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 before the 2013 Photo Plus Expo event in New York. 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 in my 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.
6) Image Sensor and Autofocus Performance
Similar to the excellent Fuji X100S, the X-E2 is now the second Fuji mirrorless camera to feature the new X-Trans CMOS II sensor. While the effective resolution stayed the same at 16.3 MP as on the original X-E1 with the X-Trans CMOS sensor, this one incorporates phase detection pixels right on the sensor, allowing for much faster autofocus (see the Autofocus Performance and Accuracy section below for more information).
While traditional sensors with a repeating bayer-pattern color filter array exhibit moire problems and hence need an anti-aliasing filter to reduce moire by essentially blurring the image, the X-Trans CMOS II sensor has a new color filter array that has a more random pattern, which does not cause moire to occur in the first place. Hence, an anti-aliasing filter is not necessary, which in turn translates to sharper, more detailed images.
Here is an illustration of a traditional bayer pattern color filter array compared to the new Fuji color filter array:
Top image: 1) Lens, 2) Sensor, 3) Optical low-pass filter.
Bottom image: 1) Lens, 2) Sensor, 3) Natural random arrangement of the fine grains of silver halide in film.
As you can see, the difference between the two is quite big.
Fuji says that their sensor not only delivers sharper images due to the lack of an anti-aliasing filter, but also has better color reproduction. Does the new X-Trans CMOS II sensor work as advertised? It certainly does, in my opinion. The amount of detail from the camera when using Fujinon and Zeiss Touit lenses is very impressive, especially when looking at images at 100% view. As a long time digital Nikon shooter, I am very impressed by the color rendition of Fuji cameras, including the X-E2. Not only does the camera produce beautiful colors, but Fuji clearly knows how to process skin tones – something Nikon and many other brands are historically not very good at. This is quite evident even when looking at JPEG images straight out of the camera.
The X-Trans CMOS II sensor with a new color filter and built-in phase detection is a great innovation. Sadly, most digital camera manufacturers today, including Nikon and Canon, still rely on the bayer pattern that was invented back in 1976 in Kodak labs. With all the new ultra high resolution sensors coming out, I believe manufacturers need to start adopting such innovations to get rid of the outdated anti-aliasing/blur filter. Nikon has started removing the AA filter from its cameras to get as much resolution as possible from lenses, but at the expense of introducing moire.
The only problem with the X-Trans sensor is rendering issues of RAW files when using Camera RAW and Lightroom. I am not sure why Adobe has still not worked this out with Fuji, but the RAW processing engine in Adobe’s products introduces artifacts to images and weird patterns in different color channels. I have recently started using the Photo Ninja software to render RAW images and it is definitely a world better than what Adobe has to offer. The problem with Adobe’s RAW rendering, is that once sharpening is applied, excessive outlining on fine patterns starts to occur in images. Take a look at the below comparison of RAW rendering by Adobe ACR and Photo Ninja:
As you can see, the rendering by Adobe Camera RAW looks very different in comparison, with visible artifacts in the fine bush branches. Photo Ninja does a much better job here and even excessive sharpening does not create the same outlining artifacts in images.
I really hope that Adobe and Fuji will soon iron out these issues, since I am not very keen on introducing another RAW rendering software package to my workflow process.
7) Autofocus Performance and Accuracy
As I have stated in my Fuji X100S review, Fuji’s new hybrid autofocus system is indeed very fast when compared to older X-series cameras. The X-E2 has the same hybrid autofocus system, which uses the phase detection pixels on the sensor to acquire focus in good light and switches to contrast detection when the light levels drop. When testing the X-E2, I wanted to find out if it has the same issues with phase detection as the X100S did. Unfortunately, the X-E2 seems to suffer from a similar problem – the phase detection autofocus sometimes gets confused and fails to acquire focus. I do not understand the nature of this issue, but it has something to do with the phase detection system, since it only happens in daylight conditions. Take a look at the following image of a statue, which was captured with the Fuji 23mm f/1.4 lens:
As you can see, the camera failed to acquire focus completely and choose to focus on the background instead. After I focused on a different subject and re-acquired focus, the camera then focused just fine. When using the X-E1 that only uses contrast detection, I have not seen these types of issues. Here is another example, this time captured with the Fuji 55-200mm lens, with the latest firmware:
Once again, the background is what is in focus and not the deer. There was plenty of contrast in the scene and on the subject, and yet the camera for some reason failed to acquire focus. The subsequent images were mostly fine, but the number of keepers was below my expectation (and definitely below what I would normally get with my X-E1). The red AF indication was not an issue as on the X100S, but it was mostly accuracy issues with the 23mm f/1.4 and 55-200mm lenses.
