The Fujifilm X10 always intrigued me with its diminutive retro chic. I had toyed with the idea of getting one for a while and when the price dropped towards the release of the X20 it was very tempting. However, I already had the X-Pro1 and X100, and the image quality from those was so stunning that I found it hard to shoot with anything else. When Fujifilm announced the X20 with the X-Trans sensor I had to give one a go. Fujifilm UK was kind enough to loan me one for a long-term test.
I’ve had the camera for around 6 weeks now and used it in a lot of different situations. I’ve included a lot of photos in this write-up so you can see for yourself how it performs – much better that I show you and can you look with your own eyes than me try to tell you! Click on any of the images to see larger versions.
I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of using every feature on the camera, I can’t go through everything in just 2500 words! This is more about using it day to day in a normal real-world way as you are probably likely to, family days, a bit of creative stuff, landscapes, macro etc. The sort of thing that I think most people would buy this camera to do.
Anyone who has an X10 will find it hard to see the difference between the X20 and their existing camera. The updates for the X20, much like the X100S, are largely on the inside. The X10 was already very good. Fuji didn’t need to fiddle with it too much, but these updates combine to make a more usable, better performing all round camera. The X20 is now available in silver as well as the all-black version.
The X20 has a new 2/3rd inch X-Trans CMOS II sensor with the anti-ailiasing filter removed – the same design that is found in its larger siblings, the X-Pro1 and X-E1. This gives better resolution and improved image quality over the X10. It also helps produce better images at higher ISO values. The EXR II image processing engine has been updated and includes a faster processor giving all round better performance.
The AF is now a hybrid design, with on-sensor phase detection which switches automatically between phase and contrast detection depending on the circumstances. Contrast detection is more accurate than phase detection and tends to perform better in low light situations.
The viewfinder has a head-up-display type information in the viewfinder, much like you have in a dSLR, which is not only incredibly useful, but great for saving battery life as you don’t have to use the rear screen to check your settings. The viewfinder zooms with the lens and gives an approximate 85% coverage. This page on the Fuji website into more detail about the OVF if you want to know more.
Startup time is reduced to 0.5 seconds in stand-by mode (which it automatically goes into after you close the lens, and stays in for a set period of time), and 0.8 seconds from fully off.
What can you shoot with it?
Probably almost anything you want as an every-day camera! It’s great for family days out where it won’t get in the way of the fun.
Macro / Close-up?
This is my favourite use for the X20. It absolutely excels at close-range shooting. The lens and sensor obviously work particularly well together in this way to produce some stunning images with fabulous detail. If you’re into shooting close up macro images then the X20 has got to be a serious contender. You just have to click on some of these to see them in higher resolution!
FUJIFILM X20 (7.1mm, f/2.8, 1/420 sec, ISO100)
FUJIFILM X20 (25.6mm, f/4, 1/800 sec, ISO200)
Foodies who like to take photos of their meal will love this camera!
Some other close up stuff!
Well, if you really want to!
Note that the grain in these images is added in post.
Some fun filters!
Whether you agree with them or not, in-camera filters are here to stay!
The X20 has its own selection. They aren’t probably something I’d choose to use in-camera on a regular basis, but they can be fun to play with!
Miniature – use it to create a small town effect, or have some fun doing some odd fun shallow depth of field shots..
Carried over from the X-Pro1 and X100 is the multiple exposure mode. This allows you to shoot two images over the same frame, something photographers used to do in the film days by simply not winding the film to the next frame between shots. If you’re particularly creative you can make some nice effects. It works well with the first image showing through as a transparent layer, making it much easier to do than in film days!
What do I like about the X20?
Size. It’s a great size to carry around and very in-obtrusive on the street. If you’re a street photographer wanting a small discrete camera, this could very well be the one for you. Although with the lens sticking out up front means it isn’t pocketable in a pair of trousers, but I was able to carry it comfortably in a jacket pocket – even with a 3rd party hood attached.
