Fujifilm X-E3 First Impressions Review

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The Fujifilm X-E3 is a 24MP mid-level APS-C mirrorless camera, designed as a smaller, more touchscreen-driven sister model to the SLR-like X-T20.

In terms of their internal hardware and specifications, the two cameras are very similar, but the X-E3 relies more heavily on its touch panel for moment-to-moment operation, as well as retaining a more rangefinder-like form factor.

It’s slightly smaller than the previous X-E models, with the removal of the four-way controller and built-in flash allowing the body to be made a little lighter and more compact. A clip-on flash is included in the box, but it’s a simple affair with no tilt or swivel capability to compensate for the decision to make it a separate component.

Key Features
  • 24MP APS-C sensor with X-Trans color filter
  • Improved AF tracking
  • Wi-Fi with Bluetooth for constant connection to a smartphone
  • Shutter speed and exposure comp dials
  • Twin clickable command dials
  • AF Joystick
  • 4K (UHD) video at 30, 25, 24 and 23.97p
  • USB Charging

The more advanced use of the touchscreen, with directional swipes of the finger replacing the role of the four-way controller, pinch to zoom in playback and the option to use the screen as an AF touchpad when the camera’s to your eye doesn’t come at the expense of physical controls for all the main exposure settings.

The X-E3 also becomes the first Fujifilm model to gain Bluetooth, which establishes a full-time connection between the camera and a smartphone, allowing instant transfer of images as you shoot them. [or faster re-connection of Wi-Fi if you’re just choosing to send selected images]

The company also says it has improved its AF Tracking algorithm so that it can track smaller and faster subjects. Fujifilm say this improved algorithm will also come to the X-T2, X-T20, X100F and X-Pro2 in fimrware updates in November and December 2017.

Fujifilm X-E3 Fujifilm X-T20 Fujifilm X-T2 Fujifilm X-E2S
Pixel Count 24MP 24MP 24MP 16MP
Auto mode switch Yes Yes No Yes
AF Joystick Yes No Yes No
Touchscreen Yes Yes No No
AF Touchpad Yes Pending f/w No No
AF points 91 or 325 91 or 325 91 or 325 49
Rear screen Fixed Tilt up/down 2-axis hinge Fixed
Exposure comp. range ± 5EV ± 5EV ± 5EV ± 3EV
Viewfinder Magnification 0.62x 0.62x 0.77x 0.62x
EVF Eyepoint 17.5mm 17.5mm 23mm 23mm
Max frame rate
(mech/e-shutter)
8/14 fps 8/14 fps 8/14 fps (11/14 with grip) 7 fps
Built-in flash No Yes No Yes
Flash sync speed 1/180th 1/180th 1/250th 1/180th
Video Full width 4K
(by Pixel Binning)
Full width 4K
(by Pixel Binning)
1.17x crop 4K
(by oversampling)
1080p
Log Video No No Yes (over HDMI) No
Weather sealing No No Yes No
Card slots 1 (UHS-I) 1 (UHS-I) 2 (UHS-II) 1 (UHS-I)
Connectivity Wi-Fi with Bluetooth Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi
Kit options:

Fujifilm will offer the X-E3 in two kits, one with the excellent 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 OIS, the other with the 35mm-equivalent 23mm F2 lens. We’re particularly interested to see this second kit, as it’s a combination we particularly like. It’s also a useful option for anyone who already has an earlier generation X series camera and already owns the 18-55mm.

The camera will be available, body only, for around $899, with the 18-55mm kit costing $1299 and the 23mm kit weighing in around $1149, both of which represent a considerable cost saving over the cost of buying the lenses separately.

Body and handling

The X-E3’s body is very much what we’ve come to expect from the series: a substantial-feeling chunk of fairly dense plastic with a metal top plate. It’s a little smaller than the X-E1, 2 and 2S, but most of the space freed-up by the removal of the four way controller has been given-over to the 3.0″ touchscreen on the back of the camera.

