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.
Some quickie stats if you like that kind of thing
- 3” screen
- 24.2 megapixel resolution
- touch-sensitive tilting screen (you can pinch and scroll like with an iPhone)
- in-built Wifi
- HD video recording
- comes with 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II kit lens
- shoots from ISO 100 to ISO 6400
- built-in flash
What does the camera do for me?
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:
- Text – effective for clearer shots of lettering; perfect for pictures of menus as well as hotel and restaurant signs
- Portrait – will be great not just for blogging but also pictures of the kids while they still allow me to capture their image
- Fireworks – look out, Guy Fawkes Night!
- Snow – for shooting in the high-contrast environment on the slopes
- Beach – yes, please! Presumably taken with one hand while holding a mai tai in the other
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.
Other things I like about the X-A3
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?)
Some other great extras – effects, selfies, Wifi
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!
What I didn’t like about the X-A3
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.
Would I recommend the X-A3?
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.
Look out for my upcoming picture post, highlighting what the X-A3 can do