Hands-on review: Fuji X-E2

Introduction

Fuji has earned huge respect from photographers for its X-series cameras. Many aspire to own the Fuji X-Pro 1 while others have opted for the smaller Fuji X-E1. Those wanting an even more compact interchangeable lens camera have the choice of the Fuji X-M1 or Fuji X-A1.

With the introduction of the Fuji X-E2, we have the first update to Fuji’s interchangeable lens X-series. This new camera uses exactly the same APS-C format 16.3-million-pixel X-Trans CMOS II sensor as the Fuji X-100S.

Down the X-E2's throat

Unlike most cameras that use a Bayer pattern of red, green, green and blue receptors (usually referred to as RGGB) arranged in a 2 x 2 grid, the X-Trans CMOS II device uses a 6 x 6 RGGB filter array pattern, with a random arrangement of colour filters within each block of 36 photoreceptors.

This means that the sensor is less prone to moiré patterning, and as a result Fuji is able to omit the anti-aliasing filter that overlays most digital camera sensors. The benefit of this is that the camera is able to produce sharper, more detailed images.

Features

As in the X100S, Fuji has coupled the X-E2’s sensor with the EXR Processor II. This combination allows a start-up time of 0.5 seconds, shutter lag of 0.05 seconds and a maximum continuous shooting speed of seven frames per second when shooting JPEG images (with a class 10 SD card inserted). The writing speed is also reported to be 1.8x faster than in the X-E1. In addition, there is 14 bit raw support which should mean smoother tonal gradations.

One of the main improvements offered by the X-E2 over the X-E1 is the addition of Fuji’s Lens Modulation Optimiser technology which tailors the processing of each image depending upon the specific lens, focal length and aperture used. It corrects diffraction blur to create sharper images across the frame. This system is compatible with the entire XF lens lineup, however it is an option that users can choose to switch on or off as they prefer.

Another claim to fame for the X-E2 is that it has the world’s fastest phase detection autofocus speed of 0.08 seconds. Naturally there are a few riders to this claim, firstly it relates to the phase detection element of the hybrid system, and secondly, Fuji says it’s the fastest amongst digital cameras with a 4/3-inch or larger sensor.

An additional benefit of using the X-Trans CMOS II sensor is that it has pixels dedicated for use by a phase detection autofocus system and the camera can use either contrast or phase detection depending upon situation. This is backed-up with face-detection focusing which can be useful at social gatherings.

Fuji X-E2

Fuji has also improved the X-E2’s continuous AF system, unlike with the X-E1 this now continues to operate while the shutter release is half pressed. This improvement is said to work for both stills photography and while shooting movies.

On the subject of movies, the X-E2 is capable of shooting full HD movies at 60fps as well as 30fps.

Like the X-E1, the X-E2 has an electronic viewfinder. As before, this OLED unit has a resolution of 2.36 million dots and covers approximately 100% of the field of view. However, according to Fuji the unit has been improved to give better performance in low light – we look forward to testing this claim when we get a full production sample.

As in the X100s, the EVF offers a digital split image as well as focus-peaking to assist with manual focusing, something that we found especially useful with close subjects.

Whereas the X-E1 has a 2.8-inch 460,000-dot LCD, the X-E2 has a three-inch 920,000-dot screen which should provide more detail when composing and reviewing images.

Fuji X-E2

Naturally, the new camera has Wi-Fi connectivity built-in and we are told that after the initial connection has been made, transferring images to a smartphone or tablet via Fuji’s free app is a one-touch process.

It’s also possible to wirelessly back-up images automatically to computer once the camera has been paired with a router.

Other improvements over the X-E1 include the ability to preview the exposure in the live view display of the screen and EVF, more accurate histogram display with high contrast scenes, Dynamic Range Auto being available with manual exposure mode, maximum sensitivity and minimum shutter speed limits being customisable with the ISO Auto option, the provision of Fuji’s Super Intelligent Flash and the ability to delete images from the zoomed in view.

Build and handling

Fuji has kept the same body for the X-E2 is it used for the X-E1 so it has the same high-quality feel and traditional styling with a shutter speed dial as well as the ability to uses lenses with or without an aperture ring.

