First Impressions

By Richard Butler [Originally posted September 7th 2017]

I was a little skeptical when Fujifilm first showed me some resin mockups of X-E series designs without a four-way controller, last year. However, having had a chance to play with one for a while, my initial concern seems misplaced.

X-E series fans should feel reassured: Fujifilm hasn't stolen your camera and turned it into a wannabe smartphone. The camera still offers traditional, dial-based access to the camera's key exposure settings and the AF joystick means you actually gain a better physical control for one of the fundamental photographic functions.

From my own perspective, I quickly discovered that I rarely use the four-way controller for anything other than selecting an AF point, so the need to swipe the rear screen to access one of those functions doesn't slow me down at all. Even on the pre-production camera we used, it's very quick and consistent in recognizing a swipe motion, which meant it was an utterly painless experience.

As a left-eyed shooter too lazy to train myself to shoot with the other eye, the touchpad AF doesn't really benefit me. Even when set to only use the left-hand side of the screen, the function still locks-out as soon as my nose makes contact with any part of the panel. But then again, why would I use the fast but seemingly imprecise touchpad AF mode if my thumb is already resting on an AF joystick?

In fact the only aspect of the touchscreen that I even found even slightly off-putting was the constant presence of the virtual button that cycles between the three 'touch-to...' options (...set AF area, set AF area and acquire, and set, acquire and shoot). Since I only ever use one of these settings and it can be specified in the main menu, it's a shame I can't get rid of the button, to prevent myself accidentally re-engaging touch-to-shoot.

Other than that, the X-E3 looks like a solid X-E2S replacement: it brings much of what's good about the X-T20 (which itself had many of the X-T2's best features) and puts them in a smaller, more convenient package with what appears to be a better control system.

Sadly, a version of Fujifilm's app that supports Bluetooth isn't yet available, so I've not been able to try that, yet. Fujifilm is the fourth brand to use the low-powered communication protocol to maintain a connection betwixt camera and phone, so it'll be interesting to see how its implementation stacks up against its rivals'.