The Fujifilm XT20: What’s Beta Testing REALLY Like?

I get this question alot:  “What’s beta testing a camera really like?”. Well, I believe it’s a different experience for each person who does it. For instance, while there IS overlap between them, I loosely see 3 groups when it comes to camera testers/assessors:

  • Techhies will wax on about the tech details, because they jones to understand all the inner workings (God bless ’em!).
  • Reviewers will seek to objectively test, explain and compare each feature set in detail, so that users can make better decisions when it comes to buying a camera (see Gordon Laing at Camera Labs for the best in that department! Here’s his review of the Fujifilm X-T2, for example.)
  • Artists don’t care as much about WHY the thing work – they want to know if and how well this new camera will help them create the next level of their art.

I fall more into the latter group – the Artists. Each group provides an important aspect of a camera’s merit, so if you’re trying to gain perspective on a new camera, consider dipping into each pool for a fuller perspective.

Mt. Rose Summit, NV
16-55mm lens, ISO 640, f/16, 1/6oo sec
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod, BH-40 ballhead

what’s beta-testing really like?

Speaking for myself (the only one I CAN speak for!), I love beta-testing. It’s so new-frontier exciting! My approach is always from the point of view of what it can help me create – and how easily and elegantly it does that. It’s VERY personal. Frankly, I don’t even try to be objective. I figure that’s a job for a different kind of tester. For me, a camera is like a paintbrush. As such, it’s there to help me create – to make it more fun, creative and interesting to take my vision to new levels.

Depending upon whom you’re testing for… the goal could be to simple create images to be used in the launch and promotion of the camera when it goes public, to provide valuable user feedback – or both. (Nope, I don’t get paid for doing any of it.)

In the case of Fujifilm, it’s first and foremost about creating images and providing feedback after. That works for me. For one thing, I live to create images. But my feedback is always listened to as well – and sometimes I’ll catch a glitch that slipped through the cracks. Usually the next firmware update fixes whatever problem there might have been or activates a new feature. It’s a living, breathing process.

Donner State Park, Truckee, CA
16-55mm lens, ISO 800, f/10, 1/6 sec
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod, BH-40 ballhead

unfinished and top-secret   

Now then. Before testing even begins, you sign an NDA. (non-disclosure agreement). NDA’s are potent… you’re not allowed to share photos, talk about the camera, tell anyone you have it, let on that you know anything about it. These are binding legal agreements… so keeping mum is a top priority! It’s like being a secret agent or something.

Next, a box shows up with the secret device inside. You may or may not know exactly what will be in there, so you just jump in. You open it up. You’re kinda giddy. OK, I don’t really know about “you”… but  I‘m giddy at this point! 😀

Truckee River, CA
16-55mm lens, ISO 200, f/18, 1/100 sec
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod, BH-40 ballhead

You keep in mind that not all the features will be active, there will be plenty of operating glitches along the way, lots of firmware updates to fix stuff and activate new features along the way – and that you’re exploring new frontiers.

You’re not told ahead of time exactly WHAT this camera will do, what the new features are, how to operate it, or really much at all… you get to figure all that out. It’s fun! It’s also fun knowing that ultimately this device will be in someone’s hands who wants to paint in their own brilliant brushstrokes; and that you have an opportunity to provide feedback that might make that experience even more awesome.

By the time you’ve got a beta camera in your hands, it’s highly unlikely that any of the hardware is going to be changed, barring some catastrophic error I suppose. I haven’t come across anything like that, only a couple of things I might do differently – but nothing huge and nothing that was going to change before launch.

It’s energizing and fun, yes – but I always feel a sense of responsibility to the process!

Donner Kitchen, Truckee, CA
(messing about with a fork and milk pitcher, whilst learning settings with a camera stuck on ISO 800 on my first day. Heh.)

60mm f/2.4 MACRO lens, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/60 sec
Handheld.

features ‘n functionality

Here are a few examples of how features and functionalities unfold during a beta testing process. For instance…

