Moments after I unpacked the X-T3 it became clear that Fujifilm had created something very special with this, the latest in its APS-C sized line of DSLR-style hybrid stills and video cameras.
No time for contemplation though so I placed it in my shoulder bag and dashed off down the road to where the venue for an historical commemoration was being prepared for the following day, and my first few minutes documenting the action with the X-T3 proved my initial impressions were absolutely spot on.
Gallery: the Fujifilm X-T3
Fujifilm’s X-T3 hits the mark
With the X-T3, Fujifilm has really hit the mark and is now fulfilling the promise of affordable, high-quality hybrid stills photography and cinematic video that other makers had dangled back way in 2008 with the 35mm and APS-C DSLRs of the day.
I’ll go even further. With the X-T3, Fujifilm has delivered on the promise of a camera little-known when new and now almost completely forgotten, a revolutionary camera which vanished almost almost as rapidly as it had first appeared, the Samsung NX1.
The Fujifilm X-T3 not only picks up where the NX1 took us back in 2014 but signals a bright future for other top-end Fujifilm APS-C/Super 35 cameras that are hopefully coming soon, specifically the X-Pro3 and the X-H2.
The Fujifilm X-T 3 for stills photography
Amazing feature film-quality video is anything but the whole story for the X-T3 – it is also an amazing stills photography camera.
The Fujifilm X-T3 for documentary photography and photojournalism
I come from a newspaper and documentary photography background, having worked for newspapers, magazines and corporate clients from a ridiculously early age.
I did that work with a range of camera types and sizes, ranging from a Pentax Spotmatic SLR through Nikon SLRs, to sheet film view cameras handheld and on tripods, to Leica’s M-System masterpiece rangefinder cameras and then to a number of medium format roll film cameras in twin-lens reflex, single-lens reflex and rangefinder configurations.
I most found myself at home with rangefinder cameras, small, medium and large, the reason why I was so besotted with the Fujifilm X100 when it was launched in 2010.
As a result I immediately bought an X-Pro2 when it appeared and have loved it ever since.
There is more to documentary photography than the 18mm to 56mm focal length lenses that the X-Pro2’s amazing Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder can handle, though, and I have been hoping for an improved X-Pro3 or some other suitable companion camera that makes the most of lenses longer and wider than 56mm and 18mm.
I certainly hope that the X-Pro3 is on its way, but those other focal lengths continue to beckon.
Having tried the X-T1 and X-T2 and having appreciated them without loving them, I know now that the X-T3 is a big evolutionary jump beyond both older cameras and makes a great companion for my X-Pro2.
The X-T3 side-by-side with the X-Pro2 and all on its own
I loved the X-Pro2 as soon as I picked it up not only for its rangefinder-style optical viewfinder but also for its looks and its feel in the hand, in the way it leaps into my hands every time I get it out of my camera bag.
The day of the X-T3’s arrival I placed it in the bag alongside my X-Pro2, carrying three lenses that day, the Fujinon XF 18-55mmm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS kit zoom, my Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R and my Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R prime lenses.
I had chosen those two fast primes after reading wedding documentary photographer Kevin Mullins’ blog at F16.click and seeing the results he was getting in the usual ill-lit churches and wedding venues.
I had worked as a wedding photographer to supplement my income as a kid, relying on flash units and medium format roll film cameras, so appreciated the speed and ease with which Mr Mullins creates his images.
I covered the commemoration event with the X-T3 and X-Pro2 draped around my neck via two Peak Design SlideLite camera straps, relying more on the X-Pro2 at the start then quickly switching to the X-T3 after discovering how beautifully it handled the venue’s available light, or more accurately its available darkness.
I usually rely on Fujifilm cameras’ Auto ISO feature, with aperture priority auto exposure, choose reasonably high ISOs and shoot with fairly wide open apertures in those circumstances and found I was getting better results from the X-T3.
It proved easier and faster to use, faster to autofocus especially when using eye autofocus, produced less noisey images, and most pleasantly of all, it felt just as good in the hand as my X-Pro2, with the result that I began to rely solely on the X-T3 for the rest of the loan period, and loved it.
