Initial impressions

Originally published February 25th 2020
By Richard Butler

Many of those who've been keenly anticipating a direct X-T3 replacement will be a little disappointed by the X-T4: it won't be 'I have to upgrade this very minute' exciting for every X-T3 owner. But then again, Fujifilm is insistent that it's not meant as a replacement.

Anyone hoping for an X-H1 successor or wanting a stabilized X-T3 variant is likely to be delighted: it should satisfy both those groups.

The price tag, half way between the launch prices of the X-T3 and X-H1, supports the idea that it's a distinct model and suggests a similar relationship between the T3 and T4 to the one Sony has with its a6400 and a6600 models. This suggests it's designed to appeal to different people or, at least, a cohort that only partially overlaps with X-T3 buyers.

Eterna Bleach Bypass becomes the camera's twelfth film simulation mode. To me, at least, it's getting past the number where I can pre-visualize what effect they'll have on my image, which reduces the value of each additional one that's added.

Many X-T3 owners should feel little need for an upgrade, just yet: the X-T3 already has the probably the best APS-C sensor on the market, so it's difficult to offer much of an improvement in that regard. For steady-handed stills shooters, the X-T3 hasn't been meaningfully out-gunned by any of its newer rivals. Unless stabilization is the specific feature you need, the X-T4 isn't meant to be your next camera: it's not really expected that you would want to upgrade.

So who's it for?

But as someone who's shot the X-T3 on a gimbal fairly extensively, but holidayed with an X-H1 for its portable stabilized video, the X-T4 makes immediate sense to me.

The image stabilization is a leap forward from the X-H1, which was great at playing the role of virtual tripod but, at least with the original firmware, really didn't like you trying to move or pan. It would try to fight against intentional movement, then jump when it could no longer counteract. It was also prone to hitting the limits of its travel and resetting to the center, with unpleasant visual results.

Based on my initial impressions, the X-T4 is much less prone to either of these quirks. It doesn't try to fight against panning so much, and you can specify the use of 'IS Boost' mode for the occasions where you do want tripod-like stillness.

Demonstration of how the X-T4's more tenacious AF tracking lets you rapidly set the focus point and then recompose.

But there certainly are some improvements that stills shooters might appreciate: AF tracking is recognizably better, and the face detection implementation from the X-Pro3 is a definite improvement. Few are likely to complain about the additional battery life. But it's video users who have most to gain. The built-in stabilization and additional battery capacity mean it's an even more capable video platform than the already very good X-T3.

Which makes the omission of a headphone socket all the more perplexing. It may seem like a minor concern, but videographers are unlikely to be impressed by the need to carry a small accessory that's so easily lost or forgotten, and whose absence will be show-stopping in many instances. The decision to give priority to the remote socket, whose function can be duplicated via USB or smartphone app isn't consistent with all the rest of the effort made to make the X-T4 such a good video camera.

What does this tell us about the X-T and X-H lines?

What happens next? It's unclear how many of the X-T4's focus improvements can be brought to the X-T3 via firmware. Fujifilm hasn't discussed any hardware changes that would prevent it, so there's still hope. If they can't, it'd be nice to see an X-T3 Mark II arrive soon that includes all the color modes, focus improvements, handling and interface tweaks and bigger battery from this camera.

The alternative is a pattern where the stabilized and un-stabilized variants leapfrog one another every nine months or so, causing frustration for anyone who has the camera type they want, but has to watch extra color modes, updates and polishing applied to the other variant.

How many of the X-T4's refinements can be applied to the X-T3 might define how comfortably the two models sit alongside one another.

Or perhaps Fujifilm won't directly replace the X-T3, and the single-digit X-T cameras will all be stabilized from here onward, putting clear water between this camera and a hypothetical X-T40.

Then, of course, there's the question of the X-H line. It could be the X-H1 was a trial balloon to see if there was an audience for a more expensive, stabilized camera. In which case, the X-T4 satisfies that need. But who knows, maybe Fujifilm has ambitions to take on Panasonic's GH series via a model with an even more overt video bent. One with a proper headphone socket, perhaps.