Fujifilm X-T3 First Look

Key Features

  • Review Price: £1349 (body only)
  • 26-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor
  • 425-point hybrid AF system
  • 3.69-million-dot electronic viewfinder
  • 4K, 60fps 10-bit video capture
  • Available in black or silver
  • ISO range of 160-12800 (expands to 80-51200)
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What is the Fujifilm X-T3?

Fujifilm’s X-T3 is a mirrorless all-rounder and the successor to the X-T2, one of the best sub-£1500 cameras of recent years.

Praised for its rich, atmospheric JPEGs and tactile shooting experience, the X-T2’s vintage design also made it one of the most desirable cameras around.

This means that, externally, the X-T3 hasn’t changed much. It’s still a weatherproof, magnesium alloy beauty with a generous helping of customisable dials and buttons.

But inside are significant sensor and processor upgrades that turn it from being a largely stills-focused camera into an all-rounder with video powers to challenge the likes of Panasonic’s GH5.

Fujifilm XT3

As before, the X-T3 is based on an APS-C sensor, which is smaller than the full-frame equivalents found in new mirrorless contenders like Nikon’s Z Series and Canon’s EOS R.

Yet sensors like Fujifilm’s X Trans chip allow cameras like the X-T3 to be smaller, lighter and more affordable equivalents to full-frame models.

As such, the X-T3 costs a very reasonable £1,349 (body only). Combine this with Fujifilm’s excellent XF lenses and you have a very tempting proposition for both enthusiastic amateurs and pro shooters.

So do the X-T3’s improvements mean it’s again shaping up to be the complete mirrorless all-rounder? I took one out for a day in the suitably vintage paddocks of Goodwood Revival to find out.

Related: Mirrorless vs DSLR: what’s the difference?

Fujifilm X-T3 – Design and handling

While significantly smaller than a DSLR, the X-T3 is relatively large for an APS-C mirrorless camera. It’s slightly heavier than its predecessor at 539g and 10mm wider too.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – its superbly built, magnesium alloy body feels rock solid in the hand and nicely balanced with most lenses. Camera size is a personal thing, but if you’re looking for DSLR-style handling without the bulk, then I’d say the X-T3 is right in the sweet spot. Its baby brother, the X-T20, or Sony’s A6500 are always options if you want something more travel-sized.

Fujifilm XT3

What really distinguishes X-T cameras from their mirrorless rivals are their analogue dials. These give it a fun, tactile shooting experience that’s also very customisable. Most of its buttons can be re-configured to do anything from checking focus to changing ISO.

The eagle-eyed will notice a few physical tweaks from the X-T2. The X-T3’s viewfinder is slightly more prominent for a bit of extra ‘nose clearance’, its rear buttons are now a little larger, and the thumb grip is a bit chunkier to help keep it balanced.

The biggest external upgrade to the X-T3, though, is its viewfinder. You now get the same EVF as the one found in the pricier Fujifilm X-H1, which means a sharp, 3.69-million-dot resolution with a 60fps refresh rate (or 100fps in ‘boost mode’).

Strangely, the viewfinder’s 0.75x magnification means it’s fractionally smaller than its predecessor’s, but far more noticeable to me was that resolution boost. It’s a joy to shoot with and more than good enough for anyone nervous about making the leap from a DSLR’s optical viewfinder.

Fujifilm XT3

The news is more mixed when it comes to the X-T3’s 3.2-inch, LCD screen. It’s now touch-sensitive (hooray), which means you can tap subjects to focus on them and swipe through photos. But it still uses the same three-axis tilting action as before.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and its side-folding mechanism is useful if you shoot regularly in portrait. It’s just a shame you don’t get the excellent, fully articulating screen that Fujifilm recently introduced on the cheaper X-T100 – particularly as there are now built-in microphone and headphone ports for vloggers.

Still, there is one final bonus next to those two sockets – a USB-C port, which supports direct charging. This feature is fast becoming standard on mirrorless cameras and lets you top up the battery via an external battery pack while on the move. Very handy.

Related: Best camera 2018

Fujifilm X-T3 – Features and specs

Externally, the X-T3 is only a mild improvement on its predecessor. But tear it open and you’ll find out why it has the potential to be one of the best mirrorless all-rounders yet.

At its heart are a new ‘backside illuminated’ 26.1-megapixel X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and an X Processor 4 chip. Together, these bring a host of improvements, with the three biggest being autofocus, burst shooting and video performance.

Fujifilm XT3

First, that autofocus. With ‘phase detection pixels’ now spread right across its whole sensor and a total 425 autofocus points, the X-T3 can follow moving subjects around a scene and keep them in focus more reliably than before. By comparison, that’s the same number of autofocus points as Sony’s A6500 and significantly more than a DSLR like the Nikon D500, with the X-T3’s AF points also covering more of the frame than both.

That new processor powers a few other autofocus improvements too – there’s much better face and eye detection, the autofocus apparently now works in lower light down to –3EV (roughly equivalent to a moonlit night scene), and Fujifilm reckons the X-T3 is now one-and-a-half times faster at locking onto subjects.

