I bought the latest Fuji in Hong Kong. Herewith the how and why, and twenty-four Chinese-flavored photos as supporting evidence. Um, if you’re visiting on a less-than-fast Internet link, you might have to wait a bit for ’em. Sorry ’bout that.
[This is part of The Surface of China series.]
I’ve been shooting with the Fujifilm X-T1 for five years and it’s made me very happy. Not too long ago, I bought an X-T2, and then a few days later dropped it four feet onto pavement. Sob. Then Fuji shipped the X-T3 and I’d decided to pick one up for the Chinese excursion, but before I did they followed up with this thing.
Let’s see… same sensor and processor, smaller and lighter (383g as opposed to 539), not waterproof (but most of my lenses aren’t either). Slightly less video mojo (I use my phone for that). $600 cheaper. Of these criteria, the size and weight were the biggies for me; it was compactness that moved me from SLR to the mirrorless space six years ago, and remember, I was just heading out on a walking-oriented trip that was listed as “challenging”. This was not a difficult choice.
Problem was, the camera hit the shelves on March 20th, the same day I was getting on a trans-Pacific flight at noon. No problemo! Because 萬成/永成攝影器材 (Wing Shing photo) was right around the corner from my Hong Kong hotel, so when I arrived (on the 21st) I went there for a walk after supper.
The X-T30 was in stock, in all the color trims. I asked “how much?” and they told me, I said “let me check the price back home” and used my phone to pull up the Canadian price. The store was a little quiet and the other Wing Shing dudes gathered around, amused. Turns out Fuji has steely price discipline; the prices were within $10. The dudes were impressed. They threw in a 64G card and HK doesn’t have sales tax. And when I got back home the Canadian customs lady decided not to charge me the sales tax, which she could have.
Findings · None of these should surprise anybody who keeps an eye on Fuji.
Item: Oh, it’s so light! And as will become apparent when I tell climbing-the-Great-Wall stories, that really matters.
Item: It’s noticeably faster than my X-T1, both turn-on lag and shooting time.
Item: Moving from 16 to 26 million pixels slows down Lightroom import, but lets me crop more aggressively to fix composition mistakes.
Item: The dumb “Q” button, which I don’t use anyhow, is idiotically placed so it really takes practice to avoid hitting it all the time.
Item: Some combination of the touch-screen and overly thorough state retention meant that a high proportion of the times I picked up the camera, the focus area was off uselessly in some corner or another. I changed multiple settings: Disabled the touch screen, required punch-to-activate on the joystick, maybe more; and eventually this stopped happening. Now I can go back and judiciously relax the settings.
ProTip: When this does happen, press the joystick down (twice maybe) and that recenters the focus. This is terribly important to me because I’m a reaction shooter and when I bring the camera up to my eye and aim at what I’m reacting to, I don’t want to waste time moving the focus around.
Item: I haven’t figured out how to get much benefit from the touch-screen. When I turn it back on I’ll have to put some study into that.
Item: The controls take the usual Fuji loads-of-dials approach, but the ISO dial has been subtracted, replaced by a mode selector (single-shot, video, panorama, bracketing, motor drive, yadda yadda) that used to be squashed underneath it. For me this is a win/win, since I hand-selected an ISO exactly once in the six years I’ve been in Fuji-land, but I regularly want to switch modes. Way back in 2013, I pronounced the Fuji controls “perfect” and I pretty well stand by that finding. Everything I ever want to change is available on a handy physical dial, and nothing else is there getting in the way.
Item: The EVF is not as big as I’m used to and I miss that, but I can’t honestly claim that it’s cost me pictures.
Item: The new joystick on the back is really well-executed; just the right size, just the right sensitivity, does just the right thing.
Who’s it for? · It’s like this: Some people plan their photos, others find them. I’m a finder, 100%. Which means I need the camera to be always with me, and shoot fast, and have really good ergonomics. If you’re like me, the X-T30 might just be the best camera in the world.
One is not enough · I carry two cameras, of course: this and the Pixel-2. Of the China-trip photos I decided to keep, 167 were Pixel and 283 were Fujifilm. That’s a little misleading because there are a few X-T30 motor-drive action sequences of kids cartwheeling and swinging on ropes and so on.
Phones aren’t going to replace “real” cameras until someone figures out how to install long lenses on them. Also, a phone is a general-purpose device while every atom of the X-T30 is optimized for making shooting easy and productive. But the Pixel is so fabulously effective at wide-angles and close-up shots and people, I don’t think of it as being a “better” or “worse” camera than the Fuji, just different.
Lensing · I took four: 18-55mm F2.8-4 (135 photos), 35mm F1.4 (86), 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 (49), Samyang 135mm F2 (12). The 18-55mm has lightning autofocus and on the X-T30 is just insanely fast and flexible, ideal when you have no idea what kind of thing you’re going to shoot but you’re going to need to shoot quick. The 35mm is my all-time favorite lens, its autofocus is klunky but it makes everything you point it at look better. The 55-200mm doesn’t have much personality but if you’re going to be climbing mountains and so on, you sometimes really need all those millimeters. The Samyang is maddeningly difficult and super-opinionated, not to mention cruelly bulky and heavy, but when you find the right subject, it’s a miracle-worker.
I consciously adopted a discipline of going out with one flexible zoom and one difficult/opinionated prime: Usually the 35mm and 18/55 in town, then in the country, either 18-55 and Samyang, or the 35 and 55-200. I refuse to carry a big camera bag so two lenses is about all I can manage out on the trail. I liked this formula and think I’ll stick with it for a while.
Wrapping up · Assuming I avoid dropping this thing, it should last me a long time. I still have the X-T1; I give it to my twelve-year-old daughter with the 18-55mm screwed on and everything set to auto, and she goes nuts, taking hundreds of photos of which a few turn out great.
I don’t think you can get more camera for the money. I don’t think I can get a better camera for my style for any money.