Sony A7III vs Fujifilm X-T4: 16 Real World Things I’ve Learned Since Switching

Sony A7III vs Fujifilm X-T4: 16 Real World Things I’ve Learned Since Switching

Last Updated on November 6, 2020


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About Me

Kien Lam  

I'm Kien, an international photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. After quitting my job in finance, I've traveled to over 70 countries in the last 10 years finding the coolest experiences to check off my bucket list. I hope to help you find your inspiration with my photography and tips to travel the world.

Since taking the jump and switching fully from my Sony A7III to Fujifilm X-T4, I’ve learned more than a few things that weren’t touched on deep enough in any of the reviews I read prior. With so many popular bloggers and photography rushing to get a review out as soon as a camera is announced, you find that most of them focus just on the specs of a camera and compare it to the current wave of competitor releases.

It’s a business after all. And it’s useful, to a certain extent, but nothing will replace real hands-on experience that comes from shooting for months with a camera that’s your main tool.

No Review Can Replace A Camera In Hand

In fact, it’s quite hard not to get caught up in trying to keep up with the latest “must have” specs. So much so that many reviewers (and myself, at times) ignore that last year’s camera and even digital cameras from 10 years ago were more than capable of creating amazing images.

Entrance To The Treasury In Petra, Jordan

I recently wrote a piece about my own 10 year search to find the perfect camera that eventually led me back to shooting with something that just made sense for me instead of chasing the best specs.

So there are were a few features on the X-T4 that really piqued my interest, but I had no idea how integral it would be to how I would shoot. At the same time, there were design elements I thought I would love and end up never using it.

Let’s dig in. This is not a full review of all the features on the X-T4 vs the A7III, but rather my real world experience in how I use the camera for my photo and filming needs.

Fujifilm X-T4 and Voigtlander 3rd Party Lenses

1. The Fujifilm X-T4 Fully-Articulating Tilt Screen Is Indispensable

I’d say that that 90% of time, I have the screen in the closed position. The texture on the back matches the rest of the camera, so it’s beautiful when the screen is not exposed and goes one step closer to looking like a film camera. Aesthetics aside, this has retrained me to shoot with the viewfinder instead of the screen. It’s one of the things that I miss from my early years shooting with SLR and DSLR cameras, but there are specific use case for both.

I do find that I am much more precise as far as composition and lines when I use the screen since I’m looking at the entire image all at once. I use this when I’m shooting landscapes or videos. With the viewfinder, the image is much closer to your eyes, so I find myself focusing more on the subject instead of flicking my eyes around to see every part of a scene. This is crucial for capturing moments when doing stills.

After I take a shot, I also don’t feel as compelled to check how it looks so compulsively like I came to do when the screen was always there. Another move back to my earlier way of shooting.

As a hybrid photo/video shooter, the flip out screen is also so versatile that I don’t feel compelled to attach an external monitor all the time. I’ll still use one when I’m doing a dedicated video shoot, but otherwise I’m more than happy with just the built in screen.

One last thing to say about the articulating screen is that it looks a lot more streamlined compared to articulating screens on older Canon or Nikon cameras. When kept with the screen on the inside, it’s one less thing for me to worry about damaging when I’m tossing it in my bag.

2. The Retro Dials Are Not For Me

One of my philosophical reasons for moving to Fuji was to slow down my shooting. With all the fast features that were introduced with every new batch of cameras, I was shooting much faster and getting my shots more efficiently, but I started to feel like I was on auto-pilot. I wasn’t challenging myself as much to “look” for something different – so I wanted to slow down.

I thought the retro style shutter/ISO dials and adjusting aperture on the ring would be one way of slowing down and putting me more in the moment like when I was shooting 35mm film. It didn’t.

Fuji X-T4 Retro Top Dials

It’s one of those things you are nostalgic about, but in reality do not miss at all. Each turn on the shutter speed dial was a full stop, so I would still need the rear wheel to get to speeds in between anyway. The ISO wheel on the left side meant I would have to take my hand away from the focus ring on the lens to make changes.