While the above issue is not of critical nature and can only be witnessed occasionally, I really hope that Fuji can fix this issue via a firmware update very soon.
If you are interested in the continuous autofocus (AF-C) capabilities of the X-E2, you should know that Fuji has changed a couple of things. First of all, the camera is no longer limited to the center of the frame for continuous autofocus. This means that you can pick any of the 49 focus points in the frame, and the camera will track subject in the selected AF point. While this certainly does work, I found the 9 phase-detection focus points in the center of the frame to be more accurate for subject tracking. Still, the Fuji X-E2 continuous to remain practically useless for serious action photography (like most other mirrorless cameras). Its subject tracking capabilities are very limited, and both speed and accuracy are much worse when compared to a modern DSLR. Hopefully, Fuji will continue to innovate in this department and make continuous autofocus much more useful than it is today.
8) Manual Focus
Manual focus is still the same as on the X-E1, which is pretty slow to rotate from one end to another. That’s because Fuji does not rely on a mechanical focus ring like on traditional lenses. When you rotate the focus ring, focus is adjusted electronically via the fly-by-wire system. A focus scale is provided inside the viewfinder or on the rear LCD to indicate where you are at. It would be nice if Fuji added an option to speed up focus rotation by 2x, 3x, etc.
Fuji also added magnification options for fine tuning focus, which is great. You simply press the rotary dial on the back of the X-E2 and the camera switches to zoom mode. There is one notable advantage on the X-E2 compared to the X-E1 – the X-E2 can switch to the magnified mode even in AF-S mode! So you don’t need to switch to manual focus just to be able to view the subject closer. In magnified mode, autofocus still works and you can see it much better. Unfortunately, as soon as you fire the shutter, the view goes back to normal. Hopefully, Fuji will either make this an option in the menu, or keep the magnified state even after the image is captured in future firmware updates.
The focus peaking feature seems to be the same as on the 2.0 firmware of the X-E1. It is nice, but I personally like the way Sony implemented focus peaking better. Fuji’s focus peaking looks pixellated/less detailed in comparison and there is no option to change peaking colors. A welcome addition is the new digital split image focusing that we’ve seen on the X100S first. Basically, as explained here, Fuji uses phase detection pixels from the sensor for the split comparison, which is a pretty cool idea. I tested it both on the X100S and on the X-E2 and it works really well, especially in magnified mode (yes, you can magnify even in split image mode!).
9) Fujinon Lenses
As of December 2013, the Fuji lens line has expanded from the three initially launched lenses to eleven. Fuji has done a great job with the lens line in my opinion, first introducing prime lenses and then following up with some zooms later. This basically showed that Fuji’s target market was professionals and enthusiasts that were looking for a serious mirrorless system. I had a pleasure of shooting with all three initially launched lenses and I have recently shot with every Fuji lens for testing, except for the newly announced 10-24mm f/4 lens. The Fuji 35mm f/1.4 has already been reviewed, with 9 more to go! In addition, I have also been shooting with the new Zeiss Touit lenses (also to be reviewed soon). So far, my experience has been very positive on the entire line of Fuji and Zeiss lenses. While reviewing the Fuji X-E2, I mostly relied on the new Fuji 23mm f/1.4 lens, which I also found to be excellent. The autofocus motor is a little loud, but the lens itself is exceptionally good, even in the extreme corners (to be reviewed soon).
