Fujifilm FinePix F20 Zoom Review
The FinePix F20 is yet another "F" series model in FujiFilm's ranks, and offers many of the same features found on the FinePix F30 from last year. Resolution is 6-megapixels from Fujifilm's Super CCD HR image sensor, the lens is a FUJINON 3x optical zoom and the back is dominated by its large 2.5-inch color LCD. The only real difference is the maximum sensitivity used by the Anti-Blur mode (ISO 2000 on the F20 and ISO 3200 on the F30), and the F20 does not feature aperture priority, shutter speed priority, and underwater exposure modes.
This is a compact camera that fits easily in most pants pockets or small handbags. Like we saw with the F30, the slightly thicker right-hand side helps offer a more comfortable feel in your hands, and the rubber grips on the back for your thumb make one-handed shooting a breeze. The various controls on the body are placed within EASY reach of your finger tips. The menu system was easy to navigate, and allowed for quick changes to settings like Image quality, ISO, White balance, etc. There's no mode dial, you have to enter the menu to change exposure modes. Since it's the first option in the Shooting Menu it easy to access. The 2.5-inch LCD features a low-glare coating that works great outdoors, even with the bright sun beating directly on it. When shooting in low lighting, the display "gains up" to help aid in framing your subject. The only issue I had with this display was it is very prone to finger prints; you'll find yourself cleaning it often.
Shooting performance was good for a consumer model. Power up to first image captured being just 1.8 seconds. Shutter lag was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, and about 3/10 of a second including autofocus. Rapid shooting in single exposure mode captured images at 1.8 second intervals without the flash. The capture rate slowed to intervals from 2 to 3.5 seconds with flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. The F20 also offers a High-Speed shooting mode which is activated via the menu system. Using the shot to shot delay was only about 1/10 of a second quicker, not much of a difference in my option.
There are 3 continuous shooting modes to choose from (Top 3, Final 3 and Long-Period Continuous.) Both Top 3 and Final 3 capture 3 images in 5/10 of a second, with Top 3 saving the first (and only) 3 images captured and Final 3 saving the last 3 images captured before removing your finger from the shutter button. The LCD briefly displays the last captured image between shots, which will help you follow moving subjects; an optical viewfinder would come in handy at times like this. It then takes between 5 and 6 seconds to clear a full buffer. Long-Period Continuous mode captured 10 images in about 14.6 seconds, refocusing between each shot. All tests were done using an Olympus (High-speed) 512MB xD memory card, using Auto mode, 6MP Fine image size/quality, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless noted otherwise.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media size, etc.
Like its predecessors, I was pleased with the quality of our sample images when using 6-megapixel Fine mode. Our outdoor images are sharp, well exposed, and the colors look very nice. The FUJINON optical zoom offers the typical 3x range for a consumer model. At the 36mm wide angle extreme the field of view is sufficient for most interior and landscape shots, the 108mm maximum telephoto focal length is effective both for portraits and to bring distant subjects a bit closer. However, do not expect to capture close-ups of your football or basketball star from the stands. I saw small traces of chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) around highlights as well as moderate barrel distortion at wide angle, but virtually no pincushioning at the telephoto end.
Our portrait results also turned out good. The F20 boasts a maximum flash range of 21.3 feet! (ISO Auto, at wide angle.) This is almost double that of your typical 6-megapixel model. I found the flash worked very well when shooting indoor portraits from about 6 or 7 feet away, using the telephoto end of the zoom range. I found the unit also worked well as a fill-in flash outdoors, producing good flash exposure and pleasing skin tones.
When shooting in marginal lighting conditions (your typical living room illuminated with incandescent light bulbs), you'll appreciate the F20's high sensitivity settings. While the F30 had a maximum ISO setting of 3200, the F20 comes in a bit lower at 2000; however this is still higher than many models in this class. The "Picture stabilization" or Anti-Blur mode, uses this ability to offer faster than normal shutter speeds in lower lighting conditions, reducing camera shake and motion blur. Just like the F30, I was impressed at how low noise levels were, even at ISO 800. Both ISO 1600 and 2000 (Anti-Blur mode) are also quite low for a camera in this class, due to the in-camera noise reduction processing. However, image detail does suffer a bit, making pictures look a bit "fuzzy" when being viewed at 100%. The ability to capture useable images in these conditions with this feature is much more important than losing a bit of detail.
You can capture motion video at either 640x480 or 320x240 pixels with a frame rate of 30 fps. Because audio is recorded, the optical zoom may be used to compose before, but not during recording. Overall, the F20 captures nice movies that show very little compression noise, and the autofocus system does well with moving subjects. When using the 640x480 mode, the F20 will consume more than 1-megabyte per second, so if you plan on recording movies frequently, be sure to get at least a 512MB or larger xD memory card.
Power comes from a NP-70 3.6v 1150mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery pack. While most models in this class feature a tiny battery that can only power them for about 150-200 shots, Fuji claims this pack will allow the F20 to capture up to 300 pictures on a single charge. I found battery life was good, capturing about 80 images and several movie samples as well as being able to conclude all of our other tests with power to spare. The only thing that annoyed me was the fact that the battery has to be charged in-camera, there's no handy AC charger like so many of today's camera are using.
Bottom line - I was a bit surprised that Fuji only changed a few of the features from last year's F30 model but was reminded of the old saying that "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That seems to be their thinking with their "F" series of 6- megapixel Super CCD HR models. That said, I feel the FujiFilm FinePix F20 is a nice, compact digicam that offers good performance, a durable all-metal body, great image quality, and numerous user-friendly exposure modes. This model also features a more appealing price tag of US$299 or less, yielding a better "bang for your buck" value than the previous model.
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