Camera Test: Fujifilm X-E2

Fujifilm keeps the looks and boosts the imaging

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The X-E2 can capture high-definition video, but access to the movie mode is hidden away in the Drive Mode menu.

If any camera maker can be credited with making the retro rangefinder style so popular in recent years, it’s Fujifilm. Ever since the company created the X100, the first model in the X system, the company has been at the center of this style revolution.

The latest such camera, the X-E2, is an update to the X-E1. It has the same pixel count, 16.3MP, but uses the X-Trans CMOS II sensor found in the X100s in place of the first-generation X-Trans chip of its predecessor. Fujifilm also made some subtle but helpful changes to the camera’s controls and added Wi-Fi image sharing.

We subjected the X-E2 ($999, street, body only; $1,399 with 18–55mm f/2.8–4 Fujinon XF R LM OIS lens) to our rigorous analysis in the Popular Photography Test Lab and hands-on field use to see how the camera stacks up.

In the Test Lab

With more accurate color reproduction than its predecessor and slightly more resolving power, the X-E2 earned an overall image quality rating of Extremely High from its lowest sensitivity of ISO 100 through ISO 400, missing an Excellent rating due to resolution numbers just shy of 2500 lines.

As was the case in both the X-E1 and X100s, the X-E2 won’t let you shoot RAW images at ISO 100, 12,800, or 25,600. At those settings, it’s JPEG or nothing. We therefore conducted our tests on JPEGs for those settings, and used our normal method of testing RAW images converted (in the supplied software) to uncompressed TIFFs for ISO 200 through ISO 6400.

Despite their equal number of pixels, the X-E2 beat the X-E1 in our resolution test, providing 2475 lines per picture height at ISO 200, about 100 lines more than its predecessor. So the X-E2 gets an Extremely High rating here and remained in this ratings band through ISO 6400, where it turned in 2300 lines. At ISO 12,800, JPEGs yielded 2175 lines, while JPEGs at ISO 25,600 turned in 2075.

In our noise test, the X-E2 kept to a Low or better rating up to ISO 400. From there, noise rose quickly to a Moderate rating at ISO 800 and then Unacceptable at ISO 1600–25,600. This is very similar to what we saw in our test of the X-E1, though that camera fared a little better at ISO 1600 and a little worse at ISO 400.

From the test results, it seems the X-E2 applies more noise reduction to the JPEGs than the RAW converter’s default noise-reduction settings apply to the RAW images. To Fujifilm’s credit, though, its programmers varied the defaults, notching up the noise reduction on images at ISO 1600–6400. Of course, you can decide how much NR to apply to your files during RAW conversion.

Mimicking the X100s, the X-E2 reproduced color very accurately. It earned an Excellent rating with an average Delta E of 6.2.

In the Field

The X-E2 retains its predecessor’s solid-feeling metal body and, while some buttons’ functions have changed, the layout has not.

The camera still has a nice, understated, rubberized grip on the front. It won’t give you as secure of a hold as a big DSLR, but this is not meant to be a big DSLR, and it never felt as if it would fall out of our hands during field testing. The indentation on the front of the grip and the plastic ridge on the back for your thumb provide all the leverage you need to angle the camera when using any of the X-series lenses or most wide or normal primes you might mount using an adapter. Large teles would likely feel ungainly.

Of the relocated controls, we were happiest with the autofocus button moving to the right side of the camera back, just below the Menu/OK button; you no longer have to take your left hand away from the lens when changing AF points. Since the standard manual-focus assist zooms in on the currently selected AF point, this came in very handy when we mounted a Canon 50mm f/1.2 Leica screw-mount lens via an adapter: We kept one hand on the lens, did everything else we needed with the right hand, and got a shot quickly, painlessly, and in focus.

X-series cameras aren’t actually rangefinders, though the newer ones, including the X-E2, include a nifty digital split-image manual-focusing aid. This functioned just as well as it did in the X100s, proving very helpful. Focus peaking is also on hand, and can be set to High or Low sensitivity. (High-contrast lenses might work best at the Low setting; older glass from other systems, like our 50mm Canon, might need High.)

