Fujifilm X-T3 Weather Testing
Fuji X-T3 Weather-Resistance Test Results
A very well-sealed, sub-frame mirrorless camera
by Dave Etchells | Posted: 07/08/2019
Imaging Resource's weather-testing approach
This is one of an ongoing series of weather-resistance tests of camera systems. Manufacturer claims about weather resistance are all over the map, in part because there's no established standard that's relevant to how photographers actually use cameras. Our aim is to establish a consistent basis for comparing weather resistance between cameras in a way that makes sense for photographers. If you're interested in the details behind the tests, you can read the loooong article I wrote about the rationale behind our camera weather-testing approach.
Camera tested: The Fujifilm X-T3
The Fuji X-T3 was announced in early September 2018, as Fujifilm's flagship APS-C model. (Or rather as one of two "flagships"; they consider the X-H1 to be a flagship model too, just with somewhat different capabilities than the X-T3 -- most notably, that the X-H1 has in-body image stabilization.) The X-T3 incorporates their most advanced autofocus architecture to date, with significant improvements over earlier models in terms of low-light AF ability, better focusing across a wider range of spatial frequencies in the subject, and the ability to detect faces that are much smaller in the frame than was previously possible.
We performed our tests with the Fujifilm XF50mmF2 R WR lens attached. As one of their WR or "Weather Resistant" lenses, it has a rubbery gasket around its base, which seals against the camera's mounting flange, to prevent water from getting in.
Visible weather seals on the X-T3
We don't currently disassemble the cameras we test, so can only comment on the weather seals that are visible when you open the various compartments and peel back the port covers. Based on what we can see from the outside, the Fuji X-T3 appears to be a very well-sealed camera body.
As always, this is a function of the lens in use, rather than of the camera itself. As noted above, we used one of Fujifilm's "WR"-badged lenses, an initialism which stands for "weather-resistant". In this case it was the XF50mmF2, but all WR lenses have a similar structure when it comes to their flanges.
As you can see in the photo, the XR 50/2.0 WR has a rubber lip surrounding the lens flange, which seals against the outer edge of the body flange when the lens is mounted.
This is a little different from the approach used by many manufacturers, in which the seal presses against the surface of the body flange. Such seals are often made of firmer material, and can press more tightly against their mating surfaces. Here, the seal could be thought of as a flexible tube that extends around the edge of the body flange, exerting soft pressure all around the perimeter.
When I removed the lens after test, I found more water on the body flange than I'm accustomed to seeing, but it's hard to say how much of that might have entered during the test and how much just wicked in from the lens/body gap. I tend to suspect the latter as being the primary source. My technique for removing superficial water from camera bodies has recently improved a fair bit, since the time when I put the X-T3 through its paces.
This is a very common issue with many lens/camera sealing systems. If the lens and camera have recently gotten wet, removing the lens will almost always draw at least some water up and onto the body flange, if not into the interior of the camera itself. This can make it a little dicey swapping lenses if you're out in the weather, even if you can shield the camera while you're making the change.
With some designs, you can minimize the amount of water drawn inside by carefully drying the crevice between the lens and the body with something like a microfiber cloth, and then removing the lens very sloooowly. The reason for doing it slowly is that pulling the lens off unavoidably creates a bit of suction, which can draw any wicked moisture inside. If you remove the lens too quickly, this suction could be enough to pull the water into the camera's shutter box. The amount of water is slight, and I've never really experimented with yanking the lenses off quickly, to see where the water might get to (can it make it all the way down onto the shutter?), but my advice is to be very careful opening a wet camera.
The X-T3's battery compartment seems to be quite well sealed. The silicone-rubber gasket actually extends all the way around the perimeter of the compartment, continuing even behind the latch mechanism. (As always, though, we don't know anything about sealing within the sliding latch itself, because we don't currently disassemble the cameras we weather test.)
We often see gaps in compartment-door seals on cameras around the hinge area, but the Fujifilm X-T3's battery compartment door has a continuous seal around the entire periphery. Well done!