10) Electronic Viewfinder
The X-E2 has a slightly modified version of the electronic viewfinder from the X-E1. There are a couple of very important improvements that I should definitely point out. First of all, the refresh rate has basically tripled in low light situations (from 20 fps to 60 fps), which makes the whole experience of using the viewfinder much less sluggish in comparison. Comparing my X-E1 and the X-E2 side by side, the difference is pretty obvious, especially when moving the camera a lot. The X-E2 shows practically no motion blur when moving around and panning in low light, which is great. The only problem with the new refresh rate is half-pressing the shutter release – for some reason, the camera automatically switches to a very slow fps mode. Once you let go off the shutter release, the refresh is back to normal again.
The second huge improvement, which also has to do with the LCD of the camera is that there is no more forced Auto Gain on the X-E2! Basically, Auto Gain is an automated boost of the EVF and LCD brightness, so that the scene looks the same, even if your exposure is way off. While Auto Gain might be a useful feature in some situations, I really don’t like when I cannot tell right away if my exposure is off, so I try to keep it turned off by default. With the X-E2, the LCD and EVF represent accurate exposure. For example, if my exposure is way too dark (under-exposed), the EVF and LCD will also turn dark. And if you have a situation where you want to go back to Auto Gain, you can easily turn it back on my going to SET-UP->SCREEN SET-UP->PREVIEW EXP. IN MANUAL MODE (ON).
These two changes are fairly significant for me personally and make the experience of shooting with the X-E2 that much more pleasant.
11) Metering and Exposure
Metering performance felt to be about the same as the X-E1, so there are no improvements there. Still, the X-E1 was pretty darn accurate and actually works surprisingly well in most situations, so perhaps there is not much to improve. The X-E2 does have a tendency to overexpose and underexpose in unusual lighting situations, but that happens even with advanced DSLRs, so it is not anything unusual. Gladly, the exposure compensation dial is right there on the top of the camera and now with three full stops of exposure, so altering the exposure is a very straightforward process.
Another improvement over the X-E1, is the ability to change the shutter speed and aperture when the shutter release is half-pressed, or when AE-L is engaged. On the X-E1, everything gets locked and nothing can be changed – you have to let go of the buttons, change the settings and then do it again. With the X-E2, you can adjust the aperture and shutter speed and the settings will change on the fly. Seems like this one is a firmware issue, so I hope Fuji retrofits this particular feature to its X-Pro1 and X-E1 cameras as well.
12) Shooting Speed (FPS) and Battery Life
The Fuji X-E2 delivers a slightly faster frame rate of 7 fps versus 6 fps on the X-E1. Not a huge improvement and to be honest, not a very important one either. Not just because the speed difference is small, but also because the X-E2 is still not very suitable for fast action photography. At full speed of 7 fps, the camera loses the ability to track focus, so you have to switch back to the “LOW” speed of 3 fps in order for camera to track focus. While the slower continuous tracking might work OK in some situations, it is not capable of properly tracking anything that moves faster than slow walking pace. I have tried this new feature a couple of times with my kids and many images were out of focus. I like the fact that Fuji is moving towards a more usable continuous autofocus, but it is still way premature compared to a traditional DSLR.
Another notable difference between the X-E2 and the X-E1 is the size of RAW files. The X-E2 shoots 14-bit RAW files, while the X-E1 shoots 12-bit RAW files (basically means wider color gamut on the X-E2 RAW files). Since both the X-E2 and the X100S have faster processors, Fuji was able to move up to 14-bits, like most high-end cameras. Because of this, the difference in RAW file sizes is pretty noticeable. Fuji engineers knew that larger files would result in slower write speeds and potentially more frustrated experience, so they increased the write speed throughput. When shooting with fast 90 MB/sec cards, the X-E2 clears the buffer 2-3 times faster, which is a huge improvement over the X-E1. Again, not that you would need all that speed when shooting in 3 fps, but still could be useful when there is a need to shoot in bursts.
