- Image Quality
- Improved Auto-focus
- Easy of Use
- WiFi Fiddly
- No Intervalometer
- Still a few Fuji quirks!
Fujifilm X-E2 Review
This is my write-up of the Fujifilm X-E2 mirrorless camera. I write this as a long-term Fujifilm X-Series user now. It’s not all been amazing and perfect, I had a love/hate relationship with the X100, I bought and sold two of them, at least one of which suffered from SABS, before finally getting to grips with the thing on my third go with the black model! By that time Fujifilm had made some significant changes to the firmware (v1.3 by then) and had improved the camera immeasurable from the one that was first released. Fujifilm have continued to update the original X100 even after releasing the X100S to replace it. Since that historic X100 launch they have also released a range of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras with “X-Mount” lenses, the latest of which is the X-E2.
Previous models of the X-Series, despite being constantly updated have been heavily criticised for their poor AF performance and sometimes slightly quirky operation in certain areas. In terms of those quirks, they have generally been ironed out by Fujifilm listening to its customers and getting things right by updating the firmware and making the changes we’ve been asking for. Auto-focus has been improved in firmware too, but there comes a point where you must reach the limit of the hardware you’re stuck with. The X-E2 is a big jump forward for Fujifilm in that area. The X-E2 features the on-sensor phase-detection AF system from the X100s, but also has a much improved auto-focussing system all-round. The result is a camera that just feels much more joined up, much more responsive in the hand, and it has very quickly made it my ‘go-to’ camera.
Although ergonomically I prefer the slightly chunkier and more solid feeling X-Pro1 in my hand, the X-E2 surpasses it in every other area that matters. Understood that it doesn’t have the OVF, and if that’s important to you then the X-Pro1 may still be the camera for you, but I personally prefer to use the 100% accurate view of the EVF or even the rear screen, particularly when ensuring things are focussed accurately.
It’s going to be hard to write this because in a lot of ways the X-E2 is really very similar to the X-E1 and X-Pro1 and I don’t want to write the same things over that I’ve written about those two cameras. That is certainly not a complaint, the previous generation was just about right, but there have been a number of small improvements and adjustment that just add up to make the X-E2 a much more refined, useable camera.
I’m probably going to miss out some features in this write-up, either because they were part of the X-E1 and I don’t feel the need to re-write about them, or simply because I don’t use them and I don’t tend to write about the parts of the camera I don’t use – so filters and other features I haven’t used on the X-E2 will get a miss in this write-up.
Image quality is superb. I wouldn’t say it is a huge improvement over the already very good images coming from the original X-Trans sensor, but it is certainly noticeably better. This is in part to do with the newer X-Trans II sensor, but also their in-camera Lens Modulation Optimiser (LMO) which corrects for those small flaws in lens performance, particularly noticeable at smaller apertures and towards the edges of the image. If you want to know more about this check out the Fujifilm LMO page as it can describe it better than me! From what I understand the LMO information is held in the lens, so to benefit from it on your X-E2 you need to make sure the lens firmware is fully up-to-date. LMO affects both JPEG and RAW files. Unless you’re a real purist RAW shooter I’m not sure why you would turn it off, but to satisfy you if you are it can be deactivated in the menu.
FUJIFILM X-E2 (35mm, f/2, 1/105 sec, ISO200)
New EVF – the new EVF is the 2.36Mpx version from the X100S and is great, although personally I found the older EVF to be good enough, and to my eye I really don’t see all that much difference. I guess where it does come good is when you zoom in to check focus.
The new auto-focus system just seems to be so far ahead of what we’ve had before it almost feels like you’re shooting with a totally different system. The X-E2 may look like the X-E1, but when you start firing off shots the difference is marked. What’s weird though is that under “test conditions” in the studio side-by-side you can’t really tell much apart from the X-E1 and the X-E2, but get them out in the real-world and start shooting real live moving things and that is where it is felt. The phase-detection seems to work in much lower light than with the X100S, which tended to give up with phase-detection unless in all but the brightest of conditions. This helps greatly and will generally still function indoors with reasonable indoor room lighting.
You can certainly tell when it switches into using contrast-detection AF as it does slow down though, and in that case it isn’t really quicker than the older X-E1, but where it is better is at locking on. The older cameras would often rack back and forth and fail to focus, often taking several tried before they locked onto something. The X-E2 will go through the range and then just suddenly jump into focus and lock on. It’s rare to get into a situation where the AF won’t lock at all, which means the frustration of having to keep trying to focus on something is all but gone. Sure, if you’re in a dark situation focussing on something with almost no contrast it will eventually give up, but that occurs much less frequently than with the X-Pro1 or X-E1. Side-by-side in the real-world it’s faster than the Sony a7 in low light, but still not quite as good as something like the OM-D.