It’s nice that it’s there for those who want to shoot that way and it’s also nice that there’s the option to adjust all your settings using the rear and front wheel. They are two ways of shootings and I found that using the dials just wasn’t for me anymore.

3. That Switch Between Still and Movie Mode

Under the shutter speed dial is a switch that toggles between Still and Movie mode. It’s so simple and yet it makes every other camera manufacturer who does not have this feature look so dumb for it.

One of the most annoying things I had to live with on my Sony A7III was that I was constantly changing all my settings when I had to switch between taking a still and a video. For video, I would shoot in PP7 (slog-2) and either at 1/50 or 1/120 shutter speed depending on if I was filming in 24 fps or 60 fps.

None of these settings are ideal for stills and they carry over even when I switch out of video mode. My workaround was to create memory settings but that just gets me to a particular setting.

On the Fujifilm, when I switch, it remembers all my last settings between Still and Movie. I can have a specific film simulation for Still and another one or F-log for Movie as well as different shutter speed/ISO options. It will even remember my last focus point and there’s a little feature called “Store AF Mode By Orientation” that remembers your focus point when you switch between holding the camera vertically and horizontally.

In other words, with one quick flick of the switch, I’m almost always instantly ready to start taking a picture or a video with all the right settings.

Fujifilm X-T4 Still/Movie Mode Switch

One of the trade-off is that Fujifilm decided against having a dedicated video record button like you find on the Sony A7III. It took a little time to get used to pressing down on the shutter release to start filming, but now I prefer it this way.

Lastly, there are dedicated menus for Stills and Movie shooting and even quick menus you can customize yourself for both modes. What this means is that if you are shooting Stills, you don’t have to go through all the unnecessary menus for Movie shooting.

4. You Need To Set The Mount Adaptor Setting For IBIS/OIS To Work On The Fuji X-T4

I don’t know why hardly anyone has mentioned this, except to guess that they don’t know or didn’t play with the camera for long enough while using adapted lenses.

On my Sony A7III, I set the C2 button to allow me to choose the focal length of any non-native Sony lens I use. You absolutely needed to set this for the built in IBIS to work since it needs to know the focal length of the lens to know how much to adjust for shake. This information is not electronically transmitted when you are using an “dumb” adapter, which is what many people use.

I found it funny that many people complained that Sony’s IBIS was “weird” and “jittery” for them. When I asked if they set the focal length, they had no idea what I was talking about. So, if this is news to you, you’re not alone.

Sadly, I didn’t find any information about whether I needed to do this for the Fuji X-T4 when I first got the camera and it wasn’t clear in the menu and manual what the Mount Adaptor Setting did. In any case, I created settings for each of my Voigtlander lenses and guess what? The IBIS was remarkably better.

5. The Retro MCS Switch Is For Me

Unlike the retro shutter speed and iso dials, I like the retro styling of having a physical switch to go between Manual Focus, Continuous Auto Focus and Single Auto Focus. One of the general complaints about the Sony Alpha cameras was that their menus were very deep and confusing to use – and I agree.

 

I always want to avoid having to go into the menu to change a setting and I hardly have to do it on my Fuji X-T4. Being able to switch between manual focus and single point auto focus by feel is an intuitive time saver.

6. Customizing My Shutter Release Button

Practically every camera back in the days had threading on the shutter release that would allow you to screw on a shutter release cable and trigger the shutter without having to press down on the button. This was main use to reduce any vibrations or movement when doing long exposure.

In practice, this is not necessary on today’s cameras because there are timers that can trigger a release as much as 10 seconds after you press down on it. Still, it’s nice to have that option to use my old cable for astrophotography.

My favorite reason for it is that I can screw on a soft release button that makes the shutter release button more responsive. It’s also a small way to customize the camera in a big way. I love the brass shutter release look on my X-T4.

Bonus Feature: I randomly discovered that I could tap on my screen to take a photo. Surprisingly, I’ve used this feature more often than I ever thought I would, especially when composing with the screen. You can turn this on in the AF/MF Setting > Touch Screen Mode > Touch Shooting.

