Review: Fujifilm X-T30 – Better JPEGs?

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Is this camera for me? That’s the number one question those searching the web for camera reviews are hoping to find the answer to. Usually you wait until the bottom of the article to find the reviewer’s opinion. To save you time, I’m placing my answer to the question right at the top: the Fujifilm X-T30 is indeed the camera for you! Or, really, any of the X-T00 series, which also include the X-T10 and X-T20. These cameras combine the right design, features, usability, image quality, build quality, size, weight and price to be appealing to anyone, no matter your skill level. This could be a great option for a beginner’s first interchangeable-lens camera, and this could be a great option for a pro’s take-anywhere camera or backup body. This series is the Goldilocks of cameras, and it is no wonder that it’s Fujifilm’s best-selling line. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s move onto the rest of the review.

The Fujifilm X-T30 is a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera with design inspiration from classic film-era SLRs. It has an APS-C sized 26-megapixel X-Trans IV sensor. The advantage of X-Trans, aside from not being susceptible to moire pattern distortion, is that it contains more green-light sensitive sensor elements (which is where luminosity information comes from) than an equivalent Bayer-pattern sensor with the same pixel count. Because of this, X-Trans has a slightly higher apparent resolution, a larger dynamic range, and better high-ISO performance than a Bayer-pattern sensor. Of course, “slightly” is the key word in that last sentence, but every bit counts, so it’s worth mentioning for those who might not know. X-Trans takes more processing power, and the big challenge that Fujifilm has faced is heat dispersion. This new X-Trans IV sensor, which is back-side illuminated, runs cooler, and that allows Fujifilm to crank up the speed of the camera. Quickness is the advantage the new sensor.

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I want to make my point-of-view for this review clear, which is probably a little different than most. I’m an experienced Fujifilm user and a JPEG shooter. That’s the lens from which my opinions are coming through. There are things about the X-T30 that other reviewers might focus on that I won’t, and there are things that I will talk about that might not get much attention from others. You can expect this review to be a little different than many others that you’ll find on the internet. Hopefully this will be useful to some of you, as I suspect there are others with a similar point-of-view as myself.

This last weekend I went to Moab, Utah, and made almost one thousand exposures with the Fujifilm X-T30. I kept about 25% of the pictures. The time it took me to post-process the trip, from reviewing to editing to transferring to storing the images, was less than three hours total. That’s actually quite amazing, and it’s all thanks to Fujifilm’s wonderful in-camera JPEG engine. Before using Fujifilm cameras, I used Sony and Nikon for a little while and shot RAW. With those cameras it would have taken me a minimum of eight hours to finish post-processing that amount of exposures. Five years ago I had a Sigma Merrill camera that would have taken me eight hours to finish only half of the exposures! I’m thrilled with all of the time that I save by using Fujifilm and shooting JPEGs.

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Red Mesa – Castle Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Red Rock Castles – Castle Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

One thing that I have noticed with the X-T30, and I have not seen much discussion on this, is the improved sharpening that the camera is applying to JPEGs. Fujifilm has programmed a better sharpening algorithm into the X-T30 than the X-T20. On X-Trans III cameras, such as the X100F, X-Pro2 and X-T20, all of which I have used, I felt that +2 was the highest Sharpness setting that one should use, and even at +2 there were occasionally artifacts and weird side-effects of over sharpening. Eventually I settled on 0 as my standard Sharpness setting for those cameras. On the X-T30, which has the new X-Trans IV sensor and processor, I can go all the way to +4 Sharpness, and I’m not experiencing artifacts or weird side-effects. Besides that, the amount of sharpening that’s being applied at each setting is slightly more heavy-handed on X-Trans IV than on X-Trans III. For example, at +1, it’s noticeable to my eyes that the X-T30 is applying a slightly stronger amount of sharpening to the file than the X-T20, yet without negative consequence. The outcome is a crisper, more detailed picture. I wonder if this stems from the collaboration between Fujifilm and Phase One.

