can effectively have the camera wake up on a half-press of the shutter, which is handy if you find you're often in this situation.

At the top of the camera are a couple of dials. First up, a dial is used to switch between the various modes including fully automatic, semi automatic and fully manual. There's also space on here for movie mode, advanced mode (where digital filters, the panorama function and others are found) and two custom settings.

Fuji X20 review

To the custom settings spaces you can assign a particular group of settings that will be recalled upon switching the mode dial to C1 or C2. This is particularly useful if you often find yourself shooting one particular type of scene, such as low light. Or you could use it as a quick way to switch to a more creative setup, such as monochrome.

The second dial on the top plate is an exposure compensation dial, which can be easily reached with your thumb, and is handy for making quick changes. It's reasonably stiff, meaning it won't turn too much or get accidentally knocked while in a pocket or bag.

Also on the top plate is a small function button, which can be assigned to whichever setting you find you frequently need to access. By default, it is set to ISO sensitivity control, but you could change this to something else, such as Film Simulation, or by switching on or off raw shooting.

Fuji X20 review

The back of the camera is much like any other digital camera, with a four-way navigational pad surrounding a Menu/OK button. There's also a small dial just next to the thumb dial, which has a couple of applications.

When in aperture or shutter priority mode, this dial can be used to set the aperture or shutter speed. If shooting in fully manual mode, you can push in the dial to switch between the two, or if you prefer you can use this dial for either aperture or shutter speed, and use the scrolling dial around the four-way directional pad to control the other.

To change the autofocus point, you first need to press the up key on the keypad, and then use the directional keys to scroll around the screen. You can use the small thumb dial to change the size of the autofocus point.

Fuji X20 review

To activate macro, or super macro, focusing, you need to press the left key on the keypad. Once the super macro mode is activated you can get as close as 1cm to the subject.

Although the menu is reasonably easy to navigate, to speed up the changing of the most commonly used settings, a Quick Menu can be accessed via a dedicated button on the back of the camera. From this menu, you have quick access to 16 different parameters. Use the arrow keys to move between the different options, and the thumb dial to make changes on each individual setting.

Other settings have dedicated buttons on the Fuji X20. White balance, drive mode, and metering (called Photometry by Fuji), each have their own buttons on the back of the camera.

Fuji X20 review

The Fuji X20 has an optical viewfinder. A sensor just next to the finder automatically detects when the camera has been lifted to the eye, turning off the rear LCD screen when you do so. Although some will inevitably prefer an optical viewfinder, it does have the downside of not showing the scene exactly as it is, or displaying a preview of the shot just taken.

One of the upgrades from the Fuji X10 is that the Fuji X20 now features a Digital Trans Panel in the optical finder. This displays useful information, such as shutter speed, aperture and focus area.

Performance

We had extremely high hopes for the Fuji X20, since its predecessor the Fuji X10 had been one of our favourite compact cameras of the past few years. Luckily, we have not been disappointed by the images that the Fuji X20 is capable of producing.

Pictures are full of detail, displaying bright and punchy colours, without being over the top. Contrast is generally good, and with the ability to alter 'film simulation' modes, you've got the option to customise shooting to suit your needs.

When the light is good, the Fuji X20 is capable of producing some fantastic images that rival those from cameras with larger sensors, and it's certainly one of the better models you can get for this size and price.

Fuji X20 review

The lens is an excellent performer, with the f/1.8 maximum aperture making both shooting in low light easier and giving you the option to create great shallow depth of field effects. There's also a lovely smooth drop off in focus with beautiful bokeh effects that will please most photographers.

As the light starts to drop, the Fuji X20 puts in a decent job at higher sensitivities (ISO 800 and above), with noise starting to become a problem only at very high sensitivities such as ISO 3200.

As always, however, it's usually better to be able to get a shot that's good enough for small printing sizes and/or web use than not get a shot at all.

Fuji X20 review

Generally, automatic white balance does an excellent job of accurately reproducing the colours in a scene, even under mixed or artificial lighting. A couple of times during our testing, the camera struggled ever so slightly, erring towards a warm tone, but overall the performance was impressive. If you do find the camera struggles, it's relatively easy to switch to a more appropriate white balance setting.

Multi-purpose metering (referred to as photometry by Fujifilm) does a good job on the whole, working to produce accurate exposures in a variety of different lighting situations. There are occasions when the camera starts to struggle in high contrast areas, in which case switching to spot metering usually does the job.