The Fujifilm X-T3 for monochrome documentary photography
Most of my photography in monochrome, or black-and-white as its more commonly known, is reserved for documentary photography in poor lighting or when the colours of my subjects and their environments carry little to no meaning.
These commemorative event photographs are typical in that the lighting in parts of the venue was low, of mixed sources with some continuous and others prone to flickering, where colour played little to no part in conveying information about the event and its participants, and where I was prepared to shoot in at high ISOs with resulting grain-like digital noise.
The X-T3, frankly, amazed me with its low noise at high ISO to the point where I could easily have shot at ISOs greater than 3200 which I usually set as my upper limit only to be used in emergencies.
Chalk at least some of that up to the X-T3’s new X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and X-Processor 4.
The Fujifilm X-T3 for colour photography
Fujifilm cameras are rightly celebrated for their colour science and the richness and veracity of their film simulations for JPEGs and video footage, but I tend to rely on raw files that I process in a number of different applications and plug-ins depending on whether I am after realism or pictorialism, or whether I wish to emulate analog films or go entirely digital in my effects via high dynamic range imaging by merging 5 or 7 exposure brackets in Skylum Aurora HDR 2019.
Since buying my X-Pro2 I have tried out a number of custom picture styles for JPEGs by following the recipes shared by photographers like Kevin Mullins, Thomas Fitzgerald and others.
They have proven to be great reminders of how I visualized the final rendering of my raw files but rarely if ever have I used my JPEGs for final reproduction.
If I were working for a fast-moving client with tight deadlines that deny me time enough in the digital darkroom then I would take my JPEGs more seriously, but those days may well be long over for me now.
And then Fujifilm put Colour Chrome Effect in the X-T3 and what a difference it makes!
Colour Chrome Effect was the crucial step needed to persuade me to finally take JPEGs seriously.
For me, shooting JPEGs for reproduction is akin to shooting colour transparency film while shooting raw is not unlike shooting colour negative film then fussing and mussing it in the colour laboratory.
With an X-T3, my JPEGs to raw files keeper percentages would be more even than they are now when I often chuck out my JPEGs or use them as a quick reference and reminder and not as final art.
The Fujifilm X-T 3 for video
With Fujifilm positioning its X-H1 as the most videocentric DSLR-style camera in its range, as well as the highest performance camera of the whole X Series, the X-T3’s pro-quality video features came as a complete surprise.
In the run-up to Fujifilm’s X-T3 announcement, rumour websites had placed more emphasis on it as a stills photography camera than for video, and I was left wondering whether there would ever be an APS-C hybrid camera that approached or even surpassed the revolutionary Samsung NX1.
Samsung’s NX1 foreshadowed the video capabilities of Fujifilm’s X-T3
The Samsung NX1 had taken everyone by surprise with a slew of video features nobody could have foreseen at the time it was announced back in 2014.
Those features included its 28.9 megapixel backside illuminated sensor (BSI), autofocus phase detection points covering almost all the sensor’s frame, subject tracking that was incredibly effective for its day, great 4K video, 8-bit 4:2:2 4K video out, a dynamic range and low light capability that was outstanding, high-speed burst stills, touch screen, fast and intuitive menu system, built-in Wi-Fi, an almost lag-free OLED viewfinder and, looking to the future, its H.265 video codec.
DPReview’s Pros and Cons lists for the NX1 included the same item in two places, the NX1’s H.265 video codec in the Pros list due to the small size of H.265 HEVC video files and in the Cons list because many computers of the tine were just too underpowered to handle it well.
The X-T3’s H.265 HEVC video codec and contemporary computers
Those relatively underpowered computers of the day when the Samsung NX1 was new are no longer as much of a concern now, something I proved by putting the X-T3’s H.265 video files to the test in an Apple Store on a range of current computers from an entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro through an entry-level 27-inch iMac up to a mid-range iMac Pro maxed out with RAM.
The two entry-level machines were low in memory for their CPU but they had enough video RAM and graphics processing power to easily handle my H.265 files whether in playback or editing in Final Cut Pro X.
Internal and external graphics processing units like Blackmagic Design’s Blackmagic eGPU are the key to the big video files that cinema-quality cameras like the X-T3 and NX1 produce, especially when maxing out on resolution, bitrate, compression and aspect ratio.
