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Fujifilm FinePix F20 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 02/07/2007

Rating: Highly Recommended
Buy Now: Get the Best Price


Introduction:
Announced on the 13th of July 2006, the Fujifilm FinePix F20 is a budget version of the popular Fujifilm FinePix F30. The F20 is a compact digital camera with a 6 megapixel sensor, a 3x optical zoom lens and a large 2.5" screen. The camera has the ability to take photos at upto ISO 2000, while most ordinary digital cameras stop at ISO 400. The 3x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 36 - 108mm on a 35mm camera. The Fujifilm FinePix F20 is available from around £95, this makes it excellent value for money for a compact 6 megapixel digital camera. The camera is enclosed in a sturdy body and is available in silver. The F20 can record video in 640 x 480 resolution at 30fps with sound. The body measures approx. 93.5(W) x 56.7(H) x 26.6(D) (without protruding parts), and weighs approx. 150g. excluding battery and memory card.

The Fujifilm FinePix F20 is the entry level version of the highly popular Fujifilm FinePix F30 - Rated as the DigiCamReview Best New All Round Digital Camera in 2006.

Fujifilm have this to say about the camera:

"Taking pictures in poor light is very difficult with an average compact camera. And yet some of the best photos of your friends and family can happen in poor light. Blurry results, grainy digital 'noise' and under-powered flash are all associated with camera sensors that aren't sensitive enough. But the FinePix F20's amazing picture quality is at its most distinctive when the light is low. Its sensitivity performance of ISO 2000 is at least twice as effective in low light as comparable cameras – there'll be less blur, and a more natural-looking feel to your images. As a slightly-slimmed version of the award-winning FinePix F30, the F20 is the perfect pocketable accompaniment on nights out when the memories will really count."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30)


Front - Camera off.


Front view - camera on: flash, focus assist lamp, lens, microphone (behind lens). On the left is the wrist strap loop hole.


Back / left: On the left is AV out, DC in. On the back is the 2.5 inch screen, zoom control, indicator lamp, playback & function mode buttons, Menu/ok button, 4-way direction controller, display button and anti-blur button.


Top: On/off button, mode switch, shutter release.


Bottom - Plastic tripod mount, speaker, battery / memory card compartment, the battery is held in with a latch.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison, compared to the Canon Powershot A550.

Compared to the 8 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F40fd: The F40fd is the top camera in the FinePix F series, and offers an 8 megapixel Super CCD sensor, with ISO upto 2000, and a High Speed mode to make sure the camera responds quickly, the F40fd also features support for both SD and XD memory card, and face-detection focus, for full details, see the Fujifilm FinePix F40fd review.


Apart from the styling there is little difference between these models - the lens, flash, focus-assist lamp, microphone, shutter release and battery / memory compartment are all located in the same place.


From the front: The F20 measures the same give or take a few millimeters, both cameras feature a compact metal body, with the F40fd featuring a more wedge like shape and a thinner body, and neither camera features much of a hand grip. The F20 features a mode selector on top that lets you choose between photo or video mode, while the F40fd features a mode dial on the back, and a zoom control on top of the camera surrounding the shutter release.


On the back: The screens appears similar, and the button layout is very similar, except the F20 features a zoom control on the back, and the F40fd features a mode dial instead. The modes are accessed through a menu on the F20. There is a face-detection button on the F40fd, while the F20 has an anti-blur mode button instead as it doesn't feature face-detection. (The simple solution to this is to point the camera at someone's face!)


Another view of the back shows the rubber-dotted grip below the zoom control on the F20 - and the thinner wedge like shape of the F40fd. The F40fd also features an infra-red port on the side.

Specifications / Features:

  • 6.2 megapixel 6th Generation 1/ 1.7-inch Super CCD HR
  • 3x Optical Zoom Fujifilm Zoom Lens (1:2.8-5.1 f8-24mm / 36 - 108mm equiv.)
  • 6.2x Digital Zoom
  • Store images on xD memory cards
  • 2.5 inch LCD - 153,000 pixels - Anti-glare CV film
  • Movie mode: Records 640 x 480 at 30fps with sound
  • ISO: 100/200/400/800/1600 up to ISO 2000 on Anti-Blur/Natural Light mode
  • Real Photo Technology
  • Intelligent Flash
  • 300 shot battery life
  • 10mb built in memory
  • 5-6cm macro mode

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Li-ion battery NP-70
  • AC Power Adapter AC-5VC
  • Hand Strap
  • USB cable for the FinePix F20
  • A / V cable for the FinePix F20
  • CD-ROM (FinePixViewer, ImageMixer VCD2 LE for FinePix, Owner's Manual)

Average box contents - The camera has a small amount of internal memory (10mb), and isn't supplied with a memory card. Purchase of an additional case is recommended to protect the metallic finish of the camera. The camera connects directly via a usb cable and has a separate cable which allows output to a television via A/V sockets

Battery usage: Battery life is good and is rated as 300 shots - and I was able to take over 220 shots before "battery empty" appeared. This is good but not as good as the Fujifilm FinePix F30 - with a battery life rated at 580 shots.