One of the key improvements Fuji claims to have made to the X20 is its autofocusing speed. We found that it locks onto a subject very quickly indeed, making off the cuff shots pretty easy.

Fuji X20 review

With the option to activate macro or super macro, there's also the ability to get very close to the subject and fill the frame. Macro focusing is available as close as 1cm to the subject, and is a nice option on a premium camera, elevating it above some of those with larger sensors such as the Sony RX100 or Canon G1 X.

Fuji has put some good thought into the more creative options available on the X20. For maximum flexibility, the film simulation modes are best, since they can be used while shooting in raw format. This means that should you change your mind about the simulation down the line, you can work with a clean file.

There's also different digital filters under Advanced Mode, which are fun to experiment with. These include Toy Camera, Pop Colour and Dynamic Tone. It will be down to personal preference which ones you enjoy using the most, but one downside is that they can't be shot while using raw format, so you're stuck with the filter effect permanently.

Fuji X20 review

Another interesting feature is the Motion Panorama mode. This gives you a number of options for creating ultra wide-angle shots, simply by sweeping the camera across the scene. The camera stitches the panoramas together pretty quickly and the resulting images are fun to look at. Zooming into panoramas at 100% does reveal some loss of detail and smudging, but at web sizes there's not too much of a concern.

The Fuji X20 keeps the same 460,000 dot, 2.8-inch TFT LCD screen as its predecessor. It would have been nice if Fuji had upped the resolution to compete with some of the other premium compact cameras on the market at the moment.

That said, it's very bright and clear and doesn't suffer too badly from glare and reflection. As it has an optical viewfinder, if the sun does prove too much of a problem, you can use this to compose your images.

One thing that has left us a little disappointed is the Fuji X20's battery life. During our testing, the camera died after 2-3 hours of moderate-heavy use. While this should mean that it'll last the whole day with less frequent use, for street photographers and travelling photographers hoping to capture a lot of shots in a day, it could be problematic. We'd recommend purchasing an extra battery to pack in your bag.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Fuji X20, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Fuji X20 is capable of resolving up to around 24 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Fuji X20 review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Fuji X20 review

ISO 100, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 200, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 400, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 800, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 1600, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 3200, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 6400, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 12800, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Fuji X20 review

ISO 100, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 200, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 400, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 800, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 1600, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X20 review

ISO 3200, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Fuji X20 with the Fuji X10, Olympus XZ-2, Panasonic LX7, Canon G15 and Sony RX100.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Fuji X20 review

These results show that JPEG images from the Fuji X20 contain relatively strong signal to noise ratios, beating JPEGs from the Fuji X10 at every sensitivity but ISO 6400 - where the two cameras tie - and 12800, where the older X10's images are stronger. The X20's JPEGs have greater signal to noise ratios than those from the Olympus XZ-2 at every sensitivity, the Panasonic LX7 at every sensitivity but ISO 12800 and the Canon G15 at every sensitivity but ISO 1600. The Fuji X20's JPEG images show greater signal to noise ratios than those from the Sony RX100 at ISO 100 and 200, score the same at ISO 400 and are weaker at ISO 800 and above.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Fuji X20 review

As this chart indicates, the signal to noise ratios of the Fuji X20's TIFF images (after conversion from raw) are weaker than those from the Fuji X10 at every sensitivity setting, with an especially significant difference at lower ISOs. The Fuji X20's TIFFs also show weaker signal to noise ratios than TIFFs from the Canon G15 and Sony RX100 at every sensitivity setting, and are weaker than the Olympus XZ-2 at every sensitivity but ISO 1600. The X20's TIFFs are weaker for signal to noise ratios than the Panasonic LX7's at ISO 100-400, but at ISO 800-3200 the X20's images take the lead there.

JPEG dynamic range

Fuji X20 review

JPEGs from the Fuji X20 contain less dynamic range than JPEGs from the Fuji X10 at ISO 100 and 200, the same amount at ISO 400, and more dynamic range at ISO 800 and above. Oddly, it's the exact same story with the Canon G15, and a similar story with the Panasonic LX7 and Sony RX100, except that then the Panasonic's JPEGs overtake the Fuji X20's at ISO 12800, and the Sony's JPEGs show greater dynamic range than the Fuji X20's at ISO 6400. The Fuji X20's JPEGs contain less dynamic range than theOlympus XZ-2's at ISO 100-400, the same amount at ISO 800 and more dynamic range at ISO 1600 and above.