The camera fits reasonably well in the hand, with a bit of a ridge on the front and a thumb rest on the rear, to support the it. It’s not hold-for hours comfortable like the handgrips offered by most modern DSLRs, but it’s a comfortable and stable way to hold the camera while you’re taking your shot.

Autofocus joystick

The X-E3 gets the AF joystick that we first saw on the X-Pro2 and that has gone on to significantly improve the ergonomics of both the X100F and X-T2. This is an essential, as the number of selectable points grows. When set to 91 points (a 7 x 13 grid pattern), the rear screen’s touchpad does a reasonable job but if you select the finer-grained 325 point mode (a 13 x 25 arrangement), we found the joystick gave a better balance of precision and speed.

Compared with the X-E2S

As you can see, the main differences between the X-E2S and the X-E3 are the omission of the four-way controller and the loss of built-in flash, and the addition of the AF joystick.

The changes don’t make much of a difference to weight, with the X-E3 losing just 13g (1/2oz), compared with its predecessor. The changes see the X-E3 lose around 8mm of width (1/4″) but that’s the only significant difference: the manufacturer-quoted specs give undue importance to the slightly more prominent front and rear grips, which don’t make any real-world difference to the impression of the camera’s size.

Auto ISO

The X-E3 has the same implementation of Auto ISO as Fujifilm’s recent cameras. There are three slots available for Auto ISO settings, each of which contains a minimum and maximum ISO setting to use, along with a shutter speed threshold at which to increase the sensitivity. There’s now an ‘Auto’ setting that relates the shutter speed threshold to the current focal length. Auto ISO is also available in movie mode but with no control over any of the parameters.

Auto ISO remains available, with exposure compensation in manual exposure mode for both stills and movie shooting.

Battery

The X-E3 continues to use the NP-W126S battery, from which it is able to squeeze 350 shots per charge, per the CIPA testing standard. These figures don’t necessarily represent how many shots you’ll get from the camera (so don’t be surprised if you get significantly more), but they tend to be comparable with one another.

Control and Operation

Even the camera’s Q.Menu is now touch-sensitive, bringing up a list of the available options for each parameter (an improvement over previous implementations).

Although the greater use of touchscreen is the most obvious distinction between the X-E3 and the X-T20, operation of the X-E3 is still pretty traditional in many respects.

So although the range of functions controllable by touchscreen has increased, there are still direct control points for that camera’s key exposure settings and, thanks to the arrival of the AF joystick, faster AF point selection than the X-T20, even without the use of the touch panel.

Touchscreen control

The touchscreen does most of the things you might expect, in a modern camera. For instance; you can tap on the screen to set the position of the AF point, to set the point and perform a focus acquisition or to set the point, acquire focus and fire the shutter (a small ‘button’ at the screen’s top right corner cycles through these options).

You can control which bits of the screen are used for AF Touchpad mode, but the contact with any other part of the screen will still stop the function working.

The touchscreen can also been used as a touchpad to move the AF point, when you’ve got the viewfinder up to your eye. There’s a menu option to decide whether the left, right or entire screen area is active. Unfortunately, even if you only set the left-hand side of the screen to be active, any contact on the right-hand side of the screen will stop the panel working, so it doesn’t solve the problem of nose contact for left-eyed shooters.

The four directions in which you can swipe your finger on the rear screen are each treated as customizable functions: T-Fn1 – T-Fn4

Touchscreen also plays the role performed by the four-way controller on the previous X-E cameras: swiping left, right, up or down accesses one of four different functions. These functions can be customized, just as if they were physical buttons, so you effectively have just as many control points as the existing cameras, but with a slightly smaller body and a larger screen.

There’s also an option to turn off the touchpad function or all touchscreen controls, but you end up with a rather limited camera if you do so.

Dial Control
Don’t let all this talk of touchscreens fool you: the X-E3 has plenty of direct access to exposure settings.

