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Fujifilm X20 Hands-On Preview

by Roger Slavens and

Fujifilm evidently feels the need -- the need for speed. The company claims its new X20 -- a gorgeous marriage of retro rugged good looks, advanced technology and affordability -- delivers "the world's fastest autofocus speed in its class," clocking in as fast as 0.06 seconds, thanks to a new advanced X-Trans CMOS II sensor and EXR Processor II.

Fuji's original X-Trans CMOS sensor was one of the greatest imaging innovations of 2012, but apparently it's already old hat. The X-Trans uses an original color filter array with a highly randomized pattern that eliminates the need for an optical low-pass filter and allows for a more direct capture through the lens.

The X-Trans CMOS II is a 12-megapixel, 2/3-inch sensor inside the X20 that -- combined with the upgraded EXR Processor II -- provides 30-percent better noise reduction and 20-percent higher resolution than the X10, according to the company. Not only does the new sensor-processor duo improve the signal-to-noise ratio, according to Fuji, but also it suppresses chromatic blur. (We really liked the images produced by the X10, and with such impressive advancements we can't wait to see how the X20 performs in our rigorous tests.)

Speed. But the X-Trans CMOS II sensor is not just about image and resolution, but also a vital key to the Fuji X20's autofocus speed. The X-Trans II employs backside illumination sensor technology and phase detection pixels that, when combined with contrast autofocus, results in Fuji's new Intelligent Hybrid AF system. The hybrid system helps to lock in on your subjects even in dark settings. But can it really autofocus in 0.06 seconds? You can bet we'll examine the claim thoroughly when we get our hands on a review unit.

Autofocus is not only thing fast about the Fuji X20. The company notes the X20 is also a speedy performer when it comes to start-up time (0.5 seconds), shutter lag (0.01 seconds) and shot-to-shot times (0.5 seconds).

On the other side of the speed equation, the camera's Focus Peaking function -- a new upgrade over the X10 -- lets you take your time in manual mode. The X20 highlights high-contrast areas to help you obtain precise focusing.

Optics. Sensor technology will only get you so far with image quality if you don't have good optics. The Fujifilm X20 employs a "premium" Fujinon f/2.0-f/2.8 4x manual zoom lens with an effective range of 28mm wide to 112mm telephoto. The lens also can be operated in Super Macro mode, allowing you to focus as close as .39-inch from your subject.

Image stabilization technology shifts five lens elements to compensate for up to four stops of camera shake, and also prevents motion blur and reduces vignetting, according to Fuji. The X20's lens incorporates a seven-diaphragm blade to produce a pleasing bokeh where in-focus subjects pop against a soft background. And it's been treated with a multi-layer High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating for fighting ghosting and lens flare.

Advanced viewfinder. Another novel innovation of the Fuji X20 is its brand new Advanced Optical Viewfinder that displays important information such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focusing area and more while you're composing your shots. It accomplishes this via a Digital Trans Panel, a less-than-1mm thin LCD panel designed to maintain the brightness of the viewfinder but give you plenty of feedback so you don't have to take your eye away from the shot.

The X20's Digital Trans Panel also changes the color of information in the shooting frame to alert you of changing scene and shooting conditions. The black info displays turn to green LEDs when you're capturing images in low light, and the same happens to the focusing area frame when the AF has honed in on your subject. When a shooting error occurs, the information turns to red to let you know you need to make adjustments. See animation to the left.

Design. The Fuji X20 looks a great deal like its predecessor, bringing the solid, rugged look and feel of rangefinder-style cameras from decades past into the present with lightweight, die-cast magnesium alloy and precision-milled aluminum. However, the X20 also comes in just more than basic black, adding a classic two-tone silver and black option to the fold.

On the back of the camera is a 2.8-inch, high contrast, 460,000-dot LCD screen designed for bright and clear playback and composing -- that is, of course, when you're no longer entranced by the nifty optical viewfinder.

Creative options. The Fuji X20 features a wide range of creative filters and effects, including Fuji's proprietary Film Simulation Mode with replicates the results achieved by Fujifilm color reversal films such as Velvia and Astia, and professional color negative films, along with three black-and-white filter effects.

The camera also hosts a variety of Advanced Filters for artistic expression, ranging from Soft Focus to Miniature, and a Multiple Exposure function that combines two separate subjects into one photo -- kind of a built-in Photoshop. There's also a Motion Panorama 360 mode.

Movie making. Full HD 1080p video recording is not only supported by the X20, but also it features the full-benefit of the camera's Intelligent Hybrid AF system that operates while you're filming movies. The X20 records at up to 60 frames per second, and the video suite features a Movie Scene Recognition feature that automatically optimizes settings under a variety of shooting conditions and across six types of traditional scenes.

Availability. The Fujifilm X20 will ship in March 2013 at the price of US$599.95, and comes in black or two-tone silver and black.