If I’m being honest with myself, my only true hobby is collecting hobbies. I play guitar and record electronic music. I started painting last year. (I’m objectively terrible at it.) I cook. i brew beer I’m trying my hand at DIY electronics. I am an avid hiker. A re-runner. I flirted with boxing. Oh yes, and I write. Apparently.
Now I’ve added the photograph to the list. I dabbled in it a bit in high school and college, but have only picked up a camera (that wasn’t built into my phone) outside of work a few times since. Then, in 2021, after a few years of exclusively using my phone’s camera for review photos, I decided I desperately needed an upgrade. I finally settled on the Fujifilm X-T30, partly because I was on a budget. But while I was looking for an affordable workhorse to improve my photography and video gaming at Engadget, I ended up finding the perfect camera to reignite my interest in the art of photography.
Let’s start with what interests many people about the Fujifilm family in the first place: the controls. I made my first photographic experiences with film. Sure, it’s been a long time since I last used a film camera, but at least I have some level of comfort there. Unlike most digital cameras, Fujifilm’s X-Series mimics the look and feel of a 35mm film camera. There are dedicated dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation, and many first-party Fuji lenses have physical aperture rings. If I had opted for the X-T3, I would have even gotten my own ISO wheel. However, there are two programmable dials that can be mapped to control ISO and aperture, even if you’re using a lens without an aperture ring.
This makes the X-T30 far more tactile and satisfying than other digital cameras I’ve used, whereas normally I’d just set it to aperture priority and forget about it. Without a PASM wheel (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual) to use as a crutch, I was forced to learn the camera’s various options, inside and out. I also have to think more carefully and critically about each exposure. Yes, you can essentially put the X-T30 into shutter or aperture priority mode by changing certain settings to “Auto”, but you can’t just turn a dial and be done with it.
The other big thing for me are the film simulations. Fuji cameras have a built-in set of profiles designed to mimic a specific film material. Think of these like Instagram filters, but less awful. Astia is attuned to portraits, Velvia is perfect for landscapes, Eterna gives you that low-contrast cinematic look, and so on.
And that’s just scratching the surface: you can further tweak the settings to tweak your SOOC (straight-out-of-camera) JPGs to achieve different styles and approximations to other films. There’s even a small Fujifilm subculture dedicated to “film recipes” that aim to capture the general mood, if not the look, of many classic film stocks. One of the best resources for this is Fuji X Weekly, where Ritchie Roesch shares and demonstrates various recipes to try and recreate things like Kodak’s Portra 400 or Ilford Delta.
As I’m someone who likes to tinker with small details and tweak things, this is perfect for me. When I first discovered Fuji X Weekly, I spent several days going through the recipes that were compatible with my particular camera (and some that weren’t), entering the settings and taking test photos and my favorites for easy recall save to Evernote. Fuji makes it easy to load up to seven of these presets with the Q menu, so I can essentially go out with seven different “films” in my camera and switch between them depending on the situation.
What I like best about this setup is that I can just go and shoot and come back with great looking photos that don’t need any editing. I can decide at the moment: would it be better with a warmer color palette? Should I increase the saturation here? What would this scene look like in high-contrast black and white? And I don’t have to do a lot of diving in the menu to test different looks.
I always shoot in RAW + JPG in case I change my mind later or something doesn’t turn out the way I wanted. But being able to basically see the finished product and focus on composing photos instead of spending even more time on the laptop is great. That’s exactly what I need in my hobby: less staring at a computer screen.
Without getting absurd and gimmicky—artificially limiting how many frames I can take, or only using one preset for at least 24 shots in a row—this feels about as close as I shoot to film with a digital camera . And while, yes, I know I could always go back to film, I really would rather not. I like many of the modern conveniences that a digital camera offers. In addition, 35mm film and have received high-quality development services quite expensive. Even low-end expired reels can fetch a decent price on Craigslist.
However, not all are roses. The X-T30 is limited to simultaneously recording 10 minutes of 4K video, which can make shooting a PITA. And perhaps more importantly, I may have joined the Fujifilm herd at just the wrong time. For years, the company has built a loyal following with its “Kaizen” philosophy, which has resulted in even older devices being continually updated to bring new features and bug fixes. Unfortunately, the company has moved away from that in recent years.
The X-T30 last received a firmware update over a year ago, in early October 2021, and those were almost entirely minor bug fixes. It wasn’t even three years old then. The company introduced the X-T30 II around the same time, which is almost identical on the hardware side but offers a variety of new software features and film simulations. There doesn’t seem to be any technical reason why many of these features couldn’t be ported over to the slightly older camera, particularly the film simulations, but Fuji has left some of its users out in the cold.
We hope Fujifilm remembers that it has attracted dedicated followers by focusing on the experience and providing users with meaningful updates on a regular basis. Because while I love my camera and think it’s probably the best camera for me, I’m a little concerned that I discovered the Fuji community just in time for it to evaporate.