Fujifilm X-E2 Review - With over 60 improvements and refinements, is the Fujifilm X-E2 everything an enthusiast looks for from a retro-style system camera? Find out in the What Digital Camera Fujifilm X-E2 review
Before long Fujifilm realised they’d hit the sweet spot with what modern-day photographers were looking for from their next camera in terms of its design, and quickly set about the task of creating an interchangeable lens edition with a similar APS-C sized sensor to meet increasing demand.
Eleven months later and the X-Pro 1 arrived with three X-mount prime lenses from which to choose. Since the X-Pro1’s success, Fujifilm’s X-series has matured from strength to strength with a range of new models aimed at targeting all types of consumers needs.
Whereas the X-Pro1 is largely aimed at professionals, the model that sits just beneath it in the product line – the X-E1 – borrowed some of its features to cater for the enthusiast who fancied a similar design and features at a more affordable price. The X-E1 has since been superseded by the arrival of the Fujifilm X-E2, but can how does this latest addition to the X-series build upon its predecessor’s success?
You can find out more about our experience with the Fujifilm X-E2 by reading our Fujifilm X-E2 field test, where Michael Topham takes it to the Scottish Highlands to find out if it’s good enough to tempt him changing over from a DSLR permanently. Our second Fujifilm X-E2 sample image gallery is well worth a look!
Fujifilm X-E2 Review – Features
If it wasn’t for the engraved model number on the front of the body, you could be fooled into thinking the Fujifilm X-E2 is identical to the X-E1. Though we’ll study the design later in this review, very little looks to have changed on first glance and it’s not until you dig a little deeper into the specification that you realise most of the improvements and refinements are made within rather than being superficial.
Whereas the X-E1 inherited the X-Trans CMOS sensor from the X-Pro1, the Fujifilm X-E2 employs the newer 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor that we’ve previously witnessed inside the X100S. With a structure more akin to film, the X-Trans CMOS sensor is said to keep moiré and false colour to a minimum, eliminating the need for an anti-aliasing filter, which in turn should deliver far sharper results than more conventional sensors.
The new X-Trans CMOS II sensor also incorporates over 100,000 phase-detect pixels built-in to the sensor to provide the X-E2 with an intelligent Hybrid AF system that utilises both phase-detect and contrast-detect AF, switching between the two for optimal focusing speed that Fujifilm claims can be as quick as 0.08secs.
This in part has also been made possible thanks to a newly developed autofocus algorithm that’s intended to improve accuracy when shooting low-contrast subjects and dark scenes where notoriously some cameras can struggle.
Beyond the new sensor technology, Fujifilm has taken the opportunity to upgrade the processor within the X-E2 and it now features an EXR processor II for a near-instant response time that’s also claimed to double the processing speed over the X-E1. With an all-new sensor and processor, you might expect the ISO range to have improved from the X-E1.
Just like before, the X-E2 has a fairly moderate native ISO range of 200-6400 that can be expanded to an ISO equivalent of 100-25,600. What’s interesting however is that you’re only given the option of shooting in the JPEG format in the expanded settings and not Raw, limiting the sensitivity to ISO 6400 if you prefer to record in the uncompressed Raw format.
Since the arrival of the X-Pro1, Fujifilm has worked hard behind the scenes to increase its range of XF lenses, with the X-E2’s X mount being fully supported by eight optics with focal length ranges covering 21mm-300mm in traditional 35mm terms. A glance at the manufacturers lens roadmap suggests this range is set to expand with an imminent release of the XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS – expected in the early part of 2014.
As kit lenses go, the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens that’s bundled with the X-E2 is an excellent example and not only does it match the high quality build of the body, the fast f/2.8 aperture between 18-20mm (closes to f/4 at 40mm) enables a shallow depth of field to be created, while the built-in OIS optical image stabilization system (equivalent to four stops) helps to prevent handshake.
A significant improvement between the X-E2 and the X-E1 is the screen at the rear. Out goes the 2.8in display with a rather lackluster 460k-dot resolution and in comes a 3in, 3:2 aspect ratio display with a much more impressive 1,040k-dot resolution. Touch-functionality remains absent, seemingly in an effort to preserve the manual aesthetics of the camera, while helping to keep the cost down.
Above the screen, the OLED electronic (EVF) retains the same 2.36m-dot resolution, but to help enhance its performance in low-light, the refresh rate has been increased from 20fps to 50fps. Elsewhere the X-E2 boasts a number of minor improvements, including the addition of Wi-fi functionality.
