I am admittedly not much of a gear junky when it comes to digital cameras. I have been rocking the same Nikon FF body since 2013 and have pretty much only ever used Nikon cameras for all of my commercial work. In 2015, I did pick up a Fuji X-T100 as a pocket camera for everyday walking around. Since then, my love for Fuji has grown through their new releases, the firmware updates, amazing lens selections, and their unparalleled commitment to their customers to not work in planned obsolescence, but actually support their users and their cameras beyond one generation or iteration of a body. I still own and love the X-T100, with my only real complaint about it being the atrocious battery life (I’d never take it on a trip because it’d be dead by mid-morning and I’d end up leaving it in my bag to continue shooting with my Nikon body).
Around the same time that the X-T3 was released, I was considering upgrading my gracefully aging Nikon D610 to the D850. In no way is this post meant to be a comparison between the two cameras (there’s plenty of ‘em out there already) and in no way am I trying to steer anyone away from Nikon. I have a boat load of Nikkor glass and two camera bodies I plan to keep, and maybe someday I’ll even buy a new Nikon camera. The Z6/Z7 are also incredible choices—but I was starting to get that gloss over my eyes that happens when we’re faced with too many choices, and I knew I loved the way Fuji’s cameras felt, the experience you get when shooting with one, and from a practical standpoint, they have a much wider range of amazing prime lenses available right now than the Z system (although I could have used all of my current Nikon primes with the Z6 FTZ adaptor, I was also interested in reducing my weight/space in my camera setup, and that option didn’t do it as much for me as Fuji would have). I do also think Nikon will be putting out some killer lenses in the future for that new mount, so if you’re in the same position as I was and looking for a small mirrorless system to pair with a DSLR workhorse camera, something that is more than enough for 99.9% of what you’ll ever need to shoot, you won’t go wrong considering the X-T3 or Z6. I will say that I held a Z6 and the X-T3 side by side and the weight difference is an indisputable factor, so that’s something to think about (the X-T3 is lighter, can’t tell you the exact grams). What I realized most of all was that it’s so easy to wage war through comparisons, constantly tearing apart the pros and cons of each camera option, wondering what the right decision will be even though any of them are beyond adequate. I wanted to simplify my setup and it was starting to just make things seem even more complicated when thinking about buying a new camera. So, I waited 4 months and thought awhile about it. Last week, I pulled the trigger finally on the X-T3 and so far, it all feels right.
This isn’t meant to be another review of a camera that already has hundreds of reviews easily accessible on every major gear site. I can’t even tell you all of the technical specs because although I’ve read them thoroughly when I was deciding, they don’t matter all that much to me. We’ve gotten to this point with digital photography where our cameras are doing insanely wild things, far beyond what any of us could or will likely ever need. I think it starts to feel a little crippling at times when you’re considering upgrading, because you start to weigh all these almost inconsequential factors. Every digital camera being made right now is at least adequate in low light. Some are better than others, but what the hell are you doing shooting in a black hole? Photography is nothing without light, and as someone who has spent a lot of time shooting in the darkest dive bars across the country, or beneath pitch-black skies in the middle of the wilderness, you still need a light source to make an interesting/compelling photograph. There are moments when we want to shoot in dimly lit spaces and capture something that appears the way our eyes do, and those can be really great photographs with a camera that handles well in low light, but most of the time, it’s going to depend on what lens you’re using for you to get that shot. So don’t worry so much about low light performance, simply because any choice you make will probably work just great. By no means am I saying that performance in low light doesn’t matter, what I am saying is that there are a lot of little pixel-peeping trolls out there writing reviews about these cameras and barking about things that won’t matter to most people in practice.
A lot of the specs on cameras that are flaunted and advertised are things I just don’t care about. AF speed and accuracy is great, but for someone who almost always shoots with manual focus lenses, it just feels like a nice bonus that the camera even has AF sometimes. Video is great, but I’m a photographer, not a videographer, and while it is nice to be able to make some killer videos from time to time, I can also do that pretty well with my iPhone. I will, however, say that the X-T3 has some really impressive video specs and in no way am I equating it to an iPhone, check them out somewhere else if you haven’t already. What I actually care about in a camera comes down to a few things:
- How much can I beat this camera up without destroying it?
- Lens options
- Battery life
The X-T3 checked all of those boxes for me, maybe with the exception of battery life. Coming from a DSLR at this current time in 2018, any mirrorless camera battery life will be nothing more than a disappointment. However, the battery grip for the X-T3 extends the battery life to somewhere just under what I’d get on two batteries for my DSLR (so it’s about 3:2). That does require having to spend ~$300 more for the grip and about $120 for two extra batteries, but you’re going to buy the batteries no matter what for any camera, and the grip really adds to the feel of the camera without adding the insane weight/bulk of what a DSLR vertical grab adds.
To fall in love with this camera, I do think you have to have some kind of affinity for cameras of the past and enjoy manually using your camera like the tool that it is. I personally love having exposure compensation, shutter speed, and ISO dials right on top. The lenses are all metal and feel like they can withstand any of the demands I’ll put on them. I bought the camera with the 23mm F/2 and 50mm F/2, which are the equivalents of 35mm and 75mm respectively. It did feel a little backwards to me at first when considering buying an APS-C camera, but I can tell you that aside from the minor headache of constantly thinking with focal length comparisons to full frame when shopping for lenses, crop sensors have come lightyears since I last used one (nearly 10 years ago at this point). Maybe I’m the slow one here to come to that realization, but if that’s something you’re worried about and you’re deliberating between a full frame option or this camera, don’t even think about it. If DOF is something you’re thinking about, don’t even bother worrying, because while there are going to be inherent differences in DOF with a smaller sensor, I do not think anyone is going to look at your photos shot with an X-T3 or any other current APS-C release and say “Wow, the depth of field there is just not on par with a full frame camera.” Nope, it’s not going to happen. The smaller sensor is what allows this system to be so small, and while there are some tradeoffs, the incredible lens selection with loads of aperture options commonly found in the f/.95 to f/2 range make up for it all.
In closing, this review is strictly based off of my opinions using non-scientific testing practices. I am in no way endorsed by Fuji or obligated to write a review and am simply someone who deliberated over several camera options who feels like he’s found the right one for now. I haven’t had much time to use it in practice, but below are some photos from my first day shooting with it at the beach! Feel free to shoot me an email or message if you have any questions or want some more practical information about this camera (or any camera).