Fujifilm is updating its popular X-T2 mirrorless camera in a big way. The X-T3 ($1,499.95, body only) has a new sensor and processor, squeezing 26.1MP into an APS-C form factor and supporting up to 30fps Raw image capture with minimal viewfinder blackout. It’s not quite the affordable version of Sony’s full-frame Sony a9, which shoots at 20fps with no blackout, as the sensor readout isn’t as speedy, but it’s a solid option for photographers capturing fast-moving action using the mechanical shutter and a speedy 11fps shooting rate. And while it omits the in-body image stabilization offered by the a9 and the pricier Fujifilm X-H1, it’s also smaller and more affordable than either.
All About the Dials
Fujifilm is offering the X-T3 in both black and silver versions for the same price. This is a departure from previous models, which have started in black and later garnered a special edition Graphite Silver version at a higher cost after the initial launch. As with other premium X cameras, the X-T3 is protected from dust and splashes when paired with a Weather Resistant (WR) lens.
The camera features a slim mirrorless lens mount and a modest handgrip. It measures 3.7 by 5.2 by 2.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.2 pounds, both figures without a lens mounted. It looks and feels a lot like the X-T2. That’s a good thing if you’re a fan of Fujifilm’s dial-based approach to camera control.
On-body controls start on the front. You get a physical switch to change the focus mode, located at the bottom left corner, along with a front command dial and a programmable function button. I set the front button to switch between mechanical and electronic shutter, but there
A dedicated ISO control dial is positioned at the left side of the top plate. It features a central post that locks it in place. A second dial, used to adjust the Drive mode, is nested at its base. The hot shoe is
The right side of the top plate is the shutter speed dial, also locking, with the metering pattern control dial nested into its base. There’s also a dedicated EV adjustment dial, with settings from -3 to +3EV in third-stop increments, a programmable Fn button, and the shutter release and power switch.
Rear controls are also familiar to X-T2 owners. The Delete and Play buttons are at the top left, above the LCD, with AE-L, the rear command dial, and AF-L positioned in the same row, but to the right of the EVF.
The remainder of the controls
All of Fujifilm’s popular film simulations are included—Provia, Velvia, Classic Chrome,
The LCD is a similar design to the one on the X-T2—it tilts up and down, and swings to the right, but can’t swing all the way out to face forward. It’s the same size as the X-T2, 3 inches, and the same resolution, 1,040k dots. As sharp as it is, I do wish Fujifilm had opted to use a hinge like the one used by the entry-level X-T100, which maintains upward and downward tilt
You can’t use touch everywhere, but it’s available to tap and set a focus point, change settings in the Q menu, and when playing back images on the LCD. Fujifilm also supports swipe gestures for camera control. A swipe from the top down brings up an on-screen level, while one from the bottom up shows a live histogram.
The EVF is all new. It’s an OLED with 3.7 million dots of resolution, and while its 0.75x magnification is a little smaller than the 0.77x offered by the X-T2, it’s a modest change at best. The extra resolution—the X-T2 has a 2.4-million-dot EVF—is palpable. The EVF lag time has been cut to 0.005-second and its refresh rate improved to 100fps. Regardless of specs, the EVF looks fantastic to my eye—it’s clear and smooth, and shows a preview of what the camera is actually capturing, including any image effects you may have applied.
The camera features the normal array of wireless connectivity, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, for image transfer to and remote control via an Android or iOS device. It sports dual SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slots, both supporting UHS-II transfer rates.
The battery is rated for 390 shots per CIPA standards, better than the X-T2’s 340 or the X-H1’s 310. A battery grip will go on sale, but it’s not needed to increase the capture speed as with other Fujifilm cameras. But, like the X-H1, battery life will vary based on how you use the camera. Recording 4K video chews through battery life, but you’ll get a heck of a lot more than 400 shots per charge. I was able to get a full day’s use out of the camera with a mix of single shooting, continuous drive, and video recording. If I was bringing the camera with me on vacation I’d carry at least one spare.
Physical connections include a PC Sync socket, a USB-C port, a micro HDMI output, microphone input, and a headphone jack for audio monitoring. An external battery charger is included, but you can also top off the NP-W126S cell in-camera via the USB-C port. Your external battery pack isn’t just for your phone anymore.
