Fujifilm X-T30 review

Fujifilm’s latest mirrorless camera blends charm, power and value for money

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Our Verdict

The X-T30 has a couple of handling quirks that are practically inevitable in a camera this small, and it has no in-body stabilisation, but these are the only faults we can find in a camera with superb external controls, a great 26.1-megapixel sensor, superb autofocus and powerful 4K video recording – and all for the price of regular mid-range camera.

For

  • Excellent image quality
  • Powerful and effective autofocus
  • Traditional exposure controls
  • Small size

Against

  • No in-body stabilisation
  • Placement of Q button

Fujifilm has dubbed the X-T30 the “Little Giant” – a small camera with big performance. It’s the successor to the X-T20, and it’s a kind of cut-down version of the company’s flagship X-T3 model which shares a lot of that camera’s technological advances.

You’d still pick the X-T3 for speed, handling with bigger lenses and high-end 4K video, but the X-T30 is ideal if you want a sophisticated, high-performance mirrorless camera that’s also small and not too expensive. 

This makes the X-T30 a great little all-round camera that’s right at the cutting edge of APS-C mirrorless camera technology, but well under the £1,000/$1,000 price barrier. If you’re a first-time Fujifilm user and you need a kit lens to go with it, that will probably push it over that figure, but you’re still getting a lot of your camera for your money by any standards.

It's small, it's neat, it's extremely powerful. What's not to love about the new X-T30?

It's small, it's neat, it's extremely powerful. What's not to love about the new X-T30?

Specifications

Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4, 23.5 x 15.6mm
Image processor: X-Processor Pro 4
AF points: 2.16 million phase AF pixels, 100% coverage
ISO range: 200 to 12,800 (exp. 100 to 51,200)
Max image size: 6,240 x 4,160
Metering modes: Multi, spot, average, centre-weighted
Video: 4K DCI/UHD at 30p, 25p, 24p
Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36m dots, 100% coverage
Memory card: SD / SDHC / SDXC
LCD: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1.04m dots
Max burst: 30fps (electronic shutter, 1.25x crop), 8fps
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Size: 118.4 x 82.8 x 46.8mm (body only)
Weight: 383g (body only, with battery and card)

Key features

The X-T30 comes with Fujifilm’s latest 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 APS-C image sensor and an X-Processor Pro 4 image processor said to be three times faster than the previous third-generation version. This new sensor debuted last autumn in the X-T3, and its back-illuminated design brings improved light-gathering capability and image quality.

Some of the biggest changes, however, are to the autofocus system. The X-T30 now has 2.16 million phase detection pixels covering 100% of the image area. The face and eye detection has been improved thanks to smaller and more precise tracking areas, and the low-light sensitivity has been improved too – the X-T30’s AF can now work in light levels as low as -3EV.

The X-T30's autofocus system is now so sophisticated that the bigger X-T3 will need a firmware update in April 2019 to catch up.

The X-T30's autofocus system is now so sophisticated that the bigger X-T3 will need a firmware update in April 2019 to catch up.

In fact, the X-T30’s autofocus system is currently more advanced than the upmarket X-T3’s, and that will only change when the X-T3 gets a free firmware update in April 2019. It’s great to see a camera manufacturer bringing its latest and best technology to each new camera and not holding it back just for its most expensive models.

The continuous shooting performance has been improved and it’s now possible to capture frames at 30fps with no viewfinder blackout when using the electronic shutter and the camera’s 1.25x crop mode. If you use the mechanical shutter, the top speed is 8fps.

Fujifilm's designers have even found room for a pop-up flash, though it's not particularly powerful.

Fujifilm's designers have even found room for a pop-up flash, though it's not particularly powerful.

The X-T30 has some pretty impressive video features too. It can capture 4K UHD video at 30p, using ‘oversampled’ 6K capture downsampled to 4K for maximum image quality, and it also has Fujifilm’s latest ETERNA cinema film simulation mode. The X-T30 can save 4:2:0 8-bit video internally or 4:2:2 10-bit via HDMI. In 1080p it can shoot up to 60fps or 120fps in High speed rec mode, and it also supports the DCI 17:9 format.

Fujifilm continues to work closely with high-end camera and software maker Phase One, and the v12.0.2 update to Capture One Pro added support for the X-T30’s raw files right from the day it was launched.

The technology that’s gone into the X-T30 might not be enough to tempt any owners of the old X-T20 to upgrade, but anyone looking for the best sub-£1,000/$1,000 camera you can buy right now may have just found it. 

