Fujifilm is a fascinating photo and imaging manufacturing company, a survivor in a world where we've witnessed the demise of such cameras as those from Minolta, Konica, Yashica, Contax, Topcon, Bronica and too many more to mention here. The company has survived largely because of good business practices and listening to the needs of photographers.
The Fujifilm X20 is a camera in which I had been highly interested since the release of this and the Fuji X100s early this year. I had looked seriously at the Fujifilm X10 last year, but there were some subjective needs that for me it didn't meet, so it was passed on. I'm glad that I waited, as the number of improvements over the X10 is quite large. There are said to be about fifty improvements that have been made, but in all fairness, I won't get into a Fuji X20 vs. X10 comparison here, as my experience with the earlier model was limited to just a few days use.
Getting right down to the subjective points, followed with a more detailed look based on personal use, here are my basic observations.
+ Excellent retro design; solid build quality coupled with good contemporary ergonomics
+ Sharp 4x optical zoom; comfortable 28mm to 112mm f/2.0- f/2.8 equivalent, image stabilization
+ Has a 7-blade aperture diaphragm; contributes to excellent bokeh effects
+ EXR Processor II dual CPUs; cold start-up time about ½ second, super-fast sequential shooting
+ Near-instant autofocus; virtually no time lag when the shutter button is pressed
+ New 2/3-inch X-Trans CMOS II sensor; 12MP, offers excellent image quality
+ Hybrid AF; autofocus instantly switches between high-speed phase detection AF and contrast AF
+ Front focus selector dial; AF-S (single autofocus), MF (manual), AF-C (continuous autofocus) modes
+ Advanced OVF; optical viewfinder offers exposure info overlay via Digital Trans Panel, 85% coverage
+ 2.8-inch color LCD monitor; approximately 460,000 dots, 100% coverage
+ Excellent ergonomics; rational array of controls, easy to master
+ Rechargeable NP-50 Li-ion battery; averages 190 - 220 shots per charge depending on settings, actual
+ Full manual exposure plus Program, Aperture- and Shutter priority modes and more
+ Uses readily-available SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards; full support
+ RAW (RAF format) support; also offers JPEG and RAW+JPEG
+ ISO range is 100-12800 (in Auto); control available up to ISO 3200
+ Excellent ergonomics; raised grip area on the body with a thumb rest, add to handling
+ Threaded socket on shutter button; allows for threaded cable releases, soft shutter buttons
+ Made in Japan; all of Fujifilm's X-Series cameras are made in Japan
+ Built-in advanced filters; allow a choice of 8 artistic effects
- Battery life could be far better
- Wish this camera would go to 24mm wide angle
- Picky point: the X20 lacks a built-in neutral density filter
◆ First Impressions:
The X20 came well packaged in a distinctive black box, and from the moment it was opened and taken out, the feel of a solid, precision camera was quite apparent. This is truly a camera for advanced users, or pros looking for a good backup or weekend camera. It's crafted from a die-cast magnesium alloy, and the ergonomically placed mode dial and zoom ring are milled from solid aluminum. The professional feel is there, and is reminiscent of its more costly brother, the Fujifilm X100S, and along with its overall retro styling is a small engraved "Fujinon Lens System" logo on top, reminding us of some of the classic 35mm rangefinder cameras of the past. And on the rear, just to the lower right of the LCD screen, is the discretely engraved "Made in Japan" note in white letters against the black of the camera body.
Followed the directions in the printed instruction manual and charged the battery for about two hours while reading and going through the box contents. The X20 came packaged with the following:
● Rechargeable NP-50 Li-ion battery
● BC-50B battery charger with US plug attachment
● Shoulder strap with protective pads
● Triangular strap clips & attachment tool
● Lined push-on metal lens cap
● Proprietary USB cable
● CD-ROM (with MyFinepix Studio 4.2 viewer software, RAW file converter, etc.)
● 141-page owner's manual (1-Egnlish, 1-Spanish)
● Fujifilm USA warranty directions
There's something to be said for Fujifilm's attention to detail with this camera, as they've supplied a small plastic attachment tool with the triangular strap clips. That means no more scratches on the body or broken fingernails while attaching the camera strap clips. The BC-50B battery charger indicator glows steadily when charging, and cuts off when the battery is topped up. I put the USB cable in a safe place (it's proprietary, so don't lose it), and once the battery was fully charged, inserted a Class 10 SDHC card and took the X20 out for a trial run to get a feel for it.
◆ The X20 in Use:
Following the instruction manual, I did some preliminary setups, setting the camera to its Quick Start mode from the Fuji X20's power management menu. The first thing that I noticed was the exceptionally fast start-up time, which only took about ½ second. Shutter lag is almost nonexistent while in this mode, and on top of that, the autofocus is incredibly quick, perhaps the fastest that I've ever encountered. Technically this is due to the X20's built-in phase detection and its "Intelligent Hybrid Autofocus system," but from a practical perspective of a user who could care less about specs with an eye in the viewfinder, this is exceptionally good for action photographers and street shooters.
Speaking of viewfinders, the X20 has an excellent and highly useful optical viewfinder, one that's far more functional than my older Nikon P7100 and many other similar cameras. The optical viewfinder shows 85% coverage continuously, which is fine, and there's a diopter adjustment which is good for those of us with corrective vision. But it also has a Digital Trans Panel that shows highly useful information, such as aperture, shutter speed and focus area. There's a sensor next to the optical viewfinder that automatically senses when the camera has been lifted to the eye, and it turns off the rear LCD screen when you do so. It took a few minutes to get used to this, but after awhile I found that I was using the optical viewfinder far more than I ever did with the Nikon P7100, which was a surprise. It's also good when you have a sun in the face shooting situation.
The X20 has a 460,000 dot, 2.8-inch TFT LCD screen. It's a decent screen that's bright and clear, enough so that it deals with reflections and glare fairly well. This high-contrast screen has a wide viewing-angle, and makes dealing with its excellent GUI menu system easy. That said, it's slightly disappointing that it doesn't have the +920,000 dot 3-inch LCD display found in the Nikon P7700 and other premium compact cameras currently on the market. It's not a show-stopper, but a subjective consideration.
As expected, the camera offers complete PSAM control along with other settings from the top mode dial near the shutter button. There's a good sized exposure compensation control to the right of the mode dial, useful when taking photos of very bright, dark or high-contrast subjects, which offers ± EV in one-third increments. On the front is the front focus selector dial, offering AF-S (single autofocus), MF (manual), AF-C (continuous autofocus) modes. There are plenty of other controls on the camera, each offering specific ways to manage various settings and options.
In regular use, I found a mild irritant in that the X20 powers down automatically after a few minutes. When this happens, you have to twist the on/off mechanism on the collar surrounding the lens barrel to turn it on again. There is a workaround: go to the menu, and find the standby mode. Setting this means that you can have the camera wake up by gently depressing the shutter button, which is quite practical if you're often in this situation.
There's a Q (Quick Menu) button next to the menu controls, and it's quite handy. It displays the most frequently accessed settings on a single screen so that you can quickly navigate to each setting individually and use either scroll wheels to change the value or function of the setting. This made access of the various functions such as ISO settings, white balance, dynamic range, image size and such to be far easier than exploring the camera menus. Tried various shots accessing trying film simulation, the different metering settings and such, all as part of the learning experience. This shortcut method is far better than digging into the viewfinder menus to access the various features. Some magazine reviewers have suggested that it might be better if the X20 had a touch screen so that one didn't have to scroll around the quick menu, but I disagree. If you own a smartphone or tablet, such as a Kindle Fire, just imagine those same streaks and smudges on the screen of the camera. Simply put, the small Quick Menu button, along with the programmable Fn (Function) button on top, quickly became my allies.
◆ The Lens and More:
I've been a fan of Fujinon since my 4x5 view camera days when I owned a superb Fujinon 90mm f/8.0 SW lens, and it's good to see that the same attention to detail found then has carried through onto the X20. For the technically minded, its 4x optical zoom is made up of 11 glass elements (not plastic) in 9 groups, including 3 aspherical lens elements and 2 ED lens elements, with a proprietary HT-EBC coating applied to control flare and ghosting from appearing on images. It's also image stabilized, which helps for low light shooting without a tripod.
What this means to you and me is that we have a metal barreled lens that performs beautifully, offering sharp, clear images throughout its entire range. The zoom action is smooth, and it offers both a Macro and Super Macro mode, allowing you to get as close as 0.3" from your subject. The lens incorporates 7 diaphragm blades which enable you to create a good-looking soft 'bokeh' effect to make your subject stand out from the background perfectly, especially at the f/2.0 aperture setting. At 28mm you have a maximum aperture of f/2.0, and its f/2.8 at the 112mm telephoto end, so the lens is plenty fast.
