Fujifilm X-T30: Small body, big brain and heart
by Paolo Castellano
The heir to the glorious X-T20 arrives on the market, to which it looks only aesthetically, inheriting all the hardware from the remarkable X-T3. Top features and few waivers for advanced users, but not only!
Over the last year, Fujifilm has presented a considerable number of APS-C cameras, and we have tried more than one: in the order X-H1, X-T100 and only a few months ago the X-T3. Apart from the X-T100, all have shown very advanced video features, which have given even greater competitiveness to machines of a historically very strong photographic brand.
Today it is the turn of the X-T30, which although it has inherited the envelope from the X-T20, for technical characteristics is almost identical to the X-T3; few feature missing, almost all in the video area, probably in order to guarantee a very convenient purchase cost. However, there is something more: at the X-T30 and software enhancements have been added that we will see on the X-T3 during next summer.
From the hardware point of view, apart from the much more compact and light body, the most important difference is in the viewfinder, equipped with a smaller Oled panel, from 0.39 instead of 0.5 ", and less resolute, from 2.36 instead of 3.6 million points: the magnification remains of 0.77x.
From the software point of view the differences are greater and, as we have said, they are found more on the functionalities related to moving images. The X-T30 lacks the possibility of internally recording 4K videos at 10bit, and the maximum frame rate in the same format is limited to 25 / 30p, but surprisingly the DCI is not missing. The X-T30, probably unique in its class, can record in true 4K, 17:9 4096x2160 in addition to the UHD at 3840x2160 and Full HD. But not only that, it also supports 2K at 2048x1080!
Likewise, for those who make videos at the professional level, there is also the F-log logarithmic profile, as well as the natural view mode that allows you to see in the viewfinder and monitor the images with contrast and saturation already restored via a LUT, look up table. At least for the moment, the HDR HLG profile seems reserved for the X-T3.
In addition to the F-log, the sixteen advanced color profiles derived from Fujifilm films have also been confirmed, including the glorious Eterna, a line of films developed specifically for cinema. Eterna is a special profile, because even though it provides a ready-made film look, it manages as a log to keep all the stops of dynamic range, over 12, that the X-trans IV sensor manages to capture. Eterna can therefore be used both as it is without any retouching and as a basis for color grading. Noteworthy, however, are all the film profiles, fruit of the experience of 80 years of research and development in the Fujifilm laboratories. If Provia guarantees vivid but natural and balanced colors, Velvia enhances details and saturation, voiding the need to perform grading in post production. For reasons of space, we will skip the detailed description of the other profiles found in the X-T3 and X-H1 tests, but know that there are also surprises for black and white lovers. The film profiles can be used without distinction in video and photo shoots.
4: 2: 2 10-bit and hard codec
As we have said, the 10 bit is missing for internal recording, but taking advantage of the HDMI output and an external recorder, there is full support for 4: 2: 2 at 10 bits. The internal recording is still robust, with the bit rate that can reach 200 Mbps, both for 4K and Full HD, at all frame rates; a significantly higher value than many competitors, not only APS-C, but also full frame.
For those who want to use the X-T30 as a professional camera, the length limit for each video clip should be considered: 10 minutes in 4K and 15 in Full HD. In the 100 / 120p high speed mode, the maximum length is about 6 minutes.
From the photographic point of view the only difference we have found between X-T30 and X-T3 concerns the syncro flash, which reaches up to 1 / 180s while on the X-T3 it goes up to the remarkable 1 / 250s.
X-T30 vs. X-T20
So far we have seen the differences of the X-T30 with its older sister X-T3; compared to the X-T20 which for the time being goes side by side, the gap is more marked and all to the advantage of the new version. Between the two there is more or less the same gap that we have seen between the X-T3 and the X-T2, with the transition from the third generation X-Trans and X Processor to those of the fourth. The absolute quality of the photos does not change radically, the extra two megapixels are useful but not decisive; the sensor has improved especially as read-out speed, reducing the effects of the rolling shutter. Obviously the areas where the changes are remarkable are the autofocus and the video performance, but also the body sees improvements with in particular the appearance of the joystick, and the versatile USB-C 3.1 port, which as we will see does not bring advantages only from the point of view of data transfer.
Bayer, no thanks!
For those who could not read the X-T3 and X-H1 tests, remember that X-trans technology is currently a Fujifilm exclusive, and offers a number of advantages over the traditional Bayer filter. Thanks to the structure of the 12 photosites instead of the classic four, the sensor does not produce moiré, therefore it does not require a low-pass filter, and generates very little noise even at high ISO, which by the way is more similar to the film grain than to that electronic and annoying to which digital machines have accustomed us. Not having a low pass filter, the X-Trans produces photos and videos with perfectly defined fine details: to understand how much, just look at the lightning rod of an ancient church, which has hair-thin terminals on top, even taken from different hundreds of meters, every single filament stands out in photos and videos!
