Fujifilm X-T20 Review

March 6, 2017 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Fujifilm X-T20 is a new mid-range compact system camera that’s smaller, lighter and crucially a lot cheaper than the flagship X-T2 model. The X-T20 features a 24.3 megapixel APS-C sized X-Trans CMOS III sensor, 4K video recording, AF-C Custom Settings where you can choose from five AF-C presets, a tilting touchscreen LCD screen, ultra-fast auto-focusing speed of 0.06sec, 325 AF points including 49 phase-detect AF points, and the latest X-Processor Pro engine. It also offers a built-in pop-up flash, 2.36m dot resolution OLED electronic viewfinder with a lag-time of 0.005 sec, 8fps burst shooting (14fps with the electronic shutter), expandable sensitivity range from ISO 100-51200, exposure compensation up to ±5 stops, wi-fi connectivity, interval timer shooting, in-camera raw conversion, a range of film simulation modes including the new ACROS mode, multiple exposure and panoramic shooting modes, Digital Split Image and Focus Peaking for easier manual focusing, an ultra-fast electronic shutter that is capable of exposures up to 1/32000sec, Natural Live View function that removes the image quality settings from the viewfinder image while shooting, a dedicated Auto Mode Switch Lever, and a traditional threaded cable release. The Fujifilm X-T20 is available in black or silver and costs £799 / $899 body only, £899 / $999 in a kit with the XC 16-50mm lens, or £1099 / $1199 with the XF 18-55mm lens.

Ease of Use

The new Fujifilm X-T20 is smaller, lighter and "squarer" than the X-T2, soliciting admiring looks and comments wherever it went, especially in the silver and black guise that we reviewed. One of the key differences between the X-T2 and X-T20 is that the latter is still not weather-proof, which is in keeping with its mid-range status, but something that's important to note if you're deciding between the two. Another key difference is the X-T20's high-resolution OLED electronic viewfinder. Although it offers the same 2.36m dot resolution as the X-T2, the magnification is only 0.62x rather than 0.77x. Still, with a very short lag-time of just 0.005 sec, in practice it answers one of the most common complaints about electronic viewfinders.

The Fujifilm X-T20 is another very well-built X-series camera, with almost no flex or movement in its chassis thanks to the die-cast magnesium alloy top and base plates and machined aluminium control dials. At the same time, it's actually a little lighter than a cursory glance might suggest, weighing in at 383g body only with the battery and memory card fitted and measuring 118.4mm (W) x 82.8mm (H) x 41.4mm (D).

The X-T20 has a small hand-grip at the front and a prominent rest at the rear for your thumb, with your grip helped in no small part by the textured faux-leather surface that runs around the full width of the camera. Two small metal eyelets on either side of the body are used for connecting the supplied shoulder strap. A metal tripod mount is positioned slightly off-centre from the lens and next to the battery/memory card compartment, so you'll have to remove the camera from the tripod to change the battery or the memory card. The X-T20 only offers compatibility with Ultra High Speed UHS-I SDXC memory cards, whereas the X-T2 is also compatible with faster UHS-II cards, and the latter also has two card slots rather than one. The X-T20 still offers a fast continuous shooting rate of 8fps for 62 JPEGs or 25 Raws if you use a UHS-I SDXC card, increasing to 14fps when using the electronic shutter, which is certainly up there with the fastest compact system cameras in its class.

The viewfinder has a stunning Graphic User Interface that no optical viewfinder could ever hope to emulate. The default Full mode does what its name suggests and displays an uninterrupted view of the scene with all the settings information displayed outside the frame so that you can really concentrate on your subject. Normal provides an optimum view, including the shooting settings. The very clever Dual mode takes advantage of the EVF's size to display a split view of the scene before you, with the full frame on the left and a smaller 100% manual focus area on the right, complete with either focus peaking or Fujifilm's digital split image function. The displayed settings in the Full and Normal modes automatically rotate when the X-T20 is held in a portrait orientation (although sadly not for the Dual view). Finally, Fujifilm have added the Natural Live View which cleverly removes the current image quality settings and provides a more real-world view similar to that offered by an optical viewfinder.

At the heart of the X-T20 is the brand new 24.3 megapixel APS-C sized “X-Trans III” CMOS sensor, with APS-C being a size that's more commonly used by the majority of DSLR cameras than by compact system cameras. Fujifilm actually claim that the X-T2's sensor will deliver image quality that surpasses most APS-C DSLRs and even some full-frame ones, thanks to the unique sensor which has a type of colour filter array that mimics film grain and no optical low-pass filter for higher resolution images, and as our test photos and sample images on the next two pages show, the X-T20 actually does live up to those claims.

