Not everything retro-styled has fallen out of favour, as rangefinder-inspired cameras seem to be all the rage these days. Olympus has been pushing such designs since the release of the PEN EP-1 while Fujifilm has gone on to produce the X100S, X10 and X-Pro1.
It appears that camera manufacturers might have a winning combination when they merge a rangefinder-inspired design with good optics and performance. So does the Fujifilm X20, the successor to the X10, possess this winning combination? Join us as we find out.
The X20 takes its design cues from the retro rangefinders of the past, making it stand out from among the rest of the conventional compacts. Possessing a very robust and sturdy build, the camera not only looks good, but feels good in our hands, though it might be heavier and larger than your run-of the-mill compact.
The Fujifilm X20 doesn’t only look retro-inspired, but has also included some retro design and handling elements. One of these elements is the manual zoom lens; there’s no zoom rocker so you will have to twist and turn the zoom ring to get closer to or further from your subject. There’s also no Power button - users will have to remove the lens cap and twist the zoom ring to get the camera powered on. Luckily, unlike the Fujifilm XF1, users do not need twisting, pulling and twisting the lens to power it on. Just a quick single turn of the lens will power up the camera.
The Fujifilm X20 allows users to manual focus, and the focus mode switch can be found on the front of the camera, beside the lens. The thumb wheel on the back of the camera lets users set the distance while the rear display automatically zooms in on the subject to help users with adjusting the sharpness. There will be a distance scale at the bottom of the display that is colored blue, with a red vertical line on the scale that informs users of the focusing distance. The white bar surrounding the red line represents the depth of field, and will change in width as you adjust the aperture to reflect the present depth of field. If you find it hard to wrap your head around this, here’s an image below to give you an idea of what we mean. The Fujifilm also has the Focus Peak Highlight function, where a white line will surround a subject that is in focus to make manual focusing easier.
There’s a host of external controls to be found on the X20; in fact you will be hard-pressed to find an empty spot of space on the rear of the camera even though the X20 is slightly larger than some of the other advanced compacts available.
On the rear, nothing much has changed between the X10 and the X20 except for the RAW button (which was originally found at the bottom right corner of the X10). The X20 sees the RAW button replaced with the "Q" button, which brings up a quick menu of settings when pressed; certainly much more useful than the former RAW button. The rear display remains at 2.8 inches with a resolution of 460k-dots.
Above the display is the optical viewfinder, which is useful if you happen to be shooting on a sunny day and the display washes out under the bright sunlight. Do take note that the viewfinder only provides 85% coverage of the lens’ field of view, so you will have to frame your shot accordingly as the final shot will cover a slightly wider view. The optical viewfinder, like old rangefinders, is offset from the lens, so you'll also need to compensate for the parallax.
While the viewfinder is useful in some scenarios, we also found two issues with it. Similar to the X10, when shooting at a wider angle, the lens barrel is actually visible at the bottom right corner of the frame when you look through the viewfinder. While the lens barrel is not captured in the shot, this does make framing a shot awkward at times. The other issue is that even though shooting information such aperture and shutter speed are overlaid onto the image in the viewfinder, the composition grid and the AF point selection will only appear on the rear display and not as an overlay on the viewfinder image.
At the top of the camera you have mode dial, exposure compensation dial, shutter release button, hot shoe mount, a customizable Fn button and the built-in flash. Since there’s no dedicated ISO button, the Fn button here is set to adjust ISO settings by default. Having a dedicated exposure compensation dial is useful though there were quite a few instances where we forgot that we had changed the setting and started shooting without resetting it.