Fujifilm X-E3 Mirrorless Digital Camera Review

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For those who don’t need the bells and whistles of Fujifi lm’s top-of-the-line models, but want all the charm of the X series, the slimmed-down versions of the manufacturer’s more advanced cameras are very appealing. The Fujifilm X-E2 and X-E2S are great examples, but although the X-E2S did improve upon the X-E2 in terms of performance, it was somewhat overshadowed by the X-Pro2’s arrival. Many also felt the X-E2S was a somewhat modest update on the X-E2. With the Fujifilm X-E3, it has brought its latest model up to date with new functionality and more improvements, some of which were likely to see other X-series models inherit. This suggests it could be one of today’s best vintage-inspired cameras for enthusiasts, but is it?

Fujifilm X-E3
Fujifilm X-E3

FUJIFILM X-E3 FEATURES

Unsurprisingly, the Fujifilm X-E3 features the same 24.3-million-pixel APS-C-size X-Trans sensor and X-Processor Pro high-speed image-processing engine that’s used in the Fujifilm X-Pro2, X-T2, and X-T20. This pairing has drastically improved response speeds, with a faster start-up time (0.4sec), shorter shutter lag time (0.05sec) and reduced shooting interval (0.25sec). In addition, you can shoot at a brisk 8fps using the mechanical shutter or up to a blisteringly fast 14fps by engaging the electronic shutter. The amount of frames the Fujifilm X-E3 can shoot repeatedly has also totally improved, with Fujifilm claiming the buffer can handle more than 62 JPEGs or 23 uncompressed raw files when shooting at 8fps. The standard sensitivity range of ISO 200-12,800 is extendable to ISO 100-51,200, and whereas 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 Fujifilm X-E3.

Since the X-Pro2 and X-T2 were launched, we’ve got used to Fujifilm refining its autofocus algorithms and releasing firmware updates for users to take advantage of the fastest AF speeds possible. With the Fujifilm X-E3, Fujifilm presents a newly developed image-recognition algorithm that works in combination with the camera’s zone and AF-C modes, allowing faster subject tracking and the option to track moving subjects of half the size as before. The good news here is that this autofocus improvement will also be made available to X-Pro2 and X-T2 users later this year, although it hasn’t been confirmed if or when it might come to the X-T20.

On the theme of autofocus, the Fujifilm X-E3’s hybrid Autofocus system has a bigger phase-detect area, with a larger number of single points. The 49 single Autofocus points as found on the Fujifilm X-E2 and X-E2S have been replaced by 91 points expandable to 325 – with the central area of 49 points using phase-detection Autofocus pixels. Contrast-detection points are employed outside this area and there are 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 like on the X-T2.

Fujifilm X-E3 DisplayThe Fujifilm X-E3 boasts a 3in, 1.04-million-dot screen with touch control. However, it’s fixed and can’t be tilted. With the touch screen activated, you can control the position of the focus point or fire the shutter in shooting mode, while in playback mode you can use finger gestures as you would on a smartphone. Though it regrettably 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.

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Above the screen, the X-E3’s off-center 0.39in electronic viewfinder has a resolution of 2,360k dots 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 to switch between LCD only, EVF only or the eye sensor. In an effort to make it better connected and more efficient in terms of battery use, the Fujifilm X-E3 becomes the first X-series model to feature Bluetooth wireless communication in addition to Wi-Fi connectivity. Elsewhere, users get the full suite of film-simulation modes, and the camera supports 4K UHD video (3840×2160 pixels) at 30, 25 or 24fps for a maximum duration of 10 minutes. Full HD (1920×1080) video at up to 60fps is also available using the full width of the sensor, with the bitrate for 4K capture standing at 100Mbps.

There’s only one card slot, but there are 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.

