Fujifilm X-T3 review

Fujifilm has found many fans since it launched its X-series of compacts and interchangeable-lens cameras, and the fourth-generation X-T3 is a significant step forward for the company. 

While Canon's and Nikon's recent entries into the full-frame mirrorless game, the Canon EOS R and Nikon Z7, may have dominated this year's camera announcements, it's taken those companies so long to get their act together that many people have already adopted the X-series line as their system of choice. 

The X-T3 thus becomes an even more key model for the company, and likely to be considered by many as their next upgrade over previous X-series cameras such as the X-T2, partly down to the wealth of changes over previous models, but also because of its much keener pricing over full-frame alternatives.

We joined Fujifilm at the Goodwood Revival vintage motor racing festival to put the new camera to the test and gain some initial impressions.

Fujifilm X-T3: features

  • 26.1MP back-illuminated sensor 
  • 4K video to 60p (4:2:0 10-bit internal) 
  • 11fps burst shooting (up to 20fps with electronic shutter)

To the eye, the X-T3 may appear similar the X-T2 it updates, but its spec sheet is anything but. 

Not only does the new camera debut a copper-wired 26.1MP back-illuminated APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and the X-Processor 4 engine, it also introduces a revamped autofocusing system, a better-quality viewfinder, faster burst shooting and stronger video capabilities. Add in a multitude of further additions and refinements elsewhere, and Fujifilm has redefined what we should now expect from an X-T-series model. 

Of the 26.1 million pixels on the sensor, 2.16 million are now charged with performing phase-detect AF, and a range of further improvements to the system are discussed in the Autofocus section below. Combined with faster readout speeds from the sensor, the new processor also now permits 11fps burst shooting with the mechanical shutter – something that was only possible with a battery grip on the X-T2 – and this can be boosted to 20fps using the electronic shutter. 

On top of that, a new Sports Finder mode can be called upon to boost burst shooting to a maximum 30fps, with a 1.25x crop applied and 16.6MP resulting images. As the name makes clear, this will no doubt be appreciated by those capturing any kind of sporting activity, but its appeal should extend to wildlife and action photographers who may value a little extra reach and speed. That same audience will also be pleased to learn of the additional Pre Shoot option, which instructs the camera to start capturing images as soon as the shutter-release button is half-pressed, ensuring a critical moment isn't lost.

The X-T2's video specs were already more than credible, but things have moved on further still here. The camera is the only current APS-C-based mirrorless camera that can capture 4K video at 60fps internally with 4:2:0 10bit output, with an F-Log shooting profile able to be selected and both headphone and microphone ports on the side of the body. A firmware update that will make the camera compatible with Hybrid Log Gamma is also promised later this year.

Fujifilm X-T3: build and handling

  • Weather-resistant design 
  • Magnesium alloy body
  • Silver and black finishes

Aside from the name badge, it's difficult to tell the X-T3 apart from the X-T2, but there are a handful of physical differences. The dials, while similar to those on the X-T2, have taken a little influence from the X-H1, and the exposure compensation dial is now a little further away from the edge of the top plate to prevent it being knocked accidentally. 

The door to the ports at the side of the camera can also now be removed (below) to allow for multiple cables to be used without it getting in the way. You just slide down the catch and the door comes away quite easily.

The design of the dioptre control also now means it's locked in position as standard; you need to pull it out to make any adjustments, which appears to make it extremely difficult to knock out of place, and given how easily this can happen on other models, such a small change is very welcome. Some of the buttons on the rear now press more positively into the body – also true of the command dials – and some are also larger than before.

All of this makes the camera a little better to handle and operate, although a handful of minor issues remain. When shooting down low, for example, the viewfinder's eyecup obscures the very top of the LCD screen when the latter is pulled away from the body. We also found the metering and drive mode collars underneath the lockable shutter speed and ISO dials could easily be shifted out of position without you realizing it. As convenient as it is to have these as physical controls, it's inescapable that the more unlockable collars you have, the greater the chance that one of them will be inadvertently knocked out of place.

Fujifilm X-T3: autofocus

  • 2.16 million-pixel phase-detect AF, 425 selectable points
  • Working range down to -3EV 
  • Effective eye detection

Fujifilm has put a lot of work into the X-T3's autofocusing system, boosting the number of phase-detect AF pixels on the sensor, lowering the working range and improving things like face/eye detection. In good light, with static subjects, we generally found the system to be a snappy performer – often confirming focus almost immediately – with a range of lenses, even longer and heavier ones like the XF 50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR and XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR.

When set to track subjects, the focusing system appeared to do a very good job of adhering to them as they passed through the frame, or traveled directly towards the camera. We used the third preset in the Continuous focus option that's designed for subjects that are accelerating or decelerating, such as the racing cars at Goodwood, and our hit rate was very good. Certainly, once you're fully acquainted with the camera's many autofocus options and the right technique, the X-T3 could easily be relied on in such a situation.

