Fujifilm Xt3 review

After a few years being a very happy Xt-2 shooter, I upgraded to the Xt3. I did not really need an improved camera, but I did need a backup mirrorless camera. I was at a point that every time I had to switch back to the DSLR I felt like using a dinosaur… if that makes sense. Big, fat, slow, and not user-friendly. 

I am not planning to show you image samples here, there are social media for that. Also, I do not believe one can judge a camera by looking at photos, it just doesn’t make any sense. Great photos do not come from the camera model you are using, but from everything else. The camera is only a tool, to help you capture your vision. 

If you are interested you can read the review of the Fujifilm Xt-2 I wrote a few years ago. 

The difference between the Fujifilm Xt2 and the Xt3

As I said in the introduction, both cameras look exactly the same. Apart from the name, and the size of the AE-L and AF-L buttons, you really can’t tell. The batteries are also the same, and don’t you love it when a camera brand isn’t forcing you to purchase it all again every time you upgrade?

There are some differences, though. There are not major differences but they do make… the difference! Because of the improved technology in the Fujifilm Xt3 camera, I have been using new functions that I never used before.

Xt3 and autofocus

The main real difference, in my opinion, is the autofocus. It does feel much faster, much more efficient, mostly in dark situations. I am not saying the Xt2 autofocus is not good, but the Xt3 system is better.

You will feel the difference if you photograph fast moving action. The wide/tracking autofocus system has greatly been improved, and I find it now even better since the 3.0 firmware update.

Xt3 and the face detection system

To me, this is the main improvement between the Xt2 and Xt3. I am now using the face detection system much more than I was with the Xt2, and I managed to get great results. To do so in an efficient way, I have set up some different shortcuts on the camera than with the Xt2, which I am explaining at the end of this review.

I also feel the battery life has been improved and I can take more photos with the Xt3 with one battery compared to the Xt2.

The new improved shutter type

The new shutter type, from the first curtain to the mechanical shutter to electronic shutter is brilliant. I used to shoot electronic shutter only but because of the rolling shutter effect it creates and because of the striping of certain lights, I prefer the mechanical shutter. The ability to automatically switch from mechanical to electronic when the shutter speed gets above 1/8000th is brilliant and allows me to shoot portraits with very wide apertures in harsh light without having to go into the menu.

What makes the Xt3 camera great

Not sure you need to upgrade from the Xt2 to the Xt3? Well, to be honest, the Xt2 is a great camera already, and you probably do not need to upgrade if you are happy with your current camera. As mentioned earlier, the autofocus and face detection systems have been greatly improved, and this is really great, mostly if you photograph moving things.

The camera is still so beautiful and simple, allowing me to use it to its full potential while never having to go into the menu. It is small, light, fast, and will make anyone using it a better photographer.

The tilt screen, same as the Xt2, is a complete game changer, and I really do not see myself going back to using a bulky DSLR now. In the past year, we have had a lot of people joining our photography tours with big DSLRs, and only after a few hours watching them struggling to get down on their knees, or laying down on the floor, I feel DSLR’s are now very uncreative.

Having a small, light camera, with a flexible tilt screen instantly improves your creativity, allowing you to cover many more angles with much fewer efforts. And anyone who has been going our tours and workshops over the past couple of years have seen the creative potential a mirrorless camera brings. Between the guests from Hoi An Photo Tour & Workshop and Pics of Asia, we have, I believe, made about 40 people dump their DSLR’s and switch to Fujifilm. I do not work for them, but I do love their products.

Using a mirrorless camera increases creativity

One more thing I must say I have been testing to the limit, is the weather sealed potential of the Xt3. Spending a lot of time photographing fishermen in the water (and very often salty water) I have put the camera into harsh environments. I cannot recount how many times a sneaky wave came and hit the camera, or in how many rainy situations I have been using it.

Only after a quick clean up, the camera is working fine. I even find salt on a regular basis between the camera and the lens… yes, salt. Yet the camera is working great, without showing any sign of malfunction, for now.

The obvious presence of salt between the lens and camera has not affected how the camera works.

What I do not like about the Xt3

There are, of course, a few things that I think could be made better.

First, and I believe I already talked about it when reviewing the Xt2, the little nob in front of the camera to change from single focus to continuous focus and manual focus isn’t easy to manipulate. I often find myself switching to manual focus while my goal was to switch to continuous focus.

Also, and one thing Canon did very well on the 5D Mark III, I wish there was a way to switch from single focus to continuous focus with one quick push of a button. Sometimes, when doing people photography, a static subject suddenly starts moving. If I have to switch down the nob in front of the camera quickly, and often, miss it, or switch to manual focus by accident, I will be missing the shot. If only there was an extra function button next to the button used to remove the lens, allowing us to instantly switch from AF-S to AF-C, that would make me a very happy photographer.

One more thing which I feel could be done better (and I had the same issue with the Xt2) is the rubber eyepiece. As much as I like it, it does hide a big part of the screen when tilting the screen upwards. Same as my Xt2, I have removed the rubber eyepiece, which doesn’t affect the way I see in the viewfinder at all. Without it, I can now see much more of the screen when shooting from very low angles.

My set up and shortcuts on the Xt3 camera

Same as the Xt2, I have set up the Function 1 and 2 buttons to be “Auto ISO settings” and “playback”. As I shoot in aperture mode most of the time, I love the fact that the camera has 3 different auto ISO. What this means is that I can shoot without having to worry about my ISO or shutter speed, but I am always in control of my minimum shutter speed.

