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Fujifilm X20 12 MP Digital Camera with 2.8-Inch LCD (Black)
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- 12MP 2/3-inch CMOS sensor
- 28-112mm equivalent F2.0-2.8 lens with manual zoom (4x optical zoom)
- ISO 100-3200 (expandable to 12800)
- 2.8" LCD with 460,000 dots
- 1080, 60 fps HD video
- Advanced optical viewfinder with 85% coverage with shooting information and eye sensor
- PSAM control with automatic and scene modes
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Fujifilm's X20 features a large 2/3" 12MP X-Trans CMOS II Sensor. It inherits the same architecture and features of the high performance sensor found in the acclaimed FUJIFILM X-Pro1 flagship model. BSI (backside illumination) technology enables the successful incorporation of phase detection pixels into the array without affecting sensitivity performance- the key to X20 Feet high-speed AF. X-Trans CMOS II adopts an original color filter array with a highly random pattern, eliminating the need for an optical low-pass filter (OLPF), which is used in conventional systems to inhibit moiré at the expense of resolution. You'll also be able to enjoy high-speed continuous photography and Full HD movie shooting. The lens features superb F2.0-2.8 brightness and a 4x optical zoom that promises high-resolution optical performance across the entire range from 28-112mm. With a maximum aperture of F2.0-2.8 this zoom is an extremely bright lens that can produce beautiful defocused effects across the zoom range. The built-in OIS mechanism delivers a stabilizing effect equivalent to 4 stops and is extremely effective in preventing blurring caused by camera shake or subject movement. The optical zoom viewfinder includes 2 a spherical lenses, 2 glass prisms and other high performance optical elements, and delivers 85% coverage and a 20 Degree horizontal apparent field of view with amazing optical clarity. The newly developed Digital Trans Panel, an ultra-thin LCD panel, not only maintains the brightness of the optical viewfinder, but also provides a clear display of the focus area, shutter speed and other shooting information so you can compose your shot without taking your eye from the viewfinder. It automatically switches the color of information in the shooting frame according to the scene and shooting conditions. Normally displayed in black, shooting information is automatically displayed by green LEDs for enhanced visibility in especially dark scenes.
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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.
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
Focusing is fast and accurate. Overall operating speed is very good. This is literally the best point and shot I've ever used (I've had the Panasonic LX-3/L-X5, Nikon P7000 and other premium point and shoot cameras and the image quality from this X20 is definitely a few steps avbove any point and shoot I've used.