Skip to about 3m40s in the video below to see how much better the X-E2 is at AF Tracking in video mode. Do note that this is video mode – AF for stills is a lot fast than this!
The split-focus “rangefinder” style manual-focus assist mode from the X100S has come to the X-E2. It makes focussing using 3rd party lenses really quite quick and easy. It does tend to fall down in low light though as the preview image has too much gain applied and looses the crisp sharp lines you need to get focus using that method.
The auto-focus does still have some issues though, and the speed very much depends on the lens you are using. Frustratingly (as it’s my favourite lens) I find the 35mm f/1.4 lens can be quite poor in low light and close up at times, where the 18-55, 14mm, 18mm and 27mm are all pretty snappy under the same circumstances. Having said that, the X-E2 nailed this image below where the Sony a7 really struggled to get focus at all under exactly the same circumstances.
The built-in flash is incredible. I have no idea what Fujifilm have done, but they call it the super-intelligent flash, and that sounds just about right to me! It is by far the best on-camera flash I have ever used in any camera. It just seems to get it right every time no matter what you throw at it, and it seems to do it without giving that ‘deer in the headlights’ type of look. It balances ambient and flash so well that the images just look natural. Bright daylight through to night time shots, it just works flawlessly. I only wish Fujifilm would develop a decent set of TTL speedlights and remote triggers to go along with the X-Series cameras. This side of the system is seriously lacking at the moment.
So, what’s bad?
The Screen Mode button has disappeared! Fuji couldn’t quite make the X-E2 without throwing a quirk in! Personally I use this button all the time on the X-Pro1/X100S. It’s also useful because you can set up different options for liveview and preview. For example you could use it to set liveview on the eye-sensor, or EVF only, but the preview on the screen only (which is how I preferred it). With the button missing you can’t do that any more. To make it worse, even though you can program more buttons than ever, screen mode isn’t one of the options you can assign! I’m pretty sure that will be rectified in firmware fairly quickly by Fujifilm as I’m not the first person to get frustrated by it.
WiFi – whilst it’s great to have it on the camera, it can be a bit awkward to use. It sometimes times-out before you’ve got the mobile device connected, and sometimes just doesn’t work. This is not helped by the fact that if you have more than one Fujifilm camera or mobile device when you first connect a camera it seems to somehow pair the device with the camera, rather than do it as an ad-hoc connection. If I connect the camera to my iPhone then it won’t connect to my iPad unless I reset the WiFi settings back to zero on both the camera and mobile App. If you have two cameras then if, for example, the X-E2 is connected to one of my devices then I cannot connect another Fujifilm camera without resetting the WiFi on the device App. I’ve also run into situations where others with iPhones have said “Let me have a copy!” but despite downloading the App, I couldn’t send them the image without resetting my camera’s WiFi settings. It is the camera that authorises sending the image, so it’s not like someone can come along and just steal your images by connecting to the camera’s WiFi hotspot. It’s all just a bit too fiddly when it doesn’t need to be. The Sony a7 WiFi works all the time every time, with no fiddling or messing about, so it is possible to make it work!
Day to Day
The day-to-day operation of the X-E2 is great. It is obviously very familiar to an existing X-Series user, even though some of the buttons have moved places, getting use it doesn’t take long.
Something I mentioned on the X-Pro1 a while back to Fujifilm was the ability to have both the EVF and screen turned off unless you were looking through the viewfinder (i.e. it uses the eye-sensor to turn the EVF on when it detects your eye). In this mode, battery life should be significantly improved as it is no longer having to run either screen full-time. Sadly, as I mentioned earlier, because the screen mode button has gone, it isn’t simple to put it onto that mode.
There is now a dedicated 1/180th shutter speed setting on the dial. This is great for people like me who shoot with flash quite often – before I chanced my luck with 1/200th, but to get that you had to select 1/250th and then choose 1/200th in software but turning one of the soft dials. This did used to result in me accidentally knocking the soft dial and choosing a different shutter speed without me noticing. Being able to go straight to the flash sync speed on the main dial is a great touch.
The AF area selection box is locked when you have it in face-detection mode – absolutely no idea why! To change the AF area you need to disable face-detection AF, then choose the AF area to use. I thought this might be because with face-detection it will only use the central AF point, but no! If you do choose a different point then the camera will remember that point when you turn face-detection back on. That’s a really frustrating day-to-day annoyance for me because I do have face-detection turned on all the time, but I also like to move my AF points quite regularly too! Another Fujifilm quirk?! Maybe just a bug?
