A quick look at the Fujifilm X-T3 a year after launch
With a comparison to The X-Pro2 and X-H1
Thanks to Leo’s Camera Supply in Vancouver for making the Fujifilm X-T3 available to me for my review. I was able to take it for a spin over a weekend.
The Fujifilm X-T3 was released in September 2018 and was instantly very popular, no doubt due to an impressive feature set. The reviews were positive and the camera also received accolades for improved video specs. I will be looking at the X-T3 from a travel photographer’s perspective and will not dive into the video capabilities of the camera at this time. Nice to know it will shoot stellar video footage if need be.
In 2016 we set out for our trip to The United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Europe and my choice of camera at the time was the Fujifilm X-T1. A camera, which strongly reassembles a Contax 139 I had back in the early eighties. Fuji is known to look for design clues in old film cameras. This was Fuji’s first SLR styled mirrorless camera in the X-Series and it was a good move as it further solidified the X-Series. I enjoyed shooting with the X-T1. The adjustable tilting LCD especially, was a welcome addition when shooting from low angles as a travel photographer. The sensor in the X-T1 rendered pleasing images in many situations but came up short for landscape photography. The 16-megapixel sensor just did not cut it for the finer details in an image. At the time I had just sold a Canon EOS 5DsR so the difference was significant. The X-T2 was released in September 2016 with a long list of improvements including a new 24 megapixel X-Trans III sensor, faster shutter, new processor, more AF points, and a joy-stick. At the time, I had already upgraded to an X-Pro2, which had similar specs to the X-T2. The camera market is relentless and a mere two years after the X-T2 release the X-T3 was launched. New features include the X-Trans IV sensor at 26.1 megapixels, base ISO now at 160 instead of 200, better EVF, better AF including eye detect AF. The X-T3 also uses BSI (backside illumination), which gathers more light.
Handling the Fujifilm X-T3
The X-T3 is solid in the hand. Fuji has not cut any corners. The buttons are good, the door to the SD card slot snaps into position without any creaking. The tactile feel of the ISO and shutter speed dial is very pleasing. The tilting LCD seems well built and I believe it will stand the test of time. The on/off button is not flimsy as it is on some cameras. So far so good. However, I am not a fan of the exposure compensation dial. It is very tight and hard to move with just one finger. It makes for jerky adjustments or you are forced to use two fingers. Having easy access to an exposure compensation dial has become an essential part of my shooting style, especially with my X-Pro2. Perhaps more time and experience with the X-T3 would alleviate the concern. One other issue I have discovered is the placement of my right thumb, which inadvertently hits the dial and AF-L button on the back when holding the camera. The X-T3 is a relatively small body and a grip may negate this issue.
Fujifilm X-T3 In Action
As the X-Series cameras evolve, so do the menu systems. They are getting more and more complex. There are more menu items to go through and more decisions to make setting up the camera to your liking. I only had the camera for 4 days. Spending more time with the manual would probably have been in order but instead, I headed out for some hands-on. One example of the complexity is the added touch screen ability. To some photographers, I am sure this is a welcome feature. The more bells and whistles the better, right? I tried it for while on my X-H1 but no matter how I set it up, I would end up making camera changes inadvertently by the slightest touch of a finger. You guessed it. I turned it off on the X-T3 as well. It is however cool how you can completely customize this camera to your shooting style and quickly make changes with several custom function buttons laid out on the camera the way you prefer. I do like the shutter sound from the X-T3. It reminds me more of the X-Pro2 than X-H1, which feels too soft at times. The X-T3 gives you a nice reaffirming sound. Strange to talk about this really, but I find it an important part of the parcel. I did not have a sporting event on my agenda during my test so that I could test out the true speed of the X-T3. You can now fire away at 11 fps using the mechanical shutter and 20 fps with the electronic shutter and it even features a 1.25x crop mode giving you the option to shoot 30 fps. For travel photography, you rarely need those kinds of frame rates.
