Until the release of the Fujifilm X-T3 I would have told you that my Fuji camera lineup was complete for a while. The release of the X-T2 two years ago wasn’t enough to make me part with my X-Pro2 and I’ve since picked up the X-H1 as well. But when the T3 was announced I found the new specs compelling enough that I decided to try it out. After shooting with it for a little more than a week, I can confidently say that this camera does not disappoint. In fact, it might just be my favorite camera to date.
Form and Function
For starters, the ergonomics and styling of the Fujifilm X-T3 are spot on. Like we’ve come to expect from Fuji, the small form factor is easy to hold with buttons and dials exactly where you need them. In both appearances and performance the Fuji X-T3 appears to be a hybrid of the Fuji X-Pro2 and the X-H1. The dial layout is remarkably similar to the Pro2 (and virtually identical to the Fuji X-T2), but the X-T3 handles more like the H1 when it comes to speed and responsiveness. While it is certainly not new to the T3, setting up the T3 made me appreciate the flexibility Fuji gives us when it comes to camera setup. Being able to customize the camera by choosing the function of basically every button remains one of my favorite things about the Fuji system. Once I got the X-T3 set up, I am able to choose between settings without having to pull my eye away from the viewfinder.
UPS was kind enough to deliver my new Fuji X- T3 right before I had to leave for my son’s Little League game the other evening, and baseball seemed like the perfect place to try out the new 30 frame per second burst rate of the T3. The 30 fps comes with a little bit of a catch – you must be using the electronic shutter and selecting that burst rate reduces the resolution down to 16.6 megapixels with a 1.25 crop. Now if the crop or drop in resolution is a big deal the X-T3 also offers 20fps using the electronic shutter without needing to crop. If you prefer the mechanical shutter, it still offers a very respectable 11fps using the mechanic shutter (something the X-T2 required the battery grip to achieve). Since I was after that elusive ball-on-bat shot and I don’t intend to print these images at billboard size, the 30fps was a fantastic option. The electronic viewfinder on the X-T3 is good enough that I often forget it’s not an optical view and shooting high speed bursts without blackout is an experience in and of its self.
With X-T3, Fujifilm pulled off the fast framerate but the bigger question is whether the autofocus system can keep up. When paired with Fuji’s newer zoom lenses (the 100-400, 16-55, 50-140) the autofocus is lightning fast. With the limited amount of time I’ve had to try it out so far, even the older prime lenses such as the 35mm 1.4 appear to be faster on the T3. Like any other system, autofocusing at high speeds requires practice and a good understanding of the different autofocus modes. Simply switching the camera to continuous shooting often disappoints and the X-T3 is no exception. By carefully choosing focus points, knowing when to use single point versus zone or wide tracking, and which of the autofocus settings to use when, the autofocus on the X-T3 appears to work exceptionally well. In the image below you can see how well the camera tracked the subject even when other players or coaches passed through the frame.
During the final inning of my son’s game the sun had set, providing me with the opportunity to try the autofocus system in low light. In these low light conditions, the T3 shines noticeably over the previous generations of Fuji cameras. Despite the near-dark conditions the camera had no trouble following the action and focusing accordingly. The other place where the T3’s autofocus is noticeably better than its predecessors is the (virtually) edge to edge coverage of the phase detection autofocus points. I love being able to zone focus right to the edge of the screen, something no other X-series camera has offered to date.
Sensor and LCD
Over the weekend I was passing through Princeton and stopped by the campus for a few photographs. The new sensor on the T3 is backside-illuminated with slightly higher megapixels and the quality is excellent. The new sensor alone wouldn’t have been enough of a reason for me to upgrade, simply because I’m still perfectly happy with the quality of the previous generation Fuji sensor. Because it is backside-illuminated it allows for a lower native iso (160 vs. 200) and should allow for better high ISO performance, but I haven’t tested this thoroughly.
The X-T3 also adds touchscreen to the LCD. Personally, touch screen is on my “nice to have but I’ve lived without it until now” list and not a reason to upgrade. However, I will admit that multiple times when I was shooting in Princeton, I found myself placing the camera at low or awkward angles and in those cases simply tapping the touchscreen was a definite improvement over trying to reach around and move the joystick to select the focus point.
Areas for Improvement
As released the Fuji X-T3 suffers from a blackout problem. Sometimes this type of intermittent problem is just a minor annoyance, but in this case it was pretty serious. In the first few hours I had the camera it blacked out (or froze) on me three times. Turning the camera on and off does not resolve this problem but removing and reinserting the battery returned it to normal functionality. Fuji was quick to turn around a firmware update to fix this problem, and my camera is working flawlessly after the update. Updating the firmware is relatively simple but if it’s not something you are doing already (you should be) acquiring the T3 will make this a necessity. The H1 had a similar problem when it was first released and while I was fortunate not to lose any images when the T3 blacked out, I did lose images when the H1 blacked out, so consider this your warning and update the firmware ASAP.
If you are shooting sports or action, you will find the T3 to be a huge step up. While the autofocus improvements are immense, and I personally love the 20 and 30 frames per second framerate, you may find that the limited buffer size of the T3 means that you are realistically going to have to shoot jpeg when taking full advantage of the framerate on burst images. For most people and in most situations this isn’t an issue, but I must admit to being slightly jealous of the buffer size in the high-end Canon and Nikon camera’s that allow for high speed RAW buffering. Realistically though, that is not a fair comparison. To get a good buffer at high speeds it’s essential to use high speed UHS-II memory cards, even the fastest UHS-I cards won’t cut it. Both card slots in the T3 are UHS-II compatible.
I was also hoping that the new shutter button Fuji debuted in the X-H1 was going to be passed down across the X series lineup. Since the X-T3 was released without it, I’m assuming that it remains an H-lineup trait. That’s a bit of a bummer, because while the shutter button on the T3 is perfectly fine, it lacks the super smooth operation of the H1’s shutter that I’ve grown accustomed to. Really this is just nitpicking because if you are coming to the X-T3 from any Fuji camera other than the X-H1 (or really from any other camera), you won’t be disappointed with the X-T3’s shutter button.
Although I’ve only had the X-T3 for about a week, it’s clear that Fuji has delivered another great camera. If it had the in-camera image stabilization of the X-H1 I might even declare it my perfect camera (for now of course). As it is though it’s a great upgrade for photographers who are looking for a faster, more responsive Fuji camera with options for better burst rates and autofocus speeds. Have you tried the T3 yet? If you are a X-T2 user, are you going to upgrade? If you are not a Fuji user, has the X-T3 caught your attention? Let me know in the comments!