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Image Quality

Overall, we are mostly pleased with the quality of the photos that the Fujifilm X20 produces. The camera's metering system generally works well, though highlights tend to get clipped when the DR setting is at 100% (i.e., when DR expansion is not enabled). As we have already shown, using higher DR settings can reduce highlight clipping, but at the expense of some increased luminance noise in the shadows. The X20's photos have pleasant, vivid colors that should be appealing to most consumers. The lens has minimal blurring in the corners, and chromatic aberrations were not an issue.

Like most compact cameras, the X20 will smudge low-contrast details at times. In our experience, the design of the X-Trans sensor also tends to muddy up green subjects a little more than cameras with Bayer-pattern sensors. What this means is that things like grass and trees may not look quite as nice when rendered by an X-Trans sensor, but the reality is that you have to be looking pretty closely to see any serious problems.

The scene at left is full of something that a lot of compact cameras struggle with: grass.

Below are JPEG and processed Raw crops from an area of the scene that shows what kind of detail is captured in these green, low contrast areas.

Settings used: 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100.

JPEG, 100% crop Raw conversion (ACR 7.4), 100% crop
Sharpening: 50, radius: 1.2
Luminance noise reduction: 20

Above is an example of when the X20 doesn't do brilliantly. Low-contrast detail, in grass and foliage. The grass looks very mushy at 100%, and the low contrast surfaces on the old bunker are a little soft, too. Processing the image 'to taste' through Adobe Camera Raw brings back some - but not a lot - of detail in the grass, and also sharpens up those low contrast details. That being said, other cameras in this class (with traditional Bayer-pattern sensors) - such as the Canon G15 and Nikon P7700 - have similar issues.

Low Light

As is typical with compact cameras, the X20 won't win any awards for its low light, high ISO performance. That said, it's faster-than-average lens will should mean that you don't need to reach for its highest sensitivity settings as often as you otherwise might. The camera can shoot at ISOs as high as 12800, though you'll lose the ability to shoot RAW once you pass 3200. Unlike the X10, the X20 does not reduce resolution at the highest ISO settings.

ISO 3200, 1/320 sec, f/2.2 100% crop
ISO 6400 100% crop
ISO 12800, 1/180 sec, f/2.0 100% crop

Since you can use Raw at ISO 3200, it's worth a look to see if you can improve the image quality at that sensitivity:

At left is a 100% crop of the original JPEG. Below are Raw conversions (using ACR) with all noise reduction turned off (lower-left) and adjusted 'to taste' (lower-right).

Settings: ISO 3200, 1/111 sec; f/2.2

Above you can see that the original JPEG has lost some detail, and colors are a bit flat. You'll also notice some color bleeding around the title of the book on the left. The Raw conversion with noise reduction turned off shows you what you're up against: luminance and chroma noise (though not terrible). Our 'to taste' Raw conversion brings back a bit of detail, gets rid of the color bleeding, and restores color saturation.

One thing you might expect to see on the X20 - which lacks a low-pass filter - is moiré. Thankfully, we were only able to spot this in one of the hundreds of photos we took with the camera, and even then it was barely noticeable.

Compared to X10

Naturally, readers will want to know how the Fujifilm X20, with its 12MP X-Trans CMOS sensor, compares to its predecessor, the X10, which used a 12MP EXR CMOS. Below are a series of sample photos that put these two cameras head-to-head.

ISO 100

X10 X20
1/640 sec, f/5.6, 112mm equiv. 1/879 sec, f/5.0, 112mm equiv

Above you can see that the X20 produces much sharper, more detailed JPEGs straight out of the camera (not one of the X10's strengths - the move away from EXR design and the removal of anti-aliasing filter will both have helped). There's a bit less luminance noise and highlight clipping, as well.

ISO 400

X10 X20
1/4 sec, f/2.2, 34mm equiv. 1/4 sec; f/2.2, 37mm equiv.

At ISO 400, the difference in sharpness is again visible. You'll also notice that noise reduction is a bit more aggressive on the X20, which mottles low contrast detail.

ISO 3200

X10 X20
JPEG, 100% crop
1/125 sec, f/2.2, 33.5mm equiv.
JPEG, 100% crop
1/125 sec, f/2.2, 39.0mm equiv.
RAW, 100% crop RAW, 100% crop

There are a couple of interesting things to notice in this high sensitivity comparison. In the JPEG shots, you'll see noticeable chroma noise on the X10 (in the form of yellow splotches), with much less on the X20. The X20 photo is slightly sharper, though low contrast detail is more mottled. Perhaps the most remarkable difference is in terms of color. The X20 is unable to capture the red stripes on the pillow on the chair, and you'll notice some differences on the wallpaper, as well.

You'd think that shooting Raw might bring back some of that color, but alas, it's just as bad as the JPEG. We're unsure of the cause of this - though we suspect it's the way the sensor's unique X-Trans color filter array is being demosaiced - but are relieved that in our testing, this issue only appears at high sensitivities.

Built-in Flash

The X20 has a pop-up flash that's released manually. As mentioned earlier, it has a range of 0.3 - 7.0 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 5.0 m at telephoto at ISO 800. Its exposure can be adjusted from -2/3EV to +2/3EV, if needed.

The X20's built-in flash lit up our subject nicely. If you look closely you will spot a tiny bit of redeye, despite our use of the pre-flash feature. The redeye removal tool in playback mode was unable to detect any redeye to remove.

Something else to remember about the flash is that at low sensitivities, its range is relatively weak. Thus, in order to illuminate more distant subjects, you may need to increase the ISO, which can translate to noisier photos.

Raw files for download

The examples above are simply meant to provide general guidance on the possibilities with Raw conversions. Below we provide Raw files from the sample shots we've taken, so you can apply your preferred software and techniques and judge the capabilities of the X20 for yourself.

Real world shot ISO 100 (Zipped file - 16.0MB)
Real world shot ISO 200 (Zipped file - 16.6MB)
Real world shot ISO 400 (Zipped file - 14.8MB)
Real world shot ISO 800 (Zipped file - 16.1MB)
Real world shot ISO 3200 (Zipped file - 17.4MB)

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Fujifilm X20

Comments

Total comments: 23
GeekyGirl
By GeekyGirl (3 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 (2 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 (3 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 (3 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 (3 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 (3 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 (3 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 (4 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 (1 month ago)

Right on target re the viewfinder!

0 upvotes
darngooddesign
By darngooddesign (1 month 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 (4 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
TheAlexMoore
By TheAlexMoore (4 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 (3 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 (4 months ago)

Inadequate sensor size.

3 upvotes
Flatwhite
By Flatwhite (2 months ago)

Is the sony nex 6 a better buy ?

0 upvotes
jantar
By jantar (5 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 (5 months ago)

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

1 upvote
Dougbm_2
By Dougbm_2 (5 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 (6 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 (6 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 (4 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 (3 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 (2 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
Total comments: 23