Fujifilm X-T4 Hands-on Review: Near Photographic Perfection

Fujifilm X-T4

“There’s still room for improvement, but the X-T4 is the closest thing yet to the perfect camera.”

  • Great 5-axis stabilization
  • Fully-articulating screen
  • 600-shot battery
  • 15-fps mechanical shutter
  • Refined video controls
  • RIP headphone jack
  • No high-res shot mode

When Fujifilm unveiled the X-T4 in February, I worried we finally had the perfect camera. It looked to remedy every issue I’d ever raised with previous X-T flagships by adding in-body image stabilization, a fully-articulating screen, and (finally!) a higher-capacity battery. Would I have nothing left to list in the “cons” section?

Fortunately — from the perspective of a reviewer, anyway — there is still some room for criticism. Fujifilm’s inexplicable decision to pull a move out of Apple’s book and remove the headphone jack, while certainly not the end of the world, is a disappointment.

Also, as a product moves up in capabilities and cost, as the X-T4 has, expectations change. A missing feature I may have ignored before is suddenly a point of longing. And as the price inches closer to that $2,000 mark, the inevitable comparison to full-frame cameras becomes part of the conversation.

But don’t fret Fujifilm fans. While it’s not perfect, the X-T4 is a class-defining camera and one of the most refined and feature-complete cameras at any price.

Note: I was provided a pre-production camera for this hands-on that still had some bugs and inconsistencies in the fit and finish. I didn’t factor these issues into my verdict.

New features and improvements

The X-T4 looks like an X-T3 that hit the gym for a couple of months. Although the difference is slight and hard to notice without a side-by-side comparison, it is physically larger and heavier and feels more robust in the hand.

That swol frame supports a 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system, vari-angle LCD screen that flips a full 180 degrees forward, and a 2200mAh battery — about 1,000mAh more than the previous battery.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen sensor-shift stabilization on the Fujifilm X series. That credit goes to the larger and more expensive Fujifilm X-H1; a camera I praised for its video capabilities but was outclassed in all respects (save stabilization) by the X-T3.

Fujifilm had to engineer an entirely new gimbal to fit IBIS into the smaller X-T body style. Yet it’s actually better than the stabilization in the X-H1, offering up to 6.5 stops of shake reduction with some lenses, and no less than 5 with the rest.

Interestingly, the optically stabilized lenses don’t offer the best performance. Even the first-generation primes, like my 35mm f/1.4 R and 23mm f/1.4 R, are good for 6.5 stops. In fact, the lowest-rated lenses are found among the optically stabilized set, including the 80mm F2.8 OIS Macro, which is the sole lens to offer only 5 stops of shake reduction.

The X-T4 isn’t the first X-series camera to have a fully-articulating screen. However, the X-T4 is the first flagship model with such a screen, and it’s a boon for vloggers and YouTubers who need an easy way to monitor themselves on camera.

An articulating monitor isn’t a huge benefit to Fujifilm’s core audience of still photographers, but the X-T4 is ready to break out of the brand’s niche. Given its excellent video features, I expect many customers will take advantage of the new monitor.

Both still photographers and videographers will appreciate the larger battery. CIPA rates it for up to 600 exposures in economy mode, 500 in normal mode, and 480 in boost mode. For casual use, there’s nothing wrong with keeping the camera in economy mode, but I also found no reason to worry about battery life in boost mode, which improves autofocus speed and LCD/EVF frame rates. It’s the most enjoyable way to use the camera.

Plus, CIPA ratings are always conservative. I shot about 300 exposures in boost mode and the battery indicator only dropped one bar, leading me to believe 900-1,000 shots should be easily achievable.

Design

Aside from big new features, several small design tweaks solidify the X-T4’s position as a go-to camera for professionals.

The new shutter mechanism is rated for 300,000 exposures over its lifetime, double that of the X-T3. It can also shoot in continuous mode at 15 frames per second, an impressive feat for a mechanical shutter that is matched only by much costlier, bespoke sports cameras.

To the untrained eye, the control layout looks identical to the X-T3, but a few buttons have been re-positioned and one key change has been made: A still/movie mode switch has replaced the metering mode selector nested under the shutter speed dial. This is a more intuitive way to engage movie mode, which was previously just an option on the drive mode dial.

The still and movie modes now have different menus, so you can have different settings saved for each mode. For hybrid shooters, this will save time and ensure that you don’t accidentally forget to change a setting when switching modes.

Video mode is largely the same as the X-T3, recording 10-bit 4K up to 400 megabits per second internally. However, Full HD video can now be shot at 240 frames per second, albeit with a crop, for up to 10X slow-motion playback. You’ll get better quality at lower frame rates, but it’s a fun option.

