Fujifilm X-T3 Review | 8 Things You’ll Love, 7 Things You Might Not
Since its release in September 2018, the Fuji XT-3 has received raving reviews from tech media and photographers alike. The upgraded technology under the hood, combined with the classic, retro look of the metal body has created a class leader for small, APS-C mirrorless cameras.
Add to that the biggest arsenal of flagship-grade APS-C lenses, including numerous f/1.2 primes, f/1.4 primes, and f/2.8 zooms, and you have a fully professional system that even the full-frame kits of yesteryear would be extremely jealous of. (There, I said it!)
By now, anyone interested will have heard about the camera’s major features and latest improvements, such as the 26-megapixel X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor, and the 425-point hybrid autofocus system with improvements to AF tracking and Face/Eye AF, powered by the X-Processor IV. Or maybe the camera’s 20 FPS shooting speed with autofocus and E-shutter, or 11 FPS with the mechanical shutter, …or a whopping 30 FPS with E-shutter and an (additional) 1.25x crop. That’s some blazing fast speed!
Then, there’s the advanced video capabilities, including 4k video at up to 60p with 10-bit internal recording. Yet again, specs that would make even some full-frame cameras drool with envy.
Being impressive on paper is one thing, though; it’s an entirely different thing to actually deliver professional performance in the real world. And as full-time photographers, what matters to us here at SLR Lounge is, of course, that real-world shooting experience!
So, we’re here to give you our thoughts on the camera from a real-world perspective, after months of use in a wide variety of shooting conditions from portraiture to landscapes and travel. With that said, let’s cut right to our list of 8 things you’ll love, and 7 things you might not love, about the Fuji X-T3…
10 Things You’ll Love About The Fuji XT-3
1. The Aesthetic
The XT-3 is cool without trying. The simple analog look of the metal body makes its competitors like the Sony a6500 or the Panasonic GH5 look like every other basic, boring techno-gadget by comparison.
This might not matter to us as working photographers with a job to do, but to many types of casual (and some pro) photographers, the first impression you give to others, whether your photography subjects or fellow artists, is indeed an important statement. So, we must give a nod to the fact that this is simply the best-looking camera we’ve seen in a very long time. (The only other cameras that look this good are mostly other Fujis!)
2. Manual Controls
The second (or first; many people will switch these first two things, and that’s OK!) thing you’ll love about the XT-3 are the classic yet functional Fuji dials for adjusting settings like shutter speed, ISO, aperture, various shooting modes, and more.
As anyone who has been using cameras for many years will reminisce, it just feels great to have a physical dial or switch dedicated to operating an important function, instead of having to dig into a menu or stare at an LCD screen to change important settings.
It does take some getting used to, due to the way that things like shutter speed are controlled by both the main physical dial and the universal command dial, but it’s a really fun way to shoot that inspires you to be creative in a timeless sort of way. Especially coming from other digital camera systems, that almost all feel more like a TV remote or a video game console than a serious photography tool.
3. Colors and Image Quality
Fuji is known for their beautiful skin tones and overall colors, and the XT-3 does not disappoint. Whether you’re shooting RAW and processing the images in Adobe Lightroom or Capture One Pro, …or you’re shooting JPG and using the special in-camera processing that emulates famous Fuji films like Velvia slide film or Pro negative portrait film, you’re in for a real treat with Fuji X-T3 images.
It’s really hard to put a finger on the subtlety of what makes Fuji sensors great, so we’ll leave it at this- It’s the best coupling of that subtle, timeless, “REAL” film look, and modern image quality benefits such as resolution and dynamic range, that we’ve ever seen.
In other words, do other cameras possibly offer more megapixels or greater dynamic range? Maybe, but they usually lack the characteristic look of a Fuji file. (Or, if you want “insane” DR and megapixels, that’s what a Fuji GFX camera is for, of course!)
In-camera RAW processing with built-in film simulation profiles.
For those who want both the raw post-production versatility and the beautiful in-camera (and definitely Instagrammable) processing, with the X-T3 you can create JPEGs from RAW files. This allows you to shoot your raw images in a more standard, neutral format, and yet export/convert them in-camera to JPGs with one of Fuji’s trademark film modes, such as Velvia slide film or Pro portrait film, or even B&W. The un-processed images have to be seen to be believed!
We’ll have another article all about in-camera processing coming soon, so, for now, we’ll just suggest checking it out, even though most serious photographers might have never thought twice about JPG processing…
4. Improved Video
Let’s just let this spec speak for itself… (Say that ten times fast!)
…4k video at up to 60p and with 10-bit internal recording. Enough said! Most full-frame mirrorless cameras don’t offer this, plain and simple. We should just leave it that that, but we could also mention that the X-T3 is the world’s first mirrorless camera (with an APS-C sensor) that is capable of HDMI output at 4K/60p 4:2:2 at 10 bits. Okay, that got way too geeky. Let’s get back to practical, real-world utility-related subjects.