As with previous X-E cameras, you get dedicated shutter speed dial and exposure comp dial. And, with most X-series lenses, you gain an aperture ring in addition to these. The X-E3 also has two clickable command dials, which can take over certain roles, as follows:

Available functions
Front Dial
(Click to toggle)
Shutter Speed*
  • Adjusts ±2/3EV when shutter dial set to specific speed
  • Full control when shutter dial set to ‘T’
  • Disabled via menus
ISO
  • Engaged via menus
Exposure Comp
  • When Exp Comp dial set to ‘C’, enabling ±5EV range
Rear Dial F-Number*
  • Controls F-number with XC lenses (without aperture rings)
Custom function
  • ‘Click’ function can be customized (default is Magnify)
*The shutter speed and aperture functions can be swapped between the front and rear dials, via a menu option.

This puts a great deal of control over camera functions at your fingertips. Slightly disappointingly, unlike the behavior of the Q menu or the onscreen menu, the Auto ISO options are located above the highest ISO setting, rather than below the lowest. This may sound trivial but, since the list doesn’t loop round, it means having to turn the dial at least 21 clicks to switch between ISO 200 and Auto mode.

AF All Area Mode

As is normal for Fujifilm, in amongst the big feature changes are a number of little tweaks and additions. One of these is the X-E3’s ‘AF ALL’ area mode. This combines the existing three area modes: Single Point, Zone and Wide/Tracking into a single option. When you press the joystick inwards to change the size of the AF point, it’s no longer constrained in size. If you increase the size of the AF point beyond 3×3, the camera jumps to Zone area mode, keep going and, at the point the whole screen is selected, you’ll find you’re in ‘Wide/Tracking.’

It’s a small change but is yet another function that can be changed without having to visit the Q Menu, which can only be a bonus.

4K Video

The X-E3 can shoot UHD 4K video at up to 30p, with 25, 24 and 23.97p options also available. The footage is taken from the full width of the sensor, as on the X-T20, so is likely to come from pixel binning, rather than rendering and downscaling, which gives the X-T2 such excellent levels of detail. Log output is also an X-T2-only feature.

While shooting video you have a choice of Continuous AF (with tap-to-focus) or Manual Focus with focus peaking.

The camera’s 2.5mm remote trigger socket can be used as a mic input. The camera’s ‘Live View Highlight Alert’ can be used as a simplistic form of Zebra warning to help set exposure.

First Impressions

I was a little skeptical when Fujifilm first showed me some resin mockups of X-E series designs without a four-way controller, last year. However, having had a chance to play with one for a while, my initial concern seems misplaced.

X-E series fans should feel reassured: Fujifilm hasn’t stolen your camera and turned it into a wannabe smartphone. The camera still offers traditional, dial-based access to the camera’s key exposure settings and the AF joystick means you actually gain a better physical control for one of the fundamental photographic functions.

From my own perspective, I quickly discovered that I rarely use the four-way controller for anything other than selecting an AF point, so the need to swipe the rear screen to access one of those functions doesn’t slow me down at all. Even on the pre-production camera we used, it’s very quick and consistent in recognizing a swipe motion, which meant it was an utterly painless experience.

As a left-eyed shooter too lazy to train myself to shoot with the other eye, the touchpad AF doesn’t really benefit me. Even when set to only use the left-hand side of the screen, the function still locks-out as soon as my nose makes contact with any part of the panel. But then again, why would I use the fast but seemingly imprecise touchpad AF mode if my thumb is already resting on an AF joystick?

In fact the only aspect of the touchscreen that I even found even slightly off-putting was the constant presence of the virtual button that cycles between the three ‘touch-to…’ options (…set AF area, set AF area and acquire, and set, acquire and shoot). Since I only ever use one of these settings and it can be specified in the main menu, it’s a shame I can’t get rid of the button, to prevent myself accidentally re-engaging touch-to-shoot.

Other than that, the X-E3 looks like a solid X-E2S replacement: it brings much of what’s good about the X-T20 (which itself had many of the X-T2’s best features) and puts them in a smaller, more convenient package with what appears to be a better control system.

