Fujifilm X-E2 First Impressions Review
A little over a year ago Fujifilm announced the X-E1, the second body in its X system of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, designed as a more-affordable option for enthusiast photographers than the unashamedly high-end X-Pro1. We liked it a lot for its combination of 'old school' handling and excellent image quality, giving it our Gold award in our review, and since then the X-E1 has received a couple of substantial firmware updates that bring real improvements too. Now it's time for Fujifilm to to reveal its replacement - logically enough, called the X-E2.
The X-E2 is superficially very similar to the X-E1, with the same basic body design and control layout; at a quick glance it's almost impossible to tell them apart. It keeps the same top-plate layout, including analogue shutter speed and exposure compensation dials, and has the same 2.36M dot OLED electronic viewfinder. The rear of the camera is still covered in buttons in much the same places as the X-E1, but their functions have been rearranged.
The headline updates are the sensor and processor: the X-E2 sports the same X-Trans CMOS II sensor as we first saw in the X100S, which includes on-chip phase detection elements for autofocus, and in concert with the EXR Processor II allows Fujifilm to claim the 'world's fastest autofocus' (although inevitably with caveats). There's also a much nicer rear screen: a 3", 1.04M dot 3:2 aspect ratio unit, and a whole host of further tweaks and improvements. The net result is a camera that retains all the best bits of its predecessor, but has also been improved many respects.
Fujifilm X-E2 key features
- 16MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor
- EXR Processor II
- ISO 200-6400, plus 100 - 25600 expanded (JPEG only)
- 7 fps continuous shooting; 3 fps with continuous AF
- Lens Modulation Optimizer (for sharper JPEGs when shooting at large or small apertures)
- 2.36M dot OLED electronic viewfinder
- Top-plate analogue shutter speed and exposure compensation dials
- 3" 1.04M dot 3:2 fixed LCD (non-tilting, not touch-sensitive)
- Built-in Wi-Fi for image transfer to smartphones or computers
- Full HD movie recording (1920x1080, 60fps, 36Mbps bitrate), with built-in stereo microphone
- 2.5mm stereo microphone socket, also accepts electronic remote releases
- Available in silver or black
The X-E2 - not revolutionary, but distinctly evolved
Alongside the most obvious changes, the X-E2 adds a wide array of improvements and refinements compared to the X-E1, including a sensibly-revised control layout. The top-plate shutter speed and exposure compensation dials have been tweaked, with the latter now offering a range of +/-3 stops in 1/3 stop increments. Instead of a combined AE-L/AF-L button the X-E2 now has separate controls for each, whose behavior can be user-defined. The rear plate controls have been rearranged, and four buttons are now user-customizable. There's also a wide array of small changes in response to user feedback, including the ability to specify a minimum shutter speed for Auto ISO, and live view exposure preview in manual exposure mode.
|The back of X-E2 is slightly rearranged compared to the X-E1 (right), with some of the the buttons serving different functions. It's dominated by the 3" 3:2 1.04M dot screen - a big improvement over the X-E1's 2.8" 4:3 420k dot LCD.|
The result may not be enough to tempt existing X-E1 owners to trade in their year-old cameras and upgrade, but that's not necessarily the point. In general, the days when photo enthusiasts could expect significant advances in speed and image quality with each year's new model are long gone. Instead the X-E2 is designed to keep the line up-to-date against the current competition, to draw new users into the system, and it does that pretty well.
Changes/improvements compared to X-E1
The list below summarizes changes relative to the X-E1 - some more significant than others (Fujifilm says there are more than 60 in total). Many of these reflect users' requests for operational changes and new features; some of them count more as bug fixes than anything else. But Fujifilm has to be given huge credit for listening and actively responding to such feedback.
- Exposure compensation dial offers expanded range of +/-3
- Shutter speed dial adds 1/180sec X-sync position, and increases separation of 'A' position
- Separate AE-L and AF-L buttons
- AF point selection moved to 4-way controller (reflects recent X-E1 firmware revisions)
- Old AF point selection button is now customizable Fn2 - sets white balance by default
- Four customizable buttons in total (Fn1, Fn2, AF, AE)
- Repositioned 'Q' button (less likely to be pressed accidentally)
- View mode button removed (now a menu setting)
- Low-speed (3 fps) continuous shooting mode, with focus tracking and live view between frames
- AF-C no longer limited to centre of frame - uses same 49 point array as AF-S
- Configurable Auto ISO (max and min ISO, minimum shutter speed)
- Exposure preview in Manual exposure mode (can be disabled in menu)
- Three manual focus aids (magnified view, peaking display, digital split-image)
- Face detection autofocus/autoexposure available (enabled as menu setting)
- JPEG-only bracketing modes hidden when shooting RAW
- 'Advanced Filter' creative shooting modes (JPEG-only)
- Multiple exposure mode moved to drive menu, grouped with panorama mode
- 14-bit Raw recording
- 1.8x faster file write times
- Improved EVF framerates in low light (60 fps vs 20 fps)
- Zoomed-in focus check view available in AF mode (by clicking rear dial)
- Conventional playback and file naming of images shot in continuous drive mode
- Images can be deleted when viewing them zoomed-in
- Exposure settings can be changed when AE-L is engaged
The world's fastest autofocus?
