The Fujifilm X-T3 is an absolutely incredible upgrade to the X-T2, going far beyond a little spec-boost. I got two on launch day to replace my X-T2 bodies, and in the ten days since then I’ve photographed multiple corporate and private events with them – no weddings as yet, but soon!* I’ve not had the time to properly technically test and rate everything, nor to write and edit a ‘proper’ review, so for now this is just a fairly rambling list of my first impressions.

*UPDATE: I’ve posted two wedding highlights photofilms to check out, using ‘straight out of camera’ JPGs, completely unedited. Some of the images could do with a tweak for sure, but I made these to give my couples something to get excited about the day after their wedding, and they were *very* happy!

Not got time for all my waffle? Here’s the short version: it’s incredible, and quite simply the perfect camera for my style of intimate, candid documentary photography. The autofocus improvements along with numerous other technical refinements are amazing, the camera just feels even more of a joy to use than the X-T2, and the JPGs just get better and better especially with the new Color Chrome effect.

I’ll keep updating the post over the next few weeks as I discover, or remember, things to share. If there’s anything specific you want to know about the camera or how it handles in the field just let me know in the comments and if I can I’ll add it to the list :)

First impressions of the X-T3 after ten days of use

In no particular order, here’s some of the thoughts that have popped into my head while using the camera at multiple events in the 10 days since launch. It’s not exhaustive, I’ve lots to learn, and I’ve not even touched the video (and probably never will), so it’s certainly no tech-spec-heavy full review – there’s plenty of people on forums and YouTube posting pixel-peeping analysis if you need that info. But if you’re curious what someone who’s actually used it for candid event photography thinks, stick around :)

If there’s something you’d like to know that isn’t covered here, just ask in the comments, and if I can I’ll give it a try and report back!

• Overall, I absolutely love it, even more than the X-T2. The size, and now the speed, is perfect for my style of work, and I’ve used it exclusively for six events in the ten days since launch. All the little improvements combined are making it so pleasurable to use, and I’m so happy with the JPGs; in fact after years of painstaking time spent making raws match the JPGs I’m starting to think I could actually just deliver the JPGs 90% of the time in future! (although for weddings I get a bit more creative with my processing and prefer the exposure latitude of raw)

• Out of the box it looks almost exactly like the X-T2 so if you’re coming from that camera your muscle memory will work fine. However it does feel a smidge weightier but in a pleasing, high quality way. I guess the insides are a lot different.

• Yes, the autofocus is faster. Much, much faster. In most lighting conditions it’s breathed noticeably new life into my most loved lens of all time, the 56mm f/1.2, which as anyone who has and loves that lens will know is a welcome improvement. It isn’t the fastest at autofocus and as light falls and contrast drops it goes hunting and can often simply give up. That happens much less often now. Sometimes lenses are focussing so fast I can’t believe they’ve actually nailed it and have to check (they have).

• Low light autofocus is also much improved. That said I’ve been able to thwart the low light AF several times with very dimly lit subjects, especially at events bathed in that purple light so beloved by event producers right now, as it sucks the contrast out of faces especially. In that situation the 56mm struggled. Just have to aim at a contrasty edge like a black tie on a white shirt, or a necklace, although then you might be off the plane of their eyes. However, in those sorts of conditions I’m more interested in capturing emotion and moments, and less so about technical perfection. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

• The Colour Chrome adds gorgeous depth on the right images – red, orange and green tones especially. When it was introduced with the first GFX body Fuji explained that it took a lot of processing and wasn’t possible with continuous shooting, just one frame at a time. The new processor in the X-T3 doesn’t seem to have that problem at all, although I suspect keeping it on may run your battery down a bit faster. There’s two settings, Weak and Strong (and Off, obviously) and I like playing with the effect enough that I’ve added it to My Menu for quick access.

• Battery life is better, but not as good as the Sony and nowhere near a DSLR. I read that it makes 15% better use of the NP-W126S.

For my first shoot I had two ExPro 126 batteries in the grip and a Fuji 126S in the camera. I had Power Boost on, shooting full size JPG and raw to both SanDisk Extreme Pro cards, using the eye sensor mode. I tried to remember to switch off each camera between burst of shooting, a habit that can extend your battery hugely, but I often forgot. The most-used camera got to around 800 shots and lasted around 3.75 hours before starting on the second ExPro battery. The other camera lasted all night with around 25% less use. This is definitely an improvement, I’d normally expect the X-T2 to empty a battery after around 3 hours and 600-700 shots in the same conditions.

