€1,499

Irish Independent - Business Week - - TECHNOLOGY -

IS this the best non full-frame cam­era on the mar­ket? If your main use for it is pho­tog­ra­phy rather than video, it cer­tainly feels like it.

Fu­ji­film’s new X-T3 builds on the solid plat­form of its pre­de­ces­sor, the X-T2. In­deed, it’s prac­ti­cally iden­ti­cal in look and han­dling to that cam­era. This is mostly a good thing: Fu­ji­film’s APS-C cam­eras are prob­a­bly the best­look­ing around, mix­ing retro styling with very func­tional, use­ful con­trols.

But the new model throws in some ex­tra welly, with no­tice­able im­prove­ment in out­put.

That up­grade comes largely in two ar­eas: a new 26-megapixel sen­sor and a much faster pro­ces­sor (en­gine).

Both are im­por­tant and con­trib­ute to an en­hanced ex­pe­ri­ence.

The sen­sor is Fu­ji­film’s first ‘back­side il­lu­mi­nated’ (BSI) model, mean­ing that it’s sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter in low light and in deal­ing with shadow.

I could tell the dif­fer­ence straight away.

I’m used to Fu­ji­film X-Se­ries cam­eras. I have the X-Pro 2 and X100F, both of which use the same 24-megapixel X-trans sen­sor as is found in the X-T2. It’s a good sen­sor and de­liv­ers great re­sults. But it was al­ways no­tice­ably a step be­hind in deal­ing with low light than ‘full frame’ cam­eras, such as Canon’s

5D or 6D se­ries, Nikon’s D810 and D850 or Sony’s A7 Se­ries (all of which cost more than the Fuji cam­eras, in­ci­den­tally).

This meant that, among other things, I would al­ways switch to the Canon when I had to shoot things in low light or very mixed light sit­u­a­tions, such as theatre stage pro­duc­tions or fam­ily din­ners.

Look­ing at the files from the new 26-megapixel BSI sen­sor, it’s clear to me that Fu­ji­film is clos­ing the gap, de­spite the smaller sen­sor size.

In the first few days I had it, I tested it out in venues rang­ing from a dark­ened bar to a sun­rise to a day out in Dublin Zoo. Crop­ping in showed a big im­prove­ment in the de­tail and dy­namic range. This was true across dif­fer­ent lenses, too, from the bud­get 50-230mm zoom lens to the high end 56mm f1.2 and 50-140mm f2.8 lenses.

So un­der the same light­ing con­di­tions, my ex­pe­ri­ence is that you’ll get slightly bet­ter pho­tos on this cam­era than on the X-T2 or the X-Pro 2.

The other sig­nif­i­cant up­grade to the X-T3 is its pro­ces­sor. Its en­hanced mus­cle-power means you can now shoot up to 11 frames per sec­ond in me­chan­i­cal shut­ter mode or 20 frames per sec­ond in elec­tronic shut­ter mode. That’s great for things like sports (or any fast-mov­ing sit­u­a­tion).

The ex­tra oomph also fa­cil­i­tates faster auto-fo­cus­ing, even on older lenses. This is ar­guably more im­por­tant to more peo­ple than the ex­tra frames per sec­ond. I did find it to be speedy at auto-fo­cus­ing, although it’s not quite at the level of Canon’s 6D Mark ii, which uses Canon’s peer­less dual-pixel aut­o­fo­cus­ing sys­tem.

The new pro­ces­sor also helps out with the X-T3’s video ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

So it can now shoot in 4K at 60 frames per sec­ond or in 1080p at 120 frames per sec­ond. For those who re­ally take video se­ri­ously, it’s also ca­pa­ble of 10-bit record­ing. And it now has a head­phone jack as well as a mi­cro­phone jack, mean­ing you can mon­i­tor your au­dio as you film — a cru­cial con­trol for videog­ra­phers.

