Street shooting, ISO capability and Xpro1 comparison
Fuji X20 Review: In a couple of weeks, my wife and I are going traveling around Vietnam (*update – some Vietnam street photography shots can be found here). SLR’s have long been the camera of choice for most travel photographers (or an expensive Leica!), and I have always taken an SLR away with me on our travels. However, for this trip I’ll be taking my trusty Fuji X-Pro 1, and yesterday we received a brand new Fuji X20, with the idea that Laura will use this to shoot with. She was looking for a compact camera with the ability to shoot manually, an optical zoom, decent ISO performance, and high quality images. Have we found the perfect travel camera for amateurs?
This is more of a practical review, and won’t be “pixel peeking” in detail. I took the Fuji X20 out into Manchester city centre, and did some street photography to really put the camera through its paces. I’ve shared some of my street shots and thoughts below, as well as some examples of high ISO performance. I have owned a Fuji X100, and now regularly use the XPro1 to shoot weddings. I’m a big fan of the Fuji System, and these cameras are the only benchmark in which I have to compare the X20 with. I always shoot in manual or aperture priority, and have not tested any of the auto modes.
Size and Style
The first thing I noticed about the Fuji, was its small size – and looking very similar to the X100, it is very stylish too. You can easily hold the X20 and shoot one handed if desired, and it fits in your pocket if you want to keep it out of sight.
Before I get into a little more detail on the review, I took the camera into the city centre and tested its performance under travel photography conditions – street shooting. Street photography is one of the most demanding tests of a camera, so it was with some trepidation I took this little camera out. The images were all shot in jpg, with slight contrast and B&W conversions performed in LR.
I was actually very very impressed with its performance, and although I was only shooting for just over 2 hours (then the battery ran out!), I managed to get some frames I would have been proud of with my XPro 1.
You have 3 shooting options in relation to the viewfinder… unfortunately you have to go into the menu system to alternate between these, which is a bit of a pain when shooting using the optical viewfinder only.
Personally I always like to use an optical viewfinder. When I read that the X20 displays digital shooting information inside the optical viewfinder, I was expecting something similar to the hybrid viewfinder of the X100 and XPro 1. Its not quite the case, the information displayed is very basic: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. It does not show exposure compensation or the current exposure level. A small arrow points “up” or “down” to inform you if the scene is under or over exposed (as a leica does), but its not particularly useful for todays cameras, as you have no idea how far under or overexposed you are! When shooting using the eyepiece you have to just hope your exposure is correct. However, having said this, I found the optical view finder very easy to use, and this extra information is a great improvement on the X10.
Using the LCD screen, you are presented with much more shooting information. You can see the focus point at all times (and you can move this), as well as most of the more complex information I’m used to with the 100 and XPro1 (such as exposure compensation). Using the LCD screen drains battery and can be hard to use in direct sunlight – but it does what it says on the tin, and the LCD provides a nice image.
*update, I have been using the X20 with an expert shield LCD screen protector, a great value little investment, easy to fit and protects the screen from scratches.
In this mode, you are shooting in “LCD screen mode” but this switches to optical viewfinder when you bring the camera to your eye. In an ideal world, I would have the camera to “Eye sensor” at all times, I could therefore see my exposure and other settings on the LCD screen, then bring the camera to my eye and shoot using the optical viewfinder. But this will drain the battery quickly, so a couple of spares will be needed (the batteries are very small, so this is no issue!)
I fully charged the camera before setting out, and shot most of the time using the optical viewfinder. The camera lasted just over 2 hours, which is not great, but I captured 322 frames in that time. I imagine turning off some features like the image stabilisation would help in this regard – but you will need some spare batteries if taking the X20 on your travels or street shooting for the day.
Focusing + Shooting
Fuji seem to release their X series cameras with a few quirks, and this is no different. On more than one occasion, I rotated the barrel to turn the camera on, and nothing happened. I’m hoping issues like this will be fixed via a firmware update soon.