5. Touchscreen Usefulness – “Swipe Left” settings access
Unlike its X-T2 predecessor, the X-T3 also boasts a touch-enabled screen, which you can tap to focus on your subject, in addition to other things.
One of the neat tricks that the X-T3 has up its sleeve is the addition of four additional custom functions that are built into the touchscreen: You can swip up, left, down, and right to access various shooting information, display modes, and other things that you would normally have to either program to a button, a quick-access menu, or even dig deeper into the main menus to find.
This is also another feature that takes some getting used to, however, it’s also one that is totally worth it. Once you get the hang of it, you kinda miss it when switching back to any other camera! (By the way, many other Fujifilm cameras have this neat feature, too!)
6. Dual Card Slots
With multiple options for recording, including full redundancy, of course, this is one feature that sets the Fuji X-T3 apart from almost every other APS-C camera on the market.
Indeed, really at this point, the X-T3’s biggest direct competition isn’t even a mirrorless camera anymore, because the X-T3 has out-classed them all by such a huge margin. If anything, the best competition to the Fuji is the Nikon D500, a DSLR, with its dual card slots and other professional features.
The X-T3, though, is simply the most feature-rich camera overall when it comes to professional needs in a mirrorless system. If we’re not counting DSLRs, a close competitor in specs and features is actually the pricey Sony a9! (Yes, the Sony 7-series mirrorless cameras have dual card slots too, but they don’t also have the action sports speed of the X-T3.)
7. That Lens Arsenal
OK, this clearly isn’t a perk of the X-T3 itself, since you can mount any Fuji X-mount lens on any other Fuji camera body. So if you’re already a Fuji user, you can just skip this whole section. However, we’re assuming that readers of this article are a mix of at least 50% non-Fuji users.
(Please comment below if you have or haven’t shot with a Fuji yet!)
Either way, since we’re on the topic of professional-grade kits, it must be mentioned that the X-T3 as a pro camera body does have one of the most versatile, high-quality lens lineups available for it. If you’re a working professional, whether your priorities are creamy bokeh and biting sharpness for portraits and weddings, or sheer aperture brightness (and crazy dynamic range and high ISO performance) for landscapes and nightscapes, …the Fuji X-T3 has serious professionals covered.
8. Durability and Dependability
As much as we camera geeks like to ogle a camera’s outward appearance when we first lay eyes on it, we all know that it’s what’s under the hood that counts. And not only that, but it’s how the camera and lenses are actually designed, fabricated, and assembled that matters in the long run.
Simply put, is the camera “indestructible” enough for professional work? Or is it just a skin-deep kind of thing? Don’t worry, the X-T3 and many of its lenses all offer truly flagship-grade durability and longevity. They’re not just metal, too; don’t be fooled by some of the cheap lenses out there that are metal, but still poorly assembled. The body and (many) lenses are extremely well-built, from design to construction and assembly. They’re smooth operating, and highly weather-sealed. (For weather-sealed lenses, look for the “WR” designation.)
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All in all, both the camera and its lenses do not disappoint, in terms of image quality and the overall professional-grade quality of the design and durability. What Fuji has produced in their X-mount system is ready for almost any serious task.
In fact, to be totally honest, many photographers from serious hobbyists to full-time pros don’t really need any more than what the X-T3 offers. Indeed, it’s actually more camera than most will require!
Even though the full-frame sensor systems look impressive on paper, do they really equate to a necessary, must-have advantage in the field? Only if you’re really, really pushing the envelope with regard to low-light photography, or shallow depth, or giant mural-sized prints.
Otherwise, the fact is, an APS-C system like this offers all the image quality, including shallow depth and high ISO performance and print-ability, (and certainly all the durability!) that most photographers actually require. There, I said it. Throw rotten fruit if you want, but it’s true.
Having said that, could the camera be improved? Of course, every camera can be. Although there is nothing remotely resembling a “serious flaw”, we did find a handful of what we’d call minor quirks, and/or a learning curve that could have been a lot easier with just some slight improvements.
7 Things You Might Not Like About The Fuji XT-3
1. Menus, And The Default Settings
The X-T3 has the same oddly-arranged menu system as other Fuji digital cameras. It starts off looking really good overall, actually, with its main organization- Image Quality, Focusing, Camera, Flash, Video, and Setup. Unfortunately, it starts to get a bit confusing once you dig deeper.
For example, by default, the menu doesn’t seem to want to remember where you left off. If you’re shooting and you hit the main menu button, it brings up the topmost menu item, instead of whichever menu setting you’ve been using recently. (There might be a way to change this? If such an option does exist, it’s buried even deeper in an obscure corner of the menu.)
