Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
fuji_x20_front.JPG
  • 12-Megapixel X-Trans CMOS II Imaging Sensor
  • 2.8-Inch LCD Screen
  • 4x Optical zoom lens: 28-112mm (35mm equivalent)
  • f/2.0-2.8 max aperture
  • Improved optical view finder
  • SR+ Auto shooting mode
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Pop-up flash
  • Hot Shoe
  • HDMI output
  • Dual Command Dials
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
Pros
  • SR+ Auto produces bright, vivid images withe the camera doing all the work
  • New digital information inside the Optical Viewfinder
  • Excellent low-light capabilities with f/2.0-2.8 lens
  • Great image quality in all shooting modes
  • Lens shift image stabilization further improves low-light performance
  • Nice, Bright 2.8-inch LCD
  • Outstanding overall shooting performance
  • Good Battery Life
  • Available external mic via USB
Cons
  • Only 85% coverage from OVF
  • Lens is visible from OVF
  • No dedicated video recording button
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 1.4 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 2/10  of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 0.76 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 0.90 seconds
  • Burst = At 3fps, 6fps and 9fps worked as advertised. Only 3fps is continuous after 12 shots
  • 12fps Burst = topped out at 10fps
  • All tests were taken using an SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 Class 10, 8GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Fuji X20 is a powerful digicam that gives complete control to the photographer. Its performance and image quality rival that of an entry-level dSLR as does its price tag. 
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a compact and powerful digicam that is easy to carry but will not disappoint when it comes to performance or quality.
Fuji's new X20 camera follows in the success of the X10 and X100 released last year. While it may look just like the X10, Fuji has made some outstanding improvements to the X20 that have greatly improved the overall image quality of the camera. One of the new additions to the X20 is the powerful 2/3-inch X-Trans CMOS II, 12-Megapixel imaging sensor. Including a random pixel array and phase detection, this new sensor increases resolution, sharpness and greatly increases the speed of the AF system. Powering this sensor is the EXR Processor II, which has carried over from their EXR line, providing excellent shooting performance and an increase in noise reduction. Rounding out the major improvements is the new Advanced Optical zoom viewfinder, which adds plenty of exposure information that was not there before. 

The new X-Trans CMOS image sensor is the predecessor to their popular EXR CMOS sensor. It has been designed with a random pixel array to eliminate moirĂ© without the need for an additional filter. This allows more light to get to the sensor, increasing the quality of the image, low-light performance and reducing the noise at high ISO settings. The 2/3-inch sensor allows this 12-Megapixel sensor to feature larger pixels, thus improving its ability to capture light. Combining this with the EXR processor gives it fantastic shooting performance as well. 

Fuji put a lot of work into the new optical viewfinder on the X20. While it still only covers approx. 85% of the image area, this optical zoom viewfinder has a new display capability that is very pleasing. A thin, clear LCD has been placed inside the OVF that allows you to see the focus point, shooting information and shooting mode. While originally black, when the camera is focused and everything is good, this information will turn green, if not it will turn red so there is no confusion. An eye sensor also allows you to use this OVF in conjunction with the LCD for information or quickly changing between the two. With the OVF, you will always see the lens in the bottom left corner, taking up more of your view the more you zoom in. 

Keeping the same classic rangefinder styling as the X10, it is hard to spot any of the differences that Fuji has incorporated. This is a great thing if you are a fan of the X10 or an older rangefinder camera. It is very easy to use and offers total control for total creativity. The camera's mode dial and exposure compensation dial sit on top of the camera, while there are also two command dials on the back. While the exposure compensation dial is still in the same position, it does take some pressure to turn it, and with this model we have not had any trouble with it changing accidentally. The power control is still on the lens, so there are no buttons or switches to accidentally hit. The lens will also not power on while the lens cap is on, unfortunately the lens cap does fall off pretty easily. The lenses fixed position on the front camera makes it a little harder to conceal, but it is still much smaller than a dSLR or ILC. 

Viewing, framing and composting your images can all be done with the 2.8-inch, 460,000 dot LCD screen. The screen will give you close to the full 100% coverage area when shooting, showing you exactly what you are going to capture. It will also show you how your camera settings will change your images, neither of which you will see with the OVF. This may also allow you to shoot more accurately in tough situations, being able to look at the screen while the camera is away from your face. With 11 levels of brightness, you will be able to find a setting that makes the screen easy to see in just about any lighting condition. If not, then you still have the option of the new optical viewfinder. 