Memory card compartment
The X-T3's memory card compartment seems better sealed than many, with a large slap of silicone-like sealing material covering a lot of the area of the compartment cover, mating against the opposing surface of the body shell. While the huge gasket area is reassuring to see, it's only the ridge that runs along the perimeter that does the actual sealing. Still, the continuous, unbroken seal all around the edge is a more robust design than what we see on most camera bodies. (As we always note, though, we have no idea what sort of sealing protects the sliding latch mechanism, since we don't disassemble the cameras to inspect them.)
All of the X-T3's external ports are housed beneath one cover flap, save only for the remote trigger connector, which has a flap of its own.
Fujifilm's engineers seem to adhere to the philosophy of providing continuous perimeter seals all around any doors or flaps on the camera. Here, an unbroken rubber ridge on the compartment door fits down around a boss on the camera body that holds the various connectors. It looks like the ridge actually fits down around the raised area housing the connectors; it's not clear whether it's meant to seal against the vertical edges of that raised area, the lower area around it or both. I'm thinking that it must have at least some sealing action against the vertical walls of the bump, because it wouldn't make sense to me to have interruptions like the embossed symbols and lettering along the front part of the connector cavity on a surface you were counting on to seal against. (On the other hand, though, the features may be shallow enough and the mating seal compliant enough that there aren't any gaps to speak of.)
Whatever the case, while you can see a few tiny drops of water around the edges of the connector area, they're almost certainly just little bits of moisture that had wicked into the gaps between seal and external elements, outside of the protected area around the connectors themselves.
The flap protecting the remote connector is a little different in design, lacking the kind of raised ridge seen on the main connector flap, but rather seems to rely on the edges of the flap sealing against the sides and face of the recess. It did seem to work as well, in that we found no water beneath it, even after the second, 70-minute exposure to our "heavy rain" precipitation level
The X-T3's flash hot shoe is a pretty standard design, with only the six relatively large electrical contacts that connect to the bottom of the flash's shoe, and it doesn't seem to have any problem with the slight conductivity of rainwater. As usual, we found a fair bit of water on the shoe when we removed the protective cover after the test, but we saw no sign that this was any sort of a problem to normal, non-flash operation of the camera.
Water exposure tests performed on the Fujifilm X-T3
Our baseline weather testing protocol currently involves exposing cameras to simulated rainfall at a rate of 1 cm/hour for 35 minutes, while actuating the camera controls according to a set script. (Our thought being that seals around moving components are more likely to leak when the parts they're sealing are moving relative to each other.) For cameras that successfully pass this test, we give them a double-dose of 70 minutes the following day, to see if they can withstand what most people would consider very heavy exposure.
(For reference, meteorologists refer to rainfall rates greater than 0.75 cm/hour (0.3 in/hour) as "heavy rain". So our current test at 1 cm/hour represents a significant level of rainfall, although it's far from what you'd see in the tropics or a thunderstorm. I suspect that few amateur photographers would be likely to stand out in a rainstorm like this for more than 30 minutes at a time, so it seems like a good test for cameras that claim weather-resistance, and in fact does seem a good level for separating levels of resistance in higher-end camera models. We plan to extend our tests to cover lower-end cameras at lower precipitation rates in a system using custom-designed dripper nozzles, but that's some ways off in the future yet.)
In the case of the Fujifilm X-T3, we exposed it to the 35-minute protocol, and found that it did very well, with no operational problems at all. We put it in our drybox overnight, and then gave it an additional 68-minute exposure the next day.
The X-T3 did pretty well in the tests, with no problems at the 35-minute level, but began having problems about 40 minutes into the 70-minute round the next day. (This isn't at all uncommon; the foam gaskets used in essentially all digital cameras don't actually seal against water, they just slow it down. So if your camera gets wet one day, it's that much more likely to leak the day after. It's quite possible that a dry X-T3 could survive 70 minutes in a single run, if it were completely dry at the outset.) We stopped the test a bit past 68 minutes on the second day, because the camera was freezing regularly at that point.
At least up until the forty-minute mark on the second day's testing, the X-T3 was very usable when wet, and the eye sensor on the EVF was never fooled by water falling on the eyepiece when the camera was in the face-down orientation. The touchscreen is largely unusable when wet, however.
Touchscreen is mostly unresponsive when wet(!)
The touchscreens on almost all cameras we've tested to date become either unresponsive or very unreliable when wet, and the X-T3 is no different in this respect. This is likely because the water greatly changes the capacitance of your fingertip, so the electronics have a hard time telling where you're pressing, if they're able to detect a touch at all.