Camera Operation and Options: The play button turns the camera to review mode while the shutter release button returns it to photo mode. The mode switch switched between photo and video mode. Photo modes cover almost every event: Manual, Auto, Natural Light, Natural plus Flash, Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Museum, Party, Flower, Text, Anti-blur. In playback photos can be shown by date or 9 thumbnails and a slideshow feature is also available. Given the vast range of options, consultation of the extensive printed manual is recommended to familiarise yourself with these options. Nb. Screenshots from the Fujifilm FinePix F40fd.

Photo mode/menus: The F-menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode F-mode menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen has a good resolution of 153,000 pixels and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate for reviewing photos. There is no live or review histogram available but the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. The screen also has a brightness enhancer for taking photos where the screen is not clear, such as in bright sunlight. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder.

F-mode menu: This gives quick access to the following: ISO setting (AUTO (1600), AUTO (800), AUTO (400), 1600, 800, 400, 200, 100), Quality (choices detailed below), and FinePix Colour (Standard, F-Chrome, or F-Black and White).

Shooting menu Setup Menu

Shooting Options: The camera has many options, things like resolution, quality, color/BW and ISO settings are under the F / Film button, while photo mode / scenes, exposure compensation, white balance, continuous shooting, focus mode, high speed shooting, and photometry are in the shooting menu. Flash options, macro and self-timer are one-touch buttons. One of the more interesting features is the continuous focus mode which reduces the delay between pressing the button and taking the picture by continually re-adjusting the focus while you use the camera - this uses the battery up more quickly however.

Scene modes: This has the usual scene modes (as detailed above). One of the more interesting modes available was the 'flash and no flash' scene mode (called Intelligent flash). This takes two pictures in succession, one with and one without the flash, to give you the choice of whether the photo with the flash is better or not.

Setup menu: (shown on the right, above) The setup menu allows you to set date and time, beep and shutter volumes, to format your XD card, menu system colour, and things like access to digital zoom etc.

Playback:

Playback menu Playback views (some of the views)

Playback (Review) mode options: Scrolling through the photos is very quick. The zoom is quick. Basic shot information is shown about the images. There isn't much you can do in playback mode. There doesn't appear to be any histogram or way to highlight over exposed / under exposed parts of images. You can erase, rotate, protect (lock), copy from internal memory to memory card (and vice versa), add voice memo, and trim (crop) images that have been taken.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of pictures will fit in the provided memory:

Image Size:
Number of Photos Stored / Quality
Fine
Normal
6M (2,848 x 2,136)
3
6
3:2 (3,024 x 2,016)
N/A
6
3M (2,048 x 1,536)
N/A
11
2M (1600 x 1200)
N/A
15
03M VGA (640 x 480)
N/A
76

As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, and you can't fit very many photos in the provided memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended. There are not too many choices regarding image size and quality and a 3:2 ratio option with 'Fine' picture quality would be a useful addition, as well as possibly some setting in between fine and normal, as this represents a doubling in the resulting image size, however (see below) as memory cards are relatively inexpensive, it is likely that the highest quality setting will be used wherever possible. Note it is not possible to down-sample a fine resolution image to a lower quality or lower size one in-camera.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, as these are relatively affordable - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes both SD or XD memory cards (although not both at the same time). Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Fujifilm Finepix F20:

