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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