What is the Fujifilm X-E3?
For those who don’t demand all the bells and whistles of Fujifilm’s top-of-the-line models, but want all the charm and charisma of the X-series, the company’s slimmed-down versions of its more advanced cameras are very appealing, like the new Fujifilm X-E3. The Fujifilm X-E2 and Fujifilm X-E2S that followed the original X-E1 are great examples, and both have been well received by enthusiasts who’d like a retro-style rangefinder design camera for less money than buying an X-Pro2 from new.
Although the X-E2S did improve upon the X-E2 performance-wise, it was somewhat overshadowed by the X-Pro 2’s arrival. There were some people, myself included, who also felt the X-E2S was a rather modest update on the X-E2.
With the X-E3, Fujifilm has brought its latest model up to date with new functionality and a greater number of improvements, some of which we’re likely to see other X-series models inherit in the future. This suggests it could be one of today’s best vintage-inspired cameras for enthusiasts.
Fujifilm X-E3 – Features
Fujifilm has given the X-E3 a refresh with the same sensor and processor technology we’ve seen before. It inherits the 24.3-megapixel APS-C-size X-Trans sensor and X-Processor Pro high-speed image-processing engine as seen in the X-Pro2, X-T2 and X-T20.
This sensor and processor pairing has drastically improved response speeds in many areas, with a faster start-up time (0.4 seconds), shorter shutter lag time (0.05 seconds) and reduced shooting interval (0.25 seconds). In addition, there’s the option to shoot at a brisk 8fps using the mechanical shutter, or up to a blisteringly fast 14fps by engaging the X-E3’s electronic shutter.
The number of frames the X-E3 can shoot consecutively has also radically improved thanks to the employment of the new processor, with Fujifilm claiming the buffer can handle as many as 62 JPEGs or 23 uncompressed RAW files when shooting at 8fps.
The standard sensitivity range of ISO 200-12,800 is expandable to ISO 100-51,200, and where in the past you were forced to shoot in the JPEG format when shooting outside of the X-E2S’s native ISO range, it’s now possible to shoot RAW files at any sensitivity setting on the X-E3.
Ever since the X-Pro 2 and X-T2 were launched, we’ve become used to Fujifilm refining its autofocus algorithms and releasing firmware updates for users to take advantage of the fastest AF speeds possible. With the X-E3, Fujifilm has presented a newly developed image-recognition algorithm, which works in combination with the camera’s zone and AF-C modes. This allows for faster subject tracking and the option to track moving subjects half the size as before. The good news is that this autofocus update will also be made available to X-Pro2 and X-T2 users; however, it hasn’t been confirmed when – or if – it might come to the X-T20.
On the theme of autofocus, the X-E3’s hybrid AF system has a larger phase-detect area, with a greater number of single points. The 49 single AF points as offered by the X-E2 and X-E2S have been replaced by 91 points, expandable to 325, with the central area of 49 points using phase-detection AF pixels. Contrast-detection points are employed outside this area and there’s the usual single point and Wide/Tracking AF area modes to choose from – not forgetting Zone AF, which gives users the option to select between a group of 3×3, 5×5 or 7×7 AF points on a 7×13 grid.
Single and continuous AF modes are selected from the front of the body, and there are custom AF-C modes to enhance focus tracking when shooting moving subjects. However, you can’t adjust the tracking sensitivity, speed tracking sensitivity, or zone area switching to create a custom AF-C preset as you can on the X-T2.
Like the X-T20, the X-E3 boasts a 3in, 1.04m-dot screen that supports touch control. The big difference here is that it’s of the fixed type; it can’t be tilted. With the touchscreen activated, you’re given the option to control the position of the focus point or fire the shutter in shooting mode. In playback mode, you can use finger gestures as you would on a smartphone or tablet to scroll through shots and magnify images. Although it doesn’t allow you to navigate the main menu, it does feature something called ‘touch function’, which lets you use flick motions in any direction to activate pre-assigned functions – more on this later.
Above the screen there’s an off-centre 0.39-inch electronic viewfinder that features a 2360k-dot resolution with 100% coverage and 0.62x magnification. It provides dioptre adjustment and an eye sensor that can be used for automatic switching with the rear screen. The displayed information in the EVF rotates, depending on your shooting orientation, and there’s a view mode button beside it to switch between LCD-only, EVF-only or the eye sensor.
