First impressions

by Richard Butler

The X-T2 was a huge leap forward from the X-T1, both in terms of autofocus and video performance. At the time some people even claimed it could match the reigning champ: the Nikon D500, in terms of AF. Our testing and experience didn't support that, but for it to even be sensibly discussed showed how big a step forward it was for Fujifilm.

Surely Fujifilm couldn't make sure a great leap forwards again? And, with the announcement of the X-H1, with better video features, would they even want to? Well, the X-T3 leaves no doubt about the answer to either question: yes and yes.

Another great leap forward

Autofocus is much improved, even over what was one of the better mirrorless performers and the video quality, performance and feature set puts it up with the big boys. Suddenly all that talk of competing with the Nikon D500 seems rather quaint: our impressions are that the X-T3 will match it for autofocus and simply laugh at it when it comes to video. It's rare for the third iteration of a product to surprise and impress so many of our editors, especially when it follows on from a camera good enough to earn a Gold award.

Out of camera JPEG shot using the Provia/Standard profile.
ISO 320 | 1/ 500 sec | F5.6 | Shot using the Fujifilm XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR at 45.5mm
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

Raising the bar for APS-C video

The ghost at the feast is, perhaps, the sadly departed Samsung NX1 (pictured below). Amazingly it's been four years since the only other camera with an BSI APS-C sensor or H.265 video capture was launched. It's also seems amazing to me to think that it's taken four whole years for a camera to make a significant step beyond it, but that's what the X-T3 (finally) does.

The X-T3's video specifications are hugely impressive. Full width, oversampled video would be impressive but the X-T3 goes further by offering 4K 60p in either DCI or UHD aspect ratios with only a minor crop. Better still, it does so with 10-bit internal capture. Jordan Drake at DPReviewTV even says the microphone pre-amp sounds good (which, even if you're not going to use it, suggests a certain attention-to-detail). But, more than just offering those specs, the X-T3 appears to do so with well-controlled rolling shutter, suggesting Fujifilm is keen to get the feature right, rather than over-reaching just to be able to list the feature on the box.

Improved AF

But it's not just the video features we're excited by: the autofocus is also radically improved. Fujifilm says the Face and Eye Detection algorithms have been completely re-written and the difference is dramatic. Rather than the unreliable, contrast-detection-based implementation of the past, the X-T3 uses its phase-detection information to significantly increase the focus speed. Our initial impressions are that it's also much better at finding and sticking on faces, making it much more useful than on previous models.

AF Tracking is also greatly improved. The X-T3 offers the same fine-tuning controls as its predecessor but appears to be better at recognizing the chosen subject (and hence better at following it around the scene) and the 1.5X increase in processing speed seems to allow it to drive the lenses much more quickly than before.

Speeding up the processor and improving the algorithms can't entirely overcome the challenge of driving some of its slow-to-focus lenses, but it helps squeeze a little more out of them and produces truly impressive results with the fast-to-focus lenses that make up an increasing proportion of the XF lineup.

A future for APS-C

At a time when Nikon, Sony and Canon are trying to push enthusiasts into their full frame mirrorless systems, Fujifilm is providing a credible alternative for photographers who don't want the cost or weight of that format. And, with both a 33mm F1.0 (50mm F1.5 equiv,) and 200mm F2 (300mm F3 equiv) on the roadmap, there will be ways to minimize the difference.

For a lot of people, myself included, the APS-C format lends itself to offering a well-rounded range of video and stills capabilities. And with the X-T3, it's possible that Fujfilm has released the camera to wrestle-away the D500's APS-C crown.