Australian ProPhoto

Fujifilm X-T3

Fujifilm remains firmly committed to the ‘APS-C’ sensor size for its mirrorless cameras, further exploiting the benefits of a more compact but even more capable camera body in its next-gen X-T3.

- REPORT BY PAUL BURROWS

THERE’S A SIGNIFICAN­T collection of Fujifilm cameras, both film and digital, which, over the decades, have flouted design convention­s… most recently the X100 series retro-style compacts and the X-Pro1/ Pro2 mirrorless bodies with their unique hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder­s. But Fujifilm can do ‘mainstream’, and do it just as well too… as evidenced by the X-T1 and X-T2 which have been very successful at promoting the mirrorless camera concept to working photograph­ers. And the ‘APS-C’ size sensor too.

The X-T2, in particular, delivered a compelling argument for the format; balancing portabilit­y, features, speed and performanc­e like no other mirrorless camera when it was launched in July 2016. This camera helped Fujifilm to more market share in higher-end digital cameras than it had ever had before and, while it is now facing even more competitio­n, it remains convinced that its two-system approach – ‘APS-C’ format X mount and digital medium format GF mount – is the right one for effectivel­y meeting the demands of working photograph­ers.

This is certainly reinforced by the announceme­nt of the GFX 50R and the arrival of the X-T3, both further building on the benefits of both their sensor sizes and the mirrorless configurat­ion.

The X-T3 is little changed from the X-T2 on the outside, but on the inside there’s a new sensor and processor, new EVF, new autofocusi­ng system with more points and increased sensitivit­y, more speed and a bigger buffer, significan­tly upgraded video capabiliti­es (significan­tly!), and a long list of new features, including some biggies such as touchscree­n controls and a handy ‘Pre-Shoot’ function. In fact, all the turbocharg­ed stuff that relied on the optional Vertical Power Booster Grip for the X-T2 is now on-board the X-T3 straight out of the box. There’s still an optional vertical grip, of course, and it gives a trio of battery packs to drive the X-T3 long and hard, but it’s no longer needed for extra speed or features such as a stereo audio output (see the 'Making Movies' panel for the full story about this camera’s impressive video features). There’s a big improvemen­t in battery life (due to improved in-camera efficienci­es) plus the bodyshell is beefed up in a few key areas – including the lens mount and the tripod mount – primarily to maintain durability with the bigger and heavier telephoto lenses Fujifilm is now releasing in the X mount (such as the yummy XF 200mm f2.0).

Four With More

It all kicks off with a completely new sensor christened ‘X-Trans CMOS 4’ which is the first from Fujifilm to employ a backside-illuminate­d (BSI) design. This frees up some space on the front to pack in a few more pixels, increasing the effective resolution to 26.1 million which, of course, is optimised by the absence of an optical low-pass filter. Moiré patterns are minimised thanks to Fujifilm’s ‘X-Trans’ 6x6 colour filter array which reduces the likelihood of a subject frequency (such as the weave in a fabric) matching that of the pixels.

The sensitivit­y range is equivalent to ISO 160-12,800, with extensions either side to ISO 80 and 100, or ISO 25,600 and 51,200.

The lower minimum native sensitivit­y has benefits in terms of lower noise. The maximum image size is now 6240x4160 pixels and JPEGs are captured in one of three image sizes and with the option of Fine or Normal compressio­n settings. The standard 3:2 aspect ratio can be switched to either 16:9 or 1:1 (both crops). RAW files are captured with 14-bit colour and in either uncompress­ed or losslessly compressed formats. RAW+JPEG capture is available with the JPEG configured as either large/fine or large/normal.

The new sensor is matched with a new processor called the ‘X Processor 4’ which employs a total of four CPUs to enable faster number crunching (three times faster than the previous ‘X-Processor Pro’ says Fujifilm). The specs here include a start-up time of 0.3 seconds, a shutter release lag of 0.045 seconds and an AF speed of 0.06 seconds.

