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Conclusion - Pros

  • Very good photo quality; noticeably sharper than X10
  • Fast, 28-112mm equiv. F2.0-2.8 zoom lens with manual zoom ring
  • Solid build quality with retro design
  • Large optical viewfinder offers exposure data and focus point overlay
  • Wide selection of manual controls (plus a scene-selecting auto mode for beginners)
  • New Hybrid AF system is noticeably faster than the X10
  • Focus peaking
  • Excellent in-camera Raw conversion
  • DR Correction feature reduces highlight clipping (with a slight increase in noise)
  • Customizable Fn button, dual dials, and 'Q menu' make adjusting settings fast and easy

Conclusion - Cons

  • Tends to smudge fine details (even at ISO 100)
  • Clips highlights at default DR setting (though no worse than its peers)
  • Optical viewfinder doesn't live up to its potential (no composition grid, grid lines); lens can be seen through viewfinder at wide-angle
  • No dedicated movie record button; no manual controls (aside from mic level adjustment)
  • Video quality not as good as other high-end compacts
  • Raw not available above ISO 3200
  • Camera can be slow to wake from sleep (requires a one second button press)
  • Long write times after a burst of Raw images is taken
  • Below average battery life

Overall conclusion

The Fujifilm X20 takes what made the X10 that came before it a hit - namely its well-built, retro-styled body, fast lens, and full suite of manual controls - and adds an improved sensor and AF system. The result is a camera that is generally a pleasure to use, aside from a couple of 'why did Fuji do that?' quirks.

From a design standpoint, the X20 is a nearly perfect clone of the X10. That means that it has a well-built, rangefinder-style body made of a magnesium alloy. The camera is easy to handle, though the right hand grip is a bit slippery. One of the camera's biggest selling points is its lens, which is unchanged since the X10. With a maximum aperture range of F2.0-2.8, this 28-112mm equivalent lens is well-suited to low light photography. An optical image stabilization system reduces the risk of blurry shots, with a claimed 4-stop advantage. The X20 retains the same manual zoom ring as the X10, which also doubles as a power switch.

The camera features twin control dials (both on the rear of the camera), a dedicated exposure compensation dial, and a customizable Fn button. Those items, combined with the handy 'Quick Menu', make adjusting settings quick and painless. The X20 has a relatively weak built-in flash, but features a standard hotshoe if you want to mount something more powerful. It supports 52mm filters (optional adapter required), an external microphone, and a remote cable release.

You'll notice the biggest change to the X20 when you put your eye up to its large optical viewfinder. This viewfinder, which displays roughly 85% of the scene, now includes a translucent LCD layer in its construction, which allows the X20 to display the focused point and exposure data, just like you'd find on a DSLR. That said, we feel like Fujifilm could've taken things a step further, perhaps allowing for a composition grid, focus point selection, or even a live histogram. Naturally, photos can also be composed on the X20's rather unremarkable 3-inch, 460k dot LCD display.

While the X20 is an enthusiast camera at heart, Fuji hasn't left out those who want to 'set it and forget it'. For that audience, the X20 offers an SR+ mode, which selects one of 64 scene modes for you. Changing the appearance of your photos is easy, with plenty of Film Simulation and Advanced Filters at your disposal. More advanced users will appreciate the X20's full manual exposure control, white balance fine-tuning, focus peaking, and several varieties of bracketing. The camera not only supports Raw capture - it also includes a very capable in-camera editing tool. A feature that everyone will like is DR Correction, which helps reduce the highlight clipping that has traditionally plagued smaller-sensored compact cameras.

The X20 also records Full HD video at 1080/60p, with an impressive 36Mbps bit rate. As one would expect, stereo sound is recorded, and the camera can take up to 14 minutes of continuous video at the highest resolution. The bad news is that Fujifilm has made it quite difficult to actually record a video. Since there's no dedicated movie recording button, you must first rotate the mode dial to the movie position, and then press the shutter release to start capture. Movie lovers may also be disappointed by the lack of any manual controls. With the exception of mic level adjustment, it's all automatic. Video quality isn't wondrous, either, with lots of artifacting and moiré. The X20 is a definite step forward from the X10 in this regard, but video capture still looks like an afterthought.