This promises a straightforward one-press option to transfer images with the free Fujifilm Camera application, while exposure compensation adjustment has been increased from -/+ 2 stops to -/+ 3stops and manual focus has been made more user-friendly thanks to the inclusion of Digital Split Technology that can be used in partnership with focus peaking.
Not forgetting video, the X-E2 can shoot Full HD 1080p (1920×1080) at frame rates of 60fps or 30fps with a high bitrate of 36Mbps.
Fujifilm X-E2 Review – Design
The X-E1 received many plaudits for its design, so it’s no surprise to see Fujifilm sticking with their winning formula for the Fujifilm X-E2. Its smart and elegant appearance shouts panache while being fairly understated at the same time, and when you see it positioned alongside the X-E1 it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two, especially when both share the same footprint and similar dimensions. With exception of the larger screen at the rear, which results in slightly smaller buttons alongside, nothing new stands out until you cast a much closer eye over the body.
The Q.menu button has been relocated above the screen, taking the place of the view mode button as found beneath the hotshoe on the X-E1. This has freed space beneath the exposure compensation dial for independent Autofocus lock (AF-L) and Exposure Lock (AE-L) buttons.
The responsiveness of the eye sensor that automatically switches the live feed of the screen to the EVF and vice versa is identical to the X-E1, while just like its forerunner the drive button beneath provides instant access to ISO bracketing, continuous shooting, HD video, motion panorama and a newly added set of advanced filters.
For other common settings such as aspect ratio, image quality, dynamic range and noise reduction, the Q.Menu is used in conjunction with the rear scroll dial, the layout of which is identical to the X-E1, the same of which can be said for the main menu interface.
Back to the design, the magnesium die-cast top and front covers contribute to a strong and robust feel in the hand. Though the rubber grip at the front looks a little bit like an afterthought with its raised profile, it considerably improves handling.
Despite being a touch nose heavy with the kit lens attached the body feels comfortable in the hand over long periods, but does require support with your left hand under the lens for added stability. Although it’s just about manageable, the X-E2 is not a camera you’ll want to use single handedly.
Up on the top plate of the X-E2 the on/off button wraps itself around the shutter button where there’s an inherent thread for attaching a traditional screw cable release. The shutter speed dial like the exposure compensation dial is beautifully machined from metal, and there’s a greater separation between the ‘A’ setting for Auto control and the maximum permitted shutter speed of 1/4000sec, helping to make it feel like you’ve entered a new setting.
Unlike a DSLR’s standard P,A,S,M shooting modes, users are encouraged to take more manual control of the camera instead of setting the aperture and shutter speed to its ‘A’ setting which is equivalent to Program Mode.
With the shutter speed set to ‘A’ mode and the aperture set via the aperture ring, the camera will actively perform in aperture priority mode, whereas with the aperture set to ‘A’ on the lens barrel and the shutter speed set via the dial, the X-E2 performs in shutter priority mode.
Coming from a DSLR it’s a slightly different approach, however it quickly becomes second nature as previous X-series users will know.
One other perquisite is the option to assign a function to any one of the two function buttons or AF/AE buttons. Previously customisation was fairly limited with just one Fn button on the X-E1. This improves the customisability of the camera to a great extent and underlines Fujifilm’s commitment to listening and implementing the feedback they’ve received from their consumers.
Fujifilm X-E2 Review – Performance
One disappointment with the X-Pro1 was its focusing speed and to improve on this Fujifilm enhanced the autofocus algorithms for the X-E1 that followed. In truth, while it was an improvement, the X-E1’s AF performance didn’t set the world alight so where do we stand now in regard to AF with the X-E2?
Well, the good news is the X-E2’s newly developed AF algorithm has made a significant difference in dark, low light scenes where the X-E1 would either struggle, or require the shutter button to be half depressed twice, occasionally even three times before focus was acquired.
In single AF the X-E2 locks onto targets more accurately than the X-E1, however the speed in which it does so struggles to match the speed of Panasonic’s Light Speed AF system as used within the excellent Lumix GX7 and GM1. Another positive to take from the X-E2 is a more spritely continuous AF performance with no restriction of using it in Multi AF mode and it can now be used in Area AF mode too.
Those who take advantage of the X-E2’s continuous AF when recording HD video will also benefit from a near-silent autofocus performance from the kit lens, resulting in clean audio footage that’s not compromised. The disadvantage of not having a touchscreen means you can’t intuitively tap the screen to move your AF point over your target.
Instead you’re required to hit the AF button that’s been repositioned from beside the screen to the dPad, and as one might expect this is a more leisurely way of setting the AF point to where you need it and isn’t ideal for on the spot captures or sporadic moving subjects.
