Fujifilm X-T4: A Confused Camera

So, based on the details and photos, Fujifilm has just released yet another beautifully designed camera that finally has most of the long-awaited features owners have been begging for, with a larger battery and in-body image stabilization (IBIS) being chief among them. Also included is a fully articulating LCD, but more on that in a bit.

Other obvious changes include reorganizing the button layout, playing musical chairs with the AE-L, AF-L and Q Menu buttons. AF-L has now been relabeled as “AF-On,” for people who prefer back-button focusing but were easily tripped up by a printed button label. The AF-On button is also in a more accessible position, occupying the space previously held by the AE-L button, enlarged and made convex for easier identification by feel. The Q Menu button is flat and now on the brow, while the AE-L button has been moved to where the Q Menu button resides on previous versions. They’ve also replaced the metering switch with a “stills/video” switch, making it easier to move between functions with a dedicated switch instead of being on the drive mode selector switch. Finally, the “Fn 2” button has been relocated alongside the shutter button, presumably for easier access. Despite their printed labels and default settings, all of these buttons are easily changed to one of a number of options, accessed by holding down the “Disp/Back” button for 3 seconds.

Fujifilm also backtracked on a design change made on the X-T3: they’ve relocated the remote shutter release port back to the left side of the camera, in turn removing the dedicated headphone port. For those of us who use a wireless remote system with hotshoe mounted receiver, this is a welcome change, as the cable required to connect it is no longer in the way of properly gripping the camera body. The problem is the loss of the headphone port for monitoring audio while recording video. It’s partially remedied by the inclusion of a USB-C to 3.5mm TRRS dongle with the kit but this design choice exemplifies the confusion presented by the X-T4’s existence. Let me explain.

When the X-H1 was introduced, it was described as a sibling lineup; specifically an approximately 60/40, video-weighted hybrid that also shot great stills. It had a larger body and grip, not just to facilitate the IBIS system, but to give it better balance with larger cinema lenses for owners seeking a capable video camera. The X-T series was defined to be exactly the opposite ratio; a stills-centric camera that also shot great video. However, like the odd inclusion of a factory adjustable leaf spring shutter switch on the X-H1, a feature that’s more coveted by stills shooters, the X-T4 has also incorporated a couple of weirdly out of place features that betrays Fujifilm’s original description of the X-T series being stills-focused.

While IBIS is welcome by both stills and video shooters, videographers will bemoan the choice to ditch the headphone port in favor of a USB-C dongle. However, photographers will in kind be frustrated by the fully articulating LCD. With the previous X-T3, you could flip out the display in 2.5 directions that worked well for photography but lacked the versatility vloggers demanded. Fujifilm could’ve implemented something akin to what they’ve already used on the X-T100 or what Panasonic uses on the LUMIX S1H, instead choosing to alienate many photographers for the sake of vloggers.

And therein lies the confusion. Fujifilm made changes to the design that frustrates both parties, and for what? They could’ve left the LCD design for the upcoming X-H2, a line they insist is not going away. And yet they removed the headphone port, only to make things more frustrating for videographers. So for whom is this camera truly designed for? It looks like an odd mashup of both lineups that’s designed to irk users of either.

So, it begs to be asked: what’s the future? Is the X-T series going to take the place of the X-H series, and vice versa? I wouldn’t be unhappy if that were to become the case. Unfortunately, what I worry about is the X-T series becoming a “compact hybrid,” rather than the stills-focused lineup it was originally conceived to be. That would ultimately leave a lot of X-T series owners having to consider upgrading to a camera full of compromises, with none in favor of them, when upgrade season arrives for individual users. And no, “the X Pro 3 is what you want,” is not what I want. I prefer the compact, SLR style layout of the X-T series… and while I’d be willing to compromise for a larger X-H2 in the future, losing both lineups completely to a vocal minority of potential hybrid using vloggers would be an absolute shame, mainly because I’d be driven away from the brand and design that lured me back into photography in the first place.

Here’s hoping 2021 is a better product year for Fujifilm photographers.

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