The X20 is generally a very responsive camera. The startup time can be as little as 0.5 seconds, allowing you to capture any moment that appears. The X20's new Hybrid AF system - which builds phase detection right on the CMOS sensor - is noticeably faster than the X10's contrast detect-only system, and among the best in its class. Shot-to-shot delays are reasonable, and the X20's burst mode allows you to shoot at full resolution at speeds exceeding 9 fps. It can take over twenty seconds for the camera to flush the buffer after a burst of Raw images, though. The two main performance issues that bothered us were the below average battery life (a spare is a must) and the fact that when the X20 goes to sleep, it takes a one second press of the shutter release to wake it back up.

That brings us to photo quality, which is noticeably better than on the X10, due in large part to the X-Trans CMOS sensor. The X-Trans system lacks an optical low-pass filter - allowing for higher resolution than traditional Bayer sensors (as well as the EXR design used by the X10) - and its unique color filter array reduces the risk of moiré and false color that one might expect from a camera without an OLPF. The resulting photos are quite a bit sharper than those that the X10 produced, though fine details can be smudged by over-aggressive noise reduction (and perhaps the X-Trans system itself). The X20 generally metered scenes correctly, though like most compact cameras, it is prone to highlight clipping (which the aforementioned DR Correction feature can reduce). Colors are vivid, and the camera keeps chromatic aberrations to a minimum. Noise levels are relatively low up to ISO 800, after which they start to take off. We found that shooting Raw at high sensitivities helped maintain color saturation and reduce color bleeding.

Summary

Overall, we can't help but like the Fujifilm X20, despite a few quirks. It's a capable enthusiast compact that offers just about everything that an advanced user would want, but Fujifilm has left enough automatic features to please the point-and-shoot crowd, as well. While there are still a few outstanding issues that we first raised in our X10 review, the new X20 still impresses us enough to earn our recommendation.

The X20 is a pricey camera, and has hovered around its $599 list price since its announcement. That makes it about $100 more expensive than the Canon G15, Nikon P7700, and Pentax MX-1, and about the same as the Olympus XZ-2 and Sony RX100. If you're a casual shooter, then the cheaper cameras will probably suit you just fine. However, if you desire a larger sensor, more control over depth of field, an optical viewfinder, and a Hybrid AF system, then it's worth forking out the extra dough for the X20.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Fujifilm X20
Category: Premium Enthusiast Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Flash performance
Low light / high ISO performance
Optics
Performance (speed)
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Enthusiasts and low light shooters who want a compact camera with high-end build quality and features.
Not so good for
Users who want to get a full day of shooting out of one battery. Movie enthusiasts.
Overall score
77%
The Fujifilm X20 is a true enthusiast's compact, with solid build quality, a fast lens, unique optical viewfinder, and sharp, high resolution photos. It offers a wide selection of manual controls, easily adjustable settings (thanks to twin control dials, the Fn button, and Quick Menu), and 1080/60p video recording. Downsides include a mediocre, hard-to-access movie mode and sub-par battery life.

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Comments

Total comments: 27
Facstatim
By Facstatim (4 months ago)

Just got an X20 after much research. Could have waited for X30 but decided that I may then just as well wait for X40, etc. and miss more pictures. I have to say the X20 is excellent (moving from a Nikon D40 + set of lenses plus iPhone 5s). What did I want: small and light to take with me when cycling (and all other times too), a proper high quality viewfinder, a proper zoom ring and decent optical zoom range plus simple exposure control. The X20 delivers in spades. I don't see any rivals with those features - well done Fuji for designing cameras for photographers who enjoy the tactile feel of real camera controls.

3 upvotes
GeekyGirl
By GeekyGirl (8 months ago)

The trend runs increasingly stronger toward compacts that pack lots of power, and it's a trend that seems to be continuing full steam ahead. The X20 is one of the important players in the field and has been holding a respectable place for a year now. Competition keeps springing up, with more features in ever smaller bodies, so is the X30 just around the corner?

Comment edited 13 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
saradindubose
By saradindubose (7 months ago)

I fully agree with you . All camera companies are taking out too many models too fast!!! We should have time to study and select -

1 upvote
Luigi Ricca
By Luigi Ricca (8 months ago)

Alex More is right, we all run and hope and buy to find always a deception somewhere. I sometimes take a old Pentax , Nikkormat and veven a Minox, I shoot, develop and digitalise and : the result is sure there !