Raw dynamic range

Fuji X20 review

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Fuji X20 contain greater dynamic range than those from the Fuji X10 at every sensitivity setting but ISO 400 and 800, and greater dynamic range than those from the Panasonic LX7 at every sensitivity. The Fuji X20's TIFFs show a weaker dynamic range than the Olympus XZ-2 and Canon G15's TIFFs at lower sensitivities, but the X20's images overtake theirs at ISO 1600 and 3200. The Sony RX100's TIFFs have greater dynamic range than the Fuji X20's at every sensitivity setting but ISO 1600.

Sample images

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

At the widest point of the Fuji X20's optic, the lens offers a 28mm equivalent angle of view.

Fuji X20 review

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The zoom lens, which is operated manually by twisting the lens, rather than via a switch, offers 112m (equivalent) at its furthest reach.

Fuji X20 review

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The Fuji X20's super macro mode enables you to get as close as 1cm to the subject, enabling the subject to fill the frame.

Fuji X20 review

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A number of digital filters are available, such as this Dynamic Tone effect, which reproduces the effect of a high dynamic range image.

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Fuji X20 copes reasonably well with artificial lighting when using the automatic white balance setting, producing images with generally accurate colours.

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Lots of detail is captured by the 2/3 inch sensor on the Fuji X20.

Fuji X20 review

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Colours are bright and vibrant straight from the camera. If you want to boost the contrast further for images that really pop, you might want to consider using the Velvia film simulation setting.

Fuji X20 review

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Several film simulation settings are available, including this, which is Monochrome with a Red Filter. Film bracketing is available to shoot three images with different simulation effects.

Fuji X20 review

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Pleasing shallow depth of field effects can be achieved with the Fuji X20.

Fuji X20 review

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Different panoramas can be shot with the Fuji X20, including this 180-degree one.

Fuji X20 review

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A full 360 degree panorama can also be shot. Panoramic options can be found under the Advanced mode.

Fuji X20 review

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Here we can see that noise has been well controlled even when shooting at a high sensitivity setting such as ISO 3200.

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

This image was shot in a very dark environment, and the camera has struggled slightly more with the noise reduction at ISO 1600. However, it's still retained a good amount of detail and considering how minimal the light is, the fact that the camera has produced a useable picture at all is pretty impressive.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Fuji X20 review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 100

Fuji X20 review

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ISO 200

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Fuji X20 review

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ISO 800

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Fuji X20 review

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ISO 6400

Fuji X20 review

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ISO 12800

Raw

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 100

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Fuji X20 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Fuji X20 review

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ISO 800

Fuji X20 review

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ISO 1600

Fuji X20 review

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ISO 3200

Verdict

With the X20, Fuji continues its dominance in the corner of the market reserved for high-end compact cameras with superb image quality that exude retro cool. The fact is, no other manufacturer manages to mix those two qualities together quite so well as Fuji, and for that, the company should be applauded.

As a premium compact, the Fuji X20 is a delight to use and will be surely appreciated by those looking for a great backup model for their DSLR or CSC. If you already own a Fuji X10, there's not quite enough here to warrant an upgrade just yet, though there are obvious advantages to this over the previous version of the camera.

We liked

There are many things to like about the Fuji X20. Those with a penchant for the retro will find obvious charm here, while the number of direct access dials and buttons are a welcome factor for the more experienced photographer. Image quality is great too, which is of course an obvious plus point.

We disliked

As with the Fuji X10, there's not too much to dislike about the Fuji X20. However, it would be nice if Fuji could include a touchscreen on its premium compacts to elevate them even further and make it easy to make changes to certain settings, such as autofocus point. It's also a shame that advanced filters can't be shot in raw format mode.

Final verdict

As it stands, the Fuji X20 is one of the most expensive premium compacts currently available on the market, selling for more than the Canon G15, Panasonic LX7 and Olympus XZ-2, at £499.99/US$599.95/AU$652. It's also more expensive than the Sony RX100, which features a larger, one-inch sensor.

While it does perform extremely well, we're not sure it's worth the extra premium that it is currently demanding, so it may be worth waiting until the price drops a little before investing.

That said, if you're a particular fan of Fuji, and its excellent design credentials, this is a sure fire winner.

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