When looking through the optical viewfinder, there is no focus point, and the area of focus is only shown after you have achieved focus (a small green light does confirm focus). This took some getting used to for me, as a XPro 1 shooter, I am used to a small focus point being visible at all times. However the focus worked really well via the optical viewfinder, and I hit focus most of the time. If struggling to get the right focus, the LCD screen is more useful.
The speed of focus is outstanding. Switching focus from close, to a distant object, appears immediate, much faster than my Xpro1! Focusing is absolutely silent too, this is great for street shooting!
When you press the shutter, there is no mechanical sound. The X100 and XPro1 have quiet shutters, but the X20 is absolutely noiseless – great for capturing street images of people without them knowing. The only downside to this silent shutter is when using the optical viewfinder, you have no confirmation an image was taken. Indeed on several occasions, I pressed the shutter, assumed the shot had been taken, but upon reviewing the LCD screen, found nothing there.
I was very impressed with the ISO capability of this camera, and ISO 3200 is very usable. These are jpg images straight out of camera. The following images have been resized to 900px for web viewing – but I’m happy to provide full size jpgs if you just leave a comment below – I’ll send some across.
The Fuji provides a really nice zoom range, 28mm – 112mm (35mm equiv). See the two sample shots below, at full wide angle (28mm) and full zoom (112mm). You can see a full size jpg straight out of camera here.
Pros + Cons
- Very small, lightweight
- Excellent focus speed
- Optical viewfinder “semi electronic”
- Good ISO performance
- In-built flash
- Good zoom range
- Poor battery life
- Difficult to control in manual mode using optical viewfinder
This is an excellent compact camera. For its size and price, it performs brilliantly. If I was asked to recommend a camera to amateur photographers, wanting to get into street photography, or serious about their travel photographs, then this is a great place to start.
44 thoughts on “Fuji X20 Review”
Great street work Adam, especially for the UK! You are going to love Vietnam!
Very informative review well written.
Interesting review and some nice street shots there!
But what is it about batteries? Iphones, laptops, latest digital cameras – the battery is invariably the weak link.
Great street photos:)!!! Very impressed, and a nice review. I am using Canon G15 but find it slow recording the images, its like a good second or two between the shots. Would love to know how is the x20 with regards to shooting fast? Also, the AF confirmation or rather its lack is a bit disappointing , I was hoping Fuji would do it, as well as the exposure compensation….hmm, I am not sure if I will be switch to x20 from Canon G15…maybe I will wait for G16 or x30 :)!!!!
Hi Adam, I just performed a quick test, and the X20 is fairly quick between shots – less than a second. However there is a “burst mode” which will let you shoot many frames per second, I tend to not use this feature though, as its to many frames for me!
Re the AF….you do get confirmation of AF, the main issue is that if using the optical viewfinder, the AF point is not displayed until after you achieve focus, which seems a little strange to me. But practically, I didn’t find too many problems achieving focus when shooting.
Thanks a lot Adam for the test. Sounds like there is no issue with the speed. The G15 also has a burst mode, but I find it useless, plus its only in jpg’s….Yes, the confirmation after you achieved the focus seems a bit odd…But well, form what you written about x20 , it still seems to be one of the best cameras on the market at the moment in its own class, and looks like a really nice toy…I may loose some sleep over the next few days:)…
Very nice, down to earth review Adam. I’d be happy to see some 112mm f2.8 head/shoulder shots of people or objects which demonstrate the dof and bokeh quality … I’m thinking of buying a X20 as a companion to my X100 for an upcoming trip to Thailand. Thanks and enjoy your trip to Vietnam (also on my travel list)!
Hi Luc, as soon as I take some more shots that demonstrate the dof, I’ll post them for you to check out 🙂
Hello. Thank you for this review and pictures. About the pictures, heve the been shot in JPEG or RAW ?
If shot in JPG, I whould be happy the see the original Fuji-X20-Review0003.jpg picture.
I’ve had a few people ask to see full size jpgs straight out of camera, I hava uploaded one of the files here: https://adamrileyphotography.com/x20-full-size-image/
Feel free to take a look 🙂
Thanks Adam, it’s interesting to read. Your shots brought up some memories of Birmingham where I have lived.
