Enthusiast photographer Rob Davis took the X-T3 on a tour of events around Ayrshire, including a mud-tastic cyclo-cross race…
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I’ve been shooting since my teens, when I photographed my friends at school, my Saturday job and the local airport activity. I’m also a member of Ayr Photographic Society and an SPF circuit judge. The enjoyment I get out of it is partly the large number of friends I’ve made, as well as the inspirational images I’m privileged to see.
I currently shoot with a Nikon D750 and D500, covering a wide range of subjects, squeezed in around family life. Perhaps there are not so many landscapes in my catalogue, but plenty of local events, street photography and still life. A 24-120mm is my go-to lens, but I also use a Lensbaby for unique, imaginative scenes, and a telephoto zoom when I’m tagging along with wildlife-obsessed friends.
I’ve long admired the looks of the X Series cameras, especially in black and silver – they remind me of my old Olympus OM-10. I also like the use of dials rather than multifunction wheels – even after using my cameras for years, I still sometimes muddle up the functions at a critical moment! I chose to test out an X-T3 as it seemed the closest to my existing equipment, along with XF16-55mm f/2.8 and XF50-140mm f/2.8 lenses, plus a battery grip and EF-X500 flash. The intention was to shoot a cycling event and do some general photography.
First, I took the X-T3 on a visit to our local coastguard helicopter station. To get used to it, I left it in Program mode for most of that session, and it coped admirably in the dim hangar. I was concerned about the lack of image stabilisation, but that proved foundless. Shots were nice and sharp, possibly as – knowing there was no IS – I was more cautious, setting up properly and keeping an eye on shutter speed.
Later that day we got some sun for the first time in weeks! So I took the opportunity to visit a favourite location of mine with access to disused railway vehicles and industrial buildings. There, I switched to manual and really got into the tactile nature of operating this camera. The old-school dials and aperture ring were fantastic to use and so quick to adjust. I quickly got to know which function was which by touch, with no need to look at the top plate. Combined with the revelation of an electronic viewfinder it made this methodical type of photography completely joyful! Low sun, no one else around and a powerful yet simple camera, what could be better?
My final outing was to a local cyclo-cross race, where I certainly got to test the X-T3’s weather sealing. It was subjected to some very heavy Scottish rain and a lot of mud flying around, and it most certainly is weather proof! Any anxiety about the battery life was also unfounded. On a single battery it covered about 500 shots, and with an additional two batteries in the grip I took in excess of 1000 shots with around half power still remaining. The EF-X500 flash also withstood a downpour, and was still running normally on a single set of Duracell AA batteries at the end of a four-hour shoot.
The race conditions were tough for any kit – low light, moving subjects both far off and near to the lens, and a pervading grey mist in the air. I had a few autofocus mis-hits and occasionally the unfamiliar layout affected my reaction time, but it was still enjoyable and reliable. In those tricky low-light conditions I found the X-T3 comparable to my D750 in autofocus and subject tracking – and it was much easier to carry around all day, especially with the additional battery grip, which improves vertical handling.
Being used to larger, deeper DSLR bodies, I found the gripless body a little too slim for my hands, so preferred to have it attached all the time. With its lightness, I’d like to try it with a hand-strap from the top right to bottom right corner, so you could slide your hand between this strap and the body. My Nikon bodies have a deeper right-side moulding, and will hang on my fingertips. Despite these few concerns I really like the camera, and could see myself using it in non-action scenarios very easily.
Away from the race situation, and with more time to adapt to the new kit, the X-T3’s controls were delightful. I loved the simplicity of there not being a Mode dial, just the traditional rings and dials, and their position in relation to each other. The only thing I’d add would be to make the A (auto) setting drop in with a slightly different click on the shutter and ISO dials, so it could be found ‘blind’.
The menus and buttons themselves I found to be massively customisable, too. I followed some set-up advice on YouTube, which gave me super-quick ways of accessing metering modes, and back button focus. If I’d had more time I would have watched some more tutorials on autofocus modes and the best techniques for reducing high ISO noise, even though I liked the texture in monochrome.
Using an EVF was a real eye-opener for me, and the plethora of information in the viewfinder surpassed both my DSLRs. I especially liked the live histogram, and being able to watch the exposure change in real time as you adjust setting in manual was a joy. The intuitive, physical controls, each with a definite purpose, just seemed so logical. I liked the shutter speed moving in full stops, then the ability to make fine adjustments with the aperture ring or ISO dial in thirds of a stop. Combining this with the live viewfinder histogram made manual control so much easier than with my DSLRs.
When processing shots, I do very much like the embedded lens and camera profiles that Lightroom automatically applies. No need to make your own lens corrections or scroll through a list – excellent!
There’s a good possibility that I’d switch to the X-T3. I found the camera intuitive and packed with clever technology, so it could definitely replace the Nikon D750, which I use for general purpose photography, and I’d also want to look into Nikon-to-Fujifilm lens adapters as some of my kit has sentimental value. My time with the X-T3 has also made me consider the X-T30 as a street and travel tool.
At work, I discovered a few other Fujifilm users, and immediately found myself in celebratory conversations about X Series cameras, how great they find them and how refreshing the design has been for their enjoyment of photography. Everyone I met and talked to loved the look and feel of the camera, it was easy to learn enough functions to feel comfortable in the short time available and was fun to use. It does feel like taking the leap away from DSLRs is a liberating decision.
The kit Rob used
The Fujifilm X-T3 combines a 26.1-megapixel X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor with the X-Processor 4, and this fourth-generation architecture provides greater detail, purer colours and lower noise. It boasts unparalleled speed and autofocus performance in its class, so sports, wildlife and action photographers won’t miss a moment. There’s also state-of-the-art subject tracking and no viewfinder blackout as you fly through exposures at up to 30 frames-per-second, in the new 16-megapixel Sports Finder mode.
XF16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WR
A pro-level, fast standard zoom, this lens provides great flexibility in framing, fast autofocus, superb low-light and shallow depth-of-field options, and is backed up by full weather sealing.
XF50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR
This versatile weather-resistant telephoto zoom gives an equivalent 70-200mm range; this, combined with its constant f/2.8 aperture and fast, quiet AF, makes it a superb option for sports and wildlife photography.
If you’re looking to make the switch to Fujifilm and want to be featured in Photography News, click here, fill out the form and you could be selected to borrow a Fujifilm camera and two lenses for up to two weeks, free of charge! Terms and conditions apply and can be found here.