Strong image quality. Stylish design. Compact. Selfie touch LCD. Film simulation modes. Wi-Fi.
Slow autofocus. Omits EVF. Inconsistent touch interface. Limited shooting buffer. No 30fps video option or mic input.
- Bottom Line
The mirrorless Fujifilm X-A3 camera and the images it captures look great, but its autofocus system is way behind the competition.
The Fujifilm X-A3 ($599.99 with 16-50mm lens) isn't the least expensive mirrorless model in the company's current lineup—that honor goes to the $500 X-A10—but it's a more attractive point of entry thanks to a modern 24MP image sensor. But even with the latest sensor tech, its autofocus system is way behind the times. The X-A3 is slow to focus, which shouldn't be the case at this price point. We continue to recommend our Editors' Choice Sony a6000 to photographers shopping fo an entry-level mirrorless model. It's much more responsive, includes an EVF, and costs just $50 more with a bundled lens.
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The X-A3 is an attractive camera. The body, a mix of metal and plastic, is finished in silver, with a black, brown, or pink leatherette cover. It's fairly compact, coming in at 2.6 by 4.6 by 1.6 inches (HWD) and weighing just 10.2 ounces without a lens.
The included 16-50mm zoom is a solid starter option, even if it is a bit big—2.6 by 2.5 inches and 6.9 ounces. Other mirrorless systems offer collapsible standard zooms that pair better with small camera bodies, but Fuji doesn't.
The X-A3's control layout is solid; it mixes physical controls with a touch LCD. There's a physical switch to change the focus mode on the front, at the bottom left corner. On the top you'll find a Mode dial, the power switch and shutter release, the Fn button, and a control dial. You'll also find a hot shoe for an external flash or accessory, and the built-in pop-up flash.
A second control dial is nestled on the rear, atop a thumb rest. Below it are some buttons—Display/Back, Play, Q, and Record, along with a four-way control pad with a center Menu/OK button. The directional buttons adjust the autofocus area, drive mode, self-timer, and white balance.
Pressing Q switches the live view from the lens to a screen with additional shooting options. Here you can set the ISO, switch between Raw and JPG capture, and adjust the camera's JPG engine. It's also where you access the various film simulation settings, which range from the nice bright colors (and greens of summers) of Classic Chrome, to the oversaturated look of Velvia, and the stark black-and-white of Acros.
You can't navigate the Q menu by touch. You need to use the directional buttons to move from setting to setting and the rear control wheel to change them. It's an odd limitation in a camera that is, presumably, aimed at a customer base used to using smartphones for photography.
The inconsistent touch control extends to other areas. When shooting, for example, you can choose to tap to set the focus point or tap to focus and fire immediately if you have the focus area set to single-point or multi-point. If you have it set to the entire wide focus area, only tap to focus and fire immediately is available. It also comes into play when reviewing photos—when looking at individual photos you can swipe through shots and pinch to zoom in to your heart's content, but if you're looking at the broader thumbnail view, touch controls don't work at all.
It's a shame, because the 3-inch LCD is quite responsive. I don't mind using physical controls—as someone used to more advanced cameras, it's my first instinct to do so. But when a camera boasts a touch interface, I expect the touch input to work consistently across it.
The screen is mounted on a hinge. It tilts down and up, so you can frame shots with the X-A3 at your waist or above your head, and it faces all the way forward for selfies. There isn't any special selfie shot mode—some models automatically set a self-timer when the screen is set to face forward. The LCD is sharp, 920k dots, and pretty bright. If you're in direct sunlight, you can boost the standard brightness (via the Q menu) to improve viewability.
Wi-Fi is built in. You can use the Fujifilm Camera Remote app to control the camera with or transfer images to your Android or iOS device. The remote control works well, but you'll have to dive into the menu to turn the feature on if you're in recording mode. It's easier to start Wi-Fi from playback mode—just press the Fn button on the top plate. If you want to start remote control operation while shooting you'll need to dive into the menu to turn on Wi-Fi.
There are only two ports on the body—micro USB and micro HDMI. The former is used to charge the battery in-camera, as you don't get an external charger. Images are saved to SD, with support for newer SDHC and SDXC formats as well. CIPA rates the battery for 410 shots, and you'll be able to recharge it in the field with a USB battery. If you choose to buy a spare battery it's a good idea to get a charger along with it, as that will let you charge both at the same time (one in-camera and one in the charger) after a long day of photography.
Performance and Image Quality
The X-A3 struggles in one big area: speed. It turns on, focuses, and captures an image in 1.8 seconds, which isn't a terrible result for a mirrorless camera. But autofocus is anything but fast. You need to wait about 0.4-second between starting autofocus and capturing an image in bright light, and about 1.2 seconds in very dim conditions.
Burst shooting is available at a reasonable 5.8fps. But the shooting buffer is small—you only get 6 Raw or Raw+JPG shots, or 14 JPG shots, before the camera slows down to a crawl. It isn't a good choice for shooting fast action, either. There's a continuous (AF-C) setting, but it stops working after the first shot of a burst, so if you're shooting a target moving toward or away from the lens, only the first shot in the sequence will be in focus.
Image quality is better. The X-A3 uses a 24MP APS-C image sensor that keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 12800. There's some noise reduction applied to JPGs, so image quality at top ISOs isn't as good as at lower ones, but that's typical of any camera. We see little loss of quality through ISO 3200, so you can expect to get good quality images even when not in bright light. If you stick with the starter lens, the X-A3 will move to higher ISOs in moderate light, but you do have the option to add an inexpensive prime like the XF 35mm f/2 if you want better images in dim light, and the ability to capture photos with a pleasing blurred background.
More advanced photographers can shoot in Raw format. Be aware that the X-A3 only supports Raw capture through ISO 6400—in contrast to JPGs that go as high as ISO 25600. You'll get more detail out of a Raw image at ISO 6400 than with a JPG, but if you think you'll be shooting in Raw and like the Fuji system, there are better models to look at. Check out the X-T20 or X-E3.
Video is recording is available at 720p and 1080p at 24, 50, or 60fps. For some reason you can't shoot in 30fps at either resolution. Despite not offering the de facto standard frame rate for the video look, it looks pretty good and sharp. If you have the camera set to AF-C it will adjust focus as the scene changes. Audio is the same as you get with any camera with a built-in microphone—it picks up voices if they're close to the camera, but is also prone to recording background noise. There's no way to install an external mic; you'll need to move up to a more expensive camera if that's what you want.
The Fujifilm X-A3 delivers solid image quality and gives you access to Fuji's excellent line of mirrorless lenses, and it sports a crisp, tilting touch LCD, Wi-Fi, and a stylish design. But the autofocus system is way too slow for a camera at this price. If you want to get your feet wet with the X system, spend a little more and start with the X-T20 or X-E3; you'll enjoy a much better experience. If you're simply looking for an affordable mirrorless camera, go with our Editors' Choice Sony a6000—it costs $50 more when bought with a 16-50mm zoom, but runs circles around the X-A3.
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By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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