Fujifilm's press release proudly claims that the X-E2 offers the 'world's fastest autofocus' of 0.08 sec - an attention-grabbing statement that seems calculated to dispel the reputation the X system gained in its early days for slowish performance. The small print is revealing though - Fujifilm's tests used the XF 14mm F2.8R wideangle lens and the camera's 'High Performance' mode, which is disabled by default and has to be turned on in the menus. As tends to be the way with these things, you're not quite going to see that speed in day-to-day shooting.
However, we have to say that the X-E2 is now a pretty quick camera, and feels distinctly snappier than the X-Pro1 in informal side-by-side testing. From a couple of days hands-on with a pre-production sample we'd say it seems entirely competitive with similar cameras from the likes of Sony and Panasonic, which is to say that you're unlikely to feel limited by it very often. In a similar fashion to Olympus, whose earliest PEN models were far from being the quickest, Fujifilm has made significant advances in a relatively short time.
The X-E2's tracking autofocus is substantially improved too - on paper at least . With the camera in its 3fps 'Continuous Low' speed and the focus switch set to AF-C, the camera can re-focus between frames, and show a live view display too. The focus point for AF-C is no longer limited to the centre of the frame, but can be moved around freely. Strangely though the live view feed doesn't show up during continuous shooting in other focus modes - the camera plays back your just-taken shots between frames instead.
Lens Modulation Optimizer
The X-E2 is Fujifilm's first interchangeable-lens camera to offer its 'Lens Modulation Optimizer', as previously seen on the X100S and X20. This uses Fujifilm's knowledge of each lens's characteristics to adjust the in-camera processing and sharpening, in an attempt to combat diffraction and lens aberrations. In principle it should give sharper out-of-camera JPEGs when shooting at large or small apertures. The concept isn't exactly new - external Raw developers such as DxO Optics Pro and Canon Digital Photo Pro do much the same thing - but it's only just starting to find its way into cameras' JPEG processing (Olympus claims to do something similar in its flagship OM-D E-M1).
According to Fujifilm the Lens Modulation Optimizer is compatible with all of the company's X-mount lenses, and should work with Zeiss's Touits too. It can be turned on or off in the menu, so you don't have to use it all the time if you don't want to, and it can also be applied to individual images during in-camera Raw conversion. It's definitely an interesting concept, and we're looking forward to seeing how well it works in practice.
Movie mode updates
The X-E2's movie mode still feels like something of an afterthought on what is primarily a stills camera (there's no record button, so it's accessed as a drive mode), but Fujifilm has added some extra capabilities. It's now possible to choose a Film Simulation mode, and adjust exposure compensation during recording. You also get a choice of framerates, but this is limited to 30fps or 60fps.
Fujifilm X-Trans CMOS II sensor
The X-E2 uses Fujifilm's X-Trans CMOS II sensor, which employs a novel color filter array to suppress color moiré. This in turn means it doesn't need an anti-aliasing filter, and can therefore (in principle) offer higher resolution compared to other cameras with the same 16MP pixel count but conventional Bayer-type sensors. You can read more about the technology behind this in our in-depth review of the X-Pro1.
When the X-Trans CMOS sensor it first appeared, third-party Raw support was patchy at best, with even the mainstream converters struggling to deliver sharp, artefact-free results. Since then, though, much has changed, and recently we've both seen a wider variety of choices, and a general improvement in results.
The X-E2's sensor also includes phase detection pixels to assist autofocus, as previously seen on the X100S. There are 86,000 of these all told, covering 36% of the sensor's area in the centre of the frame.
Kit options and pricing
The X-E2 will be available in a choice of silver and black finishes, either body only for $999 / £799.99 or bundled with the premium XF 18-55mm F2.8-4R LM OIS zoom for $1399 / £1199.99. These are the same as the X-E1 at launch.
If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).
Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.
Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.
To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.
DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.
This article is Copyright 2012 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.
Fujifilm X-E2 Camera - Black (16.MP, CMOS II Sensor)
Fujifilm X-E2 Camera - Silver (16.MP, CMOS II Sensor, 18-55mm Lens Kit)
Fujifilm X-E2 Camera - Black (16.MP, CMOS II Sensor, 18-55mm Lens Kit)
Fujifilm X-E2 Camera - Silver (16.MP, CMOS II Sensor)
Fujifilm X-T1 16 MP Compact System Camera
with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only)
Fujifilm X-M1 Camera - Silver (16.3MP, 16-50mm Lens Kit) 3 inch LCD
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Digital Camera
with XF18mm Lens (16MP, APS-C X-Trans CMOS Sensor) 3 inch LCD
Fujifilm X-T1 Compact System Camera
with XF 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 (16MP) 3.0 inch LCD
Fujifilm X-M1 Camera - Black (16.3MP, 16-50mm Lens Kit) 3 inch LCD
Fujifilm X-M1 Camera
with XC16-50mm Lens Kit - Brown (16.3 MP) 3 inch LCD