The Fujifilm X-S20 is a compact mid-range mirrorless camera with a 26 Megapixel APSC sensor, 6.2k open gate video, built-in stabilisation and a fully-articulated touchscreen.
Announced in May 2023 and costing around $1300 or £1250 for the body alone, it’s the follow-up to the X-S10 launched roughly two and a half years previously. Price-wise this makes the 20 more expensive than its sub-$1000 predecessor at launch, now placing it in a similar ballpark to Sony’s aging A6600 and roughly between Canon’s more recent EOS R10 and R7, albeit closer to the 7.
I tried out a final production X-S20 for a few days and in the video below I’ll show you what’s new, what’s improved and how it stacks-up among its peer group. If you prefer to read the highlights, keep scrolling!
In the past, Fujifilm filtered-down sensors and image processors from flagship models into their mid-range and entry-level cameras, so you could normally guess what would be inside a new body. But with the X-H2 and X-H2S introducing not one but two new sensors in 2022, the question for subsequent models becomes which one will it have? And the answer for the X-S20 is neither. Rewind a year to my X-H2S review and this is what I thought might happen.
Fast-forward back to the present day and I can confirm the X-S20 employs the same 26 Megapixel X-Trans IV sensor as the X-S10, indeed first seen in the X-T3 back in late 2018, but crucially now coupled with the latest X-Processor V, introduced a year ago in the X-H2S.
This means you’re getting the same photo resolution as before, but now coupled with an upgraded processor delivering faster autofocus with better subject detection, reduced noise, improved video and lower power consumption to boot.
Going forward I assume all new Fujifilm bodies of this generation will adopt the same X-Processor V, but now with three sensors to choose from, making the difference about more than just the design and form factor.
Speaking of which, the X-S20 follows the X-S10’s design strategy, leaving the vintage shutter and ISO dials of the X-T and X-Pro series and instead adopting a more common mode dial.
In fact at first glance the X-S20 appears almost physically identical to its predecessor, with essentially the same styling and control layout. So you’re getting twin control wheels (neither of which push to click), a tiny joystick and a number of buttons, including dedicated ones for ISO, drive mode, exposure lock and AF ON. Some buttons felt a fraction more pronounced to me, but the overall control experience is much the same.
The composition’s unchanged too, with the X-S20 inheriting the same electronic viewfinder as the X-S10, so you’re getting a 2.36 million dot OLED panel with 0.62x magnification. It would have been nice to have a viewfinder upgrade, even if only in magnification, but it works fine and the resolution is pretty standard at this price.
You’re also getting the same side-hinged, fully-articulated 3in touch-screen with 1.84 million dots which can flip and twist to almost any direction including facing you or back on itself for protection.
To spot the upgrades and changes, you’ll need to look a little closer. Starting with the top surface, there’s still a popup flash and fully-featured hotshoe, but eagle-eyed Fuji-fans will notice some subtle differences on the Mode dial.
You still have the traditional PASM modes, along with four custom positions, full AUTO, Filter effects and Movies, but SP mode has now been switched for Vlog which unlocks a couple of filming options in the menus and presents a simplified Q menu tailored for video content creators. The Auto mode is also more capable than before and I’ll talk about that and the Vlog mode in a minute.
Anyone familiar with the X-S10 may also notice the X-S20’s grip is a fraction thicker than before. It’s barely visible, but crucially allowed Fujifilm to accommodate the more substantial NP-W235 battery pack of the current top-end models, roughly doubling the life over its predecessor from around 400 to around 800 shots, thereby addressing one of its major downsides and overtaking some current rivals. The body weight including battery is still fairly light though at 491g.
As before the single SD card slot shares the same compartment as the battery, but in an overdue update can now exploit the faster speeds of UHS-II cards. Coupled with the faster processor, this allows the X-S20 to clear its buffer and fire much longer bursts than before, for example over 1000 JPEGs at 8fps versus around 100 on the X-S10.
On the left side of the body you’ll find the same USB C and Micro HDMI ports as before behind one flap, with a 3.5mm microphone input above them.
The camera now supports UVC and UAC allowing it to work as a standard USB webcam without the need for extra drivers, while the HDMI can now output 6.2k 12-bit RAW video in either ProRes or BlackMagic formats. Both very nice upgrades over the 10.
In another welcome upgrade, the X-S20 now also offers a 3.5mm headphone jack rather than forcing you to adapt the USB port, and while its position on the grip side may not be ideal when hand-holding the camera, it won’t be an issue on a tripod or in a cage.
Oh, and bonus points for also supporting the optional cooling fan accessory from the flagship X-H models which screws in behind the screen and extends recording times. In fact as the X-S20’s features gradually sink-in, you’ll begin to view it as a baby X-H.
Moving on, the X-mount for lenses and the sensor behind it may be the same as before, but Fujifilm claims slight improvements to the built-in sensor-shift stabilisation, or IBIS, up from six to seven stops of compensation. And even with the price increase, the X-S20 remains one of the most affordable new APSC bodies with IBIS.
