Fujifilm X-E2S review

Introduction

At a glance:
  • 16.3-million-pixel, APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor
  • ISO 200-6,400 (raw), 100-51,200 (JPEG)
  • 7fps continuous shooting
  • 3in, 1.04-million-dot tilt LCD touchscreen
  • 0.5in, 2.36 million dot viewfinder
  • 1/32,000sec max shutter speed (electronic shutter)

The arrival of the X-E2S into Fujifilm’s X-series has been somewhat overshadowed of late by the release of the manufacturer’s X-Pro2. Having extensively tested Fujifilm’s flagship model, it’s time to shift our focus in the direction of the Fujifilm X-E2S – a camera that much like the discontinued X-E2 seems well equipped for enthusiasts who’d like a retro-style rangefinder design. The ‘S’ in its name signals we’re looking at a modest update rather than a radial overhaul of the X-E2. Nevertheless there appears to be sufficient differences to warrant a closer inspection.

Features

Unlike the X-E2, which offered 60 improvements and refinements over the X-E1, the X-E2S is a relatively minor update on what we’ve seen before. It retains many of the core components found inside the X-E2 such as a 16.3-million-pixel X-Trans CMOS II sensor and EXR processor II. Though these components remain the same, Fujifilm has squeezed a bit more out of them. The ISO ceiling is a stop higher than the X-E2, making it possible to shoot between ISO 100-51,200 by entering the expanded settings. Like the X-E2, raw images are captured between ISO 200-6,400 and it’s JPEG only above and below this native range.

Fujifilm X-E2S

The biggest change centres on an improved autofocus system, which along with a faster 0.06sec focus acquisition speed (down from 0.08 on the X-E2) now benefits from Wide/Tracking modes with a 77-point area array to help track moving subjects. Just like the X-T1 and X-T10 (with firmware 4.0 installed), Zone mode lets you to specify a group of focus points – 5×5, 5×3 or 3×3, that can then be positioned freely round the frame and is suitable for predictable moving subjects. If your point of interest moves more erratically, then the tracking mode allows you to set a specific point for the initial focus acquisition and once the camera has locked focus, track it around the frame. Like the X-E2, the AF system makes use of the speed of phase detection AF, combined with the strong low-light performance of contrast detect AF. The 49-point single point mode is presented in the usual 7×7 formation, with the option to refine the AF target to one of five size settings.

Fujifilm X-E2S

Little has changed with regard to performance speed. The X-E2S maintains its 7fps continuous burst, with the option of reducing this to 3fps for an unlimited number of frames when shooting JPEGs. It has a brisk 0.5sec start-up time when it’s set to high performance mode and the shutter lag time is rated at 0.05sec, much like the X-E2.

The X-E2S incorporates an electronic shutter that increases shutter speed from the maximum 1/4000sec available via the mechanical shutter to 1/32000sec in electronic mode. This also enables users to shoot entirely silently and is perfect when a situation requires you to work discreetly. Other new additions include a built-in interval timer for those with an interest in time-lapse photography, beginners can turn to a new Advanced SR Auto mode and Classic Chrome has been added to the suite of film simulation modes.

Fujifilm X-E2SThere’s little else new to report. The X-E2S inherits the same 0.5in real-time viewfinder from the X-E2, offering a high 2,360k-dot resolution, 0.62x magnification and what Fujifilm claims is the world’s shortest display lag time of 0.005secs. The EVF is positioned at the top left corner and below it you’ll find a fixed 3in, 1040k-dot LCD monitor. Both feeds present a crisp and clear view, but I did find the LCD benefits from increasing the brightness a touch.

Build and handling

The X-E2S might look like a carbon copy of the X-E2 with its magnesium die-cast top and front covers, milled metal top-plate dials and faux-leather plastic, yet on closer inspection you begin to notice a few subtle differences around the body.

Take the handgrip for example, which is redesigned in a similar fashion to the X-Pro2. The profile isn’t hugely different to the X-E2’s grip, but the new flat rubber section that has been added where your middle fingers lay to rest helps to improve the feel slightly over the X-E2’s faux-leather rubber grip.

IMG_0021On the top-plate the engraved metal dials that are used to manually control shutter speed and exposure compensation notch into place with a satisfying click and the on/off button wraps itself around the shutter button where there’s an inherent thread for attaching a traditional screw cable release. Towards the rear there’s a new plastic scroll dial, which is now finely grooved and doesn’t have the same high-pitched click when depressed. Anyone familiar with the X-E2 will notice the Macro and AF labelling has been removed above and below the Menu/Ok button. Compared to the X-E2, which offered four function buttons, there’s the option to customise seven buttons on the X-E2S – ideal for anyone who’d like to personalise the camera.