I initially tested the X-T3’s ability to shoot great video with settings I would apply to making records of family and friends, choosing from Fujifilm’s legendary film simulations for instant television playback via HDMI.
However I shot most of my test video with the cinematic combination of F-log, the cinematic 17:9 aspect ratio of DCI 4K, shooting at 24p and 400Mbps, chose the H.265 (HEVC) codec for 10-bit 4:2:0 on the SD card which would have been 10-bit 4:2:2 if I’d had an Atomos Ninja V monitor/recorder handy, and ALL-I movie compression instead of Long GOP.
Fair warning: if you choose to shoot whole projects at those settings, make sure you have plenty of internal hard drive space and plenty more fast external hard drives to store on and edit from.
Transcode to ProRes when editing on older computers
I was pushing it on my ageing 27-inch iMac Retina 5K, with video playback stuttering whichever software I used, including the ever-reliable Kyno media management application.
For older machines like mine, be prepared to transcode your H.265 footage to ProRes using your choice of Kyno, EditReady, Compressor or any other capable transcoding software so your computer playback goes smoothly and your editing goes even smoother.
And be prepared to investigate how to use external GPUs on likewise ageing computers, and to invest in a workable solution.
The external GPU community website eGPU.io is a great place to start your research into adding extra graphics processing power to older computers.
Alternatively, choose the older H.264 codec, Long GOP compression and 1080p if you don’t need to future-proof your footage by shooting and editing in 4K.
Fujfilm X-T3 lightly rigged for video
It is still early days for camera cages and accessories makers coming up with designs for the X-T3 and I do not currently have access to gimbals and other stabilization devices so used it handheld.
Equipped with an optically stabilized zoom lens, however, the Fujifilm X-T3 makes for a very good run-and-gun video camera and its great balance and weight easily accommodates popular video mics from makers like Australia’s very own Røde Microphones as well as headphones or earphones for a little more on-location discretion.
The X-T3 benefits from larger, faster SDXC memory cards especially when shooting video for the high road, and I have some suggestions in the list at the borrow of this page.
You will also need neutral density filters especially when shooting in available light outdoors as the X-T3 has a base ISO of 640 in F-Log and 160 in Rec. 709.
Documentary cinematographers often rely on variable neutral density filters aka VNDs while feature filmmakers choose sets of fixed value ND filters in circular screw-on frames, or square or rectangular filters for sliding into matte boxes or filter holders.
I use both, depending on the project and its circumstances, and there are some recommendations in the list at the bottom of the page.
Still frames from DCI 4K video shot in F-Log then minimally graded with Fujifilm’s free LUTs
The video still frames above were shot at DCI 4K then downsized to 1080p to keep file sizes down but they give a good idea of the video image quality delivered by the X-T3 at high road video and in-between settings.
The X-T3’s Super 35 4K footage is eminently gradable, looks beautiful whether shot with F-Log or Fujifilm’s Eterna Rec. 709 film simulation, and I am looking forward to seeing what it does with Fujifilm’s Hybrid Log-Gamma aka HLG profile when it is released via a firmware update sometime later this year.
With the arrival of HLG on Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds cameras the Lumix DC-GH5 and DC-GH5S last year and this, many documentary and feature moviemakers have adopted it as their go-to profile and the same may very well occur with X-T3 users.
I have shot all but one of these in F-Log with the exception of one as Eterna, and have graded the F-Log footage with Fujifilm’s recently updated set of three LUTs for F-Log along with some creative looks LUTs from LookLabs’ SpeedLooks and DFS aka Digital Film Stocks collections.
The X-T3’s Eterna footage looks like it is more than usable ungraded and can take a modicum of grading as well.
The X-T3 takes video autofocus seriously and now, so do I
For years there has been no end of to and fro online about whether serious moviemakers use autofocus or not, with the implication that real professionals only focus manually.
My motto is ‘take nothing for granted’ so I put the X-T3’s video and eye detection autofocus to the test in some rather trying conditions and found they certainly work well enough for use when shooting run-and-gun style video and during fast-and-loose handheld camera movements.
