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Sensor and Lens

Fujifilm X-Trans CMOS II sensor

The X20 uses an all-new sensor which, like the X10's, is of the 2/3" type, and is therefore larger than those used in most of its competitors (see diagram below). But instead of its predecessor's EXR design, it gets Fujifilm's latest 'X-Trans' color filter array, as used in the company's X-Pro1 and X-E1 mirrorless models and the X100S fixed-lens APS-C compact. This doesn't use an optical low-pass filter, and according to Fujifilm should give higher resolution than conventional Bayer-type 12MP sensors. You can read more about X-Trans technology in our Fujifilm X-E1 review.

The common 2x2 'Bayer' pattern used in most digital cameras The 6x6 color filter array pattern of Fujifilm's X-Trans CMOS sensor

The sensor is also of the 'backside-illuminated' type, which places the photodetectors on the opposite side of the chip from their associated circuitry. This promises better light-gathering capability, which should mean improved noise performance compared to conventional (and at this point mostly last-generation) small-format CMOS sensors.

On-chip phase-detection autofocus

This cross section of the X-Trans CMOS sensor shows the following:

1) Microlenses
2) X-Trans color filter
3) Left/Right light interception filter
4) Phase detection sensor / green filter pixel
5) Photodiode

Diagram courtesy of Fujifilm

The second addition to the sensor design is an on-chip phase detection system for faster autofocus. The phase detection system works hand-in-hand with more conventional contrast detection, making this a 'Hybrid AF' system. Fuji hasn't disclosed when the camera switches between Hybrid and regular contrast detect AF, but we believe that it's likely when light levels drop below a certain level.

Fujifilm is promising AF speeds as fast as 0.06 seconds which, if true, is a significant improvement over the X10. The F300EXR which previously used this technology was very quick indeed, and the BSI design means the phase detection pixels gather as much light as possible. We'll see how the X20 performs later in this review.

Sensor sizes compared

The diagram below compares the size of the X20's 2/3" sensor to those in its nearest competitors - and larger sensors offer potential for better image quality. The X20's sensor is half the size of that found in the (much more expensive) Sony RX100, but still 50% larger than the Canon G15's.

The X20's 2/3" sensor is half the area of the Sony RX100's 1" sensor, but about 50% larger than the 1/1.7" sensor used on most of its competitors.

Lens overview

The Fuji X20 features the same 28 - 112mm equivalent, F2.0-2.8 lens as its predecessor. The lens construction compirises 9 elements in 11 groups, and features a 'High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating' to reduce flare and ghosting.

Like most of its peers, the X20 features an in-lens shutter. Such shutters are rarely able to offer their
fastest shutter speeds at large apertures, but the X20 has a way around this limitation. In shutter priority, aperture priority or manual mode, it will use its electronic shutter mode to offer its fastest shutter speed at all apertures. For example, at F2.0, the X20 will switch to the electronic shutter above 1/1000 sec, with the shutter speed indicated in red on the LCD. This is not the case in Program mode, however, where it will stop the aperture down and continue to use the physical shutter.

As mentioned earlier, the lens is controlled with a manual zoom ring, which is a rarity on a compact camera. Unfortunately, there's no manual focus ring around the lens.

If you attach the optional lens hood (model LH-X10), you'll be able to screw on the 52mm filter of your choice.

28mm, F5.6, 1/850 sec, +0.3 EV, ISO 100 112mm, F7.1, 1/900 sec, +0.3 EV, ISO 100

The X20's lens offers a minimum focus distance of 10 cm at wide-angle and 80 cm at telephoto when in its standard macro mode. If you jump into super macro mode (which instructs you to adjust the lens to full wide-angle), that distance drops to just 1 cm.

As you'd expect, this lens has an optical image stabilizer built right into it. Fujifilm says that the OIS system can reduce the effects of camera shake by four stops.

Enthusiast compacts: lenses, sensors and background blur

The chart below may look confusing, but what it's trying to convey is how sensor size and lens speed combine in the different cameras in this class.. The X20's F2.0-2.8 lens is 'fast', allowing the use of fast shutter speeds and low ISOs even though, when you factor in the 2/3" sensor, it would be equivalent to an aperture range of around F8-F11 on a 35mm camera.

The combination of a fast lens and larger-than-average sensor gives the Fujifilm X20 some of the best depth-of-field control (not to mention light-gathering ability) in this group.

The X20 is one of the most capable compacts on the market, alongside the Olympus XZ-2 and Canon PowerShot G15. It offers greater potential to blur backgrounds at the long end of the zoom than the Sony RX100, despite that camera's larger sensor. This is because the RX100's lens gets quite 'slow' at its telephoto end.

x20
F2.8 @ 112mm (equiv) 100% crop of background

The equivalent apertures also give a rough idea of how the cameras might compare in low light; to a degree they indicate how a larger sensor on 'Camera A' should be offset by a faster lens on 'Camera B'. Obviously this isn't the whole story; the characteristics of the individual sensors matters too, as does the quality of in-camera processing for JPEG shooters. But the story is essentially the same - the X20's fast lens should in principle make it one of the most capable compacts on the market for low-light work.

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Comments

Total comments: 29
DR25

I've had this camera for some time now and just not that impressed. The image quality is ok and comparable to most compact camera's on the market.

The sample photos below are simple proof this camera is for the novice. One who wants a few 'advanced' features to experiment with.

http://bit.ly/1rAcv5q

0 upvotes
Tjeerd P

I have the X20 for 3 months. In the A and S modus, the camera produces pictures which are overexposed. Especially during daylight. I don't understand why. Do I do something wrong? Is there a bug in the software (v. 1.02)?
I have sent an email to the Dutch Fuji helpdesk, but they don't even bother to give a response. Can anyone help me with this?
Example, in the A-modus (with Iso on Auto and after I gave the camera a reset) I took 5 pictures. For every picture I choose a different aperture. The picture was taken of the same scene and all within one minute. The result in speed and Iso were:
F Speed Iso
2.2 1/1000 100
2.5 1/1000 100
2.8 1/1300 100
3.2 1/1400 100
3.6 1/1500 100

Only the last picture with F3.6 had the right exposure.
Why does the camera choose a speed of 1/1000 when I pick F2.2, with an overexposed picture as a result. And why NOT (for example) 1/2000 in order to produce a well-exposed picture?
The same (reversed) problem happens in the S-modus.

0 upvotes
Facstatim

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

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

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

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

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

@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

@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

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

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

Right on target re the viewfinder!

0 upvotes
darngooddesign

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inadequate sensor size.

3 upvotes
Flatwhite

Is the sony nex 6 a better buy ?

0 upvotes
jantar

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

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

1 upvote
Dougbm_2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you considered the Fuji X100S ??

1 upvote
Total comments: 29