  • When it first arrived, I had no idea the X-T20 featured a touchscreen. I stumbled across the option to turn “Touchscreen” on or off one day when I was digging around for something else in the menu system. But it didn’t yet work. I got kind of excited about it though, since I knew tons of people who really wanted that feature. A couple more firmware updates took care of that – and pretty soon I was using my first touchscreen camera!
  • At first, the camera would ONLY shoot at ISO 800. So I had to scale my lighting and subject matter accordingly in order to keep producing good images. It was a good exercise though… and a fun challenge to be limited to that single option and make it work. There isn’t any noise at that ISO level, so that was never a concern. After awhile, all ISO setting came available and new possibilities unfolded.
  • I wanted to make some long-exposure images.. which of course, requires a tripod. That was how I discovered that my X-T10’s Really Right Stuff L-plate fit the X-T20 perfectly. #Winning! And since it uses the same lenses as both my X-Pro2 and X-T2, I could go for it on that account too.
  • As usual with a beta-level camera, no software would read the RAW files – so I used the JPG’s to create the final images. That gave me a chance to check out how beefy the JPG images are… and as usual, these were brilliant to work with.
    Interesting fact: All JPG’s are natively 72ppi. You usually want to make big prints with 300ppi files. But know what? I had to make a 60″ metal print from one of Fujifilm’s JPG files and it was truly lovely! Not sure how they do that… but it was sure a nice discovery. 😉
  • Overall: you really gotta get your creativity and sense of adventure on, since the thing might crash suddenly, freeze, glitch in some weird way. It’s all part of the process. The exciting part is that by the time you’re beta testing, launch isn’t too far away. It’s like the birth of a new baby into the world!

Reno, NV
50-140mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/4700 sec.
Handheld.

x-t20 is the x-t10 times a hundred

The X-T20’s predecessor was the X-T10, which was created as sort of a “junior” version of the X-T1. In keeping with that approach: think of the X-T20 as being to the X-T2 what the X-T10 was to the X-T1… just super upgraded.

The X-T20 has the same 24 Megapixel APS-C X-Trans III sensor as the X-T2, same 4k video capabilities… but this puppy also has a Touchscreen as well. No joystick… but you can use the touchscreen to set the focal point (also to take the shot, scroll through photos on the LCD and pinch zoom), so the job is still accomplished with ease. It’s smaller and has many (but not all) of the same features as the X-T2… which keeps the price point down.

True story: As it turns out, I was the ONLY person in the U.S. testing an X-T20… which was kinda cool! And not nerve-wracking at all. 😬

I was asked to make one of Fujifilm’s “Inspiration” videos… so one gorgeous day after a snowfall, my friend and videographer Justin Majeczky hiked out to Mt. Rose, Nevada to shoot it. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time!

Created with the 4k video of the Fujifilm X-T2:

Impressions

Then comes the part where you form opinions to share with others. In the case of the X-T20, I can say that it’s a feisty little beast!

Here’s the stuff I think is super creative-nerdy cool about it:
  • I can use all the same lenses as the X-T2 and X-Pro2.
  • Size: it’s smaller than the X-T2 (my fave camera to date) and is one of those cameras you can throw a wee lens on and stick it in your purse.
  • Sensor: same sensor size as the X-T2, so nothing lost in the image quality department.
  • Batteries: same ones as the other X-Series cameras, so no new batteries to buy
  • Lenses: ditto the above… if you own an X-series camera already, use your same lenses! As I’ve said in other posts, Fujinon lenses ROCK.
  • Touchscreen: I’ve never actually used a touchscreen before, so it was fun to see what the all the touchscreen-lover fuss was about. I’m more of a joystick preferrer myself, but I liked how the touchscreen provided a nice alternative, allowing you to focus and/or shoot at the touch of a finger. And if you’d rather – you can just turn if off altogether, too. Options are Good.
  • Articulating screen: you can flip the screen up horizontally, which has officially become my favorite neck-and-back saving feature.
    Note: the X-T2 also allows you to flip the screen vertically, the X-T20 does not. It’s one of the differentiators between the two I mentioned earlier.
  • Image quality: still has that dreamy Fujifilm image quality with the colors, tonal range, micro-contrasts, etc. that I’ve always loved and made me switch to this system in the first place.
  • Low noise at high ISO: this isn’t new, but is carried over into this camera as well.
  • The fact that it’s exactly the same body as the X-T10, which meant that my Really Right Stuff L-plate still fit! I didn’t have to buy a new tripod mount, which made me really happy.

Donner Lake, Truckee, CA
50-140mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 800, f/22, 1/35 sec
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod, BH-40 ballhead

Here’s the stuff I didn’t love as much:

Ok, I gotta come clean: there’s really NOTHING not to like about this camera! I just wanted to present a balanced point of view, since we all do have our preferences. This next bit is honestly more a reflection of mine. I also touch on some of the natural differentiators Fujifilm made in order to make such a kickass camera at a reasonable price point.