You might find the occasional compact digital with a 4x lens that's as good as the one on the X20, but you'll be very hard pressed to find one that's better, at least not yet.
Regarding image performance, the colors produced in images are pleasingly saturated without being overdone. The standard color setting (Provia) is good for most situations, while for portraits you may want to play with the Astia color setting, which renders images with a softer look for better skin tones. The Velvia emulates a more saturated fine-grained slide film, which is the choice of many nature and landscape photographers but you should explore these film emulations to see which is best for your shooting.
The X20 has an increased sensitivity ISO range going to ISO 12,800, but for best results, you may wish to stick between ISO 100 and 800. At ISO 1,600 you'll begin to get soft details with some grain present, and beyond ISO 3,200, contrast drops and noise becomes noticeable. These are subjective observations, and your level of acceptability may be different.
A full 360° panorama can be shot, and the panoramic options can be found in the Advanced mode.
The Advanced Filters selection offer a choice of eight artistic effects, and you can preview the effect on the LCD monitor before you press the shutter button. These filters cover High Key, Low Key, Soft Focus, Toy Camera (with shaded borders), Miniature, Pop Color, Dynamic Tone, Partial Color (retain one color and change the rest of the photo to b&w), along with multiple exposure. Have not fully explored all of these filters, but the High Key and Dynamic Tone filters are surprisingly creative for in-camera work.
Video performance of the X20 was good, and resulted in sharp details and excellent colors, though I'll admit that I'm an infrequent video shooter and easily satisfied in this regard. The continuous autofocus on the X20 performs well with a gradual transition from close to infinity. You can shoot 1920 x 1080 Full HD videos, and the onboard stereo microphone also picked up ambient sounds clearly. There's a movie setting on the mode dial, but be aware that there is no dedicated video button.
There's a built-in automatic flash (referred to as the "Super intelligent Flash"), and for snapshots and the like, it works fairly well. You slide the pop-up switch on the rear of the camera, then select from a variety of modes from the selector to the right of the menu button, such as Auto, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Slow Synchro and Red-eye Removal. It does a reasonably good job, and the built-in red eye works well. If you're serious though, you may want to look at a more powerful flash to mount onto the X20's hot shoe.
◆ Other Observations:
The battery life for the X20 is listed in the specs as being approximately 270 frames, but if you're a heavy user, especially if you have the camera configured for performance shooting, you may find that you get somewhere between 190 and 220 actual shots. During one session taking rapid sequence shots, the battery warning indicator came on at ~150 shots. This is not surprising for this or most other digital cameras, and luckily the Fujifilm NP-50 Li-ion Rechargeable Battery is readily available and worth getting as a backup. Owners of other Fuji digital cameras may already have this battery, as it's the same one that came with my older Fujifilm F300EXR, which is still in service. In any case, it's highly recommended that if you go for this camera, get yourself this backup battery.
The zoom lens is threaded for Ø40mm filters and accessories, and don't make the mistake of ordering a Ø40.5mm filter. That half a millimeter does make a difference, so if you want a UV or protective filter on the front of the lens be sure to get the 40mm size. The other option would be to go for the Fujifilm Lens Hood LH-X10, a two-piece unit that screws into the 40mm threaded end, yet allows for a vast array of commonly available Ø52mm filters... and Nikon DSLR owners probably already have a number of these.
If the Fuji LH-X10 is a bit rich for your blood (check the price), the Lens Hood LH-JX10 for Fuji X10 with Lens Adapter is a perfect replacement at a far lower cost, and it accepts Ø52mm filters just like the original LH-X10. I bought this along with a Fujifilm Camera Lens Filter PRF-52 Protector Filter (52mm), and both are on my X20 right now.
I looked at considered a number of case options for the X20, and while there are some nice retro-look leather cases by Fuji and others, found that the Think Tank SubUrban Disguise 5 Compact Shoulder Bag was perfect for my individual needs, as can be noted in my review of bag. It holds not only my Fuji X20, but my Nikon P7700 as well, where either could be grabbed easily and quickly on a moment's notice for fast street photography or action shooting. This solves the problem of where to carry spare batteries, my Android phone and other essentials, along with protecting all against an accidental rain shower.
Speaking of retro, there's a slightly-overlooked feature, and that's with the shutter button. Look closely and you'll see that it's threaded like the old 35mm rangefinders from years ago. This means that if and when you're using the X20 on a tripod, you can employ a mechanical cable release time exposures or for macro photography. There are many different one available here. You can also use a soft shutter release button that screws into that same threaded socket for greater control. It's a nice touch.
To be honest, I did not install the MyFinePix Studio software that comes on the CD. For some it may be a decent, basic way of importing and viewing your photos to your computer, but I cannot offer an opinion. For Adobe users, Camera Raw 7.4 and DNG Converter 7.4 became available as a final release on April 2nd, 2013 as announced by Adobe's Lightroom Journal. The good news for Adobe users is that among others, this upgrade specifically impacts the Fujifilm X20 and the X100S. If you use Adobe software, you know what to do, and enough said on this.
If you want a small point-and-shoot digital camera that slips easily in a pocket, this isn't it. The X20 will fit in many large coat pockets, but is best carried in a bag, a case or around your neck, ready to shoot. The strap might be worth replacing, as its non-slip pad actually chafes the neck if you're wearing a short sleeve or t-shirt in warm weather. This became an annoyance during the first warm day of shooting this spring.
If asked to recommend a better digital camera to advanced enthusiasts, pros looking for a DSLR backup, or amateur photographers wanting to break into street photography, this would be a good choice. And if I had to personally pick one as a sole camera for weekend travel photos, this would be within the top of a very narrow list.
Note: this review will be 'dynamic' in that as other findings with the use if the X20 will be noted here. Major notes and additional resources will be noted in the comments.
◆ Update 5/10/2013:
After putting the X20 through its paces with thousands of images since it was received, I've ordered a total of three extra Fujifilm NP-50 Li-ion rechargeable batteries as noted in the link above. These have settled down to giving about 200 to 230 exposures per charge. I did order and try a lower-priced third party battery, and after three charge cycles, that battery was only giving 120 to 130 shots. Trashed that one.
Also found that the SanDisk Extreme Pro 8 GB SDHC Class 10 UHS-1 Flash Memory Card with its 95MB/second write time proved to be perfect for sequential high-speed no-lag shooting. This size outlasts the batteries, but there are larger sizes available. Just remember to format it within the camera, and not on a PC or Mac.
Also see the comments here for additional findings, and yes, I do respond to questions as can be seen there.
◆ Update 5/23/2013:
★ Firmware Update Notice ★
On 5/16/2013, Fujifilm Global published its X20 Firmware Update Ver.1.02, a standard procedure for digital cameras where the user can update the camera. This firmware update is only for the X20, and does not apply to the X10 or any other models. You'll find details on this update in the comments section to this review on this date as outside links cannot be posted within the body of the review.
The Fujifilm X20 is one of many in a growing field of advanced digital compact cameras, and the competition continues to grow. But Fuji has been good in listening to the photographers' needs, and along with the new Fujifilm X100S, we see generational cameras that are more evolutionary than revolutionary. The +50 improvements in the X20 over its predecessor back this up. The Image quality and resolution we find here push it up to class-leading levels, and few can offer a better lens and sensor-size combination. Image quality and a multitude of user options are half the reason that I personally find the X20 to be so good; superb performance and excellent ergonomics make up the rest.
4/8/2013; Updated 5/10/2013, 5/23/2013
I must admit. I'm a tad spoiled as my wife has been using the absolutely fantastic Sony DSC-RX100, so I figured I'd do a little comparison between the RX100 and X20, with some standalone thoughts on the X20.
First, the X20 is a very attractive camera, because it captures that retro look very well. On the flip-side, you could take out the X20 at a party and easily convince everyone you bought it in 1985. That's a good thing or a bad thing depending on your standpoint. :-)
Anyway, the build quality is excellent. This is a solid-feeling camera, much more so than the Sony RX100. However, that solidity comes with some seriously more weighty... weight.
Sony DSC-RX100 with battery = 8.5oz
Fujifilm X20 with battery = 12.7oz
That means the Fuji is a hair under 50% heavier than the Sony, and it's quite noticeable.
Sony DSC-RX100 = 4 inches (w) x 2.3 inches (h) x 1.4 inches (d)
Fujifilm X20 = 4.6 inches (w) x 2.7" (h) x 2.2" (d)
That dimensional difference, too, is extremely noticeable. The additional weight and size means you're not carrying this on your person unless you have very baggy pockets. The lens sticks out considerably further on the X20 contributing to this.