Viewfinder eye-detect sensor never false-triggered due to water
This result was more unusual. Many cameras use a small infrared sensor next to the viewfinder eyepiece to automatically switch between the rear LCD and electronic viewfinder when you hold the camera to your eye. A drop of water on the surface can reflect light back into the sensor, fooling it into thinking that you're looking through the eyepiece. Different cameras are more or less sensitive to this, but the Fujifilm X-T3 seemed immune to it.
Failure mode once it gets too wet is to freeze, requiring a power toggle
As usual when a camera finally give up the fight in the second day's exposure, I want to underscore that the X-T3 actually did very well in our weather-sealing tests. It passed the standard 35 minute heavy rain test with absolutely no problems, and in fact was more usable than many cameras that we've weather-tested thanks to the eye sensor on the EVF being largely unaffected by the precipitation.
It took 37.5 minutes of additional drenching the following day before it showed any problems at all, but had increasing difficulty beginning at the 40-minute mark. The main symptom was that the camera would randomly freeze, requiring us to toggle the power (turn the camera off and back on again) to restore functioning. After several freezes, we decided to stop the torture, and called a halt at 68 minutes. As noted, though, this was actually quite a good performance, since it withstood 72.5 minutes of simulated heavy rain across two days before it showed any sign of problems at all.
Problems go away quickly when the camera dries out again
Also to its credit, the problems cleared up pretty quickly, once it had a chance to dry out. We toweled it off, put it in our 80-liter Ruggard dry box overnight, and when we checked in the middle of the following day, it was fully functional again. (Do note that it can take quite a long time for cameras' foam gaskets to fully dry, so it's a good idea to leave your gear in a low-humidity environment for a good week or so after it's gotten wet.)
That's pretty much it, from a functional standpoint; the X-T3 held up very well in our "heavy rain" test scenario, passing the 35-minute baseline test with flying colors, and withstanding an additional, extended soaking of 37.5 minutes the following day. Let's take a look at what we found on opening the various body compartments. (The short version: We found no overt evidence of water in any interior areas accessible for inspection without disassembling the camera, both after the initial 35 minute exposure and the 68-minute exposure the second day.)
I've separated the results here into two sections, one for our standard 35-minute test, the other for the results of the second extended soaking the second day. My reason for doing so is that our standard test is actually a pretty rigorous one. It's more rain than most casual users would likely be willing to endure themselves, and it's more than enough to cause poorly-sealed cameras to fail. The longer soaking a day after the first one is intended as a very rigorous test, and deliberately one that very few cameras can survive.
Standard 35-minute "heavy rain" exposure: 100% success
As noted above, the Fujifilm X-T3 performed flawlessly throughout the standard 35-minute test, and we found no trace of water anywhere inside the body that we could access without disassembly. It's wasn't a perfect score, because while the camera didn't show any adverse effects, its touch screen interface was largely unusable when wet. However, it still did better on the usability front than many cameras, as the eye sensor on the EVF was never fooled by drops of water on its surface.
Given that we found absolutely no water anywhere, I won't bother running through all the individual sections normally included here.
Extended soaking the second day: Full functionality for 37.5 minutes of "heavy rain"
As noted above, the X-T3 survived for 37.5 minutes on its second soaking, a very good performance, given that its gaskets were likely still pretty wet from the first day's torture test. Despite having gotten wet to the point of freezing periodically, though, we found no signs of water in any compartments we could readily access.
Lens flange and shutter/sensor box
As noted earlier, we've learned to remove lenses verrry slooowly after a weather test, to minimize water trapped in the crevice between the lens and body getting pulled further onto the flange due to the slight suction that happens as the lens is pulled off. We also try to remove as much of the wicked water as possible before opening, by pressing a paper towel or microfiber cloth tightly into the lens barrel/body gap.
As we've done more tests, we've gotten better at getting water out of the lens/body gap, using the edges of paper towels and microfiber lens-cleaning cloths. While we're only just now finally getting the test results for the X-T3 written up, we did the actual tests on it back in April of this year, so the amount of water you see on the body flange in the photo here reflects our earlier inexperience.