  • Touchscreen: I loved it and it bugged me all at the same time. Mostly this is a “me” thing. I’m not very used to touchscreens. But the camera is small and I have fairly large hands.  With the touchscreen on, I tend to touch the screen during general handling – and either take a blurry picture of my foot by accident or move the focal point to some weird spot on the screen. So I had to be careful how I held it.
    • The other thing I found challenging with a touchscreen vs. a joystick doing hand-held macro shots. Everybody’s got their preferences, but I find it hard to coordinate setting the exact focal point with the touchscreen, holding everything steady and taking the picture all without moving. And I found in that situation, I didn’t really like using it on the “touch and take the picture” mode either, since the focus was never exactly where I wanted it. On the tripod, that wasn’t an issue… only when hand-holding.
    • And yes, I know I’m being a big baby here and that it all pales in the face of… IT’S GOT A TOUCHSCREEN!!
  • Not as many custom button settings as the X-T2… an understandable differentiator, but I’m spoiled!
  • Screen doesn’t articulate vertically.
  • No ISO dial: you have to change the ISO either via the menu accessed with the Q button, or you make a custom button for it. I just don’t like fussing around with the extra steps. Again, spoken as someone totally spoiled rotten by her dream camera (the X-T2).
  • Location of the (single) SD card slot; challenging for me, as it’s right next to the battery and. Little fingers won’t mind… mine argued. It’s in the same place as it was on the X-T10. I didn’t love it then either.

By necessity, the X-T20 has certain differentiators from the X-T2. But they’re super smart and well thought out: they result in a camera that costs less, is smaller, takes 100% badass photographs and is a perfect model for anyone entering the Fujifilm X-Series system world. It’s also a truly excellent backup/second camera to the X-T2. That’s how I’m thinking of it for myself. It’ll also be a fabulous travel camera.

More images? Why certainly!

 

Reno, NV
60mm f/2.4 MACRO lens, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/125 sec
Handheld.

Mt. Rose, NV
16-55mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 640, f162, 1/250 sec
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod, BH-40 ballhead

Truckee River, CA
(Portrait of Bob the Quadcopter. You knew THAT was coming, right?)

16-55mm lens, ISO 640, f/4.0, 1/4000 sec
Handheld

Truckee River, CA
16-55mm lens, ISO 200, f/18.0, 1/40 sec
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod, BH-40 ballhead

Truckee River, CA
16-55mm lens, ISO 200, f/18.0, 1/45 sec
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod, BH-40 ballhead

Truckee River, CA
16-55mm lens, ISO 200, f/18.0, 1/100 sec
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod, BH-40 ballhead

Reno, NV
50-140mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 320, f/4.0, 1/180 sec
Handheld and artified.

Reno, NV
60mm f/2.4 MACRO lens, ISO 400, f/6.4, 1/125 sec
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod, BH-40 ballhead


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35 thoughts on “The Fujifilm XT20: What’s Beta Testing REALLY Like?

  1. Thanks for beta testing and the great post 😉 Love the images as well. I was really curious about the X-T20 because of the size. Glad it has video. I’m pretty happy with the X-T2 but thinking of selling the X-T1 and getting the new one as a back up and for in the field video capturing.

    1. Hey Patricia! Yep, the X-T20 would be a great second camera to the X-T2. I think that’s how I’ll use mine. And it’s definitely beefier than than the X-T1 as far as image size and resolution (not to mention 4k video) – just like the T2. I think it’s going to be awesome to travel with too.

  2. A excellent outlined review for us artists. The X-T20 looks like a excellent choice and an inexpensive upgrade path from my X-Pro1. I do still wish for an X-E3 with similar features.

  3. Thanx for the review. I suppose you can also select the focus point using a function button and the selector?

  4. Thanks for the review Karen. Very good. Love the way Fuji renders their JPGs, ( your pics are gorgeous regardless of gear).

  5. Great review Karen and lovely pictures. I have pre ordered the X-T20. Can I ask how the 16-55 is on the camera as obviously the weight of the lens compared to camera is quite a difference? I’m planning on keeping my XT1 though for the weather sealing.

    1. Hey Andy, I use the 16-55 on the X-T20 all the time. The 50-140 too. Yeah, the weight is different, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I use a Really Right Stuff L-Plate all the time, so that broadens the physical dimension a bit. I’m sure some people (mostly men with larger hands) will prefer to use something like that or a battery pack to make it feel a bit bigger; I know others have mentioned that related to the other camera models. Am supposing it could hold true here. But for me it works.

