Review Fujifilm X20

BOTTOM LINE: Still one of the best, if not the best, compact camera available today, with great looks, build and image quality.

Fuji X20 silver black

Fujifilm X20 – Vital Stats
Sensor: 12MP 2/3inch CMOS
Lens: 28-112mm (equivalent) f 2.0-2.8
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC
Construction: Magnesium alloy
Weather-sealed: No
Category: Rangefinder Compact

Price in South Africa: R6 900

(This review was published in the August 2013 issue of PhotoComment Magazine. Get the PhotoComment Magazine app for Apple or Android phones and tablets.)

Review

The Fujifilm X20 is the second generation pro level compact camera from Fuji following on from the (already great) X10. With the X10 being as good as it is, we wondered how the company could improve the recipe. And looking at the new model, it’s clear that not a whole lot has changed. Cosmetically, the cameras look identical. Even the specifications don’t seem all that different. But recently, Fuji has shown that they know how to make small but significant changes.

For those who’ve never held an X10 in their hands, the X20 shares the same all-magnesium alloy construction with beautiful retro styling. It’s a truly brilliantly made camera with no real competitor that can come close to its build quality in its price range. It feels solid and weighty for a small camera and would no doubt withstand high amounts of abuse, a rare trait in its class. Thankfully, it’s have kept the same lens as the X10 as well. It’s 4x zoom (28-112mm equivalent) lens is very bright, with an aperture of f2 at the wide end and 2.8 at the long end, further aiding in its quick focussing and great low-light capability, not to mention its high levels of sharpness. Uniquely for a camera of its type, it features an all-mechanical zoom lens operated by physically turning the zoom ring the same way one would operate a DSLR lens. It’s not an electronic zoom lens like most compact cameras and this is one of the small things that make the X20 so great to use. Zoom is as responsive as you want it to be, with no delay. Another benefit of a mechanical zoom lens is that it uses no battery power to operate and allows the battery to last longer.

Control layout is typical Fuji, with no radical changes. As is customary with the X series, the controls are reminiscent of an old film camera and are very easy to use. But because of the X20’s smaller size and limited space, it doesn’t quite have as many dials as its bigger brothers such as the X100, XE-1 and X-Pro1. The only top dials it features are the mode and the exposure compensation dial. Shutter speed is controlled by the rear command wheel surrounding the menu button and the aperture is controlled by the rear command dial next to the thumb rests.

The X20 has a built-in pop-up flash that can be released on command at the flip of a switch. While not very powerful, it does serves its purpose as an emergency resort but, thankfully, the X20 still has a hotshoe mount for external flashes for when more power and control are needed.

Fuji X20 flash

What’s new?

One of the most noticeable differences has to do with the viewfinder. Where the X10 had a regular optical rangefinder with no information overlay, the X20 has the shutter speed, aperture, mode and autofocus confirmation all displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder in green. If autofocus lock cannot be achieved, the display readout turns red. This is a big advantage because when using the X10 in silent mode while composing through the viewfinder, one would not know if autofocus has locked on with the autofocus confirmation beep disabled. That’s no longer an issue. A small criticism is that the display can be hard to read in bright light as the numbers often don’t stand out enough. As the X20 is a rangefinder camera, there’s a small amount of parallax error between what the viewfinder sees and what the lens records, but with practice, this becomes easy to correct for. As is customary for a rangefinder camera, the lens barrel is visible through the viewfinder when shooting at a wide angle. This effect lessens as you zoom in. If this bothers you, composing on the screen will cancel out the parallax error and have the lens barrel being visible while composing. In terms of accuracy, the viewfinder has about 85%coverage.

One of the most important changes is the improvement of its autofocus. In bright conditions, the autofocus is instant and accurate with barely any noticeable delay. It’s a huge improvement over the X10. But in low-light conditions, the autofocus can struggle to lock on to the subject. But overall, it’s still a great and necessary improvement over the X10.

The final major difference is in regards to the sensor. Fuji has been careful to not repeat the `White Orb’ phenomenon of the X10, where highlights would be rendered as white disks in high-contrast, low-light scenes. The new 12MP sensor is also noticeably sharper than the older sensor. High ISO quality is slightly improved over the X10, which was already a class leader at the time of its release. The improvement is more noticeable when shooting in RAW – which is an uncompressed file format – than in JPEG. As a result of the higher sharpness, grain has become slightly more apparent, but not so much that it’s of concern.
The X20 still shares many of the tell-tale characteristics of typical Fuji image quality, with great colour rendition and tonal range that’s reminiscent of film. One defining feature of all the X-series cameras is that they don’t have physical anti-aliasing filters, so pictures are sharper off the card than rival systems. Also, because the sensor layout is different, there are no Moiré patterns either.

Overall

The X20 is a little camera that packs a big punch and is hard to fault. It improves on the areas of the X10 that needed it most which means the Fujifilm X20 even closer to being an unbeatable, pro compact camera.

Verdict

Features: 5/5
Build: 5/5
Image Quality: 5/5
Value: 4/5

Overall: 5/5

Author Bio

Armani Quintas

Originally from Nelspruit, a photographer and camera salesman based in Johannesburg. Studied visual communication at The Open Window School of Visual Communication