It is so hard for me to believe that it’s been 2 years since I first wrote about the launch of the X-T2. In that time a lot has changed for me, from my personal life to professional work. But one thing stayed constant; the X-T2 has remained my favorite camera ever created. I dropped one down the side of a cliff and into a lake, and when it returned to life 2 weeks later I bought a second body. So to be completely honest, I’ve never really once considered what a potential successor to my favorite camera might look like. And yes, I'm leaning into the Star Wars title, because I love telling people to join me on the dark side, and there has never been a clearer path to do so than right now.
*Disclaimer* I was shooting with a pre-production unit, etc. And I am under no obligation to say nice things. These words are 100% mine, and anyone that knows me can vouch for my honesty (sometimes to a fault). Also, everything you will see below below is an edited JPEG, because at this moment, there is no RAW converter available for this camera. Mostly using ETERNA. -2 shadows, -2, highlights, and zeroed out on everything else to give me a decently flat image to be able to grade. And lastly, a lot of the images you are going to see were shot with the XF8-16f/2.8 lens because I got the lens on the same day and frankly, I had been looking forward to shooting with it since it was announced.
Before we dig in, you need a little bit of context:
Needless to say, when Fujifilm reached out to me and told me that they were going to be sending me an X-T3, I was simultaneously super excited, and extremely nervous. You see I was only going to be able to have it for about a week for testing, compared to the months that I had with the X-T2. Not only that, but this week just so happened to coincide with the Alaskan Cruise my wife was taking, rendering me a single dad (read: useless photographer) for a few weeks. Knowing that I wanted to put this camera through its paces in our brief time together, I immediately sprang into action figuring out where I was going to shoot for the 4 days before she left.
Let me start my experience with the X-T3 by saying this: I have NEVER gotten such a perfect set of weather-related circumstances. Mother nature came through in a big way for me when I needed it the most. This is going to read more like an experience in story form than any sort of review, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wanted to show you something MORE. I would have loved to test this with actual client work, as well as shooting some astrophotography. But hey, I just didn’t have the time I needed. I’ll most certainly post a follow up once I... *spoiler alert* buy one of my very own.
Day #1 - The Arrival
Instead of eating on my lunch break, I went to a nearby lake to test it out. What I ended up with was the absolute perfect cloud situation to shoot reflections and really see what the XF8-16mm f/2.8 could do. Before I left, I sat down at a picnic table and started digging through the menus to see what else was different about this camera. Immediately Base ISO 160, 20fps Electronic Shutter & 30fps sport crop mode (I'm looking at YOU Sony), the EFC (Electronic First Curtain Shutter), 4:2:0 HEVC internal 10-bit / 4:2:2 10-bit external recording jumped out at me. And all of that paired with the new backside illuminated sensor I thought, "ok, this camera is going to be a big deal."
Battery is of course going to be a hang-up for some. Let's look at it this way: Fujifilm has developed an amazing and vocal user base - people like me who own multiple camera bodies. If they go bigger in favor of more power, these users are going to be upset that they can't use all of the batteries that they already own. But of course, you are always going to have those who get out their pitchforks to the tune of "Same old battery? Psh, we want better battery life!" It's a catch-22 for a manufacturer. My argument is always going to be the same: Shut up and buy a few extra batteries. It's not like they take up that much space in your bag. All of that to say: Battery performance is improved in my limited testing, add the vertical battery grip and once again you can rock 3 batteries at once, negating ALL arguments on the battery front. If this is your hangup then you need to reassess some things.
Day #2 - Sunrise
There is something extremely peaceful in watching the earth come alive at first light. But more specifically I love waking up early enough to scout where I want to shoot. I got just the right amount of fog and haziness that I knew things were going to get pretty interesting. I found one spot in particular that I knew once the sun got high enough in the sky, I had to return to.
There are a lot of things about photography that I love. But above it all is the ability to take what is normally a mundane scene, and capture light and atmosphere in such a way that makes for something complex and interesting. Everything else just melts away in those moments. I threw the 50-140 and 2x Teleconverter on to frame up the composition that I had found before the sun started to rise. Being that the 50-140 is my most used lens, I was anxious to get it on the camera and see how it performed, and much to my surprise the AF speed was something else. I played around focusing from the trees in the foreground that I was shooting through, to the lone tree behind and couldn’t believe how much the performance had been improved. Considering I never had any complaints about the speed on the X-T2, I have to admit I was very impressed.
This was the composition I was waiting for:
But what I didn’t anticipate was the heat from the rising sun causing more fog to fill the valley that I was shooting. It ended up creating some of the most beautiful and delicate light rays that I have ever seen. These kind of layers aren’t something that happen a lot here in Michigan, so you can imagine my excitement when the stars aligned.
I knew I had “my shot” so I headed home and stopped by a few of my normal spots along the way to capture the last bits of remaining fog and light. That 2 extra mm that you gain with the 8-16 may not seem like much, but it gave me a completely new perspective on scenes that I have been looking at for 4 years.