The Fujifilm X-T3: Making Very Good Very Better

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For those shooters who loved the Fujifilm X-T1, the X-T2 was more revolutionary than evolutionary. The Fujifilm X-T2 seemed like a completely different camera in some ways when compared to the X-T1. It just felt different. Enter the Fujifilm X-T3 and we have stepped back to the evolutionary advancement instead of a true revolutionary change (unless you shoot video, but more on that later). The X-T3 tweaks, not what was wrong with the X-T2, but what you didn't know you wanted to be made better.

Handling

Aside from the video capabilities (see the shaded box below), some of the biggest, yet subtlest, changes of the X-T3 come on the camera body. Stepping back, if you aren't familiar with the Fujifilm X-series controls, you are in for a treat. The whole X-series lineup can be classified as "retro done right" with its intuitive old-school dials and controls. The X-T3 has refined the main dials for better usability (they were perfectly fine before) and the EV dial has been shrunk a bit—probably to avoid accidental turning of the knob since it used to be right at the edge of the chassis. I used to want an EV knob lock, but the new dial solves the whiny issue I had with the X-T2's knob. Also, the diopter adjustment is locking now—another welcome addition that addresses not a problem, but a past minor annoyance.

All of the buttons and knobs have been redesigned, and all for an even-better tactile experience. Part of the charm of the X-series has always been the physical interaction with the camera, and Fujifilm just keeps making it better.

Size and Weight

My favorite part of owning the X-T1, after years of shooting a clunky DSLR kit, was picking up my camera bag and not knowing if there was a camera inside. The arrival of the X-T2 took that bliss away and the X-T3, like many photographers my age, puts on a few more grams. However, the X-T3 feels exactly like the X-T2. The 67 grams that separated the X-T1 and X-T2 seem much much greater than the 32 grams that separate the X-T3 from the X-T2.

That extra weight of the X-T3 is spread out mostly in the thickness of the body. Ergonomically, it is the best of the three cameras, with a perfect balance of thickness while still retaining the overall feel of a classic mechanical 35mm camera.

I'll go on record here and send my wishes to Fujifilm that they will put the X-T3 on a diet so that the X-T4 tips the scales in the opposite direction. One of the most attractive attributes of a mirrorless system is size/weight. Even for those shooters who love the chunky fill-your-hand feel of a modern DSLR, there is something incredibly attractive about a smaller and lighter, but just as capable camera that doesn't weigh you down.

Menus and Controls

The X-T3 menu is almost identical to the X-T2. X-T2 shooters will notice there are some new additions to almost every page because the camera has increased capabilities and options. Also expanded is the customizability of the control dials and function buttons. This may be superfluous for some shooters, but I am sure there are some X-series shooters who will program the heck out of their cameras to meet their custom needs.

Touchscreen

Whoa. This thing has a touchscreen. You can use the touchscreen functionality to scroll through your images and pinch-zoom to check sharpness. Nice! You can also use it to release the shutter or change focus points. You cannot use the touchscreen in the menus, but you can use it on the Q (quick) menu and that is a nice feature. I would classify this as standard touchscreen functionality.

Here is the rub. As an X-T2 shooter, I took the X-T3 out for a few photo walks and realized, after the fact, that I had not used the touchscreen at all with the exception of accidently taking a few photos when I inadvertently had the LCD on and touched the camera. Let me tell you, those images are amazing!

Anyway, suddenly having a touchscreen is going to be something I need to get used to, and I will have to force myself to remember that it is there.

Autofocus

Since the dawn of time, every mirrorless camera manufacturer has extolled the incredible speeds of their autofocus systems and they have backed up those claims with blazing-fast numbers. But, in the real world, those accustomed to DSLR shooting often found that the mirrorless autofocus systems lagged when compared to the DSLR—be it the lenses or the camera. For everyday shooting, this wasn't a huge issue, but for sports or chasing children around a birthday party, it could mean that you are missing shots and this was always in the back of my head when shooting—even if the results did not always agree with my perception that the autofocus needed to be a hair faster.