The rear screen has changed aspect ratio, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. Yes, you can see the entire image in the maximum size possible on the screen, but where the settings are displayed under the preview image previously, on the X-E2 it is overlaid on it meaning that those settings can get in the way of the image, especially if you’re using liveview on the screen. Sure, there is a setting to display only the image, but it is quite useful to see some of the camera settings on the rear screen at times. I also find that sometimes the grey colour of the settings makes them difficult to see depending on what you’re shooting.
X-Pro1 or X-E2?
I’m guessing a lot of you are wondering whether you should buy an X-Pro1 or X-E2 right now. The X-Pro1 has some fantastic offers of free lenses right now, meaning you can buy a body and two lenses for almost the same price as just buying the two lenses alone. That makes it an awfully tempting prospect. I love the X-Pro1, it feels like a brick, it feels like you could drop it down a steep stone path and it will survive, or drop it onto a concrete pavement with no damage. Actually, I know it can survive because I’ve done both of those! The X-E2 doesn’t quite have the same solid feel to it, and for me it’s a little small in my hands, which is why I like to use it with a plate and grip. The X-Pro1 also has the OVF which I know a lot of people like.
The X-E2 does pretty much beat the X-Pro1 on every other front though. The built-in flash is really very handy for just adding a little fill in sunlight, the AF is much more useable, the exposure compensation dial goes +/- 3, it has built in WiFi, it has a mic input for video and electronic remote shutter release allowing you to use accessories such as the ioShutter. There are many other small refinements such as the buttons in the thumb grip being recessed so you no longer press them by accident.
Having said that, if you’re looking to get into the Fujifilm X-Series then I’m very tempted to say that having a couple of decent prime lenses may be more of a benefit than having the very latest body, and in that case the X-Pro1 deals should be taken seriously as a choice. I know people are probably worried about buying an out-dated camera. I have no inside information, but from everything that I’ve heard and read, Fujifilm appear to be committed to continuing the X-Pro1 for a while yet and have indicated a replacement is not imminent.
If you have the money to buy the X-E2 and a couple of lenses too, then as an all-round system you’ll find it easier to use and get to grips with than the X-Pro1, especially in terms of AF if you’re coming from a dSLR background. For that reason the X-E2 is the camera I grab most of the time now, but if I’m doing something purposeful I’ll still reach for the X-Pro1, or often use the two in combination – the X-Pro1 on a tripod and the X-E2 in my hand.
X-E2 or X100s?
I’ve also seen this question hanging around quite a lot. To my mind it’s almost a non-sensical question. It’s impossible to answer for someone else as the answer depends entirely on what the individually wants to shoot with it, and only they can answer that.
I’ve also seen a lot of people asking if they should buy the X100S or the X-E2 with the 23mm f/1.4 lens. To my mind if all you’re interested in doing is shooting the 23mm focal length then just buy the X100S. It is exactly what it was designed for and is much more portable, much more robust camera with certain benefits the other X-Series cameras do not possess. The 23mm f/1.4 XF lens is something you buy to complement an X-Series system to my mind.
The only thing I would say is that might help you decide is that if it is going to be your only camera then you might be better off considering an X-E2 with the 27mm pancake lens (a super sharp and relatively cheap compact lens) which will allow you to build on the system in the future should you decide to do so.
In many ways the X-E2 is just a small series of incremental updates to the already very good X-E1, but all these minor updates add up to much more than the sum of their parts and produce a far more rounded, much easier to use camera that is capable of surpassing all the previous X-Mount cameras and producing stunning images in the right hands.
I think it would be hard for anyone to really complain about the auto-focus system in the X-E2. It is a big improvement on the previous generation of X-Mount cameras when shooting real-world photographs. In that regard Fujifilm should be congratulated for getting their act together. If the past couple of years are anything to go by I can only see things getting better on this front too as Fujifilm seem keen to improve existing models rather than just releasing a replacement every few months.
The X-E2 builds upon the past couple of years and very quickly has become the camera I grab for pretty much everything I do. Combine it with the 27mm pancake lens and you have something that can fit into a coat pocket yet able to produce images every bit as good as the best dSLRs around. Alternatively, fit the 35mm or 23mm f/1.4 lenses to be blown away with what you can do with such a compact system. The kit 18-55mm lens doesn’t disappoint either, providing affordability whilst producing amazingly sharp images, and is a great point to start building an X-Series system from.
Whilst I’m sure Fujifilm would be very happy for you to upgrade, and I do think this is an upgrade worth having if you have the money, do not think that the X-E1 has somehow become obsolete. It is still a very capable camera giving you the ability to produce some stunning quality images. If you own an X-Pro1 or X-E1, consider buying another lens rather than another body – the 23mm f/1.4 and soon to be available 56mm f/1.2 are producing image rendition and quality like we’ve never seen before from such small cameras.
Purchase the X-E2 online from Amazon and help me out writing this blog if you enjoyed it…
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