Also, the X-T3 has one of the same quirks as Sony cameras- if you’re reviewing images (as opposed to shooting) and you hit the menu button, you get a different playback-oriented menu. To us, this seems to do more harm than good when you’re actively shooting.
There are a handful of other things that will take some getting used to for any former Canon, Nikon, or Sony shooter, such as how the in-camera Picture Style/Control options are organized.
2. Ergonomic Quirks For Large Hands
While the X-T3 looks really cool, there are indeed some compromises in ergonomic functionality that were made. Fortunately, the various issues that we did have were mostly something that only those with really large hands might have, and/or things that could be improved upon in a future camera without compromising those good looks.
First and foremost, the grip should be bigger, and deeper. This is a professional camera, and it’s already NOT the camera that a Fuji user would buy if they wanted a truly portable, lightweight APS-C kit. That’s what literally any of the other Fuji X-mount cameras are for! A flagship camera should always have a big, comfortable grip, especially for sports/action shooters or anyone who is going to be holding the camera for 8-10+ hours at a time.
Also, some of the physical switches are a bit difficult to operate if you have large hands, or thick fingers. The metering dial is particularly tricky; it’s not too difficult to switch between most of the metering modes, but setting it to “Spot” metering pushes the switch into a very tight corner that requires either tiny fingers or considerable fingernails to get it back out of.
Pretty much all of the buttons on the rear and top of the camera are a bit small for anyone with large thumbs. The push-button dial is neat, but it’s so close to the AE-L and Q buttons that in more active shooting conditions it requires a bit of extra dexterity and concentration to operate. (This is why, when people review other tried-and-true cameras like the Nikon D500, they say vague things like “The camera just ‘gets out of the way’ and lets you shoot!”) Some of these issues can just be a matter of getting familiar with a new camera, such as issues like which way a lens zooms, or where the lens release button is. However, other quirks are truly a hindrance, no matter how familiar with the camera you get.
Last but not least, the AF point control stick is downright tiny, and its surface is downright slippery. If you’re doing a lot of AF point position control on a hot summer day and your fingers start to sweat, it can get pretty frustrating. We’d absolutely love to see Fuji adopt a more traditional, large and rubbery joystick instead.
3. Mobile Phone App
As camera gear reviewers, we have a general rule- if we can’t figure out how something works (without digging through the manual) in just 10-15 minutes, then we can’t not mention it, but neither can we dwell on it for very long, either.
With that in mind, we have to report that it seems nobody, not even Fuji, can get Mobile phone apps to work as seamlessly and effortless as they ought to. Getting the app and camera to connect, stay connected, and generally work intuitively while actively shooting in professional situations, …just doesn’t happen very seamlessly.
Mobile apps for cameras could be it’s own lengthy article, though, since this is a universal frustration we’ve faced with every camera that we’ve reviewed in the last 5+ years. For now, we’ll just strongly encourage Fuji to keep expanding the capability, while streamlining the simple operation, of their mobile app.
4. No Fully-Articulated Screen
The 3.2-inch screen can tilt up or down, and even a little bit side-to-side; but unfortunately for vloggers it can’t flip a full 180 in any direction.
Considering that there aren’t any buttons on the left rear edge of the camera, we’d have loved to see a fully articulated LCD screen. Or, instead of the extra bracketry that allows the screen to angle slightly left-right, maybe it could have been possible to extend the LCD up above the viewfinder, or down below the camera, for selfies and vlogging.
5. Mirrorless Battery Life and Charger (BC-W126S, NP-W126S)
Unlike the latest full-frame mirrorless systems out there which have all begun using a pretty large, high-capacity battery that lasts about as long as DSLR battery life, Fuji has used their existing NP-W126s battery in the X-T3.
It is claimed to get slightly better life out of the same battery compared to the X-T2, but it will still give just a couple/few hundred clicks before you’ll have to switch batteries, and/or start using USB power. On long days or jobs where you’re going to shoot 1,000-2,000+ images, that can really gobble up batteries, especially if you’re shooting outdoors in the sun with the LCD brightness turned up!
The charger, by the way, is a bit of an oddball too; it accepts fixed adapter plugs instead of having a flip-out charger plug like most battery chargers do in the US. Either way, it’s redundant since the battery also charges in-camera via USB, and decently fast too. Our advice? Just get an Anker 10,000 mAh or 20,000 mAh USB battery, and plug it into the camera at every opportunity. Or if you’re shooting video, just gaff-tape that USB battery to your tripod/gimbal! Fuji, unlike Canon and Nikon mirrorless, is one of the few brands (with Sony also) that can actually operate directly from USB power.