The Fujifilm X-T3’s autofocus, and autoexposure capabilities for that matter, are well worth putting to the test under a range of conditions.
From the evidence of the still-frame above and others I would me more than happy to rely on the X-T3’s autofocusing in a pinch, especially for use in documentary projects.
My Fujifilm X-T3 Pros and Cons
- Slightly larger body, dials and buttons – better grip, more stability in the hand, easier to locate without looking, easier to click or turn.
- Slightly larger built-in grip – though I would still add the metal hand grip or vertical battery grip for larger lenses and portrait photography.
- Size, shape and silver colour – aids in being ignored when shooting side-by-side with Canon and Nikon DSLR users as I look like an amateur playing with a toy or an old analog era camera.
- Linear or non-linear focussing with focus-by-wire lenses.
- Faster and surer face/eye focus detection – in available light, available darkness and with the face turned sideways, defeated only by subjects wearing glasses.
- Faster and more accurate autofocus – in stills and especially video.
- Flicker reduction using mechanical shutter.
- Locking diopter adjustment!!! – no more knocking off its settings and annoying resetting.
- More megapixels at 26.1 MP – leading to less noise when shooting in available darkness at high ISOs.
- Size, shape and silver colour – aids in being ignored when shooting side-by-side with Canon and Nikon DSLR users as I look like an amateur playing with a toy or an old analog era camera.
- Minimal blackout of the electronic viewfinder.
- Better video dynamic range than other APS-C and M43 cameras.
- Beautiful stills and videos.
- Wide range of film simulation picture styles – augmented by Colour Chrome Effect, Eterna and F-Log.
- Good low noise results at high ISOs.
- Built-in microphone and headphone ports – on-camera instead of only on battery grip.
- Zebras – for accurate video exposure, with ability to set percentage.
- No in-body image stabilization – wait for the X-H2?
- Three-way tilting LCD monitor instead of fully articulated LCD monitor – limits the operator’s range of positions relative to the camera, especially in tight spaces, and eliminates the possibility of mounting detachable hoods and loupes.
- Small battery – while the NP-W126S delivers more sustained power than the NP-W126, shooting throughout the day requires carrying several of them and so I recommend the Vertical Battery Grip VG-XT3.
- Blinkies only – for accurate stills exposure and not zebras and percentage settings as with video.
The Fujifilm X-T3 has been a revelation, the first contemporary DSLR-style APS-C/Super 35 format camera I have used that has impressed me as much as the revolutionary Samsung NX1 did, for photography and for video.
The Fujifilm X-T3 is the first APS-C DSLR-style camera that proved to be as comfortable, as at-home in my hands while covering an all-day event as my Fujifilm X-Pro2, and I would have no hesitation relying on it for plenty more of the same.
The Fujifilm X-T3 also proved to be just as usable and as comfortable in my hands in its role as a Super 35 movie camera shooting beautiful high-end DCI 4K cinematic footage with its video settings maxed out, and its straight-out-of-camera 1080p video shot using the Eterna and other film simulation picture profiles was a delight.
The X-T3 will be as at home shooting family videos with stabilized zoom lenses attached as it will be on the set of a commercial movie or television production, heavily rigged up with adapted cinema prime lenses or Fujifilm’s two geared parfocal X-Mount cinema zoom lenses, the Fujinon MKX 18-55mm T2.9 and the Fujinon MKX 50-135mm T2.9.
I have only touched on the surface of this amazing camera and its capabilities, but even so I was deeply impressed and excited about the future of Fujifilm’s X-Mount system for stills photography and moviemaking, and have no hesitation in recommending the X-T3 for users at all levels of expertise.
This is an exhaustive list of hardware and software products that may be of interest to those using the Fujifilm X-T3 for stills photography or video production. I use or have at least tried out most of these products and can recommend them.
Many of them are available for purchase via my B&H Photo Video affiliate link account if you wish to help support may work in producing articles like this one, or you may wish to do so via the shorter list at the base of this page.
- 1Styles.pro – maker of film simulations styles and presets for Capture One.
- 8Sinn – maker of popular camera body-hugging camera cages and accessories, currently designing cages for the Fujifilm X-T3.
- Alien Skin – maker of Exposure X4 raw photo editor and organizer.