Find the latest prices for XD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 512mb: £7, 1gb (1000mb): £8, 2gb (2000mb): £18.
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera switches on and can take its first photo in 2.5 seconds. Focusing is fast at under half a second and continuous focus mode / high speed mode reduces this even more. The playback mode is also quick. The camera shutter response seems almost instant when pre-focused (around 0.1 second reponse) - and shot to shot time was quick at under 2.5 seconds (with review on without flash), with a delay of just under 2 seconds between shots in the normal continuous mode. The flash recharge time was equally quick - with a delay of around 3 seconds between shots. High speed continuous shooting is moderately quick, at roughly 2.5fps for upto 3 shots at the highest resolution. The cameras menus seemed responsive and zooming in and reviewing photos is all quick and easy to use. Moving around the different menu options is rapid.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use and has very easy to understand controls and buttons, for example, the main modes are video, photo or playback, simply switch the camera on and start taking photos. The controls on the back of the camera are easy to use and the mode switch and buttons are of an average size. The modes are easy to understand. The menus are responsive and easy to read. The camera is compact and has little in the way of a hand grip on the front, although there is a rubberised grip on the back which can assist in holding the camera steady. There are an extensive collection of scene modes for all types of different situations.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use and are kept quite simple. The buttons are in a good position and easy to reach while composing shots. There seems to be a good amount of buttons for straight-forward digital camera use. The buttons feel okay and are an average size, the zoom control is fairly good and works well, although personally I prefer the zoom control to surround the shutter. The shutter release button is very good. The buttons are labelled well (with small symbols and little text). I thought the camera felt okay ergonomically, although there is little in the way of a handgrip. The compartments and covers seem well positioned and are easy to open, and the mode switch provides quick access to the main modes. The camera felt solid with a stylish metal body, however the battery cover opens quite easily and is made out of plastic.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Fujifilm Finepix F20 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and flower Group photo
Heather and Flower (ISO200) Flash photo (ISO100)

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - and red-eye in this photo and the other is low. The flash is quite bright and occassionally seems to over-expose the subject, especially when the camera decides to use ISO800 on AUTO ISO, when ISO100 or ISO200 would do the job much better - for example - I manually selected ISO200 for the "Heather and Flower" photo and the result was a much more saturated and pleasing photo. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light, thanks to the focus assist lamp. Colour is well saturated. The camera has a built in "Intelligent Flash" mode that will take two photos in quick sequense, one without flash (using a high ISO), and the other with flash (with a lower ISO).

ISO Noise Test: Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels (ranging from ISO 100 - ISO2000), and manual ISO settings (ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600).

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 7 megapixel Canon Powershot A550 and 8 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F40fd.

Canon Powershot A550 (7.1mp) Fujifilm FinePix F20 (6mp) Fujifilm FinePix F40fd (8mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Canon Powershot A550 on the left, Fujifilm FinePix F20 in the middle, Fujifilm FinePix F40fd on the right. Any tonal difference is due to automatic white balance or metering differences.

Canon A550 (7.1mp) Fujifilm FinePix F20 (6mp) Fujifilm FinePix F40fd (8mp)
ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - N/A ISO80 - N/A
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - N/A ISO1600 - Actual Pixels
ISO3200 - N/A ISO2000 - Actual Pixels ISO2000 - Actual Pixels

Thanks to Fujifilm's unique Super CCD sensor, the Fujifilm FinePix F20 and F40fd has low noise upto ISO800. ISO1600 produces acceptable results, however, detail is lacking and ISO2000 is probably best left unused unless absolutely necessary (ISO2000 is only available in one of the natural light / anti-blur modes). Compared with the Canon, noise is much lower than the Canon Powershot A550, and you can see that the F20 and F40fd retains more detail even when the ISO setting is increased. The Fujifilm cameras manage to produce low noise images right up to ISO800 with very good detail. If you take a lot of indoor pictures, then the Fuji F20 or F40fd makes an excellent choice. Nb. The picture stabilisation / anti-blur mode simply uses a higher ISO setting to avoid image blur, and is not a true image stabilisation system such as an anti-shake sensor, or optical image stabilisation.

Outside:

Liverpool shops (ISO100) Flowers (ISO100)

Outside: The camera has quite rich, saturated colours, with good contrast. There was very good detail, and the camera took a number of very pleasing images outside, but areas with huge variation in brightness do show signs of 'bleeding' and purple fringes. In general 'normal' quality jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality setting.

Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 6.2x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of.

Wide-angle 3x Optical Telephoto Zoom Full Optical and Digital Zoom

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas as well as the lighter areas - exposure in other photos was generally good. Purple fringing is noticable in the wide angle but very little is seen in the 3x optical zoom photo. Vignetting was not noticed. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is relatively quiet in operation. The camera gives good control over how you frame your subject with around 9 steps between wide and telephoto zoom (although it skips quickly across the range).

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing was occasionally seen particularly in areas with high contrast.

Macro: the macro mode allows you to be roughly 5-6cm away from from the subject, this is with the lens zoomed out. For best results are achieved use manual white balance and a more diffuse light source. Note that if you get very close to the object you want to photograph, the location of the flash and the lens will create a shadow in the bottom right of the image, and it is best to try and avoid using the flash.

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO100)

The custom white balance helps get better colours in the macro mode when using an un-natural light source - the closest the camera can get to the subject is about average at around 5-6cm. Noise seems low in this photo and detail and colour is very good.