Like shooting sports or wildlife? The X-T3’s burst mode improvements make it a contender here too. It can rattle off 11fps using the mechanical shutter with continuous autofocus, which was more than enough to snag shots of speeding Maseratis at Goodwood.

Switch to the electronic shutter and it can hit a blazing top speed of 30fps. The flipsides here are that images are cropped down to 16-megapixels and there’s an inherent danger of rolling shutter, which Fujifilms says it’s reduced on the X-T3. But these are speeds you can only really beat with a Micro Four Thirds camera like the Olympus OM-D E–M1 Mark II.

Fujifilm XT3

Probably the biggest change from the X-T2, though, is video performance. The X-T3 has pretty much everything covered with the notable exception of in-built image stabilisation (IBIS), which Fujifilm has reserved for the larger X-H1.

You can shoot 4K at 60fps with 10-bit colour depth, which puts it up there with the Panasonic GH5, as well as 1080p at a slo-mo 120fps. Because it supports the efficient H.265 compression format, the X-T3 can record that 60fps footage at 200Mbps too. Shoot at 30fps, at it’ll use the whole of the sensor (rather than a 1.18x crop) and go up to a very high quality 400Mbps bit-rate.

Other settings help make it a very versatile little video camera. All of Fujifilm’s classic ‘film simulation’ modes, which replicate their analogue forebears, are available for video, while face and eye detection work here as well.

Handily, you can also have separate settings for things like exposure and sharpening stored for both stills and video, which helps when switching between the two. The only real limitation is that you’re still restricted to 30 minutes of recording for 4K at 30fps, or 20 minutes at 60fps.

Fujifilm XT3

Dig deeper into these menus and you’ll find the final improvements Fujifilm has made over the X-T2. There’s now the ‘Eterna’ film simulation, a classic ‘soft’ look that first arrived on the X-H1. You can also tweak the temperature of the excellent monochrome simulation from cool to a more sepia-like warm. And, as before, you can create up to seven of your own film simulations.

All of this makes the X-T3 a great choice if you’re looking for great out-of-camera JPEGS, rather than spending hours in Lightroom.

So what is the X-T3 missing? The big ones are that in-built image stabilisation and a new battery. It does promise around 390 shots from a charge, which is up from 340 shots on the X-T2. But that is only just over half of the battery life of the admittedly larger and pricier Sony A7 III, and significantly less than a DSLR like the Nikon D500. As a guide, I burnt through two batteries during my fairly intense day at Goodwood.

Related: Nikon Z6 vs Nikon Z7: what’s the difference?

Fujifilm X-T3 – Performance and image quality

Does the X-T3 live up to the promise of its spec sheet? After a day and a half in its company, I’d say it’s looking very promising.

Because the Adobe Raw converter hasn’t yet been updated, I was only able to shoot JPEGs with the X-T3. All of my shooting time was in daylight too, so I can’t yet say if its low light performance has been improved (although this is usually one of the benefits of a backside-illuminated sensor like the one in the X-T3).

But overall the X-T3’s autofocus was sharp and reliable, while in burst mode it felt very fast and more than capable of keeping up with speeding cars at Goodwood. I did have a few misses early on, but this improved once I tweaked its continuous autofocus tracking abilities.

That traditional Fujifilm strength, out-of-camera JPEGs, seems as strong as ever, with shots looking rich and detailed. And the combination of improved autofocus and face detection with all the usual film simulation modes makes the X-T3 an incredibly fun camera to shoot with, particularly at varied events where you’re snapping portraits one minute then unpredictable, speeding objects like cars (or kids) the next.

It’s a bit too early to judge its video quality (below) or if that lack of in-built image stabilisation is going to be a big miss. The evidence so far suggests that if you use a lens with built-in stabilisation (which many XF lenses do), then handheld shooting is absolutely fine in good light for most non-professional needs. And the X-T2 certainly coped fine without it.

We’ll be able to judge this and the finer details of the X-T3’s image quality when we get one into our lab very soon.

Related: Best mirrorless cameras

Fujifilm X-T3 early verdict  

The new wave of mirrorless full-frame cameras from the likes of Nikon and Canon may have grabbed recent headlines, but the impressive X-T3 is a sharp reminder that smaller, more affordable APS-C cameras are a fantastic option for both amateur improvers and pro snappers.

With its many improvements to autofocus, burst shooting and video, the X-T3 is now more of a ‘mini X-H1’ than a ‘larger X-T20’.

Fujifilm XT3

It combines Fujifilm’s excellent film simulations and out-of-camera JPEG performance with boosted 4K video skills that put it in the ballpark of rivals like the Panasonic GH5. At £1,349, it’s a strong contender for mirrorless rivals like Sony’s A6500, and a terrifying prospect for ageing DSLRs like Nikon’s D500.

Of course, there are slight downers with that lack of in-built image stabilisation and mediocre battery life. But these are unlikely to be deal-breakers when you consider strengths like its speedy autofocus, classic design and huge choice of lenses. We’ll bring you our full verdict very soon.

 

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