IMG_0030The X-E2S is suitable for both novice and enthusiast photographers. Beginners may want to use the new Auto SR mode that replaces what used to be the Fn2 button on the X-E2, however those looking to develop their photography will quickly find that the X-E2S encourages users to take manual control. To enter Program Mode you are required to set both the aperture and shutter speed to its ‘A’ setting. With the shutter speed set to ‘A’ mode and the aperture set via the aperture ring, the camera will actively perform in aperture priority mode, whereas with the aperture set to ‘A’ on the lens barrel and the shutter speed set via the dial, the X-E2 performs in shutter priority mode. It’s the same setup as with all Fujifilm X-Series cameras and though it might be a slightly different approach to the standard P, A, S, M shooting modes many will be used to on a DSLR, it doesn’t take long to get accustomed to.

Fujifilm X-E2SComparing the feel of the X-E2S with the X-Pro1 reveals just how much lighter and smaller it is. Those who don’t require the X-Pro2’s pro-level spec and muscular build quality will appreciate the gains to be had from the X-E2S’s smaller size. This does come at the expense of it feeling a touch nose-heavy though, particularly when it’s used with long lenses. During my testing I found small, lightweight primes such as the Fujifilm 35mm f/2, complemented the feel of the camera in the hand. Even the kit lens has a tendency to make the X-E2S feel a little front heavy after a prolonged spell of shooting. Although we’re yet to take delivery of Fujifilm’s new 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, I did get a chance to marry it with the camera. Just as I’d envisaged, the X-E2S felt rather awkward coupled to such a large telephoto zoom, emphasising my earlier point that overloading it will have an effect on the handling.

Performance

A 0.02sec improvement in focus acquisition speed might sound insignificant, yet a side-by-side comparison between the X-E2 and X-E2S revealed the difference is noticeable. After extensive testing I found the X-E2S is not only more responsive, but also more accurate at acquiring focus – something that became increasingly obvious when focusing between a near and far subject at the far end of the kit zoom. Increases in focus speed are always well received and the Zone and Wide/Tracking modes increase the chance of capturing a pin-sharp shot when tracking a moving subject across the frame. It’s also encouraging to see the focus speed and performance is now on a par with other current X-Series models in the range.

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The 7fps burst mode was used to capture this image of a lifeboat launching. 

The good news for existing X-E2 users is that these autofocus improvements aren’t exclusive to those who buy an X-E2S. Fujifilm has built a strong reputation for looking after its customers with new firmware updates and it’s reassuring to know there’s the option of downloading new firmware to bring the X-E2 up to the same level of performance as the X-E2S. The new firmware for the X-E2 doesn’t just enhance the AF speed, it adds almost all the benefits the X-E2S brings to the table, even the electronic function. I say almost, the only new feature not available to existing X-E2 users as part of a firmware 4.00 update is the new Advanced SR Auto mode and its dedicated button.

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Just like the X-E2, the X-E2S offers a superb selection of film simulation modes. This image was captured using the monochrome film simulation mode before it was edited in Adobe Lightroom.

The overall performance of the X-E2S is very good. The tried and tested combination of sensor and processor deliver natural and pleasing results straight out of the camera, helped by an equally capable metering system. In bright conditions I occasionally dialled in -0.3EV or -0.7EV to retain highlight detail and my only objection with the metering is that a histogram can’t be overlaid on screen or via the viewfinder when composing an image. Using the camera out of its high performance mode reveals it’s a bit sluggish coming back to life after it automatically switches off. To ensure you never miss a shot after the camera power down you’ll want to double check you’re shooting in high performance mode.

Image quality

Resolution

The X-E2S produces an identical level of detail to the X-E2, with a healthy 3200l/ph being resolved at ISO 100 and ISO 200. There’s a small drop to 3000l/ph between ISO 400 and ISO 1,600 and detail holds up very well in both raw and JPEG files at ISO 6400. The JPEGs at ISO 12,800 and above are unable to resolve the same detail as Raw files at lower sensitivities and with a drop to 2200l/ph at ISO 25,600 and ISO 51,200, these high sensitivities are best avoided.

