Fujifilm X-T3 Review: The near-perfect APS-C mirrorless camera

Fujifilm X-T3 Review – Fujifilm X-T3, If the current photo trend is for the 24x36mm full-frame sensor – in a year, Nikon, Panasonic, Canon and Sigma have launched or announced cameras – the APS-C continues its path and the genre specialist that is Fujifilm continues to develop the standard with its flagship. The X-T3. A box that is theoretically placed below the X-H1 but yet equipped with more modern electronics. Succeeding the X-T2 which was the champion of hybrids at its launch, the X-T3 brings its share of novelties – new sensor, new processor, etc. – but continues the work of his ancestor. Namely, offering advanced functions (double slot for memory cards, fast AF, powerful burst, etc.) all in a more compact body than the full-format competition.  

Fujifilm X-T3 Perfectly mastered electronics

Electronically, the X-T3 corresponds to the 4 th generation hybrids at Fujifilm. Since the beginning of the adventure in 2012 with the X-Pro 1 , Fujifilm has done a titanic job to catch up with its delay in AF and image processing. And for good reason: in addition to the fact that the brand had thrown in the towel in reflexes, Fujifilm has chosen to develop a matrix different from everyone else (X-Trans instead of a classic Bayer matrix) which has made the job even more difficult. The engineers had to reinvent all the algorithms, both for photo and video demosaicing, as well as for autofocus. The art of keeping things simple. Seven years later, Fujifilm has increased the read speed of its sensor by x10 and the amount of data processed by its image processor by x20. Impressive progress that is evident in the use of the camera: the X-T3 now ranks among the fastest, most responsive and offering the best burst (and AF tracking) on ​​the market. Under its X-T2 look hides a completely new device.  

Fujifilm X-T3 A nervous box

For those who knew the first hybrid camera from Fujifilm, the X-Pro 1, the X-T3 provides a shock. We go from a soft body to the hesitant AF to an edgy camera. Besides the fact that the menus respond to the eye (still happy!), It is especially the grip of the autofocus that impresses. The X-T3 is a body that gives an impression of physical “availability”, the response of its autofocus blending perfectly with the retro grip of a camera clad with knobs. It could have been a little bigger for our tastes, but the engineers at Fujifilm insisted on its compactness, wanting to leave the side “big paws” to the X-H1.  

Twentieth-century ergonomics, twenty-first century viewfinder

The charm of Fujifilm hybrid cameras comes in particular from the balance that engineers have managed to find between old-fashioned ergonomics. With the selection of the aperture on the optics, the ISO dials and speeds like the reflex of the 70s and cutting-edge technological parts. The X-T3 may be a digital camera, but its design gives pride of place to mechanics, not only the dials but also the swivel screen with its all-metal hinge system. It is a device that we like to have in hand, to handle – and this is a first invitation to take pictures! In addition to the processor / sensor pair, part of the electronic support comes from the viewfinder. Without being the most defined or the most responsive of the competition – it is a case at $ 1817 and not a hybrid at $ 5453 Lumix S1R style ! – it is very well mastered, both in terms of image refresh rate and in terms of colors.  
Sharp sensor for sharp optics
From X-T2 to X-T3, the gain in definition is minor or even negligible: we go from 24 to 26 Mpix. But this sensor is completely revised. In addition to its so-called “backlit” (BSI) structure. The sensor circuits are designed in copper alloy which allows Fujifilm to improve not only the minimum sensitivity (160 ISO instead of 200 ISO) but also the quality of digital noise. (read further on “Organic rendering and color conservation”). Combined with new image processing algorithms and the new processor, this 26 Mpix sensor produces magnificent images. And corrects, by the way, one of the faults of the previous X-Trans versions: the quality of rendering of human skin which was a little “waxy” in low light. These electronic improvements allow the X-T3 to take full advantage of the optics of the Fujinon range, a range renowned for its unique renderings – one thinks of the perfect balance between the sharpness and the smoothness of the superb 56mm f / 1.2 (85 equivalent mm). Beware, however, of (rare) mediocre optics such as those found on the “A” series of housing. The 26 Mpix sensor is so good that it is the first to damage the 18-55mm f / 2.4-4 a bit!  
Organic rendering and color retention
The X-T3 has two strengths in terms of image quality: what you could almost call organic, almost film-like rendering, and excellent color retention at (almost) all ISO ranges. Examined with a magnifying glass – which only the testers do – the pictures that come out of this case do not have the “hyper realistic” side spewing out pixels that the full-frame cameras from Panasonic and Sony have for example. If the sharpness of the images is present (depending on the optics), the general rendering is softer, more natural than the competition. A feature present at Fujifilm since the beginning of the hybrid adventure which stems from technical choices, giving priority to the search for a harmonious image over the raw extraction of details. The other strength of the on-board imaging system is the consistency in the interpretation of colors when increasing ISO. At 6400-12.800 we thus find more or less the same color information as at ISO 200, even if the details are more confused, digital noise obliges. Colored artifacts are thus perfectly managed – rather eliminated – even at extreme values ​​such as ISO 25,600. Digital noise is perfectly contained up to ISO 1600-3200, still well controlled at ISO 6400 even if it begins to interfere with the sharpness.  

