Opinion: The Fujifilm XT3’s Sensor Still Doesn’t Output Images That Look Totally Like Film (But They’re Nice)

The Fujifilm XT3 is shaping up to be a really fantastic camera, but it still isn’t utilizing the reason why so many of us went to Fujifilm in the first place.

The Fujifilm XT3 (or as they call it, the Fujifilm X-T3) is the company’s latest evolution to their SLR style camera body designed to be a workhorse for many photographers. Despite a whole lot of great and absolutely fantastic things built into the camera, I personally am wondering what Fujifilm’s goal is here with the idea of the X Trans sensor and Film Simulations. One of the reasons why I was so smitten with the X Pro 1 was the fact that it delivered images that really looked like well shot and developed film. To some extent, the Fujifilm XT2 did too but only really with Acros. With the latest iteration, the Fujifilm X-T3, the company is delivering a new 26.2MP X Trans Sensor that delivers the most beautiful colors of any APS-C sensor that we’ve seen. But at the same time, the film simulations just don’t feel right.

The other night, Reviews Editor Paul Ip and I were walking around Brooklyn shooting with the Fujifilm X-T3 and some of the company’s very fine f1.4 lenses. The images, despite being absolutely gorgeous, don’t look like film. They don’t resemble 35mm films renditions of a scene and they don’t really look like 120 film’s renditions either.

One can argue that we should probably get over it. The reasoning is that if I want to shoot film, then I should shoot film and help an industry that is currently in a crisis of stability and being overpriced. But the point of the X Trans sensor was to be able to deliver better colors and output comparable to full frame sensors. The output is great, but I’m not totally sure it can fully keep up with the image quality that full frame sensors can deliver.

New photographers who pick up the Fujifilm X-T3 will fall in love with the ergonomics, the autofocus performance, the responsiveness, and the image quality overall. And rightfully so, they should. The Fujifilm XT3 is different enough from the X-H1 that it’s going to tempt photographers who shoot mostly stills over the company’s flagship. If you want to shoot video, then you’ll perhaps want to go for the Fujifilm X-H1’s image stabilized sensor. These photographers perhaps don’t care that much about a film-like look or they’ll try to get it from a preset and believe that their images do indeed look like film. Then they’ll share said film-preset images to Facebook groups and spread some misinformation. I’m ranting at this point, but this is how I feel.

Do I think Fujifilm has betrayed their customers? Not at all. Fujifilm is the only company on the market making cameras with frequent firmware updates where at the end of the camera’s lifespan you feel like you have a completely brand new camera. No others really do this to the same degree that Fujifilm does and it helps expand the life cycle of their products. They’ve kept true to their commitment to their customers by giving us a whole load of new innovations and improvements and, at the core, we need to understand that.

So why rant about film simulations? Fujifilm has a rich history that I genuinely don’t feel like they should deny. They’re keeping film going for sure, but with many of their emulsions being put to sleep they should genuinely make an effort to try to keep the look alive digitally and do it better than anyone else can. Provia 400 isn’t around anymore, and I’d love to shoot images that look like it with the Fujifilm XT3. I’d also love to use the Pro Negative film simulation and get a similar look to PRO 400H when it is overexposed. But instead, I’m getting that from the Canon EOS R and lenses when I overexpose by a stop. That pastel look is iconic for the film and considering how well the sensor can hold highlights, I’d love to be able to get this look. I’m sure that I’m not the only one here that thinks so.

In case you’re wondering, no, the film grain effect doesn’t exactly give us that look. Classic Chrome looks like a nice simulation but we don’t know what film it’s supposed to really emulate.

A suggestion – produce a true film look that can easily be applied or a revamp of the simulations.