Between the improved sharpening and the extra 2-megapixels of resolution, JPEGs from the X-T30 appear more crisp, rich and detailed than those from the X-T20. There’s a noticeable difference. I saw it but didn’t say anything about it to my wife (who is the actual owner of the X-T20), and when I showed her some of the pictures that I had captured with the X-T30, she spotted it pretty quickly and commented, “This is more clear than what I get with my camera, like I’m actually there!” The out-of-camera JPEGs from the X-T30 remind me of post-processed RAW files from a Sigma Merrill captured at low ISO, which is saying a lot if you know anything about the Sigma Merrill cameras. I would bet that the JPEGs from the X-T30 can hold their own against post-processed RAW files from older full-frame cameras like the Nikon D610, or even newer full-frame cameras like the Canon 5D IV. I’m not going to do any side-by-side comparisons, but simply state that I believe the X-T30 delivers fantastic JPEGs that go beyond anything from any other APS-C camera (except for the X-T3, which it is equal to since they share the same sensor and processor).

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Horse & Girl – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Massive crop from the above photo. I printed this crop and it looks surprisingly good.

So far I have only made a few prints from X-T30 exposures, but I do believe that 24″ x 36″ prints will look great even when viewed up close, and 40″ x 60″ prints will look good at a normal viewing distance but will show a some softness and pixelation when viewed up close. It seems like, if you use ISO 800 or less, set Sharpness to +4, set Noise Reduction to -4, use a sharp prime lens and don’t crop, the sky is the limit for printing sizes. The photographs from the X-T30 look great even when you pixel-peep.

While Fujifilm has clearly improved sharpening on the X-T30, I don’t feel the same about noise reduction, specifically at the higher ISOs. At ISO 3200 and below there’s no difference in noise between the X-T20 and X-T30, but above that there is, and I prefer the X-T20 when it comes to high-ISO color photographs (for black-and-white it doesn’t matter). In fact, I don’t really like ISO 12800 for color images on the X-T30 (which I found usable on the X-T20) as there are blotchy colors that just don’t look good. However, for grainy black-and-white photographs I find that ISO 25600 is good on the X-T30, which I didn’t find usable on the X-T20. My opinion is that high-ISO has worsened by one stop on the X-T30 for color photographs and improved by one stop for black-and-white.

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Bolsey Brownie – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 – ISO 25600

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Church Seats Empty – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 – ISO 12800

The X-T30 has several new JPEG features, including D-Range Priority, B&W toning, Eterna Film Simulation and Color Chrome Effect. They are all good tools for better achieving your desired look in-camera. I don’t know if any of them are particularly useful to the RAW shooter, but for the JPEG shooter you might appreciate these new features. I will give a short synopsis of each, but you can click on the links above for a more detailed explanation.

D-Range Priority is essentially a step beyond DR400. It produces a flat image to help combat high contrast scenes. The options are Weak, which might remind you of DR400 with both Shadow and Highlight set to -2, and Strong, which is appropriately titled. In very harsh lighting situations, this allows you to maximize the dynamic range of the sensor for your JPEGs beyond anything Fujifilm has offered before. It works, but it requires the right situation to work well. I’ve actually used it more than I thought I would, but it is definitely an every-once-in-a-while type thing.

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Green Tree On Red Cliff – Dead Horse Point SP, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 – D-Range Priority Weak – captured in harsh midday light.

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Clouds Over Canyonlands – Dead Horse Point SP, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 – toned +1 warm

The ability to tone your black-and-white images, either warm or cool, is a highly welcomed feature. I love it! It’s something I suggested awhile back, and now Fujifilm has included it on the X-T30. This is one of my favorite new features of the camera!

Eterna is the lowest saturated and lowest contrast color film simulation option on the X-T30. It’s the antithesis of Velvia. It has a lovely quality to it, but requires the right subject and light to be effective. I’m looking forward to experimenting more with it.

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Eating Crackers – South Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 – Eterna

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North Window Arch – Arches NP, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 – Color Chrome Effect Strong

Color Chrome Effect, which can be enabled for any film simulation, deepens the shade of bright colors so as to retain tonality. It’s intended for highly saturated scenes and pairs well with Velvia. There are two options, Weak and Strong, and they’re both pretty subtle, especially Weak. It’s a neat trick, but it’s not a big difference maker for many photographs.

For those who use camera-made JPEGs, the X-T30 is a better camera than the X-T20. Between the improved sharpening and the new features, I appreciate the results more on this camera than the old model. It’s not a night-and-day difference, but there is indeed a difference! Since the image is whats important, I’m thrilled with the upgrade. Fujifilm already had the best JPEG engine in the business with X-Trans III, and X-Trans IV is even better.