7. How The Fuji X-T4 Feels In My Hand

I’m about 5’6 and 142 lbs and would say I have medium sized hands. I’ve never had a problem holding any camera, so the X-T4 was no exception. That said, reviewers have often talked about the smaller grip and I will add that it’s easier to hold onto the Sony A7III.

I’ve playfully dangled the A7III off two fingers and didn’t worry about dropping it. I can’t do that with the X-T4. Both bodies are roughly the same size, more of less, so the main reason I switched, as far as size and weight consideration, was in the lens selection. Those are universally smaller for the Fuji system.

When you consider the smaller lenses, the smaller grip is actually less of an issue. With the X-T4, it’s designed to be held exactly ONE way. There’s a thumb rest on the back, your index finger goes on the shutter release, the middle finger presses down on the sloping top part of the grip and then your ring and pinky finger goes on the main part of the grip.

It’s a perfect fit for my hand, but I still have to remember each time to adjust to that position. It’s still not instinctive yet and I can’t just pick it up in any way like I did with the bigger grip and the more forward placed shutter button on the A7III.

That being said, I just absolutely love how X-T4 looks and that slightly smaller handle actually works out in my favor when fitting neatly into my Wandrd 21L camera bag along with 6 lenses.

8. The Video Tally Light And All The Visual Indicators That I’m Filming

My most devastating complaint about the Sony A7III when it came to video was that many times I’ve pressed down on the record button without realizing that it didn’t trigger. This mostly happens when I’m run and gun shooting. Surprisingly, I don’t notice until I load the footage and realize that when I pressed the button to the turn off the recording, it actually started a new recording of me bouncing around with the camera down by my side.

I’ve yet to make this mistake on the Fuji X-T4 because of four things: the shutter button, the timecode, the blinking red light on the screen and the blinking tally lights.

Pushing down the the big shutter button reduces my chances of this error, compared to the smaller video button on the A7III. The running timecode and blinking red dot are also easy visual indicators that I’m rolling and finally, there’s the option to turn on the the tally light on the front and back that blinks or stays on to indicate you’re actually filming.

Moving Setting > Tally Light 

If I can make one change though, it would be to add a small light on the top of the camera that also blinks. I film a lot from the top down position, so the Tally light becomes useless from that angle. Still, it’s nice to have the dual light option as it stands, even if the back light is a little on the smaller end and in an easy to block spot.

9. One Touch F-Log Assist

This is easily another huge advantage in favor of the X-T4. Before anyone starts shooting in Sony S-log, I recommend they read in depth about exposing for log footage and test it out extensively before any paid shoot. One of reasons for that is that you need to know how will look once you’ve applied a LUT. Generally, you will want to expose the footage a bit, especially shooting in 8 bit.

On the X-T4, you can set one of the custom buttons to activate F-log Assist, which shows what the footage looks like in Rec. 709 color space. This allows me to shoot log while be able to monitor if my white balance and exposure is correct.

In a production environment with external monitors that have this feature, it’s not a big deal, but for run and gun shooting and travel filmmaking, it’s a huge feature for me.

10. Those Film Simulations Are Not Gimmicky Filters

I’ve never once used any of the filters offered on any of my digital cameras, because they all looked like early Instagram filters that were always too heavy handed.

Fujifilm’s film simulations are built around the science of how their different 35mm film stocks captured color. I edit almost all my photos in Adobe Lightroom and shoot in RAW so usually I don’t expect what I shoot to be the final thing I post or share.

And yet with some of these film simulations, especially Classic Chrome, Classic Neg and Eterna/Cinema (all of which fit my style of editing) along with features like Chrome Effect and Chrome Effect Blue, I’ve been more inclined to actually use the straight out of camera (SOOC) jpg images or with some very minor adjustments.

These more subtle “filters” don’t manipulate a whole scene, but instead adjust how certain colors are captured along with applying a different tone curve.

Classic Chrome and Classic Neg both have a slightly desaturated look, but do so by reducing some contrast, and deepening certain colors. What you end up getting are colors that are desaturated in a way, but somehow pop more in the scene.