In terms of battery life, the X-E2 is rated at around 350 frames before the battery runs out, which is the same as where the X-E1 is and in line with other mirrorless cameras.
13) Video / Movie Recording
The video shooting options have also improved quite a bit on the X-E2. The X-E1 was limited to just 24 fps HD resolution, but the X-E2 pushes full HD at 60 fps, which is pretty impressive. Once again, the faster processor certainly does make a difference here. Unlike DSLRs that have to have their mirrors flipped up, which limits viewing of video recording only on the camera LCD, the Fuji X-E2 can display recorded video both on its rear LCD and inside the electronic viewfinder. You can choose a desired aperture, adjust exposure compensation and a few other camera settings, but you cannot adjust the shutter speed and ISO – those are chosen automatically by the camera based on the camera meter reading. The external mic connectivity on the side of the camera is still there for those that want to record with an external microphone. Because there is no dedicated button or switch for recording videos, you have to go into the camera menu and change the drive mode from stills to movie and vice versa. As before, there is no support for capturing images while recording a video.
Just like all other Fuji X series cameras, the X-E2 comes with a standard size hotshoe that can be used with Fuji’s flashes such as EF-20, EF-X20, EF-42 and third party flashes and radio triggers such as PocketWizard Plus III. The X-E2 lacks the PC sync port on the side of the camera, but it won’t be a major issue for many of us that like to use external flash. Due to my hectic schedule, I have not been able to test the X-E2 with external lights. However, I know that the capabilities have stayed the same, so I can still refer you to the Fuji X-E1 review, where you can see some image samples when using off-camera flash.
As discussed before, the X-E2 now gets a dedicated 1/180x shutter speed on the top dial, specifically made for those interested in flash photography with the X-E2.
15) Dynamic Range
When it comes to dynamic range, the new X-Trans II CMOS sensor seems to deliver the same great dynamic range in photographs as the X-E1. It is no Nikon D800, but you can still recover plenty of details from the shadow areas without adding too much noise. I have been waiting for test results from DxOMark, but they have not released any information on any of the new Fuji mirrorless cameras with the X-Trans sensor, probably due to RAW file support issues.
16) ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 200-800)
Some technical information:
- White Balance: Auto
- EXIF information is preserved in the images
- Focusing was performed through Live-View Contrast Detect
- Long exposure NR: Off
- High ISO NR: Off
- Image Format: RAW
- Lightroom export: sRGB JPEG Quality 80
Let’s take a look at how the Fuji X-E2 performs at low ISOs. Here are some crops at ISO 200, 400, 800 and 1600:
As expected, ISO 200 and 400 are very clean.
ISO 800 adds a little bit of noise, while 1600 adds progressively more. Still, results are impressive, since no detail is lost and the noise is very acceptable.
17) High ISO Performance (ISO 3200-6400)
High ISO performance is a very important measure of sensor quality for low-light photography. Here is how the Fuji X-E2 performs at ISO 3200 and 6400:
At ISO 3200, we start seeing minor loss of details, especially in the darker areas. Noise is pretty much doubled from ISO 1600 at this point, but still perfectly usable. ISO 6400 is the RAW limit. With more detail and color loss and much more noise, it is something I would not want to stretch beyond for my photography needs. Fuji does offer higher ISO levels beyond 6400, but they are not “native” and they are only available in JPEG, so I am excluding those.
Now let’s take a look at how the Fuji X-E2 compares to its predecessor and the new Olympus OM-D E-M1.
Please note that the camera comparisons are only based on image quality, based on RAW files. Also note that all images are provided at pixel level, with no resizing / down-sampling steps involved. The X-E1 has the same resolution as the X-E2, while the OM-D E-M1 is only a tad lower in comparison.
18) Fuji X-E2 vs X-E1
I cannot see any differences at ISO 200 between the two.
ISO 400 is the same, with practically no difference.
Interestingly, at ISO 800 we start seeing some differences in noise performance between the two. The X-E2 seems to be a tad cleaner.