- Aurora-Aperture – excellent quality UV, neutral density and variable neutral density filters for photography and cinematography, including the PowerXND-II VND series featuring a range of 1 to 11 stops of light reduction.
- Apple – Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter – … “a bidirectional adapter, it can also connect new Thunderbolt 3 devices to a Mac with a Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 port and macOS Sierra.”
- Blackmagic Design – Blackmagic eGPU – external high performance graphics accelerator for photograph and video editing and grading, currently sold exclusively through Apple stores.
- Blackmagic Design – Blackmagic Raw – “the world’s fastest RAW format with better quality and better features!” – imagine if this raw codec was implemented in all cameras, especially the X-T3!
- Blackmagic Design – DaVinci Resolve – “DaVinci Resolve 15 is the world’s first solution that combines professional offline and online editing, color correction, audio post production and now visual effects all in one software tool!” – available in excellent free version as well as paid-for Studio version.
- Breakthrough Photography – makers of some of the finest brass traction-framed and non-framed UV and fixed ND filters as well as the best brass traction-framed step-up rings though the company does not make every single size that may be needed. If the size you need is not available, consider the brass step-up rings made by Heliopan and Sensei, UV filters made by Chiaro and ND filters made by Formatt-Hitech and SLR Magic.
- Chiaro – excellent high transmission UV protection filters in brass frames.
- CoreMelt – Australian maker of plug-ins for Final Cut Pro X that are considered must-haves for all video editors, with its Chromatic plug-in especially essential for quality colour grading within FCPX.
- divergent media – EditReady 2 – affordable macOS-only application for transcoding video files.
- DxO – maker of DxO PhotoLab, DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint as well as the new owner of the Nik Collection Plug-ins. Sadly, DxO does not support Fujifilm X-Trans raw files in its applications but they can be applied as plug-ins.
- eGPU.io – macOS user community website dedicated to external graphics processing unit solutions for current and older Mac computers including those that predate Thunderbolt 3.
- F16.click – Fujifilm X-Photographer Kevin Mullins’ blog, where he shares his excellent SOOC JPEG custom settings amongst other things. Like me he is a rangefinder camera-using documentary photographer and I recommend his articles on the X-T3 from that point of view.
- Formatt Hitech – makes Firecrest Ultra ND and Firecrest ND fixed value neutral density filters in framed and unframed versions, the “world’s first hyper-neutral ND”.
- Fujifilm Global – Application Software – free software including Fujifilm X Raw Studio, Fujifilm X Acquire and Tethered Shooting Software HS-V5.
- Fujifilm Global – Digital Camera Firmware : Interchangeable Camera Body / Lens – check that you have the latest camera and lens firmware here.
- Fujifilm Global – Fujifilm launches new mirrorless digital camera “FUJIFILM X-T3” – press release.
- Fujifilm Global – Fujifilm X-T3 – product pages.
- Fujifilm Global – LUT for F-Log (Look Up Table) – set of three free LUTs for X-T3 video, an excellent starting point when grading F-Log and other video from the X-T3. I particularly like the F-Log to Eterna LUT.
- Fujifilm Global – RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 powered by SILKYPIX – free raw file convertor.
- Fujifilm X/GFX USA
- Fujifilm X Series Official Site
- Image Alchemist – maker of presets for Capture One.
- iridient digital – maker of Iridient X-Transformer and transformer software for other cameras’ raw files as well as Iridient Developer for processing raw files; helping get the very best out of Fujifilm X-Trans raw files.
- Leeming LUT Pro – Australian director/cinematographer Paul Leeming makes “the world’s first unified, corrective Look Up Table ( LUT ) system for supported cameras, designed to maximise dynamic range, fix skin tones, remove unwanted colour casts and provide an accurate Rec. 709 starting point for further creative colour grading.” and is working on a LUT for the Fujifilm X-T3.
- Lesspain Software – Kyno – unique application for macOS and Windows that is effectively a Swiss Army Knife media management toolset for moviemakers, that works in close conjunction with Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro.
- LockCircle – run by Italian-Australian director/cinematographer Dante Cecchin, this Italian company makes some of the best camera cages and accessories for digital moviemaking.
