The X-T3 brings a host of changes and improvements over previous X-series cameras. Its new sensor and processor enable much faster performance and significant feature enhancements for both stills and video.
Let's start with what it is and what it isn't. The X-T3 is not an all-new camera. It doesn't feature a revolutionary new hole in the front of the body or a lonely card slot for us to argue over. It is a solid upgrade to an already great series of cameras. It does that exceptionally well. We’ll look at it from that standpoint.
As the camera has been out for a few weeks now, many of you will be familiar with the specs, but let’s take a moment to recap some of the headline changes. There’s a new sensor, a new processor, full-sensor PDAF coverage, 30 fps blackout-free shooting, and 4K at 60 fps. We also get the larger EVF found in the X-H1, which is great. This is a bigger update than it might first have seemed.
The First Firmware Update
Being in the lucky place that we are, we received the X-T3 a week earlier here in South Korea thanks to a big national holiday right on the international release date. Thus, I had the chance to experience a new camera complete with a lockup bug that was thankfully fixed just after the international release. Since then, I haven’t had any issues. If you decide to purchase one, I recommend making sure you update to firmware 1.01 as soon as you get your camera. Let’s jump into the review.
The New Sensor
The X-T3 contains the fourth generation of X-Trans sensor from Fujifilm. Still made by Sony, not by Samsung as was rumored, the backside-illuminated, 26-megapixel sensor offers slightly more resolution than the previous generation. It’s not the little extra resolving power that makes this sensor special, however. It’s the 100-percent phase detect autofocus coverage and readout speeds.
While previous X-Trans sensors only had PDAF in a square or rectangle in the middle and relied on contrast detect for the sides of the image, the new sensor has 425 PDAF sensors that cover the entire frame.
In practice, this brings about several benefits. It means that the entire frame can be used for all autofocus types. No longer do you have to worry that the subject you're tracking might stray from the center of the frame. Face/eye detection also works well across the whole frame. We’ll talk more about this in the autofocus section of this review.
The New Processor
Quad core CPU
Fujifilm has been able to reduce power consumption while improving performance with the new X-Processor 4. Autofocus and exposure calculations are now done completely independently, which improves their performance significantly. While this sounded great when they made the announcement, it wasn’t until getting my hands on the X-T3 that I really appreciated the difference.
In practice, this means you’ll no longer need boost mode or the vertical grip to get the most out of the camera. All functions are enabled by simply switching the camera into boost. An EVF refresh of 100 fps is now possible without the grip, so realtime exposure changes look much smoother. The other benefit of separating the exposure from the AF is that autofocus for all lenses is now much improved. In fact, with the autofocus processor now being capable of 240 calculations per second, you’ll notice a huge boost, even with older lenses.
As we saw with the X-T1 and X-T2, the full power of the processors wasn’t realized at release. If that track record is anything to go by, we should see some amazing updates coming to the X-T3 via firmware as well.
Fujifilm claims that the new sensor and processor combination allows for 1.5x the readout speed of the X-T2. As we know, CMOS sensors read their data sequentially, so reading it faster will result in less rolling shutter for video and electronic shutter users. I have noticed an improvement in shooting stills especially. With the X-T2, I would avoid using the electronic shutter for anything where I or my subject might be moving. However, with the X-T3, I can more confidently make use of the silent shutter for things like street photography. It still results in slight warping with fast moving subjects like children, so I cannot use it on family sessions just yet.
There aren’t too many changes in the handling department, which is a great thing. The X-T2 is a wonderfully comfortable camera to hold and work with, so small refinements are enough.
The AE-L, AF-L, Playback, and Delete buttons have all slightly increased in size and are slightly more prominent. This makes them easier to find and push than their X-T2 counterparts. This has been useful when locking exposure and focus to make panoramas. Whereas normally, I would switch the X-T2 into full manual mode to make a panorama, now I’m able to hold the lock buttons in easily while I move the camera to make the images.
One other size change is the exposure dial, which is now smaller and more recessed. It has also become a little stiffer to turn, now requiring two fingers to rotate it. Presumably, this was done to stop it from being knocked and turned, but I honestly prefer the dial from the X-T2, which I never knocked out of place. Being able to turn it with just my thumb made for a quick and easy shooting experience. Your mileage may vary.
One potentially welcome change for many is a lock on the diopter dial. You’ll have to pop the dial out in order to change its value now. This is one dial I have had issues with in the past. I’ve had a few times when I’ve pulled the camera out of my bag only to find that the viewfinder was a complete blur despite the camera locking focus.
Finally, another change that will please many video or tethering users is the removable port door. By unlocking the top of the hinge on the door covering the I/O ports, you can remove it to make room for larger jacks and ensure the door doesn’t get broken during use.
Perhaps the one handling feature that stands out as being a big change is the touchscreen. It functions as you would expect. You can move the focus point around while you are looking through the EVF, use it to make images, and work with the quick menu. If you're a touchscreen fan, this will surely be a welcome change. It is responsive and gives you one more way to control the camera.