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Dead Desert Tree – Moab, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Rock Castles – Castle Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

There are, of course, other changes, some of which are improvements and some are not. The focus joystick on the X-T30 is nice sometimes, but so is the D-Pad on the X-T20. I’m still undecided which I prefer, but I’m leaning towards the D-Pad. The best setup is both a joystick and D-Pad, but you’ll have to go with a higher-end model, such as the X-T3, to get that. The location of the Q button, which is now on the thumb grip, is also nice sometimes, and not so nice other times. I have accidentally pushed it more than I can count, but on the flip side it’s easy to find without looking.

What everyone has been talking about regarding the X-T30 is focus speed. It’s fast! It’s much quicker in dim-light situations than the X-T20. Fujifilm has improved focus tracking and facial recognition, as well. The X-T30 is undoubtedly better at auto-focus, but I never found the X-T20 to be lacking in this department. If your subject or style requires super quick auto-focusing, the X-T30 is the camera for you. If not, then the improved auto-focusing is more gee-whiz than anything that’s especially practical.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the X-T30 and X-T20 is video capability and quality. The X-T30 is a highly capable video camera that can be used by serious videographers. I’m not a video guy myself, so this upgrade doesn’t matter much to me, but for those who might use this camera for video, it’s a pretty big deal. If that’s you, you will definitely want to choose the X-T30 over the X-T20. I made a short test video just to demonstrate the quality.

There’s a lot more that I could talk about. I could discuss all of the different menu changes. I could give a rundown of everything on the stat sheet. I could add some graphs that show this or that. However, that’s not my style, so I won’t bore you. I want to give you my impressions of actually using the camera. In real world use, the Fujifilm X-T30 is an impressive little camera. Is it as good as the X-T3? No, but it’s not very far from it, and yet in a smaller, lighter and less expensive package. Is it better than the X-T20? Yes, in most regards, it is better, but is it worth the upgrade? If you already own an X-T20, unless you just need the improved video or auto-focus capabilities, I would not recommend upgrading. Use the money for a new lens or a photographic adventure instead. Are you trying to decide between the X-T20 and X-T30? If you rely on camera-made JPEGs, need super fast auto-focus, or shoot a lot of video, the X-T30 is the camera to get, otherwise save yourself a little money and buy the nearly as good X-T20.

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Desert River – Dead Horse Point SP, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Water & Stone – Moab, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

To conclude, the Fujifilm X-T30 is a rare Goldilocks camera that anyone could be happy using. It’s not perfect, as no camera is, but it is very good. It has a lot of attractive features and delivers beautiful images. It’s a great example of just how far camera technology has come! The X-T30 has a very reasonable MSRP of $900 for the camera body. I have no doubt that it will be successful for Fujifilm, just as the X-T10 and X-T20 were before it. If you decide to buy the X-T30, I’m sure you’ll be quite happy with it. You can purchase the Fujifilm X-T30 from Amazon by clicking here, which helps to support this website. I hope that you found something in this review that has been useful to your camera purchase decision.

Below are example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs using the Fujifilm X-T30.

Color

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Balance Rock Evening – Arches NP, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Castles To The Sky – Castle Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Red Hill – Castle Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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River Colors – Moab, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Fresh Neighborhood Snow – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Snowfall In Downtown Park City – Park City, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Castle Spire – Castle Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Rock Balanced – Arches NP, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

B&W

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Monochrome Mesa – Castle Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Two Pots – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Collecting Rain – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Piano Wire – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Microwave – Moab, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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It’s Lit – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Storm Beyond The Frozen Lake – Echo Lake, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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White Tree – Moab, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

44 comments

  1. Bill Prawecki · April 6

    Great article and fab photos. Btw which lens did you use for these photos. Love your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 6

      Thank you so much! Mostly I used the Fujinon 35mm f/2, but I also used the Fujinon 90mm f/2 for several pictures.

      Like

  2. fragglerocking · April 6

    Cool review, nearly made me have G.A.S there!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marcel · April 7

    Hello Ritchie,
    Thank you for the photo report. Beautiful photos in a beautiful landscape. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I wondered the following: Are the colours of the mountains and the sky really so saturated, or is it adapted to your taste? Here in the Netherlands I don’t know this kind of colours, and they look somewhat artificial. It is not a comment, but just curiosity. How are your settings, or is it the new chrome feature?

