Features

Being an enthusiast camera, it should come as no surprise that the Fuji X20 offers a full set of manual controls. The shutter speed ranges from 30 to 1/4000 secs, while the aperture range is F2.0-F11. The X20 offers a Program Shift feature while in 'P' mode, but only when the ISO and dynamic range settings are set to something other than 'Auto'. Raw shooting in Fujifilm's .RAF format is supported, with the option of recording a JPEG at the same time.

The mode dial has the expected manual exposure modes, plus two custom spots for your favorite settings.

The adjacent exposure compensation button can be easy to bump.

The Fn button is customizable and defaults to controlling ISO.

The ISO sensitivity can be set automatically (you can select the base ISO, upper limit, and minimum acceptable shutter speed) or manually, with the latter having a range of 100 - 12800. Do note that sensitivities above ISO 3200 are not available if you're shooting Raw. White balance can be customized using a white or gray card or by setting the color temperature. If that doesn't do it, you can fine-tune things in the blue/yellow and cyan/magenta directions.

The X20 also lets you bracket for exposure, ISO, Dynamic Range, and Film Mode - those last two items will be described below.

Focus peaking in action: the horse figurine has an noticeable outline here, meaning that it's in focus.

Also notice the distance guide near the bottom of the screen.

In addition to the usual frame enlargement feature that is commonly found when manually focusing, the X20 also features focus peaking. Focus peaking puts a noticeable outline around high-contrast (in-focus) areas of the photo, which makes things that much more precise.

RAW Conversion

An added bonus is the ability to process Raw images right in the camera - something rarely found on cameras in this class. The results are saved as a JPEG image, giving identical image quality to the X20's standard JPEG output.

This tool, found in playback mode, lets you adjust exposure (which Fuji calls Push/Pull processing), Dynamic Range (if the ISO is above 100), Film Simulation mode, white balance (including fine-tuning), color saturation, sharpness, highlight/shadow detail and noise reduction.

The only downside of the Raw conversion function is that you don't see the changes to color, exposure etc., in real-time. You make your adjustments, 'Create' the new image, and only then do you see a preview of what it looks like, before the option of saving or canceling.

DR Modes

While the X20 no longer has the X10's EXR sensor design that allowed for impressive dynamic range expansion, all is not lost. The X20 offers dynamic range expansion in 2 steps - 200% or 400% which are available at ISO 200 and above, and 400 and above, respectively. Unlike the EXR-based cameras, there's no drop in resolution in order to increase dynamic range.

Here's how this works when you boost the DR to 200% or 400%. The camera captures one less stop of light compared to the DR100% mode, preserving highlights, then 'pulls up' the shadows and midtones to achieve a balanced final 'exposure'. The effect is highlight detail, at the expense of a tiny bit more shadow noise. So how well does it work? See for yourself:

JPEG, DR 100%, 1/800 sec, f/3.6, ISO 100 100% crop
JPEG, DR 200%, 1/800 sec, f/5.0, ISO 200 100% crop
JPEG, DR 400%, 1/800 sec, f/7.1, ISO 400 100% crop

As you can see, the dynamic range feature restored quite a bit of highlight tone that was otherwise lost. The shadow areas get a bit darker and, since the ISO is being increased, slightly noisier. We feel that the DR 200% setting offers a good balance of dynamic range and noise, and is well-suited to everyday shooting. DR 400% can be handy for really extreme situations, but it can also make exposures look a little too 'flat'.

Film Simulation Modes

Film Simulation Modes are not new to the X20, but they're still worth a mention. There are there a total of eight modes, though four of them fall under the monochrome category. They include Provia (Natural), Velvia (Vivid), Astia (Soft), Pro Neg High, Pro Neg Standard, Monochrome (with yellow, red, green, or no filter), and Sepia.

Standard/Provia
Vivid/Velvia
Soft/Astia
Pro Neg High
Pro Neg Standard
Monochrome
Mono (Yellow Filter)
Mono (Red Filter)
Mono (Green Filter)
Sepia

The examples above are mostly self-explanatory, but a few footnotes are needed. The Velvia mode has very high saturation and contrast, and as such it's a great choice for punchy landscapes, but not a great idea for portraits, for example. You might want to use Astia instead, which does a better job of preserving skin tones. Fuji says that Pro Neg Standard is best suited for studio portraits, while the more contrasty Pro Neg High is better for outdoor use.

If you want to capture more than one Film Simulation mode at once, then try the bracketing feature, which lets you save three photos with a single exposure. Also, any photo taken in Raw can have its Film Simulation Mode changed, with the result saved as a JPEG.

In addition to Film Simulation modes, the X20 also offers several 'Advanced Filters', which you'll find in the Advanced Shooting mode. They include things like toy camera, miniature effect, pop color, selective color, and soft focus.

Motion Panorama

Like most cameras in 2013, the X20 lets you take huge panoramic photos by "sweeping" the camera from one side to the other. You can go in any direction, and can choose from 120, 180, or full 360 degree panoramas, up to a maximum resolution of 11520 x 1080 pixels.

A 180 degree panorama of Vancouver, BC

Overall, the Motion Panorama feature works well, though in a few test shots moving subjects sometimes appeared twice.