Fujifilm X-T4 vs X-T3: Which should I buy – and is it worth upgrading?

X-T4 versus X-T3

Fujifilm says the X-T4 is intended as a sister model to the X-T3 rather than a direct replacement, but there are enough differences between the two that some users might wish to upgrade. And there may be people looking at the X series afresh, wanting to know which is the better choice.

The more I’ve used the X-T4, the more I believe some stills-only photographers will appreciate it

Initially I wrote that the majority of benefits would be experienced by video shooters but the more I’ve used it, the more I believe some stills-only photographers will appreciate the newer model.

But, of course, the X-T3 has been on the market long enough that its price has dropped, so anyone looking to buy for the first time might be tempted to save a fair chunk of money by going for the unstabilized camera. So what are the differences that matter?

Stabilization

Image stabilization will be the decisive factor for some photographers, but not all. Given Fujifilm’s lens lineup is primarily built around stabilized zooms and fast primes (the same approach that’s worked well for Nikon and Canon’s DSLR systems), many photographers are likely to conclude they don’t need a stabilized camera body.

Some kinds of photography, such as macro work, could benefit from it but for many stills shooters it’s likely to be a feature that’s nice to have, but not necessarily essential.

For many stills shooters IS is likely to be a feature that’s nice to have, but not necessarily essential

Stabilization is probably a feature that offers the most benefit to videographers. Unlike lens IS, in-body IS can correct for camera roll, and in our experience so far, it’s sufficiently effective to allow the X-T4 to be used without a tripod or gimbal. This pairs nicely with the excellent video spec shared by both cameras.

For really ambitious video work, the X-T3 mounted on a gimbal is arguably the more powerful combination (especially now Fujifilm has added the ability to control the camera from the gimbal), but for ad hoc video shooting, the X-T4’s stabilization is a major benefit.

Battery life

Battery life is another big differentiator between the two cameras. The X-T3 could already be charged and operated by connecting a power bank to its USB-C port, so it was easy enough to keep topped-up, such that its battery capacity wasn’t a major limitation for most users.

Video shooters, who need to know their battery won’t cut out mid-shot, and photographers who need to travel light and not carry an external battery, will be the main beneficiaries of the X-T4’s larger capacity W235 battery.

The X-T4 delivers a 600 shot rating if behaving like the X-T3’s default mode, or 500 with a better user experience

Interestingly, the X-T3 achieved its pretty respectable 390 shots-per-charge rating by dropping the brightness and refresh rate of its screen after 12 seconds of inactivity: a behavior the X-T4 calls ‘Economy’ mode. A like-for-like comparison would be that the X-T4 delivers a 600 shot rating if compared to the X-T3’s default mode, or 500 while providing a better user experience.

Improved autofocus

The X-T4’s autofocus improves over the X-T3’s in terms of both performance and usability.

The difference in performance is immediately apparent in tracking mode, with a single AF reticule sticking much more tenaciously than the ‘cloud’ of AF points did in the past. We’ve not been able to fully test this yet, as we’re told full production X-T4s won’t be available for a while, but it’s a very promising sign: Fujifilm’s autofocus has generally been very good at assessing subject distance, the main shortcoming has been the ability to stay locked onto the correct subject (hence us generally recommending using a focus zone, rather than tracking mode). Concerns about AF drive speed on some lenses persist, but we’re looking forward to testing an X-T4 with the likes of the 50-140mm F2.8 LM.

The X-T4’s autofocus improves over the X-T3’s in terms of both performance and usability

Meanwhile the X-T4’s face and eye detection systems have been improved, particularly in terms of how they’re operated. Like the X-Pro3, the X-T4’s face detection works pretty well and lets you drop out of face detection mode simply by operating the AF joystick. This means you can leave the camera in face detection mode most of the time, if you wish. The Face Selection mode is also pretty effective, letting you use the joystick to choose between faces or press it inwards to drop back to your underlying AF mode.

Sadly, like the X-Pro3, you can’t leave the camera in Face Selection mode: you can only access it by applying it to a custom button and the camera exits the mode every time you power it off.

Improved stills processing options

The X-T4 includes the additional processing options introduced with the X-Pro3, including Color Chrome Effect Blue, Classic Negative film simulation and the Clarity parameter. On top of this it adds the Eterna Bleach Bypass film sim and more fine-grained control of the camera’s response curves.

The X-T4 also gains the option to re-process Raw files as 8 or 16-bit TIFF files, for situations in which you intend to post-process your images, but prefer the in-camera color and detail rendering to anything you can get from a Raw converter.

Your position may differ, but personally I tend to feel that once I’ve got Provia, Astia, Eterna and Acros I’ve got all the options I need. So, while these new options will add some value to the new camera, they wouldn’t sway my own buying decision.

Movie shooting differences

The X-T4’s base movie shooting spec is very similar to that of the X-T3. It’s a testament to how good the T3’s video capture was that it’s still one of the most video capable hybrid cameras on the market, so long after its launch. With internal 10-bit and 60p capture, it’s still probably the most powerful 4K shooter this side of Panasonic’s latest GH models.

