In a release cycle reminiscent of certain other manufacturers, Fujifilm decided to replace their flagship X-T series camera in 18 months rather than the usual 2 years. With a smattering of feature updates, a new battery, and a couple of cosmetic changes, is it really worth the upgrade from the X-T3? Let’s find out.
This review will be taken from the perspective of someone who has owned an X-T1, two X-T2s, an X-H1, and an X-T3. You could say I’m an addict. The other thing to note is that I’m a full time stills photographer. About once or twice a year, I’ll be asked to shoot a video, but my main use for these cameras is stills, so we won’t be taking a deep dive into the changes for video work. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the heavy hitting features of the X-T4.
Why I Made the Switch
My X-T3 has been to hell and back over the past 20 months. It has been with me on just shy of 300 jobs and every single step of the way for my personal work. With almost 400,000 actuations on the shutter and dings and dents from the rigors of use, it is finally starting to show its age. Minor things have started going wrong with it frequently and it doesn’t inspire confidence at this point. Basically, I didn't want to restart my business following our economic slowdown with a camera that might fail on the first session.
I was surprised to learn that an X-T4 would be coming earlier than usual, and I must say, the spec sheet didn’t impress me as an X-T3 user. But, I scheduled a quick conversation with my local Fujifilm representatives to learn more about their plans for the future. While the X-T4 doesn’t offer a lot more for my work than the X-T3, the new battery would be nice and Fujifilm noted that it was here to stay, at least in the flagship models from here on out. Since our local office had a special offering that included a battery charger (I can’t believe I actually just wrote that) and a couple of extra batteries to get me started, I decided to make the jump.
The X-T4, while appearing physically quite similar to the X-T3, is actually very different in the hand. The additional space required for the new battery means it is marginally thicker and heavier. The grip has also been extended and indented slightly and feels appreciably different to the X-T2 or X-T3. For those who found these cameras a little too small for their hands, the X-T4 may be more comfortable. I actually didn't think I would like the new grip at first. I was so used to holding the previous models. Now that I'm used to it, however, I actually enjoy holding the X-T4 more than the X-T3. It feels slightly safer in the hand.
One issue that I have come across with the redesign is the tripod mount hole. Manfrotto tripod mounts now extend significantly off the back of the camera and the battery door cannot be opened with the tripod mount on. I use Manfrotto mounts with my BlackRapid double strap when working corporate events to make it easy to switch between strap and tripod when needed. If I need to change a battery quickly at an event now, I have to take the camera off the strap, undo the mount, and replace the battery. Not a deal-breaker, but certainly inconvenient.
Fujifilm now rates the shutter life of the X-T4 at 300,000. This is double that of the previous models, which is great because my X-T3 is already past this number and is still kicking. Hopefully, the X-T4 will last even longer. Together with this durability improvement, Fujifilm has dampened the shutter even further to the point where the sound is almost imperceptible if you're not standing next to the camera. A couple of weeks back, I was actually asked if I was using electronic shutter by a colleague as we made headshots in an office. He couldn't hear the shutter from 6 feet away over the hum of computers. For those looking for an even quieter shutter sound, this might be the ticket.
Buttons and Dials
The X-T4’s body has undergone yet another revision of the button and dial layout. Probably the most prominent is the replacement of the photometry switch with a stills/movie selector switch. This is an excellent addition as it allows hybrid shooters to keep every relevant setting completely separate for video and stills. With the flick of one switch, you can go from shooting stills in aperture priority mode to shooting 24p video at 1/48 and using the dials under your thumb and forefinger to work your exposure.
One button that I’m really not sure why changed is the Q button. It has been in the same place on every X-T series body to date and never posed an issue. In its place, you can now find the AE-L button. Honestly, this is one of the reasons I’m glad all buttons can be customized on the Fujifilm bodies. Having to retrain muscle memory just to use one model is quite frustrating.
The Processor and Sensor (Autofocus and Image Quality)
This is the first time a Fujifilm X-T successor has shared exactly the same processor and sensor combination as the previous model. In theory, the X-T3 should be able to do everything the X-T4 can do and that had me second guessing whether an X-T4 would be the right choice. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that additional cooling inside the larger body or other small physical changes have allowed Fujifilm to pull even more out of this sensor/processor combination. After all, this is the same processor that runs their GFX 100 and that camera manages to process five 100MP raw files per second with full autofocus and image stabilization. I think it’s fair to say there’s a little wiggle room within the processor.
For now, however, there have been a couple of updates to bring this in line with Fujifilm’s X-Pro3 and add to the already great autofocus of the X-T3 body. The X-T4 can now focus down to -6EV, which translates to better overall autofocus with less hunting in good light (older lenses perform better again) and much more confident focusing in darker situations. One gripe I always had with my X-T3 was how slow it was to focus with f/2.8 or darker lenses in low contrast situations. This has improved significantly, which is great for indoor work such as events and studio work. Coupled with the new EVF low light boost mode, the camera is now much easier to work with indoors.
