Fujifilm X20 Review
The Fujifilm X20 is responsive enough for general shooting in good light and the camera is ready to snap the next image while writing the previous image(s) to the card as long as there is space remaining in the buffer. The buffer is quite small, though, and in continuous shooting mode fills up quickly.
If you get into situations where the image needs processing the responsiveness takes a nose dive and there are some cases of this that one might not expect:
- Shutter speeds below 1/4 s: Noise reduction sets in and the camera locks up until the image is processed, which takes upwards of two seconds as a minimum. Noise reduction cannot be turned off
- Best frame mode: It takes upwards of 10 seconds before the camera is ready again at the default settings. This mode can best be characterized as a useless gimmick
- Film simulation bracketing: Each shot is processed three times which will take about one second
Other situations where we experienced a delay:
- Burst in RAW at 9 fps: The buffer is full after 8 shots and we're looking at a 12 seconds delay before the buffer is flushed and the images can be played back
- Exposure bracketing while shooting RAW or RAW+. The camera locks up for about 2.5 seconds until the three files have been stored. There is no performance lag when shooting singe RAW files.
The above illustrates that the X20 is no speed demon - this is not the camera to bring to a sports event. But it performs more than adequately in most "normal" situations as long as you stay away from the various gimmicky modes that require more processing than your patience can handle.
Start-up time from being turned off with the zoom ring is fairly long, about 1.5 seconds. Worse, it takes about the same time to wake the X20 after a period of inactivity has sent it into sleep mode.
That's fairly long time and you may miss your shot.
There is a cure, though, called Quick Start mode, which reduces the wake-up time to well under half a second. That mode increases the drain on the battery, though, and we didn't use it. Interestingly enough, Quick Start mode also reduces the start-up time from when the camera has been turned off with the zoom ring! After 20 minutes of inactivity the Quick Start mode disengages so as to not drain the battery during storage.
The included rechargeable lithium-ion battery is rated at respectable 1000mAh. We nevertheless found the battery life on the short side. It is rated to give 270 shots on a charge, but we got between half and a third of that. Granted, when you test a camera you tend to check your settings and results a lot, but still, we had expected a better performance from a 1000mAh battery. We recommend that you purchase one or two spare batteries so that you can keep going for a full day's worth of shooting.
There is a Power Saving mode that saves power by reducing the refresh rate of the LCD monitor and dimming the monitor when the camera isn't being operated. This mode allegedly also reduces AF performance, but that wasn't noticeable. We didn't use this mode much, though - shooting in the bright sun in Arizona calls for a bright LCD monitor!
A couple of other things to do to save power:
- Forego Quick Start mode
- Forego shake reduction setting "1" and stick to setting "2", where the shake reduction mechanism remains off until the shutter is half-pressed
- Use the view finder and keep the monitor turned off. This is a quite convenient mode since the monitor comes back on as soon as you hit a button that requires interaction via the monitor. The monitor turns off again as soon as you're done with the settings
We accidentally left the camera turned on overnight with Quick Start mode enabled. That drained the battery that had only about 60 shots on it. This is disappointing - perhaps the above mentioned automatic turning off of Quick Start mode after 20 minutes doesn't work. We have often left a Pentax DSLR turned on over night with no apparent drain on the battery.
Verdict on General Performance
The camera is responsive when shooting single images above 1/4 s shutter speed. At slow shutter speeds, or when bracketing RAW files, the performance becomes slow. Modes that require a lot of processing like film simulation bracketing or best frame capture the performance becomes painfully slow.
Wake-up after sleep mode is too slow, one easily will miss a shot. The cure is to enable Quick Start mode, but that shortens battery life and the battery life is already short. We got nowhere near the 270 captures that the specs claim are possible.