That said, the Fujinon lens on the X20 is excellent, - an absolutely joy to use. This camera is much, much easier to attain dreamy bokeh on than the Sony, due to the much wider aperture at full zoom (f2.8 on the Fuji vs 4.9 on the Sony). In this regard, the Sony can't touch the Fuji, despite the Sony's much larger sensor size (double the Fuji's!). Also, quite niftily, you can attach a 40mm-to-52mm ring adapter to the X20's lens, thus enabling you to use all manner of cheap UV, polarizing and neutral density filters etc. Awesome.
I'm using this one, personally, and it works just great because it works as a lens hood, too: EzFoto 52mm Filter Adapter + Lens Hood for Fuji X10, with a free lens cap
The X20 has a manually-activated flash that pops straight up and points dead ahead, unmoving. The Sony RX100 has a shutter-activated flash, and has the outstanding ability of being able to be pointed up to the ceiling and used as a bounce flash (as well pointing straight ahead). While it's not a blazingly-poweful light, in a pinch it works great in relatively small rooms, and portraits have turned out infinitely better than a head-on flash using this feature. I was surprised to be able to do this, but it's such a great little feature! I wish the X20 worked similarly.
In terms of menus etc, neither the Sony nor the Fuji have particularly intuitive interfaces, and both have a learning curve before you'll feel anywhere near adept. The nod has to to go the Sony, though, as the menus feel quite modern and.. swish. The Fuji's menus aren't terrible, but I found myself quite a bit more frustrated trying to navigate around them. They're just quite clunky.
The X20 has two dials on the top of the camera. One is for your typical pictures modes (aperture/shutter priority, manual, special picture modes etc), and the other, inexplicably, is an exposure compensation dial from -2 to +2. I was surprised that Fuji dedicated a dial to this one feature, and assumed there would be more uses for the dial that I'd discover by digging through the manual. Nope. Page 49 says the following:
"Use exposure compensation when photographing very bright, very dark, or high contrast subjects."
That's it. A whole dial (described in just a single sentence in the manual) dedicated to one thing that could easily be accessed via a shortcut menu. Crazy!
On the plus side, the X20 has a viewfinder - yay! While it's only an 85% viewfinder (you'll have some image around the edges that you'll see in post-process that you don't see through the viewfinder), it works "OK" (see March 27 edit, below), but does show you plenty of useful information (iso, f/stop, shutter speed). It's great to be able to keep your eyes through the viewfinder and change settings once you learn the controls. Good stuff. It can sometimes be a bit tricky to focus your eyes on the projected text in the viewfinder, though, but you tend to get used to it.
The X20 features 49 selectable focus points on the LCD, and I found each and every one of them to be very accurate.
While the RX100 and X20 both have panorama functionality, I found the RX100's to be superior, with less erroring between frames when they're stitched together. Both do a great job, though.
The X20, sadly, does not have an HDR mode built in that I could find. This is an extremely useful feature, and I've seen some absolutely fabulous, natural-looking HDR'ed shots from the RX100 that, sadly, won't ever come from the X20.
The X20 shoots at 12fps, which is two more than the RX100's 10fps. Both are blazingly fast, though the RX100 is shooting 10fps at 20MP, whereas the X20 is shooting 12fps at only 12MP. I need to spend more time comparing files from both cameras, but you won't be disappointed by the images from the X20, that's for sure.
The X20 has an absolutely fantastic macro mode, letting you get as close as 0.4 inches away from your subject. It's truly excellent for the dreamy-bokeh lovers out there, because the subject separation is stellar.
Overall, in my initial testing, the X20 is a super camera. It's not the game-changer the RX100 is (sensor size and variety of features in such a small package), but what you do get is a superior lens, no optical low pass filter - for crispy photographs, an actually usable viewfinder, 12fps, superb build quality, and delicious, delicious bokeh! If you're cross-shopping the RX100 and X20, it's certainly a tough decision. If fitting a camera in your purse or pocket is important, the RX100 wins hands down. For build quality? The Fuji. Photo quality? Well... I won't jump to any conclusions until I've had more time to test (this review will be updated!). So far, though, the X20 seriously impresses.
Only the menu-system learning curve and inexplicable exposure compensation dial nag at me, but this camera is still full of win.
5 stars out of 5.
*EDIT March 27, 2013*
More time with this camera has shown that it really is a competent shooter, and here are a few more tidbits:
1.) ISO3200 is the highest attainable when shooting in the RAW format vs 12800 in JPEG. Not a big deal in my experience. ISO800 and 1600 are quite pleasant, but the jump from 1600 to 3200 is really significant in terms of the difference in noise. ISO800 and ISO1600 add a pleasing (dare I say it!) noise grain to the image which is not objectionable, whereas ISO3200 just turns things a bit muddy at the pixel level, especially in really low light or with dark objects.
2.) At the time of typing, you need Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.4 Release Candidate to process the RAWs from the X20. Not a problem.
3.) There is no "real" indication of focus point when looking through the optical viewfinder. A large green box will appear to show you the "rough" approximation of where the camera is focusing, but it's simply not good enough, especially for macro photography. That means that while you may have set the focus point to the top left of the image, you have no way of knowing exactly where that focus point is when you're looking through the viewfinder because the box shown through the VF is so vague. This is actually a pretty significant shortcoming. The camera lets you actually shrink the focus points down on the LCD using the main command dial (for more precise focus on an object), but there's no indication of this through the viewfinder; the giant green rectangle still shows you roughly, but not exactly, where you're focusing. Not good enough, in general, but I think it's "good enough" for just using the center point. If you're shifting the focus point, stick to the LCD and don't bother with the VF.
4.) 9fps is the max when shooting in RAW, and 12fps is the max shooting JPEG.
5.) The X20 has the rather nifty feature the Sony RX100 has, and that is the focus->recompose feature (Tracking Autofocus). With the RX100 and X20 you can have the focus point dead center on the LCD, and lock it on whatever object you want to be in focus. Then you can move the camera (recompose), and the square will stay on the object you're trying to have in focus (yes, the focus square will shift position on the LCD). Essentially it's a focus->recompose tool where the recomposing still maintains perfect focus, and it works excellently!
6.) Bokeh really is excellent with this lens. This can't be overstated.
7.) You can see the lens through the viewfinder at 28mm, but at around 42-43mm the lens is no longer visible.
8.) It's quite easy to change f-stop by mistake with the command dial or sub-command dial, so keep your fingers away from there. Those dials rotate VERY easily (especially the sub-command dial).
9.) Any case that works with its predecessor, the Fujifilm X10, will work with the X20. I bought this one on Amazon, and it works perfectly!
Ever Ready Black Leather Case Bag for Fujifilm FinePix X10
Yes, it says X10 (subtly indented into the leather rather than obviously emblazoned in some funky-colored stitching), and since there are no specific X20 cases available yet (as of this edit), this a great clone of the Fuji official case.
*EDIT* April 18, 2013:
Still really enjoying this camera. The battery life I've found to be not great, though, so be sure to pick up an extra battery if you want to get more than a few hundred shots while you're out and about.
In the comments for the review, it was brought to my attention that Marumi makes a 40mm filter that does fit the Fuji X20. Marumi 40mm DHG Lens Protect Filter for Fuji X10 -40mm- (Made in Japan) This will work great, and has the added benefit of you being able to put the lens cap back on, too (though not quite as snugly). The downside is that you lose the hood functionality the 40mm->52mm adapter gives you, and that the filter choice is not as great at the 40mm size. For example, I haven't been able to locate a 40mm (40.5mm will not fit) neutral density filter. Boo!
While I linked a cheaper, third-party 40mm-52mm hood/adapter earlier in the review, Fujifilm makes their own 40mm-52mm hood/adapter, but it is more expensive. I'm including it here for reference, though:
Fujifilm Lens Hood X10 for Digital Camera
*EDIT* May 13, 2013
1.) I didn't mention this in the original review, but the X20 has a lens cap that must be removed before taking photos. You can always leave it off when the camera isn't in use, but that isn't recommended since you want to protect that excellent Fujinon lens. Conversely, the RX100 has an integrated electric cap that opens and closes on the lens when you turn the power on/off. In terms of convenience, the RX100 is hard to beat, though some might not find the "manual" lens cap too bothersome.
2.) If you're left-eye dominant (i.e. you look through viewfinders with your left eye), you'll be able to rest the X20 against your nose like you do on an SLR, - when using the viewfinder. This is great for steadying shots. However, if - like most people, you're right-eye dominant, your nose will stick out to the left of the camera, and so doesn't help you steady the shot at all. Boo!
3.) The build quality of the X20 really is excellent. While my love for the RX100 is no secret, it doesn't hold a candle to the solidity that comes with the X20. The more I use both cameras, the more I appreciate that about the X20.
on September 16, 2013
I am writing this review as owner of an Olympus OM-D EM5, regarded by many as the camera of the year of 2012.
