As a seemingly endless quarantine has made my daily afternoon walkabouts a mental necessity, I decided to go small and rent a Fuji X-T30 for a week to see if it could potentially save my back and my wallet.
Now, first off the bat, this will not be a completely in-depth review of the Fuji X-T30. For one, the camera has been out long enough by this point that I imagine more than enough such reviews exist. And two, my point of renting the camera was not to drive it hard in a day-by-day situation to see if it could withstand the rigors of being my primary professional camera. I already have enough (perhaps more than enough) firepower in that department. I also don’t think this is the segment of the market that Fuji was aiming for here. So, I saw no point in hiring models, arranging locations, and breaking out the strobes to see if it could replace medium format. The X-T30, as I see it, is more of an everyday fun camera, and that’s exactly what I was looking for, fun. So that’s how I chose to use if throughout a week’s rental and thought I’d share some reflections here.
If you’ve read some of my past gear-related reviews, you’ll know that I have a soft spot for Fuji. While I primarily shoot Nikon for my professional work and have for nearly two decades, the form factor and design of the Fuji X line specifically has always held a place in my heart. I’ve had the X100S, the X-Pro 1, the X-T2, and eventually the X-T3, which is by far one of the best cameras I’ve ever owned. I also own a GFX 100, but that camera is in a different class and intended for a different purpose, so I will not discuss that much here.
As much as I love my Fuji X cameras, early this year I made the difficult decision to sell the X cameras and the majority of the lenses that I owned. It was not a decision drawn from a rejection of the X line. Rather, I was re-evaluating my purchasing decisions, consolidating my gear purchases behind one lens mount, the Nikon, and making a concerted effort to minimize my gear footprint. As much as I loved my X-T3, and I really did love my X-T3, when it came to working, it was never going to beat out my D850 for game time, which left it being used mainly as a travel camera and backup video camera. Because I don’t travel all that often anymore, I found it spending way too much time on the shelf, so I decided to trade it in and put the money back into lenses for my everyday work gear. But, that’s enough business talk. Because, again, that’s not where the X-T30 enters our story.
Instead, this week’s rental came as a result of one of my new favorite hobbies. Okay, “hobby” might not be the best word for it. More like therapy. With myself and my fellow residents of Los Angeles flowing in and out of one level of lockdown or another throughout 2020, I, like my fellow citizens, have been forced to spend far too much time indoors. While there aren’t too many open destinations worth driving to these days, I still need to leave the house at least once a day, if for nothing else, than simply to maintain my sanity. I’m not necessarily walking anyplace in particular. Rather, I am simply walking to get a little added exercise, a little added Vitamin D, and a little break from screaming at the walls of my home office. I live in a semi-residential area, so honestly, there’s not much to see. But, I am a photographer, after all, so I am sure to bring a camera with me whenever I leave the house.
Now, for those of you who may look at the snapshots attached to this article and castigate me for not being Elliot Erwitt, I should point out that I make no claims of being a street or documentary photographer. I ply my trade in studios and on locations with models, lights, and hair and makeup teams. These walks are as much about walking itself as they are about photography. But what I love about my daily walks is that they too are a form of practice. I may not be creating anything that will live in my portfolio or bring a dream client to their knees, but I am practicing the number one job of a photographer, which is simply to see. With each step over Los Angeles’ uneven payment, I am able to center myself spiritually, express myself artistically, and reconnect with the basic foundations of the art form through which I make my living.
While this newfound routine was born of necessity as a result of the quarantine, I’ve found it to be incredibly worthwhile and something I would like to continue when or if this pandemic ever recedes. One thing I could do without, however, is the weight of my DSLR around my neck. Not that I mind a heavier body. I still prefer my D850 when it’s time to create for clients in earnest. But my walks can often last for several miles, and these walks are supposed to be about mental freedom, not physical stamina. In my now nearly all-Nikon world, the Z 6 with a fast 50mm have taken over as my primary walkabout camera, significantly reducing the load. But there are definitely times on my walks when I regret having sold my X-T3 just prior to the pandemic, as it would have been an even better tool for the hard task of taking it easy.
I did, however, keep a couple of my Fuji X prime lenses. I sold most of the system, as I realized it wasn’t getting used frequently enough. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love the system. And so I held onto my most used lenses for the express purpose of renting a variety of X cameras as the need saw fit. Since size was my number one priority this week, I thought I would try out the X-T3’s little sibling the X-T30 to see if it might be even better suited for my afternoon wanderlust. Turns out purchasers of the X-T30 get some big-time advantages, which make it a really good option for those looking to shed weight without losing quality.
The obvious advantage is the size. This is actually an aspect I held against the X-T30 when I made my decision to purchase the X-T3. There’s such a thing as being too big. But there’s also such a thing as being too small, especially for someone with larger hands. As a result, I always opted for the larger-bodied X-T3, as it would be more comfortable in my hand for long workdays. But, as it turned out, I found that I rarely used my X-T3 on workdays and was rather using it on fun days. Since this week’s rental was all about fun, I went with the smaller model and was surprised to find that I didn’t find it to be too small at all. I don’t know that this is exactly true, but in operation, I found the body itself to be about the size of the pocketable X100V. The only change is that the X-T30 offered the option of interchangeable lenses. Of course, with a lens attached, the whole unit became bigger, but it also meant that I could shoot with my preferred 50mm focal length (35mm in APS-C terms) versus the 35mm focal length built into the X100 series (23mm in APS-C terms). My personal dream walkabout camera might be an X100V with a built-in 50mm lens. But that’s a plea for another day.
I also found that it had more than respectable autofocus. Having now owned five different Fuji cameras over the years, I have still yet to find the best way to get their autofocus systems to perform super well when recording fast and erratic motion, at least not on par with my Nikon systems. But for casual street or travel photography, I found the autofocus system to be more than adequate and comparable to what I got with my X-T3. Essentially, the camera was a mini X-T3. And while the X-T3 is still probably a better choice for professionals looking to have a daily work camera, the X-T30 is more than capable as a B camera. Or, for those wanting the X100V, but with a 50mm focal length (without using an adaptor), then this might be a solid option as well.
I bring up the X100V, because, as of this writing, the X100V comes in at $1,399, whereas the X-T30, body only, comes in at $899. True, you will need to add a lens to the camera, bringing the price up more. But, depending on what you choose, you will likely be able to save money while retaining the option of interchangeable lenses. If you look to purchase used, you could potentially save even more money. Because I am frugal, or as my mother might call me, “cheap,” I also started to think that one might be able to save even more money by opting for a used X-T20. Having owned both the X-T2 and the X-T3, it felt that the main difference between the models was the video capabilities. Owners of the X-T20 might better be able to answer this question in the comment section, but if the X-T20 compares to the X-T30 in the way the X-T2 compares to the X-T3, then the dropoff in performance might not be so significant. So, if you, like me, were just looking for a low-cost option for shooting stills, you could probably pick up a used X-T20 for under 500 bucks.
After a week in hand, I’ve come to think that the Fuji X-T30 might be a great move for those photographers who are looking for a fun, lightweight, everyday camera for travel, family photos, or your average daily walk. It’s been out long enough now to no longer be the new kid on the block, but that means that it is now possible to find used versions of the camera on the market, which can save you even more money and deliver better value. As can be said for any camera system, it’s not the right camera for everyone. And if money is no obstacle or if you’re looking for a high-megapixel, high-performance, full frame workhorse, there are more robust options on the market. But if you want to be light, swift, and have a great deal of fun taking shots on your travels or afternoon walk, this would be a great option for you to consider.