In an effort to make the X-E3 a better-connected camera, the X-E3 is the first X-series model to feature Bluetooth communication in addition to Wi-Fi connectivity. This is so it can form an instant wireless connection, leaving users to concentrate on what the camera does best – taking great pictures.
Elsewhere, users get the full suite of film-simulation modes to experiment with, and it follows in the footsteps of the X-T2 and X-T20 in the way it supports 4K UHD video (3840 × 2160 pixels) at 30, 25 or 24fps for a maximum duration of 10 minutes. Full HD (1920 x 1080) video at up to 60fps is also available, with the bit rate for 4K capture standing at 100Mbps.
Unlike the X-Pro2 that has twin SD card slots, the X-E3 has only one. There’s a 2.5mm mic port and HDMI (Type-D) micro connector for those who wish to improve audio quality and output recorded 4K footage to an external monitor.
Fujifilm X-E3 – Body and design
There’s much more to the X-E3 than the improvements made to its autofocus algorithm. The control layout sees some changes too, and rather than using the chassis of previous X-E models, the X-E3 sports a redesigned body that makes it the most compact and lightweight model with a viewfinder within the X-series lineup.
To put its weight into context, the body weighs around 100g less than the Fujifilm’s fixed-lens compact, the X100F. It’s considerably smaller than the X-E2S it replaces, and to ensure the handling hasn’t been affected, the depth of the grip is pretty much identical. It’s been designed to operate well in a single hand with small lenses, which is an important characteristic for any walk-around camera that might be used everyday.
It must be said that the X-E3 doesn’t handle as well as some other X-series models when it’s paired with Fujifilm’s largest and heaviest lenses. That said, an optional metal handgrip (£119) is available and is intended to improve the feel. Unfortunately, one wasn’t sent out with our review sample, so I’m unable to voice opinion on how the camera handles with the metal grip.
Compared to the X-E1, X-E2 and X-E2S, the rear of the camera seems rather stark. The reason for this is the four-way controller with central Menu/OK button has been removed and there are no longer any buttons found on the left of the screen. Instead, the X-E3 gains the same focus lever that debuted on the X-Pro2, which is positioned just to the left of where your thumb lays to rest. Its primary use is to nudge the focus point around the frame.
Below the focus lever you’ll find the Menu/OK, Disp/Back and playback buttons. If you’re wondering how the menu is navigated, the focus lever doubles up as a control that can be used to move through settings. It’s quite simply depressed to confirm a change.
Up on the top plate there are two knurled metal dials, one for shutter speed and the other for exposure compensation. The Auto mode selection lever is in easy reach of the thumb – ideal for less-experienced users who’d like the camera to choose the optimum settings for a given scene. To enter Program mode you’re required to set both the aperture on the lens 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; with the aperture set to ‘A’ on the lens and the shutter speed set via the dial, the X-E2 performs in shutter priority mode. This is the same arrangement that features on all Fujifilm X-series cameras, but it’s a little different to the common PASM shooting modes you find on a DSLR.
A customisable function button can be found to the right of the shutter button and there’s the now common ‘C’ setting on the exposure compensation dial that lets you take +/-5EV control using the front scroll dial. To check what it’s set to, you can glance at the exposure scale that’s presented on the left edge of the screen or EVF.
As for the level of customisation, the X-E3 lets you assign different operations to three buttons across the body, including no fewer than 35 options to the AF-L (focus lock) button located just above the Q (quick menu) button. The latter is the gateway to many of the X-E3’s frequently used settings, including ISO. However, as I’ve said many times before when I’ve reviewed Fujifilm cameras, scrolling the rear dial to the left to increase ISO and right to decrease it does seem rather odd – it feels like it should be the other way around.
To the left of the rear scroll dial are the AE-L (exposure lock) and drive mode buttons – the latter doubling up as the delete button in playback mode.
The overall fit and finish of the X-E3 is every bit as good as its price suggests. Body panels fit together seamlessly, it doesn’t creak when it’s squeezed tightly, and the magnesium alloy chassis gives it a strong, solid structure. I prefer it in its understated all-black guise, although others may decide to choose it in silver and black to compliment any silver lenses or other similar X-series models they may already own.