Over the past few years we have seen a number of manufacturers turn to the canons of product design for inspiration. A very good example is Fujifilm's X Series of compact and compact system cameras, which use unique sensor technology crossed with analogue lines that enthusiasts love. The next iteration, the Fuji X20 is the latest model in the range and sits at the head of the brand's compact range. Whilst offering a host of improvements, it's not without a few downfalls. We had a go for a hands on review.
At the core of the Fujifilm X20 is a 12MP, 2/3in X-Trans CMOS II sensor. This sensor, despite being the same 2/3in size and 12MP pixel count as the Fujifilm X10, is newly developed for the X20 and as such promises improved performance. Another feature that it maintains, as the name suggests, is the X-Trans technology, and as a result of this the X20 omits a standard anti-aliasing filter.
The Fujifilm X20's sensor comes with the second-generation version of Fujifilm's EXR processor. It claims that this new version of the processor lets the X20 deliver shots with up to and over 30% less noise than its predecessor. The processor also has a Lens Modulation Optimiser tool to boost the performance of the lens by countering effects, such as diffraction.
The lens on the Fujifilm X20 is the same 4x optical zoom as that on the X10, covering a focal range of 28-112mm, with a manual control. The lens has a maximum aperture of f/2, decreasing to f/2.8 at the tele end of the zoom, while the image stabilisation system claims to offer a four-stop gain in shooting.
As has been the case with many compact camera releases in the past few years, the sensor on the Fujifilm X20 has phase-detect pixels to assist the camera's focus performance. This phase detect technology is combined with a more conventional contrast-detect AF system in an Intelligent Hybrid AF system, which automatically recognises when a scene requires either system and automatically selects the appropriate one. As a result Fujifilm claims the X20 acquires focus in a barely perceptible time of just 0.06 seconds.
Finishing off the impressive specifications are a few other highlights. These include an impressive 12fps burst speed at full resolution, Full HD video capture at 60fps and an optical viewfinder equipped with an all-new Digital Trans Panel display.
As has been the trend for recent models in Fujifilm's X series - see the X20's older siblings, the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and Fujifilm X-E1 - the X20 has a host of analogue controls that could see it easily mistaken for an analogue camera. Those controls include a large, and very useful, manual exposure compensation dial, and while there's a built-in flash there's hot-shoe too should you need it.
The Fujifilm X20 doesn't just feel good; it feels like a quality bit of kit, too. It's made from die-cast magnesium, around which a synthetic leather band is wrapped. It doesn't feel particularly heavy for a compact, and it certainly wouldn't be too heavy to carry around in a pocket for the day, but it still feels robust and durable.
Despite the overall high quality design, the X20 isn't without its flaws. For example, the exposure compensation dial is far too easily knocked out of position during casual shooting or when placed in a pocket or bag - although exposure compensation does show up on the screen or viewfinder, and as such it's relatively easy to spot any changes, it's an annoying trait.
On the whole the X20 offers a good level of performance. The hybrid AF system does well in bringing subjects into focus in the required time, and it performs particularly well on low contrast subjects without intervention from the camera's AF assist lamp.
The Fujifilm X20 also starts very quickly, no doubt due to the camera's manual zoom that also serves as the camera's power control. Once this is turned, the camera is ready to shoot almost instantly.
There are a few issues with the camera's performance, and the foremost of these is the viewfinder. It only offers 85% coverage of the scene, and although this would be forgivable, the lack of parallax markings render the viewfinder only really useful when shots can be composed without the need for utmost precision.
Exposure information is displayed in the finder thanks to the Digital Trans Panel display, with information showing up in either red or green lights. The information is overlaid on the scene rather than on a dark panel as on a DSLR, and as a result it can be difficult to pick in some situations.
The good news with the viewfinder is that it's clear and avoids distortion throughout the majority of the focal range. The LCD screen is excellent, too. It's crisp and has excellent contrast, even if it's a little on the small side.
Shots straight out of the camera are reliably pleasing thanks to the camera's sound metering, reliable white balance and pleasing level of contrast in JPEGs.
Performance throughout the ISO range is respectable. Noise is well controlled, particularly at the lower settings, although noise reduction does create certain issues even at the lowest settings. This noise reduction can lead to detail smearing and fine details being lost in a mush on occasion. If you shoot Raw, however, you counter some these issues, and the Fujifilm X20 retains more detail throughout the ISO range than most of its rivals.
The lens performs well, too. While there is a touch of softness at wider apertures, it's tended to once you stop down. There's very little distortion throughout the frame in most conditions and shooting settings.
The Fujifilm X20 is clearly more than just a slight improvement on its X10 predecessor. Despite some issues with the viewfinder, noise reduction and exposure compensation dial, on the whole it offers an excellent level of performance.
Standout features are an impressively fast AF system, all-round image quality and dependable build quality, and on the whole the X20 is an impressive addition to Fujifilm's X range and one that's sure to add to the competition in an admittedly crowded market. The camera is available for RRP AU$ 749.00 from all the decent camera dealers.