Monday, March 2, 2015

Fujifilm X-E2 Review

Fujifilm X-E2 Review
March  2015, Carl Garrard
Fujifilm X-E2 Review - My review of the XE2 was completed using the latest firmware version 3.00, click on the text if you need to upgrade. My time with the X-E2 has been pretty extensive, and I've got a chance to be able to use just about every bell and whistle this camera offers, including the new features afforded by the new firmware of course. My review is somewhat short- this camera has been reviewed to death online but few reviews exist using the new firmware of course, so I'll be happy to comment on the camera in its current state based on that. This review follows up to my X-E2 preview article from August.

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Fujifilm X-E2 Review- Introduction



Fuji's X-E2 is a handsome, practical looking beast that has won the appraise and attention of many a photographer. Fuji's lens lineup is rapidly becoming one of the most extensive of all the major brands that offer mirrorless cameras- so there is plenty to put on the front of this camera. Its been around a while now, but that's quite ok- it's still selling well and with Fuji's newest firmware upgrade added, the toolbox just got larger. I personally like the addition of the time lapse feature the most, but I did have a play or two with the "Classic Chrome" color preset that mimics Kodak Kodachrome film.

While I do like the Classic Chrome output, I have to be forthright and say that I prefer to do my own post processing and not leave it up to the camera. Regardless, Fuji's out of the camera color profiles are some of the best on the market (if not the best) and I definitely recommend giving them a try.

And beyond the new firmware version, the XE2 is well specified. I've included the entire spec sheet in this review at the bottom for those interested in spec's. My perspective is that specifications are only part of the equation when making a consideration to purchase a camera. Fuji's XE2 is very capable of handling near all the tasks that I need, but is especially good as a street and travel camera I found.

Next to the Ricoh GR, its small alright.


Fujifilm X-E2 Review- Real Life Experience

Shooting with the XE2, I quickly ascertained that this is a camera best suited with a small prime lens. I found its rather heavy (but very well built) 18-55mm kit lens to detract from the wonderful rangefinder styled body. Balance and feel (handling) is very important to me when using a camera all day long. This camera body, with its minimal standard grip, just seems best suited for light lenses (the 16-50mm is a good option, its lighter and cheaper). When a small or light lens is attached, the XE2 is very comfortable to use and just feels at home.

Thin grip so hold on tight. This is a  light body actually, and much smaller than pictures give the impression of as shown side by side with the diminutive Ricoh GR. Oddly, the GR seems to have a better grip and I'd like to see Fujifilm improve the grip on a newer model. Fuji managed to squeeze in a very small pop up flash that can unofficially be held to shoot vertical for emergency bounce flash if you wish.


And that alone is why I feel the XE2 is a great travel or street camera. It surely can do many other tasks but it will excel in those two segments, and that is when I really enjoyed using the XE2 the most. I dragged the XE2 to Sedona Arizona with me back in August and it turned out to be well worth the effort.

The morning I was leaving (after a night of drinking and taking photos of the stars until 2am), one of the most beautiful sunrises I've ever seen presented itself to me and the XE2 came through in spades. I had forgot I left the camera on ISO 3200 and this scene below demanded all the dynamic range ISO 200 (its base) could muster up. I'm glad I remembered to check right before the scene peaked!

Reds are so hard to get right if you intend on properly exposing the rest of the scene- the XE2 did a fine job here.

What is key here is the massive amount of dynamic range available from the sensor that has very little penalty in the shadow regions when making adjustments. To put this entire range of light together in one shot is no easy task especially because of the reds involved. The red channel in general, will blow out way before any other channel in a digital camera, so only the best sensors can handle a wide range of light such as this, and still be able to produce a well exposed photograph with one shot. Impressive sensor.

Playing around with its other features is fun when I'm not so serious about shooting. Sometimes I just want to totally relax and take fun images for the hell of it. Its panorama feature is actually pretty well done and I managed to get a very decent shot with very few stitching errors on my second go at it.

Fujifilm X-E2 Review Not a bad view when drinking your coffee, is it? This is what Sedona does, it greets you this way. XE2 did the job I wanted it to do. 

What I also like about the XE2 is how quickly I found my way around the camera, and how well it performed as I did. Remember, I did not bring a manual with me, this was my very first go with this camera. I think that says something about a good design despite my photographic experience level.

Also worth note is that the XE2 doesn't seem to lack any of the popular features that photographers demand from digital cameras these days (quick menu, art filters, panorama, etc. etc..). It's nice that all those features are in there, but odd in another respect in that they don't seem fit into the simplistic sort of design that a rangefinder camera suggests. Its recent additions via firmware of the classic chrome film simulation and timelapse feature, add even more tools to play with and keep the value of the XE2 high to its buyers. Nice Fuji.

