Fujifilm X20 Review
Construction and Handling
The X20 is built around a sturdy magnesium alloy body clad with a soft and retro-style leatherette. The lens cap is made of metal and is the push-on type with felt inside as seen on Pentax-FA Limited lenses. The build quality and finish is excellent and inspire confidence.
We find the retro design very nice - it appears inspired by Leica's M-series but the X20 is of course much more compact as is made possible by its smaller sensor.
External Features and Buttons
All buttons and dials essential for shooting are on the top panel or on the back within easy reach of the left and right hand thumbs, but let's first take a look at the front.
On the front we find two openings for the stereo microphone (A), the AF assist lamp (B), the viewfinder window (C), and the focus mode (D) switch with three settings: single shot autofocus, continuous autofocus, and manual focus. Last, but not least, the 4x zoom lens with a zoom ring.
A good number of buttons have found space on the back and still left space for a 2.8 inch monitor. We prefer direct access buttons to having to go into menus for frequent settings so the X20 is right down our alley in this aspect.
The buttons and dials on the back have these functions:
- Pops up the flash
- Toggles between shooting mode and play back mode. If the camera is turned off (lens set to OFF) you can turn on play back mode by pressing this button for one second
- In shooting mode: Brings up a list of light meter patterns to select from (multi, center weight, spot). In image play back mode: Zooms in on the image
- In shooting mode: Select drive modes from a menu. The modes available depend on other settings (JPG vs. RAW, shooting mode (scene, PASM, etc.). In image play back mode: Zooms image back out
- Brings up the white balance options
- Main command dial, the primary function is to set aperture and/or shutter speed. The dial acts as a toggle when pushed and thus toggles between setting aperture and shutter speed in manual exposure mode - very convenient
- Autoexposure/autofocus lock. The exact function is customizable
- Secondary command dial. Used for selecting menu items and for manual focus
- Enters the main menu. Confirms selection
- Four way controller. Used to move autofocus area around, for menu navigation, and for quick access to macro modes, self timer, flash modes, and AF area selection
- Brings up the Quick-access screen from which various settings can be modified (details in the menu section)
- Selects the information to be shown on the screen. Within menus: Goes back one step
Since there is a manual zoom ring it would have been natural and preferable with a manual focusing ring as well (and it would have been in style with the retro design), but the lens barrel doesn't really have room for two rings.
To the very right we have the exposure control dial. It is quite stiff and you tend to shift too far if you have the camera in shooting position and try to operate the dial with your thumb only. But we like that exposure compensation has a dedicated dial.
Above the exposure compensation dial we find a button marked Fn. This button can be customized to call up the function you need the most. We had it set to activate ISO adjustment: press the Fn button and then use the main command dial to adjust.
The top panel also houses the shutter button, the exposure mode dial, and a hot shoe with contacts matching dedicated Fuji-brand flashes. Note that the shutter button has a thread that matches an old-school all-mechanical remote release! That's retro!
SD Card, Battery and Tripod Socket
The X20 takes all three types of SD cards: SD, SDHC and SDXC. We used a Transcend SDHC 32GB class 10 card during our tests. It is inexpensive and it worked flawlessly.
The battery and SD card are located behind a sturdy access door on the bottom of the camera. The battery cleverly has an orange colored stripe that must align with the orange battery release lever. This makes it easy to get the batty inserted the right way.
The tripod socket is placed off the optical axis opposite of the door so even with a tripod quick mount plate mounted you can get to battery and SD card. This is well thought-out. The tripod socket is made of metal so you run no risk of stripping the threads, another sign that this camera is designed to be used!
On the right hand side you'll find the USB and HDMI connectors behind a tiny door made of hard plastic that matches the camera body. Some care must be exercised when opening this door or it could break off its sliding hinge.
The optional stereo microphone connects via the USB port.
AC power from the optional AC power supply is connected by an optional adapter that takes the place of the battery.
Size, Grip and Strap
The X20 is compact, but not tiny like the Pentax Q. Here we show it next to a smartphone leaning against an FA 31mm Limited lens pouch. The Q could fit in the pouch, the X20 cannot!
The grip is nothing more than a bulge on the front paired with a small rubber grip on the back for the thumb. Initially you may fear that the camera will slip away from you, but you soon get used to it and then the grip feels just right.
In order to attach the strap you'll have to mount the supplied triangular strap clips yourself. Since the camera is so small and light we preferred to forgo the around-the-neck strap and just attach a wrist strap.
The X20 requires two-handed operation due to the zoom ring's position around the lens barrel. Your two hands tend to get in conflict with each other and it takes some practice finding the best positions for shooting vertically and horizontally, respectively.
The Fujifilm X20 has a nice, bright optical viewfinder with diopter adjustment. This is a big plus in strong light where it would otherwise be difficult to frame an image using the LCD monitor. The viewfinder covers about 85% of the frame. This is on the low side but you soon learn to frame a bit tighter in the viewfinder so that the image comes out about right.
At short focal lengths the lens barrel covers a corner of the viewfinder, which is somewhat bothersome at first. From about 40 mm to 112 mm (as labeled on the lens) the lens barrel is not visible.
Exposure and other information is shown in the viewfinder. The eye-sensor to the right of the eye piece turns the LCD monitor off when you use the viewfinder. See the Highlights and Specifications page for details on this hybrid viewfinder.
