This is an in-depth review of the Fujifilm X-E2, a second generation mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera from Fuji that was released on October 18, 2013. After the success of the X-E1, which I ended up picking as my mirrorless camera of choice, as explained in my detailed review, Fuji decided to update the camera with more features to make it even more compelling. Considering that the X-E1 was only a little over a year old and the high-end X-Pro1 had not been updated since it was initially released back in March of 2012, the X-E2 was a good indication of Fuji’s future plans to keep the mid-range product line updated every 12 to 18 months, while the high-end line will probably be updated every 24+ months. In this Fuji X-E2 review (based on initial firmware 1.00), I will provide detailed information about the camera along with some image samples and compare it to the X-E1 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1.
When compared to the X-E1, the X-E2 received some new features and key upgrades to qualify for a new model number – from a robust hybrid autofocus system used on the Fuji X100S and a fast second generation imaging processor, to Wi-Fi capabilities and a larger high-resolution LCD screen. While the shape and size of the camera have remained the same, Fuji made some ergonomic tweaks to the X-E2, allowing for easier use and better customization options.
1) Fujifilm X-E2 Specifications
Main Features and Specifications:
- Sensor: 16.3 MP (1.5x crop factor), 4.8µ pixel size, same as on X-E1
- Sensor Size: 23.6 x 15.6mm
- Resolution: 4896 x 3264
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 200-6,400
- Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 100
- Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 12,800-25,600
- Sensor Cleaning System: Yes
- Lens mount: FUJIFILM X mount
- Weather Sealing/Protection: No
- Body Build: Magnesium Alloy, Top and Front covers
- Shutter: Up to 1/4000 and 30 sec exposure
- Shutter Control: Focal Plane Shutter
- Storage: 1x SD slot (SD/SDHC/SDXC compatible)
- Viewfinder Type: 2,360,000-dot OLED color viewfinder
- Speed: 6 FPS
- Exposure Meter: TTL 256-zones metering
- Built-in Flash: Yes
- Autofocus: Yes
- Manual Focus: Yes
- LCD Screen: 3.0 inch, 1,040,000 dots, TFT color LCD monitor
- Movie Modes: Full 1080p HD @ 60p, 30p
- Movie Recording Limit: 14 minutes in 1080p, 27 minutes in 720p
- Movie Output: MOV (H.264)
- GPS: No
- WiFi: Yes
- Battery Type: NP-W126
- Battery Life: 350 shots
- USB Standard: 2.0
- Weight: 300g (excluding battery and accessories)
- Price: $999 MSRP body only at launch
A detailed list of camera specifications is available at Fujifilm.com.
2) Camera Construction, Handling and Controls
The X-E2 retains the same solid build as the X-E1, with the top and front magnesium-alloy covers. It is pretty tough for a mirrorless camera, similar to the Sony NEX-5 series cameras (which also feature front and top magnesium-alloy plates). What I love about the Fuji cameras, is the fact that the magnesium alloy shell is pretty thin, making them feel very light for their size. In fact, the X-E2 is not a small mirrorless camera when you compare it to the Sony NEX-6 / NEX-7 series and yet it is not heavier in comparison. That’s one of the things that I actually like about the Fuji X-E1 and X-E2 – they just feel right in my hands. Also, I do prefer the more compact X-E1/X-E2 to the X-Pro1, since they are physically smaller and easier to handle. When compared to a full size DSLR, the Fuji X-E2 is not only much smaller, but it is also much lighter in comparison, as demonstrated in my Fuji X-E1 review. So it would certainly make it a great camera for hiking and traveling light. I would still recommend to replace the thin strap that comes with the Fuji cameras to something better and thicker though. The Fuji straps are very uncomfortable and they do irritate bare skin quite a bit. Despite the fact that one side of the strap is a little smoother than the other, it is the thin size of the strap and lack of any sort of padding that cause these issues. Personally, I am a huge fan of neoprene straps from OP/TECH. The classic version of the strap would probably be ideal, although if you feel that it is too thick or too big for the X-E2, they have all kinds of smaller sizes too. Just make sure to pick up a strap that is thin enough to go through the “ears” on the sides of the camera.