And at ISO 1600, the ISO performance differences grown even more – the X-E2 definitely looks cleaner (look at the area around the word “LEGACY” on the bottom disc).
The same for ISO 3200 – the X-E2 looks a tad cleaner.
If you compare the shadow details at ISO 6400, it is pretty clear that the X-E2 seems to maintain slight advantage in comparison. Grain size is definitely smaller on the X-E2.
19) Fuji X-E2 vs X-E1 Summary
When the X-E2 was launched, I thought that the ISO performance of the sensor would remain the same. Seems like I was wrong – the X-E2 demonstrates a slight improvement in noise performance over the X-E1. I saw some differences when comparing the X100S to the X-E1, but since the differences were very minor, I thought that perhaps it had something to do with sample variation. The X-E2 sensor confirms that the X-Trans II sensor is a tad better than the original version.
20) Fuji X-E2 vs Olympus OM-D E-M1
Let’s now take a look at how the X-E2 when compared to the high-end Olympus OM-D E-M1 Micro Four Thirds camera:
Right off the bat, the advantage of a larger sensor is pretty clear at ISO 200. The X-E2 has no noise in the image, while the OM-D E-M1 has a little bit of it in the image, especially in the colored regions.
ISO 400 maintains the same difference, with the X-E2 leading the game.
And at ISO 800, we can clearly see that Micro Four Thirds struggles in comparison. The X-E2 image looks much cleaner in comparison.
Jumping to high ISO levels, the performance gap is getting even bigger. The OM-D E-M1 is already losing details at ISO 1600, while the X-E2 maintains them pretty well.
The same is true for ISO 1600.
And at ISO 6400, both look pretty noisy, but the OM-D E-M1 looks much worse in comparison.
21) Fuji X-E2 vs Olympus OM-D E-M1 Summary
As I have stated before, smaller sensors simply cannot compete with larger ones when it comes to handling noise at high ISO levels, as can be evidenced from the above comparison. The high-end OM-D E-M1 is a very impressive and highly capable camera (review coming up soon), but with a sensor size significantly smaller than APS-C (225 mm² vs 370 mm²), Micro Four Thirds just cannot compete on the pixel level. Both the X-E2 and the E-M1 have very similar resolution (16 MP), but the ability to handle noise is quite different between the two, with the X-E2 obviously leading the game.
From being the quirkiest and the buggiest system on the market just a couple of years ago, Fuji’s products have been transforming to a solid choice for many photographers – all thanks to Fuji’s commitment to the mount and willingness to fix reported problems by its fast-growing fan base. Being the second iteration of the X-E line of products that’s targeted at professionals and enthusiasts, and despite being announced only a year from the release of the original X-E1, the Fuji X-E2 does not represent yet another model update for the sake of keeping the product line fresh. Fuji packed a long list of fixes and features to the X-E2 not only to attract first time owners, but also to create interest among existing X-E1 owners that want faster autofocus, better image quality, richer features and enhanced ergonomics. Within two years, Fuji has also been introducing a growing line of superb native lenses, along with excellent third party lens options from a number of manufacturers, including Zeiss.
Thanks to Fuji’s continuous efforts, the Fuji X line is now one of the best mirrorless systems on the market. With the X-E2 leading the X series cameras (until the X-Pro2 hits the market sometime in 2014), it is a no-brainer for anyone that wants to get into the Fuji ecosystem. Its image quality is amazing, overall performance is very impressive and the camera is a pure joy to use. My only concern at the moment is its autofocus hiccups with the phase detection system, but I am sure that Fuji will address those in a firmware update pretty soon. Thankfully, the autofocus problem is not of great concern as it was when the first X-Pro1 was launched, but it is still an annoyance.
23) Where to buy and availability
B&H is currently selling the Fuji X-E2 body only for $999.
24) More image samples
All Images Copyright © Nasim Mansurov, All Rights Reserved. Copying or reproduction is not permitted without written permission from the author.
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