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Fujifilm X-T3 Review - Best Value, All-rounder APS-C Mirrorless Camera!

Huawei Nova 5T
Will the Fujifilm X-T3 continue to impress us like in our initial impressions of the improved autofocus and video performance from the new sensor and processor?
Fujifilm X-T3 Review - Best Value! All-rounder APS-C Mirrorless Camera!
The new X-T3 in black!

We had few gripes with the X-T2. One of them was that the autofocus was great for stills with single point and area autofocus but it struggled in continuous autofocus with fast moving objects in stills and fast moving objects in video. It also struggled in low light when the autofocus point used is outside fo the center or when it is no longer a phase detect type.

My work around for this is using back button autofocus on single point. This was supplemented by manual focus with Focus peaking.

The new quad-core X-Processor 4 paired with a completely rewritten algorithm promises significantly improved autofocus while the new X-Trans 4 CMOS back side illuminated sensor brings improved signal to noise ratio (SNR) with the new lowest native ISO 160 that translates to less noise in the images.

But, does the new hardware deliver? Let's find out!

For our review part 1: Fujifilm X-T3 First Impressions

Unboxing/Accessories

Inside the retail box!
Inside the retail box!

We received the unit with the retail box that includes the camera body, the quick start guide, the manual, the charging brick with round prong plugs, the camera strap, the triangle lugs with inserting tool, the battery and the external flash.

We also did a live unboxing on Facebook.

Display Quality

Touch functionality comes to the X-T3!
Touch functionality like pinch to zoom comes to the X-T3!

There are two displays on the X-T3. The first is inside the viewfinder. It is a 3.69 millions dots OLED Color Viewfinder with 0.75x Magnification. This is a significant improvement over the X-T2's 2.36 millions dots OLED Color Viewfinder. The refresh rate in normal mode is at 60 fps and goes up to 100 fps when in boost mode.

The second display is the 3-inch, 1.04M dot Color Touch screen display with two-way tilt.

It is now a touch screen that adds functionality like tap to focus, tap to trigger the shutter, swipe commands, pinch to zoom and to move autofocus points. This vastly helps when moving autofocus points while still looking at the view finder or when quickly reviewing images after taking them.

Battery Life

The NP-W126S returns!
The NP-W126S returns!

The NP-W126S li-ion battery is rated for 390 shots for still images. This is a 15 percent improvement from the 310 rated shots from the X-T2. For 4K video recording without face detect autofocus turned on, it is rated for 40 minutes of recording time.

In our real world tests, the X-T3 was giving us around 500 to 600 shots with RAW + FINE JPEG when we used it without video. When using the camera as both stills and video at 4K 60 fps, we were getting 400 to 500 shots. This is enough for most days where in we weren't taking pictures of everything we saw. 

When shooting 4K at 60 fps or 1080p at 120 fps with face detect autofocus, we were getting 50 to 60 minutes of footage that is split into 4GB chunks. 

If you plan to use this for travelling or for events/weddings, where you will be taking a pictures and recording video all day, we recommend gauging your own personal usage and bring extra batteries depending on your own estimates with leeway. 

Charging the battery via the charging brick or in-camera via USB Type-C, it would take around 90 minutes to get from empty to full.

The new charging brick now comes with a plug in wall prong that allows the charging brick to charge directly from the socket. This effectively gets rid of the long wire that connects the brick to the socket.

Performance

The X-T3 now has a new X-Trans 4 CMOS sensor coupled with a new quad-core X-Processor 4 that on paper allows for maximum AF speeds of 0.06 seconds, shutter release lag of 0.45 sec, start up time of 0.3 sec, 100 fps EVF refresh rate and up to 30 frames per second maximum shooting speed. (In Boost mode/Electronic shutter mode)

In real life, the start-up time is instantaneous. As soon as you flip the switch it is ready to go. This is the same as when you press the shutter release button. As soon as you press it fully, the shutter releases. 

The 100 fps EVF refresh rates help when you are ripping the 30 frames per second shooting because it minimises the EVF display blackout so you can continue to see your subject and follow through. This is quite an achievement because other mirrorless cameras (APS-C or Full Frame have a long blackout time or some can't be used while the buffer is being emptied into the SD card slots)

There are several shutter release types. Our favorite is the Electronic Front curtain plus mechanical shutter when shooting almost every scene with the exception of when we're shooting high speed action sports and wild life. In this case I go for the full electronic shutter to achieve the maximum 30 frames per second shooting speed.