6. Lack of in-body image stabilization
In-body stabilization is beneficial to both photo and video shooters, especially in low-light situations for stills shooters who, A) don’t have a gimbal to help them, and, B) wish to utilize all 26 megapixels of their sensor, as opposed to “just” a 1080p or 4K video frame.
In these types of scenarios, you’ll have to use good (perfect, really) hand-holding technique in order to avoid blur from camera shake, because 26 megapixels in an APS-C sensor is actually one of the most “unforgiving” sensors ever made, when it comes to betraying even the slightest bit of shake. (See the example above. If you’re super geeky, Google “APS-C pixel density”)
Having said that, pro photographers have of course gotten along just fine without stabilization in their DSLRS for many years, and ought to be more than happy with an X-T3 in tough low-light situations. Stabilization is just a perk that more and more cameras are offering, so it’s becoming expected now.
7. Playback Lag
One thing that can take a user experience from “effortless” to “frustrating” in literally 1-2 seconds is, well, a mere 1-2 seconds of lag in a camera’s playback or general navigation.
And while the Fuji X-T3 is generally lightning quick in most of its operations such as focusing and shooting, it does seem to take a second (or just a fraction of a second?) longer to do things like scroll from image to image, or magnify an image to 100%, which can be just a little annoying to anyone who is accustomed to the nearly instantaneous responsiveness of a Canon or Nikon camera.
(By the way, Sony has this same lag issue with image magnification, in case anyone is wondering. It’s not a show-stopper, just something you have to get used to, or avoid altogether when shooting in extremely active situations.)
Bonus: Other Fuji X-T3 Features You’ll Like (New To Fuji? Read This!)
We’re almost out of time, but we really couldn’t resist cramming in a few more features of the X-T3 that are truly unique and worth knowing about. It’s features like these that can make a world of difference for some photographers, and yet you might never know about them if you’re too busy measuring sensor sizes and counting megapixels like everybody else…
“Pre-Shoot” function with E-shutter
What the heck is “Pre-Shoot” with E-shutter? It’s a Fuji feature in which the camera starts shooting a scene when the shutter button is half-pressed, and records it at the moment when the shutter button is fully pressed. Much like how you can tweak the exact moment on some cell phone cameras these days, this allows you to “back up” the moment of the actual shutter click by a few milliseconds, in case you need to avoid someone who blinks randomly or isn’t smiling 100%.
11 FPS with mechanical shutter
Even the latest high-speed Sony mirrorless cameras barely get to 10 FPS with their mechanical shutter, and flagship action sports DSLRs from just a few years ago were maxing out at 8 FPS. Thus, Fuji’s ability to shoot at 11 FPS with the mechanical shutter is a truly impressive spec.
20 FPS with electronic shutter, 30 FPS with electronic shutter in 1.25x cropped mode
If 11 FPS wasn’t impressive enough, switching to the fully electronic shutter gives an even more impressive 20 FPS at the full 26 megapixels, and if you’re willing to crop by 1.25x, you can get up to a mind-boggling 30 FPS, if only for a short while.
Action “Sports Finder” Shooting Mode
In a further attempt to attract serious action shooters, there’s one more really cool feature worth mentioning, the “Sports Finder” shooting mode. This will be familiar to any Nikon DSLR users who have ever used “DX Crop Mode”- The Fuji X-T3 viewfinder shoots a 1.25x cropped image, however it still shows you the whole image frame, allowing you to use that peripheral vision to better anticipate decisive moments and track highly erratic subjects.
Digital Microprism Mode
While all the high-speed features are impressive, my personal favorite feature is one that does justice to the outward retro styling of the Fuji X-T3: Digital Microprism Mode. Basically, it’s a focusing mode that harkens back to the oldschool optical viewfinders of bygone decades, which again just makes photography FUN again…
Fuji X-T3 Review | Conclusion
In the mirrorless realm, the XT3 stands alone as the highest-end APS-C camera you can buy. Its feature set does have some decent competition if you’re willing to step down in sensor size to Micro Four Thirds, with impressive options from Olympus for action sports photographers, or impressive options from Panasonic for video shooters. But in the “medium-large” sensor size of the 1.5x crop world, the X-T3 and its lens arsenal stands alone.
Should you check out an X-T3? If you’re looking for something extremely rugged, and yet still decently portable and highly capable, not to mention relatively affordable, then yes, you absolutely should, no matter what you shoot. From landscapes and nature to portraits and action sports or wildlife, the X-T3 is a winner.
Pricing & Availability:
The X-T3 has been out for over a year now, so you shouldn’t have to worry about the camera being in stock or not, and you’ll likely find even better pricing than the initial MSRP! (Although as such a good camera, you likely won’t find many dirt-cheap used options, yet!)
Right now as of November 2019, X-T3 bodies are on sale for $1299 brand-new, and about $1100 used.
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