Skip to TLDR (too long didn’t read) section if you don’t want read a few ramblings.
In The Beginning
When Fujifilm came out with the X100 and X-Pro1, a lot of people’s heads turned. I was one of them. Here came two compact cameras that brought some unique and innovative technologies to the table trying to steal the conventional SLR’s thunder. You see, I was never really interested in compact mirrorless cameras before as I was too much of a fan of the big SLR form factor and add to that, the fact that even though APS-C sensor sized mirrorless cameras popped up, the image quality wasn’t really anything different than their SLR counterparts and their physical design was to say the least, uninspired. They basically looked like point and shoot cameras that felt and controlled like point and shoot cameras – clumsy, bad ergonomics and menu driven. The X100 and X-Pro1 changed that for me. These were compact cameras that were designed and built to not only to look good, but also be highly intuitive and functional from the get-go by putting most of the main controls as physical buttons and dials just like the old rangefinders of days past. They also came with the X-Trans sensor that proved to people that innovation was still possible with APS-C sensors. Unfortunately, there was one thing that was missing from Fujifilm’s first two cameras that prevented me from fully considering them – they lacked an electronic release port for use with timers and intervalometers. And seeing that I mainly shoot landscapes, this was a deal breaker for me. Then came the X-E1.
The X-E1 changed how I felt about the whole mirrorless, compact camera segment. Sure, it was meant to be the more affordable mid-tier product as it lacked the high-tech hybrid Optical/EVF and only the top and front plates are made of magnesium alloy that encased the X-Pro1. However, it also brought with it a smaller and lighter body, a higher resolution EVF and a bit snappier camera performance. And for those of you who think different, the build quality is still top notch and I know so by first hand experience. Not many people know this, but I kinda unintentionally performed a major drop test on the X-E1 back when Fujifilm lent me the first unit to try out before I joined the X-Photographers team. Long story, short; my 3rd party neck strap snapped and the camera flew chest high across a particularly hard Hong Kong subway platform where the impact caused it to bounce toward the adjoining wall enlisting tiny shreaks from passing locals. I can’t even begin to describe the dread I felt in those 3 seconds. Luckily though, apart from a not even obvious scratch on the magnesium top plate where it first landed, there wasn’t any damage whatsoever. Try that with an SLR. And finally, the X-E1 was designed not only to be able to use the traditional mechanical plunger for bulb exposures on its shutter release, its mini USB and Mic-in ports acted also as electronic cable release ports accepting both the RR-80 based triggers and the 2.5mm jack triggers being used by other manufacturers like the Phottix Aion which I’ve been using.
And this was the camera I was waiting for. Not only does the X-E1 have great build, great looks, is compact yet with uncompromising image quality, isn’t a menu driven camera and does not weigh like a back-straining DSLR; I also find a certain enjoyment everytime I use it that I can’t really explain. It’s just a fun camera to use. Just ask anybody else who uses it.
But despite that, it still had its quirks just like everything else in this world. For starters, the EVF and LCD performance in low light isn’t exactly gathering plus points. The EVF I could live with because since the inception of live view and higher resolution screens, I have probably used my DSLR cameras’ viewfinders about only 10-15% of the time. I rely on the LCD mostly since it’s far easier for me to frame with it with my landscape work especially with low angle shots. Second, autofocus performance though a bit improved from the X100 and X-Pro1, isn’t really described as blazingly fast. Again, it isn’t a problem for me since I don’t track moving objects in landscapes and my shooting style with travel photography is more about waiting for the shot than chasing it. The X-E1 also doesn’t have the ability to set the minimum shutter speed in AutoISO which results in some blurred handheld shots here and there because the camera is selecting a slower than optimal shutter speed if you tend to us aperture priority a lot. It also has some other minor UI things that could use some work.
In the course of the X-E1’s life, it has been constantly receiving firmware updates to resolve some of these issues including AF performance increases both on the body and lenses, addition of requested features like the 2nd function button to better control AF Point selection, and the addition of focus peak highlighting to name a few. Fujifilm is probably one of the companies who really listen to its customers. And this principle is what shaped the X-E1’s evolution, the brand new Fujifilm X-E2.
Most of the new features put into the X-E2 are based on customer feedback. It not only addresses most of the quirks the X-E1 had, it also brings in the features from just about every recent X camera that came out. Think X-E1 + X100s + X-M1. Of course, it doesn’t have a tilting LCD and the hybrid Optical/EVF which are still reserved for the other camera segments. I have probably taken too much of your time now so here’s what’s changed with the Fujifilm X-E2. Keep in mind though that I’m using a pre-production sample unit with firmware 1.58. Some features may change in the final production units and firmware revisions.
The New Stuff:
- 16 megapixel APS-C X-Trans Cmos II sensor
- Uses the EXR II engine with 14 bit Raw support.
- 49 point Hybrid TTL Contrast Detect autofocus / 86,000 pixel TTL Phase Detect autofocus covering 36% of the central area of the sensor. Face detection AF.
- Improved continuous/predictive AF tracking.
- 2.36M dot EVF with improved refresh rate at -2EV low light now running at 50fps vs the X-E1’s 20fps
- Addition of Digital Split Image for manual focus assist along with Focus Peak Highlight.
- Lens Modulation Optimizer which corrects diffraction effects from using small apertures through in-camera software algorithms. Works with firmware updated XF and XC lenses.
- Max continuous shooting speed of 7fps, 28 JPEG buffer vs the X-E1’s 6fps, 19 JPEG.
- Movie recording can now be done in 30fps or 60fps in both 1080p and 720p. The X-E1 only topped out at 24fps in 1080p and 720p. Bitrate is now at 24mb/s or higher.