- LookLabs – makers of SpeedLooks and Digital Film Stocks aka DFS looks LUTs based on scans of film stocks and popular feature film grading looks.
- On1, Inc. – maker of On1 Photo Raw 2018, soon to be upgraded to On1 Photo Raw 2019, raw image editor and organizer.
- Phase One – Capture One Express Fujifilm, Capture One Pro Fujifilm, and Capture One Pro for all cameras – Express version is free, other two must be purchased, both offer tethered shooting on top-tier Fujifilm cameras, and all versions provide top-quality raw image processing of Fujifilm raw files with integrated Fujifilm film simulations coming soon.
- Silkypix – maker of Silkypix Developer Studio Pro 9, Silkypix Developer Studio 8 and free raw developer software for Fujfilm cameras.
- Skylum – maker of Aurora HDR 2019 and Luminar 2018 image editing and organizing software.
- SLR Magic – makers of neutral density and related filters popular with professional documentary moviemakers, includingSLR Magic 82mm Self-Locking Variable Neutral Density 0.4 to 1.8 Filter (1.3 to 6 Stops) and SLR Magic 86mm Solid Neutral Density 1.2 Image Enhancer Filter (4-Stop) as well as a range of fixed neutral density filters.
- SmallRig – maker of cages and accessories for cameras including the X-T3, with two cages in Pre-Order at time of writing, SmallRig Cage for Fujifilm X-T3 Camera with Battery Grip 2229 and SmallRig Cage for Fujifilm X-T3 Camera 2228.
- Thomas Fitzgerald Photography – blog by JPEG and raw file processing expert whose ‘Fuji Jpegs: Shooting and Processing Guide’ eBook contains some excellent advice and recipes for getting the best out of SOOC JPEG custom settings.
- Header image by Jonas Rask on commission from Fujifilm.
- Press image product shots courtesy of Fujifilm.
- Photograph of Fujifilm X-T3 and Samsung NX1 made on location at a local event as a 5-bracket HDR image with Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens then processed in Aurora HDR 2019 and DxO Nik Collection plug-ins.
- My own product shots made as 5-bracket HDR images with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens then processed in Skylum Aurora HDR 2019, Alien Skin Exposure X4 and DxO Nik Sharpener Pro as plug-ins.
Help support ‘Untitled’
- 8Sinn camera cages – B&H
- Angelbird 256GBGB Match Pack (2 x 128GB) – B&H
- Angelbird AtomX SSDmini (1TB) – B&H
- Atomos Ninja V 5″ 4K HDMI Recording Monitor – B&H
- Atomos Handle Adapter for AtomX SSDmini (5-Pack) – B&H
- Aurora-Aperture variable ND filters – B&H
- Bluestar Eye Cushions – B&H
- Breakthrough Photography CPL, UV and ND filters – B&H
- Chiaro UV Filters – B&H
- Formatt-Hitech Firecrest fixed value ND filters – B&H
- Fujifilm CVR-XT3 Cover Kit – B&H
- Fujifilm EC-GFX Round Eyecup – B&H
- Fujifilm EC-XH Wide Eyecup – B&H
- Fujifilm EC-XT L Long Eye Cup – B&H
- Fujifilm EC-XT M Medium Eyecup – B&H
- Fujifilm EC-XT S Small Eyecup – B&H
- Fujifilm MHG-XT3 Metal Hand Grip – B&H
- Fujifilm NP-W126S Li-Ion Battery Pack – B&H
- Fujifilm VG-XT3 Vertical Battery Grip – B&H
- Fujifilm Fujinon XF Lenses – B&H
- Fujifilm X-T3 Mirrorless Digital Camera – B&H
- LockCircle camera cages – B&H
- MindShift Grea and Think Tank Photo camera bags and accessories – B&H
- Peak Design camera straps – B&H
- Phase One Capture One Pro – B&H
- Røde video microphones – B&H
- SLR Magic variable ND Filters – B&H – SLR Magic was reputed to be working on a collection of fixed value ND filters though they do not seem to have appeared at B&H yet.
- SmallRig camera cages – B&H
- Sony 128GB M Series UHS-II SDXC Memory Card Kit (2-Pack) – B&H