Nikon D500 --> Fuji X-T3

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Morris0 Senior Member • Posts: 5,751
Nikon D500 --> Fuji X-T3

This write up is fulfilling the request of quite a few people.

A few weeks ago, I switched from shooting with a Nikon D500 + Sigma 150-600 Sport to a Fuji X-T3 + Fuji 100-400 with 1.4x TC for my wildlife work. This was the result of an injury and I needing to reduce the weight of my system. My goal was to drop a significant amount of weight to avoid further injury. I have considered going mirrorless in the past and realized that a large sell off and purchase would probably be expensive. Because of this the first thing I did was to look at lighter lenses as I knew even a lighter body dose not make that much difference.

The obvious way to louse 3 LBs was to go with the Nikon 500mm PF, a superb lens. I’m a big fan of zooms and this made me hesitate. I also looked at the Nikon 200-500mm, not enough weight difference. The same was true for the Tamron and Sigma 150-600 Contemporary. A Nikon 80-400mm + 1.4x TC lands at f8 and the current Nikon bodies reduce the number of focus points available, a big compromise. Furthermore, a 2x TC is manual focus only. I felt like I was going backwards. One thought was dragging my gear behind me on a cart as I’ve seen others do yet this was not appealing. This sent me looking at reviews of different systems and assorted lenses knowing that I had about the best there is. I kept this in mind as I did my investigation.

The candidates are probably obvious yet I’ll mention what I considered and my reaction:

  • Sony, a top-notch system that many are changing to and I’d always admired Minolta and later Sony ergonomics. I’d tried their cameras recently enough to know that I have an issue looking through their viewfinder with my glasses. I wind up seeing the pixels and find it very distracting.
  • Panasonic and Olympus M4/3 body with:
  • Panasonic 100-400mm, while I see plenty of good images taken with this lens, when I interviewed owners and past owners, they were not eustatic.
  • Olympus 300 f4 + 1.4x TC, a superb solution that did not drop enough weight
  • Fuji X-T3, it’s a very new model and not many have experience with it. I saw quite a few raving reviews stating that the AF and Tracking were superb and that Nikon should take notice. As with all the others I tried it with there 100-400mm and even in very low light focus was snappy and accurate. Looking at the images I took confirmed the focus and tracking were accurate. The camera’s retro style is a delight as I basically knew how to use the camera when I picked it up. I interviewed X-T2 owners and one X-T3 owner. I was satisfied with what I learned and purchased on evaluation.

Before the camera arrived, I read the manual cover to cover on line. When it arrived, I set up the charger and while the batteries took a ridiculous 2.5 hours to charge, I read the manual again. The next day I was out in the field shooting from a blind and having fun leaning and occasionally stumbling through the menus. Muscle memory sent my fingers to switches that were in different positions. The important thing was I was taking pictures and the results when viewed at home were as good as I had hoped. The next time out I shot flight and while most of my subjects were too far, they were fine for fine tuning my setup and the close passes came out great. The X-T3 still did not feel like my camera yet I was loving using it. In two weeks and 6 shoots I was conferrable with the X-T3. Another week has now passed and I’m writing this as quite a few people have asked me to.

Now onto a comparison of these two wonderful camera systems. Probably the most important for someone like me that dose a lot of birds in flight is the AF system. Both offer many modes and some of them are configurable. I believe most Nikon shooters use Group AF with AF-C and Fuji offers Zone which is similar with AF-C. Both are predictive and get you close to good focus. I have preferred Nikon’s Dynamic AF with AF-C while steering the focus with the Joystick. Fuji offers what they call “single point” yet it is a user configurable group of AF points that you steer with the focus stick (Joy Stick). Both systems offer customization and Fuji offers a bit more than Nikon. Each works superbly though once AF tracking starts on the Fuji, you can’t operate the focus stick. I’ve contacted Fuji support about this and they were very interested and the report is moving up the chain. I was supposed to hear back soon yet two weeks have passed and I have not. In any case I’ve adapted to this limitation by either using the center of the frame or by moving the focus stick and letting it track. If I need to adjust I life my finger off the shutter release and move the focus stick and then continue taking images. It’s a slight annoyance yet I’m getting great results as the tracking is extremely good. A number of people have asked me if the Fuji has a tendency to jump to the background when tracking a subject close to a detailed background the way Nikon dose and I have not observed this. I even tried to make it happen and could not. I agree with the reviews I read, Nikon should be paying attention.