While the 49-point AF arrangement sounds impressive on paper, it’s no different to the X-E1 in that the coverage doesn’t meet the edge of the frame and looking into the future we’d like Fujifilm to adopt Panasonic’s philosophy of full-frame AF coverage across all X-Series models. That said, it’s good how you’re given the option to increase or decrease the size of the AF point up to five sizes using the control dial at the rear.
Though there will be some who’d prefer to see the X-E1 feature a hybrid viewfinder like the ones found on the X-Pro1 and X100S, it’s hard to nitpick the OLED EVF. Raised to the eye it provides bright colours, an impressive resolution and is anything but tunnel like.
What’s most impressive though is the faster 50fps refresh rate that’s improved on the X-E1 to offer a much smoother viewing performance when moving the camera and composing via the viewfinder simultaneously.
Just in the same way the viewfinder performs better, so does the screen.
There is a trade off of smaller buttons for a larger 3in display, but this is a wise move and the 1,040k-dot resolution makes it comparable with many rivals’ screens. The display provides an crisp and sharp image for composition and playback, and the way its designed to sit so flush to the body at the rear is well received.
For users looking at the X-E2 as a possible upgrade option from the X-E1, it accepts the same NP-W126 Lithium Ion Battery pack that can rattle off 350 shots before a recharge is required, and set to continuous shooting it’s possible to shoot 1fps faster than the X-E1 at up to 7fps.
Though perhaps not an obvious candidate for high speed shooting, the X-E2 manages to record 8 frames at 7fps in the Raw format before the buffer interrupts and slows proceedings.
This number increases to 19 frames at 7fps when then image quality is switched over to Fine JPEG. For a camera of the X-E2’s pedigree we’d expect continuous shooting to be infrequently used, but that’s not to say it’s a useful addition to have on the off chance you might one day need it.
Fujifilm X-E2 Review – Image Quality
Colour and White Balance
There’s a choice of ten white balance settings to choose from. While many users will opt to leave White Balance set to Auto you can expect the X-E2 to deliver consistent tones that are both natural to the scene and well saturated. We experienced no issues with colour indoors or out, leaving you to concentrate on your photography without the worry of the final result appearing too warm or too cool.
For those who’d like to enhance the colours in their images, there are nine film simulation modes to experiment with to emulate the traditional look of film, including Provia, Velvia and Astia. Anyone interested in black and white will also want to try out the mono settings, including the Monochrome+R filter that effectively enhances contrast and darkens skies considerably.
The X-E2 inherits the same 256-zone metering system from the X-E1, which it itself adopted from the X-Pro1. It’s a metering system that can be relied upon to produce accurate exposures and unless you’re shooting in exceptionally bright conditions, such as towards the sun, you’ll rarely find exposure compensation needs to be used.
An alternative to using exposure compensation is to use the X-E2’s expanded dynamic range settings, referred to as DR100, DR200 and DR400. The idea of these are to preserve greater detail in the brightest highlights of JPEG or Raw image and the results are impressive with considerable highlight detail retained in the DR400 mode.
With an same 16.3MP resolution, the X-E2’s sensor resolves an identical level of detail to the X-E1. Our resolution chart revealed 30 lines per millimeter were visible at ISO 200. This was sustained up to ISO 800, beyond which the detail dropped off slightly, but we were still impressed by 24lpmm being resolved at ISO 6400.
Users of the X-E2 will find little to fault in the way of detail and it should also be noted that the superb 18-55mm kit lens played its part in such an impressive readout with which the X-E2 was tested.
The X-E2 delivers an exceptional noise performance, with no sign of colour or luminance noise between ISO 100-800. At ISO 1600 a very faint trace of a noise creeps in, however it has such a fine structure it’s barely noticeable when viewed at 100%.
Noise becomes a slightly more noticeable at ISO 3200 and 6400, but is by no means unusable and was quickly taken care of using noise reduction in Camera Raw 8.3RC. Detail is well preserved right up to ISO 12,800 and this is the limit at which you’ll regularly want to push the sensitivity to unless you’re willing to accept more noise and a slightly more waxy appearance at ISO 25,600.
Raw Vs JPEG
Comparing Raw images alongside JPEGs revealed comparable levels of detail at low sensitivity settings. As the ISO was increased Raw files came out on top with JPEGs unable to resolve the same level of bite. Unlike some cameras that can over sharpen JPEGs, the X-E2’s in-camera processing is subtle and effectively reduces the affect of noise at the highest sensitivities.
