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Fujifilm X-A3 Review - Best Consumer Grade APS-C Mirrorless Camera Under PHP 35K!

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Cameras have become an important part of the daily routine of the modern world. Every day, we take a picture. May it be pictures of our loved ones, our possessions, our memories or even our grocery item's bar-codes and the like for more efficient experiences.
Fujifilm X-A3 Review
Fujifilm X-A3 review

Right after taking them, it has grown in us to immediately want to share it to the world. This is why smartphones have taken the camera market share by storm. The sheer convenience of bringing only one device that can take a picture and share it quickly to the internet has become a huge pull for the mass market. And let's be honest, phone cameras are great for taking pictures. Most of the best photographers in the world also shoot with their phones because of this.

Camera companies were quick to launch cameras that could deliver better image quality and have the convenience of being easily carried and the convenience of sharing to the world quickly.

Fujifilm a company known for their long history with high quality film, optics and cameras has in recent years launched a new line of mirrorless cameras and saw success in the world market. They also saw success with their instant camera line, Instax that quickly gained popularity.

Now, the Fujifilm X-line of cameras is grown robust with more than 20 lenses and several camera bodies that cater all levels may it be normal consumer, advance amateur or professional.

During the late 2016 and early 2017, Fujifilm has established its dominance as one of the top mirrorless camera makers in the market today. Their X-T2, X-Pro 2, X100F and X-T20 have been winning awards left and right and in some regions having their stocks  of cameras, lenses or accessories back-ordered for months.

The X-A3 is the third version of the X-A camera line that aims to be the best consumer grade mirrorless camera for the normal consumers and amateur consumers.

Fujifilm Philippines launched the X-A3 late last year and we wanted to find out if this is one of the best contenders in the under PHP 35K price range.

Disclaimer: Fujifilm loaned us the body with kit lens, battery and battery charger for an honest review.

Unboxing / Accessories

We received the camera from Fujifilm Philippines with body, battery, lens, lens cap and battery charger. What normally comes with the box that we didn't receive were the neck strap, lens hood, and documentation.

Build Quality / Design

Fully extended articulating screen and intelligent flash!
Fully extended articulating screen and intelligent flash!

We were surprised at how solid and great the body felt in our hands especially because when we first saw the press pictures of the X-A3, we thought that the texture, color and materials of the camera looked less than solid or plasticky. The X-A3 is one of those cameras that you really have to see and to try in person to see the quality of the materials used to build it. 
Buttons, dials, flash and touch screen!
Buttons, dials, flash and touch screen!

What we noticed right away are the button and dial placements. It isn't like the X-T or X-Pro series where the dials are big and labeled that it is easily viewed and is easily accessible. At first the dials were placed in a somewhat awkward manner as one is facing where your thumb would be and the other was facing the ceiling. Certain buttons serve dual purpose like the directional buttons would also be the drive buttons, delete and etc to compensate for the limited space of the body.

In fact in terms of build quality and ergonomics, we like the well thought out layout and design of the camera, but our only gripe was that we wished the body was a little bit bigger to accommodate better button placement and a more solid grip. This however would defeat the purpose of being as small and as light as possible.

The included lens, the XC 16 to 50 f/3.5 - 5.6 on the other hand is where we found our mixed emotions with. WE LOVE THE IMAGES that this lens renders but the build is where this lens compromised to get the price down. The outer shell of the lens and the mount is made of plastic while the inner shell that houses the lens elements is made of metal. There were several reports of the plastic mount breaking over the years that this lens was released. Otherwise, the image quality to weight ratio is stellar which helps because the other kit lens of Fuji, the 18-55 f/2.8 - 4 when mounted on the X-A3 can be front heavy.

Anybody who has had to wear glasses knows that lenses can be very expensive. What more if there are multiple elements? This is where the lens, excels. The optics are high quality and so is the telescoping inner shell which is made of metal. The outer shell and the and lens mount is made of plastic.

If you were a beginner and have this as your first camera and if you are coming from a different system from a competing brand of cameras may it be a point and shoot, mirrorless or an SLR, there will be a learning curve. The length of time may vary from person to person.

