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A. Digital Camera - Fuji X20

Discussion in 'Fujifilm Cameras' started by Stanovich, Jul 19, 2013.

  1. Stanovich

    Stanovich Member

    I bought the X20 as a viewfinder-equipped replacement for my Panasonic LX3, as a second camera that tends to get used for casual snaps, street use and on business trips where I want something smaller than an SLR (I have a Pentax K5IIs, recent replacement for a K20D). My criteria were decent image quality, manual controls, a sensible zoom range, and an optical viewfinder – and not too bulky, which went against the Canon G1-X as a possible alternative. These are my impressions after a month and c. 500 shots, including some to test different settings.

    The X20 is a pleasing camera to use – nicely sized, well put together, large bright viewfinder with settings superimposed electronically, as well as decent dioptre adjustment (so no fishing for glasses), and the manual zoom ring on the lens. It feels like an old-style rangefinder but with a zoom. Within the first week I added a hand strap rather than the supplied neck strap, a small Lowepro bag which can strap on to my belt, a Marumi UV filter and a clip-on lens cap attached with a cord (the camera now turns on without the cap being removed, which wasn’t possible with the original Fuji cap). Incidentally the thread is 40.3mm, so a 40mm filter is needed rather than the more common 40.5mm.

    When the camera ‘goes to sleep’ it needs to be switched off and on again to wake it up – a simple press of any button would be more convenient. I like the ability to switch off the live view on the screen and just use the viewfinder, but less impressed that the electronic display that gets superimposed at the bottom of the window no longer has live information – e.g. the shutter speed doesn’t change as the camera is panned (it updates, with an unhealthy-sounding clunk, when the shutter button is pressed half way). The live information occasionally also disappears as the background changes, and takes a while to come on again. On the plus side the eye detector is rather neat – with live view on, it switches the screen off when you bring the camera up to your face – and I also like the ‘quick menu’ for changing settings in the field without having to trawl through all the menu settings (there’s also a user-definable function button next to the shutter button, which I have set to control ISO).

    The camera can produce some excellent images for the size of its sensor (58mm[SUP]2[/SUP]), but using the standard settings for JPEGs results in photos that lack detail and definition. This seems strange as the X20 (like my SLR) doesn’t have a low-pass filter and therefore should produce very sharp images, at the risk of moire patterning. Maybe Fuji has applied excessive noise reduction to compensate or to smooth out images at higher ISO settings. After experimenting I’m now using in-camera noise reduction -2 and sharpening +2 (the maximum settings), which seems to give fair results at ISO 100 and 200 – at least I feel I’m not having to sharpen every shot to make it acceptable (I’m generally viewing on a 24” screen, and so far I have only printed at A4 with a laser). In general I have been shooting in aperture priority mode at ISO 100 and 200, with other settings neutral; I’ve occasionally used the ‘Velvia’ mode which gives fuller, more saturated colours and seems useful for things like flowers and cars. I haven’t used higher sensitivity levels much, but the camera seems usable up to ISO 1600. Shooting in RAW and sharpening when converting produces slightly better results than anything that I can achieve with the camera settings, but it also exposes a quirk of the X20 which is that it will only produce 4:3 images in RAW (I normally use 3:2).

    So far I have found that the exposure isn’t as consistent as either my K5 or LX3, regardless of whether I use spot metering or averaged mode. Images generally vary between neutral and underexposed; the light graph is often skewed noticeably to the dark side. On the other hand the JPEGs are much more manipulable than those from the LX3, which by comparison seem over-processed. Now for another quirk: although the shutter speed goes to 1/4000, in aperture priority this only seems available at f/9 and f/11, and at the widest apertures the fastest speed seems to be 1/1000 or 1/1250, which as well as leading to inadvertent overexposure (a green arrow appears next to the viewfinder display, but it’s not that obvious) rules out getting a nicely out-of-focus background in bright conditions.

    On balance this is a well-made camera that’s enjoyable to use and has very acceptable image quality. Now I’ve sorted the settings it’s producing better JPEGs than the Panasonic, though the exposure issue means I’m doing more post-processing even with ‘snaps’. Some of the camera’s quirks and limitations are disappointing (to the point of thinking I had a faulty version) and while I can live with them it would be nice if Fuji sorted them out with some software updates.

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