Large sensor. The larger sensor really does allow you to get a shallower depth of field and isolate subjects rather than having the entire frame sharply in focus. This makes your photographs stand out from the typical point-and-shoot and will add a new dimension to your images. Use it creatively to come up with some great professional looking shots.
The lens. Wide aperture at f/2.0 at the wide-angle end and still staying wide at f/2.8 at the long end – there is no other compact on the market that has such a wide open lens throughout the range. Some of them start wide, but as you zoom in they get smaller very quickly, often ending up at f/5.6 or worse at the long end. The lens has a good zoom range, going from a wide 28mm to a nice 112mm.
The lens retracts more into the body when you turn it to the off position.
The zoom function is totally manual. It’s absolutely great for photographers as you can get it exactly where you want quickly rather than wait for the power zoom to move through the range, and you don’t have to predict where it might stop! The only problem is for videographers who prefer a power zoom as manually zooming can difficult to do smoothly.
Lens at the full wide-angle
Lens at full zoom.
Fast AF. Anyone who is used to the X-Pro1 will love how quick the AF is on this camera! I’m sure it even beats the X100S in most situations. It just makes taking photos quick and easy, which is exactly what you want in a camera like this. Even in relatively dim conditions, the AF is quite snappy and accurate. In over 2000 images taken on the Vietnam trip I wrote about, only about 10 were totally out of focus and 50 or so were slightly out of focus, and to be honest the majority appeared to be operator error (putting the AF point in the wrong place) rather than a problem with the camera.
The X20 has face-detection AF, which is something I personally always like to see in a camera, I hope they will bring it to the professional range in the next update. The face-detection routine isn’t perfect as it does seem to see faces that aren’t there sometimes! It’s great for tracking kids as they move across the frame though instead of making you focus and recompose on a moving subject.
To assist in manual focussing if you use it, the X20 includes focus peaking to highlight edges that are in focus. I’d like to see different options of colours as the white can sometimes be hard to see in certain circumstances. Although in general use I do actually prefer white, Sony offer red and yellow options, which do help out at times.
I love the little rubber thumb grip – the X100 really needs one of those! It suits exactly how I hold my camera in one hand whilst walking around and gives just that extra bit of confidence that you’re not going to drop it.
Hot shoe. A lot of the smaller premium camera don’t include a hot shoe – the Sony RX100 for example. This not only allows you to attach a much better flash than the built-in one, but accessories such as microphones and maybe even a video light if you want to use it for video.
Built in flash – I’m not a huge fan of on-camera flash, but Fuji seem to have worked out a way of making it work very well without giving the deer in the headlights look you so often get.
Film Simulation Modes – I love the Fujifilm film simulation modes on my other X-Series cameras, and it’s great to see them on the X20 too. Astia is my all-round favourite, and is particularly good for portraits giving nice smooth skin tones.
High ISO performance. Under certain conditions there is a tendency for images to go a little mushy over around ISO 1250, but in the whole, the X20 produces useable images up to ISO1600. The image below was taken in Astia at ISO 1600, it is a JPEG from the camera with NR set to O and has had no noise reduction applied to it beyond that. I even had to double check that when I saw it to be sure Lightroom wasn’t lying! ISO 1600 might not sound high to professionals these days using pro cameras, but from a compact it is very impressive.
The colours! This is Fuji’s forte, and the X20 doesn’t disappoint in this respect. Colours straight out of the camera’s JPEG files are superb.
FUJIFILM X20 (8.9mm, f/4, 1/750 sec, ISO200)
The X20 has surprisingly good dynamic range, and even JPEGs have some room for latitude in post processing. The image below had a totally white sky, looking like it was totally blown out. It was shot in JPEG only and I thought it was lost, but I was able to pull a surprising amount of detail out of the highlights in the sky.
The same can’t be said for shadows though, so you are best to over-expose than under-expose with the X20 if you plan on editing the image afterwards. Details can easily be lost in the dark shadows and little can be recovered in the JPEGs if you under-expose.