The faster and more powerful processor also enables the significan­t increases in the X-T3’s video recording capabiliti­es (such as 4K UHD with 10-bit 4:2:0 colour at 50 fps) and faster continuous shooting with still image capture. Using the focal plane shutter, the top speed is now 11 fps with the AF/ AE locked to the first frame, or 8.0 fps with adjustment between the frames (which is claimed to be happening 1.5 times more frequently than before). Switch to the sensor-based shutter and the X-T3 can zip along at 20 fps.

Want to go even faster? The X-T3’s new 1.25x crop mode reduces the pixel count to 16.6 million (still sufficient resolution for many applicatio­ns), but as a result, enables 30 fps continuous shooting with no EVF black-out and full AF/AE adjustment. Impressive. Plus, of course, there’s a 1.25x increase in the effective focal length, something that most sports or wildlife shooters will appreciate. Fujifilm calls this the ‘Sports Finder’ mode as the live view image is cropped too, and the space outside this frame means you can better anticipate when a moving subject will actually be in-shot (just like the optical finder in an RF camera). Also no doubt with sports and action photograph­y primarily in mind, is the ‘Pre-Shoot’ function which commences continuous capture immediatel­y the shutter release button is at the half-way (i.e. metering and autofocusi­ng) position, eliminatin­g any ‘lag’ on the photograph­er’s side. These frames are held in the buffer memory – being progressiv­ely replaced if it becomes full – and are downloaded to the card when the shutter button is fully depressed. Like the X-T2 and X-H1, the X-T3 has dual memory card slots for the SD format and both support the faster UHS-II speed devices.

The file management set-ups are ‘Sequential’ for automatic overflow, ‘Back Up’ which records files simultaneo­usly to both cards, and RAW/ JPEG which separates the RAW+JPEG captures to slot one and slot two. Alternativ­ely, one card can be assigned to video recording and one to stills.

Get The Picture

For in-camera image processing the Fujifilm X-T3 gains the new functions that had already been introduced with the GFX 50S and then the X-H1 – namely ‘Colour Chrome Effect’ and the cinematogr­aphy-orientated Eterna ‘Film Simulation’ profile – plus there is now an all-new ‘B&W Adjustment’ for toning monochrome images through sepia to blue or, if you prefer, warm to cool (although a Sepia ‘Film Simulation’ profile is still available).

All the turbocharg­ed stuff that relied on the optional Vertical Power Booster Grip for the X-T2, is now on-board the X-T3 straight out of the box.

The addition of the Eterna profile brings the total of ‘Film Simulation’ presets available on the X-T3 to 16. Eterna is the name used for Fujifilm’s colour negative cinematogr­aphy film stocks and, while it’s obviously designed primarily for shooting video, it can be used in photograph­y to give more subdued colours and a softer tonality with an extended dynamic range. The other ‘Film Simulation’ profiles include the classic Fujichrome­s – Velvia (Vivid), Provia (Standard) and Astia (Soft) – the Pro Neg High and Pro Neg Standard colour negative film lookalikes, and the ACROS B&W film settings with the options of yellow, red or green contrastco­ntrol ‘filters’. Rather than each profile having individual­ly adjustable parameters, Fujifilm employs ‘global’ tweaks for Colour, Sharpness, Highlight Tone, Shadow Tone plus the new ‘B&W Adjustment’. ‘Colour Chrome Effect’ also works this way – essentiall­y to increase contrast without overdoing the colour saturation – as does the ‘Grain Effect’ function which, logically, adds grain to create a more film-like look. Additional­ly, there’s a selection of eight ‘Advanced Filters’ special effects which include Toy Camera, Miniature, Soft Focus, Partial Colour and Pop Colour.

The boxes can also be ticked for an intervalom­eter, a multiple exposure facility (well, actually it’s still only a double exposure facility), in-camera panorama stitching (in two sizes), auto flicker detection and reduction, noise reduction for high ISO and long exposures, and dynamic range expansion processing.

The X-T3 also has the ‘Dynamic Range Priority’ function which was introduced on the X-H1 and which is designed to adjust the contrast to better preserve detailing in both the highlights and the shadows. There are three settings – Auto, Weak and Strong – with the latter two based on the dynamic range expansion modes which means the minimum ISO is also raised (to ISO 320 and 640 respective­ly) to give more ‘headroom’ for adjustment­s. The Auto setting selects one or the other, according to the brightness range presented by the prevailing lighting conditions.