When it comes to exposure, I was never happy with the results I got from Nikon’s exposure system for flight photos and chose to shoot in manual. For those that do use auto exposure one must press a button and spin a dial while watching a small number change in the view finder. It is also hard to tell if you rotated the dial in the wrong direction as the plus and minus signs are tiny. On the Fuji there is a focus composition wheel easily reached by your thumb. It is well marked as in the old days and also makes a distinctive click for each 1/3 stop. The exposure scale is also visible in the viewfinder with adjustable size font. Fuji’s zone exposure mode is also much more predictable than Nikon’s matrix equivalent. Not only is there a well labeled exposure composition dial, there is also a well labeled ISO dial and a shutter speed dial. The aperture Is adjusted using a ring on the lens though for 21’s century photographers the ring can be over ridden by programing one of the control wheels to do this. These retro controls are a delight to use and when you get used to where they are make operating the camera with out taking your eye away from the view finder a huge advantage. I find my self setting the ISO and using program exposure mode with exposure compensation. If I don’t like the program’s choice which is rare, I’ll switch to aperture priority or rotate the control dial for program adjustment.

Nikon’s live view AF is not useful for moving subjects as it dose not track well. The Fuji X-T3 is mirrorless and when I take my eye away from the viewfinder what was in the finder is now on the articulating LCD. This is great when you want to shoot very low as one can sit or kneel and hold the camera just above the ground and everything works as it should. My tripod allows me to mount the camera like this and I’m no longer getting into contorted positions to get my eye to the viewfinder.

Battery life on the Nikon is much better at about 1,500 frames per charge vs 500 on the Fuji. Because of this I add the vertical battery grip that holds two additions batteries. While I’m using more batteries, I’m getting 1,500 frames on each between changes. The D500 burst rate is 10 FPS vs 11 on the XT-3’s mechanical shutter and 20 FPS on the electronic shutter which I have not used. Shooting RAW, the D500 RAM buffer holds 25 frames and the X-T3 36 after witch the cameras begin writing to a card. The XQD cards that the Nikon supports are extremely fast and if there were not a firmware limit you could bust till the card were full. The X-T3 uses SD cards and the fastest ones also allow you to simply hold your finger down on the X-T3 it will not stop till the card is full or so they say in the manual. I tend to shoot short bursts and am not very concerned about this. I started by using a Sandisk Extreme Plus card rated at 95-MB/Sec and only filled the buffer once. To be safe I purchased a Sony 300-MB/Sec card and it's working great. Both cameras have a second card slot that takes an SD card. The menu system is fairly intuitive for both systems though Fuji provides two different menu systems both of which are completely customizable and if that is not good enough you can make up your own. Configuration of what most of the switches and dials do is available on the Nikon. Fuji offers the ability to set every button and dial to what ever you like except for the AF-MF switch. I customized both cameras a little bit and will not go into that. The important thing is sufficient configuration is available on both.

The Sigma 150-600 Sport is a big heavy sharp and fast focusing lens. It features a focus limiter switch and a focus clutch that Fuji’s 100-400 lacks. The Sigma has a maximum aperture of f5.6 at 600mm while the Fuji’s is f5.6 at 400mm and f8 with the 1.4x TC at 600mm. Bare, the fuji is slightly sharper reviling the very best lenses. It’s bokeh is lovely with and without the TC. The Sigma’s bokeh is great when the background is totally out of focus yet when background is close to the subject, sometimes it’s a bit ugly. I have not observed this with the Fuji, I’ve only owned the camera a month so can’t say definitely that this is not an issue. Both lenses have optical image stabilization that works quite well. The Fuji detects panning which is easier than having to set a switch on the Sigma. I usually left the Sigma in pan mode to avoid missing flight images. I only switched when necessary. The Sigma has one huge advantage when it comes to steadying the lens and that is mass. As we all know, long lenses are not forgiving and good long lens technique is critical. A month ago, when I was in pain that resulted in less than ideal technique it showed up and I learned to stop and take a break when shooting with the Fuji. This was not as necessary with the Sigma.

Third party support and lens selection are a huge advantage for Nikon. If there is a gizmo or software it supports Nikon. Not so for Fuji. These are both great camera systems that are both a joy to use, each has it’s own quirks and advantages.

If I left anything out or you have a question please feel free to ask. If there is a technical error please let me know and I’ll correct it. If you disagree with my point of view that is fine and you are free to express your view. I will not argue with you though I might ask for more information for clarification. I’m confident as I use the X-T3 more I will learn more and as you probably know I always share.


 Morris0's gear list:Morris0's gear list
Fujifilm X-T3 Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D Nikon AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF Tamron SP AF 11-18mm F/4.5-5.6 Di II LD Aspherical (IF) Fujifilm XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR +11 more
Nikon D500
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