Video mode: The camera features a high resolution VGA 640 x 480 video mode at 30 fps with sound. Video quality was good however this will use memory quickly - a 10 second video recorded at 640 x 480 took 11 megabytes. Both optical and digital zoom are unavailable while recording a video.

Conclusion

Image Quality: The F20, despite being a budget digital camera, has great image quality. Colours are very good and in a very wide range of situations the camera will take sharp, detailed pictures with good exposure. The camera is probably great for events where fast photography is essential. The challenges that this camera will face that most others will fail at will be low light situations where you don't particularly want to use the flash. For these situations it has a scene mode that allows you to try and see what a photo would be like without the flash, and yet not lose the benefits of flash photography. The camera was generally competent and fast at focusing with the focus assist lamp activating when light was low. There is a good range of image sizes but few compression options, and the camera lacks a 16:9 wide-aspect ratio mode. The camera doesn't give you many options to customise images in-camera, there are no sharpness or contrast controls for example. Purple fringing is slighly higher than average. (8.5/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact and stylish, with a sturdy metal body. The camera is very easy to use, the menu system is straightforward and the buttons and controls are logically arranged. There is a fairly good choice of features and options, although the camera doesn't feature manual controls. The camera speed is generally very good, with a fast switch on time, fast focusing time, fast shutter response, and a fast continous shooting mode. The screen size and resolution is good at 2.5" with 153,000 pixels, and the quality appears to be very good. Battery life is very good despite the compact size of the camera. The video mode is quite decent at 640 x 480 at 30fps with sound, but zoom is fixed during filming. The intelligent flash mode is a good solution to the question of whether to use flash or not, providing both photos, so that you can choose after you've seen the results. (8/10)

Value for Money: The Fujifilm F20 from around £95, (or less!) is amazing value for money, considering the F10 / F30, when first released, cost around £220! The F20 is probably one of the best digital cameras available for such a low price and is one of only a few compact digital cameras to offer low noise at high ISO settings (The other Fujifilm FinePix F series cameras being the others). (10/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Fujifim F20 is a very impressive compact 6 megapixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom lens and a large 2.5" display. The camera offers almost identical performance to the Fujifilm FinePix F30, however, at a price that puts it head to head with other budget digital cameras. The Fujifilm FinePIx F20, with the impressive Fujifilm Super CCD sensor, successfully outperforms it's competition, and many other cameras costing three times the price with regards to low light / low noise performance. The camera is one of very few to include usable high ISO modes of ISO 1600 and ISO 2000, and noticably less noise than the competition at all ISO settings upto ISO 800 (The only other cameras offering similar performance are either Digital SLRs or other Fujifilm FinePix digital cameras!). It has excellent responsiveness and is designed to be able to take great photos in almost every situation. For the price, I don't think you can get a better camera!

I have been recommending the Fujifilm FinePix F series to family and friends ever since the F10, and they have all been happy with their purchase - If you want a budget digital camera then the FinePix F20 makes an excellent choice, being much more responsive than the majority of other budget cameras - If you want manual controls and a high ISO range then the FinePix F30 or F31fd make an excellent choice, with ISO upto 3200 - and if you want a high resolution point and shoot then the F40fd makes an excellent choice, with the highest resolution of the series. Whichever one you decide upon, they all offer excellent low light, low noise performance, great image quality, and very good responsiveness, especially with the High Speed mode activated.

Fujifilm FinePix F20 Rating: Highly Recommended (9/10)
Available for £95 - or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Excellent value for money
  • Very easy to use
  • Large screen shows the resulting photos with good clarity.
  • Fast and responsive - high speed mode also available.
  • Plenty of options to suit 'artistic' photography - plenty of scene positions to help ordinary people take better photos.
  • Clever "Natural Light and Flash" mode gives you a choice of photos
  • Excellent quality images - very good colour
  • Uniquely low noise and good detail even at ISO800
  • Good battery life (rated at 300+ shots)
  • Stylish compact metal body

What I don't like:

  • AUTO modes use higher than necessary ISO setting with flash causing over-exposed flash subjects (much better results are available with a manually selected ISO setting)
  • Lacks the Manual mode available with the Fujifilm FinePix F30 and F31fd.
  • Purple fringing is quite high
  • Highest ISO setting (ISO2000) isn't necessarily useful.
  • In 'scene' modes, the camera tends to use higher ISO modes (including ISO2000) where a lower ISO setting would have been satisfactory.

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Fujifilm Finepix F20 Sample Photo Gallery.
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