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Review: Fujifilm X-E2

by Julius Motal on 12/23/2013

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During my time reviewing units, I’ve become somewhat of a Fujifilm enthusiast. Having worked with the X20 and X-A1 – and to a lesser extent, the X-Pro 1 – the X-E2 felt like an old friend. More robust than the X-A1 and slightly less so than the X-Pro 1, the X-E2 is the successor to the X-E1, which was released last year. With retro appeal and a 16.3MP X-Trans sensor, the X-E2 can make beautiful images while looking beautiful.

Pros and Cons

Pros

-Retro appeal that tricks most into thinking it’s a film camera

-Bright electronic viewfinder

-Crisp LCD

-Dynamic RAW files and sharp JPEGs

-Built-in Wi-fi makes editing on-the-go a cinch

-Impressive kit lens

Cons

-No tilting LCD. The X-A1 had one, but it also lacked an EVF. I’m sure a balance can be found.

Gear Used

I used the Fujifilm X-E2 with the Fujinon 18-55mm f2.8-4 and the Fujinon 35mm f1.4.

Tech Specs

Courtesy of B&H Photo Video’s listing:

  • 16.3MP, APS-C, X-Trans II CMOS Sensor
  • EXR Processor II
  • 3.0″ 1,040k-Dot LCD Monitor
  • 0.5″ 2,360k-Dot OLED Viewfinder
  • Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 60 fps
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • Continuous Shooting up to 7 fps
  • Intelligent Hybrid AF System
  • Digital Split Image and Focus Peaking
  • Film Simulation and Advanced Filters

Ergonomics

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The X-E2, like the X-E1 before it, has a metal and leatherette body and a vintage aesthetic. When I had it slung around my neck at school and elsewhere, most would remark on the “cool factor” of using a film camera these days. Upon seeing the LCD, they were intrigued and remarked on the camera’s appeal. Along the front, there’s the AF-assist lamp, lens release (obscured by the lens) and the AF dial to the right of the lens.

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To the left of the hot shoe is the pop-up flash. To the right is the shutter speed dial, exposure compensation dial, Fn/Wi-Fi  button, on/off ring and shutter release. My background is rooted in Sony cameras, so having the shutter speed dial at the very top of the camera was a bit of a gear change. Unlike the X-E2, the X-A1 had a mode dial there. That’s not to say it’s a problem. If anything, it strengthens the X-E2’s retro appeal.

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Here’s where it all happens. At the upper left, you have a bright EVF that provides a stellar amount of detail with no graininess, and to the left is the diopter control. Moving to the right, there’s the flash button, Q menu, command dial, AF-Lock and AE-Lock. The bright LCD takes most of the real estate here, and does just as good a job as the EVF. Unfortunately, it’s fixed in position which can prove a bit cumbersome when angling for high or low shots. Trust that you’re angle is alright, and you’ll get the shots. A tilting LCD, however, would facilitate the process. The playback, drive, AE and Fn2/Trash buttons, line the left side of the screen, and the four-way directional buttons and Display button line the right.

Everything’s well spaced and easy to navigate which makes shooting a breeze. The Q provides quick access to all the essential functions you’d need to adjust in a pinch.

The bottom of the camera houses the tripod thread and combination battery/SD card compartment.

Ease of Use

If you’re not familiar with Fujifilm X-series cameras, you might find that there’s a bit of learning curve. The biggest difference between the X-E2 and its younger sibling the X-A1 is the lack of a mode dial. You can set the shutter speed dial to Auto and not worry about it and on the kit lens, you can also set the switch to Auto. Be sure to commit the focus mode selector’s layout on the front of the camera to memory. If you have it set to flexible spot, you can hit the down directional button to navigate to any of the 49 AF points.

Metering

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The X-E2 tended to underexpose just a tad, but that’s easily fixed in post-production or by simply adjusting the exposure compensation dial.

Image Quality

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The X-E2 houses the X-Trans CMOS II sensor which is Fujifilm’s proprietary APS-C sensor, and it’s capable of rendering images with great detail and bright colors. When paired with the 35mm f1.4 – and even the kit lens – the X-E2 delivers with each image you take. If you find that you may have flubbed when making the image, there’s a good chance you can recover what was lost with the RAW file in post. If you decide you want to edit an image on-the-go, the X-E2 will send a JPEG over Wi-Fi to your device of choice via Fujifilm’s app, and the JPEGs are ready for uploading, more often than not. You can, of course, edit in a variety of mobile editing platforms. I tend to work with Photoshop Express more than most.

High ISO Images

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This was shot ISO 2000 with the 35mm 1.4 wide open at 1/50 of a second. Much to my surprise, the X-E2 is low-light friendly, providing of course that you’ve a lens like the 35mm. The noise isn’t overbearing, and if anything, at least in this case, it can give the image character.

RAW File Versatility

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The X-E2’s RAW files are large, roughly 34MB a piece, and they provide a great deal of information that be molded in Lightroom or any other application to suit your needs. More often than not, you’ll find that the photographs you make with the X-E2 require minimal editing. I adhere to the school of getting it as right as possible in the camera, and the X-E2 helps with that.

Extra Image Samples

Dec. 16, 2013 - New York, NY.

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Conclusion

The Fujifilm X-E2 occupies a midway point between the entry-level X-A1 and the professional-grade X-Pro 1. The main difference between the X-Pro 1 and the X-E2 is that the latter only has an electronic viewfinder. The X-Pro 1 has a hybrid OVF/EVF, which is one of its most praised features. I find that the X-E2 is easier to work with, and that it produces images that are just as beautiful, if not more so. What sets Fujifilm apart from most companies is its commitment to its customers. Buyer’s remorse doesn’t really exist with Fujifilm’s X series because it continues to release firmware updates that will improve your camera’s performance.

The X-E2 performs wonderfully for street and event photography, and its vintage aesthetic will have folks thinking your shooting with film. I find that this tends to be less intimidating to folks on the street. Point a D800 in someone’s direction and they might skulk away. With the X-E2, there’s less of that.

The X-E2 will also introduce you to a family of great lenses that begins not surprisingly with one of the best kit lenses to come our way. It’s a great camera to learn with, too, and you’ll find that it could help realize your creative vision.

Pick yours up at Adorama or Amazon.

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