When I got my first Fujifilm Camera, the X100T, I too experienced a learning curve. It took me several days to adapt what I knew from my Nikon SLR to Fujifilm. The thought process or workflow is completely different but after learning how it works, you realize that the workflow Fuji operates is more efficient, at least for our workflow. I have since then moved to the Fujifilm XT-2 and there was some learning curve but it only took me a day or two to figure it all out. I was quickly shooting full manual with the X-A3.


Display Quality

High resolution touch screen display!
High resolution touch screen display!

It is equipped with an 3-inch 1,040-dot tilt type, TFT color LCD monitor your only screen to what you are shooting with the camera with approximate of 100% image frame coverage. It is an upgrade from the predecessor as it is now a touch screen monitor with tap to focus, swiping and pinch to focus. 

The colors and resolution on the screen is very good. We almost never experienced visible lag with the screen nor did we experience in accurate color rendition. Our only gripe with the screen is that the tap to focus feature is a little difficult.

There is a 7 by 7 autofocus point grid. When you use tap to focus, you need to tap on those autofocus points but the touch screen for some reason at times would tap on the adjacent autofocus point can be frustrating if you are taking pictures in a hurry and we experienced this 2 to 3 times out of 10. 

Battery Life

Battery and SD card slots at the bottom!
Battery and SD card slots at the bottom!

Specs sheet say that it is rated for 410 shots with the NP-W126S. This maybe so if you were shooting with RAW + JPEG and if you were constantly changing settings or always checking your pictures via slideshow (chimping). 

Our experience on day one was that the battery died quickly because we were still learning the camera so we were always fiddling and looking for the settings, the menu or the features we wanted, but after we got use to the camera, we would get around 500 to 600 shots per charge. This is with occasional 2 to 3 minute video recording.

If you are however recording video for an extended period, expect the battery to run out faster.

With the OEM charger we would get from empty to full within an 90 minutes. So it doesn't take to long. You can also charge with the OEM USB cord and it will charge but at a longer period.

Performance

Mini HDMI and micro USB 2.0 port!
Mini HDMI and micro USB 2.0 port!

The camera is quite capable and can be either full auto or fully manual. The only caveat is that you have extra steps to change the ISO via the Q menu button. This is remedied by the Auto ISO that maxes at 6400 and at 1/30th of a second.

My personal settings are partly-full-manual mode. The ISO control is accessible with the Q menu button (quick menu button) out of the box. You can map it to a customizable button but what I do is set the ISO on auto but add a limit where it will max out to 6400 at 1/30th of a second. I then adjust my aperture and shutter speed to my own judgement of the scene. The top dial that faces where your thumb will be controls the shutter speed while the dial facing the ceiling or is perpendicular to the other dial controls the aperture. (unless the lens has its own aperture ring.) Depending on my subject I either shoot at f/8.0 for street and landscape photography and I shoot wide open for portraits. 

Of course, you can choose to go full Auto. To turn this on, you will have to go to the drive dial and select the SP mode or Scene Position where the camera will automatically do everything for you. All you have to do is point and shoot. For my preference of exposure, it works 8 to 9 out of 10 times. 

Aperture priority, shutter priority, landscape, portrait modes are also available just like other point and shoots.

After I got  used to it. I found myself enjoying this camera. I took it out for several street photography runs. I went out with friends, took pictures of the people I care about, the food I ate and the places I went to. I even took 1080p videos at 30 fps. (The camera can shoot up to 1080p 60 fps)

Autofocus speed is fast on body side and when coupled with the lenses that Fuji released in the last 3 years, it's even faster. Older lenses like the 35 1.4, 60 2.4 Macro tend to be on the slow side. 

Autofocus accurately focuses 8 out of 10 times. Those two times it struggles with subjects with are subjects with little contrast and with subjects in low-light. I just switch to manual focus for these situations.

I find it very versatile. That said, it's easier to mention what this camera is not for and what it can't do: 

1. It is not for SUPER FAST Actions like sporting events (Racing, Horseback riding) but it is fast enough to catch your kids or your pets playing at the bright outdoors. At Continuous High mode it can shoot up to 6 fps RAW and up to 10 fps for JPEGS only. We HIGHLY recommend to use Sandisk Class 10 UHS-I SD Cards to avoid lock-ups and bottlenecks!
2. It has limited long exposure features which limits its use for hardcore landscape photography.
3. In the official website of Fujifilm X-A3 specs page, it states that it has Focus Peaking but I did not find it in the Manual Focus Assist area. So for those who love to adapt third-party or vintage lenses who depend on focus peaking may need to look for it.