As de­cent as all of this is, I sus­pect that few pro­fes­sional videog­ra­phers will be switch­ing to this cam­era from what they cur­rently use, which seems to be a com­bi­na­tion of Pana­sonic’s GH5 and Canon cam­eras. This is largely for two rea­sons. First, the

X-T3 has no in-body sta­bil­i­sa­tion (Ibis). For pho­tog­ra­phers, this is a mi­nor in­con­ve­nience: it ba­si­cally means that you’ll need to shoot at a min­i­mum of 125th of a sec­ond most of the time, un­less you’re us­ing one of the (very few) sta­bilised lenses that Fu­ji­film of­fers. But for videog­ra­phers, it’s much more sig­nif­i­cant. It means that hand­held footage will in­vari­ably be jit­tery and shaky un­less you’re us­ing some­thing like a ded­i­cated gim­bal. (Fu­ji­film does have Ibis on a sis­ter cam­era, the pricier and bulkier X-H1.)

The sec­ond video draw­back is that the ‘ar­tic­u­lat­ing’ touch­screen doesn’t flip out like ri­val screens on mod­els such as Canon’s 6D Mark ii or Pana­sonic’s GH5. For some types of videog­ra­phers (such as vlog­gers), this is a deal-breaker. It is in­cred­i­bly use­ful — essen­tial, even — to have a screen you can see your­self on when record­ing. Pro­fes­sion­als might add in an ac­ces­sory screen but that means hav­ing to con­struct a rig, cre­at­ing much more weight and heft.

There is a third gen­eral draw­back, whether you’re a pho­tog­ra­pher or a videog­ra­pher — bat­tery life. It’s quite poor. You’ll get less than half the num­ber of shots you would from a Canon or Nikon DSLR. There is lit­tle chance you can bring this out for a day’s shoot­ing without at least one spare bat­tery in your pack.

That said, the X-T3 has other typ­i­cal ad­van­tages ac­cru­ing to a mir­ror­less cam­era. One is that it’s still con­sid­er­ably smaller and lighter than a DSLR. That makes a big, big dif­fer­ence when you need a travel cam­era.

An­other ad­van­tage, which is con­sis­tently un­der­played, is that the X-T3 can shoot com­pletely silently. It’s hard to overem­pha­sise the ad­van­tage this brings. It means you can shoot in sit­u­a­tions you sim­ply wouldn’t want to with a

DSLR, es­pe­cially in sub­dued or quiet sit­u­a­tions, such as in a church or dur­ing a mo­ment of sport­ing con­struc­tion (like a golfer tee­ing off). Yes, there is still a lit­tle ‘band­ing’ in silent (elec­tronic shut­ter) mode when shoot­ing in low, ar­ti­fi­cial light sit­u­a­tions. But over­all, it’s an in­cred­i­ble fa­cil­ity to have, one that many DSLR users are still only wak­ing up to.

There are plenty of other up­grades on the X-T3, from the elec­tronic viewfinder to the new touch­screen con­trols (which can also be used to con­trol your fo­cus point like a touch­pad when you’re us­ing the elec­tronic viewfinder).

And Fu­ji­film, which has a rep­u­ta­tion for lis­ten­ing to cus­tomer feed­back on its cam­eras, has tweaked some smaller things. For in­stance, the ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion dial on top is much stiffer now. That’s good: on my X-Pro 2 it is for­ever shift­ing in re­sponse to ca­sual fric­tion against it.

One last pleas­ant sur­prise is the price. When the X-T2 was launched two years ago, it cost €1,700. The bet­ter, more ad­vanced X-T3 only costs €1,500. This is ap­par­ently be­cause Fu­ji­film moved pro­duc­tion from Ja­pan to China. But it makes the X-T3 a com­pelling propo­si­tion, es­pe­cially when you con­sider the pre­mium that ri­val cam­eras are look­ing for.

For in­stance, Pana­sonic’s G9 costs €1,729 while Canon’s 6D Mark ii costs €1,900. (On the other hand, there are cheaper, ca­pa­ble all-rounder APS-C or Mi­cro Four Thirds ri­vals such as Canon’s €1,150 80D or Pana­sonic’s €800 GX9.)

In sum­mary, the X-T3 may be the best APS-C cam­era out there right now. It’s a plea­sure to use and has the ad­van­tage of Fu­ji­film’s ex­cel­lent lens lineup.

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