0 upvotes
Luigi Ricca
By Luigi Ricca (8 months ago)

I see around the inside of the lens shell a tread : does anyone know the size? It seems to me that a filter could be used : Than you

0 upvotes
inspiredan
By inspiredan (8 months ago)

@madmaxmedia - thanks for your feedback. Agreed that the smudging is not due to the lack of AA filter. The real issue as you also point out is most likely the aggressive use of NR even at base ISO. I think the lack of AA filter emphasizes this problem even more. Glad to read that at least the raw files are better in this respect.

0 upvotes
madmaxmedia
By madmaxmedia (8 months ago)

@inspireddan- I don't think the smudging is due to the lack of AA filter, it's due to increased noise reduction. The X20 RAW files are great. But the JPEG's are worse than the X10 in the opinion of many who have used both. It's too bad, I really like my X10 and would otherwise upgrade to the X20 (I mostly shoot JPEG).

0 upvotes
inspiredan
By inspiredan (8 months ago)

Dear Fuji,
Why would you remove the optical AA filter if there is "smudge [of] fine details (even at ISO 100)"? Not having a filter may be okay on a larger sensor which captures more light (such as in the X100), but on smaller sensor it may only emphasize this problem.
I don't have an X20 but on my F45FD (same as F40FD), I also notice smudging of fine details at base ISO, especially around the edges of objects. If I apply slight blurring in post, the picture looks much better. I can't help but think that have that camera not had an AA filter, the smudging problem would have been even more noticeable.
Thanks,
-Dan

0 upvotes
TheAlexMoore
By TheAlexMoore (9 months ago)

Oh, what a continuing disappointment...! Digital camera engineering deserves better.
Mirrorless rangefinder cameras with manual focus should be a done deal by now.
 I suppose I'm as easily seduced by novelty features and shiny new digital gizmos as most, and  to be fair to all the gadget-heads who are prepared to put up with costly digital gear that looks OK on the outside but still doesn't deliver then you have  to admit that Fuji's corporate profit-taking is not as mean as the rest.
  I mean,  it's nice  to see Fuji is keeping some form of stabilising eye-level viewfinder. These are time-tested. They  not only allow image composition in bright daylight but help steady a camera, something not possible using cut-rate contemporary mirroless, viewfinderless digital toy still and mobile/cell phone  cameras at absurd arms-length fashion.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (6 months ago)

Right on target re the viewfinder!

0 upvotes
darngooddesign
By darngooddesign (6 months ago)

It bears mentioning that you can get a second hand X100 for the price of a new X20, and that X100 gives you what you are asking for.

0 upvotes
TheAlexMoore
By TheAlexMoore (9 months ago)

Look, as much as I'd really like a mirorless digital that doesn't come with a Leica price tag I'll continue to use a standard DSLR and wait until Fuji -or someone else uses better sensors, with proper size - or at the very least APS-H to produce a usable camera that can perform for photojournalsm at an artisan cost below the badge price of the Germans.
Otherwise there's no point moving away from a so-called 'full frame' (35mm equivalent) sensor DSLR, unless your personal wealth or your work or hobby can justify a good camera like a Leica.
I accept I'm being cynical to make a point against the plethora of gushing reviews for sub-standard compromise digital gear, but most of the mirrorless cameras are not much better than toys  that deliver passable back-lit and email images. These cameras are not ideal for photojournalism.

3 upvotes
Rivergull
By Rivergull (3 months ago)

Alex, I'm SO enjoying your comments. I was a film shooter (1960s-1980s, Nikkormat FTn). I've tried to be happy using a Leica D-Lux 5, but screen scrolling is so frustrating, as is the lack of a viewfinder. I'm a 70 yr old woman now and I want one more chance to 'meet' a camera that melds with me (manual, f-stops on the lens, external shutter speed knob, full-frame viewfinder. If I can't find this 'in digital' I just might buy an old Nikkormat !! Do you feel the Fuji X100S is a fairly good choice? It's on Alamy's list of acceptable cameras.

Comment edited 42 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
bishopsmead100
By bishopsmead100 (1 month ago)

I am in my late 60's and recently bought a Fuji X-A1 and a X-E1 as lightweight more compact alternatives to my SLR gear, with a view to switching systems. I am finding the transition a bit of a chore. The X-A1 is great indoors and in overcast conditions but difficult to use in full sun owing to the lack of hood or VF; the solution would be buy a hood or a loupe. The X-E1 is easier for me to use with the EVF even with spectacles, but I find both slow to focus compared to my SLRs, so I tend to use the AF lock or focus manually. Quality is acceptable but I find RAW images require more adjustment (especially at higher ISO) than RAW images from my SLRs. I guess as with everything there are compromises and I will become more competent with longer use. I absolutely love the build quality and ergonomics, much better than most of the competition. If you get the chance, try out the X-E1 or X-E2 or even X-T1 before making a decision, especially if you can get one to try for a day or two.

