Thoughts on Using the Fujifilm X-T3 and X-H1 on Safari

by Dave Burns | Posted in Trip Reports, What's in the Bag | Tags: , , , , , ,

About 4 years ago, I wrote a lengthy blog post about my experience shooting on safari with the Fujifilm X-T1. In that post, I shared some of the challenges I had and the changes that I wanted Fujifilm to make to improve the experience and results. I had an interest in this: my complete Canon kit for safari shooting weighed about 30 pounds by the time I included all the lenses and bodies. The same kit with Fuji gear weighed about 10 pounds and packed smaller!

Since that post, I’ve continued bringing Fujifilm gear on safari and now it’s the only gear I bring. This last October, I brought the just-released X-T3 along with an X-H1. I even have an X-E2 that I had converted for infrared photography. My lenses were all Fujifilm as well: the 100-400mm, the 50-140mm, and the 18-55mm. For infrared, I also brought the 14mm and the 35/1.4 since those work well for infrared and are compact.

Some observations:

I don’t have a deep look at testing to offer or pixel-peeping detail images to share – I have no interest in that. Just some high-level thoughts. I’ve put a gallery of selects at the end of this post (all Fuji except for 1 or 2 iPhone where noted). The majority were shot with the 100-400mm and on a mix of the X-H1 and X-T3.

  • Battery life was excellent. With battery grips for both bodies and a total of three batteries using all the high performance and boost modes, I still only needed to charge batteries every other day. This is with use of image stabilization all day.
  • The X-H1’s shutter button is very soft – too soft for me. Some people love it and some people find it too hair trigger. I much prefer the action on the X-T3. It was too easy to fire by accident with the X-H1.
  • People who love Fuji X cameras love the traditional controls but it means that some things possible with one button on all-digital controlled bodies aren’t possible with Fuji. When shooting on safari, I usually want to switch between two things at once: single and continuous shutter and single and continuous autofocus. This still requires working two dials/switches to accomplish. Not the worst thing in the world but would be nice if there was a faster way to switch both modes at once.

My concerns from 4 years ago have mainly been addressed:

  • AF performance. The XT-3 isn’t just two generations of performance better than the X-T1. It’s many more. Because Fuji has released a steady stream of firmware updates over the life of the X-T series, the autofocus system has seen many major enhancements to its capabilities. At this point, I think the Fuji AF system is excellent.
  • Responsive controls. My main desire, for Fuji to add a joystick to move the AF point instead of using the clumsy directional pad, has been met.
  • Weatherproofing and ruggedness. The memory card door on the X-T1 felt a bit flimsy and was way to easy to knock open by accident. Fujifilm made this more difficult to open by accident on the X-T3 and it has a stiff feel with a positive click when latching the door. Other than that, all the gear held up in dusty conditions and a lot of bouncing down the road.
  • Long focal length lenses. 4 years ago, my only option was to bring the 55-200mm lens. Now I bring the 50-140mm and the 100-400mm which are optically excellent. I find the 100-400 a little soft at the extreme long end but overall, if I stay near an optimal aperture of f/8 – f/10 then I’m happy with the images. I do bring the 1.4x extender but don’t use it very much given the time required to switch it in and out. A dream lens would be an analog of Canon’s 200-400 which has the 1.4x extender built in and available at the flip of a switch.
  • High image quality. The X-T1 had a 16MP sensor and the X-T3 has a 26MP sensor. The quality of the images from the X-T1 was/is high but the extra pixels in the X-T3 make it that much easier to make big prints and crop when needed.

Odds and Ends:

In my blog post on the X-T1 on safari, I listed a few miscellaneous things and oddities that I’d like to see changed. I have some new ones (it’s completely possible these are already do-able but they’re lost in the depths of Fuji’s menus. If so, please leave me a comment. I’d appreciate it!) :

  • Fuji has a “voice memo” feature to record a .wav file attached to a picture. This is great for note-taking, e.g. if I’ve just photographed an uncommon bird I won’t remember later. To activate the feature though, I have to switch to playback mode before pushing the dial to start recording and that is clumsy. I’d like a way to record a memo while still in “shooting” mode.
  • I wish Fuji would let us limit which EVF and LCD modes are cycled through when using the View Mode button. I only ever want to use two of the many possible ones.
  • I wish that, no matter which view mode I’m in, there was an option to only display the menu system on the rear LCD. I never want to use the menu system while looking through the viewfinder.
  • Completely obscure feature request that will likely never happen: I wish Fuji offered a magic combination of button presses that saved a screenshot of the viewfinder/LCD to a JPEG. This would make creating tutorials and so on for Fuji cameras a lot easier.

At this point, I feel that taking Fuji gear on safari is a good choice. I will return to Tanzania and the Serengeti this October with a group of safari clients and I expect to bring an all-Fuji kit again.

– Dave

[ The X-T3 was released about a week before I left for Africa last fall. Many thanks to Gary Farber and Alan Samiljan at Hunt’s Photo for getting me the X-T3 asap after that so I would have time to learn it and get it ready for the safari. ]

About Dave Burns

Dave Burns is a wildlife, travel, and landscape photographer whose passions range from the beauty of the African savanna to the streets of Paris. He created Dave Burns Photo Tours to share his favorite places with other photographers, help them capture unique images, and learn more about photography and digital work flow. His next trip is an African photo safari to the Serengeti in February 2021. Dave’s images are in private collections and galleries. To contact him, use the contact page on this site.

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