Best high-end compact camera: 6 compared

The best back-ups or alternatives to your DSLR

Best high end compact camera

Fuji X20 - £470/AU$700/US$600

The Fuji X10 boasted an above-average image resolution of 12MP. That hasn't increased in the newer Fuji X20, but the design of the sensor is radically different. The much vaunted X-Trans 2/3-inch sensor is coupled with a new-generation image processor.

The net results, claims Fujifilm, is that the X20 gives sharper pictures with a 30 per cent reduction in image noise, and much of what made the Fuji FinePix X10 a great camera remains in the Fuji FinePix X20. The retro design looks fabulous, and the manual zoom ring on the lens enables the kind of precision control that's absent on motorised systems.

However, the lens doesn't retract into the camera, so the overall design isn't an easy fit for most pockets. It's basically the same 4x zoom lens as on the Fuji X10, giving an effective 28-112mm range at f/2-2.8. It's not the fastest lens, but it's not far behind.

As you'd expect from Fujifilm, the wide range of film-emulation modes such as Provia, Velvia and Astia are still present and correct. One marked improvement over the Fuji X10 is that the Fuji X20's optical viewfinder is genuinely worth having. Important shooting parameters such as aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity are now visible in the viewfinder, thanks to the addition of a real-time info display. Maximum burst rate is boosted from the Fuji X10's 7fps to a class-leading 12fps.

The hybrid phase and contrast detection autofocus system is rapid and locks onto targets with ease, even under very low lighting conditions. Metering is foolproof and, for ultimate control, a large exposure compensation dial is wonderfully easy to get at.

Given Fujifilm's claims, however, we were disappointed by the X20's image quality under low lighting. Compared with the older X10, any reduction of image noise at high ISO settings is marginal.

Outdoor images

Best high end compact camera

Metering is spot on in this outdoor shot, with beautiful colour rendition and plenty of saturation, although shadows are a bit on the dark side.


Best high end compact camera

Sharpness is excellent at ISO 100, where the Fujifilm draws level with the higher-resolution Sony RX100, but it drops off at high sensitivity settings.


Best high end compact camera
Noise at ISO 200

Best high end compact camera
Noise at ISO 3200

Despite its much-vaunted new image sensor and processor, noise is very noticeable at high ISO settings, along with a drop in fine detail.

Colour error

Best high end compact camera

The Fujifilm level-pegs with the Canon G15 in terms of colour accuracy in lab tests, although images generally lack the Canon's slight warmth.

Image test verdict

An impressive performer at low ISO settings, the Fuji X20 runs into trouble in low lighting conditions when you boost the sensitivity.

Read our full Fuji X20 review