A camera's ability to detect eyes when shooting portraits has become a sought-after feature in recent years, and with more mirrorless cameras now using phase-detect AF systems the standard has been raised high. The X-T3's ability to detect eyes also proved to be very good, and it managed to track subjects accurately as they moved around the frame, right up to the peripheries. As we might expect, it did occasionally fail to achieve the initial lock-on if the subject only occupied so much of the frame, but it proved itself to be a very good performer when the subject was the main element in the scene.

Fujifilm promises a working range of -3EV for the AF system on the X-T3, against the -1EV on the X-T2, and we found that when set to a more automated option (such as Wide/Tracking) the system found the subject well and focused promptly in sub-optimal conditions. Naturally, you will notice a slight slowdown if you specify a particular point and your subject isn't too high in contrast, but it's still more than usable if the subject is static.

Fujifilm X-T3: performance

  • Great 3.69 million-dot EVF
  • Very responsive in use
  • Clear and logically organized menus

The new X-Processor 4 engine is said to be three times as fast as the previous X-Processor Pro, and 20 times as fast as the original X-Processor, and we couldn't find any gripes in general operation. We were able to navigate the menus without any delay, and the screen responded well to touches. After capturing a burst of (JPEG) images to a UHS-II card (which both card slots support), it was possible to review them immediately, and the viewfinder's eye sensor managed to switch between displaying the feed in the viewfinder and on the LCD screen without hesitation. 

We appreciated the clarity and fluidity of the new electronic viewfinder, although we did notice some green and purple fringing along the edges of details on two separate samples of the camera. This wasn't present in captured shots, but it was noticeable enough when shooting both black-and-white and color images.

Our initial impressions of the JPEG image quality from the new sensor and processor are very good, particularly for images captured with high-quality optics – and we were fortunate enough to use the X-T3 with a selection of lenses, including pre-production samples of the recently announced XF 8-16mm F2.8 R LM WR and XF 200mm F2 R LM OIS WR.

Fujifilm X-T3 and XF 50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR. Click in the top-right

Images captured at the new base sensitivity of ISO160 show plenty of detail and a pleasingly natural sharpness, with no obvious artifacts (see the image above). Images captured further up the range, at ISO1600 or so, remain strong, and even at ISO3200, as slight noise reduction begins to kick in, plenty of detail remains. We look forward to taking a closer look at raw files once software that supports these becomes available.

We also enjoyed playing with the new cool and warm tones that can be applied to images captured in either the Monochrome or ACROS modes. Below are examples of images captured with both options set to the maximum +9 setting (which can be tamed if you don't want the effect to be as pronounced):

Monochrome + Cool Black image tone (+9)

Monochrome + Warm Black image tone (+9)

The Warm Black Tone setting is also a pleasing alternative to the existing Sepia option available in camera, which is warmer and more pronounced by comparison.

All in all, we're encouraged by what we've seen so far. The new sensor appears to be a sound performer and what we know and love about Fujifilm's colour and default JPEG output remains here. It's clear than when you partner the camera with good glass and it's capable of some exquisite images.

Fujifilm X-T3: sample images

Fujifilm X-T3: early verdict

The X-series celebrates its eight birthday this year, and the Fujifilm X-T3 feels very much like a camera that benefits from the development of all the models that have preceded it. A top-to-bottom sweep of the X-T2's spec sheet is very encouraging, with both the core imaging pipeline and the smallest details having been attended to, and the result is a camera that moves things on significantly from the X-T2. 

It's also great to see the X-T3 being launched at this kind of price. Sure, for a mirrorless camera based around an APS-C sensor it's not exactly cheap, but when you look at what Fujifilm has changed from the X-T2, and where this leaves the camera relative to its peers, together with how robust it feels in the hands and how well it's capable of performing, you appreciate you're not exactly being short-changed. Even if you just look at where video quality stands right now, you have to take your hat off to a manufacturer whose models were, for some time, not considered to be an obvious choice for video. 

No camera is perfect, of course, and there are a few things that bother us – the slight fringing we saw in the viewfinder, for example, together with the tendency for collars on the top plate to be knocked out of place, and the eyecup being a little in the way of the LCD when tilted. Depending on how you work these things may not bother you, and while not everything can be rectified through firmware updates, knowing Fujifilm, anything that can be will no doubt be looked at.

Overall, we admire what Fujifilm has done with the X-T3, and where this places it in an increasingly competitive market. With Photokina just a few weeks away, no doubt the playing field will change again before the year is up, but our initial impressions make us very excited to put the model through more through testing as as soon as we have the opportunity to do so.

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