Provia preset in ACR with some additional saturation. The lens shows some vignetting in the extreme corners but this is very manageable in post to remove. I've left this image untouched in the correction category.

Back to the body, I have a few comments to make about it. First of all, the EVF. I thoroughly love the EVF on the XE2- its big, bright, refreshes instantly, and gives me all the information I need as a photographer. It auto switches too, which is a huge convenience.

Fujifilm X-E2 Review Excellent EVF and LCD, lots of excellent controls. I personally would prefer the AEL lock under my thumb, and the control wheel located in a different location, but that's just me and I did fine with the XE2 regardless.

Secondly, the body is full of tools and external controls that engage both hands, and once you've got used to Fujifilm's physical and digital layouts, it's a pleasure to use. Key here is to get used to Fujifilm as they approach design a bit different than the usual crowd. At first I wasn't sure that I'd like the way the XE2 handled, but after some time and patience it grew on me...sort of how a good music album sometimes does.

Fujifilm X-E2 Review No doubt the sensor is up to the task. The 18-55mm kit lens is good overall, but its a bit heavy on this body and I'm not convinced about the extreme corner performance. Its a nice lens don't get me wrong, but its weight and corner performance could be improved on a newer version. This was my view as I sipped a wonderful coffee in Sedona. This place is magical.


Its full of little fine touches such as a threaded shutter release for the screw in cables, manual shutter speed dial, custom buttons, AF assist lamp, rear scroll and click thumb operated control wheel, and much much more. The XE2 seems to be able to fit a lot of little niches for the photographer. A fusion between new and old, not an easy task to pull off.


In terms of noise performance, I found the XE2 to be an excellent performer at all ISO levels available for RAW recording (that's ISO 200-6,400). Base ISO has loads of dynamic range, ISO 6400 is definitely good enough for 11x14 prints or larger. Just superb. But, I do have a quibble- I'd like to see a wider range of ISO's available for raw recording, starting with ISO 100, and going up to 12,800 minimum. This would make the XE2 even more versatile.

Fujifilm X-E2 Review Heading out to Sedona, ISO 5000 no sharpening or noise reduction applied, early AM as indicated by the clock on the dash. No hesitation to ramp up the ISO when light gets low. Image stabilization did a pretty good job here, but not perfect.




Fujifilm are to be admired. In a very relative short time, they have aggressively added bodies and lenses to a camera division that less than half a decade ago was barely breathing life in the digital world. Although they still have work to do, there is no company out there right now that seems as dedicated to improving the overall digital experience more than Fujifilm. Their intentions are transparent from the CEO level downward, and that, is a very rare and special thing in this world.

The XE2 is but one of many excellent cameras from Fujifilm. It's certainly not perfect (I don't understand that grip for example) but it has so much going for it. All of the free firmware updates have really done it justice too- almost all bugs and irritations are completely gone from the initial version, and you're left with a camera that just gives you a wonderful shooting experience (just slap on the 27mm pancake prime and see if you disagree with me).

Performance wise, there's little to be desired. It's not going to be a camera to bring along to an NFL sideline, but its hardly to be confused as a sports camera anyways- unless you have mental issues. Reportage camera, yes, definitely good for this task- it's quick for sure... just don't expect focus tracking to blow you away. Single shot AF is extremely well implemented. But I digress, this camera excels as a street and landscape camera in my opinion, and is especially enjoyable to use with a small prime attached.

Image quality is superb, I have no complaints. I'd like a wider ISO range in Raw, but made due just fine within its limitations. At the minimum, ISO 100 would have been nice. Output impresses, and outweighs any niggle I have in this regard though. The XE2  makes excellent Jpegs allowing a very wide and comprehensive set of adjustments from noise reduction to dynamic range- and they all work well. if you like to retain detail, and tweak your Jpeg output, the XE2 will please you.

It has got to be said that I really like the colors this camera can produce, and the fact that Adobe Camera Raw has built in presets to support Fuji's renderings such as Velvia and Provia etc. What I don't like is how ACR has trouble with sharpening-clearly they still don't know how to deal with Trans X sensors. That said, the XE2 doesn't have an Anti-Alias filter so you don't have to post process "in" sharpening to the photo's. Just leave them alone! That's right, don't sharpen. Got to love cameras that don't have such a filter to blur fine detail.

Overall the XE2 is a different bird, but a good experience. And that I think is its charm. It's not going to give you this "purist" rangefinder experience its looks may suggest, but it's a very functional camera regardless that is speedy to operate, and produces excellent images. Its menu system is loaded, whether you use its "quick" menu, or otherwise. Clearly Fuji have listened to user feedback and wanted to give users everything and the kitchen sink too.