In our time with the X-T3 we shoot RAW (lossless compressed) + JPEG (Fine) and we were using a Sandisk 280MB/s UHS-II SD card to keep up with the bandwidth required. JPEGs alone can reach 12 to 15MB/s per image.

I found myself at a fashion show and I decided to test the X-T3's 5.7 frames per second with face/eye detect and to test how many shots it would take to fill the buffer and how many of those shots will have the eye of the subject in focus. 
Flickr Album of all 46 images from the Face Detect burst shot!
Flickr Album of all 46 images from the Face Detect burst shot!
The results of the runway test can be found on this Flickr link here.

It has 46 images that were shot in succession as the model was moving towards the camera at brisk walking pace. 7 out of 46 images were out of focus. 1 of that 7 was because of handshake. This translates to a hit rate of 8 out of 10 in that scenario.



I wanted to do more tests with the new autofocus system of the X-T3 as it now has nearly full sensor coverage of Phase Detect Pixels coupled with the new processor promises to be able to keep up with the best of the competition like Canon's Dual Pixel autofocus.

Above is a two part video. The first one shows footage from my smartphone recording the external display of the X-T3 as it is recording while the autofocus acquires the subject, tracks the subject and hopefully hits the subject (and be in focus). The second part is the video recorded by the X-T3 that shows if the camera did get the subject in focus.

The result is stunning for a Fujifilm Camera. Our older X-T2 was fast enough with single point autofocus for stills. It struggled with autofocus continuous and in video.

In terms of autofocus, the X-T3 is in a different league from the X-T2! It can acquire subjects and track them quickly and responsively that competes with Canon's dual pixel. The Dual Pixel of Canon however is able to have a slightly higher hit rate.

This could be remedied in a future firmware update as Fujifilm has been known to release firmware updates to their cameras even to their older X-Pro1 camera that was released in 2012.

The bottomline is that the X-T3's autofocus is fast and reliable in both stills and video enough that it is near Canon's Dual Pixel autofocus and Sony's Face/Eye detect autofocus! 

And with Fujifilm's track record of constant firmware upgrades, the autofocus and the performance will only get better in time just like how older X-T1s, X-T2s and X-Pro2s were different cameras from launch to the present day.

The images are stunning!

In terms of stills when viewing RAW files we noticed that there is a minor improvement in resolution (sharpness and detail).

The new lowest native ISO of 160 allows for better dynamic range and cleaner (no noise) images at the lower range of ISOs. At the higher ISOs the noise is slightly more prominent than the previous X-T2 but the slightly higher sharpness and details compensates for the softening of noise reduction.

When pulling for detail in the shadows, there is noticeably less purple discolouration of the X-T3 compared to the X-T2's images.

This is mainly due to the sensor having covered in Phase Detect pixels. 

(This is a personal choice) Because of these reasons that I am comfortable with High ISOs of up to 6400 even for professional work. I wouldn't mind pushing it up to the maximum of 12800 if worse comes to shove. The detail is enough to compensate for the softening of noise reduction.

Camera Samples

With XF 200 f/2 at 200 mm f/4.0 1/500th sec ISO 160
With XF 200 f/2 at 200 mm f/4.0 1/500th sec ISO 160
With XF 50-140 f/2.8 at 140mm f/4.0 1/250th sec ISO 200
With XF 50-140 f/2.8 at 140mm f/4.0 1/250th sec ISO 200
With XF 50-140 f/2.8 at 140 mm f/2.8 1/125th sec ISO 250
With XF 50-140 f/2.8 at 140 mm f/2.8 1/125th sec ISO 250
With XF 18-55 f/2.8-4.0 at 55 mm f/5.6 1/60th sec ISO 640
With XF 18-55 f/2.8-4.0 at 55 mm f/5.6 1/60th sec ISO 640
With XF 8-16 f2.8 at 9.9 mm f/22 60 seconds ISO 160
With XF 8-16 f2.8 at 9.9 mm f/22 60 seconds ISO 160

Below is the SOOC JPEG at ISO 8000 and it is clean. If you look a the RAW file, you will notice that the noise is there but the added detail from the 26MP sensor allows for noise reduction without losing noticeable detail.
With XF 8-16 f/2.8 at 8 mm f/4.0 1/30th sec ISO 8,000
With XF 8-16 f/2.8 at 8 mm f/4.0 1/30th sec ISO 8,000

Note: For full size Flickr links of the images, click here.