Just like the X-E1, the X-E2 is not a weather-proof camera. That’s unfortunate, given the fact that some cameras like new OM-D E-M1 (which could literally be put underwater and then frozen and it will still continue to function afterwards) have excellent weather sealing features. Clearly, Fuji did not target people that would shoot in poor weather conditions with their cameras. The build quality is there, but not the weather sealing. Personally, I would prefer some weather sealing for my type of shooting, since I do shoot in extreme conditions quite a bit. However, it is not an absolute requirement for me, since I know that most cameras do fine with good care. Would I dip the X-E2 into a body of water? No, but I would not hesitate to shoot it in light rain or snow. In fact, as you can see from some of the sample images, I have used the X-E2 when the temperatures were way below freezing (10 °F) and the camera worked without any problems during the shoot and afterwards. So it depends on what you are trying to do. I would certainly take a good care of the camera when facing extreme humidity levels and would take precautionary steps not to cause too much condensation when shooting in the cold. In my case, I let the camera cool down before taking it out and gradually warmed it up later to avoid condensation build-up.
The X-E2 comes with a compact built-in flash. It is operated manually by pressing the small flash button on the back of the camera. Compared to DSLR built-in flashes, this one is tiny and not very powerful. Do not expect it to light up a room for you, as the flash is only meant to be used occasionally. It works great as fill flash, although you should be careful when using it with large lenses with attached hoods. At wide angles, you might see a huge shadow that occupies half of the frame. The good news is, you do not have to rely on this built-in flash if you like working with flash – the standard hot shoe on the top of the camera will work with any speedlight or flash trigger system like PocketWizard. I have used the Fuji X series cameras with my Nikon speedlights and while TTL does not work, manual flash works great. See the Flash section of the Fuji X-E1 review for some more information and sample images.
The front of the X-E1 and X-E2 are exactly the same – the differences are on the top and the back of the cameras. The X-E2 gained an additional stop of exposure compensation on the dial going from +3 to -3, which is nice (the X-E1 was limited to +2 to -2). The shutter speed dial has been slightly modified to move the spacing between “A” (aperture priority) and the shutter speeds, and a new 1/180 x-sync (maximum flash sync) has been added to the dial. This is great for photographers like me that rely on using speedlights and external flashes with the Fuji X system. Now I don’t need to use 1/125 or 1/250 and adjust my way to 1/180 using the back buttons, which saves time!
The back of the X-E2 went through a number of ergonomic changes, as can be seen below (Left: Fuji X-E1, Right: Fuji X-E2):
First, the “VIEW MODE” button has been moved to the camera menu (now called “EVF/LCD SETTING”) and replaced with the Quick Menu (Q). Certainly a welcome change, since I rarely ever touched the VIEW MODE button on my X-E1. The default behavior for the view mode is “Eye Sensor”, which by default shows everything on the LCD and switches to the EVF when the sensor is activated. The Quick Menu is a nice way to quickly make changes to the camera settings like ISO and White Balance, however, I really wish Fuji allowed customizing this screen. Personally, I don’t care for things like Dynamic Range, Noise Reduction and Image Size, but would love to keep such settings as ISO, Autofocus Mode and Flash on the top of the menu for faster access. In addition, the whole Q menu is implemented poorly in my opinion. A person that does not understand how to operate Fuji cameras would have no idea that they have to move the rear dial to make changes. Naturally, one would scroll to each menu item and press “OK” in the middle to select/change option, which in the current implementation leaves the Quick Menu screen. A much better approach would be to allow one to press the OK button, which selects the menu item, then allow pressing the left and right buttons to change settings. Hopefully Fuji will consider making such a change in the future firmware releases.
The AE-L and AF-L buttons have been separated into two separate buttons for independent control. Now you can hold the AF-L button to lock focus while taking pictures, while the AE-L button will allow you to lock the exposure separately. And if you want to go back and be able to lock both, you can still do it, but you will have to change the “AF-LOCK MODE” menu setting first.
The bottom navigation button now has an “AF” label, because the “AF” button to the left of the LCD has been replaced by a Fn2 (Function 2) button. Now this part is where I get ticked off by Fuji’s implementation of the Focus Area selection. On any camera with good ergonomics, the default behavior of the navigation buttons in shooting mode is to select a focus point. For some strange reason, Fuji decided to dedicate the top button for “Macro” (which almost never gets used), deactivate the side buttons completely and use the bottom button for selecting the focus point. What Fuji should have done instead, is eliminate the Macro button (put it in camera menu) and allow the four navigation buttons to move focus points. This would save a lot of time and frustration for many photographers including myself, since there is no need to press a button just to move the focus point! I have been waiting for this change for a while and I cannot wait when Fuji finally addresses it.