Your concern about the the ‘arrows’ in the OVF showing if you are under or over exposed brought a smile on my face.
It is actually the replication of the Leica M6 viewfinder, two leds in triangle showing under/over. I feel I will have fun with this X20, It’s an ‘Analog’ Look and feel ergonomy Fuji have packed in.
Thanks for your comment Xavier….Manchester does have a similar feel to Birmingham, glad the shots brought up some nice memories for you. Thanks for the info re the Leica M6, I’ve never had the pleasure of using a Leica, so I was unaware of that 🙂
Thank you for your informative review and awesome photos. I just ordered the X20 myself so I’ve a camera to carry with me everywhere for street & travel photography. Look forward to see some more sample shots.
Thanks Thomas, you’ll love having the X20 with you at all times!
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Thanks for this review. It is on my wish-list. Not sure yet for the x20 or Panasonic LX-7 as walk around camera. I own a Olympus OM-D + Canon DSLR as well.
“The Fuji provides a really nice zoom range, 28mm–112mm.But remember this is a cropped sensor, it does not produce an image as wide as a full frame camera” I don’t really understand this line…. But the Fuji x20 lens 28-112mm is just real 28-112mm. Yes the sensor is smaller or bigger, depending how to look at it. Sure the depth of field will be different from full-frame. But 28mm wide = 28mm wide. On the x20 lens is written 7.1-28.4mm(smaller crop sensor) = the equivalent of 28-112mm in full-frame terms.
Thanks Ronald…I didn’t realise the zoom range was 35mm equivalent…I’ve updated this now – thanks!
I love your black and white shots, Adam. Did you shoot them RAW or JPEG (I saw your comment above about JPEGS shots straight from the camera)? Also, what post-processing did you do as you have produced photos with very intense blacks yet great highlights.
All the street photography images were shot in Jpg, then I converted them to B&W in Lightroom. The ISO shots are jpg straight out of camera 🙂
This is a nice overview with some very fine sample images. I own and use pro grade Nikon DSLRs and glass, but almost never bring them along with me without a specific job or project in mind. I’ve been thinking very seriously about moving to the X20 as my daily take-everywhere camera, my only hesitation apart from not knowing how it handles yet being that I’m still rather attached to my large collection of film cameras and love rotating through it as the spirit takes me. But having had a Leica Digilux 2 on semi-permanent loan from a friend for several months, I have loved having a small(ish) camera with a lovely non-detachable zoom lens with a good focal range of 28-90 and fast, sharp Summicron glass on a body that has everything in the right place and fully manual, fully automatic, aperture and shutter priority modes. Rather than purchasing a used Digilux 2, which still fetches Leica cult prices, I had the X20 pegged as a similar camera with updated features. Now that it’s out I’ll be sure to give it a test at a local shop and just might pick one up.
thanks for the review really helpful with some nice images!. I am having a tough conundrum myself at the minute trying to decide on the x20 or the nex 6 as a travel camera. I am going to South America on a once in a life time trip which I will be using a camera extensively for i. I want to get the right camera but cant decide which, like the situation you described I want a good quality camera with a viewfinder, good performance, an optical zoom and top quality images. The nex 6 and x20 but fit the but I am torn on which to get I had always taught it would be the nex 6 but the positive early reviews on x20 have made me wonder? your input would be great?
Wow, South America – sounds great! I’e never used the NEX6, so I cant really help in the comparison of the two. The NEX6 its an interchangeable camera I believe? That could be useful on such a trip of a lifetime…In which case you might want to also consider the Fuji X-E1?? (basically an Xpro 1 but smaller)
Thank you for your excellent review. It was the tipping point on my decision to buy an X20. Can’t wait for it’s arrival.
Really glad you like the review Basel. You won’t regret the X20…enjoy using it! 🙂
Excellent review! My impressions of the X20 closely match yours.
I had the Fuji X10 for a long time (the only camera I was sad to sell) and now I am looking for a companion to the Fuji X-E1. It seems the X20 is the right choice. Thanks again.
Brilliant. Fantastic images Adam. I love your capture of emotions of not only the Bride and Groom but other members of the party.