The new sensor is now backlit and has a higher resolution, increased from 24 to 26 MP; at the same time the speed has improved in all sectors, not only the shutter speed, but also that of reading the scene, which is increased by 150%: therefore also the effects of the rolling shutter have been reduced accordingly. It also improves native sensitivity, which now starts at ISO 160, allowing the minimum sensitivity value to be reduced to ISO 640 in the DR400 extended dynamic range mode, which allows for video and JPEG developed in the car, with a 400% increase in range dynamic. Translated into practical terms, when you find yourself developing JPEG shots from images with too strong contrasts, the camera can automatically correct the level of the shadows. If you want the correction you can also change manually, forcing fixed values, but we have verified that artificial intelligence in can do it more accurately.
Room improvements compared to the previous generation are possible thanks to a team effort, where in addition to the sensor, the new X-Processor 4, equipped with four physical cores, has also made its debut, tripling the performance of its predecessor, allowing it to improve not only the speed performance of the photographic part, but also the video performance, introducing inter-frame noise reduction, which compares multiple frames to isolate background noise from image details.
But what a speed!
At full resolution, the burst reaches up to 20 fps with electronic shutter and 11 with the mechanical shutter, and like on the X-T3 there is a Sport Finder mode which at the cost of a small crop factor of 1.25x and a consequent reduction in resolution at 16.6MP, it allows gusts up to 30 Fps with tracking and auto exposure autofocusing enabled. Sport Finder mode takes its name from an exclusive feature. Since the sensor remains active for its overall area, the entire frame is shown in the preview, with a box to highlight the cropped part that will be immortalized in the files. This allows the photographer to see the moving subjects before they enter the picture and therefore to take the shot at the right time, without losing the precious and sometimes irreplicable, fleeting moment. Note, however, that an adequate buffer does not correspond to this record speed. In fact, at maximum speed the camera is able to store 26 uncompressed JPEGs or 17 RAWs without pausing. Decreasing the shutter speed also increases the files that are saved and reach up to a maximum of 216 JPEG or 34 compressed RAW.
What a nice body
There is little to say, in just a few cubic centimeters, Fujifilm has managed to bring all the technology of the X-T3, but the most surprising thing is that it did so without giving up anything in ergonomic and aesthetic terms. The reflex appearance, characterized by a fake pentaprism that hides a small but useful flash, perfectly combines modernity with vintage.
Despite being limited by small dimensions, the handle is comfortable and allows to safely support the machine even when equipping the room with important optics. Crucial to achieving this result are the shapes of the chamber, which include two small protrusions, one in the front and a second in the rear. These ensure that the machine remains tied to the right hand without any effort being made to hold it. Weighing just 333 grams, 383g with battery and memory card, fatigue is very relative, we can only talk about this when pro lenses or bulky accessories are mounted on the camera.
X as X-Series
The X-T30 owes its first letter to membership of the Fujifilm X series, a family of cameras each with different characteristics, sharing the presence of advanced controls, to be able to use the machine manually. The X-T30 enters this class by right, having a remarkable series of simple and well-positioned manual controls.
Among the commands the adoption of the joystick stands out, or better, as Fujifilm calls it, the focus lever, which was not on the X-T20, while all the others remain confirmed, starting from the two multifunction wheels, front and rear, that by default they control the ISO and the times, while the diaphragm is adjusted directly on the optics. The rear wheel also acts as a reprogrammable function button: by default its pressure abilities and disability enlargement to facilitate manual focus.
At the top we find three rotating rings, all in metal. The first from the left is delegated to setting the type of drive, which allows you to choose between ten options, including single-shot, two-speed burst, panorama, video, two advanced settings with filter application, and the interesting multi exposure , which allows combining two shots, using the first as a guide for the second. It is not a simple photographic HDR, but a real tool for making compositions without going through post production.
Around this wheel there is a concentric lever which allows the small but very practical flash to escape, perfectly hidden in the fake pentaprism.
To the right of the latter and of the electronic viewfinder, we find the time wheel, the prerogative of many Fujifilm machines, which allows you to very quickly select times from 1 / 4000s to 1s, while leaving the rear time control active to make further adjustments . For example, by setting the wheel to 1 / 30s, they can be varied rapidly from 1 / 20s to 1 / 50s. In addition to the times, there are three letters, a red A that activates the automatic mode, a T that allows you to vary the times in absolute freedom from 30s to 1 / 32000s, and the letter B for Bulb, which allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as you hold down the shutter button.
Finally on the extreme right there is the wheel for the compensation of the exposure of the Program modes, with priority of opening and time priority. We called them that, but in reality you won't find a wheel to select them, like on other cameras. The aforementioned modes are obtained by automatically setting the individual time, aperture and ISO settings. We will have the program putting everything on auto, the priority of times putting ISO and diaphragm in automatic, and so on.
