Fuji X-T3 Field Test Part I

A few days with the Fujifilm X-T3

by Eamon Hickey | Posted 09/13/2018

XF 50-140mm f/2.8 WR: 140mm, f/4, 1/250s, ISO 400

First impressions

In coordination with the announcement of the Fuji X-T3 last week, Fujifilm provided us with a body to use for a few days. I've had a chance to shoot with it several times now, and I've got some quick impressions along with a batch of sample images to share for an initial Field Test.

XF 50-140mm f/2.8 WR: 140mm, f/2.8, 1/640s, ISO 12800

Roller Derby: Challenging the AF system in dark, murky lighting

My first real chance to use the X-T3 came at Fujifilm's announcement event in Brooklyn, where they produced a modified roller derby match for the assembled guests to photograph. I won't waste time talking about most of the small tweaks to the body and user interface—there's very little difference between this new model and the X-T2 in terms of how the camera feels and operates. One seemingly tiny enhancement, however, turns out to be quite nice right from the start: the EVF. It's been moved backwards 3mm, which is noticeably more comfortable to use; now my nose doesn't smash up against the LCD as badly.

XF 50-140mm f/2.8 WR: 140mm, f/2.8, 1/800s, ISO 12800

The lighting for the roller derby was atmospheric and murky—not the best for photography—but it certainly stressed the camera's low-light autofocus performance. Of course, we'll reserve final judgment for a full review of the X-T3, but I was impressed with the camera's ability to accurately track erratically moving subjects, in quite dark circumstances, at very high frame rates. I frequently shot at 20 frames-per-second and got a high percentage of sharply focused pictures. It's also true that the no-blackout performance of the EVF at that frame rate significantly improved my ability to frame the skaters accurately as I tracked them. This works, of course, only when you're using the electronic shutter. With the mechanical shutter, there is still a characteristic "slide-show effect" that EVFs exhibit, and which is harder to compensate for than regular SLR mirror blackout.

XF 50-140mm f/2.8 WR: 83.8mm, f/2.8, 1/800s, ISO 12800

A brief hands-on with the XF 200mm f/2

Fujifilm also had a handful of samples of their new XF 200mm F2 R LM OIS WR lens on hand, so I took one for a spin. It's not a small lens, but it's certainly manageable for handheld shooting. For a lens like this, it goes without saying that the build quality is excellent, and the control ergonomics are very good—or at least, I didn't find anything to complain about in a half hour of use.

In terms of autofocus, it was very fast and highly accurate, even with a 1.4X teleconverter attached. Because of the limitations of the shooting environment—a single subject and very murky light with junk in the air—I can't make any other informed comments on it, but it sure makes a favorable first impression.

XF 200mm f/2 WR: 200mm, f/2, 1/800s, ISO 8000

Shooting more subjects in Central Park

A few days after the roller derby, I did some more shooting with the X-T3 in Central Park. Again, I gave the AF system a workout on bicyclists and rollerbladers, and it performed extremely well, even at 20 frames-per-second. The clear majority of my shots are well-focused. We'll see how the full review pans out, but I have very little doubt that the X-T3 will turn out to be the best autofocusing Fujifilm body yet, especially for moving subjects.

XF 50-140mm f/2.8 WR: 140mm, f/2.8, 1/1000s, ISO 1000

Fujifilm has stressed that the X-T3's new sensor, with its faster readout speeds, significantly reduces rolling shutter distortion. I didn't see any rolling shutter effects in my roller derby pictures, but there's a hint of it in many of the bicycle shots, which show slightly misshapen front wheels. The effect is small—most people wouldn't notice it, but it's there if you look closely. The effect disappeared when I switched to the mechanical shutter, of course, but then I didn't get the blackout-free viewfinder experience, and my framing accuracy suffered. None of my other shots taken with the electronic shutter show anything that I could positively identify as rolling shutter distortion, even some pictures with fast-moving musicians' hands. One quick note: on two of my outings, it was raining lightly most of the time, and it was great to be totally unworried about the X-T3 itself or the two weather-resistant lenses that I was using (an XF 35mm F2 R WR and an XF 50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR).

XF 35mm f/2 WR: 35mm, f/2.8, 1/500s, ISO 4000

XF 50-140mm f/2.8 WR: 140mm, f/2.8, 1/1000s, ISO 800, +0.3EV

XF 35mm f/2 WR: 35mm, f/7.1, 1/50s, ISO 160

A quick 4K video sample

Along with its autofocus upgrades, the X-T3's video features are the biggest story around this camera. Obviously, there's a lot to test, and I didn't have the time or equipment to do that (not to mention I'm a bit of a video klutz). But in Central Park, I happened across a group of drummers and got a chance to shoot a quick 4K clip using the Eterna film simulation. Now, the light was lovely, and the scene is interesting, with rich skin tones and a relatively pleasant color palette, so that definitely gives the clip a boost. Still, to my eye, the Eterna profile really looks good here. It made me want to take the X-T3 out and shoot more video. (Just a note: the clip was shot handheld, with only the optical stabilization in the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens to keep the image steady. Not ideal, but I hadn't intended to shoot any video on that outing.)

Fujifilm X-T3 4K 30p Sample Video
3840 x 2160, 30 fps, Filmed with XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens
Download Original (1.69GB MOV)


At the launch event, I had a chance to chat with several folks from Fujifilm, and they confirmed our impression that the X-T3, as of now, offers the best overall performance in the Fujifilm lineup, especially for video and autofocus. When I asked what advantages the X-H1 still has, the answer basically boiled down to IBIS (in-body image stabilization), and the larger, more DSLR-like body for folks who prefer that shape. As I mentioned, we won't make any conclusions before we do full tests, but I'm definitely impressed with what I've seen of the X-T3's autofocus performance, overall speed, and video capabilities.

XF 50-140mm f/2.8 WR:106mm, f/2.8, 1/250s, ISO 640


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