Also available is Fujifilm’s ‘Lens Modulation Optimiser’ processing which is designed to correct for the effects of diffractio­n when using smaller apertures such as f16 or f22. It applies sharpening to the corners of an image where the softening caused by diffractio­n is at its most noticeable.

As before, auto bracketing is available for exposure, sensitivit­y, the ‘Film Simulation’ presets, dynamic range and white balance plus, new on the X-T3, focusing (although this can be added to the T2 and the H1 via a firmware upgrade). The sequence can be set for up to 999 frames with intervals of up to ten seconds and the amount of focus adjustment shift set between one and ten steps.

Point Scores

The new sensor has a total of 2.61 million pixels for phase-difference detection autofocusi­ng which gives a massive frame coverage of 99 percent, both vertically and horizontal­ly. A total of 425 measuring points are user-selectable – arranged in a 25x17 pattern – which can be reduced to 117 (in a 13x9 pattern) for more efficient selection, but obviously with a bigger measuring area as a result. Low light sensitivit­y is extended down to -3.0 EV (at ISO 100).

The AF area modes comprise Single-Point (adjustable to one of five sizes), Zone (in 7x7, 5x5 or 3x3 point clusters selected from 117 points) and Wide. There’s also an ‘All’ setting which allows you to cycle through these three modes via the rear input wheel. With continuous AF operation, the area modes are Single-Point, Zone and Tracking which also works with Face/Eye Detection. Fujifilm says it has upgraded its eye-detection to enhance the reliabilit­y even if the subject isn’t looking straight at the camera or turns away. Obviously, the nearly full-frame coverage also enhances the tracking reliabilit­y (and it’s still 91 percent vertically and 94.5 percent horizontal­ly in this mode).

As on the X-H1, there’s an ‘AF-C Custom’ menu which provides five scenarios for fine-tuning focus tracking via three parameters – Tracking Sensitivit­y, Speed Tracking Sensitivit­y and Zone Area Switching. The five options are called Multi Purpose, Ignore Obstacles & Continue To Track Subject, For Accelerati­ng/Decelerati­ng Subject,

For Suddenly Appearing Subject and, take a deep breath, For Erraticall­y Moving & Accel/ Decel Subject. Additional­ly, a custom setting allows you to manually adjust these three control parameters to create your own focus tracking regime.

The X-T3 retains an external switch on the front panel for selecting either continuous or single-shot AF operation, or manual focusing. The assists for manual focusing comprise a magnified image, a focus peaking display (with a choice of colours and levels) and Fujifilm’s ‘Digital Split Image’ panel plus a new ‘Digital Microprism’ which is another contempora­ry interpreta­tion of an old optical focusing device. The ‘Digital Split Image’ display replicates the old split-image rangefinde­r that was standard on 35mm SLRs for a long time. The ‘Digital Microprism’ creates an interleave­d grid pattern which is designed to work like the traditiona­l collar on a fresnel focusing screen. Does it work? Well, like the split-image display which can be very hard to gauge, we’re also not convinced by this either… it’s again pretty tricky to see what’s going on – especially if the subject is particular­ly ‘busy’ in terms of lots of detailing. The focus-peaking display still seems to be the most accurate guide to precise manual focusing.

Seeing The Light

The X-T3’s exposure control system is pretty well the standard Fujifilm X mount fare, based on 256-segment metering with a choice of multi-zone, centre-weighted average, fully averaged or spot measuremen­ts. Additional­ly, the spot meter can be linked to the active focusing point or zone.

The overrides for auto control modes comprise AE lock, up to +/-5.0 EV of compensati­on and, of course, auto bracketing over sequences of two, three, five, seven or nine frames. There’s no built-in flash so, as with the X-H1, a compact accessory unit (EF-X8) also comes in the box. The flash hotshoe is supplement­ed by a PC sync terminal and the maximum flash sync speed is 1/250 second.

