X20/x series

Shadows

© Neil Turner, July 2014. Shadows on the south bank of the River Thames in London.

© Neil Turner, July 2014. Shadows on the south bank of the River Thames in London.

On my way to a meeting today walking along the south bank of the River Thames I was taken by the quality of the light as it formed shadows through the trees. A pair of office workers out for a stroll stopped and had a chat and we passed a very pleasant few minutes talking about light and London. The conversation was interrupted a few times as people strolled through my composition and I grabbed a frame or two. This was my favourite of maybe a dozen very similar frames.

Another picture shot on my Fujifilm X20 and added to the blog just because I liked it…

My Fujifilm X20 – the final word?

It’s amazing how often a casual conversation or a quick exchange on a Facebook group can spark a train of thought. Earlier today a comment by a friend and fellow photographer about how a photo sharing site had made him look around him and start taking pictures for the love of it again. I agreed whole-heartedly and began to think about uploading a few more pictures here. That moved my train of thought onto the various reviews and updates that I’ve written on this blog and elsewhere about the Fujifilm X20 that has been my almost constant companion for the last 11 months. So what I decided to do was to say a few words to summarise my experiences with this camera and add some pictures shot in the last couple of weeks.

©Neil Turner, March 2014. The photographer's shadow forms part of the scene as an elderly couple walk along South Bank of the River Thames in London.

©Neil Turner, March 2014. The photographer’s shadow forms part of the scene as an elderly couple walk along South Bank of the River Thames in London.

In general, my opinions about this camera have barely changed since I posted the first update back in mid April 2013. Given the product cycle that Fujifilm seems to gallop through the X20 is probably about to be superseded anyway but I thought that I’d offer some advice to make this camera (that I still like very much) better if they want to bring out an X30.

  • The battery life has to improve. Despite doing everything possible to limit power drain I get through two batteries a day when shooting with ordinary SD cards and up to four batteries a day when I’m using one of my Eye-Fi cards. This makes a cool and convenient camera a lot less convenient and pushes up the cost of ownership – even if you go for third party spare batteries.
  • Start-up delay. About once in every third time I switch the camera on it takes three or four seconds to adjust and get the exposure correct. The first picture is often three or more stops over-exposed.
  • Autofocus at the telephoto end of the range. My camera sometimes refuses to auto focus when the lens is zoomed all the way to the 112mm equivalent end of its range.
  • The review time options for looking at images you have just shot are too restrictive. There are no options between 1.5 seconds and zoom (unlimited).
  • The built-in flash isn’t compatible with the lens hood – you get shadows and so to use that function you need to remove the hood.
  • The video isn’t great – but I didn’t buy this camera to shoot video.

On top of all of that it would be great if the focal range went from 24-120, the camera had two SD slots and if there were lens correction options for Adobe Camera RAW because at the 28mm end there is the slightest barrel distortion.

This is a great camera and I love using it. I am seriously tempted by the X100S too. Having borrowed one for an extended period, I would very much like to own one. Fujifilm have done a great job with their X-series cameras and they should be very proud of the effect that their cameras have had on a lot of very old and very picky professionals (like me) who all grin like idiots when using the kit. So now, without further ado, here are a few more recent X20 images for you…

So there you go Fujifilm… bring on the X30…

The light in the garden

I don’t do this very often but, given that so many people are interested in the Fujifilm X20, I thought that I’d share a picture that I took yesterday ‘just for the fun of it’. No story, no real importance – just a bit of fun…

©Neil Turner April 2013. The light in our garden yesterday afternoon.

©Neil Turner April 2013. The light in our garden yesterday afternoon.

This was shot as a RAW file and converted with almost no help using Adobe Camera RAW in Photoshop CS6. The camera was in programme mode (yeah I know!) and handled the exposure remarkably well.

1/800 sec;   f/5.0;   ISO 100

Fujifilm X20 – the first update

So here is what I’ve decided to do about writing an X20 review: it’s actually going to be a series of short (ish) updates as, and when, I have got something new to say about it.

Typical UK road sign: the weight is given in metric units whilst the distance is in imperial. Are we European or aren't we? ©Neil Turner, April 2013

Typical UK road sign: the weight is given in metric units whilst the distance is in imperial. Are we European or aren’t we? ©Neil Turner, April 2013

I have been shooting with the new camera as much as I can and in as many different situations as I can. I’ve even used it as a third camera on a live commission. Most of the time I have been using the Fuji RAW mode so that I can get the most out of the files and so that I can compare the different ways that you can choose to work with the images. Most people prefer not to have to read long and drawn out musings when they look at reviews – they just want to cut to the chase and so here are a few likes and dislikes in the form of bullet points:

LIKES

  • The colours – straight out of the camera you have clean, realistic and accurate colours. This shouldn’t be a surprise from the company that brought you Fujichrome all of those years ago.
  • Smooth tonal range – at low ISOs the files have a wonderfully smooth tone
  • Handling – the X20 feels good in my hands and it is very easy to hand hold down to some pretty slow shutter speeds.
  • The manual zoom – it is a model of how other manufacturers should be building cameras – enough said.
  • Buttons and dials – related directly to handling but I felt that the way that Fuji have kept the number of buttons down whilst giving you a lot of freedom to customise deserves credit.
  • The optical viewfinder –  it works really well and the addition of shooting information in the viewfinder is a big bonus.
  • Auto Focus – it is good for a compact and tracks moving subjects rather well.

DISLIKES

  • The battery life is not good when shooting with the LCD screen on. It’s a good job that after market NP-50s are so cheap.
  • The Fuji RAW format (.RAF) takes a lot of computing power and a lot of getting used to.
  • Low light performance – I was expecting this camera to be a couple of stops behind a DSLR but I would estimate that it is at least fours stops worse than a Canon EOS5D MkII
  • Video – it is just not that good or easy to use… and don’t get me started on playback!
  • Battery clip – if the small clip that holds the battery in place lasts as long as I tend to keep my compacts I will be surprised.
  • Buil-in flash – it is as weak as consumer models and you have to remove the lens hood if you don’t want horrible shadows across your pictures when shooting flash.
  • Auto white balance – it isn’t that bad actually, except under mixed lighting when it is a bit unreliable.

I like this camera… a lot. That having been said, I am genuinely disappointed with the files at anything over 640 ISO and there is a build quality question mark on the battery clip – especially as you are going to be swapping the battery out for charging with great regularity. If I needed to, I could shoot some editorial assignments with the X20 and that isn’t something you could say about many compacts. More importantly, I would quite enjoy doing so and that isn’t something you could say about any other compact that I’ve used. Professional photographers talk about their “walk about” cameras and the X20 is certainly my choice for that task. It isn’t the “best” at anything but it does represent a good set of compromises and that, at the end of the day, is what you want from a small camera.

As I said in the opening paragraph, this will be a series of updates rather than a single “this is my opinion” review. At the recommended selling price the Fujifilm X20 is a little expensive but the price is coming down on a weekly basis and once it dips under £400 it will become a well-priced piece of kit.

130411-fuji_x20-002