DigitalCameraReview.com
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd Review
by SarahM -  7/16/2008

Fujifilm released the Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd earlier this year as a follow-up to the chic Z10fd, a camera that Fuji took in a new direction with a social networking website and bright, eye-catching colors. It seems, at first glance, that the Z20fd is cut from the same cloth as its predecessor.

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd


Will the Z20fd outperform the Z10fd, which earned generally average marks in our review? Did Fujifilm really up the ante with their latest budget-minded Z-series release?

FEATURES OVERVIEW
FORM, FIT, AND FEEL
PERFORMANCE
IMAGE QUALITY
CONCLUSIONS
SPECIFICATIONS

FEATURES OVERVIEW

The Z20fd is the follow-up to the Z10fd and smaller sibling to the Z100fd which I reviewed for Digitalcamerareview.com a few months back. Like these two cameras, the Z20fd has the Z series's trademark slim, flat body, a sliding cover to protect lens, face detection, and Fuji's innovative micro thumbnail view in playback mode (which allows you to view up to 100 images at a time).

The Z20fd gives aspiring photo artists a 10 megapixel canvas with which to work. An internally housed 3x Fujinon zoom lens – which, at 35-105mm, offers slightly more wide-angle coverage than the Z10fd's 38-114mm optics – covers the usual amount of ground for a small, budget-priced camera. A "one touch" movie button on the top of the camera makes shooting video a snap, and automatic red-eye removal works in tandem with Fuji's face detection technology.

The Z20fd has the following primary mode options:

Finally, when it comes to memory the Z20fd is flexible, using either xD-Picture Card or more common SD/SDHC types from a single slot.

For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.


FORM, FIT, AND FEEL

Fujifilm has definitely targeted a young, cool crowd with their Z series line. The Z20fd may be modestly priced, but it's hardly middle of the road with its fun, colorful design.

Styling and Build Quality

The Z20fd has the popular Z-series "aero" design. The camera is slim and sleek, at only 0.7 inches thick. Some might worry about the sturdiness of such a slim camera with all plastic construction, but for its size, the Z20fd feels solid. As is usually the case with Fuji Z cameras, the sliding cover protects the lens and flash.

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

The battery door is sort of flimsy – made out of thinner plastic than the rest of the body, it has a considerable amount of give. But if you keep it locked you shouldn't have problems.

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

Ergonomics and Interface

The Z20fd is 3.6 inches wide, 2.2 inches high and 0.8 inches thin, and fits in the palm of my hand.

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

It's pretty easy to use the Z20fd with one hand as well. The shutter button is good sized and sensitive. Taking video is almost easier than taking photos thanks to the small movie button located next to the shutter button.

There are two four-way controllers and a small display/back button next to the 2.5-inch LCD. The top dial has zoom toggling to the right and left, face detection on the top, and playback on the bottom. The center button does nothing, which seems like a waste of space.

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

The bottom dial has access to the flash, macro mode, anti-blur mode, self-timer, and the menu button in the center. Also, you can use the bottom dial to scan through pictures in playback mode.

The menu is divided into two sections in shooting mode: shooting options and menu options. In menu options the user can switch between Auto, Manual, Natural Light, and Natural Light with flash modes. In the shooting menu, the user can access shooting modes, high-speed shooting, image quality, movie quality, ISO, FinePix color, and setup options. This split arrangement is typical of Fuji and a bit awkward at first.

In playback mode, the menu options change.The playback menu consists of the following options: erase, slideshow, transition, image rotate, protect, copy, voice menu, trimming, print order, and setup.

If the interface is somewhat odd, the icons are simple enough to understand as they are similar to other camera icons. For example, the face detection button has a little face, the flash is represented by a lighting bolt, and playback has the standard symbol for play.

Display/Viewfinder

The LCD on the Z20fd is a good, if slightly average, display at 2.5-inches and 150,000 pixels. The images are crisp and the color is good in playback; it's easy to track moving images and the display adjusts easily to low light.

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

There is no optical viewfinder and in most scenarios that won't be a problem. I did notice in bright sunlight it can be difficult to see your images in detail on the LCD. In low light the LCD gains up but can be slightly grainy. Like the Z100fd, the screen brightness can be adjusted on a sliding scale from -5 to +5, with the default setting logically at 0.