As noted earlier, the X-T3 has both a convention­al focal plane shutter (confusingl­y referred to as the “mechanical shutter” although of course it’s electronic­ally controlled) and a sensor-based shutter (a.k.a. the “electronic shutter”). With the sensor shutter, the fastest shutter speed is 1/32,000 second and the slowest is 15 minutes, which is also the longest timed setting for the FP shutter (although the actual ranges vary according to the exposure mode). The dial is only marked to one second so these longer times are accessed via a ‘T’ setting. The bulb (B) timer has a maximum duration of 60 minutes and flash sync is up to 1/250 second. The FP shutter’s top speed is 1/8000 second, but the camera can be configured so it will automatica­lly switch to the sensor shutter if the faster speeds are selected. The third option is the hybrid “electronic first curtain shutter” which makes the exposure with the sensor, but finishes it convention­ally with the FP shutter’s second set of blades. This hybrid shutter operation eliminates the vibrations created by the FP shutter’s first set of blades moving (and also the associated lag), and consequent­ly also offers some reduction in noise levels. Remember that the FP shutter has to be open to enable a live view feed so, to make an exposure, it has to first close and then open again… eliminatin­g all of this activity at the start of an exposure will make a significan­t difference, especially when using longer lenses.

Obviously using the sensorbase­d shutter alone eliminates any noise and vibrations. Fujifilm says it has put a lot of effort into minimising the ‘rolling shutter’ distortion, but it does still occur with very fast moving objects.

The new sensor has a total of 2.61 million pixels for phasediffe­rence detection autofocusi­ng which gives a massive frame coverage of 99 percent, both vertically and horizontal­ly.

The auto white balance correction is supplement­ed by seven presets (including one for underwater) and provision for creating up to three custom measuremen­ts.

Fine-tuning and auto bracketing are available plus manual colour temperatur­e setting over a range of 2500 to 10,000 degrees Kelvin.

In The Hand

As noted at the start, the X-T3 retains essentiall­y the same styling and design as its predecesso­r so all the key controls are in exactly the same locations. It’s marginally heavier (but only by a matter of just over 30 grams) and is slightly deeper mainly due to the EVF’s eyepiece extending a little further back, but it’s still nicely compact, especially given its enhanced capabiliti­es. It is, of course, noticeably more compact than the X-H1.

The top deck layout is dominated by three big dials for setting shutter speeds, sensitivit­y and exposure compensati­on. As before, the first two have selectors located below them – for the metering modes and drive modes respective­ly – and one of the small changes is that these are now taller – as on the X-H1 – so they’re easier to adjust and the setting markings are easier to see. The sharp-eyed will see that there’s now a new lower ISO 160 minimum setting on the sensitivit­y dial, but the ‘A’, ‘L’ and ‘H’ positions are retained as before. The latter two obviously access the extensions which are pre-assigned in the Set Up Menu, while the ‘A’ position will select one of three Auto ISO ranges, this time set up in the Shooting Menu (with adjustment­s for the default sensitivit­y, the maximum sensitivit­y and the minimum shutter speed). Traditiona­lists will be pleased to note that the shutter button with an old-school cable release connection is retained, unlike on the X-H1 which has a “feather touch” release.

As before, there’s no main mode dial and instead the exposure control modes are set via various combinatio­ns of the ‘A’ settings on both the shutter speed dial and the lens’s aperture collar. This, of course, is also very old-school, but hard to fault for its logic.

The main dials are supplement­ed by front and rear input wheels, various function buttons, a joystick-type control for focus point selection (but which also has various navigation­al functions) and a four-way navigator key cluster.

Under the slightly more set-back EVF housing (which, incidental­ly, does make a difference to comfort) is a new 1.3 cm OLED-type EVF with 3.69 megadots resolution, 100% vertical/ horizontal scene coverage and 0.75x magnificat­ion (35mm equivalent). This is, in fact, the same EVF as is used in the X-H1 and represents a big increase in resolution over the T2’s finder (at 2.36 megadots). It definitely shows in the cleaner, crisper display which has a refresh rate of 100 fps so lag isn’t an issue. In fact, Fujifilm says the display lag is just 0.005 seconds so, put simply, you’re not going to notice. Adjustment­s are provided for brightness, colour saturation and colour balance.