If one has taken the trouble to master the Olympus OM-D, for example with the help of David Busch's Olympus OM-D E-M5 Guide to Digital Photography (David Busch's Digital Photography Guides), one would feel instantly at home with the Fuji X20. If one can consider the Olympus OM-D to be a master craftsman, with its myriad of features and excellent menu system, then one might consider the Fuji X20 to be the craftsman's artistic kid brother!
My impressions about the X20:
First and foremost, does the Fuji X20 justify its premium price for a point and shoot camera in the thing that matters most, image quality? And does it have that special Fuji "magic"? The answer is an emphatic yes to both questions!
The Olympus OM-D and the Fuji X20 are similar in many ways, starting with the retro design and excellent magnesium alloy construction, to the layout of the controls, the menu system, and scene and art modes. Granted the X20 offers only two custom modes to the OM-D's four, but the X20 also offers excellent macro capability, fast focus with face detection, and a blazing fast frame rate of up to 12fps (albeit with image size set to small).
I feel that the X20's menu system and well laid out controls makes it easier to use compared to the Olympus OM-D. I also like the X20's quick access (Q) button better than the OM-D's live view/super control panel button.
There is, at the present time, no book in English written specifically for the Fuji X20. (David Busch, please take note!). However, you can find excellent video demos online. (Go to youtube and look for "Fujiguys").
The optical viewfinder (OVF) is quite good, although one must keep in mind that it only gives an 85% field of view and cannot be used for macro, due to the parallax issue. Still the OVF is more that adequate for shooting group pictures, where in the LCD information overlay, the focus area and autofocus confirmation come in handy. For serious picture composing I prefer to use the LCD screen.
The X20 has an excellent 28-112mm F2.0-2.8 lens, that is capable of pulling in plenty of light rendering sharp focus in all focal lengths. This lens, coupled with its 2/3" sensor (largish for a point and shoot) with the latest X-Trans CMOS technology, and lack of anti-aliasing filter, make for sharp 4000x3000 images with awesome color rendition. It also comes with an excellent optical image stabilization (OIS) system, and I have been able to capture sharp pictures taken at 1/4 second.
The image quality on the Fuji X20 nearly rivals the sharpness and tonally nuanced colors of my Olympus OMD with the excellent Olympus 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II AF Zuiko Lens for Olympus Digital SLR Cameras (which I have reviewed). I was also pleasantly surprised by the camera's 2X digital tele-converter, which is able to generate pretty good full sized (4000x3000) jpegs which are hard to distinguish from a non-interpolated image unless you pixel peep. In fact I have set the Fn button to the digital converter mode. This effectively gives me a zoom range of 8X (28mm - 224mm), making it useful for photographic wildlife and sporting events!
Understanding the limitations of the X20:
Having said that, the smaller sensor which has roughly a fourth of the area of the micro four-thirds sensor on my Olympus OMD (and roughly an eighth of the area of the APS-C sensor on the Fujifilm X-M1 Compact System 16MP Digital Camera Kit with 16-50mm Lens and 3-Inch LCD Screen (Silver)) imposes some limitations both in terms of high ISO/low light performance as well as shallow depth of field and background blurring (bokeh) capability.
In terms of noise, this means that an ISO800 image taken under similar lighting conditions from the X20 will have perhaps the same level of noise as an ISO1600 image from an Olympus OM-D and an ISO3200 image from a Fuji X-M1. In terms of depth of field and bokeh, an F2.0 image from the X20 will have about the same depth of field as a F4.0 image from an Olympus OMD and an F5.6 image from a Fuji X-A1 or X-M1.
Given that Fuji has packed in so many pixels (4000x3000) into a 2/3" sensor, if you "pixel peep" you may notice artifacts such as water-coloring and smearing when viewing full (100% crop) pictures taken under less than normal lighting conditions.
(For "pixel peepers" only, the smearing is especially noticeable landscape shots that include grassland and foliage. One way to get around the smearing issue is to shoot in RAW and use the RAW converter in your photo application such as Apple's Aperture or Adobe's Lightroom. But you will lose Fuji's proprietary film simulation modes in the process. Another way, that is recommended by many in the Fuji X20 user community, is to set the in-camera noise reduction to the lowest setting (i.e., -2). This approach does result in grainier images, but detail is preserved. My personal preference is for grain rather than smearing).
For the above reasons, in my opinion, the Fuji X20 is NOT a replacement for a DSLR or compact system camera. You cannot win a battle against simple laws of Physics. The Fuji X20 is a companion to, not a replacement for, a DSLR or compact system camera!
In weighing a purchase decision of the Fuji X20 versus the similarly prices Fuji X-A1 or the slightly higher priced Fuji X-M1, you must take the above considerations into account. Remember that the X20 has a F2.0-2.8 maximum aperture, which is a big advantage in low light! Under adequate lighting conditions, I have been able to get some pretty decent pictures up to ISO1600. For my best pictures, though, I don't go beyond ISO400 where noise starts to become apparent
My experience with the X20:
Having talked about the science and limitations behind smaller sensor cameras, I must say that the Fuji X20 produces fantastic images for most situations except extreme low light. The images have that natural, detailed, organic, film like quality that make them very pleasing to look at. This is one of the main aspects that sets Fuji's X-series cameras apart from the competition.
Fuji's proprietary "film simulation" modes give's one a wide range of artistic capability. The default Provia mode provides vibrant colors for all occasions, while Velvia is excellent for nature and landscapes, and Astia for portraits. The monochrome modes are awesome, and work great even in extreme low light conditions.
Because the camera has excellent out of camera (OOC) jpeg images, I avoid shooting in RAW. The "film simulation bracketing" mode lets me take a picture and obtain three separate images of different film modes at the same time!
Speaking of RAW, I am not a big fan of the supplied SilkyPix RAW converter. I use Apple's Aperture software for RAW conversion instead. SilkyPix's RAW converter is not even able to accurately match Fuji's proprietary film simulation jpeg modes (i.e., Provia, Velvia, Astia, etc.) that are available in camera. However, you can perform RAW to jpeg conversion in-camera on your backed up RAW images, using the X20's excellent in-camera RAW converter, after copying the RAW images from your computer back to the SD card. (This is perhaps the only reason I would shoot in RAW).
(If you are interested in getting Fuji's film simulation modes after RAW conversion by SilkyPix, I can recommend Corel's AfterShot Pro, which has some neat plugins which simulates many of Fujifilm's proprietary film modes. Keep in mind that Aftershot Pro does not currently support RAW conversion for the Fuji X20.)
Despite its high ISO limitations, this camera excels in its primary capability, picture quality! It is excellent, even exceptional for a point-and-shoot camera. It has an easy to use menu system and well laid out controls. With this camera I just feel like shooting and don't worry too much about technicalities or pixel peeping. Out of camera jpeg images are excellent and often I don't worry about post-processing.
Given the very large percentage of good to excellent images I am able to get out of this camera, I feel my expectations have not only been met, but exceeded by a wide margin.
(For a set of my test pictures, please refer to the comments in this review where I will post a link).
1. Fujifilm X20 Leather Case for Camera (Black) (Note, this case will not work with the Fuji X20's optional lens hood system, but will work with a 40mm filter).
2. Fotasy Pro 40mm MRC Multi-Resistant Coating Super Slim MC UV HD Filter for FUJIFILM X10 and X20
3. OP/TECH USA 4701202 Battery Holster - Black for storing spare batteries.
4. Fujifilm NP-50 Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery for Fuji F60fd, F50fd & F100fd Digital Cameras - Retail Packaging
5. Gariz Genuine Leather XA-CFX10BR Camera Cap Fixs for Fuji Fujifilm X10 X20, Brown (Stylish lanyard for your original Fuji X20 lens cap. Prevents it from getting lost).
Other products to consider:
1. Sony DSC-RX100M II Cyber-shot Digital Still Camera 20.2MP, Black
2. Nikon COOLPIX P7800 12.2 MP Digital Camera with 7.1x Optical Zoom NIKKOR ED Glass Lens and 3-inch Vari-Angle LCD
3. Fuji X-M1. (I would recommend you read Avi Shrestha's excellent review of the X-M1).
4. Fuji X-A1. (Prices exactly as the X20, and similar to X-M1 in all respects, but lacks the X-Trans CMOS sensor which eliminated the anti-aliasing filter. Thus sharpness on the X-A1 is reduced slightly).
The Fuji X20 is the first point-and-shoot camera that I have found to be a fully acceptable replacement for an SLR. In fact, I traded in my Nikon DSLR and extensive lens collection when I made the switch to the X20. After a couple weeks of use, I have NO REGRETS!