Small performance notes: Battery life is very good, not excellent but all day shooting good if you watch it. It's got an ultra sonic filter on the sensor that helps keep dust off, and that helps in the field. Overall operational speed is quick, there's no one situation where I recall waiting for the camera to complete a task. All three notes here are important in the field, and give the photographer an advantage.

Overall a camera I can recommend to the crowd who want a different experience to a DSLR and a high quality photo making machine. It's a bit pricey, even these days, but definitely packs a serious punch for your dollar.

-Carl Garrard

Side Note: Fujifilm and Adobe also need to get together and work more on how ACR communicates with their raw output. As briefly noted in the review, I found the X-Trans sensor to have some challenges in regards to getting the proper looking sharpness at 100% viewing. Just a thought. I made it work, however.



Fujifilm X-E2 Review: Full Specifications (Stock V1.00 F.W.) 



Model Name FUJIFILM X-E2
Number of effective pixels 16.3 million pixels
Image sensor 23.6mm x 15.6mm (APS-C) X-Trans CMOS II with primary color filter
Total number of pixels: 16.7 million pixels
Sensor Cleaning system
Ultra Sonic Vibration
Storage media SD memory card / SDHC memory card / SDXC (UHS-I) memory card*1
File format
Still image
JPEG (Exif Ver.2.3)*2, RAW (RAF format), RAW+JPEG (Design rule for Camera File system compliant / DPOF-compatible)
Movie
Movie File Format: MOV
Movie Video Compression: H.264
Audio: Linear PCM Stereo
Number of recorded pixels L: (3:2) 4896 x 3264 / (16:9) 4896 x 2760 / (1:1) 3264 x 3264
M: (3:2) 3456 x 2304 / (16:9) 3456 x 1944 / (1:1) 2304 x 2304
S: (3:2) 2496 x 1664 / (16:9) 2496 x 1408 / (1:1) 1664 x 1664

