‘Use the right tool for the right job’ Everyone knows the mantra, but as a photographer and a filmmaker finding the right tool to do both well is pretty much the holy grail of my area of the industry.
The Canon 5D II was the first camera I used that could do both photo and video well, but that is obviously a long time ago. And for the style of photography I do and way I work those Canon DSLRs are backbreaking monsters compared with some of their competitors.
And so, in 2015 I actually did start using the ‘right tool for the right jobs’: I started using Fujifilm cameras for my photography work and Canon EOS video cameras for my film work. The Fujis being smaller, lighter and having equal if not superior photo quality to Canon’s in my eye anyway.
I started with the Fujifilm X-T1 and quickly moved on to the X100F which were great cameras at the time; the combination of quality and size was always a winner for me. However, it wasn’t until I got the X-T2 that I discovered that these amazing photo cameras could also be a great tool for video making too.
So, 18 months later here we are with the FujiFilm X-T3 and are wondering, just how much better can it be? Can the FujiFilm X-T3 for video production be a viable option for a professional company too?
As mentioned, we’ve already reviewed the Fuji X-T2 in detail on our blog so we won’t be going in to lots of detail on things such as the body or interface etc. But instead will be focussing on some of the differences and standout features we’ve found with the FujiFilm X-T3 for video production.
What’s New? A whole new sensor to begin with!!
The FujiFilm X-T3 boats the new X-Trans IV with 26.1MP, which is a small increase from the 24.3MP on the X-T2. We think that even though a new sensor seems like a big deal, in practice we don’t seem to have noticed a massive amount of difference.
However, a few things do stand out, such as the base ISO changes now to ISO640 (it was ISO800 on the X-T2) and in principle this increases dynamic range of the camera. In real terms, we haven’t noticed a massive amount of difference, but the images are lovely! This new sensor also helps with noise at high ISO and now you can go to stupid high ISO levels but then again, I don’t see a situation where we would be likely to use it. We normally work in (semi) controlled environments where high ISO levels are not necessary. Still, it’s nice to have it and to know images could (potentially) be used.
New video formats: A whole new world of options
I believe this is the biggest improvement the X-T3 has seen over its predecessor. With all these new options, the X-T3 enters the realm of video cameras that you can use for professional video production (minus a couple of exceptions that we’ll go over later on).
These are, in a nutshell, the new video features and differences:
- 4K up to 30fps
- 4K/DCI up to 100Mbps
- 1080p up to 100Mbps
- 1080p in 16:9 up to 120fps
- IPB compression
- H.264 codec
- Internal recording in 4:2:0 8-bit
- External recording in 4:2:2 8-bit
- 10min per clip in 4K
- 15min per clip in 1080p
- 4K up to 60fps
- 4K/DCI up to 60fps and 400Mbps
- 1080p up to 200Mbps
- 1080p in 16:9 or 17:9 up to 120fps
- IPB or AllI compression
- H.264 and H.265 codecs
- Internal recording in 4:2:0 10-bit
- External recording in 4:2:2 10-bit
- F-Log, Eterna, DR settings
- 30min per clip in 4K
- 30min per clip in 1080p
It’s great to have so many options as for us the versatility of being able to adjust the quality and bitrate per job is great, not every job is the same and not every job requires the same amount of data: simples!!
The increase of the filming limit to 30 minutes in the latest firmware is a welcome inclusion too, as it on release the camera split files into 4GB chunks. Fuji firmware updates do have a history of being generous (the X-T2 free F-Log firmware update being one to come to mind).
Audio: it’s a mixed bag
I did say earlier that there were a couple of exceptions where we wouldn’t consider the X-T3 to be on par with other professional video cameras, and that is one main feature: audio.
There are a few improvements on this area though, the inclusion of a headphone plug is great to allow audio monitoring – pretty basic feature, innit really?
Another distinctive failing of the camera (and similar) is the lack of professional audio connections such as XLR, which means we won’t be able to use the camera to a fully professional level (unless you use it as a B or C camera which is our case).
