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Fujifilm FinePix F20 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £107.95

While the Fujifilm FinePix F31fd is definitely one of the better digital compact cameras on the market, especially for its low-light performance, its £180 price tag may be a little high for some people. Therefore it’s nice to know that there is a cheaper alternative that offers many of the same advantages. That alternative is the FinePix F20.


Launched last July at the same time as the S6500fd, the F20 is a 3x zoom compact which features a 6.1-megapixel SuperCCD HR sensor, 2000 ISO maximum sensitivity and 300-shot battery duration. In other words, it’s almost the same specification as the FinePix F30, the camera that first showed us the benefit of Fuji’s unique high-ISO capability. The F20 is currently available for under £110 from a number of retailers, which compares well with similarly-specified cameras such as the Kodak EasyShare C653 (£100), Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S600 (£120), Nikon Coolpix L2 (£140), Canon PowerShot A540 (£140) and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX3 (£160).


Despite its low price, no compromises have been made in the design or construction of the F20. Build quality is of a very high standard, with a strong aluminium body finished in a semi-matt texture that resists finger marks and scratches. The design is very clean and stylish, sharing many details with its big brother the F31fd, such as the clever battery hatch design that won’t come open in your pocket. The monitor screen is 2.5in diagonally, which is big enough, and has a good non-reflective coating making it easier to use in bright daylight. With 153k pixels it’s not the sharpest ever, but it’s better than some.


With a raised grip on the front and a textured rubberised grip panel on the back the F20 is very comfortable to hold, and the controls are all very easy to operate. Like most Fuji cameras it has an ‘F’ button that gives quick access to ISO, image quality and colour options. Flash mode, macro, self-timer (2 or 10 secs) and monitor brightness are controlled via secondary functions of the D-pad, while everything else including exposure compensation is relegated to the main menu. This makes the basic operation of the F20 very simple. In Auto mode it is just point and click, and the camera’s capabilities mean that you’ll seldom be disappointed with the results.

Since it is a budget compact, unsurprisingly the F20 has a somewhat restricted selection of features and options. These include spot, average or multi-zone metering; centre, multi-spot of continuous AF, and a picture mode menu with 14 scene programs including all the usual choices, such as portrait, landscape, sports, night scene, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, museum, party, flower and text.


Performance is generally good, and the camera never feels slow. Start-up time is a very creditable 1.8 seconds, and shut-down is just as brisk. In long-period continuous mode it can shoot a frame every 1.7 seconds and keep it up until the card is full, which is not spectacularly fast but adequate. It also has “first three” and “last three” burst modes that can shoot at just over two frames a second.


Autofocus is very quick, in fact one of the quickest on any compact I’ve used recently, and works well regardless of the light conditions. It has a very bright blue-white AF-assist lamp with a range of several meters, so it can focus surprisingly well in the dark. The flash is also fantastic, working in conjunction with the exceptional high-ISO performance to give a wide angle range of a massive 6.5 metres and telephoto range of 3.5 metres, almost double the average for most similar compacts. Frame coverage and colour rendition were also excellent. I used the F20 on a particularly hectic night out (a divorce party, of all things), and I’d say without hesitation that it’s one of the best cameras for social snapshot photography that I’ve ever used.


The video mode is also good. Controlled by a simple slider switch on the top panel, it can record in 640 x 480 mode at 30 frames a second with mono sound. As is usual with such cameras, the zoom lens cannot be used while filming.

For battery duration Fuji claims 300 shots per charge, and I find this quite believable. I shot nearly 200 pictures with it over several days of testing and the charge indicator only lost one of its three bars. The camera is powered by a larger-than-average 1150mAh Li-ion battery, so with efficient circuitry there should be enough juice in there to last through even the busiest the weekend.


Even with its exceptional low-light performance and battery duration, it is in picture quality that the F20 really shines. Exposure and colour rendition are flawless, and the excellent Fujinon f/2.8-5.0 lens produces pin-sharp images with tons of fine detail, with virtually no barrel distortion at the wide-angle end. Fuji’s 6.3MP SuperCCD HR sensor captures more fine detail than any comparable six megapixel sensor that I can think of, and more than some seven or eight megapixel cameras. Image files average around 3MB per shot, which is about average for a 6MP camera, and means that a newly-formatted 1GB xD Picture card is good for approximately 341 shots.


The F20 has a manually-selectable ISO range of 100-1600, with up to ISO 2000 available in some scene modes, and takes usable pictures even at the highest setting. Images are noise-free at 800 ISO, and at 1600 only a little detail blurring reveals the actions of the noise control system. It’s not quite up to the 3200-ISO performance of the F31fd, but it’s the best you’ll get for the price. With the relatively fast maximum aperture of the lens it does mean you can take sharp low-light photos without the flash, even without an image stabilisation system.


”’Verdict”’

In the FinePix F20 Fujifilm have a virtually perfect social snapshot camera. Its crisp performance, exceptional low-light capabilities, powerful flash, long-lasting battery and ease of use make it ideal for parties and social occasions, and its excellent image quality means that all those embarrassing photos of your drunken friends will be sharp, detailed and colourful.


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”A range of test shots are shown over the next few pages. Here, the full size image at the minimum ISO setting has been reduced for bandwidth purposes to let you see the full image, and a series of crops taken from original full resolution images at a range of ISO settings have been placed below it in order for you to gain an appreciation of the overall quality.”


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At the minimum sensitivity of 100 ISO the image quality is outstanding, with crisp, noise-free detail.


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At 200 ISO the image is virtually indistinguishable from the previous one.


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400 ISO and the image quality is still extremely good, with only a hint of detail loss.


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800 ISO and it’s still possible to read the Latin motto on the sign.


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At 1600 ISO however the letters are too blurred by the noise reduction system to be readable.


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”A range of test shots are shown over the next few pages. Here, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it in order for you to gain an appreciation of the overall quality.


Full-sized versions of some of the following images can be downloaded in a new window by clicking on the sample shots as indicated. However be aware that the average file size is around 3MB, so those on very slow connections will experience some delay.”


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Here’s my usual shot of the Rose window. You can download a full-size version of this shot for comparison with other cameras.


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Here’s a full-res crop from the centre of the above image, showing just how much detail the Fujinon lens and SuperCCD HR can capture.


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As you can see from the dead-straight edges of the door in this shot, the F20’s lens produces virtually no barrel distortion at the wide-angle end, which is very unusual.


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This is a crop from the bottom right corner of the image above, showing the slight corner blurring, not enough to be a problems though.


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”This page consists of resized images so that you can evaluate the overall exposure.”


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As usual, Fujifilm’s reputation for excellent colour rendition is safe.


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The F20 has a massively powerful flash, with a wide-angle range of 6.5m, more than enough when the table-dancing starts. The funny thing is there were a bunch if girls on a hen night in the same pub.


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The 5cm macro mode is good for some extreme close-ups.


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This famous statue of Richard Hooker makes a good telephoto target…


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…and at the wide angle setting you can see him in his surroundings.


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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 9
  • Image Quality 9

Features

Camera type Digital Compact
Megapixels (Megapixel) 6.3 Megapixel
Optical Zoom (Times) 3x

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