L: Vertical: 2160 x 9600 / Horizontal: 9600 x 1440
M: Vertical: 2160 x 6400 / Horizontal: 6400 x 1440
Lens mount FUJIFILM X mount
Sensitivity AUTO (Control available up to ISO6400)
Equivalent to ISO 200 - 6400 (Standard Output Sensitivity)
Extended output sensitivity: Equivalent to ISO 100, 12800 and 25600
Exposure control TTL 256-zone metering, Multi / Spot / Average
Exposure mode Programmed AE, Shutter Speed priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual exposure
Exposure compensation -3.0EV - +3.0EV, 1/3EV step
(movie recording : -2.0EV - +2.0EV)
Image Stabilizer Supported with OIS type lenses
Face Detection Yes
Shutter type Focal Plane Shutter
Shutter speed (P mode) 1/4 sec. to 1/4000 sec.,
(All other modes) 30 sec. to 1/4000 sec.
Bulb (max. 60 min.)
Time 1/2 to 30 sec.
Synchronized shutter speed for flash : 1/180 sec. or slower
Continuous shooting Approx. 7.0 fps (JPEG: max. approx. 28 frames, RAW / RAW+JPEG: max. approx. 8 frames)
Approx. 3.0 fps (JPEG:up to the capacity of the card, RAW / RAW+JPEG: max. approx. 8 frames)
  • * Use a card with SD Speed Class with class 10 or higher.
  • * The frame rate varies with shooting condition and the number of images recorded.
Auto bracketing AE Bracketing (±1/3EV, ±2/3EV, ±1EV)
Film Simulation Bracketing (Any 3 types of film simulation selectable)
Dynamic Range Bracketing (100% · 200% · 400%)
ISO sensitivity Bracketing (±1/3EV, ±2/3EV, ±1EV)
Focus
mode
Single AF / Continuous AF / MF Distance Indicator / AF+MF*3
type
Intelligent Hybrid AF (TTL contrast AF / TTL phase detection AF), AF assist illuminator available
AF frame selection
Area (EVF / LCD: 49 areas with 7 x 7) / Multi
  • * Changeable size of AF frame: among 5 types
White balance Automatic scene recognition
Custom / Color temperature selection (K)
Preset : Fine / Shade / Fluorescent light (Daylight) / Fluorescent light (Warm White) / Fluorescent light (Cool White) / Incandescent light / Underwater
Self-timer 10 sec. / 2 sec. Delay
Flash Manual pop-up flash (Super Intelligent Flash)
Guide number: approx 7 (ISO200 · m), approx 5 (ISO100 · m)
Flash modes
Red-eye removal OFF
Auto / Forced Flash / Slow Synchro / Suppressed Flash / Rear-curtain Synchro / Commander
Red-eye removal ON
Red-eye Reduction Auto / Red-eye Reduction & Forced Flash / Red-eye Reduction & Slow Synchro / Suppressed Flash / Red-eye Reduction & Rear-curtain Synchro / Commander
  • * Red-eye removal is active when Face Detection is set to ON.
Hot shoe Yes (Dedicated TTL Flash compatible)
Viewfinder 0.5-in., approx. 2.360K-dot OLED color viewfinder
Coverage of viewing area vs. capturing area : Approx. 100%
Eye point : approx. 23mm
Diopter adjustment : -4m-1 to +2m-1
Built-in eye sensor
LCD monitor 3.0-inch, aspect ratio 3:2, Approx. 1,040K-dot, color LCD monitor (Approx. 100% coverage)
Movie recording Full HD 1920 x 1080 60p / 30p, Continuous recording: up to approx. 14 min.
HD 1280 x 720 60p / 30p, Continuous recording: up to approx. 27 min.
  • * Use a card with SD Speed Class with class 10 or higher
Film Simulation mode 10 type (PROVIA/STANDARD, Velvia/VIVID, ASTIA/SOFT, Classic Chrome*3, PRO Neg Hi, PRO Neg. Std, MONOCHROME, MONOCHROME+Ye FILTER, MONOCHROME+R FILTER, MONOCHROME+G FILTER, SEPIA)
Dynamic range setting AUTO (100-400%), 100%, 200%, 400%
Advanced filter Toy camera / Miniature / Pop color / High-key / Low-key / Dynamic tone / Soft focus / Partial color (Red / Orange / Yellow / Green / Blue / Purple)
Other photography functions Auto Red-eye Removal, Setting (Color, Sharpness, D-range, Gradation), Select custom setting, Motion panorama, Color space, Framing guideline, Frame No. memory, Histogram display, Preview depth of focus, Lens Modulation Optimizer, Pre-AF, Focus check, Focus Peak Highlight, Digital Split Image™*4, Electronic level, Multiple exposure, Fn button setting (RAW, Movie, etc), Interval Timer Shooting*3
Playback functions RAW conversion, Image rotate, Red-eye reduction, Photobook assist, Erase selected frames, image search, Multi-frame playback (with micro thumbnail), Slide show, Mark for upload, Protect, Crop, Resize, Panorama, Favorites
Wireless transmitter
Standard
IEEE 802.11b / g / n (standard wireless protocol)
Access mode
Infrastructure
Wireless function Geotagging, Wireless communication (Image transfer), View & Obtain Images,Remote camera shooting*3, PC Autosave
Other functions PictBridge, Exif Print, Language selection, Time difference, High Performance mode, Silent mode
Terminal
Video output
-
Digital interface
USB 2.0 High-Speed
  • * connectable with Remote Release RR-90 (sold separately)
HDMI output
HDMI mini connector (Type C)
Others
Microphone / shutter release input: ΓΈ2.5mm, stereo mini connector
Power supply NP-W126 Li-ion battery (included)
Dimensions 129mm (W) x 74.9mm (H) x 37.2mm (D) / 5.1 in. (W) x 2.9 in. (H) x 1.5 in. (D)
(Minimum depth: 30.9mm / 1.2 in.)
Weight Approx. 350g / 12.3 oz. (including battery and memory card)
Approx. 300g / 10.6 oz. (excluding accessories, battery and memory card)
Operating Temperature 0°C - 40°C
Operating Humidity 10 - 80% (no condensation)
Battery life for still images*5
(approximate number of frames that can be taken with a fully-charged battery)
Approx. 350 frames (When XF35mmF1.4 R is set)
Battery life for movies*5
(approximate movie recording period that can be taken with a fully-charged battery)
single consecutive movie: approx. 110 min. (Face detection is set to OFF)
Starting up period Approx. 0.5 sec., when High Performance mode set to ON
Approx. 0.92 sec., when High Performance mode set to OFF
  • * Fujifilm research
Accessories included Li-ion battery NP-W126
Battery charger BC-W126
Shoulder strap
Body cap
Metal strap clip
Protective cover
Clip attaching tool
CD-ROM (Viewer software, RAW File Converter etc.*6)
Owner's manual
  • *1 Please see the Fujifilm website (http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/compatibility/card/x/) to check memory card compatibility.
  • *2 Exif 2.3 is a digital camera file format that contains a variety of shooting information for optimal printing.
  • *3 Firmware Ver.3.00 or later
  • *4 Digital Split Image is a trade mark or a registered trade mark of FUJIFILM Corporation.
  • *5 Approximate number of frames / period that can be taken with a fully-charged battery based on CIPA standard.
  • *6 OS compatibility
    Viewer software: Windows 8 / 7 / Vista / XP
    RAW File Converter: Windows 8 / 7 / Vista / XP, Mac OS X 10.6 - OS X 10.8

5 comments:

  1. It's, its - two different meanings.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Mike for pointing out some missed editing, it's all fixed now :).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Informative and enjoyable review.

    ReplyDelete