As I mentioned above, most of these are small changes that will benefit some users more than others. However, these little things bring another level of refinement to the X-T3.
With the new processor and sensor in place, the X-T3's autofocus feels like a completely revamped camera. Although all the functionality you’re used to with the X-T2 is still there, the speed and fluidity takes this camera into a league of its own.
I have done some basic testing in a real-world situation to get an idea of how well the X-T3 performs when compared to the X-T2. As you’ll see in the video below, the X-T3 outpaces it significantly and reduces hunting to almost nothing when working in single point autofocus on an overcast day. At night, the gap closes somewhat, but the X-T3 still hunts less than the X-T2. You can also see those tests here.
The face detection works a lot better now. With the X-T2, it was quite slow and often didn't find faces. Now, you'll find it locks on quite well and will find all the faces in a given scene (although you still can't select between them). AF-C tracking also works extremely well with face detection turned on and surprisingly, the older lenses also do a much better job with this now.
This week I had a school portrait session to photograph. I had a variety of face types as well as children with glasses and hair covering parts of their faces to work with. All this was done in a dim room, so it was a real challenge for the X-T3. Over the course of 170 students and 15 teachers, the face-detect AF only missed focus on 5 images and couldn’t find one face for a few moments before locking back on again. In a dimly lit environment with fast-moving subjects, I would not normally have taken my XF 35mm f/1.4 or XF 56mm f/1.2 and would have opted for something faster like the XF 35mm f/2 and XF 50mm f/2 as substitutes. However, with the X-T3, I did not find myself wanting for the newer lenses at all.
In another session, I made a few backlit portraits at the end of the day. I knew this would be a good test of the new autofocus system, as the X-T1 would have failed completely and the X-T2 would have struggled in this situation. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting too much of an improvement. Backlight is hard for any autofocus system. However, the X-T3 locked on to the model’s face using face detection, even in profile. There were a couple of times when it struggled and returned focus failure, but only a few out of the 50-or-so images we made in this scene.
When using AF-C, I found that the older lenses, such as the XF 56mm f/1.2, now lock on and track about as well as the XF 16-55mm and XF 50-140mm. That being said, the pro zooms are now lightning fast, and I haven’t seen a missed frame yet that wasn’t my fault. For video work as well, such as interviews, this will an excellent improvement for sure.
Overall, I would say that you get a more confident autofocus system that improves the speed and accuracy with all lenses. The older f/1.4 lenses have seen a new lease on life yet again, and the newer zooms are now up there with the fastest-focusing lenses I’ve ever used. Hats off to the Fujifilm engineers again. The autofocus improvements alone are worth the upgrade for my work.
If the X-H1 was Fujifilm’s attempt to make a more serious competitor in the video realm, the X-T3 is taking that to new heights. With the addition of up to 400 Mbps video using the HEVC codec, you’ll now be able to capture more data than ever before. Not only this, but you’ve got 4K 60p in both 16:9 and 17:9 with both 4.2.0 (internal) and 4.2.2 (external) recording.
We also now have the Eterna profile, which seems to have been slightly tweaked. Colors seem a little richer, which makes it great for stills as well as video. The X-T3 also records F-Log internally for those who want to get more serious with their grading.
Although I dabble with video, I am by no means an expert. Jordan from DPReview TV has an excellent rundown of his thoughts on the X-T3 as a serious video camera in their review. I’ve included it below so you can take a look.
Here’s where I get to be unpopular again. Fujifilm cameras have always shattered their CIPA ratings for me. With the X-T2, I am able to get between 500 and 1,500 shots depending on how much chimping I do and if I’m using continuous release or not. With the X-T3, I was bitterly disappointed on my first few runthroughs. Perhaps it was the way I was working with the camera, but I was only getting 250-300 images per charge. That has changed though as I use it for my day-to-day work, and I’m now happily getting around 1,000 images per battery. For example, in the school portrait session above, I made 3,800 images and only used four full batteries, with my fifth having 72 percent remaining by the end of the session. No complaints from me there.
One final point worth mentioning is the price here. Fujifilm have brought the X-T3 in at $1,499 in the United States. That makes it cheaper than the X-T2 at release. With all these updates, that's a great price for this camera.
What I Liked
- Overall operational speed
- Blazing fast autofocus
- Face detection much more effective
- Eterna film simulation
- Refined over the X-T2, not redefined
- No need for the vertical grip now
What Could Be Improved
- Exposure compensation dial
- Being able to select from multiple faces in face-detection mode
The X-T3 is faster in every way than the X-T2. It also takes the beautiful screens from the X-H1 and offers some refinements that make it even easier to use. If you’re on the fence, I recommend hopping into your local dealer and testing out the camera for yourself. It was getting it in my hands that convinced me on this upgrade. If you’re an X-H1 user and you love the IBIS, you might want to wait for the X-H2. The new processor should make that camera something special as well. If you’d like to pick up and X-T3 now, head over and snag yours here.
I'll be back next week with a deeper look into some of the new features of this camera, so stay tuned! If you have any questions in the meantime, please leave them in the comments below.