REVIEW : The Fujifilm X-T20

 Fujifilm X-T20 : Image courtesy Fujifilm Canada

Fujifilm X-T20 : Image courtesy Fujifilm Canada

With the enormous success of the superb X-T2, many folks were curious what would happen with the X-T20.  The X-T10 had been the younger sibling of the X-T1, and much was expected to flow down from the X-T2 to the X-T20.  Let's take a deeper look and see what transpired.

All my evaluations are based on real world shooting as opposed to lab and chart tests.  If you need that sort of thing, there are lots of places to look, some of them are even very good.

Camera Control

The X-T20 echoes the Fujifilm tradition of dials and knobs instead of LCD displays and microscopic buttons.  This means that the usability index of the camera is very high, especially if you have ever shot film.  The Shutter speed dial is large and clearly laid out.  Some people are not happy because it only offers variants in full stops.  1/3 stops are available through the control wheels, so I disregard this as whining.  The shutter button falls naturally under your index finger and there is no doubt what it is.  It has the on / off switch around it.  There is also a large and perfectly placed exposure compensation dial as you see on the rear right top deck.  I would coach Fujifilm to provide locking controls on these dials.  This was not a problem for me, but for a couple of friends who tried the camera out for feel, they made changes inadvertently, so I see this as a potential problem, given the target buyer.  There is a simple toggle to switch to full Auto.  This is fast, clear and elegant.  Shutter speeds range from 1/4000s to 4s plus bulb.  ISO native range is 200 to 12800 with a pull to 100 and two push options of 25600 and 51200.  While the compensation dial only goes +-3EV, internally the camera can adjust +-5EV. 

 Image courtesy Fujifilm Canada

Image courtesy Fujifilm Canada

The EVF and the LCD

The EVF is bright and easy to read.  It has excellent scene coverage and adjusts its internal brightness according to the scene at hand.  I would like the ability to disable this at a touch, but the target market will love this because it makes framing images in poor light very easy.  I like the size of the diopter adjustment wheel but do not like that it doesn't look.  Pulling the camera out of a bag, I managed to knock the diopter out of adjustment on multiple occasions.

 Image courtesy Fujifilm Canada

Image courtesy Fujifilm Canada

The LCD is a 1M dot 3 inch display in the standard 3:2 aspect ratio.  It's quite usable even in very bright light, and doesn't explode your retinas at night.  It is a tilting display, without swivel and this adjustability makes life easier when framing high or low.  I like the capability of the display very much, although the selfie crowd will be disappointed in their inability to see their narcissism live.  When collapsed down, the LCD sits flush on the body and you will not accidentally pull it away from its rest position.  It's also a touch screen and can be used to select the focus point area, to touch focus and also touch to shoot.  Since I am more likely to use FLRS (focus,lock,recompose,shoot) with the EVF and nearly never use the LCD to compose images other than when the position makes that practical, I did not use any of these options other than touch focus, and disabled touch shoot immediately after having it go off without my intent.  On playback you can use the touch to move through videos and to zoom in and out.

The Sensor and The Processor

While Fujifilm's documentation does not expressly say that this is the same sensor as the X-T2, the specifications are in fact identical.  It is Fujifilm's proprietary, and excellent X-Trans III sensor delivering 24MP and normal ISO to 12800, although you can push that digitally to 51200.  It is an APS-C sized sensor that delivers either or both Fujifilm RAF format RAWs and JPEGs.  The JPEGs use Fujifilm's well loved film emulations as options.  The processor is the X-Processor Pro and is very fast resulting in timely performance, reduced viewfinder blackout and fast AF.  If this sounds remarkably like the X-T2, well then draw your own conclusions as I have.

 Image courtesy Fujifilm Canada

Image courtesy Fujifilm Canada

Autofocus

I really like the AF performance and options.  In my opinion, there is no other offering in this price range that does as well as the Fujifilm across the board.  There are two major modes, AF-S (single shot) and AF-C (continuous AF) and each offers the choice of single point, zone or wide / tracking modes.  As with the X-T2 I had the most success with single point and zone, and struggled for consistency with the tracking mode.

What makes the Fujifilm offering more flexible is the addition of optimized settings.  These are basically optimized settings for different continuous focus scenarios.  This sort of thing, that Canon introduced with the original 1Dx as the CASE system, is incredible to have in a camera of this price point.  As a sports and wildlife shooter, I got used to the CASE system very quickly and love that Fujifilm has placed it in a camera for this target market.

The processor not only bumps performance and reduces blackout time it also raises the continuous burst rate to 8fps. The typical buyer will be hard pressed to need more frames per second than this.

Other Stuff of Interest

I fully understand that I am not the target buyer for this model, but there are some additional functions that I really like, and others that don't matter to me, but will appeal to the target market.

I don't shoot in JPEG, so the different film emulations and image filters are of no value to me.  However, there will be lots of folks who will buy this camera and see real value in these offerings.  Fujifilm has done a nice job of making them available and easy to use.

Fujifilm has enabled their Super Intelligent Flash for the popup flash.  Translated, this means that the camera will strive to deliver a balanced look for flash photographs combining the flash with the ambient light for a more natural looking image.  This is the same as the Fill Flash delivered automatically in other vendors AUTO or Program modes and goes a long way to mitigating fear of flash in new users.

Fujifilm delivers auto bracketing as an option for exposure, but also for white balance, dynamic range, film simulation and ISO.  There has been criticism that this is only available in a 3 shot bracket, but the sensor is so good that 7 or 9 frames would be overkill.

