Fujifilm X-E2 Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Classic camera appearance and layout makes you want to take pictures
- Excellent JPEGs with good color, little need to use raw most of the time
- Reliable metering and AWB systems
- Impressive image quality at all ISO settings - good resolution and low noise
- DR modes make it easy to use camera's impressive dynamic range
- Wi-Fi is handy and reasonably well-implemented
- In-camera Raw conversion lets you make the best of the camera's JPEG engine
- Built-in flash with generally well-judged output is handy for fill lighting in a pinch
- Film Simulation settings offer quick access to different color modes and black and white filters
- Quick menu gives fast access to most digital controls not covered by dials or buttons
- Built-in level helps when capturing landscapes
- Relatively quiet shutter
- Enthusiast-focused lens selection
Conclusion - Cons
- Disappointing movie quality
- JPEGs appear to over-process skin tones at high ISO
- Interaction of ISO and DR modes potentially confusing
- Q-menu prioritizes obscure settings at the expense of arguably more useful ones
- Face Detection mode poorly integrated and not very successful
- No wireless flash control option
- Flash exposure compensation setting awkward to access (requires trip into menus)
- Built-in level isn't always as accurate as we'd like
- Camera disables Raw shooting without warning in some bracketing modes
- Auto ISO requires a fixed minimum shutter speed (not ideal with zooms)
- Minimal control available in video mode
The X-E2 is an interesting camera - its shape and reliance on more traditional, dedicated external controls means it probably isn't going to make a big dent in sales of mid-range Canon and Nikons. There may not be a huge theoretical difference between a dedicated aperture ring or shutter speed dial and a modern DSLR's control dials, but the practical difference is two-fold. Firstly, it risks intimidating the casual shooter who wants better shots without necessarily wanting to learn photography. But, for those people who have learned or want to, it can help engender a real sense of connection between the operator's actions and the outcome.
For those people who 'get' what the X-E2 is about, though, it's a top-notch photographic tool - engaging, responsive and regularly delivering excellent images. It's small enough to be portable and has the classic looks (and, increasingly, the lens range), to satisfy keen photographers. Its price puts it squarely into competition with the D7100/EOS 70D/K-3 class of DSLRs, but we think the smaller size, dedicated lens range and retro charm mean the X-E2 offers plenty those cameras can't. The excellent F2.8-4.0 kit zoom should be another plus in the 'X-E2' column, for many, as optically it's a cut above the lenses supplied with most SLRs. There are many things the X-E2 isn't, a movie camera being foremost amongst them, but it excels at its core purpose of being a purist photographers' camera.
The other camera that the X-E2 has to stand out against is the X-T1. It doesn't offer the X-T1's improved continuous shooting performance, nor the huge viewfinder and weather sealing, but it's smaller, considerably less expensive, and avoids some of the handling quirks (indistinct four-way controller and potentially awkward ISO dial). We suspect the price difference, and their very different form factors, will be enough to distinguish between the two cameras - the X-E2 is more obviously a camera for someone who doesn't necessarily want the bulk of an SLR, or wants something interesting in addition.
The X-E2 is built around a fairly traditional set of controls - with a shutter speed dial at the top right and aperture rings available on most XF lenses. These, in combination with a dedicated exposure compensation dial, give a sense of direct connection with the picture-taking process. Whether shooting through the viewfinder or grabbing shots with the rear screen, the X-E2 gives a rapid and responsive feel - a sense only undermined by its occasional reluctance to emerge from sleep mode. Autofocus is very quick with most lenses in all but very low light, meaning you rarely have to think about it and can just get on with shooting.
There's plenty of scope for customization, with four buttons being re-configurable, meaning you can get quick access to AF point positioning, ISO and DR mode (the settings we think most people will change most often). We're a little disappointed with the Q Menu, which does a pretty good job of giving quick access to most settings, but doesn't include some useful features such as Face Detection and Flash Exposure Compensation which instead are buried in the menus.
The movie mode is sadly lacking, though giving no sensible control over exposure and almost nothing to assist with focus. The only way to control focus at all is to set the camera to manual focus - otherwise the camera will try to constantly refocus in a footage-destroying manner. Movie capability probably isn't the primary selection criterion for someone considering this camera, but it's disappointing to see such a poor implementation in a modern camera, since it effectively rules out any experimentation or dabbling.
In general, the X-E2's image quality is excellent. The X-Trans system does a good job of getting plenty of detail out of a 16MP sensor and we've not got any serious concerns about its capability now that most popular Raw converters support it well. Its JPEGs are also amongst our favorites, thanks to excellent color response and a well-designed set of Film Simulation modes that give the photographer plenty of strong options in-camera.
Our biggest concern about the X-E2 is its JPEG rendering of skin tones, which can tend towards the disconcertingly wax-like. This is a great shame in a camera that has a JPEG engine that we otherwise really like. Still more disappointingly, you can't completely eliminate the effect without reverting to processing the Raw files off-camera - meaning you can't make full use of the camera's JPEG engine or Wi-Fi capabilities.
It's worth taking the time to understand the camera's DR modes, as they make clever use of the sensor's capability, without adding any time-consuming post-processing to your workflow.
In addition to the video implementation being limited, the X-E2's footage is a distinct let-down, giving a smudged and colorful mess. We realize movie shooting is unlikely to be the primary reason that many people will be looking at the X-E2, but it's worth underlining that it's output is unusually poor.
The Final Word
The X-E2 isn't a great all-rounder, but it truly excels at the things it's good at: taking great stills and making photography an engaging and fulfilling experience. Fujifilm hasn't made huge changes over the already very good X-E1, but those changes all help bolster the camera's utility and appeal to a certain type of photographer. The changes probably aren't enough to justify upgrading from an X-E1 but we found the Wi-Fi alone is worth a significant premium over the older model. It's not a camera for sports or fast-moving subjects, it's not a multimedia device for shooting video and stills, but it is a photographic tool that lives up to the promise of its classic looks and control layout.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The X-E2 is a highly capable enthusiast-focused camera capable of producing excellent images. Direct control dials and plenty of customization make for an engaging shooting experience, and its output is impressive. Wi-Fi and in-camera raw conversion make it easy to share images. It's only the lackluster video that disappoints.
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