The video, discreet but neat

Fujifilm does have video DNA, but it comes from its Fujinon optics division, which has been producing broadcast optics for TV studios and other sports venues for decades. But in terms of encoding, the brand is, like Nikon, often inaudible against Sony and Panasonic. However, she has acquired a lot of know-how in image processing and recently pumped up her muscles on the optical side by bringing out the jewels that are the MKX, cinema quality zooms at affordable prices for cinema optics, eh! The quality of the videos coming out of the box is excellent and those who are thinking of using their camera for video will be happy to learn that Fujifilm has put the package on the encoding (Mpeg 4, H.264, H.265) but also bitrates. Frames (bitrate): in 4K, the X-T3 can go up to 400 mbit / s, speeds rarely achieved in the industry. The device can also shoot in 4K cinema (4K DCI) which produces files larger than 4K UHD (4096 points wide against 3840 points for 4K UHD). A gourmet refinement, the box is capable of recording sequences by coding colors in 4: 2: 2 10 bit in both H.264 and H.265, directly on the memory card. In the world of APS-C cameras, Fujifilm’s advanced video tech specs far exceed Sony’s, even including the latest Alpha A6600 .  

Mechanical stabilization: the big lack

This is THE big lack of the X-T3: the lack of mechanical stabilization of the sensor. Present only in the X-H1 in the APS-C range (it has just appeared in the medium format with the GFX 100). This stabilization is nevertheless a major support for Fujifilm, the brand being particularly endowed with quality fixed focal lengths. But not stabilized. If we are doing very well in broad daylight, the absence of a stab of the sensor produces more waste in low light because of an overly ambitious management of exposure speeds – I always have a little trouble being stable 1/8 th of a second. If the case is resistant – ambassador photographers have shared their field experiences with us – it does not however have the guarantees of the X-H1, namely a reinforced case body and a horde of seals. Fujifilm kept these strengths on the X-H1, which is a mistake for us: even without sensor stabilization and tropicalization, the new electronics of the X-T3 make it terribly superior to the X-H1.  

It eclipses the X-H1 which remains relevant for backpackers

More robust and stabilized, the X-H1 is an excellent backpacker designed for reporters looking for a case that will last over time and which offers a clear image and therefore usable in all situations. Fortunately, because in other areas, the X-T3 dangerously kills him. Whether in responsiveness, autofocus speed or even pure image quality, the X-T3 is superior to it, its new generation electronics sometimes making the difference. If the lack of sensor stabilization is acceptable to you (if you are equipped with wide-angles and stabilized zooms), and the extra resistance is of no use to your use.  

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