More Frames, More Pixels
The X-T3’s big new feature is its autofocus system. It can fire at a brisk 11fps with its mechanical shutter and 20fps using its silent electronic shutter, both with subject tracking and at full 26MP resolution. Fujifilm has expanded the phase detection focus area to cover nearly the entirety of the image sensor, where it was limited to just the central area in the X-T2 and X-H1. There are a total of 2.16 million phase detection pixels, the most we’ve seen in
The camera also has a few tricks up its sleeve for even faster capture. One is a 1.25x crop mode, which cuts resolution to 16.6MP but bumps the capture rate to a staggering 30fps with continuous focus available, the fastest Raw imaging we’ve seen from any camera. It also supports pre-capture buffering—hold the shutter button down halfway and the X-T3 will commit frames to its buffer, but will only write them to the card when you press the shutter all the way in. It lets you capture action slightly after it happens, in a similar fashion to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.
In field testing, the autofocus system excelled. I shot with a few different lenses, including the forthcoming XF 200mm F2, and was happy to see the X-T3 track moving subjects, even when pushing the capture rate to 30fps. Not every frame was perfectly focused—but the first frame in a quick burst sequence would be more likely to be a miss than one in the middle. Once the X-T3 locks onto a target, it keeps up with it.
I was able to get good results with default focus settings, but you can tune the tracking settings to match the type of action you’re capturing. There are five preset recipes—
Face and Eye Detection are also included. They work really well. The camera identifies and draws a box around a detected face, and smaller ones around detected eyes, to let you know it has found your subject. It keeps faces in focus even as they move through the frame. My only complaint is that sometimes the face detection is too good—when photographing a roller derby, the camera lost track of some of the athletes’ faces and locked onto spectators standing around the rink behind the action. I adjusted my focus settings to hold on a subject longer to fix the issue, but disabling Face Detection may be a good idea when photographing sports where a player’s face may be obscured, at least when spectators are also visible in the frame.
The X-T3 makes no compromises when it comes to speed. It powers on, focuses, and captures an image in a short 0.8-second interval. Autofocus locks on in as little as 0.5-second in decent light and 0.2-second in very dim conditions.
When using the mechanical shutter the top capture and tracking speed is 11fps. The X-T3’s buffer holds about 35 Raw or Raw+JPG images before it fills and the capture rate slows. All images write to a 300Mbps memory card in as little as 8 seconds for compressed Raw images, up to 15 seconds for uncompressed Raw+JPG. The buffer holds about 90 JPGs, with 7 seconds required to clear it to memory.
There is also a fully electronic shutter option. It ups the speed to 20fps at full resolution, but only for 32 Raw or Raw+JPG shots at a time. You can go a little bit longer when shooting in JPG format; we got 49 shots in our tests. You can cut the resolution to about 16MP, while at the same time cropping the frame a bit (1.25x), and push the capture rate to 30fps. The X-T3 is still able to track action when shooting this
You can enable a short pre-shot buffer when using the electronic shutter. When it’s turned on, holding the shutter down halfway not only focuses the
Using the electronic shutter makes the camera entirely silent—assuming you dive into the menu and turn off the artificial shutter sound that is enabled by default. But it’s not without some limitations. Certain types of light, like the LEDs that were in use at Fujifilm’s roller derby event, will cause ugly banding at the short shutter speeds you’ll want to use to freeze action—the image above, shot at 1/2,000-second, shows it at its worst, and it’s still visible in the 1/500-second shot below.
Banding isn’t the only concern when using the electronic shutter. Distortion can be caused by the rolling readout—image information comes
The image sensor is a 26MP BSI CMOS design with an X-Trans color filter array. It’s the first APS-C sensor we’ve seen with more than 24MP since the short-lived Samsung NX1 and its 28MP BSI imager. It features a native ISO range of 160 through 12800, and can be pushed as high as ISO 51200 and as low as ISO 80 in extended mode.
Imatest shows the new image sensor is a good one. When shooting JPGs with default noise reduction and image quality settings—that is, without any added grain simulation added—noise is curbed to less than 1.5 percent through ISO 6400. You do lose a bit of clarity when pushing the ISO that far, due to in-camera noise reduction.
