Fujifilm X-E2 Review
The X-E2's built-in flash provides the ability to add a little fill flash here and there. In general, the camera does a good job of judging the flash output and it's quick enough, via the Q menu, to switch to slow sync or rear curtain mode. As discussed in the shooting experience section of the review, it's not quite so straightforward to apply any flash exposure compensation.
|Here the camera has done a good job of balancing the flash output with the ambient light coming in from the right of the scene.|
The other slight disappointment is that Fujfilm doesn't have a wireless flash control system - meaning you can't remotely control the output of off-board flashguns. It's a feature that Nikon, Olympus and Canon all offer in cameras around this level, and it would significantly increase the value of the X-E2's built-in flash.
We mentioned in the shooting experience section that the Face Detection implementation is awkward - preventing you selecting your own focus point when it hasn't detected a face, and requiring a trip into the menus to switch it on and off. On further use we were diappointed by its performance, too - it's not very tolerant of glasses, beards or subjects looking anything but directly at the camera.
When used with wide-aperture lenses, it wasn't always clear what part of the face the camera was trying to focus on - generally we found it quicker and more convenient to manually position an AF point in the correct area of the image.
Low Light performance
The X-E2's low light performance is really impressive - producing very usable images all the way up to ISO 6400 (something that would have been unthinkable, just a few years ago). There's every reason to believe some noise reduction is being conducted as part of the Raw saving or demosaicing process, but if you're able to get such good results out of the files, I'm not sure we'd complain.
The only real complaint we'd have is that the camera's processing can smooth-out pores to the point that, in low light, faces can be rendered as rather 'waxy' in appearance. It's not a problem in every photo, but it's something that occasionally took away from our otherwise positive impression of the camera's JPEG output.
We shot many, many portrait images to attempt to pin-down what was causing the slightly waxy skin effect, experimenting with Film Simulation modes, DR modes, Face Detection and light sources. At the end of this, we think it's an unfortunate combination of a number of factors - shallow depth-of-field, heavy noise reduction and a tendency for Face Detection to missfocus. Fujifilm says it isn't applying any extra noise reduction or processing to skintones.
The JPEG noise reduction is pretty heavy-handed, even if you turn it down in the camera. In shallow depth-of-field portraits, the result is that that already low-detail out-of-focus regions get aggressively smoothed. Add to this the camera's habit in Face Detection mode of not necessarily getting an eye in focus, and you get JPEGs with all the fine detail (such as pores in the skin), smoothed away.
Overall, we found we got the best results by focusing using a specified focus point and shooting Raw. If you need a JPEG, we'd suggest backing the noise reduction off as far as you can (the images are still pretty clean at high ISO settings), but we can't get the JPEGs to match the performance of the X-Pro 1 in this respect.
Shadow noise and Raw processing latitude
The X-E2's sensor may use the proprietary 'X-Trans' color filter array, but there are reasons to believe the underlying silicon is similar to its Bayer-filter rivals. As such, particularly at low ISOs, the X-E2 offers considerable scope for pulling detail up out of shadow regions of its Raw files, before it begins to exhibit much noise.
It's this low ISO dynamic range that makes the DR200% and DR400% settings work so well: the camera is very tolerant of the exposure being kept down, and a fairly extreme tone curve then used to pull information up from what the deep end of the Raw file.
ISO 400 (DR 200%)
F4.5, 1/550th seconds
|Adobe Camera Raw conversion
ISO 400 (DR 200%)
F4.5, 1/550th seconds
|100% Crop||100% Crop|
Here the JPEG has been exposed for to protect the highlight detail, with DR200% engaged, to capture lots of highlight information. This means the dark tones of the image have been recorded at lower Raw values. Despite this, the file happily tolerates the shadow regions being 'pulled up' without exposing too much noise - meaning it's possible to create a well-balanced image with broad dynamic range.
The X-E2's panorama mode can be pretty effective. It gives a good degree of control over the width and direction you wish to shoot the panorama in (turning the camera into the portrait orientation can give a less wide but higher-resolution result, for instance). It can produce really strong results - such as the one shown in this review's Shooting Experience page, but it's a little more prone to errors than Sony's Sweep Panorama system - so don't expect pixel-perfect results.
|ISO 200, F8|
Overall image quality
The X-E2's image quality is generally very good. Whether the X-Trans design offers a significant improvement over the conventional Bayer design is up for debate, but the company's color response is much less contentious. We've generally been really pleased with the reliability of the X-E2's white balance and color response - which also informs our enthusiasm for the camera. Quite simply the camera takes attractive pictures, which is helped by the generally very good lenses available for the system.
The Dynamic Range modes help to get the most out of the sensor's capability, making it easy to produce JPEGs that utilise the camera's very low read-noise, without condemning you to having to work out and optimize a post-processing workflow.
Our only real disappointment is that camera's handling of skin tones - particularly in low light, where the rather aggressive processing appears to combine rather badly with the camera's noise reduction. On a camera that is capable of taking such excellent images it's disappointing to having to move across to a Raw converter in order to make the best of the camera's output, when it comes to portraiture.
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