First, let me assume you're NOT a professional photographer who sells prints for a living, but an enthusiastic and experienced amateur like me--someone who derives pride and enjoyment from snapping excellent pictures, and who is wondering whether this camera will perform well enough to satisfy you. Here's the short answer: If you hold your pictures to high standards for clarity, color, and sharpness, WITHOUT obsessing about post-production editing or nit-picking about "flaws" that are only visible when you "pixel peep" at 100% magnification or beyond, this camera will absolutely satisfy you. However, if you enjoy spending hours tweaking levels and pixels in Photoshop or Lightroom, or if you measure quality by scrutinizing flaws at 200% magnification on a computer screen, you'll be happier with a DSLR or CSC with a larger sensor and better high ISO and low light performance. The X20 yields exceptional photos that will stand up to a reasonable amount of editing and should satisfy the artistic side of almost any photographer, but it will not match the richness and editing flexibility of RAW files captured on larger sensors. I don't consider that a serious downside, though, since the X20 is absolutely capable of producing breathtaking images.
In short, the X20 is the ideal "every day" "take anywhere" camera for someone who wants to experience and enjoy life without the camera getting in the way, without settling for mediocre shots from a smartphone or run-of-the-mill point and shoot, AND without having to abandon the pleasure of having total creative control over the camera's functions.
Why get rid of my DSLR? In a word: convenience. I found myself using my DSLR less and less--especially after my kids came along--because managing all those lenses and the bulk of the camera itself became a chore. Years ago, when I was single, it didn't bother me because I could dedicate a whole day to photography and even enjoyed hauling around a bunch of cool gear as I went questing after an awesome shot. Now, I have a (growing) family. While I'm certainly keen to snap photos of my children as they grow up before my eyes, I keep finding that multiple lenses, large camera bags, and a bulky DSLR body just get in the way of enjoying the experiences I'm trying to photograph. Sometimes, they even forced me to miss out on certain experiences because expensive camera gear doesn't mix well with some activities and "someone" has to watch the gear after all. So, I switched to a mid-priced point-and-shoot with a long zoom for awhile (Panasonic ZS1), and I even tried relying on my smartphone's camera for awhile (Samsung Galaxy Note 2), but I was frustrated that the resulting images offered little to no post-processing flexibility and had to be confined to small prints for pleasing results. Those cameras also didn't offer any of the delight I had often felt while using my DSLR with its more robust creative controls.
In the X20, I have found the perfect solution, and it doesn't feel like I had to compromise at all! Trust me, someone who invests the time to learn the nuances of this camera (and understands good composition) will be able to produce STUNNING photos. Yet compared to an SLR or CSC, the X20 will do it with less weight, less bulk, more convenience, more discretion, and more fun! Moreover, it can produce nearly comparable image quality except under certain conditions, such as very high dynamic range shots, ultra low light photography, or very large prints--all of which will fare better with larger sensor cameras.
Here's another reason I switched over to the X20. This is a camera my wife and kids can operate. My wife doesn't share my enthusiasm for photography, but she does appreciate good pictures. Since she wasn't interested in learning how to use my DSLR, I went missing from whole albums of vacation photos because I always had to be the one behind the camera! Fortunately, the X20 has an excellent Auto mode (two actually) so she can simply point and shoot to get great results. Yet it also offers a full suite of manual controls to satisfy my deeper creative urges. Think of the X20 as a camera that can please virtually anyone--from those who like idiot proof point-and-shoot simplicity, to those who like user-friendly pre-set modes for more playful or stylized photos, to those like me who want total control over every nuance of the camera's operation. The X20 fulfills all those roles extremely well.
What else should you know about the X20? I'll elaborate briefly on a few things other reviews seem to shortchange or ignore. Obviously, the X20 can produce excellent still images. However, its greatest weakness (relatively speaking) is the video capture, which is a little odd and finicky. Certainly, it's better than the average smartphone's video capture and it is possible to get some very good results, BUT... (1) the autofocus can be finicky and may periodically "seek" back and forth, blurring your scene; (2) it captures video at 1080p or 720p, but only at 60 fps (there is no 30 fps setting, which is strange and yields larger file sizes); and (3) it offers very little control over video capture settings. On the upside, you can adjust microphone levels, the camera's integrated microphone is pretty good, and in good lighting, I was able to capture smooth, crisp videos of my children at play. I think it will be fine for basic video capture, such as making YouTube videos or commemorating special moments, like a trip to the zoo. However, if you're a budding cinematographer or video is a high priority for your needs, this camera is NOT designed to excel in that regard. Other reviewers are correct that video feels more like an afterthought here. Hopefully, a future firmware update will offer expanded controls or a 30 fps option for HD capture. It's surprising to find video so neglected on a camera in this price point.
As for battery life, many reviews complain about the short battery. I think they're exaggerating the problem. After fully charging the OEM battery from Fuji, I set the camera to "High Performance," but then changed Image Stabilization to the #2 setting (only on while depressing the shutter), lowered the LCD brightness to -2, turned off focus tracking, lowered the system sound volume to the lowest volume, and set the autofocus to AF-S (single instead of continuous). At those settings, I was able to capture 301 pictures on the "Fine JPEG", including 10 with the flash, four large panoramas, and a few dozen low-light shots that required the AF illuminator to assist, PLUS about 12 minutes worth of full HD video recording. During that time, I also played with the camera menus and settings a lot, reviewed most of the pictures on the LCD screen, and relied more heavily on the LCD than the optical viewfinder. Whenever I wasn't taking shots, I turned the camera off instead of letting it go into sleep mode. I also did not use "Quick Start," which would have placed a greater drain on the battery. (I found the X20 able to start up and snap a shot in under 2 seconds even without Quick Start enabled, so it didn't feel necessary.) If you buy one spare battery, you'll be well prepared for a full day of shooting. However, if you're planning a longer trip or will not have regular access to an outlet for charging, consider buying multiple spares.
As for the lens, it is fantastic and Fuji did a superb job matching it to the sensor for optimal quality. This camera can produce photos that few people would guess came from a point and shoot. But I haven't seen any reviews mention the fact that, in addition to the optical 28mm to 112mm range, the X20 also has an "Intelligent Digital Zoom" option that automatically doubles the focal length. Although it is a digital zoom (which I usually disable and regard as useless), this one is surprisingly capable and was able to produce some remarkably crisp results. If you need a little extra reach in a pinch, you can map the "Intelligent Digital Zoom" function to the function (Fn) button for easy access. Then, with just one press, you can transform the long end of your lens from 112mm to 224mm! I wouldn't have believed the quality if I didn't try it myself. If you do your part, the resulting pictures do not look like they were taken with digital zoom. In fact, I'm not quite sure how Fuji pulls this off without the typical pixelation and smudging, but a few of the shots I captured this way look like they were shot through pristine optical glass. I won't need it a lot, but I'm pleased to find that it's actually usable.
There's much more I could say, but there are already many good X20 reviews out there. I just wanted to share that even a serious, enthusiastic amateur like me finds the X20 to be an IMPRESSIVE camera, and a satisfying replacement for a DSLR. Does it sacrifice some image quality compared to DSLR and CSC cameras with larger sensors? Of course. But don't get too lost in the technical specs and nit-picky pixel comparisons. Most folks would be hard pressed to distinguish a difference in the quality of the resulting photos, assuming you acquaint yourself well enough with the X20 to learn its nuances so you can get the most out of it. More importantly, I suspect you may find that the compact size of the X20 and its excellent, versatile lens will make you far more likely to bring your camera with you more often. Indeed, I find it truly liberating compared to the chore of hauling around multiple lenses, tripods, and other gear. I've NEVER experienced a point and shoot that felt this satisfying to my photographic sensibilities, or that delighted my gadget-loving fascination with thoughtfully-designed equipment, or that offered such deep rewards for patiently exploring its feature set and capabilities. This is truly a great camera.
You might find other cameras that have more options, or that offer equivalent control. You might find other cameras that are slightly more user friendly, or smaller, or which take better video. You might find a few with an optical viewfinder, or slightly better image quality, or a faster lens, or a longer zoom, or a larger LCD. What you will NOT find is a camera that strikes a more ideal balance of all these qualities and contains them in an appreciably compact, exceptionally well-built, satisfyingly well-designed, highly functional package. Fuji really hit a home run. I love it and I bet you will too. Not only do I give it 5 stars, but more tellingly, I have no regrets about trading in my DSLR. Very highly recommended! If you want to look at alternatives, the only formidable competition in my opinion is the Sony RX100 II, which is more compact and offers slightly better image quality at higher ISO. However, I liked the ergonomics, the viewfinder, the faster lens, and the controls of the X20 much better.
[UPDATE 9/27/2013: I finally had an occasion to make a very large print (2' x 3') to hang over the mantle in our living room. All I can say is WOW! I've been getting spectacular images out of this camera for awhile now, but this is the first chance I've had to make such a large print, and the results are indistinguishable from my previous Nikon DSLR! Since I'll likely never need larger prints than this, I can say confidently that this camera has all the imaging power I'll ever need. I'm stunned by the rich, sharp images I get from this little camera--and frankly, I expected to see more of the sensor's limitations at the 2' x 3' size. Nope! If you're shooting decently lit scenes and doing your part, I have no idea why one would prefer an SLR over this small, convenient, powerful X20. It takes awhile to learn how to maximize its potential, but it's awesome!]