0 upvotes
TheAlexMoore
By TheAlexMoore (9 months ago)

Sure, we can have debates  about rare-earth scarcity and high cost sensor manufacturer profitability and difficulties finding cheap labour in fringe junge factories to make cheap cameras and optics, as well as  fitting it all in a look-alike traditional film camera platform. 
But aren't image and print  quality and the ability to crop more important?  As is the camera's purpose as a tool to serve a photographer's eye, the picture you perceive in  your mind the instant you decide to trip a shutter and use light to create an image with minimal patchwork PS 'processing'...?
A camera is an instrument. It should measure against an ideal. All else follows, including economics. But, in three simple words this camera has:

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Spencer E Holtaway
By Spencer E Holtaway (8 months ago)

Everyone's 'ideal' is different. In your comments you are coming from a perspective of a professional that is meeting technical requirements from news agencies, etc.

I don't see anywhere in any reviews or Fuji documentation that this camera is intended for that purpose. If anything, it's an expensive yet high quality point and shoot for people (probably hobbyists) who appreciate good color reproduction in a small, light body. Maybe it's great for someone who doesn't want to carry their DLSR around all the time, and also doesn't have $2,500 for a full frame compact with no viewfinder.

4 upvotes
TheAlexMoore
By TheAlexMoore (9 months ago)

Inadequate sensor size.

3 upvotes
Flatwhite
By Flatwhite (7 months ago)

Is the sony nex 6 a better buy ?

0 upvotes
jantar
By jantar (10 months ago)

It is really a great camera and I use it (more and more) besides or instead my Nikon 300s. One really serious flaw is the original battery (1000 mA) - it starts to collapse after 20 photos (is new!). The newly bought second one manages 100 pics (with less than 10 flash photos) but that is still far below useful number. Bought now aftermarket one (1400 mA) and hope it will solve my problem. My advice is to have full backup battery ready anytime!

0 upvotes
rfstudio
By rfstudio (10 months ago)

With tht peanut size sensor and codt the same as sony nex 5 really?????????

1 upvote
Dougbm_2
By Dougbm_2 (10 months ago)

In all the reviews Fuji cameras seem to consistently put out superior images.
Shame the viewfinder wasn't made at least 95% coverage.

0 upvotes
Ivan Lietaert
By Ivan Lietaert (11 months ago)

This kind of background blur, even at 112mm, is never going to isolate a subject against the background. The background is still distracting.
Your picture is misleading, btw, because the background is very far away here.
Put this guy against a background that is 10m away, and you'll see (almost) as much detail there as in the subject's face.
Anybody looking for a decent background blur should buy a camera with a 1 inch or bigger sensor.

0 upvotes
alexvaughn
By alexvaughn (11 months ago)

This is a very detailed review, and plenty informative if you're looking to buy this camera. I actually got the camera based on this review and the opinions in the forum. What better place to go to for camera-related stuff than DPreview?

2 upvotes
TheAlexMoore
By TheAlexMoore (9 months ago)

Alamy's a good place to begin. Most on-line reviews are subjective.
Agences like Alamy must maintain image quality standards to keep credibility with publshers who buy images and complete pro phojournalism stories.
Cameras they approve are a good starting point.

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Spatzl73
By Spatzl73 (8 months ago)

I disagree with the non pro use comment - I work for a large newspaper in Europe - I use this as a back up to my NikonD800 and Mamiya RZ67 when street photo style is needed for true look . Liecas are not so expensive as you think - try hiring one. That said I would only replace the X20 with either Sony R1, Sigma DP2 Merrell .

1 upvote
Locks
By Locks (7 months ago)

I haven't owned a camera in 20 years; almost bought a compact point-and-shoot on sale, but started looking at larger compacts (Canon G16, Fuji x20, some of the smallest 4/3). Can't imagine not having a viewfinder, but the G16's and apparently this one's aren't very good, it seems. Any recommendations for something I can both use automatically and set manually if I get the urge to really learn?

0 upvotes
Rivergull
By Rivergull (3 months ago)

Have you considered the Fuji X100S ??

1 upvote
Total comments: 27