Fujifilm X-T20
Front of the Fujifilm X-T20

Helping to keep the image quality high is the 18-55mm standard zoom kit lens that we predominantly tested the X-T20 with. This offers fast maximum apertures of f/2.8 at 18mm and f/4 at 55mm, with the added benefit of built-in optical image stabilisation to help keep your images sharp. There are aperture and manual focus rings on the lens barrel, which in conjunction with the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on top of the camera body makes it straight-forward to set the exposure. We did find though that the aperture ring is easily moved, particularly when taking the lens on and off the camera, so watch out for an incorrectly set aperture. The XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS is a really nice standard zoom that's certainly a cut above the kit lenses that ship with most interchangeable lens cameras.

The large APS-C sensor makes it easy to throw the background out of focus and achieve some really nice bokeh effects, and the extensive ISO range of 100-51200 makes the X-T20 very well suited to low-light shooting, allowing you to hand-hold the camera in places where you'd usually be reaching for a tripod (if allowed) or other support. The clever ISO Auto Control setting allows you to set a maximum sensitivity (up to 6400) and a minimum shutter speed (1/30th is a good starting point), with the camera over-riding your ISO choice if it thinks you're being too ambitious whilst maintaining a shutter speed that won't introduce camera shake.

The X-T20 actually has two kinds of shutter, mechanical and electronic. When using only its mechanical focal-plane shutter, the X-T20 has a very adaptable top shutter-speed limit of 1/4000th second in all shooting modes. There's no built-in ND filter, so if you want to use the XF 35mm lens at F/1.4 in very bright sunlight, for example, then it's a good idea to buy an actual glass ND filter. The X-T20 utilises a focal-plane shutter rather than the leaf shutter that the X100/S cameras have, much like a regular DSLR camera. This results in slightly noisier operation than on those very quiet cameras, although the shutter on the X-T20 is pretty stealthy by DSLR standards, and a much slower flash-sync speed of 1/180th second (versus the X100/S's 1/400th second). To make the camera less obtrusive there's a Silent menu option which turns off the speaker, flash, AF-assist lamp and most importantly the shutter-release sound, instantly making the X-T20 perfectly suited to more candid photography.

Fujifilm have also added a completely silent electronic shutter to the X-T20 which provides a much faster top shutter speed of 1/32,000th second. This allows you to continue shooting wide-open with fast aperture lenses in the brightest of conditions without having to resort to fitting a glass ND filter or using external flash and lights. There are some important caveats with the electronic shutter - the ISO range is restricted to 200-6400, you can't use the flash at all, and the slowest shutter speed is only 1 second, but overall it's a great addition that makes the X-T20 more versatile. It's also possible to set the electronic shutter in 1/3 steps from a range of 1sec to 1/32000sec.

The X-T10 was no slouch when it came to auto-focusing, but Fujifilm have made the X-T20's AF system even better. It can auto-focus in as little as 0.06 seconds and offers an increased number of AF points - 91 versus the X-T10's 49 - again laid out in a 7 x7 grid, with a lot more of the imaging area covered by fast and precise phase detection AF pixels.

Fujifilm X-T20
Rear of the Fujifilm X-T20

If you want even more control, you can select the 325 points option which splits the same area of the frame into a 13x25 grid of smaller AF points, of which the central 77 are phase-detection points. The X-T20 is the latest X-series camera to offer Zone and Wide/Tracking modes which utilise the larger 325-point area to capture moving subjects. In Zone mode, you can select a 3x3, 5x5 or 7x7 zone out of the 325-point AF area. During AF-C focus, the X-T20 continually tracks the subject, positioning it at the centre of the zone. The centrally positioned 3x3 and 5x5 zones in particular deliver fast focusing thanks to the on-sensor phase detection AF.

The Wide/Tracking mode combines the Wide mode (during AF-S), in which the X-T20 automatically identifies and tracks the area in focus across the 325 point AF area, and the predictive Tracking mode (during AF-C), which uses the entire 325-point area to continue tracking the subject. This feature enables continuous focusing on a subject that is moving up and down, left and right or towards and away from the camera.