Fujifilm replaced the X-E1’s View Mode button with the quick menu button and filled the latter’s space with the autoexposure lock button—now separate from the autofocus lock button, which is helpful for anyone who doesn’t want to have to choose between the two. ISO still doesn’t technically have a dedicated button, but the default for the assignable Fn button next to the shutter release is ISO, and we left it that way for the majority of our field testing.

Video from the X-E2 was pleasing but exhibited more moiré than we’ve seen from some other cameras that similarly lack anti-aliasing filters. But we still think casual video shooters will be pleased with the footage.

Burst shooting tops out at 3 frames per second with full AF and metering between each shot. That’s not super fast, but given that rangefinder-style cameras generally aren’t designed for action, we weren’t expecting very fast bursts. Plus, you can amp that up to a speedy 7 fps if you ditch AF between shots.

The X-E2 improved on the X-E1’s focusing speed, thanks perhaps to the embedded phase-detection points on the new sensor. Still, it’s about average for a mirrorless camera. We never felt particularly hampered by this, but we also weren’t trying to shoot action-packed sports. Fujifilm’s own lenses provided faster AF than the Zeiss Touit primes we also used on the camera.

We found the X-E2’s Wi-Fi capability limited, though simple to use. You can very easily and quickly transfer an image from the camera to your phone, but you can’t control the camera remotely. Given how prevalent this capability has become in Wi-Fi-capable cameras, we think Fujifilm should add remote control. (It’s likely something that can be added with an update to the app, and possibly a firmware update to the camera.)

The Bottom Line

We definitely appreciate the improvements Fujifilm made over the X-E1, but depending on your style of shooting, they might not compel X-E1 owners to run out and replace their cameras. Shooters looking for a new alternative to a DSLR should be pleased, though.

Fujifilm continues to add appealing lenses to its cadre of glass. Most recently, it unveiled a 56mm f/1.2 lens with a field of view roughly equivalent to an 85mm lens on full frame—ideal for portraits. Meanwhile, Zeiss has also announced a 50mm f/2.8 macro for the X mount to accompany its other Touit lenses.

For shooters looking for a rangefinder-like experience without shelling out the GDP of a small island nation for a Leica, the Fujifilm X-E2 is a great place to start.

SPECIFICATIONS:
IMAGING: 16.3MP effective, APS-C-sized X-Trans CMOS II sensor captures images at 4896x3264 pixels with 14 bits/color in RAW mode
STORAGE: SD, SDHC, SDXC slot stores JPEG, RAF RAW, RAW + JPEG files
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode): 3 fps up to card capacity;
RAW: 3 fps up to 8 shots; RAW + JPEG: 3 fps up to 8 shots when using a Class 10 or higher memory card
AF: TTL contrast and phase detection with 49 selectable focus areas; single-shot and continuous AF with face detection and subject tracking
VIEWFINDER: Eye-level 2,360,000-dot 0.5-inch OLED
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 1/4000 to 30 sec, plus B (in 1/3-EV increments); shutter life not rated
METERING: TTL metering with 256-zone Multi (evaluative), centerweighted, spot (approximately 2% of the frame at center)
ISO RANGE: ISO 200–6400 (in 1/3-EV increments); ISO 100, ISO 12,800, and ISO 25,600 JPEG only
VIDEO: Records at up to 1920x1080p60 in H.264 format; built-in stereo microphone; 2.5mm stereo mic input; maximum clip length 14 minutes at 1920x1080 or 27 minutes at 1280x720
FLASH: Built-in pop-up; GN 23 (feet, ISO 200); flash sync to 1/180 sec; wireless flash control with Fujifilm external flashes
MONITOR: Fixed 3-inch TFT LCD with 1,040,000-dot resolution; 11-step brightness adjustment
BATTERY: Rechargeable NP-W126 Li-ion, CIPA rating 350 shots
SIZE/WEIGHT: 5.1x2.9x1.5 in., 0.8 lb with a card and battery
STREET PRICE: $999, body only; $1,399 with 18–55mm f/2.8–4 R LM OIS lens
INFO: www.fujifilmusa.com

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