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Fujifilm X-T3 review: the do-everything camera

It’s just as good at 4K video as it is at still photography

The Fujifilm X-T3 is the finest APS-C mirrorless camera that the company has ever produced, and it’s among the best and most versatile options on the market that isn’t full-frame. At $1,500 (body only) or $1,900 with a very good 18-55mm kit lens, the X-T3 is a refined showcase for the advances Fujifilm has made in stills photography, and it’s almost startling how quickly the company has honed its video chops. At a time when even Canon and Nikon are turning their attention to full-frame mirrorless cameras, Fujifilm is saying “not so fast.” Though it looks quite familiar, the X-T3 is a worthy upgrade to the X-T2 with a long list of improvements that become evident once you start shooting with it.

9 Verge Score

Good Stuff

  • Improved, faster autofocus
  • Up to 11 fps (mechanical) or 30 fps (electronic) continuous shooting
  • Powerful 4K video-creation tool
  • Sharp, fluid EVF is a joy to look through
  • Usability improvements to buttons and dials
  • Great-quality images right out of camera

Bad Stuff

  • No in-body image stabilization
  • Rear LCD doesn’t flip around for vlogging
  • Shallow grip isn’t the best fit for large hands
  • Battery life still demands carrying a spare

As with Fuji’s other cameras, the X-T3 is rooted in a retro-looking, weatherproofed design that’s meant to give it the feel of an analog film camera. Its body is nearly identical to the X-T2’s, and despite some hand-wringing over Fujifilm assembling it in China instead of Japan, everything about the hardware feels on par, sometimes better than, the X-T2. The command dials on the front and back turn with an even more satisfying click. None of the buttons feel loose. And the magnesium alloy body feels as sturdy and solidly built as ever. The X-T3’s left-side door houses a mic input, headphone jack, USB Type-C port, and HDMI. Dual SD slots occupy the right side. Having USB-C here is really nice. The camera does seem to charge faster, depending on what it’s plugged into, and you can use a supported battery pack to keep it juiced up on the go. The built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth make it easy to offload images from camera to smartphone.

There are buttons and dials galore on the X-T3, each of which can be customized for quick access to your often-used features and settings, so you’ll lose less time to the camera’s menus. You won’t find a mode wheel here like you would on most digital cameras. Instead, Fuji’s dials on the camera give you direct control over shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation (and you can set aperture with the front or back dial if you don’t want to use the ring that’s available on most Fujifilm lenses), letting you manually prioritize any of them and letting the camera do the rest.

The shutter speed and ISO dials are lockable, which prevents them from getting turned out of place. And in a welcome change, the exposure comp dial has been slightly downsized and moved inward and away from the top right edge where it was all too easy to accidentally rotate on the X-T2 and rangefinder-style X-Pro2. It’s an admittedly minor tweak, but it shows Fujifilm is listening to the photographers who are using its gear. The same goes for the diopter that now locks to prevent your electronic viewfinder from suddenly going blurry. That EVF has been extended out a bit to keep your nose from constantly smushing up against the rear display.

And what a glorious viewfinder it is. The 3.69-million-dot OLED EVF has a 60 fps refresh rate, which ramps up to 100 fps when the camera is in its boosted performance mode. It’s wonderful to use and a noticeable step up from the one X-T2 owners peer through.

The 3.2-inch back LCD, while unchanged in sharpness, is now a touchscreen, which brings with it a few benefits. If you’re framing your shot with the screen, you can tap anywhere to focus. But my favorite “feature” of the touch display is that even when looking into the EVF, you can slide a finger around the screen to move the focus point without having to reach for the joystick. You can also interact with the quick settings (Q) menu through taps. The rear screen still articulates up or down when you’re holding the camera above or below you, but unfortunately, it doesn’t fully flip around, which would’ve been immensely helpful for vlogging. You can also customize swipes on the screen to behave as software shortcuts — each direction can do something different — but I found that I triggered these way too often when I didn’t mean to and disabled the option altogether.

My main criticism of the X-T3’s design continues to be its grip, which, if you’ve got big hands like me, isn’t as substantial as I’d like — especially when bigger lenses like the 18-135mm are attached. For Fujifilm’s compact primes, it’s fine, but you might want to consider the overpriced metal grip (or vertical battery grip) if you’ve got any of the company’s heavier glass. But unlike with the X-T2, you don’t need to buy the battery grip to gain things like a headphone jack for monitoring audio or faster continuous shooting; that’s all built directly into the camera this time.

The 26-megapixel X-Trans 4 sensor (up from 24MP in the X-T2) marks the first time Fujifilm has gone with a backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor in its cameras, which allows the X-T3 to gather a bit more light and drop its base ISO to 160. It has phase-detect autofocus spanning across the entire frame and a total of 425 selectable AF points.

You can shoot full resolution with the mechanical shutter at 11 fps or, if you’re okay with a 1.25x crop, at an absurd 30 fps using the electronic shutter with no blackout in the EVF. There’s a useful Sports Finder Mode feature for the latter situation that will show you what’s just outside the frame, giving you a better chance of nailing the shot when moving subjects are involved. And a new pre-shot mode is meant to help avoid missing moments by starting to shoot with the electronic shutter when the shutter button is pressed halfway — repeatedly filling and clearing the buffer — and saving a series of shots starting just before you press it down all the way. It’s not unlike the features on modern smartphone cameras that help ensure you don’t miss the critical moment.