As before if both the shutter speed and aperture dial area set to A (automatic) the camera is in program mode and both settings will be selected automatically. Setting just one of the controls to A sets the camera to aperture or shutter priority mode respectively.

Fuji X-E2

A textured grip on the front of the camera along with a ridge on the back give the camera just enough purchase in the hand, but many will want the security of a strap when carrying it between shots.

Anyone familiar with the X-E1 will find they are on very familiar ground, but there has been a switch around with a few of the buttons. For example, the AE-L and AF-L (auto exposure lock and autofocus lock) control has now been separated across the two buttons on the ridge to the right of the thumb-rest on the back of the camera.

This change has meant that the Q button, which accesses the Quick Menu, has also moved – and this is now above the screen. It’s the button that is the View Mode control on the X-E1.

Fuji has made more of the X-E2’s buttons customisable than on the X-E1, so it can be better set-up to suit the photographer.

In addition, the shutter speed dial has a 1/180sec mark to indicate the maximum sync speed when flash is used and the exposure compensation dial extends to +/-3EV rather than just +/-2EV.

Fuji X-E2

As the three-inch 920,000-dot screen isn’t touch-sensitive, the AF must be set by pressing the down key of the navigation controls and then navigating to the desired point. This is fine, but we are increasingly becoming used being able to do this with a touch of a finger on a screen. The upside of not having a touchscreen of course is that the LCD is less likely to get covered in fingerprints, and this ensures that it provides a good, clear view at all times.

We were only able to use the pre-production sample that we had access to indoors, but the screen didn’t seem to suffer excessively from reflections. We’ll be looking at this in closer detail when we get a full production sample in for testing.

Performance

So far we’ve only been able to use a pre-production sample of the Fuji X-E2 so we can’t comment for certain on the quality of the images that it produces. However, the camera has an extremely good pedigree so we can be reasonably sure that it will produce good results.

The sensor and processor have both been seen before in the X100s, which performs very well and Fuji’s white balance and metering systems have been found to perform well in the past. Similarly, Fuji’s lenses haven’t been found lacking.

Fuji X-E2

Our initial impressions of the X-E2’s focusing system are that it is fast, but not quite as fast as the systems in the likes of the Panasonic G6, Panasonic GF6 or Olympus E-P5. We were shooting indoors on an overcast day, so in relatively low light, but the X-E2 still managed to get everything we pointed it at sharp with reasonable speed. It only faltered when we tested it with very low light.

It’s not possible to control whether the camera uses phase detection or contrast detection, it decides itself depending upon the conditions. We’ll have to wait and see how quick the focusing is in good light outdoors.

Verdict

Although the upgrades made with the X-E2 may not be immediately attention grabbing, for those familiar with Fuji’s X-series they are significant, making the new camera faster to use than the model it replaces.

The introduction of the Lens Modulation Optimiser technology could also see an improvement in image quality across the frame.

Fuji X-E2

We like

Fuji’s retro-style build and control has found favour with many photographers, including us. However, we’re pleased to see the addition of a current ‘must have’ technology – Wi-Fi connectivity. The X-E2 is likely to be a popular camera with street and documentary or landscape photographers who like to travel light and work quickly. These users will love the ability to share their images quickly via a smartphone or tablet. The fact that Fuji doesn’t offer an app that lets the camera be controlled remotely is unlikely to be a major issue for this type of user. Remote control is more useful to photographers who work more slowly and use their camera on a tripod.

We dislike

We have to confess to being just a tiny bit disappointed that Fuji hasn’t pushed the pixel count of the sensor up a little or given the X-E2’s screen either touch-sensitivity or a tilting/articulating bracket.

Initial verdict

Along with many photographers, we liked the X-E1. It offers the same image quality as the superb X-Pro1 in a smaller body and has what we consider the more useful of the two viewfinders – the electronic finder, which has been improved so that it’s better in low light.

The X-E2 seems like a progression of the X-E1 rather than a huge step forward so it will be interesting to see how much difference the improvements make. Will X-E1 users be queuing to upgrade?


    








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