      BTW, I used a 16-55 in this video: https://youtu.be/j28DzUSREyo. At :30 secs, you can see the camera, lens and my hands in the same shot – and at :37 a different zoom angle, same lens. Various angles after that. Hope this helps!

  6. Great Review!

    Did you have experience taking shots with the touchscreen? Is it quick and easy to switch between focus points and take the shot with the screen? Also… any experience with the video capacity? I am having such a hard time deciding between the X-T2 and X-T20… not a professional just making a leap into a new camera after a few years. Seems like yours held up pretty well even without the weather sealing! Come up to Southern Oregon and capture our beauty with these skills!

    1. Yes I did Greg. And I thought it was very quick and easy to switch between focus points and take the shot.
      Keep in mind that I’ve never used a touchscreen before now – so I say this not as a touchscreen veteran with lots of examples to compare to, but rather as a first-timer that was impressed by how fast the thing is. I can see why people like them so much!

      Mine definitely did hold up well even without weather sealing! However, I did NOT take it out into bucketing rain (as I have the XT2) or anything quite as extreme as that. My guess is that it would perform very well… however, as the ONLY person in the U.S. with that camera whilst beta testing, I wasn’t taking those kinds of chances!

  7. Hi Karen!
    Great job!
    One question, does the video feature/spec/capability on the X-T20 the exact same as in the X-T2 or a bit downgraded?

    1. Hey Rokphish (you don’t mind that I call you that, do you?)
      Since I’m not really a video person, I wasn’t even 100% sure about the answer to your question about the video specs between those two cameras. I had to ask Fujifilm HQ. Here’s what I learned. Seems there are small differences:

      X-T2
      [4K (3840×2160)] 29.97p / 25p / 24p / 23.98p 100Mbps up to approx. 10min.
      [Full HD (1920×1080)] 59.94p / 50p / 29.97p / 25p / 24p / 23.98p 100Mbps up to approx. 15 min.
      [HD (1280×720)] 59.94p / 50p / 29.97p / 25p / 24p 50Mbps up to approx. 30min.
      * For recording movies, use a card with UHS Speed Class 3 or higher.

      X-T20
      [4K (3840×2160)] 29.97p / 25p / 24p / 23.98P, 100Mbps Continuous recording : up to approx. 10 min.
      [Full HD (1920×1080)] 59.94p / 50p / 29.97p / 25p / 24p / 23.98P, 36Mbps Continuous recording : up to approx. 15 min.
      [HD (1280×720)] 59.94p / 50p / 29.97p / 25p / 24p / 23.98P, 18Mbps Continuous recording: up to approx. 30 min.
      * For 4K movie recording, use a card with UHS Speed Class 3 or higher.
      * Although movie recording will continue without interruption when the file size reaches 4 GB, subsequent footage will be recorded to a separate file which must be viewed separately.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Hi Karen!
        Thank you for asking the HQ and replying.

        I came across this:
        “The X-T20’s 4K video is taken from the full width of the sensor, unlike the X-T2, meaning more lenses will be able to offer a wide-angle view while video shooting. However, this is achieved by line skipping, rather than capturing, demosaicing and then downsampling, so the resolution capture won’t match the X-T2.”

        And since you have both I wonder whether you could verify whether it’s true that the result (of X-T20) is less than that (X-T2). Above you said you’re not video person, so am not looking for technical aspects, but perhaps just in real world use comparing the two if you could see the difference or perhaps not. And/or you could ask the HQ again about it.
        So sorry for the bother, perhaps just whenever you have a bit of time.

        Thank you so much.
        By the way, loving your photos!! =)

        1. Well, you ask a good – but very subjective question!
          My videographer can tell the difference between the quality of ANY camera. And owns a RED, which suits his sensibilities – and should tell you something.

          Between the X-T20 and X-T2 is there so much of a difference? Not that I can personally tell. Could my videographer? Probably. Would you be able to tell (ASSuming you used the perfect settings and all)? I have no clue. The only way to know is to try each one. I buy from Amazon (making sure to choose the one with the 30-day warranty) just for such comparison issues. Or I borrow… or rent, whichever is easiest to do. That was how I tried the various mirrorless cameras that I did before rolling with Fujifilm. At a certain point, no one can tell you which is “better”… you have to see for yourself, especially when the differences are so minimal.

          That’s my opinion… hope it’s useful!

  8. Thanks Karen

    I am debating between the XT20 and OLY PEN-F. Any experience with the the OLY as it relates to the XT20?

