Fujifilm X-A3 Field Test Part II

X-A3 has many virtues, but sub-par video features and performance

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 09/07/2017

Recap of Field Test Part I

In the first Fujifilm X-A3 Field Test, I looked at the camera body and handling, image sensor and image quality, autofocus performance and overall performance. The Fujifilm X-A3 has been fairly impressive, although its autofocus is a bit slow in the real world and the continuous shooting performance is not great. The image quality was the real standout, which is what matters most for many users, and the touchscreen proved pretty good too, but difficult to use in bright light.

In this second Field Test, I will be looking at the camera's shooting modes, video quality and performance, and wireless features. I will also revisit some of the camera's performance in a real-world context before wrapping up the Field Test.

Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR: 16mm (24mm eq.), f/2.2, 1/200s, ISO 200.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Fuji X-A3 Shooting Modes and Metering

There are a few interesting capture modes included in the X-A3, such as in-camera panorama mode. The mode has "medium" and "large" size options, which have widths of 6,440 and 9,600 pixels, respectively. You can also set the direction of your panorama (left versus right, up versus down). Interestingly, if you hold the camera in portrait orientation and select a vertical swing, which means you go side to side with the camera in portrait orientation, the images are 2,160 pixels tall while maintaining the same width. That means that if you want to have a larger image, that's the way to do it. Unfortunately, the in-camera stitching is not particularly good, and the results are a far cry from what you can get by stitching together your own processed RAW files. That said, it's an easy feature to use and works fine in a pinch.

Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR: 16mm (24mm eq.), f/9, 1/220s, ISO 200.
Click for full-size images: Medium and Large

The Fujifilm X-A3 includes an electronic shutter, which allows for shutter speeds as fast as 1/32,000s. The mechanical shutter has a range of 30 seconds to 1/4000s when using standard shooting modes. The X-A3 also includes a built-in flash, which has a guide number of 5 meters at ISO 100 and 7 meters at ISO 200 (which is the base ISO). The maximum flash sync is 1/180s, and the built-in flash can act as a trigger. The built-in flash is moderately powerful for its size and sufficient for a wide array of purposes. It can even add in fill flash during the day, so that's nice.

Fujifilm XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS: 230mm (345mm eq.), f/6.7, 1/500s, ISO 400.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

The Fuji X-A3 relies upon a 256-zone metering system and offers multi, spot and average metering modes. Its metering performance proved to be quite consistent and effective. If you need exposure compensation, it's available up to +/- 3 EV. Further, spot metering is linked to the active AF point(s), which is a nice feature.

As is par for the course with Fujifilm cameras, the X-A3 has a plethora of Film Simulations to use for customizing the look of your image. The default film simulation, Provia, works well for many situations. I'm also a big fan of Velvia, which offers a bit more saturation and punch. Other Film Simulations include Astia (Soft), Classic Chrome, Pro Neg. Hi, Pro Neg. Standard, Monochrome (with multiple filters) and Sepia. You can see a sample of all the Film Simulations in the Gallery.

Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR: 16mm (24mm eq.), f/1.4, 1/280s, ISO 200.
Click for full-size images: Mono + Red and Mono + Green

Overall, the Fujifilm X-A3 offers many ways to easily capture nice-looking images. Their Film Simulations are particularly great, helping the X-A3 deliver very good, diverse JPEG images.

Fujifilm X-A3 Video Features

The Fujifilm X-A3 offers some control over video, but confusingly limits users in various ways. The camera can record 1920 x 1080 video at up to 60 frames per second, which is good for its price point. The X-A3 even offers manual exposure, Auto ISO and exposure compensation during video recording. Plus it has digital image stabilization.

Fujifilm X-A3 Video Compilation - Exposure Adjustments 1920 x 1080 video clips
Download Original (777.4 MB .MP4 File)

While those features are positives, the X-A3 does not allow control over the autofocus point during video recording. Even if you are in single point AF mode before you start recording video -- there is no dedicated video recording mode, but rather video recording is started by pressing the record button on the back of the camera -- the camera switches to fully automatic zone autofocus. This autofocus can work okay, but it can also miss the mark and when it does, there's nothing you can do unless you want to do full manual focus, which is an option.

Fujifilm X-A3 Video Compilation - Autofocus Testing 1920 x 1080 video clips
Download Original (599.1 MB .MP4 File)

Further, the continuous autofocus performance for video, much like it is during stills shooting, is pretty sluggish. It can also be somewhat loud during video recording, which is an issue, and it continuously hunts even when it's locked onto your subject.

Fujifilm X-A3 Video Compilation - Image Stabilization Testing 1920 x 1080 video clips
Download Original (372.1 MB .MP4 File)

The X-A3 has built-in digital stabilization, which works pretty well. It doesn't add any additional cropping to the video either, although the X-A3 does crop in a little already in addition to the 16:9 crop factor when recording video, as you can see in the video below.

Fujifilm X-A3 Video Compilation - Frame Width Comparison 1920 x 1080 video clips
Download Original (17.1 MB .MP4 File)

When recording video with the Fuji X-A3, there is no on-screen preview of the video frame before you start recording. If there was a dedicated video mode on the mode dial, that would likely help as you could see a preview of the framing in that mode. But since the X-A3 does not work that way and offers no preview, the crop factor and aspect ratio that exists for video can be a bit difficult to predict when framing up before you start recording. You get used to it and get a sense of it with time, but the user is required to figure it out. The camera should give you some visual indication of the video frame without needing to start a video recording.