On a positive note, the X-E2 got a lot of customization options compared to the X-E1. First, the Fn2 button that I mentioned above can be programmed to perform many different menu functions. In addition, both the AF and the AE buttons can also be customized, making it a total of 4 configurable buttons (the X-E1 only had two programmable buttons).
Unfortunately, my biggest handling complaint on the X-E1 has not been fixed on the X-E2 – the tripod mount is still located right next to the battery chamber. So removing a memory card is still painful when using a tripod plate. It would be great if Fuji could move the card slot to the side of the camera, or move the tripod socket away from the battery compartment.
Overall, I love the way Fuji implemented controls on the X-E2. The large dial on the top is for setting the shutter speed of the camera, with an option to switch to Auto mode (red “A”). While the dial shows shutter speed increments in full stops, do not worry – you can still go in smaller 1/3 stop steps simply by pressing the Left and Right buttons on the back of the camera. So you could just set 1/250 and move the shutter speed down to 1/200, or set the dial to 1/125 and move it up to 1/200. If you have used a DSLR before and never touched a rangefinder, you might find yourself looking for a way to switch the camera mode from Auto/Program to Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority or Manual. Unlike a modern DSLR, there is no camera mode switch. To change the camera to Shutter Priority, you simply rotate the large top dial to a desired shutter speed, while moving the lens aperture ring to the red “A” (Auto). To change the camera to Aperture Priority, you leave the top shutter dial at “A”, while rotating the aperture ring to an aperture of your choice. To change the camera to Manual Mode, you pick whatever aperture you want on the lens and pick whatever shutter speed you want on the camera. Lastly, Program mode can be set by setting both the top dial on the camera and the dial on the lens to “A”. Super simple and very intuitive in my opinion.
Operating the camera and navigating the menu system is a breeze. Although RAW shooting at boosted ISO levels (100, 12,800 and 25,600) is still not there, Fuji fixed the Auto ISO feature to allow setting a minimum shutter speed. It also moved the cap to ISO 6400, which is nice. What I would like to see going forward, is an automated way to control the minimum shutter speed, depending on the focal length of the lens. Nikon has implemented this feature on all of its current DSLRs and it works great! This way, I do not have to change the minimum shutter speed every time I change a lens or change focal length on a zoom lens.
A huge annoyance that Fuji has fixed on the X-E2 is the ability to delete images when zoomed in during playback. This one drove me nuts on the X-E1, so I am very glad that Fuji has finally took care of it.
3) Lens Modulation Optimizer
An interesting feature that has been added to the X-E2 is the Lens Modulation Optimizer (LMO). In short, LMO applies software tweaks to images to reduce the effect of diffraction and other optical aberrations, resulting in sharper images. I did a quick test at f/8 and at f/16 in JPEG format using the Fuji 23mm f/1.4 lens and the differences are pretty clear at 100% view, as demonstrated here. However, this feature is not something that I personally care about, because it only applies to JPEG images. Since I shoot RAW, the Lens Modulation Optimizer setting does not matter, similar to Dynamic Range, Noise Reduction and other image-enhancing features found on the camera.
4) LCD Screen
A notable upgrade over the X-E1 is the new gorgeous 3″ LCD monitor with 1.2 million dots, the same one found on the X-Pro1. While the screen size and resolution are not very important to me, it is still something nice to have when looking at images. When navigating the menu system, the fonts appear smoother on the X-E2 when compared to the X-E1, thanks to a lot more pixels. To be honest, I find the smaller and lower resolution screen on the X-E1 to be sufficient for my needs, so this one is only a “nice to have” for me.
5) EVF Diopter
Just like the X-E1, the X-E2 also comes with a very important feature for those of us that do not have perfect vision – there is a diopter adjustment to the left of the viewfinder. The X-Pro1 comes with a removable cover that you can remove and replace, but that costs extra and is not convenient if multiple people use the camera. From that standpoint, I really like the X-E1 / X-E2, because you can adjust the diopter to your needs and change it to a different setting if you are wearing glasses or hand the camera to someone else.