Additionally, Fujifilm has rolled out some new AF-C tracking functionality. By switching the camera to AF-C and Wide-Tracking mode, you get access to a very sticky focus point that will track whatever you place it over until you disengage the autofocus system. While this was always the case, it was a bit like Windows 98 in terms of reliability — it worked when the stars aligned. Now, it certainly works as advertised and for the first time with a Fujifilm body, I feel confident using this coupled with back-button focus in single release. With previous models, I would always leave my camera in Continuous High when using tracking to ensure I got the images in focus. Thankfully, this is not the case anymore. Thankfully, this function also plays nicely with Fujifilm’s face/eye detection autofocus, so it can be used reliably for portrait sessions as well.
There are still a couple of improvements that could be made to this system. For example, being able to change the size of the focus point in this mode. Sometimes, you want to start tracking something far away or track a specific part of something that is relatively small in the frame. At present, the precision simply isn’t there to do this. Also, the focus frame is extremely jittery in the viewfinder. Smoothing the rendering of this would make it much easier to concentrate on photography rather than a focus square that had too much sugar in its coffee. Otherwise it works as intended and is a great step towards fully fleshing out the autofocus system.
While I never asked for or wanted IBIS in my other X-T bodies, it is certainly a welcome feature. It’s nice to know you have it when you need it and can switch it off if you want to. It works an absolute treat and definitely provides the advertised improvements over the X-H1. It works as advertised for photography (see the sample below), but I have seen one issue floating around from video users.
X-T4 + XF 56mm f/1.2 @ f/11 and 1/14
The rear screen, seemingly in a move sure to placate YouTube reviewers around the world, has been replaced with a fully-articulating unit. This, to me, completely dilutes the X-T series of cameras. While previous models have been stills-oriented and had great video to boot, the X-T4 seems to be video-oriented but make great stills as well. Does that sound like the X-H line at all to you?
With previous X-T models, the tilting screen is quick and easy to flip up or down to get a low or high angle and doesn’t obstruct your ability to grip the camera and keep it relatively steady. It also remains close enough to the body that nothing around you will knock and potentially break it off while you are working. The fully-articulating screen is an absolute pain for these purposes because without a decent grip on the camera, all you’re doing is creating an even less stable platform for yourself. On top of that, it’s much slower to fold out and flip the screen, which makes it next to useless for my fast-paced work such as adoption meetings and family sessions.
Additionally, the screen now flips around into a front-facing mode. While vloggers may appreciate this, the tradeoffs are far too numerous for adding a screen like this to an X-T flagship camera. This would be better left to the smaller, lighter X-T100. On a really well built and ergonomic body like the X-T4, it is a flimsy and cumbersome item that takes away more than it adds.
The new battery is welcome, of course. Although personally I never had any issues with the battery life of my X-T2 or X-T3, it is nice to know that these new batteries will run for a little longer. For video work and those who like to review images in between shots, I can see that this will be a very welcome addition. Since I've been testing the camera and all of it's new features, I've had the rear LCD on a lot more than I would typically in day to day use. However, I managed 1350 images on my first charge and 1200 images (with 23% left) on my second charge.
The battery itself has also had a physical makeover so it can only be inserted one way. While previous batteries were marked and the battery door wouldn’t close if they were inserted the wrong way, it seems that some users had trouble with this. It should be much easier to insert batteries in dark situations now if you had trouble before.
So, a new battery. That’s great. But, let’s address the elephant in the room. A flagship body that doesn’t come with a battery charger. That’s right. You just bought Fujifilm’s “professional” level camera and you have to stop shooting and plug the camera itself into the wall to charge it. Alternatively, you could run a USB-C cable to a powerbank in order to charge that brand new battery that you don’t have an existing charger for. It’s no wonder that Fujirumors reports the BC-W235 charger as being a best selling item from his statistics. You can’t live without a charger as a professional and, especially after a battery change like this, it should be included in the box. Faux pas, Fujifilm.
The X-T4 is a souped-up X-T3 at heart. There are a few quality-of-life enhancements and functions for very specific applications like the HDR function and naming of third-party lenses in the menu system (great for keeping track of your manual focus lenses in EXIF data). However, it does feel a bit like an iteration that could have waited for the next release cycle and been blessed with the best physical technology Fujifilm had to offer as well.
As a stand-alone camera, it is yet another fantastic machine. It makes the same great images that the X-T3 does and makes everything just a little faster and more reliable. However, to me, it feels like a big deviation from the heart of the X-T lineup. It’s as though the designers changed everything that comment sections on the internet had to complain about and threw the distinction in personality between the X-H and X-T cameras out the window.
What I liked
- EVF FPS/Resolution Boost Modes
- Extra shutter life
- IBIS - works really well for stills, perhaps some improvements needed for video
- Extra battery life could come in handy
- Additional autofocus Functionality and reliability
What I Felt Could be Improved
- Including a battery charger
- Keeping the original tilting screen design
- Keeping button positions relatively similar to other X-T bodies