Fujifilm have drastically improved the AF-C algorithm to make the X-T20 better able to track moving subjects. You can now determine how the camera reacts to the way the subject moves within the frame, how fast the subject moves and where in the frame the camera prioritizes focus, with five AF presets offered and the ability to create up to 6 of your own. The AF-C system is so complex behind-the-scenes that Fujifilm have created a special microsite to explain it in more detail (http://fujifilm-x.com/af/). The X-T20 also offers Eye Detection AF, which as the name suggests automatically detects and focuses on human eyes You can also define the area of priority focus, for example the right or left eye, or the eye closer to the camera.

There's also the continued ability to change the size of the focus point via the rear command dial to achieve more precise focusing. As well as the extra AF points, one of the positive effects of the high-performance X Processor Pro image processing engine is much faster AF speed - about 2x quicker than the processor used on the X-T10 camera - making the X-T20 the joint-fastest AF performer in an X-Series camera with the X-Pro2 and X-T2.

Manual focusing is activated by setting the focusing switch on the front of the camera to Manual and using the ring that encircles the lens to focus. The X-series lenses have an electronically coupled focus-by-wire manual focusing ring, rather than a physical one. We criticised some older X-series bodies for taking a lot of turns to change the focus from 0.1m to infinity, commenting that it was a much better idea to use the AEL button on the rear of the camera to set the focus automatically, then use the focusing ring to micro-adjust the focus manually, if required. This is still a viable technique, but is perhaps no longer required as Fujifilm have cleverly made the focusing ring more sensitive to how you use it - turn it slowly and the focusing distance changes slowly, but turn it more quickly and the camera quickly moves through the distance scale. It now only takes less than 2 full turns and a couple of seconds to jump from the closest focus distance to infinity.

Fujifilm X-T20
Top of the Fujifilm X-T20

The X-T20 offers not one, not two, but three ways of manually focusing. Firstly, there's a handy blue distance scale along the bottom of the viewfinder (both the OVF and EVF) and on the LCD screen if you're using that for composition, with a red bar indicating the the focusing distance and a white bar showing the depth of field, which actually changes in line with the current aperture - very clever. In addition to the AEL button, the X-T20 has another trick up its manual focusing sleeve in the shape of the Focus Assist button. As its name suggests, you can press this in to magnify the view in the electronic viewfinder. Furthermore, if you hold down the Focus Assist button, the manual focusing aid then switches to Digital Split Image, and then to Focus Peaking - a very neat way to change between the three modes.

The second manual focusing method is the Digital Split Image feature. Harking back to film cameras of the past, this displays dual images on the left and right which then need to be lined up together for accurate manual focusing, enabling accurate focusing especially when shooting wide-open or for macro shooting. It's much easier to understand in practice than written down. The third and final method is the Focus Peak Highlight function, which displays a white line around the subject when it's in focus, something that Sony NEX users in particular have been enjoying for a while. Both of these functions make manual focusing on the X-T20 more of a pleasure than a chore, although the revised fly-by-wire manual focusing ring operation is arguably more important.

The Fujifilm X-T20’s 3-inch 1040K-dot LCD screen is touch-sensitive, which means you can use it to set the AF point too, or even fire off the shutter release. On the left hand side of the screen you’ll see a small icon which if you press allows you to choose between using the screen to set AF point, or to have it focus and then take a picture. If you prefer, you can turn off this functionality altogether, but it’s much quicker than using the buttons to set the point. The screen is mounted on a hinge that allows it to be usefully tilted up by 90 degrees and down by 45 degrees.

The LCD screen has a handy Info view which presents all of the key settings at once, or you can switch to the Standard or Custom Live View modes, with the latter offering 14 customisable options (these are also used for the electronic viewfinder). The X-T20 has a built-in eye sensor so that you only have to hold the camera up to eye-level to switch between the rear LCD and the electronic viewfinder (or you can press the View Mode button on the side of the pentaprism).

Fujifilm X-T20
Tilting LCD Screen

In terms of operational speed, the Fujifilm X-T20 is very satisfying to use. Shutter lag is virtually non-existent on this camera (0.045 second), so once you have set the focus, you'll never miss the moment because the camera can't fire the shutter quickly enough. The shot-to-shot time is just 0.17 second, and it starts-up in only 0.3 seconds. The write speeds from pressing the shutter button to recording to the SD / SDHC / SDXC memory card are fast too. Continuous shooting speeds have been improved too, as we've already explained above. Thankfully the camera doesn't lock up completely for a long time if you shoot the maximum number of images in a burst, allowing you to continue shooting after just a few seconds. The X-T20 also offers interval timer shooting for time lapses, with intervals of 1 second to 24 hours and up to 999 frames.

