Fujifilm X20 Review

At first glance, the X20 looks just like its predecessor the X10, although it's now available in a very pretty silver-and-black finish, alongside the conventional all-black. But inside it offers a couple of very significant differences. The first is a brand-new sensor, a 2/3" type 'X-Trans CMOS' design that uses the same novel colour filter array as Fujifilm's recent APS-C cameras. Second is an updated 'Advanced Optical Viewfinder' that includes a detailed information overlay, showing key exposure data and compositional gridlines. This isn't the same as the hybrid viewfinder found in the company's X100/X100S and X-Pro1 models - there's no electronic viewfinder - but it's never been done before on a digital zoom compact.

Aside from this, the X20 retains most of the same features that made the X10 an extremely appealing little camera. It uses the same fast zoom lens, with a 28-112mm equivalent angle of view and F2-2.8 maximum aperture, which is operated by a mechanically-coupled zoom ring that also retracts the lens and turns the camera off. It has plenty of external controls, including an exposure compensation dial and two rear dials, and a hot shoe for external flash. One feature notable by its absence is a direct movie record button - this is a camera primarily designed for stills photography.
Fujifilm X20 key features

  •     12MP 2/3"-type X-Trans CMOS sensor
  •     On-chip phase detection autofocus
  •     EXR Processor II
  •     'Advanced Optical Viewfinder' with exposure information overlay
  •     28-112mm equivalent, F2.0-2.8 lens with optical image stabilization
  •     Manual zoom ring and lens retraction mechanism
  •     Full manual control, RAW format recording
  •     3" 460k dot LCD
  •     Full HD 1080/60fps movie recording (36Mbps bitrate)
  •     Built-in stereo microphones, optional MIC-ST1 external microphone
  •     Film simulation modes for different colour and monochrome 'looks'
  •     In-camera RAW conversion with all processing parameters adjustable
  •     'Advanced Filters' image-processing controls, previewed live on-screen
  •     Focus peaking display for manual focus using the rear LCD
  •     Lens Modulation Optimiser for compensation of aberrations

Fujifilm X-Trans CMOS sensor

The X20 uses an all-new sensor, which like the X10's is of the 2/3" type (~8.8 x 6.6mm), and therefore larger than those used in most of its competitors (see diagram below). But instead of its predecessor's EXR design, it gets Fujifilm's latest 'X-Trans' colour filter array, as used in the company's X-Pro1 and X-E1 mirrorless models and the X100S fixed-lens APS-C compact. This doesn't use an optical low-pass filter, and according to Fujifilm should give higher resolution than conventional Bayer-type 12MP sensors. The sensor is also of the 'backside illuminated' type, which places the photodetectors on the opposite side of the chip from their associated circuitry. This promises better light-gathering capability, which should mean improved noise performance.

The second addition to the sensor design is an on-chip phase detection system for faster autofocus. Indeed Fujifilm is promising AF speeds faster than 0.2 sec under all conditions, a significant improvement over the X10. If this is realised in practice it'll make the X20 one of the fastest compacts around. The portents are good too, as the F300EXR which previously used this technology was very quick indeed, and the BSI design means the phase detection pixels gather as much light as possible.

The switch to the X-Trans CMOS sensor addresses one of the X10's most obvious weaknesses - it simply can't resolve quite as much detail as its competitors with conventional sensors. But it also loses one of its strengths, the excellent 6MP 'DR' shooting mode that offers vastly better highlight rendition than other compact cameras in difficult lighting conditions. However the X20 will still offer more-conventional DR expansion settings at 12MP resolution, which should help make up for this.
Sensor sizes compared

The diagram below compares the size of the X20's 2/3" sensor to those in its nearest competitors - in general larger sensors potentially offer better image quality. The X20's sensor is half the size of that found in the (more expensive) Sony RX100, but it's about half as large again as the Canon G15's.

Body & Design

The X20 uses exactly the same basic body design as the X10, with all the same buttons and dials in all the same places. Indeed there's barely a space on the camera aside from the handgrip that doesn't have a control of some sort. Its standout feature is its mechanically-coupled zoom ring, as opposed to the electrically operated zooms found in all its competitors. This offers a directness of compositional control than many photographers really appreciate (although it's not quite so great if you like to zoom the lens during movie recording).

Look a little more closely and there are a few detail changes compared to the X10, mainly to take advantage of the optical viewfinder's increased utility. So there's an eye sensor beside the finder window for automatic switching with the rear LCD. The drive mode and AF area selection buttons have also swapped places, so that the latter is readily accessible with the camera to your eye. This offers the ability to move the focus area around the frame when shooting with the optical viewfinder, something that's unique for a zoom compact.