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 7

      The colors are indeed vibrant, especially when captured in the right light.
      I used Velvia with color set to +3 or sometimes +4 and Color Chrome Effect to Strong. Of course, Velvia exaggerates the color, so to an extent the colors in pictures are a little more vibrant than they actually were in person. But it was still an extraordinarily beautiful place. Thank you for your kind words and input!

      Like

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  21. Sandro · June 12

    Hi Ritchie, i’ve found yesterday this wonderful blog and i’m now reading all of your articles about the xt30. Yesterday i wrote you about expired eterna simulation… but there are so many recipes to try! Thank you so much for your tips!
    I agree with you that the sharpness and clarity of the xt30 jpegs ooc is truly amazing. I am so addicted to it that i am pushing the sharpness to +4 for iso 1600 and below… then reduce it to +1 or +2 for higher iso.
    As far as NR, my eyes see the world little differently from yours, and i found it less aggressive than on my previous xt20… in facts on the xt30 even at -2NR i can’t see any trace of waxy skin tones, while on the xt20 i used to dial down to -4… however i’m so crazy that i like the noise texture on this camera, and keep the NR as low as -4, even at the highest iso. However, i’ve yet to see any trace of color noise in my pictures… I check always but i found only some pleasing grain… as said… all of us see the world through different eyes.
    Keep on with this blog Ritchie, it’s a big inspiration for my photography!

    Sandro

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · June 12

      I appreciate your comment, feedback and kind words. I’m glad that you are enjoying your new camera and the different film simulation recipes. Fujifilm cameras are great, and, like you, I appreciate the way they capture pictures. It’s truly different than other brands. I have a couple new recipes coming very soon, so be sure to check back. Take care!

      Like

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  24. Scott · June 16

    Nice write up on the X-T30. I am torn between selling my X100F and XF10 and buying at the X-T30 or keeping what I have. My photography, which is mostly of my kids these days, has been in a little rut. I was wondering if going back to an interchangeable system would breath new life into my “hobby” photography. Thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · June 16

      It might give you fresh motivation. I won’t say don’t do it, but I will say three things. First, while it’s very nice to have interchangeable lens options, they can also add up quickly, becoming expensive, and there are always a few lenses that you want to have but just can’t afford. Next, I think you will regret selling the X100F. Third, your new kit will be larger and heavier, which makes it less enjoyable sometimes. The flip side of this is I’m very happy using my X-T30 and I am having tons of fun with it. I hope this helps.

      Like

      • Scott · June 16

        Much appreciated you taking the time to reply. You are not the first person who told me I would regret selling the X100F. I might just put any sales / purchases on hold for a month or so and then revisit the topic. The summer is here and I should probably give the X100F another chance to remind me why it’s the perfect little companion and why I bought it in the first place. Thank you again for your thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · June 16

        I think you will be glad that you didn’t sell it. Maybe look for fresh ways to use the camera.

        Like

      • Scott · June 16

        My fresh ways begins with some of your Film Simulations… however, I am trying to apply some of your film settings but I never understood Fuji’s Custom settings (C1-C7) vs. Base (C1-C7). Do you have any posts explaining their application or Fuji logic? Are you applying your film simulations in the IQ or with the Q button?

        Like

      • Ritchie Roesch · June 16

        I have the ones I use saved in the Q menu. I’m not 100% sure I understand the question, but you can custom save seven settings plus the one base setting. I think a good source of inspiration for me is when I see an article posted by someone else who used my same exact gear to capture breathtaking pictures. Every now and again I Google that and am blown away by what others are doing, I use that as a springboard to improve my own pictures. I hope this helps in some way.

        Like

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  27. Michael Perry · July 7

    I’m a avocational and hobbyist photographer living in Southeast Asia. I bought the X-T30 in Cambodia with a great discount intending to take it on my travels to Vietnam, Laos, and then back to the States and then on to Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and Dubai. I’ve read a few blogs about X-T3 users purchasing the X-T30 as a backup camera body. Since the X-T30 is my only camera and I recently purchased the F2 35mm lens as a buddy to the 18-55mm kit lens, which camera would you recommend as a backup to the X-T30? I cannot afford an X-T3 and I think personally it would be too much camera for me and my uses which are to simply record, share, and archive images from where I go. I only shoot JPEG images of my wanderings in Southeast Asia but I would like to have something to fall back or forward on. What would be a backup camera to consider? Another X-T30 since the price point is very nice? What would you own if your only camera was the X-T30 and you only shoot JPEGs and are just a hobbyist type with no aspirations to go further?

    Like

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