As noted above, the lens/body seal on Fujifilm's WR-badged lenses consists of a rubbery ring that extends from the lens flange down over the outer perimeter of the body flange. We can't really tell how tightly the rubber lip on the lens presses against the perimeter of the body flange, but it must have pretty tight tolerances to be able to slide smoothly over the body flange, yet still provide some resistance against water creeping under it.
That said, we're pretty confident that the water you see on the body and lens flanges in the shots above was simply pulled in from the crevice between the lens mount and the body when we removed the lens after the test, rather than having leaked there during the test itself. (We very often saw this, before we got better at drying off that joint, post-test.)
Memory card slot
We saw no trace of water in the memory card compartment or on the card itself after either standard 35-minute test run or the extended run the second day. It's not uncommon for us to find a few small droplets inside the protected area, that we assume propagated there when we pop the compartment door after a test, but in the case of the X-T3, we found no traces of water at all, even after the second, longer soaking.
(The X-T3 seems to use a silicone-like rubber compound for many of its compartment seals, vs the more typical foam gasket material. We suspect that the foam gaskets are less expensive than silicone rubber, and/or are easier to assemble during production, but silicone rubber is impermeable to water, regardless of the time frame, while foam gasket material only serves to slow down the ingress of water. Given long enough, water will seep through foam gaskets, but it will never seep through silicone rubber ones.)
Port flaps and covers
As noted earlier, the seal between the connection-port area and the door that covers it consists of a rubbery ridge on the door that fits down over a raised area on the body that holds the connectors. It seems that the sealing action must be between the walls of the ridge and the sides of the raised "connector plateau".
As far as we can tell, this seems to be a pretty effective seal, because we found no signs of water up on the raised area surrounding the connectors themselves. There were droplets of water outside the protected area, including immediately around the raised plateau around the connectors, but no sign of any water near the ports themselves.
As we described earlier, the cover protecting the X-T3's remote jack had a somewhat different gasket design, that looked like it sealed against the sides of the connector recess and also against the surface of the camera body in the recess itself. It didn't strike us as quite so positive a seal as the main port cover provided, but it nonetheless seemed to do a fine job, since we found no signs of water in this area after our test.
The battery compartment is where we usually find signs of water, if a camera leaked during a test. The top-right control cluster on most cameras is where the most-used controls are located, including the shutter button, various quick-access buttons for things like exposure compensation, sensitivity or other frequently-used functions, and typically front/top and rear control dials for setting things like aperture or shutter speed, or scrolling through menu entries. There are a lot of interfaces between things that have to move and the camera body, so a lot of seals are needed, and ones that can handle motion between the surfaces they're sealing against. When water gets in through one of those routes, it often ends up in the battery compartment.
With the Fujifilm X-T3, we found no signs of water whatsoever in the battery compartment, even after the extended soaking the second day. Water obviously made its way into the interior of the camera body starting about 40 minutes into the second day's exposure (a total of ~75 minutes of "heavy rain"), given the random freezing we encountered beginning at that point, but we found no signs of any inside the battery compartment.
Also, as mentioned above, Fuji seems to have used silicone-rubber gasket material for all their compartment covers, rather than the more common foam gasket material that only slows water down, rather than stopping it.
The X-T3's viewfinder showed no signs of water incursion throughout our testing, and as noted the eye sensor was never fooled by water droplets on its surface.
We've sometimes found water inside viewfinder optics or condensation on inner elements after our weather-resistance tests, but saw no signs of any such problems with the Fuji X-T3.
Summary: How weather-resistant is the Fujifilm X-T3?
Overall, the Fujifilm X-T3 seems to be very well-sealed against the weather. It passed our standard 35-minute "heavy rain" test with flying colors, and whilst its touch screen didn't work when wet, its eye-detect EVF sensor worked throughout. Beyond that, it stood up to just under 40 minutes of the same soaking the day after, impressive given that its gaskets would already have been pretty wet from the first day's test. And even after this extreme soaking, it returned to full functioning after just overnight drying.
Bottom line, the Fujifilm X-T3 has very good weather-sealing, and we'd have no qualms about using it for short intervals in heavy rain, and for longer periods of time in light rain or drizzle.
According to our rating scale (which you can read about here), we give it a rating of EPRS Level 4 (35 minutes).