    1. Hi John,

      I honestly don’t have any experience with the PEN, though I’ve heard it’s great. To me, it all boils down to what it is you want to do with your camera. For me, landscape use is always going to lead.

      One of the top issues for me back when I was considering switching to mirrorless was the sensor size. Part of my business involves creating very large prints and I wasn’t comfortable going down to the micro four-thirds sensor size. I realize that one could make a very convincing argument for Olympus images and large prints, but I just wasn’t comfortable with it. Consequently, I ruled out any cameras with sensors smaller than APS-C size.

      Beyond that, I just fell in love with the Fujifilm image look and feel. There’s simply nothing like it and it completely aligned with my artist’s eye. Again, subjective.

      Then… the X-T20 has the touchscreen, which may or may not be important to you. The PEN F doesn’t.
      Even more important to me is the articulating screen. In my landscape world, that thing saves me from SO much neck and back pain it’s not even funny.
      The PEN was built more for street photography, near as I can tell… not with landscape or high end video in mine. That’s perfect for some people! You just have to decide if that’s you or not.

      The X-T20 is a great crossover camera between landscape and travel (and street too)… which is important to me, given what I like to do. And it’s a lighter, less expensive 2nd camera to my X-T2. That may or may not matter at all to you!

      So. I have my list of “must have”, “would be nice to have” and “don’t really care about” when I look for a camera. That’s how I can quickly sift through makes and models, since there are only going to be a couple that fit the bill. To me, while the PEN F and the X-T20 seem similar, to me they’re a bit like apples and oranges from the same farm stand. Once you figure out which functionality and flavor you absolutely MUST have (and which you can live without)… the decision will be easy.

      Hope that helps!

  9. The 4k video is not the same as the XT2 according to Fuji Guy Billy. https://youtu.be/9HOrvnCCfzs The XT20 4K uses a skip line capture to reduce heat in the camera. Which results in less data and resolution.

    From what I read on the The XT2 4K downsamples a 1.17x crop sensor which makes a 6k image and then downsamples this to a 4k video. So the XT2 has more data which theoretically means better video quality.

  10. hi karren..really love your photos…do you think it merit to replace my xt10 with xt20 because of its 24 reso??

    1. Hey Siamak… well I guess that depends on whether you NEED 24 mega pixels or not, like for larger prints or something like that.
      The X-T20 also has a touchscreen and 4k video – so if you especially want those in your life, that’s another aspect of the upgrade besides the 24 mp reso.

      But the X-T10 is still a really good camera! It’s hard when there’s all this hype about a new device; we all get the “I want it” itch. 😉 So it always boils down to whether one has the budget and the actual need for whatever the latest and greatest has to offer. Those are two questions only you can answer.

      The final hidden question here is; is the X-T20 is a BIG upgrade, or just a remix of the same old thing? Again, the above conditions apply when it comes to making a decision… but yes, this is a very big upgrade from the X-T10.

      1. thanks a lot…there were saying the 24 mp is more compatible with high resolation lenses like 16-55…is that right?

        1. Honestly, I’m not a tecchie, so I can’t say whether it’s “better” or not. My guess is that simply by virtue of the new sensor and extra mp, the images are better, period. That result would show with any of the lenses (not just the 16-55mm and the rest of the XF family), all of which seem pretty high res to me.

          Don’t know if that’s helpful or not… but it’s the best answer I’ve got!

  11. hi..i have bought a xt20 by the 18-55 kit. but i need more focal. there is a question if i get a 55-200 for supplementary lens. or sell 18-55 and get a 18-135?

    1. Hi Siamek,
      I’ve never used the 18-135, so can’t speak to that lens directly…but I do have the 55-200 and love it. I’d say it boils down, as always, to what what/how you like to shoot and how much reach you need. Personally, I need the 200’s long distance end. But that’s me! If you don’t need that much of a reach and your main priority is to keep your kit lean ‘n mean, then I’d sure consider the 18-135! If you can rent first or buy with a 30-day guarantee, that’s always smart…just to see how you feel about it and the images. My guess is that it’ll be super good…but your eye and experience are the final word!

  12. How did you get around the ISO being stuck at 800? It looks like my camera is on firmware 1.1, which doesn’t seem to be possible.

    1. Hi Cory,

      There was no getting around it… I just had to use it. It eventually got fixed with a firmware update, but for awhile I just tackled it like an artist’s exercise: create images and settings around the fixed ISO 800. It was interesting!

      1. There doesn’t seem to be any firmware updates available on their support site as of yet unfortunately. Not ideal during video recording.

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