Thanks for your great review on X20! I’m from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I’m looking for a street camera (I use a SLR Canon 7D, but no way to use it as a street camera). I’ve already have a G12, and I recently bought a Lumix LX7. But it was because my sister was in NY and Amazon.com was not selling the X20 at that moment. I tried the Lumix LX7 today and I loved its performance and image quality. But I felt in love with the retro design of X20 and your review was great to encourage me to buy the X20. I’ll be in USA in a conference and I can’t miss this opportunity (in Brazil the camera’s prices are at least two times the prices in USA).
So, I`d like to ask you one question. Have you ever tried the Lumix LX7? Do you have any idea wich one is better? Once again, thanks a lot for your review and help.
Thanks for the feedback 🙂
The lumix looks like a great little camera, but to be honest I’ve never used one so I’m not in a great position to recommend which of the cameras is best for you. I’d say to try and have a test of the X20 and see which of the two you instinctively prefer 🙂
I’d love to come to Brazil one day, I’ll be sure to let you know if I do 🙂
Hi Alexandre and Adam;
I have owned the LX5 and had a hard time selling it when replacing it with the LX7. Both wonderful cameras that I have loved. However, I just sold the LX7 to make the wife happy as I am lusting after the x20 having finally gotten my hands on one to try at a shop this past week. To me shutter lag, and viewfinder lag are the key issues in taking the decisive moment, and this camera beats everything I have seen in digital so far. The image quality appears better than the LX7, which in my opinion is just a tad noisier than the LX5 that preceded it. THe LX7 is/was a wonderful camera too and I loved both of those Pany models prior to trying the x20. I also shoot professionally with Canon 7d,6d,5d cameras, and this one has better quality at low ISO than the 7d in my opinion when images are all resized to 12 meg. LX5 and LX7 probably not.
What I will miss on LX7 is the 24mm wide, the easy change aspect ratio, and the body size. What I will not miss, is the VF lag, and lack of OVF. In terms of speed the LX7 was also very quick as long as you did not rely on the EVF as it showed only the past and did not record what you see in the VF as it only shows the past. OVF plus 10ms shutter lag on the x20 should translate into a better camera for street photography than anything else out there today including all the DSLRs currently available. Downsides will be image quality and noise at higher ISO, and paralax issues with the only 85% OVF, and possibly the small 12 meg sensor resolution (when compared to 18–36meg DSLR currently available, but I would rather live with all that than the EVF lag on all PS cameras so far. Will have it soon.
Adam excelent review and thanks.
Adam, thx for great review. I am also papering for traveling light on ski tour expedition and wanted to purchase X20. Testing handling and I like it. But did nt have possibility to make some photos. What bothers me are all those reports of smearing in jpg files and watercolor JPG’s with less detaill already at ISO 200. Maybe those wee from preproduction models. Can you comment on that. And send me one full size image you made of your XPRO-1 at X400 for example. Thanks. Jaka
I’ve not had any issues with the jpg files, the quality of all the images has been amazing to date. But I’ve not tested it extensively. Have a great ski trip 🙂
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i have my x20 since 5 days now, and tried it in various situations. i find there is a pretty high level of luminance noise even at 100 iso. i shooted raw files at 100,200,400 and 800 and processed them in lightroom 4.4, but there is still noise even at 100 iso and particularly in large unique white grey and green colors areas. you could have a look on this image https://picasaweb.google.com/franckrob/EssaiFujiX20#5861571036325413698 (dowload the largest version and look at the white and grey areas at 100%) .
Any ideas/thoughts about what presets using on the x20 to minimize noise, or how to process them in lightroom ?
Thanks for mentioning the problem when switching the barrel to turn the camera on, I’ve had this quite a few times. Redoing it seems to sort it but it’s very odd
Will keep an eye out now for a firmware update.