If you’re into documentary style shoots the X20 will give you all you need. Quick and discrete to not disturb your subject and flexible enough to get the shot you want.
The X20 has several panorama modes. To be honest I couldn’t figure it out at first, but once you get to know how it works it’s kind of obvious, just not immediately so. Firstly you have to select the Adv. mode (Advanced) on the mode dial on the top, then you have to go into the menu to choose the Panorama option of the Adv. mode, then once you’ve done that you have to choose which type of panorama (120 degree, 180 degrees and two 360 degree options) from there, then you can go and shoot it! I’m not sure why it isn’t a simple option like in the other X-Series cameras! You can do 360 degree pano’s with the X20, but to be honest I’ve never wanted to do one of those and they always look a bit weird on a 2D screen – we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads no matter how many times we tell our kids we do! See what I mean below?! There aren’t many scenes that would really work well in 360 degrees.
The X20 does do video, and it does it rather well, the only problem is the lack of control and lack of options surrounding the video functions on the X20. Fuji don’t really push their cameras as being ones that are for serious video enthusiasts, but a few more options would have been nice!
The quality of the video is excellent. I’ve put together some random clips I took yesterday on it as you can see below in the video I posted to YouTube. This has been downsized to 720 just to allow me to upload it more easily.
What don’t I like?
The AF button on the top of the wheel is a little too easy to press with your thumb as you carry it around – I have the same problem with the X100S. The X20 isn’t as bad as the X100S though because of the thumb grip.
This isn’t so much of a not like, but I would have liked to see an intervalometer to allow for time-lapse.
Video modes are a little odd with the only choice in HD being 60fps, and then only allowing you to shoot in 30fps once you reduce the quality to standard definition. Bit of an odd choice that, but not atypical of Fuji to be a bit quirky!
On the fence…
I can’t decide if I like or dislike the zoom ring on/off function. I mean, it’s a really nice idea and if I was using the camera all the time I’d probably get used to it, but I still wonder where I turn if on and off when I first pick it up! I keep looking for the switch around the shutter button like my other Fujis! It is nowhere near as easy to knock off accidentally when zooming out as the XF1 was. There is a definite hard stop position on the zoom before you have to push it past to turn it off, so in that respect it works well.
Do I buy the new X20 or the old X100?
They are both around the same price so it’s a valid question. If you want something really special… for me it’s got to be the X100. But the X100 is really a different type of camera. You have to learn to live with its limitations and spend time mastering it to get the best out of it. The X20 is a fantastic all-rounder that you could use anywhere and everywhere, will frustrate you a hell of a lot less than an X100 and makes for a great travel camera allowing you the flexibility to zoom.
It won’t stand up in terms of pure image quality to an X100 though if that is what you are after. As a quick side-by-side, here is a very quick 1:1 view comparison of the same scene shot with both cameras. The X100 clearly leads in terms of resolution and definition – as I hope you would expect it to! X20 on the left set to 35mm equivalent focal length of the X100, on the right.
The X20 is the perfect ‘family day out’ camera for someone wanting great quality images. You won’t notice carrying it around and it will shoot pretty much anything you throw at it without getting in the way. The family won’t get frustrated with you as you fight with the camera to get the shot you want – in that sense it truly is a point-and-shoot as it pretty much does exactly that!
This is much more than a regular point and shoot camera though, will full manual controls for those of us wanting a little bit extra from our camera the X20 would make a good step-up camera from someone wanting more advanced control and better image quality than they are used to from an existing point-and-shoot, or perhaps as a second camera for an existing dSLR user who still wants to have good image quality but without the bulk of their dSLR.
For me the X20 is just a little overpriced. I know it is a premium compact, but I find the £500 price tag a little hard to swallow. I’ve noticed the price starting to drop a little, and once it hits the £400-£420 range I think that will spark a lot more interest in this fabulous little camera and it will represent very good value at that.