The X-T20 incorporates a built in interval timer, for doing time lapse photography.  It's very easy to set up and works very well, within the limit of a 24 hour shooting period and offering a start delay of up to 24 hours.  This is very much a vertical demand, but it's built in, no accessory required and no need to sign into a Fuji store and spend more money on an app unlike some makers.

The multiple exposure mode is not usually found on cameras in this price point.  The X-T20 allows for two shots to be done as one.  This is a nice to have but is not likely to be a deciding point for a buyer.

Fujifilm is delivering 4K UHD video in this camera.  Note the price point and the lousy job on 4K being delivered by some vendor's professional grade cameras, not to name Canon specifically but stuff happens.  The 4K recording internally is very good, and the X-T20 despite not being a pro body has a separate microphone input and clean 4K HDMI out if you want to use an external recorder like an Atomos or Odyssey.  AF in video isn't screaming fast, but you can go all manual focus if you wish.  You cannot beat the 4K for the dollar.

Fujifilm has also done an excellent job on their wireless option.  The camera has built in WiFi and while some folks are most concerned about downloading images for posting to social media, more serious photographers and videographers will love the ease of connectivity and complete remote camera control from their smartphone.  I've used lots of remote control apps, on lots of cameras, and at time of writing, this is the best implementation, by far.  Nikon should get a technical manual and fire up their photocopiers and put a bullet in the head of the Snapbridge disaster and just pay Fujifilm for the software.

The X-T20 also offers in camera Panorama capability.  It's quick and very easy to use.

The Body and Kit Lens

Compared to the X-T2, this is a smaller and lighter camera.  Part of that comes from a lot more plastic in the construction of both.  If you are a photojournalist and looking for a backup body to your X-T2 that can take a lot of abuse, this is not the camera that you are looking for.  If you are a hobbyist looking for a small and light body to keep a second lens on for travel, this could be ideal.  If you are looking for high image quality at a lower cost of acquistion, the X-T20 is a superb value and I know recommend it over my former favourite starter camera, the Nikon D5500.

The camera also uses the same battery as works in the X-T2.  It is CIPA rated for 350 images per charge in a normal use cycle.  Better than most mirrorless cameras, but still buy a spare.  The charger is an external unit so your camera is not tied up to charge the battery over USB.  I absolutely HATE USB only charging.  There is a single SD card slot that is configured for UHS I cards, so no benefit for UHS II cards but you REALLY want to be using the fastest cards you can get as the camera can push a lot of data to the card really fast, especially in video mode.

The external interfaces include clean HDMI as noted and USB2.  I am very disappointed that Fujifilm did not put the much faster and much more reliable USB3 in this camera considering the year of delivery.  That decision feels like cheaping out to me.

There is a popup flash included, but there is also a proper hotshoe for a separate flash that can operate in Fujifilm TTL mode if it is matched to the system.  Wonderful is that rear curtain sync is available in a camera of this price point.

Fujifilm, like the other big players, has two glass lines.  The XC is their entry lineup and the XF is their more pro lineup.  XC lenses are solid players but have plastic mounts and a lot of plastic in the body.  These are still Fujinon lenses so optically they are excellent, but they would not fit my use cases, any more than Nikon's kit lenses or Canon's EF-S lineup would.  I received the 16-50 XC with the body, and it works very well.  It's very good, but the 16-55 XF, which costs as much as the X-T20 and the 16-50XF combined is better.  You get what you pay for.  That said for users who will only be posting to the web or making prints to about 11x14, you will be hard pressed to see any issues.

I find that the markings on the black body are easier to read than on the chrome body although some will prefer the more retro look of the chrome.  I have not see a graphite variant and would recommend against it because past experience tells me that the markings are really hard to read.  The size is excellent for the target buyer, although a bit too small for my mitts.  Moving back and forth between it and the X-Pro 2, it felt dainty and fragile.  I would be inclined to order the MHG-XT10 handgrip if I were buying the camera.  This grip makes the camera easier to hold onto, does not interfere with access to the battery compartment/card slot and comes with Arca Swiss style dovetails already cut into it.

I personally do not like a camera that forces me to turn it upside down to get to the memory card.  I especially dislike the X-T20 layout because while it puts the memory card and the battery in the same compartment, it also puts the memory card on the hinge side, making it very difficult to get at for people with larger fingers without removing the battery first.  Perhaps the regular buyer will not be looking for fast access, but I do and this layout is poor.

Sample Images

I am sharing three sample images from the X-T20.  The colour images were shot in Fujifilm's RAF RAW format and the black and white is one from their ACROS film simulation as a JPEG.  Image quality is high with excellent dynamic range.  It should be noted that Lightroom's Lens Correction module adds no value because Fujifilm bakes the lens corrections into the original file.  

 Rich colour and strong dynamic range are to found in the X-T20

Rich colour and strong dynamic range are to found in the X-T20

 It took some post processing to pull the blue out of the sky, but the sensor dynamic range made it quite easy.  Lens image quality into the corners at 16mm is very high

It took some post processing to pull the blue out of the sky, but the sensor dynamic range made it quite easy.  Lens image quality into the corners at 16mm is very high

 I personally do not care to shoot in JPEG, but this ACROS film simulation was nice out of the camera, but I could not resist more post processing for more oomph and tonal separation

I personally do not care to shoot in JPEG, but this ACROS film simulation was nice out of the camera, but I could not resist more post processing for more oomph and tonal separation

Summary

The Fujifilm X-T20 retails with the 16-50XC kit lens in Canada for around $1250.  This is certainly more than Nikon's D5600 kit at $1050 or Canon's T7i kit at $1150, but however good those packages are, and they are very good, there is just so much more delivered in the X-T20 that I would lead with it for use cases defined by this buyer.

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