We understand that when producing a camera of this quality in a reduced body size like this, you have to compromise on certain things, but I think it’s about time FujiFilm considers manufacturing a XLR little unit like Panasonic does for its flagship GH line of DSLR cameras. All we need is a unit with two XLR adaptors living at the hot shoe of the camera. The good news is when asked about this at a recent show, one of the Fuji reps we talked with, answered with a little grin…quick Fuji, quick!!!
Another addition that promised a lot was the fact that you can now set the back wheel to adjust the audio levels, however I always assumed you could use it to directly putting up or down the audio levels while recording at the touch of the wheel but it doesn’t work like that. You have to press the wheel and this takes you to a menu where you can use the wheel to modify the levels…what the…?!?!
Autofocus is now good and useable
To be perfectly honest, autofocus is one of those features that we don’t really care (or use ) that much about. We tend to use focus manually instead of relying on the camera to get the right shot as sometimes (at events for example) getting the right shot at the right time is critical. However, we have started to use autofocus on our Canon C200 recently as it has improved a lot (and we own a lot of Canon glass) for interviews for example, where the subject tends to be static (ish) or on slider shots where we can lock in the focus point even at aperture settings f2.8 and wider. So after successfully testing this, we decided to try the autofocus features on the X-T3 and we were quite impressed by the speed at which the camera tracks. This will also vary depending on the lens you’re using, for video work on the XT-3 we use the FujiFilm 16-55mm f2.8 which is a lovely, super-fast lens. The camera is capable of tracking faces (and eyes) at great speed but sometimes (if the person turns around for example) the tracking stops which means trouble.
The touchscreen…not for me
I might sound a bit old fashioned, but I’ve always thought that features like touch screen are a bit gimmicky. I prefer knobs and dials! Especially when the screen is as (relatively speaking) small as the X-T3. In fact as I wasn’t use to the touch screen, it did annoy me for a while as I wasn’t used to it and the menu was (I think it was improved recently) slightly misleading meaning that we you think you have turned the touch screen off, it still is up there in a corner.
Before we go…allows us a recommendation
If you are serious about using this camera as a pro tool for your video production arsenal, then you should consider getting a FujiFilm battery grip. It allows you to use three batteries at the same time which obviously extends the time you can use the camera without replacing batteries. This is great when filming interviews or anything else that requires the camera to sit on top of the tripod for a while as the batteries go in and out from the side of the grip. Also, it helps with the ergonomics of the camera should you need to handheld it for example, a must buy I’d say!!!
Ps: if you were thinking of using the one from the X-T2, forget about it as it’s not compatible with the X-T3 (a bit cheeky from Fuji?) : (
Other bits which are great
There are other details which are great about the XT-3 but maybe we’ll group them all together here:
- USB-C connection The X-T3 has evolved from having an standard USB3 connection to a more modern USB-C. This automatically reminded me of our BMCCP4K which has this type of connection and allows the use of an SSD drive to be used as recording media instead (or in addition) of the SD cards. Again, we questioned a Fuji rep about this…and he didn’t say no!
- The step up in the video direction is very obvious when you discover Fuji has introduced options which are found in ‘proper’ video cameras like Zebra and Timecode settings
- The new Bluetooth inside the camera allows for quicker and more reliable (consider how unreliable it was before) connection to the ‘camera remote Fuji’ app. I have to say this is not good and a bit frustrating. I’ve managed to transfer quite a lot of pictures from the camera to the app in the past but Fuji has recently redesign and updated the app and it has broken it completely! Also, I’d appreciate if Fuji would ever consider having a proper GPS system in their cameras. Having to rely on the Bluetooth and the app to record the location where you shoot is not great (to put it mildly).
FujiFilm keeps on offering an incredible punch for your money. This iteration of the XT series moves the camera closer towards video pros presenting itself as serious competitor to cameras like the Lumix GH5 or Sony A7sII. It’s incredible what Fuji manages to pack in such a small body in terms of video specs and different formats. Now I feel like I can comfortably use the Fujifilm X-T3 for video production as a (professional) tool for both my photography and filmmaking.