The Fujifilm X-A3 re-wraps the company’s higher-end options into a cheaper camera, bringing Fujifilm-quality images. But budget cameras should always be approached with caution — what did Fujifilm take out to reach that lower price point and is the X-A3 still worth the cash? The X-A3 updates from the 16 megapixel sensor on the X-A2 to 24 and enhances the autofocus system.
The flip up LCD screen is also more selfie-friendly. The X-A3 offers solid image quality, but with a lighter build and a slower performance than options like the X-T20. While the Fujifilm X-A3 isn’t the best mirrorless around, it’s low price point and simple controls may make it an excellent camera for beginners or for upgrading from a smartphone camera.
Body & Design
The X-A3 keeps the now characteristic Fujifilm style with a retro wrap around a slim, silver body. After holding Fuji’s advanced cameras, the X-A3 is noticeably lighter with a more plastic build. While the body construction is noticeably cheaper, it still feels relatively solid in the hands with a small front grip and a thumb rest at the back. The entire camera body weighs just under 12 ounces.
The X-A3 uses two control dials that rest right at the thumb for controlling aperture and shutter speed. The top of the camera also houses a custom function button, shutter release and an on/off switch. Unlike the slightly cheaper X-A10, the X-A3 makes room for both a pop-up flash and a hot shoe slot for adding an external light.
An LCD screen takes up the most real estate on the back, and unlike the X-A2, the hinge-style screen will also slide out, so the entire screen is visible when flipped forward for selfies. To the right of the screen is a set of menu controls that double as shortcuts for the autofocus mode, white balance, burst mode and timer.
Playback menu access is settled near a dedicated record button for videos. A quick menu option brings up several common settings, including ISO and film styles. A single control on the front switches the focus mode from single to continuous or manual.
Most of X-A3’s controls are reminiscent of other Fuji cameras, albeit with slightly fewer controls. There’s no physical shortcut for ISO, for example, and the X-A3 doesn’t have the drive mode dial like the X-T10 and X-T20. The X-A3 is also missing the viewfinder of the more advanced models, relying instead only on the LCD screen. While the more minimal control scheme may be a disappointment for experienced shooters, fewer controls is often a good thing for a beginner just learning the ropes.
The Fujifilm X-A3 isn’t the sleek body of the X-T line, but it doesn’t exactly have any big deal breakers — unless you are particularly set on that viewfinder.
User Experience & Performance
The X-A3 contains both smart auto and scene modes as well as manual controls. Along with the usual assortment of scene modes, the selfie-screen-equipped camera also has a portrait enhancer — it’s sort of like a built-in Snapchat beauty filter. The portrait enhancer tends to overdo the skin adjustments (then again, I think the same thing about Snapchat’s) and I wouldn’t necessarily count it as a perk.
The X-A3 does include a number of smart trigger modes that pair nicely with the flip up screen. The smile trigger is good for selfies, though it had some trouble focusing when I was wearing glasses. The trigger options also include a buddy mode that shoots when you get close to a friend (or foe, the camera doesn’t know the difference) as well as the usual timer options.
What’s missing from the X-A3’s mode selection is macro. The camera includes a macro inside the smart auto mode, but there’s no way to tell the camera that you want to focus on something close to the lens in the advanced modes. While the auto mode did okay with focusing close on something finger tip width or wider, I couldn’t get it to focus on water droplets on a thin tree branch. Having the ability to tell the camera I wanted to shoot macro likely would have allowed me to get that shot.
The X-A3 clocks in at a fairly normal range for a $600 camera. The burst speed hits 6 fps, and for JPEGs will keep up that speed for about ten frames. Shooting RAW, the camera slows after about six shots and is ready to start another full-speed burst after about six or seven seconds.
On manual focus, shots are about .8 seconds apart, with autofocus about double that, putting the autofocus speed right where I’d expect for an entry-level mirrorless. While the autofocus is decent, the screen takes a bit to reload, and without an electronic viewfinder that delay can slow the next shot.
The X-A3’s performance is also rather noisy. Both the shutter click and the autofocus system is noticeably louder than Fujifilm’s more advanced options.
The Fujifilm X-A3’s performance is about what I expected at the price point — decent enough to capture most shots, but not quick enough for more advanced applications like sports. The autofocus is improved a bit over the older model and speed isn’t bad for the price point.
Fujifilm’s A line doesn’t use the X-Trans sensor, which means the sensor still has the optical low pass filter. While the X-Trans sensors tend to capture better detail, the X-A3 still captures pretty good photos, particularly for the price point, and is a bit enhanced over the older X-A2.
The color coming from the X-A3 is everything I’ve come to expect from Fujifilm, with realistic tones and multiple film simulations. While the level of detail isn’t quite on the same level as pricier Fujis, the X-A3 is still pretty sharp.
The kit lens is an inexpensive way to get started, but introduces some lens flares directed towards the light as well as some purple fringing in high contrast scenes. The lens’ f/3.5-5.6 aperture could also be improved with a better lens, but for the price point, the kit isn’t bad.
The camera’s sharpness and color translates well into video, and the X-A3 adjusts to different lighting quickly. Zooming while recording is also smooth. Sound pickup was also good. Focus was decent but tended to suffer in low light or with close subjects.
While the X-A3 is a budget camera, Fujifilm didn’t make big sacrifices in image quality, outside the lack of the X-Trans.
The Fujifilm X-A3 is a budget camera that puts a priority on image quality. While the build may not be top notch and the performance not as versatile, when it comes to what really matters, the X-A3 captures solid photos.
While enthusiasts will likely be disappointed with the lack of macro, noisy performance and fewer physical controls, the X-A3 is a good camera for beginners or even upgrading from a smartphone camera, even if the camera just stays on auto.
Stepping up the the Fujifilm X-T20 brings an X-Trans sensor, magnesium alloy body, enhanced autofocus, additional physical controls and 4K video. It’s a better fit for enthusiasts, but it also sits at about $300 more than the X-A3. On the flip side, the X-A10 is $100 less, but it doesn’t have a hot shoe slot and reverts back to the older sensor in the X-A2.
While there are several other mirrorless competitors at a similar price point, they use a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor. The Panasonic GX85 offers 4K, image stabilization, faster performance and enhanced autofocus. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 II has an excellent macro mode as well as image stabilization, faster burst and a viewfinder. If that resolution really matters, go with the X-A3, but opting for a slightly smaller sensor brings a slew of new features at a similar price point.
The Fujifilm X-A3 is a basic budget camera with limited features, but when image quality counts, it gets the job done with solid image quality.