A proximity sensor set below the eyepiece enables automatic switching between the EVF and the monitor screen. As on the X-H1, Fujifilm has addressed the issue of this happening inadverten­tly when the latter is angled to allow for waistlevel shooting. Once the monitor screen is flipped out, the proximity sensor is fully disabled so even if it is then blocked you won’t suddenly lose the live view image. The X-T3’s monitor screen allows for up or down tilts to be applied in the horizontal plane and an upward tilt in the vertical plane, the latter after releasing a tilt lock. It’s a 7.62 cm LCD panel with a resolution of 1.04 megadots and, again, is adjustable for brightness, colour saturation and colour balance.

Both displays can be configured with one of three guide grids, a realtime histogram (either brightness only, or with the RGB channels as well), a dual-axis level display and a highlight warning plus the selection of read-outs and status indicators shown is fully customisab­le. Additional­ly, you can now increase the size of selected icons and also adjust the display contrast to enhance legibility in different lighting conditions. This includes a ‘Dark Ambient Lighting’ setting for shooting at night so the display doesn’t upset your night vision.

There’s an ‘Info Display’ screen which contains 15 function indication tiles, the exposure mode and settings, plus a real-time histogram and the AF area mode.

With manual focusing, there’s an additional ‘Dual Display’ which comprises the live view feed accompanie­d by a small additional panel which shows the manual focus assists separately… either a magnified image section with or without a focus peaking display, the ‘Digital Split Image’ or the new ‘Digital Microprism’ option described earlier.

There’s also a ‘Quick Menu’ screen in the monitor which provides direct access to 15 functions and can also be customised. Additional­ly, up to seven ‘Custom Settings Banks’ can be created as additional ‘Quick Menus’ which, in particular, are handy for dealing with specific shooting situations.

The touchscree­n control implementa­tion is as on the X-H1 and so, for capture, is limited to focus point selection with autofocusi­ng (with or without automatic shutter release) plus access to the functions displayed in the ‘Quick Menu’. In playback mode, you can browse, zoom in or out (which will also select the thumbnail pages), or zoom in on the active focus point. Additional­ly, when shooting video clips, a set of on-screen icons is available for selecting the key capture functions via touch, primarily to allow for quieter camera operation. Additional­ly, there’s a set of four ‘Touch Functions’ (T-Fn) which enable custom functions to be assigned to the left, right, up and down swipe actions.

Fujifilm’s vast experience with colour reproducti­on is put to good use in the ‘Film Simulation’ profiles which balance colorimetr­ic colour with ‘memorised’ colour.

No fewer than 49 operations can be assigned to any of the camera’s six multi-function ‘Fn’ buttons or the four touchscree­n actions. Furthermor­e, various other controls can have their functions or operations modified to suit the way you like to work. A customised ‘My Menu’ can be created so up to 16 frequently­used functions can all be convenient­ly displayed in one place.

The replay/review options include a choice of three full screen displays or a thumbnail accompanie­d by selected capture data (in one of two sets), a highlight warning, a brightness histogram and the focus point or zone used which is very useful. Pressing the rear command dial instantly zooms in on this point so you can quickly check the focus. There’s the choice of pages with either nine or 100 thumbnails, zooming and a slideshow function.

The in-camera editing functions include RAW-to-JPEG conversion (with 18 adjustable parameters), red-eye removal, cropping, resizing, Fujifilm’s ‘PhotoBook Assist’ feature (which allows for up to 300 images to be organised for reproducti­on in a photo book) and direct printing to an Instax instant print device via WiFi.

As with the X-H1, the WiFi connectivi­ty with supplement­ed Bluetooth 4.2 LE provides a convenient ‘always on’ connection for low bandwidth data transfers, and also allows for easier pairing when you want to send bigger files or when using the Fujifilm Camera Control app for remote camera control.

