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Fujifilm X20 First Impressions Review

Fujifilm refreshes one of its affordable X-series models with some slick features from its high-end siblings.

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Introduction

Even the entry-level models in Fujifilm's prestigious X series are pretty drool-worthy. The X20 borrows design cues and high-end features from its more expensive siblings, but will sell for a relatively affordable $599 when it hits shelves in early spring 2013. This camera was one of the most buzz-worthy products on the floor at CES 2013, and as fans of the X10 from a couple years back, we were stoked to check it out.

CES Press Conference Video

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Design & Usability

The X20 has the feel of a retro street-shooter, and it's designed almost exactly like the X10 before it.

It still comes in black, and there's a new black/silver two-tone version, too. It's pretty chunky for a compact—it feels like it's in the same ballpark as the far more powerful and expensive X100S*), but the heft is generally a positive thing when for handling.

It's built around a 2/3-inch CMOS sensor like its predecessor, but now it's designed with the same 6x6 pixel arrangement as the higher-end X-series cameras (Fuji calls it the X-Trans II sensor). It as a new EXR II sensor, too.

Fujifilm updated an already-great viewfinder, too. The optical viewfinder was one of the best parts of the X10, and by far the clearest and brightest in the advanced-compact class. Now they've added an electronic data overlay, just like you'd find in any through-the-lens viewfinder in a DSLR, plus a grid, which you might not find in a DSLR. The color of the text changes according to shooting conditions, too.

Features

Based on my brief time with the X20 on the show floor, it's almost exactly like using the X10. In other words, a whole lot of fun.

There's just something unbeatable about a good optical viewfinder, even when it doesn't have a true through-the-lens perspective. It's just cooler than an electronic screen, especially on a small, fixed-lens camera, and the feel can't be matched.

The handling isn't comfortable, exactly—more like satisfying. The buttons and control rings provide delightfully tactile response, and the ability to directly adjust vital shooting settings using those physical controls means the X20 trumps many other compact cameras even before it begins shooting. The power switch is even part of the lens ring, which is a bit odd at first but grows on you with time.

Autofocus is apparently the fastest in the high-end compact class, though they're all so quick now that the distinctions barely matter. It definitely seemed fast and accurate on the showroom floor. Manual focus is much easier to use, too, thanks to the focus-peak highlighting feature, which has also been added to the X100S.

FI Handling Photo 1

Conclusion

The X20's design is too awesome for it not to find an audience.

If the image quality proves to be as great as we think it'll be, this camera will be a bona-fide hit. The X10 came close, but the white-orb fiasco slowed its momentum considerably.

Here's the big question: How will its image quality compare to the Sony RX100 It's unlikely that the X20 can match it, simply because the RX100 has a bigger sensor. But consider the fact that high-ISO photos from the Fuji X-Pro1 are almost clean enough to look like they were taken by a full-frame sensor (even though it's an APS-C camera). That, from a sensor that's only two-thirds as large.

But here's where our logic gets a little crazy: The 2/3-inch sensor in the X20 is—hey now!—two-thirds the size of the RX100's 1-inch chip. Could the X-Trans design compensate for its size deficit, at least in low-light shooting? We'll just have to see when we get it into our labs.

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