For video, the X-T3 is now capable to stand toe to toe with industry leading cameras like the Panasonic GH5 because it can now shoot "4K 60 fps 10-bit" internally into an SD card at 4:2:0 Chroma subsampling. It can also record up to 4:2:2 if recorded externally. Chroma Subsampling is a type of compression for video recording that favors luminance data over color information without affecting image quality. 

The GH5 however has a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor meaning that it will struggle with low light more than the X-T3's bigger APS-C sensor.

The X-T3 can also shoot FHD/1080p slow motion up to 5 times and save it. This means that when you view the video file from another device, it will play it all in your desired frame rate.

The 4K 60 fps along with the rest of the resolution and frame rate produces one of the best RAW footages from an APS-C mirrorless cameras to date. Even at higher ISOs the grain is controlled well that if we didn't have a choice, we would be okay using higher ISOs for recording footage. (Then again, there is no substitute for good lighting may it be natural or artificial)

The X-T3 also ups their game with the audio quality of their videos because it has a pre-amp built-in which allows for significantly better quality. There is also a dedicated 3.5mm headphone jack and 3.5 mm microphone jack at the left side. 

The added video features along with the new Autofocus system make the X-T3 one of the best cameras for 4K 60 fps mirrorless camera on the market today!

Video Samples


Competition

The X-T3 is priced at PHP 86,990 for the body only and with its feature set it competes directly with the Sony A7III and the Panasonic GH5. Before, Fujifilm's X-series wasn't even considered for video work but with the improvements on the X-T3 it is very viable. 

Against the PHP 119,990 priced Panasonic GH5: the X-T3 gains the benefits of the larger sensor in low light and depth of field along with a more reliable autofocus system compared to the GH5.

Against the PHP 115,999 priced Sony A7III: The X-T3 may have a smaller sensor but because of it have smaller sized equivalent lenses. The X-T3 also has a more organised Menu system that makes it easier to navigate and less obtrusive while shooting.

Ergonomics is a personal thing but when attaching the larger lenses on the Sony A7 bodies, the distance from the mount to the grip's size becomes a problem as the large lens tends to get really close to the grip thus living little room for the photographer's hand.

Against the PHP 102,900 priced Nikon D500: The X-T3 has a deeper buffer with the X-T2, but it will still struggle with the D500's nearly bottomless buffer along with the wider selection of lenses from Nikon. The X-T3 wins in value for price because it can do most of what the D500 can do in terms of speed for sports, action and wildlife but at the same time offer a more robust video recording features in a smaller package.

Pros - Beautiful retro but modern design, assembled in China but build quality is top notch, Best value for the price, touch screen is now added, Weather Resistant, Eterna film simulation/LUT makes it easier to color grade, USB Type-C charging
Cons - Battery life is okay but could be lacking for DSLR veterans, file buffer is deeper than X-T2 but could be deeper, Wish the 3-way tilt from the X-T100 was carried over, lacks features like touch to lock-on subject and waveforms for video, we still wish the grip was deeper like the X-H1

Verdict

Four years ago, Fujifilm X-series cameras were not known for their video features but for their beautiful retro design, stunning image quality and compact nature because of the APS-C format, but with the X-T3, they have added more features for photography and videography than any other camera in the price range!

The change started in early 2018 when video centric features like IBIS and the Eterna film simulation were introduced with the X-H1. Despite not having IBIS, the new Fujifilm X-T3 has changed the game with the significantly faster and more reliable autofocus that comes from the new algorithms and the new more powerful quad-core processor. 

This results in a beautifully designed camera that produces stunning stills images and videos with reliable autofocus even in low light. No camera is perfect and neither is this one because we wished the grip and the buffer was deeper and that the 3-way flip screen from the X-T100 carried over.

If you don't need the bottomless buffer of the D500 or the dynamic range latitude of a full frame sensor, but are looking for the best value camera with beautiful design, reliable autofocus, stunning image and video quality and can live with carrying extra batteries/USB Type-C power banks, then we highly recommend the X-T3!

Build - 4.75
Display - 4.5
Battery - 4.25
Performance - 4.5
Autofocus - 4.5
Image Quality - 4.5
Video Quality - 4.5
GIZ Rating - 4.5/5
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