Speed And Performanc­e

With our reference memory card – Lexar’s 128 GB SDXC UHS-II/U3 (Speed Class 3) Profession­al – loaded up, the X-T3 (using the focal plane shutter) captured a burst of 152 JPEG/large/fine files in 13.884 seconds, giving a shooting speed of 10.94 fps. This is as close to Fujifilm’s quoted 11 fps as makes no difference. Switching to the sensor shutter, the burst length was 76 frames captured in just 3.822 seconds which represents a shooting speed of 19.88 fps… impressive. (The average test file size was a healthy 16.5 MB.)

The autofocusi­ng performanc­e is simply sensationa­l, both fast and unerringly accurate no matter where the subject is positioned in the frame, or its size.

Thanks to this wide coverage and the density of measuring points, the tracking is also extremely reliable even with fastmoving subjects… and the EVF keeps up well too. The eye-detect AF is just about as good as Sony’s – which is the benchmark – which means it’s greatly improved in its reliabilit­y too. Fujifilm’s 256-zone metering is well-proven across the X mount range and it continues to work well here too.

Given that the increase in resolution over the X-T2 is comparativ­ely small, we wouldn’t expect to see a jump in sharpness or definition, but the dynamic range is noticeably better and the noise reduction processing is better too, particular­ly in terms of maintainin­g sharpness across the native sensitivit­y range.

Even at ISO 12,800 the detailing is cleanly resolved and there's minimal graininess. Logically then, it’s even better at the lower ISOs with the X-T3 delivering best results between ISO 80 and 400. Fine detailing is very crisply reproduced and the tonal gradations are creamily smooth.

As we’ve noted on many occasions before, Fujifilm’s vast experience with colour reproducti­on is put to good use in the ‘Film Simulation’ profiles which have been designed to balance colorimetr­ic colour – or real colour – with expected or ‘memorised’ colour.

The Standard/Provia profile’s colour fidelity is accurate across the spectrum, but Vivid/Velvia punches up the saturation without compromisi­ng tonal gradations and really replicates the ‘punch’ of Fujifilm’s popular transparen­cy film. Of course, the rest of the ‘Film Simulation’ profiles provide plenty of scope for creating different looks with the added input of the ‘Colour Chrome Effect’ and ‘Grain Effect’ processing.

The Verdict

The big question raised by the X-T3 is… where does it leave the X-H1? The X-T3 is smaller and lighter with better autofocusi­ng, better video-making capabiliti­es and, it has to be said, better image quality. So the X-H1 has in-body image stabilisat­ion (which is a very good thing) and a top panel info display plus it’s faster at 14 fps (albeit with a slight reduction in resolution), but is all this worth $500 more? This depends on how you like to shoot (especially as the X-H1 handles more like a D-SLR), but the X-T3 is undoubtedl­y the more potent package overall and better leverages the advantages of the ‘APS-C’ sensor size.

For those who love the X-T series’s compact and classical form factor, even better is the fact that all the good bits of the X-T2 have been left unchanged so the comfort and ergonomics are still exemplary, but the X-T3 is a big step up in terms of its upgraded systems and new features which translate into greatly enhanced performanc­e and mainly small, but still significan­t, improvemen­ts to image quality (and we include the far superior autofocusi­ng here too). Importantl­y, it’s a creditable (and credible) alternativ­e to a full-35mm format mirrorless camera which keeps Fujifilm and X mount firmly in the hunt for new converts from D-SLRs, even with the many attraction­s of the new arrivals in the bigger format.

The autofocusi­ng performanc­e is simply sensationa­l, both fast and unerringly accurate no matter where the subject is positioned in the frame.

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Bodyshell comprises magnesium alloy covers with both weather sealing and insulation.
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The monitor screen has a three-way tilt which allows for low-level shooting when the camera is being held vertically.
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 ??  ?? The X-T3 is very similar in size and styling to the X-T3, but there have been a number of ergonomic revisions, including a reshaped handgrip for improved comfort.
The X-T3 is very similar in size and styling to the X-T3, but there have been a number of ergonomic revisions, including a reshaped handgrip for improved comfort.
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 ??  ?? External control layout is still based around three main dials supplement­ed by front and rear input wheels and various function buttons or keys.
External control layout is still based around three main dials supplement­ed by front and rear input wheels and various function buttons or keys.

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