The LCD monitor is bright and it has a resolution of 460,000 pixels (half-VGA), which is low for a high end compact nowadays. We would have expected a VGA monitor (921,000 dots). The monitor doesn't tilt but it is viewable from an wide angle and we didn't miss the tilt function. The monitor shows just the right amount of information in a well-organized manner.
The monitor of the X20 has a new feature over the X10, namely a sun-light mode, which increases the brightness substantially and makes it possible to operate the menus and frame the image even in strong sun light. The image on the monitor gets somewhat washed out, but at least you can see enough for framing your shot. The exception is with strong backlight, where the monitor acts like a mirror and all you see your beautiful self. Not a big deal, though, since you can just switch to using the viewfinder!
The X20 features a 12 megapixel 2/3 inch X-Trans CMOS image sensor. The physical dimensions are not provided by Fuji but we figure that it is approximately 8.8 x 6.6 mm as is the norm for a 2/3 inch sensor. Refer the Specifications Page for details about the sensor.
The "crop factor" of the X20 is 3.94. In other words, a focal length of 10 mm on the X20 has the same field of view as about a 39 mm lens on a 24x36 mm (full-frame) camera. The sensor has an area that is about 6.5 times smaller that of an APS-C sized sensor like in a Pentax K-30/K-5, Ricoh GR or Fujifilm X100s.
Since the lens cannot be detached dust won't get on to the sensor and sensor cleaning is a non-issue.
The lens is a fast, 4x optical zoom lens. The focal length range is 7.1 to 28.4 mm, or, in "full frame" equivalent terms, 28 - 112 mm. The lens has a manual zoom ring around the lens barrel and it is actually marked in the full frame equivalent focal lengths. On most compact cameras you control the zoom from a toggle on the camera body and the zoom function is driven by a motor. This is usually sluggish so we really like the manual zoom ring on the X20. The lens is relatively fast at F2 (at 28 mm eqv.) to F2.8 (at 112 mm eqv.). The smallest aperture is F11 at all focal lengths.
When retracted the lens is very compact. When deployed it is at its shortest at 35 mm (eqv.) and at its longest at 112 mm (eqv.):
The lens has 11 optical elements including ED and aspherical elements. In super-macro mode the lens focuses as close as 1 cm from the subject.
The front element is almost flush with the front of the lens barrel and therefore quite exposed to finger prints and other mishaps. We'd have preferred that the lens would have been recessed somewhat even at the cost of less compactness. One of the optional lens hoods could be used for protection, of course, but it will interfere with the view through the viewfinder and is thus not an ideal solution.
Filters cannot be attached directly to the lens but standard 52 mm filters can be used with an adapter. Again, this setup would interfere with view through the viewfinder.
The X20 has lens shift shake reduction (OIS, Optical Image Stabilization). A group of five lens elements "floats" and compensates for minor movements of the camera. We found the system very effective, but remember to turn it off when using a tripod. When recording movies with the camera on a tripod we got some jitter which we attribute to the shake reduction not having been turned off.
The shutter is a combined mechanical leaf shutter and electronic shutter. It is rated from 1/4000 sec to 30 sec. Thanks to the electronic shutter the speeds are not restricted at large F-stops (such as F2) as is otherwise typical for a camera having just a mechanical leaf shutter.
In case of over exposure the shutter speed is shown in red as a warning. This warning is easily overlooked and the camera doesn't prevent you from taking overexposed images. So in bright light you want to be especially alert so that you don't bring home duds.
The available shutter speed range is limited in some of the automatic exposure and scene modes, but since the camera in those modes sets shutter speed and aperture for you, it will not result in exposure errors and thus is of little concern:
- Night mode: 1/4s to 1/1000s
- Night mode on tripod: 3s - 1/1000s
- Fireworks: 4s - 1/2s
- P, Auto, Adv, Scene modes other than the above three: Slowest speed is 1/4s, fastest speed is 1/1000s to 1/4000s depending on the aperture
The X20 has a built-in flash as well as a hot shoe compatible with Fujifilm's line of flashes. Luckily, the built-in flash doesn't pop up automatically. The flash is raised by a sliding switch on the back.
The built-in flash sits very close to the optical axis of the lens which makes the red-eye effect more pronounced.
Verdict on Construction and Handling
The Fujifilm X20 is well thought out and of sturdy construction for a small camera. We especially like the many buttons and dials, which means that most settings can be done on the fly without going into the menus.
The hybrid optical viewfinder is a big plus and it is of high optical quality. We only wish that it would have covered more of the frame. 85% coverage is on the low side.
We like that the flash stays put and don't automatically extend and fire when you least expected it.
We're not happy about the coupling between shutter speeds and aperture - we would have liked to have 1/2000s and 1/4000s available at all apertures. As it is now it is not possible to use large apertures to control depth of field even in normal daylight since it calls for a faster shutter speed than is available at large apertures.
We like the manual zoom control which makes it possible to frame accurately. On the down side, due to the zoom ring being placed on the lens barrel, the X20 requires two handed operation and the camera is really too small for that in particular when having to avoid covering the viewfinder. When using the viewfinder we found that the best way to hold the camera is in the palm of your left hand with your thumb and index finger on the zoom ring. Place your right hand against the left side of the camera and against your left hand. It's not ideal, though, a slightly bigger camera body would have helped. The other way round - holding the camera with the right hand and trying to find space for the left hand doesn't work well. With all that said, all buttons and dials are within easy reach.