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Body & Operation

The X20 uses almost 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 host a control point of some sort, so watch your fingers. Ergonomically, the X20's 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. There's now 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.

Aside from that, the button on the bottom right of the camera is now labeled '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 pop-up 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. Fujifilm supplies a really nice metal one with flocking on the inside, which you'll probably lose almost immediately.

In your hand

With its magnesium alloy top and base-plates and milled-aluminum dials, the X20 is a beautifully finished camera that feels reassuringly solid on your hand. The manual zoom ring essentially demands two handed operation, unless you want to treat it as a fixed focal-length camera. This is in no way a bad thing, though; it encourages use of a more-stable shooting position than the infamous compact camera 'one-handed at arm's length' pose.

The X20 has a rather minimal (not to mention slippery) handgrip, but it works well enough, and the rubber thumb rest helps give a positive hold. Pretty well all of the key controls are well-placed for operation by your right hand, with the left hand supporting the camera and operating the zoom ring.

The view from above: Top Controls

The X20 again looks near-identical to the X10 from the top. It has a centrally-mounted hot shoe for an external flash unit, and a little pop-up flash on the left. On the right of the top plate are the shutter button that's threaded for a mechanical cable release, exposure compensation dial, exposure mode dial, and customizable Fn button. The latter is set by default to give direct access to the ISO setting, which doesn't have its own dedicated dial or button.

The exposure mode dial offers much the same choice as the X10, from fully automatic operation through to full manual control. Here you also get access to movie mode and the 'Advanced filter' image processing options, as well as two user-customizable settings labeled C1 and C2. The X10's EXR position has gone, replaced by a new 'SR+' scene recognition mode that can choose from no less than 64 different scene modes.

Since the exposure compensation dial sits on the edge of the camera, we found that it was possible for it to be rotated accidentally through contact with clothing or an accidental brush of the hand, so always check it before you start shooting.

Viewfinder

While the vast majority of zoom compact cameras have now lost the optical viewfinder entirely (with the honorable exceptions of the Canon PowerShot G15 and G1 X), Fujifilm has decided it's still useful. The X10's optical finder was already unusually large, but the X20 has sandwiched a translucent LCD into the viewfinder and uses it to provide shooting data and the focus point. We had hoped that a composition grid and AF point selection would be available as well, but sadly they are not. A live histogram would've been an added bonus, and something that we'd like to see in a future firmware update.

The optical viewfinder only offers 85% coverage of the lens' 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). Since the eyecup does not protrude very far from the body, using the OVF can be a bit challenging if you're wearing glasses. An eye sensor will automatically disable the LCD and 'switch on' the viewfinder when you put your eye to it.

Here the X20's viewfinder is showing basic information - the white rectangle indicates the focus area, while along the lower edge of the screen we have (L-R) AF confirmation, exposure compensation reminder, shutter speed, aperture, and shooting mode.

The information overlay will change color depending on the lighting conditions to make it as visible as possible. The information is normally displayed in black in good light, but switches to green in low light. The AF frame lights up green when focus is confirmed, and red when the camera can't focus properly. The camera will warn you when you're too close to your subject (which makes parallax error an issue) and will disable the overlay entirely when you're in macro mode.

Information display (rear LCD)

When composing photos with the optical viewfinder, you can choose to have the screen shown at left displayed on the rear LCD.

This screen shows exposure data, flash/metering/focus settings, the selected focus point, exposure compensation, and more.

While it may not be the perfect viewfinder, we applaud Fujifilm for still providing this feature, unlike nearly all of their competitors.

Quick Menu

The X20 also borrows the 'Quick Menu' feature from the X100S, X-E1, and X10 (firmware v2.0). By pressing the 'Q' button on the back of the camera, you'll be able to quickly adjust commonly used camera settings.

The Quick Menu lets you adjust settings by using the directional controller and either of the two rear dials.

Nearly every major setting can be set here, from ISO to file format to noise reduction.

It should also be mentioned that the X20 lets you save two sets of your favorite camera settings to the C1 and C2 positions on the mode dial.

Shooting Menu

The X20's menus should look familiar to anyone who has picked up a Fujifilm X-series camera recently. The main menu is split up into tabs, covering shooting, playback, and setup options.

In Program mode, the shooting menu is divided into four tabs. There are additionally three tabs for setup options.

Like most high-end compacts, there X20's menus lack any kind of help system, which would've been a nice touch. The X20's menus are more user-friendly than some previous Fujifilm efforts, but even so, there's still room for improvement.

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Comments

Total comments: 26
Facstatim
By Facstatim (2 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.

1 upvote
GeekyGirl
By GeekyGirl (6 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 (5 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 -

0 upvotes
Luigi Ricca
By Luigi Ricca (6 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 (6 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 (6 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 (6 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 (6 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 (7 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
1 upvote
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (4 months ago)

Right on target re the viewfinder!

0 upvotes
darngooddesign
By darngooddesign (4 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 (7 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.

2 upvotes
Rivergull
By Rivergull (1 month 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
TheAlexMoore
By TheAlexMoore (7 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 (6 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.

3 upvotes
TheAlexMoore
By TheAlexMoore (7 months ago)

Inadequate sensor size.

3 upvotes
Flatwhite
By Flatwhite (5 months ago)

Is the sony nex 6 a better buy ?

0 upvotes
jantar
By jantar (8 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 (8 months ago)

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

1 upvote
Dougbm_2
By Dougbm_2 (8 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 (9 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 (9 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?

1 upvote
TheAlexMoore
By TheAlexMoore (7 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 (6 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 .

0 upvotes
Locks
By Locks (5 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 (1 month ago)

Have you considered the Fuji X100S ??

0 upvotes
Total comments: 26