Running through the menus you’ll see familiar settings from the X-S10 and some new ones thanks to the new image processor and modes. As before, best quality images measure 6240×4160 pixels and can be recorded as JPEGs, RAW files or both together, but as a newer camera, there’s also the chance to switch from JPEG to 10-bit HEIF. There’s no Pixel Shift mode, but not surprising at the price.
You also get the current complement of 19 Film Simulations including Nostalgic Negative, and these remain a highlight of the Fujifilm system. You can also apply them while using the camera as a webcam – imagine joining a work video call in Acros…
The shutter and bursts appear the same as before, so the mechanical shutter has a maximum speed of 1/4000 with bursts up to 8fps, while the electronic shutter boasts a top speed of 1/32000 and bursts up to 20fps without reducing the coverage or resolution; if you’re happy with a small crop, you can boost the electronic bursts to 30fps, although in all electronic modes beware of skewing due to rolling shutter.
As before, the electronic shutter also supports a pre-burst option, which is really handy for ensuring you don’t miss the crucial moment, like a bird taking flight or an object hitting some water.
Again though, while the burst speeds are unchanged from the X-S10, the combination of a faster processor and card slot means being able to take more shots before the buffer fills.
Oh and at the other end of the shutter range, you can still keep dialing in longer exposures beyond the arbitrary 30 second limit of most cameras without entering a Bulb mode. I love this for easy long exposures.
One of the major upgrades to the X-S20 for stills photography is the improved Auto mode which deploys some pretty cunning scene and subject detection to drive the settings.
By default, the Auto mode will adjust the Dynamic Range and Film Simulation for you based on the scene, while also recognising the type of subject and setting the autofocus mode to match.
Auto subject detection is new to the X-S20 and in my tests did a great job at recognising and focusing on humans, animals, birds or just buildings and landscapes without ever skipping a beat. It’s important not to underestimate how useful this is, as you no longer need to manually select the subject type from the AF menu.
Scene detection also worked well, and it was fun to point the camera at various subjects and compositions to see what it identified. It went way beyond just portraits and landscapes to include motion and even greenery.
So far so good, but what it actually did with this information in terms of choosing an appropriate Film Simulation and Dynamic Range setting had variable results in my tests.
Point it at a human or an animal and the X-S20’s Auto mode will not only focus on their eyes, but also deploy a sensibly flattering standard Film Sim, typically with no DR adjustment. That’s the good news.
Point it at a landscape or building though and my X-S20 almost always selected Velvia for a highly saturated image, sometimes boosting the colours nicely, but at other times looking a little overcooked.
Check out this wall shot in Aperture Priority with the Standard Provia Film Sim vs Auto where it went all-out in Velvia. I know which I prefer.
But the Auto mode also has full access to the Dynamic Range menus, and if the composition included much sky in my tests, it would typically start adjusting it.
Now this could work well given strongly backlit compositions like windows from the inside or the view beyond a tunnel, but at other times I was presented with what looked to me like overcooked HDR versus a more natural approach in the standard modes.
Of course you might love what the full Auto mode is doing, but for me, I wanted to see if I could keep my favourite aspects while disabling or at least reigning-in the others.
Well I have some good news and bad news. The Auto Film Simulation can be manually overridden if preferred, but the entire page of Dynamic Range options is skipped, with the image quality menus in Auto mode jumping from page one to page three. So the only way you’re going to override that part is to shoot RAW and adjust it in playback or post later.
By far the most successful part is the new auto subject detection, so I wasn’t bothered to find the manual subject selection options gone when you’re in Auto mode – subject detection is either Auto or off.
But here’s the kicker – set the X-S20 to the non-Auto modes, like Aperture Priority, and the Auto subject detection option is gone, leaving you to manually select it as with previous models.
This is a real missed opportunity, as I’d love to deploy the auto subject detection in any mode without conceding control over Dynamic Range. I often find myself photographing landscapes or portraits when an animal or bird suddenly appears for a brief moment.
This is where auto subject detection works a treat, allowing you to grab a spontaneous shot before continuing with your previous subjects. As it stands though, if I’m not in Auto on the X-S20, I’ll either need to manually select the desired subject type in the AF menus or hope my current settings are coincidentally suitable for the guest star.
One workaround is to shoot as normal, but quickly turn to the Auto mode when you spot a different opportunity. Sure you’ll have to accept auto DR as well, but I found I mostly used this technique when an animal or bird passed by, where the X-S20’s processing is generally more sympathetic.
Ultimately Auto mode on the X-S20 is Fujifilm’s best to date, but please add the brilliant Auto subject detection to the other modes sooner rather than later.
Before moving on, a quick nod to Fujifilm for finally updating – or rather creating a new – mobile app. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but Fujifilm says it supports all cameras with the X-Processor 4 onwards, so update your firmware and let me know if it’s any better.
Switch the X-S20 to video and you can film 1080 from 24 to 60p and 4k from 24 to 30p, all uncropped and in 16:9 or wider 17:9 shapes. If you’re willing to accommodate a small crop, you can boost 4k from 50 to 60p, and all of these modes can be encoded in H.264 or H.265 and in Long GOP or All-i formats at a choice of bit rates. It’s a huge range of options often lacking on rivals at this price.