Fujifilm continues to produce wonderful out-of-camera JPEGs that require little to no processing before they’re worthy of sharing. When you do edit RAW, there’s plenty of leeway for recovering shadows and pulling back highlights. To me, overall imaging performance feels very similar to the X-T2. I’ve seen other reviews note that the X-T3 is slightly noisier at high ISOs, but this isn’t something that stood out to me. When I need to go there, my ISO 6,400 photos feel just as usable as before and retain a large amount of detail. The company’s signature film simulations are all included, and you also get a new color chrome effect thrown in, which “produces deeper colors and gradation in subjects with highly saturated colors present.” It’s a useful trick for keeping reds in flowers or cars under control.

Autofocus in the X-T3 is noticeably superior to that of Fujifilm’s other X-Series cameras, locking onto and tracking subjects in continuous mode with a kind of confidence that wasn’t there before. It’s also better in low light, able to focus down to -3EV versus -1EV in the X-T2. That doesn’t mean the camera will never hunt at all; when shooting a concert at New York’s very dark Rockwood Music Hall, it certainly did. But whenever the square over your focus point turns green, you can be pretty sure the camera is hitting the mark. And having phase-detect AF across the entire viewfinder is a huge help, eliminating any pressure to keep your subject somewhat centered.

Fujifilm has also revamped its algorithms for eye and face detection, and the improvement is striking. Whereas before it was an option that a lot of people might have totally ignored, now, it locks onto people with little delay. And for the first time, face/eye AF also works when recording video. It’s equally on point there, based on some tests I did. The downside is that the camera isn’t great at handling multiple people in the same shot — you can’t choose which face to focus on — but this seems like something Fujifilm can iron out with firmware updates. These leaps in high-speed shooting and AF performance are enabled by the X-Processor 4, which is three times faster than the chip powering Fuji’s previous generation. Even Fujifilm’s sometimes-sluggish f/1.4 primes have gotten a shot in the arm and seem to lock focus faster on the X-T3.

The new processor also contributes to the X-T3’s powerhouse video capabilities. This camera allows you to internally shoot 4K video at up to 60 fps in 10-bit 4:2:0 color right to the SD card in H.265/HEVC, and you can select a bitrate of up to 400Mbps for frame rates of 30p and below. (The even more information-rich 4:2:2 recording is available externally over HDMI.) Now, don’t get overwhelmed by the videographer jargon; what it all means is that the X-T3 is a wonderfully capable video-creation tool that’s right up there with Panasonic’s best. If you prefer having the most dynamic range when grading, Fuji’s F-Log profile is the way to go, but there’s also a film simulation designed for video called Eterna that should work great for general editing purposes. I’m not about to up and start a new career as a filmmaker or YouTuber, but the X-T3 puts some cutting-edge creativity at your disposal. It’s impressive to see how far Fujifilm’s video capabilities have come. The lopsided days of this company’s cameras being great for stills and terrible for video are over.

But the lack of a flip-around screen is a definite knock against the X-T3. The face detection is reliable enough that vloggers can probably get away with holding the camera toward them with a wide lens and shooting blind, but that’s nowhere near as good as having a monitor to glance at. It feels like Fujifilm purposefully decided against one just to give a future X-H2 another selling point beyond in-body image stabilization. On that subject, I do wish the X-T3 had IBIS. It’s the one missing ingredient here that would truly put this camera over the top. But I’m not sure how Fujifilm could’ve crammed it in without compromising the X-T3’s appealing design. Battery life is just slightly improved over the X-T2, so I’m firmly locked in the habit of shutting the camera off whenever I don’t need it and am almost always carrying a spare. (The camera will annoyingly nag you every time it’s switched on if you’re using anything besides the company’s $65 W126S battery, so be forewarned if you’re considering cheaper off-brand alternatives.)

The X-T3 is the best X-Series camera ever made, but that doesn’t make it a perfect camera — or even the ideal mirrorless one in some cases. Sony’s full-frame mirrorless cameras (and the new entrants from Nikon and Canon) will offer depth of field and low-light performance that are simply beyond what this APS-C sensor can do. If you need that level of camera, you probably won’t give Fujifilm’s latest serious consideration.

But everyone else in the market for a camera should absolutely give the X-T3 a close look. This is the pinnacle of the X-Series so far, improving upon the X-T2 with more advanced autofocus, blazing-fast continuous shooting, and video output that firmly puts it in the same conversation as Sony and Panasonic. Fujifilm’s lens lineup is filled out and comprehensive. (But seriously, don’t sleep on the kit lens.) And if the past is anything to go by, the X-T3 will be an even better, more feature-packed camera a year or two from now as Fujifilm continues to build upon what it can already do through regular firmware updates. Aside from the obvious IBIS and flippy screen improvements, I’m genuinely curious about where a potential X-T4 goes from here.

What a wonderful time to love photography.

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