January 27th, 2019
A month ago, I traded all of my Nikon gear and bought the Fujifilm XT3. As a landscape photographer, the mirrorless camera system was always an attractive option and the near-unanimous praise of the XT3 made it a system difficult to ignore. With a month's worth of regular use, I thought I would offer a few of my thoughts on the camera for those who might be considering switching as well.
As a longtime DSLR user, I will admit that it has been a bit of an adjustment when it comes to handling the XT3. You don't really appreciate a DSLR grip until you don't have one. However, the grip of the XT3 is not by any means uncomfortable. Just different. I will put it this way. I find myself using a camera strap more often than I did with a DSLR just for the extra security if I'm walking around. However, considering the size of the camera the grip is comfortable and adequate.
Arguably, the most talked about feature with the XT3 (and its predecessors) are the dedicated dials for ISO and shutter speed. I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical that it could be that good, but I must say that it is every bit as nice as reviews claim. The only way to really appreciate it is to simply have the opportunity to use it. It is a 'natural' experience, for the lack of a better word, and you begin to quickly appreciate the accessibility.
The electronic viewfinder would be the biggest adjustment for those coming from a DSLR. It was for me, anyway. There is an immediacy with an optical viewfinder (OVF) that is convenient. I often tested compositions by using the OVF without the camera turned on. With the XT3 or any mirrorless for that matter, the EVF display is dependent on sensor readout. Camera not turned on? No EVF. Again, it was muscle memory that I did not realize I had until I was no longer able to use it. However, the advantages of an EVF outweigh its disadvantages. The key advantage is simply immediate feedback of exposure. You will know exactly how your photo will look before the photograph is taken. No more chimping like an OVF to test for proper exposure. It is literally WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and thanks to the XT3's high-resolution EVF it is a joy to use. I often thought it was hyperbole when photographers would say that they can't find themselves ever going back to an optical viewfinder after having used an electronic viewfinder. I completely agree.
Touch screens are now commonplace among mirrorless and DSLRs alike and the XT3 touch screen is extremely useful and bright. If you are coming from a system that does not have an articulating touch screen you will certainly appreciate what the XT3 offers.
Having been a Nikon user for many years meant that I had an extensive collection of Nikon lenses from vintage to present. If you have a sizeable collection of lenses, it can complicate the consideration to switch just purely because of the investment. Not only the investment made with your current collection but the inevitable investment needed for native X-Mount lenses. You can obviously adapt lenses but native lenses will always be superior. Fujinon lenses are, in a word, fantastic from build quality to optics. It is refreshing to use lenses that are machined largely from metal. It adds a dimension of quality that is appreciated, especially when many modern lenses are made out of plastic to reduce weight and expense. Trading in my Nikon gear, I was able to get the Fujinon 35mm F2.0 and the Fujinon 55-200mm. Both lenses are extremely high quality and I have no complaints about their form or function.
It is easy to argue over how much dynamic range the X-Trans sensor of the XT3 offers versus competitors on the market (or even to its predecessor the XT2) but to put it simply the image quality is superb. I doubt that anyone would find themselves disappointed in what the XT3 offers. I'm not going to submit a discussion on ISO and dynamic range performance. There are better resources available for that. However, there is a facet of Fuji image quality that is rarely mentioned in reviews; Fuji RAW files can vary greatly depending on the software used to convert them. For example, Adobe's RAW converter is not suited well for the Fuji RAW format. This is evidenced by the 'worm-like' effect in the image details and becomes progressively worse with additional image editing. I'm comfortable in saying that if you have a Fuji XT3, or any one of the X-Trans sensor variants, do not use Adobe if you're looking to preserve as much detail as possible that is afforded by the X-Trans sensor. There are other options on the market such as Capture One or Alien Skin, but in my testing experience, none of them are as good as Iridient Developer. Iridient is a fantastic image editor in its own right and handles the Fuji RAW files perfectly. If all you need is to simply convert the RAW file to another image format, while maintaining Iridient Developer's RAW conversion capabilities, there is Iridient X-Transformer as well.
Do I regret selling my gear in favor for an XT3? Not at all. The XT3 is a phenomenal camera that takes beautiful images. What advantages does the XT3 have that a DSLR does not? If I had to choose one it would be simply size and weight. The XT3 is a compact camera that goes nearly unnoticed in a backpack. Even with the Fujinon 55-200mm mounted on the camera its footprint is still smaller and lighter than any DSLR. This is appreciated on longer hikes and worth the price of admission alone if I'm being honest.
Are you losing anything by going mirrorless? In my limited experience, nothing. There hasn't been a moment where I wish I had my Nikon gear back. The XT3 is well designed and functions in a way that doesn't get in the way of taking photographs. Which, at the end of the day, is how a camera should be. For landscape and nature photographers who are considering switching systems, the XT3 offers all of the advantages of a DSLR, and then some, in a tightly designed and machined package that will easily pick-up where your DSLR left off. If you're like me, you'll probably wonder why you had not made the switch sooner.