[UPDATE 12/10/2013: A brief update after several months of extensive use... I continue to be delighted with this camera. Its compactness and light weight are its best features and the more you practice with it, the more capable it becomes. Plenty of power and versatility, but so light that I tote it around a lot more often--and actually enjoy toting it around--than I ever would've with my SLR. That means a lot more wonderful candids of the kids, and fewer annoyances of the kind that arise when you have to lug around heavier, bulkier equipment.
The only two shortcomings I've consistently noticed involve low light. (1) There is some finicky behavior from the autofocus, which can be slow or unresponsive when the light isn't ideal, or when the focus subject is very small or low in contrast. (2) The low light image performance while shooting moving objects (i.e., my kids, who are always running and bouncing around) can be hit or miss. Even with a very solid understanding of the camera's features and quirks, you will have to be very aware and deliberate about what you're doing when taking shots of moving subjects in the evening, especially indoors with low lamp lighting or some other concentrated (not well diffused) light source. Otherwise, get used to blurring or use the flash. That's true for many SLRs also (depending on the lens), but this camera struggles more noticeably than my Nikon DSLR ever did. If you get it right, you'll still capture much better low light photos than the standard fare compact digital camera, but it's one of the only "common" shooting scenarios in which you'll frequently notice a significant performance loss over an SLR with a very fast lens. That means having to brace and steady yourself more deliberately, as well as having to wait for those brief moments when your subject pauses long enough--and then inevitably missing some pictures because your subject moved just a nanosecond too soon. If your subject is steady and you have a tripod, it's not an issue and the images are great: a little noisier/grainer than cameras with larger sensors, but it's controlled well--and you can't expect everything in a camera this size.
Overall, despite wrestling periodically with these minor shortcomings and thus, missing a few great shots, I love it. And the compactness has certainly caused me to capture many more shots than I've missed since switching over from an SLR.]
[UPDATE 1/1/2014: X20 TIPS & TRICKS -- I thought I'd share some of the handy hidden shortcuts I've discovered over the past few months...
- Press and hold "Q" for a few seconds to switch the LCD to outdoor/sunlight viewing mode. Repeat to toggle it back to normal brightness again.
- Press and hold the "DISP BACK" button for a few seconds to switch the camera to Silent mode (disabling all sounds) for stealth photography. Repeat to toggle it back to your usual sound settings again.
- Press and hold the Play (triangle) button for a few seconds to turn on the camera and review your photos WITHOUT rotating the lens to turn the camera on. Press the Play button again to shut it off again.
- When reviewing photos with the Play button, you can instantly zoom in to 100% magnification to check sharpness/detail by pressing in on the thumb wheel (just above the "AEL/AFL" button). Press it again to zoom back out. It's much quicker than the zoom in/out buttons to the left of the LCD.
- Obviously, you can move the selected autofocus area by pressing up on the circular pad and moving the AF selector rectangle to another area. However, you can instantly reset it to center by pressing "DISP BACK" instead of having to manually navigate back to center.
- When setting up Custom dial settings ("C1" and "C2"), the camera mimics the properties of whichever mode is set ("M", "A", "S", or "P") when you save them to C1 or C2 in the menu. For instance, if you want C1 to be Aperture-priority, set the camera dial to "A," input all of your desired settings, then open the menu and tell the camera to save your current settings to C1. Now, when you rotate the dial to C1, it will not only have those settings, but will operate as an Aperture-priority mode! (or Shutter-priority, Manual, or Program... whatever mode the camera was set to when you saved the settings).
- For the best detail, you want a low ISO; however, keeping your C1 or C2 set to a low ISO by default really hinders your low light/indoor light performance for moving subjects. So I set C1 and C2 to Auto ISO and use the menus to set the maximum ISO to 400 (for C1) and 800 (for C2). This gives more flexibility. Then, I use map the "Fn" button to the ISO menu. When I want tack sharp photos, I can use my C1 or C2 settings, but if I don't like the Auto ISO's choices, I can force the ISO lower by using the "Fn" button and selecting a lower ISO. This override is temporary and is canceled any time you rotate the dial or turn the camera off and on again. I find this method gives me the best compromise of control-yet-automatic-flexibility for my C1 and C2 settings (which are where I leave the dial 90% of the time). If I'm snapping quick candids, I usually let the camera choose ISO (both my C1 and C2 are set to run in Aperture-priority also, as described above). But if I find a great subject and want really sharp and fine detail, then I force the ISO low (to 100 or 200) using the "Fn" button and take more care in how I shoot.
I hope these shortcuts and tips help you!]
on May 24, 2013
Last Autumn, we took a family trip to the wonderful island of Oahu in Hawaii. I hadn't been to Hawaii in many years, and was very excited to shoot photos during our fun family adventure. It was just as beautiful as I remembered, and I had the excellent Fujifilm X-Pro 1 along to capture the colors and mood of the Islands.
While on the trip, I expected to see all sorts of wonderful cameras, and I pre-supposed that I'd see a few X-Pro's along the way. However, while I did see many of the normal DSLR's, I noted throngs of traveling Japanese photographers carrying along a little Fuji I knew as the X10. While I did see one other X-Pro on that trip, it certainly stuck in my mind that the X10 had to be one of the most popular cameras on the island. This surprised me, as I always considered the X10
to be the "inferior little brother" of the "real X-cameras." I know of the culture of miniaturization in Japan, but beyond size, I wondered: am I missing something?
Much later, I noted the announcement of the Fuji X20, which essentially appeared to be an X10 with a better viewfinder (including shooting information), better autofocus, and an application of the X-Trans sensor technology in the 2/3" sensor size. This really intrigued me, and I decided to answer that question ("am I missing something?") by ordering an X20 from Amazon.
The first X20 that arrived was clearly used, even though I purchased a new model. I was disappointed, and even more so when I found out I couldn't receive a replacement from amazon, I had to ship it back, get a refund, and order a new camera. I figured if I had to go through all that trouble, I might as well take a few shots to see what I thought; if I ended up unimpressed, I could always just not order another. I only shot a few frames while out for dinner one evening, but I was quite pleased with what I saw, finding it particularly good at black and white, with a fairly characterful rendering by the fast zoom lens. The autofocus was snappy and positive, and I REALLY liked the twist-to-zoom lens with "35mm equivalent" marked focal lengths.
About a week later, I received my 2nd X20. I had the great fortune to receive it on a Friday afternoon, just before a beautiful weekend where I had a good amount of leisure time to put it through it's paces. Perhaps surprisingly, I have already answered that question all the other Japanese tourists knew: YES, I was missing something by discounting the X10/X20… This really is a great little camera.
Certainly, compact cameras have come a LONG way in the past few years. One could argue that they had to--otherwise the cellphone-cam-shooting public wouldn't buy them in any numbers. With each year, compact enthusiast digital cameras get better and better--not only in specs, but in haptics, operation, and image quality. I feel like Fuji, in particular, has really been on a roll lately; although their cameras aren't always the best at a pixel-peeping-level, they sure feel built by photographers, for photographers. The X20 felt just like a mini X-Pro 1; the controls are in the same place, you have the same options for configuring and shooting, and it just disappears in your hands and lets you shoot, chasing your muse.
I feel like the X20 is skirting the ability to satisfy completely; in good light, the image quality is stunning, with excellent "pop" and 3-dimensionality from it's images. I didn't expect this from such a tiny sensor, and it has just enough subject separation that you do get a nice "feel" to the images. You're not going to vaporize backgrounds, and the fujinon zoom isn't the smoothest of bokeh renderers in some situations. But there's some of that X-Trans magic in there (smooth tonality, rich color palette, nice quick transition between in-focus and oof). Although not as forgiving as the bigger APS-C X-Trans, and very quickly as you move up the ISO ladder you get a lot of noise and lose some of the tonal magic, there's just enough performance in there to reward exploring the envelope a bit.
When you do explore the envelope, you find a camera that responds intuitively, quickly, and positively. The autofocus positively rocks--if the X-Pro were this good people would swoon, selling their SLR's in droves. Maybe not, but I speak in hyperbole to emphasize that this little camera didn't stand in my way like so many little cameras of the past--I felt free to use it just like I would my DSLR. There were occasional missteps when shooting with the OVF (the X20 does help with parallax correction, but its response takes some getting used to), and sometimes the tiny sensor just couldn't quite give me all the tonal details I wanted, but to be perfectly honest--there were just as many times that I let the camera down, so I can't lay all the blame on the little X20.