Fuji_X-E2s_Res_100JPEG

Fujifilm X-E2S JPEG ISO 100

Fuji_X-E2s_Res_200RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 200

Fuji_X-E2s_Res_400RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 400

Fuji_X-E2s_Res_800RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 800

Fuji_X-E2s_Res_1600RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 1600

Fuji_X-E2s_Res_3200RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 3200

Fuji_X-E2s_Res_3200RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 6400

Fuji_X-E2s_Res_12800JPEG

Fujifilm X-E2S JPEG ISO 12800

Fuji_X-E2s_Res_25600JPEG

Fujifilm X-E2S JPEG ISO 25600

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Fujifilm X-E2S JPEG ISO 51200

Dynamic Range

It’s no surprise to find the dynamic range results are comparable to those recorded by other X-Series models that use the 16.3-million-pixel X-Trans CMOS sensor. There is plenty of latitude to return detail to shadow areas at lower sensitivities, with the X-E2S recording 11.5EV at ISO 200. Leverage remains above 10EV up to ISO 400, dropping to 9.3EV at ISO 800 and 8.4EV at ISO 1600. Pushing up to ISO 6400 sees a drop to 6.4EV – a similar result to the X-T1 and X-T10 at the same sensitivity setting.

X-E2S Dynamic Range

Fujifilm X-E2S Dynamic Range

Noise

The noise reduction that’s applied to JPEG files is very effective and it’s only when you shoot at ISO 6,400 and enter the realms of the expanded settings that softening becomes evident. Shoot in raw and you’ll notice luminance noise starts to creeps in at ISO 1,600, but it’s not severe enough to put you off using it and with some vigilant application of noise reduction in post it’s possible to achieve excellent results at ISO 3,200 and 6,400. Though the X-E2S can shoot a stop higher than the X-E2, images at ISO 51,200 resolve considerably less detail than the ISO 6,400 limit we’d be happy to push to when low-light conditions insist.

Fuji_X-E2s_Diorama_100JPEG

Fujifilm X-E2S JPEG ISO 100

Fuji_X-E2s_Diorama_200RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 200

Fuji_X-E2s_Diorama_400RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 400

Fuji_X-E2s_Diorama_800RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 800

Fuji_X-E2s_Diorama_1600RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 1600

Fuji_X-E2s_Diorama_3200RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 3200

Fuji_X-E2s_Diorama_6400RAW

Fujifilm X-E2S RAW ISO 6400

Fuji_X-E2s_Diorama_12800JPEG

Fujifilm X-E2S JPEG ISO 12800

Fuji_X-E2s_Diorama_25600JPEG

Fujifilm X-E2S JPEG ISO 25600

Fuji_X-E2s_Diorama_51200JPEG

Fujifilm X-E2S JPEG ISO 51200

Our verdict

The X-E2S reminds us of all the things we liked about the X-E2. It manages to improve on what we’ve seen before in more than one area, but the changes and modifications that have been made are minor rather than revolutionary.

It feels smaller and more compact in the hand than Fujifilm’s flagship X-Pro2, yet it upholds a strong build quality and the beautiful styling we associate with classic rangefinders of old. A competent performance and extremely pleasing results straight out of the camera back up its fine looks. It resolves the same level of detail and performs identically to the X-E2 through its sensitivity range, yet focuses perceptively faster, is better suited to tracking moving subjects and allows those who’d like to use wider apertures in bright lighting conditions to do so by taking advantage of the electronic shutter’s 1/32,000sec limit.

Untitled-3It’s great to see Fujifilm offering the same perks to existing X-E2 users and if you own the older model you’ll be thankful for the boost in performance without needing to spend any money to get it. To save a few pounds, there’s nothing to stop you buying an X-E2 in new or second-hand condition and then update it with the new firmware to get the same performance as the X-E2S. If you were to do this, the only things you won’t get are the engraved ‘S’ on the front panel and the one-touch auto mode button at the rear, which will be appreciated by beginners advancing from a simple point-and-shoot compact.

IMG_0261There are some, myself included, who hoped for slightly more from the successor to the X-E2, nevertheless the updates that have been made to the X-E2S have enhanced the performance, without treading too much on the X-Pro2’s toes. It’s an attractive proposition in the X-series for those seeking a camera with more retro appeal than theX-T10 or X-T1 and those who settle on it will quickly discover the images it produces complement its satisfying aesthetics.

Full specification

Details
  • Sensor:16.3-million-pixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II
  • Output size:4896×3264 pixels
  • Lens mount:Fujifilm X-mount
  • Shutter speeds:30-1/4000sec (1-1/32000sec electronic shutter)
  • ISO:200-6,400 (extendable to ISO 100-51,200)
  • Exposure compensation:+3EV in 1/3EV steps
  • Drive mode:7fps continuous shooting
  • LCD:3in LCD with 1.04 million dots
  • Viewfinder:0.5in with 2.36 million dots
  • Video:Full HD (1920×1080) @60/50/30/25/24p
  • Memory card:SD, SDHC, SDXC (UHS-I)
  • Power:NP-W126 (up to 350 shots)
  • Dimensions:129×74.9×37.2mm
  • Weight:350g (with battery and card)

(whatdigitalcamera.com, amateurphotographer.co.uk, http://goo.gl/Jcs9p0)

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