One area in which the Fujifilm X-T20 excels is its handling, thanks in no small part to the numerous external controls that make changing the key settings a breeze, especially when holding the camera at eye-level. Surrounding the 18-55m lens is a circular aperture ring, although it has no markings due to the variable aperture. This dial also allows you to choose third-stop apertures. On top of the X-T20 is a large, tactile, lockable control dial for setting the shutter speed, with settings ranging from 1 second to 1/4000th second, an Auto option, a T setting for longer exposures (2 to 30 seconds, set via the circular command wheel) and a Bulb mode for exposures up to a whopping 60 minutes in length.

Alongside the shutter speed dial is another tactile dial for changing the exposure compensation, with a range of +-3EV and a new Custom setting, and on the left-hand side is a third dial for moving between the bracketing, burst, multiple exposure, advanced and panorama functions, with a switch underneath for releasing the pop-up flash. One key difference to the X-T2 is the lack of an ISO speed dial, perhaps understandable given the X-T20's reduced size and different target audience, but still annoying for more experienced users. Instead, you need to dive into the menu system to set the ISO. There's also no dedicated dial for setting the metering mode.

There's a small lever on top of the X-T20 for turning on the dedicated Auto Mode. In this Advanced SR AUTO mode, the X-T20 automatically selects the optimum shooting settings from 58 preset scenes, including the best AF mode. More confident beginners can then use the rear Command Dial to select a specific scene type. While this new switch makes it easy to enter full Auto mode, we did find ourselves accidentally turning it on quite a lot, as the switch is very similar to the On/Off switch and also positioned near it.

Fujifilm X-T20
The Fujifilm X-T20 In-hand

Four other controls complete the X-T20's top-plate. The small but responsive shutter release button is encircled by the On/Off switch, and there's a thread for a traditional mechanical cable release, something that's missing on the X-T2. Alongside is the Fn button, which by default provides quick access to the Wi-Fi options, but can be customised to suit your own needs from 12 different settings. Further customisation is available via the 7 Custom Menu options, which let you create, save and recall up to 7 sets of user-defined settings, and no less than 7 configurable function buttons. The X-T10's one-touch Movie Record button has been replaced by a dedicated setting on the shooting mode dial. Finally there's an external flash hotshoe for suitable dedicated external units, along with the new built-in flash which has a guide number of 5.

The X-T20 features enhanced built-in wi-fi connectivity. Install the FUJIFILM Camera Remote App and you can transfer your pictures immediately to a smartphone or tablet PC and then edit and share them as you wish, transfer stills and video onto the camera, and embed GPS information in your shots from your smartphone. You can also control the camera remotely, with the list of available functions including Touch AF, shutter release for stills and movies, shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, Film Simulation modes, White Balance, macro, timer and flash. The built-in wi-fi also provides a simple means to backup your photos to your home PC.

The Fujifilm X-T20 can now record 4K video, with 24/25/30p frame rates on offer. What's more, Fujifilm have introduced the concept of "Quick 4K", where the camera can be set to apply one of the built-in film simulation modes to your footage to avoid having to grade it during post-processing. If you don't need 4K, the X-T20 can also record Full HD 1080p movies at 60p / 50p / 30p / 25p / 24p for up to 15 minutes with stereo sound. There is a HDMI port for connecting the X-T20 to a high-definition TV, and you can adjust the level of the internal microphone and attach an external mic for better sound quality via the Mic and Remote ports. Strangely, despite the increased emphasis on video recording, the X-T10's one-touch Movie Record button has completely disappeared (it's now been assigned to the drive mode dial).

The X-T20 has a logical enough rear control layout. Above the LCD screen and to the left of the viewfinder are two buttons for choosing image deletion or playback, while on the right is the AE-L button, rear control dial and the AF-L button. Beneath those is the Quick Menu button. This provides quick access to lots of frequently used shooting settings including the ISO speed, White Balance, File Size and File Quality, with the 4-way controller and command dial used to quickly change them. In the middle of the controller is the Menu button, which accesses the eight Shooting and Set-up menus. Underneath is the Disp/Back button which is used for changing the LCD display or going back.

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