Fujifilm X-T30 Hands-On First Look

Editor's notes: the Fujifilm X-T30 will release on March 20, 2019. For this article, Fuji loaned us a preproduction body with preproduction firmware. We'll update this hands-on first look to a full review after we've used a production body. Also, if you choose to use any of the affiliate links on the page, Steve's Digicams earns a small commission at no additional cost to you.

What We Love. Right off the bat, we can't help but be impressed with the new Fujifilm X-T30's autofocus, which feels slightly better than the remarkable X-T3 and performs with uncanny accuracy even when a subject is far away. The X-T30 also boasts supersampled 4K video recording at up to 30 fps, the DCI video format for a more cinematic look on 4K videos, F-log recording, the Eterna color profile, a better grip on a familiar compact body so it's easy to carry and handle, and a minimal back design with the joystick replacing the multi-selector buttons for more straightforward user interface. It also has a new sensor with more effective pixels than the X-T20 as well as a better processor.


What We'd Change. While the Fujifilm X-T30 has all the makings of an awesome APS-C camera, it does leave a few things to be desired. Low-light performance needs improvement; autofocus is a little wobbly when there's not enough light, and noise handling isn't great. On the video side, it lacks 4K at 60 fps, and, like the T3, it's also missing the X-H1's 5-axis in-body image stabilization. IBIS may not have been necessary with the T3 because of its target market, but we do feel that it would be a convenience for T30 target users who may not even know what a gimbal is. Other minor things we'd change are the LCD monitor, which only tilts in two directions (up and down), and battery life, which only lasts around 380 stills (or 45 minutes of 4K video). Lastly, we'd recommend skipping the XC15-45mmF3.5-5.6 OIS PZ kit lens if you can afford it; it's not horrible, but it's the weakest part of this camera.

Pick This Up If... you're a beginner or casual shooter looking for an affordable body with plenty of lens options and several features geared towards advanced users or if you're an advanced shooter looking for a compact, lightweight camera you'd like to take on your travels.

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INTRO

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While Sony, Canon, and Nikon are one-upping one another in the full-frame image sensor race, Fujifilm is sticking to their guns and staying in the APC-S game, which is a good thing. They're doing what they do best, and getting better with time and new releases. Last year, they gave us the video-heavy Fuji X-H1 and then improved upon it with the impressive X-T3 which, despite its lack of IBIS, we named as the Best Camera of 2018 for its combination of performance, image quality, and overall value.

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This year, they're giving us the follow up to 2017's X-T20, taking some of X-T3's best features and integrating them into a smaller, cheaper, and simpler body ideal for less experienced shooters. The X-T30 may not be as good as the T3, obviously, but it is positioned as a gateway for beginner shooters to boost their photography and video-making skills, giving them access to advanced features like F-log recording, improved AF, and monochrome adjustments.

Let's dig deeper to see what else Fujifilm has in store for X-T30 users.

GEAR USED

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For the review, Fujifilm also loaned us the Fujinon XC15-45mmF3.5-5.6 OIS PZ kit lens. Additionally, we had an old Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS lying around that we also used to test the camera.

KEY FEATURES
  • 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 image sensor
  • X-Processor 4 processor
  • 5 stop of exposure compensation
  • 0.39-inch 2.36 million dots OLED Color Viewfinder
  • 3.0" 1.04M dot Tilting Touchscreen
  • Native ISO: 200-12800
  • Extended ISO: 80-51200
  • Continuous Shooting
  • 30fps Electronic Shutter
  • 8fps Mechanical Shutter
  • Video Recording
  • DCI 4K (4096x2160) @ 30p for up to 10mins
  • 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160) @ 30p, 25p, and 24p for up to 10mins
  • Full HD (1920x1080) @ 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p for up to 15mins
  • HD (1280x720) @ 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p for up to 15mins
  • 1080/120P High-Speed Mode
  • Advanced Filters & Film Simulations including ACROS & ETERNA
  • Flicker Reduction Mode
  • Bluetooth 4.2

WHAT'S IN THE BOX
  • Fujifilm X-T30 body
  • Li-ion battery NP-W126S
  • AC power adapter
  • Plug Adapter
  • USB cable
  • Shoulder strap
  • Body cap
  • Strap clip
  • Protective cover
  • Clip attaching tool
  • Owner's manual

BUILD QUALITY & DESIGN

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At first blush, the Fujifilm X-T30 looks and feels like the X-T20, with the focus mode selector on the bottom right-hand side and the front command dial on the top left-hand corner. The top is similar as well, with the exposure compensation dial, shutter button, on/off switch, and shutter speed dial on the right-hand side while the drive dial and flash pop-up lever are on the left-hand side.