I traded in my Lumix Lx3 for the X20 – what a brilliant camera the Fuji is, I really njoy using it and it seems to my eye to produce consistently great shots
Enjoyed seeing your demo shots round Manchester I stumbled upon the art graffiti by chance myself
Hope you had a great time in Vietnam
Thanks for review and photos. I ‘ve never used that kind of camera and i couldn ‘t get the point about optical viewfinder with zooming. When you zoom, the optical VF is also zooming, is it true?
And is x20 is a camera without any lag, just like Leica ‘s ?
Great review I have an x20 but would like a better flash have you any good choice for this camera please
Thanks Kevin 🙂 I’m afraid I don’t use flash with the fuji
System, so can’t advise.
Again, thanks for your review. It was very good. I do as a normally RAW shooter have some questions. On the review sites where I have examined images so far, it appears to me the JPG OOC are better than the RAW conversions that I have compared. Usually I REALLY like the exposure and color correction issues that RAW affords me, and shoot currently nothing practically in JPG in cameras. Is it just that the after market converters are not up to speed with the Fuji sensor arrangements that they seem to do NO better than the OOC JPG files, or is this my imagination?
Again thanks loads for your blog here, though I had already decided to replace my LX7 with the x20 after handling one last week. On another note to someone who had a Canon G series…I had the G9 and never carried it as it was too slow and too big to want to carry it all the time. The F30 Fuiji that preceded the G9, was small and wonderful for it’s day, and outdid the F100 that came about 5 versions later was great…but I could never get enthusiastic about the files always comparing them to the DSLR files I shoot with professionally. The LX5/7 was smaller and I did carry it…and I did get excited about the images both of those cameras could capture…and they were both much faster than the G9 had been. Hoping the x20, though larger than the LX will not be a camera I won’t want to carry because of size/weight like the Canon was.
I’m thinking about bying a X20 next to my Nikon D90 ,but have one question I couldn’t find answered anywhere.
Can you set the “RAW shooting ” as default or do you have to press the button constantly?
Hope you can answer the question 🙂
Thanks for the great review
Hi Michel, I don’t have the X20 anymore, but I’m very sure once you hit the RAW button, all the subsequent images will be in RAW.
You can set the RAW as a default. I use the Fn button to turn RAW ON/OFF. Once it is set it stays on until you press it again. Regarding the softness of RAW – it is not a camera problem but a poor implementation of the raw converter in LR. There is a fix coming. The RAW is actually very good.
Am just getting into Photography i got the x20 for a few months now. How do you do your street photography? I have been reading on it and know that some just point and shoot and don’t care and others hip shoot or only shoot when no one is looking. I know it’s a really personal thing and not many people like shearing how they do it. But your advice and help would be greatly appreciated. Living in England myself (a rough area) am often worried about getting smacked in the face if someone captures me taking a photo of them.
Hi Bobby, Great to hear you are getting into street photography. I shoot by a variety of methods… Sometimes I find nice light, or a nice clean background – and just wait for someone to walk into it, othertimes I walk the streets and spontaneously see a moment and take the photo (bringing the camera to my eye). I sometimes “shoot from the hip” which helps if you are not confident shooting in your area. However this approach can look more sneaky and get you into more trouble.
Don McCullin is an amazing was photographer, check out some of his work and read about how he got into photography….his first stuff was shooting the streets, and were often of gangs etc. “Rough areas” but if you approach the people and tell them why you are taking the photos, most don’t mind.
Hope that helps 🙂
If you want really a ‘like aps’ quality by your x20 raws you need one of these two converter: Capture One 7 or Photoninja..
Is incredible the amount of difference of details inside your raw; acr-lightroom cannot ‘open’ the same amount of details….is the only way to make raw with x-trans sensors better than jpeg 😉
I own a X20. I find that the OOC Jpegs are superb. I usually shoot with DR Auto and Iso Auto 800. I shoot with Raw and Fine Jpeg setting. This way you can process the raw files to how you like them in camera to produce as many OOC versions of that shot that you want with all the various settings and film simulations applied. I find Lightroom an adobe Camera raw to be poor at the way they deal with the Fuji raw files even though I have the latest updates in place. One of the best pieces of software I feel is excellent with Fuji raw files is Zoner phoyo Studio 17 . It is excellent.
Hope this helps.