Comparing the X-T3 to the X-H1
673g for the X-H1 and 539g for the X-T3 does not make for a huge difference. That said, the X-H1 is beefier with a deeper grip and has the top LCD. Most notably the X-H1 has in-body stabilization and a dampened shutter mechanism, which allows for low shutter speed handheld photography. The IBIS also comes in handy for video. The X-H1 does not have the new 26.1 megapixels X-Trans IV sensor found in the X-T3. Instead, the X-H1 has the 24-megapixel X-Trans III sensor. The X-T3 shoots more frames per second and has an improved AF system. Fujifilm’s aggressive pricing on the X-H1 has made it a very attractive option in the Fuji line up at $CAD 1299.00 including the booster grip compared to $CAD 1899.00 for the X-T3. If you are having a difficult time choosing between the two, I would encourage you to try them both out at your local photo store or rent each for a few days to get a better feel. The cameras feel quite different in the hand and the shooting experience is also distinctive for each one. Car analogies are often used when speaking of cameras and I will turn to one now. Let’s call the X-T3 the latest VW Golf GTI with a firm suspension. Fast in the corners with a rigid body. The X-H1 is the top of the line Passat with leather seats and sunroof, it gives you a smooth ride and yet has some performance packed under the hood. The two cars are cut from the same DNA and some aspects will feel familiar and both with get you from A to B in style. In a quarter-mile race, the GTI would cross the finish line first.
Fujifilm X-T3 Image Quality
With any new camera and sensor, there is a learning curve and adjustment period in how you post-process and over time you will learn the sensor’s strengths and weaknesses enabling you to create presets suited for the camera. For the longest time now I have been processing images from the 24 megapixel X-Trans III sensor and regrettably there was not a big wow moment opening up the X-Trans IV files from the 26 megapixel sensor. With time I may have come to appreciate the subtle differences. However, in my limited test, the files from the X-T3 appear to come out with a flat profile needing more work in post in order to get my desired result. I usually shoot auto white balance and dare I say, my X-Pro2 and X-H1 are better at nailing the correct white balance? This could just be the new look of the files throwing me off. After the edits, the results are comparable but they do look slightly different than my usual files, which is to be expected with a new sensor.
Fujifilm X-T3 Conclusion
I wanted to test the X-T3 to see what the new sensor could produce. Would it be an idea to merge my two cameras into one for travel, as in sell my X-Pro2 and X-H1 and grab an X-T3 instead? After my brief test the X-T3 looks to be a solid performer but the improved specs of the X-T3 are perhaps not what I would be looking for at this point in time. As a travel photographer, I do not need the high frame rate shooting and I do not shoot enough video that I would be longing for the improved specs of the X-T3. Looking in my crystal ball the upcoming X-Pro3, which I am quite curious about, will most likely get the same sensor as the X-T3. I have not done enough testing to determine if I like this new Trans IV sensor better or not.
Remember this does not mean the X-T3 is not the right choice for you. It would make a great all-round travel camera and should be able to handle just about anything you would throw at it, but it does lack IS. If you shoot sports, wildlife or any fast action this camera would be well suited due to the faster processor, faster frame rate, and better AF system. The video specs are impressive and if you are serious about video, you most likely have alternative ways to stabilize your camera with a video head tripod, gimbal or rail. Because the X-T3 has enjoyed as much success as it has, there are many third-party options to customize your video rig if you are so inclined. The exposure compensation dial and the overall ergonomics of the camera are the reasons, I chose an X-H1 over the X-T2 when I had to decide on a new camera in early 2018. At that time, it was at a considerably higher cost than the current price of the X-H1.
Below are a few sample images from Vancouver taken at the end of August. Processed with Capture One Express. Some images are slightly cropped and on some of the images I have been using Fuji’s film simulations, such as Classic Chrome, Velvia, Pro Neg. Hi, and Acros.
We travel with Fujifilm X-Series cameras and lenses visiting 50 countries in 50 months. Tag along for Photography Inspiration - 5050 Travelog