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Fujifilm X20 review: It's all about the experience

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The Good A new sensor lets the Fujifilm X20 deliver better photo quality than its predecessor, and tweaks to the design improve the shooting experience significantly.

The Bad The lens-twist-to-turn-on is getting old fast, and the feature set provides just the basics. Plus the video quality disappoints.

The Bottom Line The Fujifiilm X20 is a great choice for people looking for a well-designed photographer's camera, but the basic feature set and disappointing video might not be for everyone.

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7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

Fujifilm's X20 advanced compact gets to play in the same sandbox as the company's higher-end cameras, thanks to the incorporation of the X-Trans sensor technology that originally debuted in Fujifilm's interchangeable-lens models. To fit into the camera body -- and price segment -- this replacement for the X10 incorporates a new 2/3-inch version of the sensor, albeit at the same 12-megapixel resolution.

But while the X20's image quality is much better than the X10's, it's still only about the same as its competitors'. On the other hand, enhancements to the design and interface, including a settings overlay in the viewfinder and a quick control panel, deliver a more enjoyable, streamlined shooting experience.

Image quality
The X20's photos are far better than the X10's, but at best they match those from competing cameras like the Nikon Coolpix P7700 and Canon PowerShot G15, both of which are a bit cheaper, and the X20's are not quite as good as what you can get from the larger-sensored Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100. For JPEGs the camera peaks at ISO 200; beyond that images get quite mushy. The slight extra sharpness conferred by the X-Trans sensor doesn't carry through enough to compensate. Nor is there much you can do with the raw files without trade-offs, which is typical for cameras with small sensors.

Exposures look good with a reasonably broad tonal range despite the propensity for blown-out highlights that is also typical for these models. It renders pleasing colors, though I still wish it had a neutral-color option. And the film-simulation metaphor is becoming increasingly creaky in a world where most people have never shot film and can't tell their Velvia from their Astia.

Click to download ISO 100

(Note: Shot at 3:2 aspect ratio)
ISO 800
ISO 1600

The lens is quite sharp from f2 through f8 and tends to fall off after that (it maxes out at f11). It remains wide throughout the zoom range, a nice feature.

Complicating matters, the video looks, well, meh. The lack of an antialiasing filter on the sensor results in video prone to moire and jaggies, plus there's visual noise even in good exposures. The audio is surprisingly good, though.

Unfortunately, I don't have directly comparable numbers for the X20 and the X10 (I left them in the chart for reference, however), but overall I believe the X20 is faster. In general, the autofocus and shooting are pretty zippy, though the processing seems a little slower than I'd like. It takes about 1.5 seconds to power on, focus, and shoot, though the clunky lens cap and twist-lens-to-power-on design make it nearly impossible to go from pocket to photograph really quickly. Time to focus, expose, and shoot takes about 0.4 second in both bright and dim conditions, while sequential shots run about 0.7 second for either JPEG or raw. While that's not great for a dSLR, it's quite good for this type of camera; although the aforementioned processing holds up reviewing, it doesn't slow down shooting. Enabling flash bumps that up to 2.1 seconds.

There are several continuous-shooting options matched with buffer tradeoffs: 12fps for 11 JPEGs, 9fps for 14 JPEGs, 6fps for 20 JPEGs, and 3fps for 39 JPEGs. I tested at the 6fps rate -- that should be fast enough to capture action with enough shots to cover a few seconds. As tested, I managed 6.3fps for 16 shots, after which it slowed to about 1.2fps. Raw maintained about 7fps for 8 frames, after which it dropped to 2.9fps.

In practice, the autofocus locks quickly enough to grab almost any shot, and if you prefer to shoot with manual exposure and focus, it shouldn't hold you back at all. The LCD remains sufficiently visible in bright sunlight, and the viewfinder, despite the typical direct-view limitations like 85 percent coverage and framing issues when you zoom in, helps a lot.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Canon PowerShot G15
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
Fujifilm FinePix X10
Nikon Coolpix P7700
Canon PowerShot G1 X
Fujifilm X20

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