Shooting performance from the X20 is among the best that we have seen for a compact camera. The time it takes to capture an image after being turned on is just 1.4 seconds, blowing away the X10. When the camera is pre-focused, the shutter lag is almost instantaneous, and even when allowing it to focus, it was never more than 2/10 of a second. Single shot mode allows the camera to capture images at a rate of 1.32fps or when using the flash 1.11fps, both of which are very impressive. For burst shooting situations, the camera features several modes that allow you to pick the rate of capture of the images with either 3, 6, 9, or 12 images per second. These all lived up to expectations until we reached the 12fps mode where we were only able to reach 10fps. While using these modes, only shooting at 3fps were we able to capture continuously over a long period. With the other modes after 10 to 15 shots the rate of capture would slow considerably. All of the tests above were completed in Program mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults, unless noted otherwise. We used a SanDisk Extreme Pro, UHS-1, Class 10, 8GB SDHC memory card to ensure the best results. 

Looking at the quality of our outdoor image samples we were very pleased. The images are vivid, well exposed and pleasing to the eye. Shooting in both SR+ Auto and Program modes, gives us two slightly different looks as well. The SR+ Auto shows higher contrast and brighter colors in all of the images, as well as the ability to brighten up some of the darker shadow areas. The best example being the front of the Chinese restaurant. Program mode was very consistent and gave us colors that were true to what we were looking at, just toned down a little from the SR+ results. Framing and composing your images is accomplished with the 35mm equivalent 28-112mm optical zoom lens. Manually zooming this lens by turning it keeps the feel of a classic camera intact, while the maximum f/2.0-2.8 lens with lens shift optical image stabilization allow you to capture crisp images in just about any low-light condition. 

Our indoor samples give us a great look at the quality of the images throughout the ISO range. The X20's image quality is amazing at the lower ISO levels. ISO 100 through ISO 400 show amazing amounts of detail and very low levels of noise for their respective settings. The noise starts to become more apparent at ISO 800, where the image starts to lose some of its finer details. ISO 1600 would be where we would draw the line on images having an acceptable amount of noise and we would suggest staying away from anything higher if at all possible. The X20 also features ISO stops in 1/3 increments for even more control. Assisting with you low-light images, the X20 features a small pop-up flash unit that completely retracts into the camera. With an approx. range of up to 23ft. (W) at ISO auto, it does not feature a lot of power, but it can come in handy in some situations of you stay close to your subjects. It also works well as a fill light to soften shadows in harsh lighting. 

Shooting portraits with the X20 is fun and easy when using the LCD screen. One thing that the new OVF does not do is allow face detection to work or at least not show up in the viewfinder. With the LCD screen, the camera seemed to detect the faces in a timely manner and didn't have much difficulty following them within the frame. Our samples came out crisp and clear, with excellent exposure and focus on the face. If possible, the camera would shoot without the flash, allowing the camera to capture all of the natural colors in the room, in both SR+ Auto and Program mode with the flash set to auto. We also used the portrait enhancer mode, which gave the face and skin a softer look, which is great for hiding blemishes on the skin. 

Thanks to the powerful performance of the X20, Fuji was able to give it a few creative modes that take advantage of the available power. Most of these shooting modes, like the motion panorama or the "pro" shooting modes all use several images taken in a burst and combined to create a bigger, brighter image with lower noise than you would get with just one shot. All of these modes are very easy to use and produce a respectable image, that will do if you are in a bind. If you are serious about creating some of these effects though, you will achieve much better results if you take the time to complete the necessary steps. 

Capturing home movies with the X20 is easy, although there is no dedicated video recording button. This means the camera is not always ready to record, it must be set to movie mode before you can capture video. Once in movie mode, you have full access to the 4x optical zoom while recording. Both 1080p and 720p HD video capture at 60fps is available as well as 640x480 at 30fps. Audio is recorded by the camera's built-in stereo microphone. This mic is very sensitive and will record the sounds closest to the camera. Our sample movies played back very smooth when using the camera, both on the LCD screen or on an HDTV via HDMI. When viewing them on the computer however, they all played back very choppy. 

Powering the X20 is a 3.6V, 1000mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. This battery allows the camera to capture up to 270 frames with the LCD screen turned on. Without the LCD you will get a significantly higher number of images. During our tests we captured over 200 images on a single charge with no threat of depleting the battery. While this battery life is slightly better than what seems to be the standard lately, you will want to have a spare battery that you can keep on hand, especially when traveling or long days of shooting. The included quick charger makes it easy to keep more than one battery charged and ready to go. 

Bottom Line - The Fuji X20 is a compact and powerful digicam that offers full creative control and a sense of classic style to the photographer. Featuring a new X-Trans CMOS imaging sensor and EXR processor, it has surpassed the wonderful performance that we saw with the X10. The new sensor also has allowed for increased image quality and low-light performance. It is a little larger than most compact cameras and with a MSRP of US $599.95, it is also priced much higher. While it is not for everyone, if you are looking for total control, outstanding performance, and awesome image quality from a compact camera; this may be the camera for you.


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