With no movie-rec button to be found on the body, HD video is accessed via the X-E2’s drive mode button. With movie mode selected, the shutter button is used to commence recording and the continuous record time at Full HD resolution (1920×1080) is capped at 14 minutes as opposed to 27 minutes at 1280×720. A 2.5mm microphone socket is included, however we’d prefer this to be s 3.5mm port to save the hassle of using a 2.5mm plug to 3.5mm socket adapter.
Fujifilm X-E2 – Verdict
The Fujifilm X-E2 is a very well equipped for the enthusiast photographer it’s out to target and in many ways it’s the camera we wish the X-E1 were all along. Naturally, as with most replacements, Fujifilm has successfully addressed the concerns we picked up on in our review of the X-E1, these being the ageing 460k-dot, 2.8in screen and the accuracy of autofocus in low-light.
Though the newly developed autofocus algorithm has improved things, it hasn’t dramatically changed the lock-on speed, which remains slower than its Olympus and Panasonic rivals in the compact system camera market.
Wi-fi is perhaps a given on most new models today, and even if it doesn’t meet everyone’s needs, it’s good to see Fujifilm keeping up with the direction wireless technology is heading. That said, the Fujifilm Camera app is a long way behind others in terms of its functionality. It’s not the most intuitive app to use and we’d like to see it offer wireless image capture like many other manufacturers apps.
What we must remember though is that this is a chic, retro camera modeled on the rangefinder-type of camera from years gone by, so it’s the image quality and hands-on experience that’s ultimately key. Once familiar with the ins and outs of its operation, the solid build quality, superb handling and excellent button placement add up to offer one of the best user experiences there is.
Most importantly there’s no compromise in image quality, with the quality of results and detail rendered making it an excellent substitute to a more unwieldy APS-C DSLR. The X-E2 is to put it simply, a stunning camera that’s up there as one of the most attractive on the market and an absolute pleasure to use.
You can find out more about our experience with the Fujifilm X-E2 by reading our Fujifilm X-E2 field test,
where Michael Topham takes it to the Scottish Highlands to find out if
it’s good enough to tempt him changing over from a DSLR permanently.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of sample image captured with the Fujifilm X-E2. For a wider range of images, visit the Fujifilm X-E2 review sample image gallery.
Fujifilm X-E2 Review – First Look
While the resolution remains the same, the Fujifilm X-E2 employs the newer 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor that we first saw in the X100S. So not only does it feature the clever and unique X-Trans pixel array that eliminates the need for an optical low pass filter, but also incorporates over 100,000 phase-detect pixels into the sensor.
Combined with contrast detect AF and the EXR Processor II that doubles the processing speed of the X-E2 over the X-E1 and the Fujifilm X-E2 promises AF acquirement times in as little as 0.08secs.
Manual focus has been made easier too by the inclusion of Digital Split Image technology, again something we saw on the Fujifilm X100S. Focus is confirmed by matching the left and right split images in the centre of the display in a similar fashion to how you would focus with a traditional manual focus film SLR, while there’s also the option of focus-peaking as well.
The OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) retains the same 2.36m-dot resolution, but to improve its performance in lowlight conditions, the refresh rate has been improved from 20fps to 50fps, while the rear display has come in for a bit of an overhaul.
Gone is the 2.8in display with the rather lackluster 460k-dot resolution, replaced by a 3in, 3:2 aspect ratio display with a 1,040k-dot resolution that uses covered and tempered glass. Compared to rivals though, it still sits flush with the body and lack touchscreen functionality.
There’s now Wi-fi functionality and while it doesn’t allow you to control the Fujifilm X-E2 from your smart device (something we’re told they’re looking at as well as tethering functionality), it promises a straightforward one-press option to transfer images with the free Fujifilm Camera Application.
The Fujifilm X-E2 essentially shares the same body design as the X-E1, with a number of refinements. The exposure compensation dial now offers adjustment up to -/+ 3 stops, there’s a dedicated 1/180sec setting on the shutter dial to match the Fujifilm X-E2’s flash sync mode, while the distance from the Auto setting to the rest of the shutter speed settings has been broadened to make the separation more distinct.
The X-E2 is expected to be available from the beginning of November, with a kit price of £1199 with a body only price of £799.
We liked the X-E1, but it wasn’t perfect, so its nice to see Fujifilm listening to feedback before apply these changes to a new model. While there’s nothing particularly new when looking down the specification list of the X-E2, the 60 odd improvements should make it a much more rounded and complete camera. Whether it’ll be enough to topple the likes of the Panasonic GX7 remains to be seen though.