I have set auto ISO 1 to a minimum shutter speed of 1/60th when I shoot in the dark, the auto ISO 2 to 1/125th when shooting during the daytime, and the auto ISO 3 to 1/320th when I am taking photos of fast-moving action.

Also, setting up the Fn2 button to playback allows me to fully operate the camera with only one hand.

As for the other shortcuts, I have left the left arrow button to change the film simulation mode (I use classic chrome most of the time but switch to Velvia during blue hours). I have also left the right arrow button to change the white balance. Because I shoot Jpg, I play quite a lot with the manual white balance, which is great fun!

What I have modified, compared to the Xt2, are the up and down arrow buttons. Because the face detection function of the Xt3 has been improved, I see myself using it much more. It made sense to use shortcuts to make it all faster. The up arrow is now switching focusing mode (from a single point to a wide area to wide/tracking. The down arrow is now switching the face detection on and off.

Normally, I am taking photos in the single focusing mode (AF-S) and using spot focusing. I use a spot as small as possible, allowing me to focus on what I want (useful when using a shallow depth of fields). Now, when I decide that I want to track a moving subject, I will do two things:

  • first I will switch from AF-S to AF-C
  • Then I will switch from single point focus to Wide/Tracking focus, using the up arrow function button.

On top of that, if I am trying to track someone, and I’d like to have their faces in focus, I will do three things:

  • first I will switch from AF-S to AF-C
  • Then I will switch from single point focus to Wide/Tracking focus, using the up arrow function button.
  • Then I will switch on the face detection function, by using the bottom arrow button.

Modifying these three things may take about 2 seconds, which is reasonably fast. I believe it could be faster if there was a better way to switch from AF-S to AF-C (as I mentioned in the paragraph above).

Another very useful shortcut on your camera (that you do not have to set up) is the format card. You can format your memory card directly without going into the menu. To do this, hold the rubbish bin button for over 3 seconds and push the front wheel on the ride side of the camera.

I also suggest you get a wrist strap with your Fujifilm camera. I personally love the Peak design strap, very small and beautiful. You can even wear it as ornamental if you’re into this type of stuff!

I am sorry if you expected to read here about the use of the touch screen, but I never got into it. The camera is so well designed that I never felt the need to try and fasten the process of taking a photo by using the touch screen. If you have great tips concerning this, feel free to add it in the comments below.

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Etienne

Founder of Pics of Asia, Etienne is a teacher with a photography habit.

8 Comments

  1. Ryan Tyler Thomas on May 31, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    I’ve been shooting with a Cannon for years now, and the more I see the small, stunningly designed Fuji’s the more I want one…
    Thanks for the great advice!

    • Etienne on June 1, 2019 at 8:53 am

      You won’t regret it!

  2. David Marston on June 13, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Great tips Etienne, particularly on switching from single mode to continuous and your process. Whilst I have normally been shooting in raw I am now either shooting raw and JPEG or just JPEG depending on the shoot and the need. Like the idea of playing with white balance, I accidentally change my white balanced while shooting some waterfalls in New Zealand and the effect came out brilliantly.

    Thanks to a continuing tips. Looking forward to catching up on the next tour.

    • Etienne on June 13, 2019 at 9:01 am

      Thanks David, looking forward to shooting with you again!

  3. Britton Woolf on June 26, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    “Between the guests from Hoi An Photo Tour & Workshop and Pics of Asia, we have, I believe, made about 40 people dump their DSLR’s and switch to Fujifilm. I do not work for them, but I do love their products.”

    Count me and my girlfriend as two more Fujifilm converts thanks to you. We did the tour/workshop in Hoi An back in January of this year. When I got home Asia, I almost immediately traded-in my heavy full frame Nikon system for the X-T2 and absolutely love it. A month ago we switched my girlfriend’s Nikon system for the X-T30 which has AF performance and face-recognition that is comparable to the X-T3 as you described above. For me, the system is extremely intuitive and straight-forward. I no longer spend a lot of time fiddling with my camera thinking about settings and can instead focus on capturing moments and composition. Plus, I only carried around my Nikon certain days when I was traveling and never around New York City where I live because it was so heavy. Now, I carry my X-T2 with the 27mm pancake lens with me almost everywhere I go now.

    You were not promoting Fujifilm on our tour by any means, but you are a great spokesperson for the system.

    • Etienne on June 29, 2019 at 12:00 pm

      Thanks for that! I do love the Fuji system, it simply made me a better photographer! Well done on your investment and just keep shooting! 🙂

  4. Uli from Germany on September 5, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    Hello Etienne , hello Fred
    I just took the time and read your tips in the next one to prepare for the tour. Here are some tips for me. After all, I also belong to the dinosaurs which have now changed from a Canon to an X-t2. I make the Hobbie even more fun.
    Guilty are you and Fred. You have done such a great photo course in March 2019 and us the photography with the Xt2 beautified
    We come mega with pleasure a second time this year in the beautiful country of Vietnam!!!!!!!
    I’m really looking forward to the days with you !!!

    Uli Bartsch

    P.S. But my English still ain’t perfect, shit!

    • Etienne on September 6, 2019 at 7:43 am

      Thanks Uli, we are going to have such an amazing time, and I am very happy to be able to show you a part of North Vietnam!

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