Build and handling

The X-T30 looks almost identical to the previous X-T20, though the LCD is 1.3mm thinner and there’s a revised grip shape for better handling. There are differences on the back, too. The four-way directional buttons on the previous camera are gone, replaced by a new Focus Lever which also handles menu navigation. It makes the back of the camera much less cluttered and you  might hardly miss the buttons at all, as most everyday camera settings can be accessed just as quickly via the Q menu anyway.

There are no four-way navigational buttons on the back, just a single, neat focus lever which also performs navigation functions. That Q button is in an annoying place, though.

There are no four-way navigational buttons on the back, just a single, neat focus lever which also performs navigation functions. That Q button is in an annoying place, though.

The interactive Q(uick) display works really well, but the button placement caused us some issues. It’s right on the thumb grip and it’s too easy to press accidentally as you’re taking the camera out of a bag or even raising it to your eye – the Q screen pops up right when you don’t want it and you have to cancel it before you can take a picture. You’ll probably adapt and shift your grip unconsciously to avoid this, but it could be annoying in the short term.

The X-T30 is slightly slimmer than the previous X-T20 but with a reshaped grip on the front.

The X-T30 is slightly slimmer than the previous X-T20 but with a reshaped grip on the front.

The rear screen has a tilt action but no sideways tilt, so it’s great for low or high angle shots with the camera held horizontally, but not so good for vertical shots, where you have to get yourself at eye level with the screen.

The X-T30 keeps Fujifilm’s characteristic control layout, though, with a shutter speed dial on the top of the camera and lens aperture rings on some (but not all) lenses. Fujifilm’s prime lenses and ‘red badge’ zooms have aperture rings, but the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens has a switch for auto/manual aperture control and an unmarked aperture ring for the latter.

This means there’s no mode dial, and you achieve the usual program AE, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual modes using combinations of manual settings and the ‘A’ settings on the shutter speed and aperture dials. For some, this is going to be a welcome return to how cameras actually used to work! For others raised on mode dials and command dials, it might take a bit of getting used to.

Fujifilm's prime lenses and 'red badge' zooms have marked aperture rings, while the 18-55mm kit lens simply has an auto/manual aperture switch and an unmarked control ring (with click-stops).

Fujifilm's prime lenses and 'red badge' zooms have marked aperture rings, while the 18-55mm kit lens simply has an auto/manual aperture switch and an unmarked control ring (with click-stops).

Performance

The X-T30 has captured the pale warmth of the sunshine perfectly in this shot.

The X-T30 has captured the pale warmth of the sunshine perfectly in this shot.

The new and improved face and eye tracking is very effective, though almost too effective at times, as it seems easily distracted by people wandering into the frame when you’re trying to shoot inanimate objects. The downside of all this sophistication is that you will inevitably have to spend more time getting familiar with the AF options and choosing and customising them to suit the way you shoot.

This window-lit portrait from the X-T30 launch event shows off the X-T30's rich tonal rendition. 1/125 sec, f/4.0, ISO2000, image by Marianne Chua (pre-production sample image).

This window-lit portrait from the X-T30 launch event shows off the X-T30's rich tonal rendition. 1/125 sec, f/4.0, ISO2000, image by Marianne Chua (pre-production sample image).

The X-T30's sensor has terrific resolving power, helped along by Fujifilm's rather good 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens.

The 18-55mm kit lens has a slightly wider maximum aperture than most, so it's not too difficult to get differential focus effects and blurred backgrounds.

Autofocus performance generally is excellent, though the speed will not depend solely on the camera but on the AF actuators in the lenses themselves. The 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens is fast, smooth and responsive, as are other recent Fujifilm lenses, for example, but the older 27mm f/2.8 pancake prime will still wheeze and whirr during autofocus, but just a shade faster than before!

As ever, Fujifilm includes a wide range of its celebrated Film Simulation modes, including Provia/Standard, Velvia/Vivid, Astia/Soft, Classic Chrome, Pro Neg.Hi, Pro Neg.Std, Black & White, Black & White+Ye Filter, Black & White+R Filter, Black & White+G Filter, Sepia, Acros, Acros+Ye Filter, Acros+R Filter, Acros+G Filter and the new Eterna/Cinema. 

This scene has pushed the X-T30's regular dynamic range to the limit, but it offers optional 200% and 400% dynamic range expansion modes.

The X-T30's high-ISO performance is very good. This was taken at ISO 1600, but we'd not hesitate to go up to ISO 3200 or even ISO 6400 if necessary.

The X-T30's high-ISO performance is very good. This was taken at ISO 1600, but we'd not hesitate to go up to ISO 3200 or even ISO 6400 if necessary.

The X-T30 is great for night shots – the new AF system is sensitive down to -3EV – but you have to remember there's no in-body image stabilisation when you're shooting with prime (unstabilised) Fujinon lenses, so don't take any chances with the shutter speeds.