When water polo gets boring, play it while kayaking in the Hudson River.

Enter the X-T3.

Winding by the foot of the Hudson Yards development, the Hudson River Greenway Bike Path is known as one of the busiest in the country.

This is the very first Fujifilm mirrorless digital camera that I have used where I felt absolutely no autofocus lag at all. It feels, in this regard, like I am back to the DSLR. Even with the oh-so-long-in-the-tooth Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 lens, the focus was snappy and accurate and seamless. That alone made the shooting experience with the X-T3 transformative for me.

On Continuous Low, the autofocus had no issues tracking a helicopter. Image review told me I was “freezing” the main rotors, so I stopped-down my aperture as the aircraft approached.

Images

Like the X-T2, the images I grabbed after a couple of days with the X-T3 were typical for Fujifilm—rich in color and detail straight out of the camera. I have really grown accustomed to seeing the world through the eyes of the X-Trans sensor where everything looks richer than it does in real life—even when not simulating Fujifilm Velvia film stock!

Remnants of the legacy maritime infrastructure of the Hudson River exist today in the form of sailboats, a lightship, fire boats, motor yachts, and long-abandoned pier pilings.

By the specs, the new sensor is not too different that the X-T2's X-Trans CMOS III chip, but this "4" version (Fujifilm apparently ditched the Roman numerals) is the first back side illuminated (BSI) sensor from Fujifilm. I look forward to pointing that sensor at the stars soon to see how astrophotographs are going to look on my computer.

Lots of dynamic range in this scene from the park. I exposed so that the sky wouldn’t blow out and then did an “Auto” adjustment in Lightroom, which served to bring up the shadow detail nicely.

Video

Shawn here, to explore the video chops on the X-T3. Impressive on paper and surprisingly impressive in the real world. Fujifilm has made huge advances here, and having 4K60 internal with 10-bit 4:2:0 is a huge advantage over the competition. Sure, it's not 4:2:2, but 10-bit is a much bigger improvement over 8-bit and you can get full 10-bit 4:2:2 over the HDMI output. Examining a few video files, the image is quite detailed and sharp. I did notice some noise start to pop up when one starts raising the ISO; not much de-noising being applied in-camera, it seems. Keeping the ISO low results in clean and detailed shots. While not a fault of the camera, Fujifilm's extensive lens collection isn't exactly set up for cine applications, though if you have the budget, the MKX zooms are amazing. In summary, the X-T3 is an impressive feat for Fujifilm and makes it one of the best mirrorless video cameras on the market. The only thing I could wish for is in-body stabilization.

The X-T3 continues the Fujifilm X-T tradition of incredible image quality and a retro-meets-tech interface that continues to inspire owners to get out and truly enjoy making great photographs. Who will buy the new Fujifilm X-T3 camera? Certainly, there will be a great many Fujifilm X-T2 shooters looking to upgrade. That much is obvious. But, who are the other future X-T3 fans? Now that Nikon and Canon are fully into the mirrorless realm with their new full-frame offerings, fans of those brands who were feeling the pull of mirrorless fun won't be as tempted to jump ship. But, the truth is that for those tired of the my-flange-distance-is-better-than-your-flange-distance full-frame measuring contests, you can grab the Fujifilm X-T3 and some great Fujinon glass and head off into the photogenic world with an incredibly capable photographic machine that is a pure pleasure to use.

Hudson River Park

For this article, I took the Fujifilm X-T3 on a couple of sunset strolls through New York City's Hudson River Park, on the west side of Manhattan. Once a bustling strip of maritime infrastructure crammed full of liners, bulk ships, ferries, and associated warehouses, the demise of bulk shipping, the construction of tunnels, and the advent of jet-powered air travel turned the area into a virtual industrial wasteland. Fast-forward to today and it has been transformed into a recreational hub on the city's western border. Development continues and the future is exciting, but already there is everything from sailing and paddleboard schools to mini golf to outdoor movies to carousel rides to beach volleyball.

Thoughts and feelings about the X-T3? Questions? Hit us up in the Comments section, below!

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