I'm also finding the film simulations to behave quite well; I had an X-S1 last year and while I really enjoyed the fun of having such a flexible (and well built) all-in-one camera, I found the image quality wasn't any better than my Pentax Q and the film simulations behaved nothing like those on the X-Pro. It's no secret I loved the film sims on the X-Pro; for me, it's very freeing to have so many "film types" built into the camera. I'm old enough to have many experiences of walking around with a roll of film in my camera, and thinking, "oooh, I wish I had X film loaded instead of Y film." Certain subjects simply lent themselves better to one emulsion over another, and learning the ins and outs of those emulsions stimulated creativity and enhanced artistic intent (IMO). I remember when I got my first digital camera, and I thought, "this is sweet--I can shoot every film type I want, changing every frame if I wish!" Only that proved completely untrue… Digital cameras simply pumped colors one way or another in a very unnatural fashion. Until the X-Pro. Excepting the Velvia film simulation, which I still feel is the furthest from "real" feeling to me, I dearly love the other film sims and the highlight/shadow tone controls Fuji gives to tweak their response. Although the X20 behaves a bit different from the larger X-Pro's X-Trans, especially in the tone curve area, I am finding the sims and tone curves every bit as useful and fun as those in the X-Pro. My favorites on the X-Pro are quickly my favorites on the X20 (monochrome Y and G, Provia, Pro Neg Std, and Astia). I'm very pleased that this little 2/3" sensor has enough color depth and richness to pull this off.
Speaking of the X-Pro 1, the X20 handily beats that camera in speed. Focusing, image review, in-camera RAW development, burst speed; all are noticeably faster in the X20 than the flagship X-Pro.
One more quick mention of a feature not often discussed: Face detection works brilliantly, and the viewfinder overlay even shows the detected face with added parallax correction, so I'm finding myself using the OVF quite a bit with "people photos." This is fabulous, as any OVF allows one to focus on expression in real-time, grabbing just the moment you want. This is a fabulous camera to shoot kids, with fast focus acquisition and parallax corrected OVF, you can really grab those beautiful childhood moments.
Limitations? Yes, other than the smaller-than-APSC performance envelope mentioned above, there are some things that limit one a bit. You do get some DoF control, but not as much as you do with a larger sensor. Bokeh is usually quite good, but some light sources are rendered as a hard-edged ball with a distinct center bullseye; not so pretty. The JPG engine is heavily biased towards noise reduction, and even with it at -2 (which I leave it at, all the time!), it's too heavy. Color depth and richness is good-to-excellent at base ISO, but never reaches the drown-yourself-in-richness of the X-Pro, and suffers quite a bit as ISO rises. In some light you just won't get the color flexibility of the larger camera. High ISO capability is good, and coupled with excellent image stabilization you can shoot in almost any light, but I won't use >ISO 800, to be honest. Things just get too smudgy up there, and color accuracy and richness becomes iffy in some light around ISO 800 and goes downhill fast after that (although nothing like the Sigma Merrill cameras, which take the cake for worst high ISO performance of any camera!). Battery life isn't great; this is the same battery as used in the Pentax Q, and it gives about as many shots as it's mouse-sized impression would lend you to believe (around 200). You may need more batteries. I'm thrilled with the parallax correcting ability of the focus point in the viewfinder overlay, but it takes some study to master, and since I haven't mastered it yet I still miss OVF shots on occasion.
Quick comparison with the Sony RX100: I owned a Sony RX100 for some months, and although I was (and remain) astonished at the pure image quality that the RX100 can deliver in good light, I ended up cooling to the camera over time. Firstly, it feels like a computer, not a camera. The X20 is obviously built by folks that know photography as an art form, and not a spec sheet. The RX100 feels like a tech toy. Is this a problem? It can be; if the tool doesn't "disappear" in your hand, your art will suffer. Some won't care, and that's ok, although the X20 produces stunning files at low ISO, the RX100 will be a bit "better" from a sharpness and detail perspective, at least (color is another matter). Secondly, the RX100 requires one to use an external RAW editor to get the best out of the camera. As a family/travel camera, I don't want to sit behind a computer and edit RAWs for hours on end; the X20 gives you excellent RAW processing right inside the box. Thirdly, the RX100 wasn't durable for me. Mine broke just carrying it in my pocket. Sony fixed it fast, but I lost faith in the camera as a pocket camera. Time will tell with the X20, but it certainly "feels" better built than the RX100.
All in all, I am really enjoying the flexibility that it gives--it's like a tiny X-Pro 1 with 28, 35, 50, 85, and 105mm lenses all in one… Dial up your preferred focal length, look through the bright real-image OVF, and shoot like a tiny rangefinder. What fun! There are limitations, briefly touched on above, but I encourage you to try the X20 before dismissing it as the "inferior little brother" of the X camera line..! I now see why all those tourists carried the X20's predecessor--although it won't have quite the performance envelope of the bigger-sensor cameras, you gain flexibility and a really carefree attitude towards shooting that seems to fit a vacation. No one is paying me to shoot my own travel, in the end. And I did find myself wishing I had the XF zoom for my X-Pro on occasion. So why not an X20?
on November 23, 2013
Professional Features of Fuji X20
I ordered a Fuji X20 to play around with. I have only used professional and prosumer cameras and an iPhone and this is my first point and shoot. Fuji combined a classic film based rangefinder and and a point and shoot and came up with some serious retro camera candy. A point and shoot is a camera that does not have removable lenses and is usually used for amateur photography. This is one miniature Nikon-looking, gorgeous picture-taking, perfectly-designed little point and shoot camera.
It's silent. It is all electronic, nothing moves when you take a picture. When you turn the "shutter taking" sound effect off, it is a truly silent camera. When you leave the effect on, it's a very slight "whisp", not click-y at all, reminiscent of a leaf shutter. It also means you can hand hold it at slow shutter speeds.
It's the size of an iPhone. It's thicker than an iPhone, but has very similar height and width. It is truly portable, easy to tuck away.
Fast focusing and no shutter lag. One of the main "features" of a point and shoot is that there used to be a delay between the time you pressed the button and the camera took the picture, that is known as shutter lag. The absolute quickness of this camera to take pictures makes it a professional choice.
Knobs, buttons, screens. All right where they should be.
Nice kit lens. The X20 built in lens is a 28-112, 2.0-2.8, that makes it a prime zoom. It is sharp at the edges of the image as well as the center area and at all lengths which make it a pro quality lens.
It has a Fn button. It's called a Function button. You can set that button to do almost anything you want, call up the ISO, whatever setting you want to change ASAP. Press the Fn button and you do it right away without submenus. On pro camera this can be set to almost any focus or meter or custom setting, very handy in fast moving situations.
12fps. To get twelve frames per second in a professional Nikon body you would have to buy a Nikon D4 for $4k and then its only 9fps. The electronic shutter helps no doubt.
Hot shoe. Very, very handy. It's sort of a rebel camera. (No pun intended) because it is so small and still looks like a classic rangefinder. This camera is essentially a wolf in sheep's clothing.
OVF. It has an optical viewfinder rather than an EVF or electronic viewfinder. This helps with shooting in low light. If a photography session were indoors and didn't use flash, that would be considered low light shooting.
Macro. It will focus as close as 1cm. While it may used for general photography most of the time, being able to come in that close means not having to carry specialized equipment or a separate camera.
Rubber grips. So you can hold it firmly and accurately with one hand to take pictures without it moving or slipping down. When you shoot candidly and quickly, you need a camera with a rubber (or leather) grip to easily position and hold the camera at different angles.
Focus point selection. The ability to move the focus point around the viewfinder. This feature shows how serious Fuji is about making great cameras. It is a feature you may not use very much but it is indispensable for shooting candids in which you may encounter any lighting or composition situation.
I purchased the previous version of the Fuji X20, the X10, a year ago. I was so disappointed with it that I returned it. Perhaps it was because of the version 1.0 firmware or that I bought a defective unit but the performance, especially the image quality, was very poor, like many other P&Ss. The focusing was sluggish, the pictures were soft, the color was flat and inconsistent, and the visual defects such as chromatic aberrations and the infrequent but dreaded white orbs added to my dissatisfaction. It was a real mess.
However, like many others, I was in awe of its retro design. So, with the new X20 I took another stab at ownership with hopes that these aforementioned problems have been fixed. Fuji said they made more than 50 changes.
Here are the highlights of Fuji X20 changes over the previous model:
* 12MP 2/3″-type X-Trans CMOS sensor => compared to the old EXR sensor, megapixels and size remain unchanged
* On-chip phase detection autofocus, in addition to the contrast detection
=> digital compact cameras usually have only the much slower contrast detect autofocus
* `Advanced Optical Viewfinder' with electronic information overlay
=> the old Fuji X10 has an optical viewfinder with absolutely no information superimposed
* Full HD 1080/60fps movie recording (36Mbps bitrate)
=> for a digital compact camera the bitrate is very good, which should translate into high quality videos with very little artifacts
* Focus peaking display for manual focus
=> give me a super fast autofocus any day, but for those who like to manual focus, this should make things a bit easier
* Faster EXR Processor => faster response time, lower noise level, 12fps continuous shooting vs. the old 7fps.