The image output is clean and rife with detail through ISO 1600. At ISO 3200 we start to see some loss of fine detail and contrast, and it gets marginally worse at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800. Output is a little blurrier at ISO 25600, but slightly stronger than what we saw from the 24MP X-H1. The top ISO 51200 should be skipped, as the output is quite blurry. You can only access it via the H setting on the manual ISO dial, which can be set to turn on the 25600 or 51200 setting, and we recommend leaving it ISO 25600.
I converted Raw test images using a beta version of the Adobe DNG Converter, and processed our ISO test images in Lightroom Classic CC. At low ISOs there is nothing to complain about. Image detail holds up well through ISO 3200, and images shot at or below that setting don’t show overwhelming noise.
Noise is visible at ISO 6400, but detail is still strong. Output is rougher at ISO 12800 and 25600, but both show a little more detail than shots captured with the X-H1 at comparable settings. Raw image quality at ISO 51200 is definitely better than JPG, but still shows a lot more noise than detail. We’ve included crops from both JPG and Raw tests in the slideshow that accompanies this review.
Top-Notch Video, Without Stabilization
Video quality is simply outstanding. I shot my test footage using the 23.98fps 4K DCI setting at 400Mbps. I was very happy with the detail and look of the footage—I opted to use the Classic Chrome film simulation mode, but all of the
But you will need some horsepower to edit the footage. Premiere Pro CC choked on playback of my footage, and while my editing system isn’t the absolute top of the line, a 27-inch 2017 iMac with a Core i7 CPU and 16GB of memory isn’t a budget machine. The X-T3 doesn’t support the creation of proxy recording files, which are low-quality video clips saved along with the good ones to speed up editing.
Autofocus is also strong, especially with Face Detection enabled. It’s very good at locking onto faces, to the point where I had to change my sensitivity settings to prevent the camera from locking onto spectators when recording footage of the aforementioned roller derby match. You will have to take some care when recording moving subjects who aren’t human, though. You can either set the camera to automatically identify the focus point, or tap on the screen to identify a point of interest. But the X-T3 doesn’t identify a subject and switch to tracking it automatically when you set the focus area manually—you’ll need to move the focus area along with your subject, either by tapping the display or using the rear focus joystick control.
You can use traditional camera controls for video, but I don’t recommend doing so. The shutter speed dial doesn’t offer the proper settings for one thing—you’ll want 1/48-second for 24fps, but the closest setting on the dial is 1/60-second, the right choice for shooting at 30fps. If you turn on Silent Control, you’ll adjust settings via an on-screen menu. It saves frame rate, f-stop, ISO, and film simulation modes which are dedicated to video, so you can quickly switch between still and video capture without having to reconfigure your controls for the different mediums.
As capable as the X-T3 is for video, there are two big things missing. One is a front-facing screen. The X-T100’s display, which tilts up and down and also faces forward, is a good compromise for both still and video shooters, and it’s a shame Fujifilm didn’t include it. The second is in-camera stabilization. It’s included in the X-H1, which also records high-quality video but doesn’t offer quite the same level of autofocus performance, and is missed here. All of our sample footage is handheld, but you can tell when I switched from the stabilized XF 200mm, used for much of the roller derby footage and the opening clip of the trumpet player, to the unstabilized XF 35mm F2, which was used for the pinball clip as well as the final two clips in our test reel. In-camera stabilization would go a long way to removing the jittery look we see in those clips.
A Notable Upgrade
The Fujifilm X-T3 is a worthwhile upgrade over the X-T2, which earned our Editors’ Choice recommendation when we reviewed it early last year. It has some features that are beyond what you’ll find in other mirrorless cameras at this price point from any brand. Shooting at 20 or 30fps may be an absolute overkill for many situations, but it can help you get a difficult shot of
But while it’s a head-turning feature, it’s not something you’ll use every day. The overall improved autofocus system is, and is more of a reason to consider an upgrade to the
The X-H1 came out earlier this year, so we expect it’ll be some time before Fujifilm gives us the X-H2, which will presumably match or better the X-T3 in autofocus and capture rate. I think sensor-based stabilization is a feature worth having, and despite the X-T3 packing some more technology inside, the X-H1 is still one heck of a camera. If you’re willing to live without it, the X-T3 is an otherwise strong performer in speed, focus, image, and video quality. But if you don’t need to upgrade now, consider holding out for a model with the X-T3’s feature set and a stabilized image sensor.