Immediately before the compensation wheel is the reprogrammable Fn key, which by default is assigned to the automatic activation and deactivation of face recognition. The associated function can be changed quickly without accessing the main menu, simply by keeping the button pressed for a few seconds.
There are also gestures
As we had seen on the X-T3, also the X-T30 proposes the gesture again; by tracing horizontal or vertical signs on the screen, the machine recognizes them and calls up the assigned functions, as if they were additional function keys. By default they allow you to change the type of drive, the white balance, the film profile and the type of autofocus, but you can reprogram them, like all the keys, simply by holding down the disp / back key, choosing between all the functions of the camera .
AI, artificial intelligence
A coaxial lever to the time wheel allows access to the full auto mode, to which, through the menu, it is possible to assign one of the 15 scenes, which allow the machine to adapt to the particular shooting conditions, such as night, sports, fireworks. artifice, etc. Among these we point out the SR + that we had already seen on the X-T100, that by exploiting the power of the processor and artificial intelligence functions, it is able on its own to understand the context in which one finds oneself and recognizes the subjects, adapting everything and also applying the filters in post to get the most beautiful shots possible.
The machine under test
The test setup included an X-T30 equipped with firmware 1.00 and three native optics, among the newest in the Fujifilm / Fujinon catalog, a fixed XF35mm F2 R WR and two zooms. Of these two, the first is a versatile all-rounder stabilized XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR and a truly remarkable ultra wide-angle, XF8-16mmF2.8 R LM WR, with 35mm equivalent focal length of 12-24 millimeters.
After this long technological and ergonomic premise, we now turn to the purely operational part, beginning to analyze the autofocus.
The system is able to detect multiple faces in the scene and to give each one his own identity, thus allowing to always follow the same person, even in the presence of many subjects. The X-T30 identifies all and highlights the faces with squares. The face to which the priority has been assigned has a green square, while the others are blank. To switch from one face to the other, the user can use the touch, pointing the desired square, or use the focus lever, the small joystick dedicated precisely to the management of fire, to move the selection from one face to another.
Within each face, the system recognizes the eyes and allows you to select, from the menu, which of the two to give priority, right, left or auto, that is the closest.
If the subject closes his eyes, or are covered by hair, a hat or other temporary obstacles, the system automatically switches from eye to face mode, and does so seamlessly, without jerks or obvious problems.
The search for the eyes is however impressive: they are recognized even when the subject is far away and cannot be seen by the human eye. The functionality is active both in photo and video mode. As with other Fujifilm realizations, there are adjustments to adapt the autofocus behavior to your needs. It is possible to vary the speed and sensitivity of the tracking and also a parameter to give prevalence to areas within the frame or to the spatial position, in the sense of the distance of the subject from the room, favoring for example the closest subjects. However, there are five ready-made presets for the most common needs, including the multipurpose, a bit suitable for everything.
In video, in single AF mode, just select the desired point via the touch or joystick, and setting a low speed, you will have passages of fire from one subject to another with softness and progression from the cinema, relying on very precise autofocus , who does not need to make attempts; he knows exactly where to go to position himself, thanks to the hybrid system, equipped with 425 points both in phase detection and in contrast, with 100% coverage of the frame.
The convenient three-position switch for the fire, located at the front, allows you to choose, without entering the menu, the desired focus mode, choosing between manual and single automatic and continuous.
MF assistance OK
By setting focus in manual mode, the machine provides all the assistance necessary to ensure that it is perfectly centered. In photographic mode you can choose to use three different types of assistance: digital split image, digital microprism and peaking, while in video mode only the last one is available. In addition to these you can activate the focus check, which as soon as you turn the focus ring automatically enlarges the image on the current selection area, which you can always move via touch or with the joystick. The magnification is adjusted by the rear multi-function wheel, which, when pressed like a button, also deactivates the function. Very interesting is the fact that starting the video recording the function is not disabled, allowing to have the assistance available during the shooting. It seems trivial, but few machines allow it. The enlargement is however possible even without enabling the focus check, pressing the rear wheel enables and disables the function manually. While in the magnification, the wheel allows you to vary the magnitude of the electronic zoom. Still in the manual field, the possibility of adjusting the action of the focus ring both in linear and non-linear mode, to meet the needs of videomakers, should be noted. Many machines often offer only the non-linear mode, where the focusing is not bound to the exact rotation of the ring. If the rotation is the same, turning the ring quickly causes a greater displacement than the focus point. Those who have to make the manual focus for the video, instead, often need to have the linear mode, to know exactly what the stopping point will be, regardless of the rotation speed.
Confirmed the presence of Zebra assistance for the exhibition, which we had seen for the PRI