If you’re into slow motion, you can film 1080 with a crop from 100 to 240p, conformed to a choice of frame rates for playback at reduced speed. For example, you can capture at 200p and encode it at 25p for an eight times slowdown as seen here.
So far so similar to its predecessor, but in a major upgrade for videographers, the X-S20 now offers 6.2k recording in an open gate format, essentially recording the entire sensor at the full 3:2 height. This not only captures more detail than 4k, but the extra height provides greater opportunities for reframing in post, for example making both landscape and portrait crops from the same clip.
Unlike the half hour clips of the X-S10, the 20 now seems happy to record for longer until the battery runs out or the camera overheats. You should be able to get about 75 minutes of 4k 30p, or about half an hour of 6.2k 30p. I hope to do some formal testing of recording times and overheating, but in the meantime, the optional cooling fan accessory can extend recording times, especially in hotter environments.
Meanwhile graders will appreciate having both F-Log and the latest F-Log 2 for recording flat footage with increased dynamic range, and as mentioned earlier, there’s also the chance to output 6.2k RAW video in ProRes or BlackMagic formats to an external recorder, making the X-S20 one of the best featured video cameras at the price.
Here’s some example footage filmed with the X-S20 in the reasonably flat Eterna Film Simulation, first in 1080 at 25p.
And now in 1080 at 50p, and I’m using the XF 18-55mm kit zoom here roughly mid-way through its range and closed to f8 for optimal sharpness.
For comparison, here’s the same view in 1080 100p, slowed by four times on my 25p timeline. Note the crop of around 1.29x, but the resolved detail is similar to the lower frame rates.
And now in 1080 200p slowed by eight times on my timeline, sharing the same 1.29x crop, but this time with a reduction in resolved detail.
Now let’s return to 1080 at 25p using the full sensor width before switching to 4k 25p where the view remains uncropped and you’ll see a boost in detail.
And next for 4k at 50p where you’ll again incur a crop to the field of view of around 1.18x, but at least the resolved detail looks similar.
Now back to 4k 25p which is uncropped before switching to 6.2k open gate footage which right now in this 4k project will look much the same as native 4k footage. But watch what happens as I reduce the magnification, revealing the same horizontal coverage, but greater vertical height.
Here’s standard 4k on the left and 6.2k open gate on the right, again confirming the same width, but the taller height on the latter.
To show how this can be useful when reframing for different devices, here’s a 6.2k open gate clip showing the full coverage of the sensor.
Now for two different crops taken from the same clip, with traditional horizontal 16:9 on the left and vertical 9:16 on the right, ideal for mobiles and exploiting the extra height of the frame. It’s a genuinely useful feature for content creators and pretty unique at the price. And lest we forget, Sony doesn’t offer Open Gate, or even 17:9 video shapes on any of its Alpha bodies.
Next for stabilisation and here I’ve switched to using the XF 8mm f3.5, a new lens destined to become a favourite with vloggers. You’re looking at footage stabilised using the X-S20’s built-in IBIS sensor-shift stabilisation alone, but if you’re willing to accommodate a crop, you can apply additional digital stabilisation and reduce the wobbles further.
It’s definitely an improvement, but not quite up to the best digital modes from Sony and Canon, which may take bigger crops but return less wobbly footage in my tests, especially if you’re walking with the camera. Certainly with lenses as wide as the new 8mm, there’s plenty of latitude for cropping, so I hope Fujifilm work on improving their digital stabilisation for walking and filming as it’s clearly a target market for them.
In terms of video autofocus, it can work really well, but in some situations still occasionally lacks the confidence of the best systems out there.
As for the VLOG mode on the dial, this adjusts some of the settings, unlocks a couple of options in the menus, and presents user-friendly shortcuts to the most common stuff for video creators.
Most notably eye detection becomes the default focus mode, and you’ll now find Background Defocus and Product Priority become available – both of which are greyed-out in the standard movie menus.
The Q menu also presents the most common options, providing easy access for video content creators.
Background Defocus simply overrides your exposure settings and chooses the maximum aperture for your lens, increasing the shutter or reducing the ISO to balance the exposure. Note you may need to change the exposure mode to allow this.
Next here’s Product Priority in action which turns off eye detection to instead simply focus on the closest subject to the camera. If that’s an object you’re showing, the X-S20 should keep it in focus even if your face is visible on the frame, then when you move the object out of the frame, it’ll refocus on whatever is closest.
This should hopefully be your face, but if your arm, hand or any other object is in the frame and closer to the camera, it will focus on that instead, and again I did notice some wobbles in my test footage too as the camera pulled between subjects.
Ultimately I don’t believe Product Priority is an intelligent mode, rather it’s only focusing on whatever’s closest, but once you understand the rules, it can work reasonably well. That said, you can equip any camera with a product presentation mode by simply turning off face detection and just using the basic full area AF system to focus on whatever’s closest.Check prices on the Fujifilm X-S20 at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!