• I’ve not had much experience of the new ‘low power’ mode where it dims the LCD and the refresh rate of the EVF drops after a few seconds of no activity. This is because this mode doesn’t apply in Power Boost mode, which I have active all the time. However, I have a feeling this mode is somehow connected to some lockups I’ve experienced – more below.

• The new battery grip feels much more solid, adding a much chunkier grip over the body in landscape orientation so it’s much more secure in your hand. It’s also now got a Function button and a Q button next to the portrait shutter release, which is handy. I keep forgetting to use them though.

• You don’t need the battery grip for Power Boost or the headphone port. The camera can handle boost mode without the grip, and has a headphone port for filming built in, so the battery grip is really just for holding extra batteries, shooting more comfortably in portrait, and giving you a bit more grip in landscape.

• The EVF resolution bump isn’t immediately obvious to me in normal use, but as soon as you magnify for focus it’s plainly obvious and dramatically improves that particular function when I use it.

• The EVF/LCD ‘level’ display has two modes now – the standard horizon level which you can set to display at all times if you like, and a more powerful dual-level display that shows tilt too. You can assign the dual-level tool to one of the function buttons so you can flick it on quickly to check your tilt, then turn it off again. To be honest the horizon level still doesn’t feel quite as finely-tuned as I’d like, and even when ‘level’ I find you can still be a degree or two off, but I’m being super picky.

• The paint finish on the top shell looks and feels ever so slightly less textured, which I guess is what’s spurred some comments online that it’s thinner. I don’t know how anyone can tell it’s thinner without chipping some off. It looks and feels fine to me. /shrug

• The pull-out diopter is a brilliant update. I can set it and forget it :)

• The dials front and back now properly ‘click’ when you push them in fully, which is nice.

• The exposure compensation dial has moved further into the top plate which means you really can’t adjust it with your thumb easily at all. Doesn’t bother me as I leave it on C and adjust exposure compensation with the front or rear dials.

• The LCD latch is easier to operate to move it out to the right (or up, if you’re in portrait orientation). It’s now a simple push in, rather than push and lift.

• The front command dial can offer up to three adjustments, from a choice of shutter speed/program, ISO, exposure compensation, and aperture. If multiple adjustments are available you click the wheel once, twice, or three times to activate the one you want. I’ve got the front dial set up to adjust SS, EC or ISO, and the back dial for just EC. I’m usually in Auto ISO with the aperture set on the lens, so both dials normally control EC giving me access no matter if my index finger is on the shutter, or my thumb is on the AF-L button or focus lever.

• The lever on the metering dial feels a bit easier to find and operate, so it’s less fiddly to quickly switch to spot metering and back without looking.

• The Fuji Cam Remote app for smartphones has some new tricks: it can now connect to the X-T3 by Bluetooth as well as WiFi, transmit the time, date and location to the camera. Also it can now automatically switch you to the camera’s WiFi network instead of needing you to go to your phone’s Settings app to do it. I’ve heard that transferring images from camera to phone by Bluetooth isn’t as reliable as WiFi, but I’ve not had cause to try it yet.

But the very best bit is, it will let you know if there’s a new firmware update, download it to your phone, and transmit it to the camera over WiFi – no need to load up an SD card from your computer.

• You can now set up ‘Auto Image Transfer’ in the Connection Settings on the camera, if you have the app paired. Again I’ve not tried this yet.

• I’m not using the touch screen much. Although it effectively add four more ‘buttons’ to the already impressive list of customisable function buttons, as well as pinch to zoom, I’ve disabled that set of functions as I find it too easy to accidentally swipe a setting on or off.

You can also use the touchscreen as a ‘trackpad’ in EVF mode to move the focus box around, and even enable the function only on a portion of the screen (if your face is in the way!) but I don’t find it an accurate or intuitive way to move the focus – I find I get there way quicker with the joystick.

Finally, in LCD mode you can tap to: move the focus box; move it and lock focus; and move it, focus, and take a shot. I thought I might find the first two useful when I’m framing a moment on the LCD but again I’m finding using the joystick a bit more intuitive.