Unfortunately, much like the T20, the T30 only has a single SD card slot, which isn't compatible with UHS-II cards. It also lacks weather sealing, which is disappointing though not surprising considering its price. For the record, we did end up "testing" how it fared when it started drizzling while we were shooting a sunset scene, and light rain didn't affect performance at all.

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Upon closer inspection, however, we noted a few key differences. The X-T30's front right grip is more pronounced, and while the T20 only comes in two colors, silver and black, the T30 also comes in charcoal silver.

Then there's the back, which got a slight revamp. The Q button is now on the thumb rest/grip, the multi-selector buttons are gone, and Fuji has added a focus joystick. This part of the rear actually looks more like a simplified GFX-50R than its predecessor.

ERGONOMICS

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Having both the joystick and the multi-selector buttons can be a tiny bit confusing when a user is looking through the viewfinder and trying to move focus area or changing settings. By forgoing the multi-selector buttons, Fuji declutters and simplifies the options for the T30's target audience to use.

We also dig the thicker and more pronounced front grip as it makes the camera all the more effortless to hold and carry around. Not that it's hard since this camera is so lightweight at 383g and compact like its predecessor. For shooters used to lugging heavier and bulkier cameras around, the X-T30 can feel like a toy. But that makes it more convenient to carry around.

We're less pleased with the thumb-rest Q button. Similar to our frustraits with the X-H1 and the GFX 50R, having that button where our thumb naturally rests during shooting or carrying the camera makes it prone to accidental presses, which happened a lot during our testing.

We also wish Fuji would add a vari-angle (aka flip-forward) LCD screen. Shooting portraits at low and high angles is a chore with a screen that only tilts up or down, and video selfies & vlogging are impossible without an external monitor.

MENUS & DISPLAYS

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The Fujifilm menu system hasn't changed much, and settings remain accessible on the Main Menu via the Menu button and the Quick Menu via the Q button.

The 3.0-inch LCD monitor, which boasts a 3:2 aspect ratio and approx. 1.04 million dots, offers focus and playback touchscreen capabilities, but no menu navigation capabilities, which is a shame. We definitely would like to see Fuji provide more functionality to their LCD monitors and catch up to the other manufacturers.

SPEED & AF PERFORMANCE

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On paper, the X-T30 has the same X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and X-Processor 4 as the X-T3, not to mention the same 2.16M phase detection points covering approximately 100% of the frame and low-light AF sensitivity of down to -3EV.

In practice, however, the X-T30 feels like it has an improved AF performance. While the X-T3 had some issues finding a subject or making smoother transitions when focusing, the X-T30 performs way better. This camera can detect and focus on a moving subject swiftly, smoothly and accurately, as long as that subject isn't moving too quickly. (Though it's worth noting, as we mentioned in our X-T3 review, Fuji has promised to update the X-T3's AF performance via firmware in the not-too-distant future.)

Face and Eye Detection also feel improved, as they're able to detect and track subjects' eyes and faces even when they're farther away, and they're less confused by black hair, which is useful when filming videos and taking portraits where the subject isn't filling the frame.

As with the X-T20, this camera does have six AF modes users can choose from as well as five AF-C presets based on different subject movements and speeds. These aren't something beginners would bother using, but they're definitely useful to less experienced hobbyists who are starting to explore different camera settings to improve their photography.

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Unfortunately, the X-T30's continuous shooting is only 8 fps when using the mechanical shutter (up to 30 fps when using the electronic shutter on Sports Finder Mode). And although the AF-C is much improved, this probably isn't the camera to use when shooting fast-moving subjects like the kids' soccer game. Believe us; we tested this by having our subject jog towards the camera, and we weren't very successful in getting at least one decent shot.

METERING

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The X-T30 has the same through-the-lens 256-zone metering zone as the T20 and the T3, and we haven't noticed a difference. Like the other two, it also offers Multi, Spot, Average, and Center-Weighted metering.

During our tests, we mostly stuck with the Multi metering mode as it did a great job in evaluating our scenes and giving us the most accurate exposures. We switched to Spot metering mode a couple of times in extremely high contrast situations, but we found that the Multi metering mode was good enough in most scenarios.

STILL IMAGE QUALITY

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With limited access to a preproduction camera body and two entry-level kit lenses, we're not yet ready to make a full conclusion about the X-T30's still image quality, so stay tuned for the full review. But here are a few first impressions.

The X-T30's kit lenses are decent enough for casual or entry-level shooting. Many of our images are sharp and clean, with well-controlled moiré. They boast lovely, accurately represented colors that are rich and deep. Dynamic range, while not incredible, is surprisingly good. And, in high contrast shots, we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of detail in the shadowy parts (even though the highlights, we've noticed, got blown out).