Sadly, a version of Fujifilm’s app that supports Bluetooth isn’t yet available, so I’ve not been able to try that, yet. Fujifilm is the fourth brand to use the low-powered communication protocol to maintain a connection betwixt camera and phone, so it’ll be interesting to see how its implementation stacks up against its rivals’.

Fujifilm X-E3 Specifications

Price
MSRP $899/£849 body-only, $1299/£1249 with 18-55mm F2.8-4, $1150 with 23mm F2
Body type
Body type Rangefinder-style mirrorless
Body material Magnesium alloy
Sensor
Max resolution 6000 x 4000
Other resolutions 4240 x 2832, 6000 x 3376, 4000, x 4000, 4240 x 2832, 4240 x 2384, 2832 x 2832, 3008 x 2000, 3008 x 1688, 2000 x 2000
Image ratio w:h 1:1, 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels 24 megapixels
Sensor size APS-C (23.6 x 15.6 mm)
Sensor type CMOS
Processor X-Processor Pro
Color space sRGB, Adobe RGB
Color filter array X-Trans
Image
ISO Auto, 200 – 12800 (expandable to 100-51200)
Boosted ISO (minimum) 100
Boosted ISO (maximum) 51200
White balance presets 7
Custom white balance Yes
Image stabilization No
Uncompressed format RAW
JPEG quality levels Fine, normal
File format
  • JPEG (Exif v2.3)
  • Raw (Fujifilm RAF, 14-bit)
Optics & Focus
Autofocus
  • Contrast Detect (sensor)
  • Phase Detect
  • Multi-area
  • Center
  • Selective single-point
  • Tracking
  • Single
  • Continuous
  • Touch
  • Face Detection
  • Live View
Autofocus assist lamp Yes
Manual focus Yes
Number of focus points 325
Lens mount Fujifilm X
Focal length multiplier 1.5×
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCD Fixed
Screen size 3
Screen dots 1,040,000
Touch screen Yes (Four-way controller functions replaced by ‘swiping’ on display)
Screen type LCD
Live view Yes
Viewfinder type Electronic
Viewfinder coverage 100%
Viewfinder resolution 2,360,000
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed 30 sec
Maximum shutter speed 1/4000 sec
Maximum shutter speed (electronic) 1/32000 sec
Exposure modes
  • Program
  • Shutter priority
  • Aperture priority
  • Manual
Built-in flash No (Small external flash included)
External flash Yes
Flash X sync speed 1/180 sec
Drive modes
  • Single
  • Continuous
  • Self-timer
  • Interval
Continuous drive 8.0 fps
Self-timer Yes
Metering modes
  • Multi
  • Center-weighted
  • Average
  • Spot
Exposure compensation ±5 (at 1/3 EV steps)
AE Bracketing ±3 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV steps)
WB Bracketing Yes
Videography features
Format MPEG-4, H.264
Modes
  • 3840 x 2160 @ 30p / 100 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 3840 x 2160 @ 25p / 100 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 3840 x 2160 @ 24p / 100 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 36 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 50p / 36 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 36 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 25p / 36 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 24p / 36 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 23.98p / 36 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1280 x 720 @ 60p / 18 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1280 x 720 @ 50p / 18 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1280 x 720 @ 30p / 18 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1280 x 720 @ 25p / 18 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1280 x 720 @ 24p / 18 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
  • 1280 x 720 @ 23.98p / 18 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
Microphone Stereo
Speaker Mono
Storage
Storage types SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-I compatible)
Connectivity
USB USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMI Yes (micro-HDMI)
Microphone port Yes
Headphone port No
Wireless Built-In
Wireless notes 802.11b/g/n + Bluetooth LE
Remote control Yes
Physical
Environmentally sealed No
Battery Battery Pack
Battery description NP-W126S lithium-ion battery & charger
Battery Life (CIPA) 350
Weight (inc. batteries) 337 g (0.74 lb / 11.89 oz)
Dimensions 121 x 74 x 43 mm (4.78 x 2.91 x 1.68)
Other features
Orientation sensor Yes
GPS None

(dpreview.com, https://goo.gl/EUQHar)

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