Eterna/Cinema is the film simulation I use for filming when I’m shooting a sequence that I don’t plan on heavily grading, so I don’t need to shoot in F-log. It’s a cinematic look that has a softer tone curve, lower contrast and slightly desaturated colors.

In post, I can making some very quick minor color adjustments in Final Cut Pro X and get right to export with a look that I’m very happy with.

11. I Haven’t Sacrificed Quality In Moving To A Smaller Sensor

One of my reservations about moving to an APS-C cropped sensor was losing some image quality and low light capabilities. For all practical purposes, the quality of my stills are just as good as on the Sony A7III, with better colors out of the camera. In a naked eye test, I can’t tell the difference in terms of image quality. Both have been incredibly pleasing.

I haven’t noticed any limitations when it comes to high ISO grain. Personally, even though I knew the Sony A7sII and A7III had great low light capabilities, I still rarely went about ISO 4000.

Up to ISO 4000, I haven’t noticed any significant difference between the two cameras, though I know that the A7III, should look better, at least on paper, as you went beyond that.

In practice, I often use the Neat Video denoise tool on most of my log footage. It works incredibly, but I was also applying it to 8-bit 4:2:0 footage from the Sony A7III, since I shot everything internally.

Neat Video works better on 10-bit footage, so most of my footage from the X-T4 up to ISO 4000 (haven’t tested beyond that), generally looked better after post.

12. Fuji X-T4 H.265 Footage Is A Pain To Edit Right Now

H.265 is a delivery codec. It is not an editing optimized codec. It’s also a little ahead of its time until processors and machines catch up. So while you can get more data into less storage with h.265, it is a drag on current systems that haven’t been optimized for the codec.

Right now, I have to either shoot to an external recorder, like the Atomos Ninja V, to a more friendly codec like ProRes or transcode all my footage to ProRes before editing. It’s not a dealbreaker and I hope with my next computer upgrade along with future upgrades to editing programs, this will be less of a problem.

But for now, I hate h.265. I can’t even play back the footage on either my iMac or Macbook Pro.

13. I Can’t Rely On The X-T4 Continuous Autofocus For Videography

When I shoot video, 95% of the time, it is with manual focus. Occasionally, I will use autofocus to get a shot in focus and then start filming. In other words, I don’t rely on it, even though  the continuous auto focus on the Sony A7III was pretty good. Not as good as something like the Canon 1DX Mark II though.

Unfortunately, the X-T4’s continuous autofocus is just not reliable enough for any serious filmmaker. It’s somewhat palatable on the wide 10-24mm f/4 lens, but most of Fujifilm’s lenses were made before the latest autofocus algorithms. The motors simply weren’t designed for that type of smooth transition.

Oddly enough, some reviews out there have mentioned the continuous focus working better with non-native lenses on an adapter. That’s a little disappointing, but I’m sure Fujifilm’s newer lenses will improve performance.

Though it uses a phase detect focusing system that is superior to contrast detect focusing systems, there is still visible hunting, regardless of what setting adjustments you make to sensitivity or tracking speed.

This is not a dealbreaker for me and I don’t rely on it, but vloggers might be a little annoyed if it takes too long for a focus to adjust if they move, even with eye-tracking on.

I do think the issue is hardware, which means newer lenses that’s part of Fuji’s X Mount Lens Roadmap should perform better. Fujifilm is also known pass on newer firmware updates back down the line, so I have comfort knowing that I won’t need to constantly upgrade in the future to get the latest features.

14. I Don’t Need The Highest Setting All The Time

2020 has seen the introduction of words like 8K, All-I and 4:2:2 10-bit enter the lexicon of the average video shooter. All of a sudden, 4K 8 bit 4:2:0 at 100 mbps was an atrocity of inferior filmmaking. Don’t even talk to me about 1080p right?

I hated this because we were all pretty blown away by some of these specs just a couple of years ago, so why suddenly so demanding? I absolutely hated that the Canon R5 was blasted because it may or may not overheat if you filmed for more than 30 minutes at 8K.

