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Gear Reviews

Using the X-T3 for Sports Photography

· 11.September.2018

As I am sure every FujiLove reader is aware, Fujifilm recently unveiled the X-T3, the successor to the very successful X-T2 and the latest in a growing line of X Series Compact System Cameras. Like many other Fujifilm users I was waiting with anticipation for this next step in the evolution of the X Series as it promised a great deal for my work as a working sports photographer.  

The X-T3 comes with a new 26.1MP X-Trans sensor and new processor, the X-Trans CMOS 4 and X Processor 4, which takes the AF and video performance of the camera to the next level, which is great news for anyone shooting fast moving action, like me.

I had the opportunity to test a pre production version of the X-T3 alongside my X-T2 and X-H1 at Silverstone for two days prior to the launch and while I didn’t get the chance to fully test all of the new functions on the new camera, it delivers in the areas that I need for my work as a sports photographer.

The AF was certainly quick and accurate when shooting trackside at Silverstone, especially with the new XF200mm f2 prime lens. The X-T2 and X-H1’s AF is already excellent but the X-T3 was certainly quicker to lock on and track a car moving at speed.  I stuck to my favoured zone focus  (3 x 3 square) when working trackside and in the paddock / pitlane I switched to a single point focus point and the hit rate was certainly up compared to the older cameras.

I did try the new face / eye detection on the grid and, wow, what an improvement over the previous system on the X-T2, which rarely gets used on my cameras. It was quick and accurate and it is something I will be using again in the future when the X-T3 ends up in my camera bag later this month.

The 26mp X-Trans IV sensor is an increase on the existing 24MP X-Trans III sensors used in the current line up of X Series cameras.  The 6240 x 4160 pixel image size is slightly bigger than the current 6000 x 4000 pixels.  Now, some people might question why is it only a small increase but if you are printing large images or if you need to be able to crop your images, like I do on a regular basis to improve the composition when shooting in a fast moving environment like sport, any extra ‘resolution is really appreciated. 

Talking of small, but significant improvements, Fujifilm have lowered the native ISO by one third of a stop to 160 from 200 and the lowest ISO setting is now 80 instead of 100.  If you use fast aperture primes, or you shoot long exposures, this little extra ISO setting will be of immense help.  I try to use the native ISO settings as much as possible but will go down to 100 on the X-T2 or X-H1 if I am using fast apertures in bright conditions if I don’t have the ND filters to hand. 

The layout of the camera is almost identical to the X-T2, with small changes made to the diopter control, where you pull it out and turn it to stop the control being knocked accidentally, and to the exposure compensation dial , which has been moved inboard on the top plate to also stop it being knocked accidentally.  Both these are welcome by me, because these two items get knocked all of the time on my pair of X-T2s.

The battery grip has changed slightly to incorporated a larger hand grip.  It is not as big as the one on the X-H1 but it does have a bigger profile than the hand grip on the X-T2.  It definitely helps when using long lenses on the X-T3, especially the new XF200mm f/2 telephoto.  

The bad news for X-T2 owners is the X-T3 battery grip is a different design to the current camera, so, unfortunately, you can’t use an X-T2 grip on the T3.  However Fujifilm has elected to retain the W126S battery so if you have invested heavily in these power cells you can use them in the new X-T3.

I quickly tested the new EVF ‘Sports Viewfinder mode’ and did find this function useful in certain situations.  I would like to give this new mode a very good try out but initial impressions are good.  The EVF itself is excellent and, for me, is the heart of the X-Series.  I ‘see’ the image before I press the shutter release, which is a huge advantage when you are working quickly in a fast moving sport environment.

I need to mention the video side of the X-T3 as I shoot moving images a lot for my work.  The 60fps for shooting 4K is excellent, and the addition of Eterna to the film simulation modes is also a welcome addition.  The increase from 8 bit to 10 bit colour depth will also be a welcome addition for anyone who shoots video and takes the video aspect of the X Series to the next level.

Fujifilm decided not to include IBIS on the the X-T3, which extremely useful for handheld video work.  I have just invested in a DJI Ronin S gimbal for my X-T2, so this will work very nicely with the X-T3, so personally I am not bothered by the lack of IBIS.

One thing that has been improved is the fact the camera doesn’t stop when one battery runs out in the battery grip.  When shooting video at press conferences with an X-H1 or X-T2, if one of the batteries is exhausted, the camera will stop recording.  In the X-T3 the second battery takes over seamlessly.

One area that I didn’t get the opportunity to try was the improved electronic shutter.  I will be honest I tend not to shoot sport with the electronic shutter due to the effects it can give with fast moving objects.  Colleagues who have tested the X-T3s electronic shutter for sport have reported a significant improvement so this is something I will have to look at at a later date.  

CONCLUSION

As I only had the pre-production version of the X-T3 for two days during a working event I can’t really do a full review of the X-T3, but the first impressions are that it is a marked improvement in key areas over the X-T2 and X-H1 for me as a sports photographer.

I think this is the best X-Series camera yet and I look forward to a final production version of this camera ending up in my bag when it goes on sale on the 20th September as the order has already been placed with Fujifilm.

Fans waiting for the start of the 6 Hours of Silverstone – Fujifilm X-T3 + XF200mm f2 – 1/4000s @ f2 ISO400

no95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage driven by Nicki Thiim (DNK) – Fujifilm X-T3 + XF200mm f2 + 2x converter – 1/125s @ f7.1 ISO80

The headlights on a Porsche 911 RSR – Fujifilm X-T3 + XF200mm f2 – 1/640s @ f2 ISO200

Using the eye detection AF on 2014 FIA World Endurance Drivers Champion and 24 Hours of Le Mans Winner Anthony Davidson – Fujifilm X-T3 + XF200mm f2 – 1/1250s @ f2 ISO200

no1 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R13-Gibson – – Fujifilm X-T3 + XF200mm f2 + 2x converter – 1/320s @ f7.1 ISO125

Evel Knieval mascot of the Dragonspeed team – Fujifilm X-T3 + XF200mm f2 – 1/1250s @ f2 ISO200

6 Hours of Silverstone – Fujifilm X-T3 + XF200mm f2 = 1.4x converter – 1/1600s @ f2.8 ISO100

6 Hours of Silverstone podium – Fujifilm X-T3 + XF200mm f2 – 1/2500s @ f2 ISO200

Jeff Carter

Jeff Carter

With over 20 years of photographic experience in several fields, including sport, travel, automotive, landscape and photo-journalism, Jeff Carter runs MacLean Photographic in Dunbar on Scotland’s east coast and travels the world in search of the next next great image to capture.

A user of Fujifilm cameras and film in the 1980s and 1990s Jeff Carter had no hesitation in purchasing a limited edition X100 when the camera was launched. Adding an X-Pro1 and prime lenses a short time afterwards, Jeff found that the X Series allowed him the freedom to explore his creativity with ease and put the joy back into the image making process.

In 2014 Jeff became fully immersed in the X Series with the launch of the X-T1 and since then the X-T3, X-H1, X-T2, X-Pro2, along with an selection of Fujinon lenses, has been the backbone of his photographic business.

He also uses the X Series as his primary camera system for stills and video when working as the Media Delegate for the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series, which in 2019 will race around the world and includes the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

As well as providing photographic services to commercial clients, MacLean Photographic run a number of Photographic Workshops and Tours for individual or small groups of photographers of all abilities.

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