Fuji has done a great job with the X lens line up, 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. 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).
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.
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.
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.
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 the 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.
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.
See the next page for Fuji X-E2 ISO performance, along with comparisons to X-E1 and Olympus OM-D E-M1.
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