I few years ago I started keeping an old-fashioned scrapbook of my travels, the kind with paper pages and photo corners. Inside are ticket stubs, bits of menus and loads of pictures, beside which I write descriptions of the day, anecdotes and memories. I’ve become more and more devoted to actual printing and keeping photos. I love to look through my albums, and the moments captured in my scrapbooks are the ones I remember most vividly. As my daughter’s and stepson’s childhoods rush by, I find I want to cement those memories more than ever.
Like many avid travellers and aspiring amateur photographers, I have a choice when on holiday, taking pictures with the family or just capturing day-to-day moments: to either haul out my massive DSLR kit that make me feel like a paparazzi hunting Kardashians or whip out my camera phone and look the teensiest bit lightweight.
Now I have something that sits between the smartphone and full-on DSLR kit: I’ve been trying out the Fujifilm X-A3, a mirrorless digital camera with a proper lens and a large sensor (for crisp images), using it with an eye to creating keepsake day-to-day pictures as well as travel pictures I’ll cherish or use on my blog or social media.
First and foremost is the crispness of the images. I’ve been increasingly dissatisfied with the results I’m getting from my iPhone 6S. I always have to go into an editing app to sharpen, lighten and heighten contrast, and frequently pictures that I want pin-sharp – on the Gorge Bridge in Taos, a portrait of the kids playing cards – come out soft. With the X-A3, I get images I can print, post or blow up without worry.
I love the flexibility of the filters and effects. There are loads of these – I’ve heard them described as “Instagram on steroids” and the moniker fits. There are filters that pick out one colour and make rest of the image monochrome, a toy camera effect, fish eye, plus “film effects” which are based on the look of traditional film, such as sepia, high-contrast and Velvia, which resembles the saturated classic Kodak Kodachrome.
Here are others settings I can’t wait to fully explore over time:
Finally, a great feature for both family pictures and social influencers: one-touch video recording.
I’ve grown disenchanted with the quality of the video I’m getting from my iPhone, which isn’t producing the vibrant colour and picture crispness that I want. I can shoot video with my DSLR, but the settings are buried in the menu somewhere that I can never find.
With the X-A3, the video button is situated right on the back. You push it and you’re off. Push it again to stop. It’s that easy.
Shallow? Nay, vital! If you’re going to invest in a camera, why not make sure its profile pleases you? The X-A3 has retro styling with an accent of colour: pink, silver (black) or brown. The brown leather-look accents on mine had more of a burgundy cast that I anticipated but I love the overall appearance. I’ll look great with it while riding a Vespa!
The physical size and the weight really do make this a camera I can take anywhere, slung over my shoulder, round my neck or tucked into my purse. A DSLR uses a single lens reflex, with a little mirror that flips up when you press the shutter and exposes a sensor. With the mirrorless X-A3 — these are also called compact system cameras or CSCs — you look at a back-viewing screen instead of through a viewfinder and there’s no mirror. It’s an arrangement that makes the X-A3 lighter and simpler.
The ability to change lenses
The X-A3 comes with a 16-50mm but there are an array of lenses you swap out. This kind of flexibility really lets a camera grow with you the more you use it. I can see investing in a wide-angle lens to allow for beautiful shots of castles, beaches and rolling hills. (Of course, I could also use the existing panoramic setting – did I mention the panoramic setting?)
The in-built Wifi means you can connect to your phone via a special app and move images across for sharing on social media or print directly to a Fujifilm Instax printer (I’m already saving my pennies for one of these).
The back screen flips up and clicks into place to allow you to take high-quality selfies, a nice touch especially when taking family pics with the kids.
There are a few really fun effects that we loved playing with, including the ability to create double-exposure images. While I’m not sure I’ll have much use for it for the blog, for family hi-jinks, it’s ace!
Fiddly lens cap
Here’s the scene: Walking along the Kings Road, I would stop, smoothly remove the cap from the lens, snap away merrily, then walk on, fiddling with the cap as I squeezed and re-squeezed the handles to make it grip. It wasn’t a huge deal. I got better at it. I’d like it if the lens cap seated a bit more securely so I’m not fearful it will fall off while I walk or in my handbag.
And…not much else.
Absolutely. For someone looking to move on from a smartphone camera but still wanting something powerful yet portable, the X-A3 is a great versatile camera. Its stylish look also appeals — whenever I brought it out with friends, they ooh’ed, ahh’ed and wanted to have a go.
I’ve had the camera for a couple of weeks and I keep discovering new features and other flexible ways to take pictures in different settings. I like that I can play around and even get ridiculously creative with the results, or use a few favourite settings to get reliable images for the blog or as keepsakes. I can print images straight from the camera or card without having to sharpen them in an app beforehand. The only problem I can see right now — with all the new images I have — is freeing up time for more scrapbooking.
The Fujifilm X-A3 is available exclusively at Jessops and retails for £549.
I was provided an X-A3 camera to try and keep and am working with Fujifilm in a paid relationship. All opinions are my own.