Aside from that, the button on the bottom right of the camera is now labelled 'Q' rather than RAW, as its main function is now to bring up the on-screen Q-menu for quick settings changes. The camera's model badge is also now on the front plate below the popup flash (the X10 wore its name on the top plate). One point worth noting is that the X20's fast lens and large-diameter front element means there's no built-in lens cover - instead it requires a push-on cap.

While the vast majority of zoom compact cameras have now lost the optical viewfinder entirely (with the honourable exception of the Canon Powershot G15 and G1 X), Fujifilm has decided it's still useful. The X10's was already unusually large, but the X20 adds something many people assumed must be impossible - an information overlay that can include not only key shooting data (shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, and ISO), but also gridlines and a display of the active focus area.

While this idea has been extremely well-received in the X100 and X-Pro1, its important to understand that the X20 isn't quite the same. There's no space for a fully electronic eye-level viewfinder, and the shooting information is provided by a 'Digital Trans Panel' display that's placed within the viewfinder's optical path. The available information is more limited, and most notably there's no live histogram display. The optical viewfinder only offers 85% coverage of the lens's field of view, so you'll get a bit more in the final image than you saw while shooting. As on the X10, the bottom right corner of the frame is also partially blocked by the lens barrel at zoom settings wider than 35mm (equivalent).

The diagrams below, kindly provided by Fujifilm, give an idea of how the X20's viewfinder information will look.
The X20's mechanical zoom ring doubles as the power switch, retracting the lens in the 'OFF' position as shown here. But this does mean that the X20 is relatively bulky to carry around compared its rivals which retract the lens right into the body.
The X20 has built-in stereo microphones hidden behind small holes on the front. Below the right mic (i.e. on the left here) is a bright LED lamp to aid focusing in dark conditions. The AF illuminator can be turned off if you prefer. It can also be disabled, along with the flash and camera sounds, by pressing down the 'DISP' button for 2 seconds to enter 'Silent' mode.
A three-position rotary switch on the front of the camera selects the focus mode. There's a choice of single-shot AF, continuous AF, and manual focus.
The upper rear dial is perfectly placed for operation by your right thumb. It can be clicked in to change its function in certain modes - for instance to switch between changing the shutter speed and aperture in manual exposure. Underneath is an autoexposure/ autofocus lock button, that can be customised to suit your preferences.
Below this is a second control dial that surrounds the 4-way controller and Menu/OK button. The buttons of the 4-way controller have dedicated functions in shooting mode - on the X20 the 'up' key is used to enter AF area selection mode.
The tiny little flash unit pops-up out of the top plate. It's not motorized, so won't activate automatically when the camera is in auto modes. Instead you have to release it using a sliding switch beside the viewfinder eyepiece.
There's a hotshoe on the top plate that has contacts for use with Fujifilm's dedicated external units. These range from the compact EF-20TTL to the large, powerful and fully-featured EF-42TTL.
The X20's connectors lie under a small flap on the handgrip side of the camera. There's an HDMI port for playing back video, and above it a tiny USB/AV out socket.
The tripod socket is placed off-centre from the lens, as is common with zoom compacts. It's well-separated from the base compartment, meaning you have a fighting chance of being able to change the battery or card with the camera on a tripod. The camera's small built-in speaker for movie playback can also be seen here, next to the base compartment door.

First impressions

Fujifilm has been on something of a roll since the announcement of the X100 a couple of years ago, and the X20 shows that it's not content to rest on its laurels just yet. We rather liked the X10, especially its fast lens with manual zoom ring and extensive external controls, and the X20 builds on this design while adding some compelling-sounding new features. The switch to a 12MP X-Trans CMOS sensor promises more-detailed images, and the addition of on-chip phase detection AF should provide a welcome boost in speed. For photographers who still enjoy using an optical viewfinder, the addition of an information overlay panel may well look like a dream come true.

In the increasingly-competitive enthusiast compact sector, the X20 looks like it could be a standout camera for 'traditionalist' photographers who'll appreciate its manual zoom and optical viewfinder. But it's up against some extremely good cameras, such as Canon's Powershot G15 which is distinctly more svelte and offers a longer zoom, or the Olympus XZ-2 with its tilting rear screen and optional electronic viewfinder. But there's every reason to believe the X20 will be able to hold its own in such exalted company, and we're very much looking forward to getting our hands on a reviewable camera to find out.

Source: http://www.dpreview.com/previews/fujifilm-x20/

Title Post: Fujifilm X20 Review
Rating: 100% based on 99998 ratings. 5 user reviews.
Author: hadhie s

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