The X-T4’s ‘Movie Optimized Control’ is an appreciable improvement that makes it quicker to adjust settings

There are improvements, though, even beyond the provision of a fully-articulated screen and in-body stabilization. For a start, the ‘Movie Silent Control’ function, that lets you use the touchscreen to change settings without interrupting your footage – and, crucially, lets you set distinct exposure settings for movie and stills shooting – has been improved. The X-T4’s ‘Movie Optimized Control’ mode lets you adjust exposure using the camera’s front and rear dials, in addition to the touchscreen. It’s an appreciable improvement that makes it quicker to adjust settings when shooting in changing light.

The other small change that makes a big difference is the Log Preview Assist mode. This doesn’t go as far as Panasonic’s mode, which lets you import LUTs onto your camera but, more like Sony’s implementation, gives a loosely graded preview, which makes it much easier to check your shots in both preview and playback modes.

Greater movie/stills separation

We’ve seen some posts decrying the removal of a dedicated metering switch from the X-T4, but we suspect many users will end up finding the stills/video switch that replaces it more valuable, even (perhaps especially) die-hard stills-only shooters.

While many stills shooters are likely to prefer the X-T3’s two-axis screen, since it stays in line with the camera’s optical axis for both landscape and portrait orientation shooting, travel photographers and the generally clumsy may appreciate the ability to fold the screen so that it faces in towards the camera, leaving it protected from scratches when thrown into a bag.

Users who don’t ever plan to shoot video need never encounter the pages of video setup options

The other benefit for all types of shooters is that distinct movie and stills modes allow the menus to be be more focused on the settings they need. Users who don’t ever plan to shoot video need never encounter the pages of video setup options, and movie shooters can more easily find the options they want, with audio and timecode options broken out into their own menu tabs.

What about the X-H1?

Of course the X-T4 isn’t the first Fujifilm camera to offer in-body stabilization. The X-H1 was a stabilized sister model to the X-T2 and, like the X-T4, appeared to offer most to video shooters. With the last of the X-H1s still available new at knock-down prices, how does it stack up?

Looking back (and it’s not really that far), it’s impressive how far the X-T4 brings us, compared with the X-H1. The underlying still image quality hasn’t changed radically, but just about everything else has continued to creep forward.

It’s impressive how far the X-T4 brings us, compared with the X-H1

The X-T4’s IS is rated as being significantly more effective (though we’re not able to formally test that, yet), and the autofocus is significantly better, not least in that the phase-detection capability extends across the whole sensor, rather than being confined to a central square.

On the video side, the X-T3 and 4 both offer full-width 4K video, which makes it easier to shoot wide-angle than the X-H1’s 1.18x cropped version. They also offer 10-bit internal capture, which is especially valuable for Log shooting. Both of the newer cameras also include the ability to shoot 4K/60p, either to represent fast action or to allow for 50% or 40% slow-mo playback, and both can continue recording for around twice the time the X-H1 can.

We tended to find the X-H1’s shutter button over-sensitive but this and the camera’s quiet shutter had their fans. For us the X-T4’s shutter is quiet enough, and now comes with the added reassurance of a 300,000 lifespan rating.

Upgrades to the X-T3

The question hanging over a much of this article is whether Fujifilm will implement any of the X-T4’s features in the X-T3.

Having established a reputation for providing feature additions and improvements (onto often already well-specced cameras with good performance), Fujifilm has now put itself in a position where its users have come to expect to continue to receive the benefits of its ongoing R&D in their cameras, for free.

There’s an argument to be made that Fujifilm has already provided X-T3 users with an reasonable level of post-launch support

The X-T3 is now 18 months old, so is probably getting towards the end of its life cycle, yet its feature set remains competitive. It’s received a series of updates improving its performance and making small feature additions throughout its life so far. At which point, there’s an argument to be made that Fujifilm has already provided users with an appropriate level of post-launch support. Obviously it would be nice if the company decided to make add some of the additional features it’s developed for the X-T4. But whether it’s a reasonable expectation is another matter.

It’s likely to hinge on whether Fujifilm really does plan to maintain the X-T3 and X-T4 concurrently. Sony clearly believes there’s room for both its a6400 and a6600 models which, aside from battery size and image stabilization, have feature parity, but Fujifilm may decide not to upgrade the X-T3 up to X-T4 level in order to make the X-T4 more attractive.

Should I upgrade?

Ultimately, the choice of whether to upgrade from the X-T3 to the X-T4 depends on your specific needs. Given how competitive the X-T3 is, we believe both could happily co-exist – it’s still an excellent camera, offering tremendous capability for both stills and video shooters. Paired with a $500 DJI Ronin SC, it’s still one of the best video cameras under $2000. For those reasons many users might quite legitimately follow Dan’s advice, and settle for a bit.

But the X-T4 does have a lot going for it. Image stabilization, a bigger battery, improved autofocus and a host of performance and handling tweaks that will really add up for some photographers. I’m certainly looking forward to getting a change to test a full production version.

Until we get a chance to test the fine detail, we hope this article helps you assess whether it’s an upgrade you need to make, or whether it’s better to save your money for an extra lens or perhaps even the conjectured X-H2.