Image Quality

Global, micro contrast levels are good!
Global, micro contrast levels are good!

Note: For the full resolution straight out of camera images click here to be redirected to our Flickr Album.

For still image quality, the X-A3 is one of the best for it's price point and this is just with the 16-50 kit lens. YES, lenses affect image quality because the camera body processes the images rendered by the lens. The images are even better with the other Fujifilm lenses we mounted on it. We tried the XF 50 F2, XF 16 1.4 and the XF 18-55 2.8-4 and well were impressed.
XC 16-50 Kit-lens is food, macro and beh photography approved!
XC 16-50 Kit-lens is food, macro and portrait photography approved!

Of course, to our eyes the images are better than any smartphone camera's we've ever tested but this is relative to our experience. We will leave the sample images below along with full high-resolution links for your own viewing and pixel peeping pleasure.

Awesome portrait
Awesome portrait

It has a built in super intelligent flash that automatically adjusts depending on the situation. The specifications indicate that it has a guide number of 5 which explains the limited range of the flash. It is good enough for selfies or intimate group shots but won't be able to crush the ambient light.

See also: Fujifilm X-A3 First Image Samples

Video Quality


The X-A3 is a capable video camera but it may be lacking for those looking for a advanced amateur to professional grade videography. It is good for those spur of the moment video recording. Those moments will fly by, and you wouldn't be disappointed with the output from the X-A3. 

To improve your videos, we recommend bringing a motorized gimbal, the image stabilization is good, but nothing is better than gimbal stabilized footage.


The X-A3 with the thin and light pancake 27mm lens!


Writer's Note / Recommendations: One of the most important specifications of camera is not in the body itself but the ecosystem. (It's like how Apple's App ecosystem made the iOS dominate the mobile landscape with an app for everything.) The X-A3 has access to at least 20 Fujifilm lenses that cater to a wide variety of use. This gives you a wide set of choices should you want to move on from the kit lens. We recommend the Pancake XF 27 2.8, XF 23 F2, XF 35 F2,XF 50 F2. These are all lightweight high performance prime lenses that will work great with your X-A3 and not be too heavy and cause extra camera shake due to the weight of the lens being heavier than the camera body itself.

Competition: The mirrorless camera that competes with the X-A3 in terms of specifications is the Canon EOS M3. Out of the box and from the press pictures, the body and the lens look tougher and a little more rugged which is true, and if you want that, then get the Canon EOS M3 but if you want superior image quality and the access to so many lenses, get the Fujifilm X-A3. (The EOS M line has less than 10 lenses and only 2 prime lenses and most have a maximum aperture of F3.5) If you are interested in video the Panasonic Lumix micro four thirds are a better choice but even the micro four-thirds lens selection is limited.

Pros One of best kit lenses in terms of optics and image quality rendered, Lightweight body, Access to more than highly regarded 20 Fujinon lenses, High resolution, tilting selfie capable TFT LCD touch screen helps with awkward angles, Capable of full Manual mode
Cons Small body forces compromise to the ergonomics of buttons and dials, plastic mount on kit lens, Touch screen accuracy could be improved

Verdict

It works for landscapes, portraits, streets, food, family while looking good too! With little downsides to the X-A3, (like the plastic mount on the kit lens, the limited ergonomics of some buttons with an occasionally inaccurate touch screen there is very little reason to not pick this over the competition) we recommend this to anyone in the market for photography focused camera that can do video at the sub PHP 35K price range.

Because it has features found in it's bigger brothers the X-T2, X-T20 and the X-Pro 2 except certain high performance and professional features that most people won't even use, the feature packed value, lens selection and image quality out way the downsides. 

We highly recommend it!

Build - 4
Display - 4
Ergonomics - 3.75
Image Quality - 4.25
Video Quality - 3.5
Average - 4 / 5
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