PERFORMANCE

Timings and Shutter Lag

In this area, the Z20fd comes up pretty average. When pre-focused, the camera performs at its the best, taking less than 0.02 seconds from press to capture. But that's about the only highlight.

Shooting with the Z20 without pre-focusing brings back a time of 0.55 from press to capture: not bad, but not exactly impressive. Startup to the first shot also brings an average time in our test shots; about 2.7 seconds.

Continuous shooting times on the Z20fd were not even average. The only word to use to describe the times is painfully slow, even with High Speed Shooting enabled. There are three modes: Top 3 continuous, Last 3 continuous, and Long Period continuous.

In Top 3 continuous, the camera saves the first three shots it takes, and does so in about 3.6 seconds (for a terribly slow frame rate of 0.83 fps). The Last 3 continuous puts up the same numbers, only it save the last three shots the camera takes. In Long Period continuous, the camera shoots five frames in 13.6 seconds, for a frame rate of 0.36 fps. Most competitive cameras average a frame rate of at least 1.0 fps, leaving the Z20fd in a cloud of incredibly slow dust.

Lens and Zoom

The zoom moves quickly and smoothly from the wide end to the tele, but it's not moving at light speed if you catch my drift. The toggle is responsive and can move slowly, in small increments. The Z20fd is not especially noisy when zooming and there is no protruding barrel to contend with.

There is a zoom display on the LCD that pops up when you use the toggle to give you a visual cue.

The Z20fd has a 3x optical zoom. You can zoom farther than 3x with digital zoom but you have to turn it on in the setup menu in shooting mode. When you turn digital zoom on, the zoom display changes so you know if you've zoomed beyond 3x and you will lose quality accordingly.

Auto Focus

There are two basic Auto Focus modes on the Z20fd: center and multi-area. Speed appears to be about the same in either mode.

As noted in the timings section, the Z20fd is average to below average in this area as well: the camera has difficulty focusing in low indoor light and even has a tendency to "error out" in darker shots – it basically stops trying to focus. Combined with slower focusing speed than the best cameras in this class, the Z20fd simply fails to impress here.

Flash

The Z20fd seems to share a lot in common with its predecessor in this area. The Z20fd has auto and red-eye reduction as well as fill and slow sync modes, and like the Z10fd, the Z20fd came back with the same disappointing findings from this familiar list of options.

Like the Z10fd before it, overexposure was a big problem for the Z20fd. In many shots with the flash, the color was sucked out of the picture leaving the subject with a washed out look. The power-limited unit depends heavily on an ISO boost to reach its maximum 12.9 ft range, making it a challenge to get clean flash shots.

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

White balance was inconsistent at best; often lighter colors showed extremely cool shifted hues. Red-eye was also a problem, even in the red-eye reduction and face recognition modes – which stinks, since I always seem to be the one with the blazing red eyes like some sort of demon from a movie.

Image Stabilization

Sadly, there's not much to say here: the Z20fd uses digital image stabilization, taking the form of ISO boost, which can be turned on via a dedicated button on the camera's lower dial. There is no "true" mechanical or optical image stabilization – a shame, since many of the Z20fd's competitors are moving in this direction.

Still, things could be worse: with better than average high-ISO performance, the Z20fd's digital stabilization is more useful than similar settings on many cameras of this ilk.

Battery Life

The battery lasted about three weeks without needing a charge but I didn't use it as much as I should have for testing purposes. After that recharge, I really pushed the camera – taking about 150 pictures, many with flash, and four videos ranging from 30 seconds to about two minutes. Under these conditions, the battery lasted roughly two weeks.

The Z20fd comes with a rechargeable NP-45 lithium ion battery and charger. The manual was a little long on charging times: it says about 180 minutes but it took a little over two hours, or around 120 minutes. The battery was completely dead when I charged it too, so better-than-expected numbers were a nice surprise.


IMAGE QUALITY

As mentioned before, the Z20fd shares many features with the Z10fd; unfortunately it also shares some image quality issues. From a general perspective, the Z20fd had decent overall quality but lacks punch, even at lower ISOs.

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

Exposure, Processing, and Color

As with the Z10fd, default metering (there's only the default multi-area setting) on the Z20fd tends to clip highlights rather badly, espeically in higher-contrast situations.


Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

What we said about the Z10fd can be applied here essentially verbatim:

"Part of the difficulty undoubtedly lies with the Z10’s processing choices, which favor heavy contrast and tend to push the ends of the spectrum too much. Exposure compensation is helpful here, but the results are inconsistent, as shadow areas often come out much too dark when scenes are compensated correctly for highlights."

Sadly, the Z20fd does little to correct these issues. If anything, shots came out even more clipped looking with the new camera.

Processing options with the Z20fd are limited to Fuji's high-saturation F-Chrome mode and a black and white shooting option. Unfortunately, there's nothing here to cut the FinePix's unnaturally high default saturation.

White Balance

The Z20 performs well in this category – better than many of its peers that take pictures that are excessively warm under indoor lighting. Our auto white balance test under incandescent light shows off the Z20fd's flexbility.

While the shot's not perfectly balanced, results are more than acceptable for most uses, making the need to switch presets for quick snapshots a little less pressing than on many cameras.

If you do want to get more involved, the usual range of presets for fine-tuning the white balance is available, but advanced users seeking a pocket camera should note that there is no custom white balance mode.

Lens Faults

One of the Z20's biggest problems lies in chromatic aberration, or in layman's terms, a purple fringing seen along edges in bright areas of the shot. We experienced similar issues with the Z10, and unfortunately the latest model seems to do little to correct it.

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
100% crop

Flare and ghosting intrude on this shot as well, further complicating the situation for the Z20fd's Fujinon lens.

While the barrel and pincushion distortion were both insignificant, there is a general image softness that gets worse in wide-angle shots. This, too, is reminiscent of our last experience with a lower-end Z camera, and the issue is severe enough that it will continue to limit the Z20fd's appeal with serious shutterbugs.

Sensitivity and Noise

The Z20fd shows a surprising level of detail at ISO 1600 all things considered, and could certainly be categorized in the top half of the ultracompact class in spite of its low price.

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 64
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 64, 100% crop
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 100
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 100, 100% crop
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 200
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 200, 100% crop
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 400
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 400, 100% crop
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 800
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 800, 100% crop
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 1600
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
ISO 1600, 100% crop

What noise is there can be a little intrusive, with some bright speckles starting to show up as low as ISO 400. While the camera may be noisier than usual at ISO 400, it almost gets better at the high ISOs because there's so little noise gain from there on up. All of this makes the upper settings that much more useful, and may help to redeem the Z20fd's generally lackluster image quality for those wanting to capture club or party shots without using the flash.

Additional Sample Images

Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd
Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

CONCLUSIONS

The Z20fd should be evaluated in light of the standards for a budget camera, and so in many areas where it came up short, it's not a shock. While it would have been nice to see Fuji improve on some of the areas where the Z10fd fell short, it simply wasn't meant to be this time around.


The Z20fd isn't a terrible camera, though: in many ways it's a good camera for the amateur user. It's compact, stylish, and affordable and takes decent shots indoors and outdoors. I enjoyed using it despite all its technical faults and would recommend it regardless for people who just want an easy-to-use compact camera with a little flair.

Pros:

Cons:


SPECIFICATIONS: Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd

Sensor 10.0 megapixel, 1/2.3" CCD
Zoom 3x (35-106mm) Fujinon zoom, f/3.7-4.2
LCD/Viewfinder 2.5", 150K-pixel TFT LCD
Sensitivity ISO 64-1600
Shutter Speed 3-1/1000 seconds
Shooting Modes Auto, Manual, Picture Stabilization, Movie
Scene Presets Natural Light, Natural Light with Flash, Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night, Fireworks, Auction, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Museum, Party, Flower, Text, Stamp
White Balance Settings Auto, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3, Incandescent
Metering Modes Multi
Focus Modes Center AF, Multi AF, Macro
Drive Modes Normal, Top 3 Continuous, Final 3 Continuous, Continuous
Flash Modes Auto, Forced On, Slow Synchro, Forced Off, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Syncrho with Red-Eye Reduction
Self Timer Settings
10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
Memory Formats xD-Picture Card, SD, SDHC
Internal Memory
45 MB
File Formats JPEG, MPEG
Max. Image Size 3648x2736
Max. Video Size
640x480, 30 fps
Zoom During Video No
Battery Rechargeable lithium-ion
Connections USB 2.0, AV output, DC input, IrSimple
Additional Features Face Detection, High Speed Shooting, Blog Mode, i-Flash