I’m sure that’s an issue for certain filmmakers and some stay at home uncles who feel like anything less is only for amateur. For me, I was over the moon to finally get 4K 60 fps for when I needed some flexibility with slow motion for client projects.

For a lot of my random everyday footage, I felt like it was overkill. With the h.265 codec, it definitely has been overkill, both in terms of what it takes it edit the footage and also the amount of storage space it will take up in my archives.

Clean 1080p 24 fps with a higher bit rate is more than what I need if i’m filming a vlog or making a quick YouTube video. It gives me enough latitude to do editing, without too much excess data. I don’t even bother with the All-I option most of the time.

When I need to control for strobes, different refresh rates of lights in a fast moving scene for a short film, I will absolutely be using the highest settings on the Fuji X-T4, but for now, consider that some of the lesser settings might be better for your needs. Either way, you have a very capable machine at your disposal.

15. The Fujifilm Videography Community Is Smaller I Realized

I don’t have hard numbers on this, but Sony and Canon have been the clear leader in the video-in-a-camera-body space. Panasonic has a dedicated following as well. One way to gauge popularity is to see the number of cinema filmmaking options and accessories for different cameras.

You simply aren’t finding as many options for Fuji X-T4 whether it comes to cine lenses or cages and other accessories. There are some options available, but not many. If China’s copycat manufacturers aren’t making products, you know it’s because there’s not even enough of a minimal demand.

I believe this will change in the next year or two as Fuji X-T4 paves the way for people to feel more comfortable shooting video on Fujifilm cameras, like myself. I like that Fujifilm is expanding (not deviating) their offerings to capture a larger share of the market instead of sticking to their retro only design and stills first philosophy. The new Fujifilm X-S10 is evidence of this as is their reversal on building IBIS into their camera starting with the X-H1 and now the X-T4.

16. But 1/48 Shutter Speed Shows Fujifilm Cares About The Videography Community

In Movie mode, I was dialing through the shutter speed when I saw 1/48 and then 1/96 and finally 1/120 as shutter speed options. Yes, right alongside the usual 1/50, 1/100 and 1/125. They are both so similar but when you use the 180 degree shutter rule to get that motion look that mimics what the human eye experiences, your shutter speed should effectively be double your frame rate.

For 24 fps, 1/50 is comes closest, but 1/48 is exact. For 60 fps, 1/125 was what I used on the A7III, but now I can use 1/120.

Is the difference noticeably perceptible to most people? Probably not. But the logic of the rule holds, so you are getting what you would get if you were shooting on higher end machines like RED, ARRI, or Sony and Canon’s production cameras.

It’s a small feature, but it shows that FujiFilm is clearly taking the needs of filmmakers seriously, at least going forward. Except for the lack of a headphone jack. That’s just stupid for now, but I’ll give that up for all the other features that have compelled me to switch from the Sony juggernaut to Fujifilm’s Davidesque entry into filmmaking.

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3 Comments

  • Eddie
    1 month ago

    Great article. For my new job I’m getting back into photo and video. I really need good video auto focus and face/subject tracking. Little light ability will be a plus.A lot of my work will be shooting military exercises, moving soldiers, outdoor sporting etc. This is the only thing holding me back from getting the XT4, along with the heavy video codec that is not ideal for quick editing. For those reasons and with budget in mind I’ve been looking at the Sony a73 and Sony a6600. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and feel free to point me in the right direction on resources to review. I’ll continue following you. Great stuff.

    • Eddie
      1 month ago

      I meant to write low light ability will be a plus.

    • 1 month ago

      I think you’re right into thinking that Sony is the better option. I wrote the article to point out how the X-T4 better serves me for what I need. I would recommend you pick up a used A7iii, which is a great value camera since they’ve announced all their new cameras. The low light and noise is better than the X-T4. The autofocus is also better for the purpose. The codec is also an issue unless you have one of the new Mac M1 machines, which I’ve just upgraded to myself for the purpose of editing the Fuji files. If you have the money, the ultimate camera right now is the new Sony A1. But that might be overkill. Good luck and let me know what you end up getting.

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