Video Quality

The Fujifilm X-A3 records decent video, but it is not particularly impressive. The camera applies quite a bit of sharpening to video files, which results in artifacts and an overall very digital appearance. By that I mean that it looks similar to taking a small image and trying to upscale it, it just takes on a computerized look that is unnatural and not very pleasing, in my opinion.

With that said, the camera does perform fairly well at the higher end of its ISO range (ISO 200 to 6400 for video), which is nice for those looking to record video in lower light. You can see some higher ISO video samples shot with the XF 16mm f/1.4 in the compilation video below. They had to be manually focused due to the camera's tendency to hunt while focusing and the difficulty to lock focus on a selected subject.

Fujifilm X-A3 Video Compilation - ISO Comparison 1920 x 1080 video clips
Download Original (164.3 MB .MP4 File)

Video: Overall

The Fujifilm X-A3 is a good still image camera, and its video quality is fair with a notable lack of refinement with regard to its video recording functionality. Without any control over autofocus area during recording, the X-A3 can be frustrating to use for any serious video. When everything works correctly, it's pretty good, but when it doesn't work correctly, there is nothing you can do about it. In the end, the Fujifilm X-A3 as a video recording camera is hampered by its lack of user control.

Fujifilm X-A3 Video Compilation - General Video Clips 1920 x 1080 video clips
Download Original (629.1 MB .MP4 File)
Wireless Connectivity

With its built-in Wi-Fi, you can remotely transfer images and control the X-A3 using your smartphone via the Fujifilm Camera App. Interestingly, the camera itself does not tell you how to connect when you start the Wireless Communication, but the accompanying smartphone app will walk you through the process, which worked well.

The Fujifilm X-A3 has built-in Wi-Fi. The screenshots above are from its compatible smartphone application.

Once connected, the X-A3 offers fine wireless functionality, but it didn't wow me. The remote control functionality is solid, but if you want to change the shooting mode, you need to change it on the camera, which disconnects the app, and then reconnect. However, you do have control over things like Film Simulation, ISO, and the shutter speed and/or aperture, depending on the shooting mode. There is no manual focus control in the app, but the tap to focus function works nicely. You can also record video in the app, but like on the camera, there's no preview of the video frame until you've started the recording. For capturing images like family portraits, there's also a self-timer option.

Fuji X-A3 In the Field

The Fujifilm X-A3 checks a lot of nice boxes on its specifications and features list. Its 24-megapixel image sensor proved very capable as well, but real-world use exposed some of the X-A3's issues.

The touchscreen works nicely in many situations, but in bright shooting conditions, using the camera can be very difficult at times. Even if you turn brightness up to its maximum level, the display is hard to use in bright daylight. Also, when shooting in dim light, the live view stutters dramatically and that can cause its own problems. This issue is not unique to the X-A3, but it's notable that the camera can be hard to use in both bright and dark conditions.

The late afternoon sunlight made it quite difficult to compose this shot using the X-A3's display.
Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR: 16mm (24mm eq.), f/8, 1/210s, ISO 200.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

It is not only the display that causes issues in dim light, the autofocus really struggles in admittedly challenging situations. Indoors during the day posed some difficulty for the X-A3 when using a slower lens, such as its kit lens. Sluggishness is something of a pattern with the X-A3, as its startup times and overall operation felt slow on numerous occasions.

In many areas, the X-A3 does well in real-world use. As I've mentioned, general image quality is good and Fujifilm's Film Simulations are great. The shooting modes are varied and effective, and the physical controls work well, regardless of what mode you're using thanks to the twin dial controls.

Fuji X-A3 Field Test Part II Summary

Lots of ways to use the X-A3, but some limitations during video recording

What I like in Part II

  • Fujifilm's Film Simulations are great
  • Manual exposure for video
  • Offers 1080/60p video

What I dislike in Part II

  • No control over autofocus point during video recording
  • No preview of the video frame before you start the recording
  • Real-world use exposed some usability concerns

In Part II, I was fairly impressed with the X-A3's video quality and shooting modes, but was let down by its video features. In the field, the X-A3 proved to be a mixed bag. The camera is capable of capturing nice images and recording decent Full HD video, but it occasionally gets in its own way in both cases.

Fujifilm XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS: 230mm (345mm eq.), f/6.7, 1/640s, ISO 2000.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Overall Fuji X-A3 Field Test Wrap-Up

What I like most overall

  • Twin dial controls
  • Retro styling
  • Very good image quality for its class
  • In-camera charging
  • Good battery life
  • Film Simulations

What I dislike most overall

  • Screen is hard to see in bright light
  • Sluggish autofocus at times
  • Sub-par performance
  • No control over autofocus point during video recording
  • Lacking video features and quality
Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR: 16mm (24mm eq.), f/2.5, 1/200s, ISO 200.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

The Fujifilm X-A3 offers great image quality for the sensor size and price, providing sharp, detailed images with good color and Fujifilm's excellent Film Simulations. On the other hand, the camera has sub-par autofocus performance and is not fast in real-world use.

For users looking for an affordable compact interchangeable lens camera, the retro-inspired X-A3 is a solid choice, but it does face steep competition, such as the Olympus E-PL8 or Sony A6000. As an entry point into the Fujifilm X-series, the X-A3 shines as a good overall camera, but does not stand out in its category due to some sluggish performance and lack of big features.

If you want a camera that does everything really well, the X-A3 will fall short. However, if you want to get started with an interchangeable lens system for well under $1,000, the Fujifilm X-A3 is a viable option.


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