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 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.
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.
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.
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.