The X-T30 is great for night shots – the new AF system is sensitive down to -3EV – but you have to remember there's no in-body image stabilisation when you're shooting with prime (unstabilised) Fujinon lenses, so don't take any chances with the shutter speeds.

These all create in-camera JPEGs with these profiles applied – if you shoot raw files, you’ll need to rely on your raw software to produce the closest simulation, but both Adobe Camera Raw and Capture One Pro do this very effectively. The Velvia mode offers supersaturated colours and high contrast, Astia offers similar colours but with softer contrast and the Provia mode is more neutral.

There is more tonal control available if you need it. The X-T30 offers Fujifilm’s expanded dynamic range modes (200% and 400%) plus highlight and shadow contrast controls. With the Film Simulation modes and these additional tonal adjustments you can create in-camera JPEGs which are very close to an optimum raw file conversion.

Resolution is first-rate, and Fujifilm cameras apply lens corrections automatically to eliminate curved horizons and bowed edges – both in JPEGs and raw files.

Resolution is first-rate, and Fujifilm cameras apply lens corrections automatically to eliminate curved horizons and bowed edges – both in JPEGs and raw files.

Lab tests

We checked the X-T30’s lab results against three similarly-priced, similarly-sized mirrorless cameras – the Canon EOS M5, Olympus PEN-F and Sony A6400.

Resolution

The Olympus PEN-F turns in a remarkably good resolution result at its lowest ISO setting, but this quickly falls at higher ISOs and it’s the X-T30 and Sony A6400 that lead the pack, running neck and neck until ISO 3200, where the X-T30 edges slightly ahead.

Signal to noise ratio

The X-T30 emerged a clear winner for noise control in our lab tests, though these results were achieved using the Fujifilm-branded SilkyPix raw converter. Others, including Adobe Camera Raw and Capture One, may give different results.

Dynamic range

Up to around ISO 800 the X-T30 displays a slight dynamic range advantage over its rivals, but beyond that it’s the Olympus PEN-F that starts to sneak ahead (the Olympus camera’s resolution drops off more quickly at high ISOs, though).

Verdict

The X-T30 crams a lot of technology and performance into a very small body. Sometimes it seems even too small, as it’s still a little too easy to press buttons by accident, and bigger lenses will inevitably leave it feeling front-heavy.

Its continuous shooting speed and autofocus performance make it great for sports and action subjects, but a bigger camera like the X-T3 would be better still – and the X-T3 has a larger memory buffer. Similarly, the X-T30’s 4K video is very good indeed, but the X-T3’s is better, though neither camera has a front-facing screen for filming yourself while vlogging.

The X-T30's 26.1MP X-Trans sensor, 2.16 million phase AF pixels and X Processor Pro 4 processing engine give it big-camera performance.

The X-T30's 26.1MP X-Trans sensor, 2.16 million phase AF pixels and X Processor Pro 4 processing engine give it big-camera performance.

Along with the X-T3, this is currently the highest-resolution APS-C mirrorless camera you can buy. It’s also one of the smallest, most powerful and most versatile. Fujifilm’s closest competition here is the Sony A6400/6500, but the Sony does not have the X-T30’s design finesse, traditional photographic controls, EVF and screen quality or even lens range (especially if you like prime lenses).

So while we can criticise aspects of the X-T30’s features and handling here and there, it is really just nitpicking. At this price, there is nothing else to touch it for its all-round blend of performance, features, controls, handling, or even image quality – even if you extend your search to include DSLRs.

The X-T30 is available in black and silver initially, with a Charcoal Silver version on sale from May 2019.

The X-T30 is available in black and silver initially, with a Charcoal Silver version on sale from May 2019.

The X-T30 is available now in black and silver, but there will be a new Charcoal Silver finish arriving in May 2019. You can buy the camera body-only (useful if you already have a Fujifilm system), with the compact Fujinon XC 15-45mm power-zoom lens or the very good but more expensive Fujinon XF 18-55mm.

Rivals

We’ve picked three key rivals for the Fujifilm X-T30 both for our lab tests and for this comparison. 

Canon EOS M5

It's aimed at the same kind of higher-end enthusiast market, but the EOS M5 is getting quite long in the tooth now and can't match the X-T30's resolution, autofocus or video performance. It has dropped considerably in price, though.

Olympus PEN-F

Don't be fooled by the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor – the PEN-F delivers similar levels of sharpness to its APS-C rivals, has an appealing retro design, fully-articulating rear screen and in-body stabilisation. It costs plenty, though, and doesn't have 4K video.

Sony A6400

The A6400 shoots high-quality 4K video and has a 180-degree flip-forward screen which is brilliant for vlogging. It's an old camera design, though, and less appealing for stills photographers than the X-T30.

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