Fujifilm X20 key features
* 12MP 2/3"-type X-Trans CMOS sensor
* On-chip phase detection autofocus
* EXR Processor II
* 'Advanced Optical Viewfinder' with exposure information overlay
* 28-112mm equivalent, F2.0-2.8 lens with optical image stabilization
* Manual zoom ring and lens retraction mechanism
* Full manual control, RAW format recording
* 2.8" 460k dot LCD
* Full HD 1080/60fps movie recording (36Mbps bitrate)
* Built-in stereo microphones, optional MIC-ST1 external microphone
* Film simulation modes for different color and monochrome 'looks'
* In-camera RAW conversion with all processing parameters adjustable
* 'Advanced Filters' image-processing controls, previewed live on-screen
* Focus peaking display for manual focus using the rear LCD
* Lens Modulation Optimiser for compensation of aberrations
So, what's the verdict? Wow! What a difference a year makes.
First of all, say goodbye to the white orb issue of the first batch of X10s! Since it's a new sensor, no white orbs. I haven't tried in all conditions but so far, no white orbs in my test shots.
But most noticeable improvements are the focusing and image quality. The focus speed is now the same as some of those Olympus M4/3 cameras such as E-PL5. It's really is very snappy and responsive.
The images are top of the class for small sensor cameras. No, you're not going to get the same level of detail and resolution as the larger sensor cameras, no matter what the advertisements seem to suggest. No more than you can get a Honda to drive like a Ferrari. That means you can't really use this as your ONLY camera if you want the best images for your shots. But it fits the bill perfectly for casual photographers looking for a small, carry around snap camera. The pictures are sharp. Color is fantastic, just like the old Fuji film.
The new quick menu is a nice feature. It would be even better if the camera had a touch screen so that you don't actually have to scroll around the quick menu. Perhaps that's a feature they will incorporate into the X30? The quick menu displays all of the most used settings for photo taking on a single page and you can move to each setting individually and use either scroll wheels to change the setting.
The viewfinder is a real lifesaver in bright sunlight. The LCD is almost useless in the sun but the clear OVF with information overlay is definitely helpful (I was just made aware that if you press and hold the Quick Menu button for 2 seconds it will activate the bright setting so that you can see the screen better in the sunlight, hold it for 2 seconds to turn it back off to conserve battery). Although, when in the bright sun it's sometimes difficult to see the information displayed in the viewfinder as it's in a dark gray font. I wish it were a different color to make it stand out more. Perhaps the next firmware update will address this? In dim situations, it's green so it's very readable. The optical viewfinder is somewhat intelligent in that it will focus box around objects not in the center of the screen. This is readily apparent when you're using the multi-focusing mode. When you're using focus tracking mode, the you can only use the LCD as the optical viewfinder won't turn on. That makes sense as you need to first pick a subject to track and it's easier to do that with the LCD.
One other nice feature of the new camera kit is not actually part of the camera. It's the battery charger. It's small, about the same width as the equally small battery, and great to travel with.
What's still a big disappointment is the fact that there's no RAW support for Apple's Aperture or iPhoto for the X10 since it has been out for over a year now. That means that don't expect support for the X20 anytime soon. I'm not sure if the problem is with Fuji or Apple's end but both of them need to get it together. In the meantime, if you want to use RAW on a Mac you'll have to stick with Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop or Finepix/Silkypix, or what I like to call Crappix.
Is it worthwhile for those who own the X10 to upgrade? It depends on whether or not you think the faster response time of the camera, focus, as well as better sensor are important enough. I would only upgrade if I were able to sell the old X10 to recoup some of the expense. Otherwise, wait for the X30.
I've been playing around with the Power Management function. This allow you to chose between Power Save and High Performance modes. Power Save is what I've been using as my default but I have switched it to High Performance to test. Power Save will keep the LCD relatively low while the High Performance will keep the LCD bright as well as boost focusing speeds. It IS slightly faster focusing on High Performance mode. I would say about 25% -30% faster.
One drawback is when you're trying to do quick successive focus on a moving object or trying to focus multiple times on different objects quickly, there is quite a bit of screen lag as you pan. It's quite noticeable.
I also noticed that the camera has a difficult time focusing on objects with essentially uniform color of black or beige and a smooth surface, or even just a cloudless clear blue sky. I'm sure this is not just this camera but a weakness of other phase/contrast focusing cameras as well. Although I hope Fuji continues to improve on this and the screen lag with future firmware updates.
It looks like Apple and Fuji listened and a new RAW Update 4.05 for Macs now has been posted that brings Fuji X20, X100S, X-E1 and X-Pro1 RAW compatibility. Yes!
on July 23, 2013
I used to take lots of pics with various SLRs, both film and digital over the last 20 years, but have gotten lazy about my hobby. After picking up the x20, it reminded me all the reason why I love capturing photos. My SLR and my collection of lenses has taken a toll on my hobby over the years. The weight and complexity of today's SLRs has led me to lose interest over the years. Having to consciously think about lugging my gear around is a pain. The x20 makes it possible for me to always be equipped with a quality camera and lens so I can capture moments that I never would have with my SLR.
I'm going to skip the pros/cons about the x20 because it's already been said over and over in these reviews and on the web. What I will say is that for me, the x20 isn't just like any digital camera I've picked up over the years. The x20 makes me want to make pictures. The results I've gotten are beautiful (see for yourself [...]
If what you're looking for is something that's going to make you want to create beautiful pictures without the hassle of an SLR but without sacrificing image quality, the x20 is for you.
on March 31, 2013
I was looking at the X10 and X100 but decided to wait on this model to come out. I don't own an X10 so I cannot compare the two. This is a great advanced compact and has all the features I was looking for....lots of dials make it easy to access control of certain functions, an incredible optical viewfinder that has a digital overlay that shows F-stop, aperature and shutter speed. It has manual focus peaking making it fun to focus. It has a wonderfully smooth manual zoom and, the whole camera is metal including the lens barrel....it exudes high quality craftsmanship! It's menu is expansive and deep giving one a plethora of shooting options...which can be learned using a well layed out paper manual. Take the time to read thru and learn these functions and it will suit you well in the field. Most importantly the photos are crisp and detailed with beautiful color saturation in each film mode. It is not DSLR quality close but, daylight pics are close enough and, the portability fun factor makes it a joy to use and, is the reason I got it...I will carry it because of those two factors. I shoot it in aperature priortiy with NR set to -1 and, I set the manual compensation dial to 1/4 over exposure since all smaller sensors tend to under expose most pics. Forgot to mention that the optical viewfinder automatically goes on when you put your eye up to view and, the LCD goes off automatically also and, vice versa. The Fuji colors in Provia, Velvia and, Astia are sublime when used for the right situations. Just the perfect high-end compact for me. The sensor is a 2/3 size making it larger than most all other compacts except the Sony RX100 and, Canon G1X (which really is not compact). The Sony is smaller with a larger sensor but, to me does not handle as well and, the IQ in daylight pics is not enough and, at the telephoto end is much slower at 4.9 compared to 2.8 for the Fuji. The Fuji is more of a tool compared to the Sony which is a great point and shoot. The Fuji also has an incredible macro focus down to 1cm and, is very sharp there. The telephoto for my taste is perfect at 28-112 since I shoot mostly between 28-90. If you want a high-end compact that you can manipulate to your liking then look no futher!
on May 6, 2013
Fujifilm has done it again! X10 was a remarkable powerful camera with quality and functionality that are many times absent from intro to intermediate level DSLR. In my personal testing X10 was better performer than Sony's RX100, Canon's S100 and G15. But that was just X10. So, when Fujifilm came out with an upgrade of X10 as X20, honestly, I got a little skeptical because sometimes an upgrade will ruin the original. So, I waited a little until I saw some sample images at some popular review sites. So finally, when X20 became available for shipment, I had to order it to try it out. Boy, was I surprised at the image quality and performance! X20 is not an upgrade to an already great camera X10 but an amazing high quality camera of its own class and distinction. Pictures are crystal clear with so much details. Focusing much faster than any other point and shoot I ever used. Works fantastically well in low light. Most cameras have lot of trouble taking decent shots in low light or indoors. But X20 is a champion of low light and the indoors. The macro and the super macro works flawlessly and the super macro magnifies tiny stuff quite a bit with awesome clarity. Bokeh in the zoomed wide aperture shots are also super sooth and looks great. Needless to say this is an awesome camera and I am deeply in love with it. If you are in doubt don't be. Get one and see it for yourself. I am sure you will fall in love as soon as you get it.