- Larger 3″ LCD with higher resolution at 1040k dots under tempered glass which is a major improvement over the X-E1’s 2.8″ 460k dot LCD.
- Wifi File Transfer to Android and iOS devices as well as direct to PC autosave.
- Super Intelligent Flash system.
- MicroUSB data port with RR-90 release cable compatibility.
- Advanced JPEG Filters.
- +/- 3EV exposure compensation dial and +/-2EV flash compensation vs +/-2EV exposure and +/-(2/3)EV flash for the X-E1.
- Exposure preview in Manual mode
Initial impressions and thoughts
Some things haven’t changed from the X-E1 like build is still the same compact magnesium alloy/ polycarbonate combination. ISO range is still from 200-6400 in RAW and only extends to 100 -25600 in JPEG; and the fastest shutter speed is still 1/4000s. Some features though, got quite upgraded a bit. Autofocus performance has noticeably improved especially in low light, low contrast scenes mostly due to the addition of the new Phase Detect AF. There is also a new Pre-AF setting that works similar to continuous AF which prefocuses on the subject under the AF point presumably to avoid or shorten any AF hunting. And another inherited feature from the last few X series cameras is that the minimum shutter speed is now selectable with AutoISO.
The EVF also looks the same but now the refresh rate is much higher. The X-E1 suffered significantly from EVF lag / low refresh rate especially in low light and the X-E2 seems to have addressed this problem. 20fps vs 50fps.
Actually, the first thing that I checked when I first held the X-E2 was the power switch. The power switch is is no longer as easy to flip open which should solve accidental powering on that was constant problem I had with the X-E1. Fujifilm also made some other small but significant hardware and software control changes to X-E2. Most apparent of which is the new +/-3EV exposure compensation dial which really comes in handy in those extreme contrasting light situations. The shutter speed dial also gains a 180x setting for flash sync while the FN button has a Wi-Fi mark to indicate it functions as one-touch wifi transfer in playback mode.
The AE/AL lock button is now independent of each other too for greater AF and exposure control. It’s still possible to toggle both through the AF-L button if you so choose it in the menus. The Q button has also moved to where the View Mode button used to be in order to prevent accidental toggles when using the AF-L button. Curiously, the View Mode button looks to have been dispensed of entirely. I use that button a lot on the X-E1 so I don’t quite know how I feel about this design decision yet. One thing that helps though is a new EVF mode setting – “EVF + Eye Sensor” where the LCD is disabled and all previews and playback is done through the EVF and it only activates when you’re eye is on the EVF (or something triggers the eye proximity sensor). This should be quite helpful in conserving battery life and great for long exposure and night photography because you couldn’t really disable the displays on the X-E1 as it was constantly showing the bulb timer. Do note that once you start your bulb exposure with the EVF off, there is no way to activate and see the bulb timer until you use the EVF and start a new bulb exposure with the EVF engaged. Shouldn’t be a big deal if you have remote triggers with a display, again, like the Phottix Aion.
There are also four customizable function buttons now – Fn1, Fn2, AF and AE! All of which are easily switchable to other functions just by holding down the buttons for 3 seconds or so. Fn2 by default is assigned to be a dedicated White Balance button. Long pressing also works for the menu button which enables or disables the lock out for the directional, AF-L and AE-L buttons. When also within the AF point selection menu, pressing the Back button now re-centers the AF point and the OK button confirms the selection instead of the other way around. You can even zoom in 4x in AF mode now by pressing the command dial which could only be done in MF mode previously.
I’m happy to finally see a working exposure preview in full manual mode now! Even the live histogram reacts better to changing exposure settings. This was probably one of the few things I miss about my old dslr. Another great thing they fixed is that the last shutter speed selected (T mode) is no longer reset when the camera goes on standby or turned off which happened more often than not for me.
There is a new onscreen focus indicator visible on the lower left part of the LCD/EVF. Before, AF confirmation was done with the AF point turning green which in bright scenes was hard to see. You still can’t disable operation sounds without disabling the AF confirm sound apparently. They also redesigned the distance indicator in manual focus to be not obtrusive as on the X-E1.
Other stuff to note:
- You can now lock the exposure with the A-EL button when Manual Focusing
- Zooming in playback mode of vertically oriented photos with “Autorotate PB” set to on is now done fullscreen.
- Setting “Image display” to on now displays the image on the LCD when your eye leaves the EVF.
- Now uses the newer RR-90 (microUSB) jack for remote triggering instead of the RR-80 (miniUSB)
- The 2.5mm mic-in jack can still function as a release trigger port.
- Determined ISO by camera with AutoISO is now displayed when you press the A-EL button.
- Delete zoomed images in playback
- Aperture and shutter speed can be changed with AE-L on and still maintain exposure.
- The shooting and playback menu settings can now be reset independent of each other.
- The X-E2 still uses the same NP-W126 battery that is used by the X-Pro1, X-E1, X-M1, and X-A1.
I will reserve any comments about image quality till after I run it through a proper shoot but all-in-all, I’m happy and welcome all the improvements implemented on the X-E2. Physically, it looks like the same camera, but only after using it will you realize the differences and improvements are significant. It addresses a lot of the concerns actual users have pointed out with the X-E1 and to top it off, Fujifilm has managed to merge some of the great features of the last few X series cameras into it as well.
I’ve only had the unit for about a week now and I can’t wait to finally test it out in the field. Also, the great guys at Vanguard and Phottix Philippines sent over some awesome stuff that I will be showing you in the next few days and I will be working them along with X-E2 as I head to the land of BB cream and Kimchi in a few hours from postings this. See you guys then. :)