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.

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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)