It also has the Monochrome Adjustment feature, which allows users to make their Acros and B&W images warmer or cooler, as well all of Fuji's film simulations, including the new Eterna and the Classic Chrome. Personally, we're not fans of using such color presets, but we know many Fuji users love these film simulations, and they'll be happy to know that the X-T30 carries all of them.

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However, given that the X-T30 shares the image sensor the X-T3, we were surprised the X-T30's image quality didn't blow us away. Part of the reason for this is that we're also in the middle of wrapping up our Canon EOS RP full review (First Impressions are HERE), which only costs $400 more for the body, features a full-frame sensor, and delivers stunning out-of-the-box imagery.

But, the RP also boasts an incredible $1,000 kit lens. Therefore, it would be unfair to judge the X-T30's potential using an average lens, which is why we hope to get a prime and a better zoom for the X-T30's full review. With the $900 Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR, we think that the X-T30 could perform well enough for certain photographers to think twice about shelling out an extra $600 for the X-T3.


ISO PERFORMANCE

ISO performance was one of the most disappointing things about the X-T3, and the X-T30 shares the same poor noise handling and the exaggerated smoothening of images shot at higher ISOs. It makes images look amateurish and cheap

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While the X-T30 has a sensitivity range of 200 to 12,800 (extended 80 to 51,200), its luminance noise already starts to manifest around ISO 400 when zoomed in. Chromatic noise, however, doesn't become an issue until around ISO 8000 although it does start manifesting around 3200.

The good news is that images shot at ISO 12,800 are still decent. It isn't until 25,600 when the photos become unusable.

VIDEO QUALITY

Inheriting many of the X-T3's video capabilities serves the X-T30 well. Rookie shooters now have access to intermediate-level video features, which extend the X-T30's market from casual users and beginners to influencers and vloggers who are just starting to penetrate the social media scene and don't have the funds to shell out for a $1,500 camera.

Among those inherited-features are F-log recording; 4K recording at up to 29.97fps, 200Mbps (the T20 only has 100Mbps available); the Eterna cinematic profile; and the DCI cinematic 4K format; and Face and Eye Detection and Tracking when on movie mode.

Unfortunately, the X-T30 only allows 10-bit 4:2:2 videos when using an external recorder via the HDMI port and, much like the T3, it doesn't have in-body image stabilization, which in our opinion would have been highly useful given its target market. Plus, because of its not-so-good AF performance in low light, shooting in darker settings with the T30 isn't ideal. And of course, there's no 4K/60fps for those who want or need it.

However, given its price, we're pretty satisfied with the X-T30's video offerings.


WIRELESS PERFORMANCE

For connectivity, the Fuji X-T30 has several options. Bluetooth lets users pair it with a smart device, enable the automatic transfer of images, or print photos using an Instax printer. WiFi helps with transferring images as well as using smartphones as a camera remote through the Fujifilm app.

Setting up these connections is painless and similar to other Fuji cameras. The app itself hasn't changed its user interface. It's easy to use and straightforward, yet feels a little primitive. It's useful for on-the-go photo sharing, but hardly enough for when you want to edit and produce high-quality images.

PROS & CONS

Pros

  • Much-improved AF
  • Improved Eye and Face Detection and Tracking
  • Better grip
  • Joystick
  • Supersampled 4K
  • F-log recording on hand
  • Eterna color profile
  • Monochrome Adjustment for Acros and B&W
  • Affordable price tag
  • Charcoal grey color available

Cons

  • AF unstable in low light
  • No 4K at 60fps
  • No IBIS
  • Battery life could be better
  • No weather sealing
  • Higher ISO noise handling is not great

FINAL THOUGHTS

Given our limited time with a Fujifilm X-T30 pre-production unit, not to mention the fact that we only had two kit lenses -- the Fujinon XC15-45mmF3.5-5.6 OIS PZ and the Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS -- for testing, it's hard for us to gauge this camera's full capabilities.

There are a few things about the Fujifilm X-T30 that truly impress. Its much-improved autofocus and Face/Eye Detection and Tracking performs quite well for both still shooting and video, so much so that it makes it easy to shoot. We also appreciate the fact that Fuji has made video features that are more intermediate level accessible to people who are not video shooters or have very minimal movie-making knowledge. And we dig the more minimal back design.

However, when it comes to still images, we need a little more time with this camera and Fujifilm's better lenses to finish our review, as we weren't blown away by the kit lens' capabilities.

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For now, the only thing we can say for sure is that the Fujifilm X-T30 will, without a doubt, serve well those users who are hobbyists and beginners or who intend to use it to record priceless memories--whether those be of their travels or their kid's soccer practices.

We'll leave the rest to when we get a turn at this camera when its in its final production model.

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