I wonder if I get a little battery boost for turning the touchscreen off completely? :)

• NP-W126 batteries work in both the camera and the grip, but like the X-H1 they get a yellow battery icon (not white) and the camera shows a prominent warning every time you power up about how they’re not optimal. The advice from Fuji has always been not to use them in the body at all, the reason being that they can’t handle heat build-up during 4K filming or prolonged burst shooting. However, in practice, for my photography at least, I’ve yet to have a problem with an ExPro in the camera, and certainly not in the grip.

• The body hasn’t gotten warm at all yet. Under the exact same shooting conditions my X-T2 would get very warm – not hot, but the internals would definitely give off ‘hoo boy we’re working pretty hard in here’ vibes. I can’t remember the X-T3 getting warm at all so far. I guess that’s down to the considerably faster chip handling almost the same level of processing with much greater ease. I’ve seen some people say theirs is running hot, but I don’t know what they’re doing with it. Mine is not.

• I’d have preferred the new sensor went towards better high ISO than a new low ISO, but I’m nitpicking. I shoot at a lot at 6400 – 12800 to get the moment in a dark setting, and the noise levels are perfectly fine – and anyway they’ve got that lovely Fuji ‘grain’ look rather than nasty digital noise. But the extra performance of the new BSI sensor has been put mainly towards a lower 160 native ISO, which will be great for landscape and other daylight shooters.

I’m not totally clear on the practical benefits of putting the wiring behind the sensor rather than in front of it, but I do know there’s been some data-led analysis that shows the X-T3 actually has a tiny smidge more noise over 6400 than the X-T2. This has caused OUTRAGE on certain forums for committed pixel-peepers, but I’m not one of those. Like I say, I’m more about the moment and the emotion and how it looks in print for my clients, than posting 100% crops on forums and arguing over stuff you’ll only *ever* see with your nose pressed against the screen.

Further, I’ve read that the new sensor is actually achieving slightly better detail at high ISO than the X-T2, so once you’ve run any perceived extra noise through NR you’ll end up with a slightly better image anyway.

Some things I’m not so hot on

• Face detection seems better but only in well-lit scenes. The first thing I tested it on was my face in a mirror using the 56mm wide open. I was next to a frosted window so the right of my face was brightly soft-lit and due to the ol’ inverse thingy whatsit law the left half of my face fell off into shadow fast. On the LCD I could clearly see my unlit eye but the X-T3 couldn’t. I turned my head 45 degrees into the light, almost profile, and it found me. Turned back to face the mirror and it lost me again.

So shadow is still challenging for it. I’ve tried it at a well lit indoor event and it found and followed the main speaker on stage, and found several faces in a packed audience shooting from about 45 degrees into them. Anything below dim tungsten it starts to struggle.

But here’s the worst bit: if if finds more than one face there’s no way to cycle through them if it picks the wrong one. This is, to use a fun word, flabbergastingly unhelpful.

However, face detection just isn’t for me. It’s perfect for portraiture, for sure, but I try to avoid traditional portraits in my style of work so it’s rarely going to get used. I’ve heard of people using it on their Sonys during the processional at a wedding, or tracking a couple as they progress towards you through a confetti line-up, but again there’s just too much risk of someone else’s face triggering it. Not for me.

• Lockups (*FIXED!). In the first ten days I experienced at least one lockup on five out of six shoots (eighteen hours work, using two cameras, and generating almost 8000 frames in total). However, since Firmware Update 1.02 (which if you buy now will almost certainly be pre-installed) I’ve had ZERO lockups. The camera is working 100% solid for me right now. So whatever you’re reading about lockups, be sure to find out exactly what FW they’re on, because my very heavy use of the camera would suggest lockups are solved.

Some favourite photos so far

These are just a few of my favourites from my first week. They’re all lightly edited from the camera JPG, shot mostly in Astia, occasionally Provia, and the most I did was crop and/or slightly adjust white balance or exposure. The panorama of The Roundhouse is eight handheld vertical shots at 8000 ISO, stitched together in LR. I’ll try to post more exposure details as captions when I get time.

I used the following lenses for these:

(links are to the current price on Amazon)