One small change is an indisputable negative, however, and that’s the removal of the headphone jack. The X-T3 and X-T2 both offered this. Fujifilm includes a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box, but it’s still an extra accessory you have to carry with you. This is a strange omission for a camera that’s otherwise friendly to videographers.

There’s also no included external battery charger, although the camera can charge over USB-C. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker for the average user, but a bit strange for a camera that appeals to enthusiasts and pros who often need to charge one battery while shooting with another. For those who need it, an optional dual-battery wall charger will be available for $70.

I can’t fault Fujifilm too much for this one. This was likely a move to keep the cost of the camera as low as possible. At $1,700, the X-T4 is launching at $300 less than the X-H1, yet it is a better camera in every way except for the lack of a top LCD display.

Photo and video quality

The X-T4 uses the same 26-megapixel X-Trans sensor and X Processor 4 image processor as the prior model, so there’s nothing new to say about RAW image quality. It’s very good, although high ISO shots are certainly noisier than those from the best full-frame cameras.

However, this wouldn’t be a new Fujifilm camera without a new film simulation, and the X-T4 gives us Eterna Bleach Bypass. This is based on the Eterna simulation introduced with the X-H1 (which I really liked), but mimics the film development technique known as bleach bypass.

By skipping the bleaching step, a color film would be left with its silver layer intact, leading to a semi-transparent monochromatic image overlaid atop a color photo. The result is a low-saturation, high-contrast image.

Eterna Bleach Bypass won’t make for a look everyone enjoys, but it’s a unique in-camera effect that fits some subjects and moods. For this review, I shot all my images using film simulation bracketing so that I could try out Eterna Bleach Bypass without risking being stuck with it.

Film simulation bracketing applies up to three simulations to the same exposure, granting multiple looks to work with (in my case, Eterna Bleach Bypass, regular Eterna, and Provia). This isn’t a big deal if you’re shooting RAW and can change profiles after the fact, but in-camera JPEGs don’t have the same flexibility.

The biggest contributor to image quality, though, is the IBIS system. It lets you shoot at slower shutter speeds without worrying about camera shake, which can lead to sharper images. Also, in some situations, being able to shoot with a slower shutter allows for lower ISO, making for less noise.

In practice, I’m not sure I achieved the full 6.5 stops with my lenses, but it’s important to note this rating comes from CIPA standard testing, which looks only at pitch and yaw motion and ignores vertical and horizontal shift.

Still, I did shoot as low as 1/8 second with the 35mm and achieved sharp, usable results. That’s good enough for the vast majority of situations. You won’t manage handheld night sky shots like you can with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, and I still brought a tripod with me to get images like the waterfall below, but otherwise, the X-T4’s stabilization is everything you could want.

As with the X-H1, I recommend setting stabilization to “continuous” mode. That keeps IBIS constantly active, which stabilizes the image preview and helps you get perfect framing. Otherwise, IBIS only activates when you take a picture. This might save battery life, but you’ll see a shaky preview image.

One feature I would have loved to see on the X-T4 is a high-resolution mode, something found on many Panasonic and Olympus cameras with sensor-shift stabilization. By taking multiple exposures and shifting the sensor by a pixel between each, additional resolution and color accuracy can be captured. I’m not an engineer, but my guess is that the complex pixel arrangement of X-Trans sensors would make it difficult to employ the same pixel-shift technique used by cameras with standard Bayer sensors.

The Fujifilm X-T4 is an awesome camera

At $1,700, the X-T4 pushes into full-frame territory. The excellent Nikon Z 6, which is under $1,850 at the time of writing, will offer better low-light image quality and comparable 5-axis stabilization.

However, even that camera lacks the X-T4’s speed and video capabilities (at least, without adding an external recorder). It’s also larger overall, especially once you take the full-frame lenses into account.

The Sony A6600 is the closest direct competitor, and quite a bit cheaper right now thanks to manufacturer rebates that put it just under $1,200. That’s a lot of camera for the money, even if the X-T4 outclasses it in some respects, from burst shooting and video quality to shutter speed range and EVF resolution.

As a dedicated APS-C system, Fujifilm has the most complete portfolio of format-specific lenses. You don’t have the full-frame upgrade path that you get with Sony, but for most of us, it means you simply don’t need it.

It’s also worth pointing out that the X-T3 remains in Fujifilm’s lineup, at a reduced price of $1,300. It’s still a fantastic camera.

I have no problem calling the Fujifilm X-T4 the best APS-C camera I’ve used. It’s a class act, elegantly designed for the photography enthusiast, with an attention to detail rivaled only by Leica. You don’t just shoot it for the results, but for the joy of the experience.

That’s not something I can say about the competition.

Editors’ Recommendations




Source link