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FUJIFILM X-E3 SPECIFICATION

ManufacturerFujifilm
Model NameX-E3
Resolution24.30 MP
Sensor SizeAPS-C (23.6mm x 15.6mm)
Kit Lens3.06x zoom 18-55mm
ViewfinderEVF / LCD
Native ISO200 - 12,800
Extended ISO100 - 51,200
Shutter Speed1/32000 - 900 Sec
Max Aperture2.8 (Kit Lens)
Dimensions(121 x 74 x 43 mm)
Weight337 gm (Includes Batteries)
AvailabilitySeptember, 2017

BUILD AND HANDLING

Rather than using the chassis of previous X-E models, the Fujifilm X-E3 sports a redesigned body that makes it the most compact and lightweight model with a viewfinder within the X-series interchangeable-lens lineup. The body weighs 100g less than the X100F and it’s considerably smaller than the X-E2S. To ensure handling isn’t affected, the depth of the grip is almost identical. It goes without saying the X-E3 doesn’t handle particularly well with Fujifilm’s large and heavy telephoto zooms, but there is a metal handgrip (£119) available that improves the form factor and ergonomics marginally.

Evaluated to the Fujifilm X-E1, X-E2, and X-E2S, the back of the camera seems quite 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 alongside the left of the screen. As an alternative, the X-E3 gains the similar focus lever that debuted on the X-Pro2, which is located just to the left of where your thumb rests and is used to push the focus point around the frame. Below you’ll find the Menu/OK, Disp/Back and playback buttons. If you doubt how the camera menu is navigated, the focus lever doubles up as they manage that is used to move during settings and is depressed to confirm a change. On the top plate are two knurled metal dials, one for shutter speed and the other for exposure compensation. A customizable 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 manage using the front scroll dial and make sure what it’s set to via an exposure scale on the left edge of the EVF and screen.

As for the level of customization, the Fujifilm X-E3 lets you allocate different operations to 3 function buttons across the camera body, including no fewer than 35 options to the AF-L (focus lock) button, which is found just above the Q (quick menu) button. The latter is the access to many of the X-E3’s frequently used settings, including ISO, but scrolling this back dial to the left to increase ISO and right to decrease it does take a bit of time to get used to if you’re new to the X series. To the left of the rear scroll, the dial is the AE-L (exposure lock) and drive mode buttons the latter doubling up as the delete button in playback mode. The overall finish of the camera is every bit as good as its price suggests. Body panel’s fit together seamlessly, it doesn’t creak when squeezed and the magnesium alloy chassis is solid. Though I personally prefer it in its all-black guise, others may prefer silver and black to complement any silver lenses or other similar X-series models they may already own.

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VIEWFINDER AND SCREEN

Compared to the X-Pro’s complex hybrid viewfinder that combines the best of optical and electronic technologies into one, the X-E3’s is more rudimentary in that it is only electronic. Measuring 0.39in, it’s smaller than the X-Pro2’s (0.48in) viewfinder, offering the same resolution (2.36 m-dots) as you get on the X-E2 and X-E2S. When it’s raised to the eye, it presents a crisp and clear viewing experience with no lag when you pan or need to recompose quickly. The off-center position of the EVF allows your left eye to wonder when the camera is raised to your right eye; however, if you’re a left-eye shooter you may find the screen gets a bit grubby when your nose rests against it.

Fujifilm has gone on with to differentiate its rangefinder technique cameras from its X-T series by equipping the Fujifilm X-E3 with a fixed display as opposed to a tilt screen if you prefer the latter; you’ll be better off looking at the X-T20. As far as touchscreen functionality goes, the X-E3’s screen is as advanced as we’ve seen from Fujifilm to date. What’s particularly good about it is that you can drag your thumb over the touch panel while your eye is raised to the EVF and change the focus position. Entering the quick menu also gives you the option to select different settings by touch, but it hasn’t yet got to the point where the menu or key exposure variables can be adjusted by the tap of a finger.

In the EVF touch screen area settings, you can activate touch screen operation for all, right, left or turn it off altogether. If you use the touch functionality, you’ll want to keep a screen wipe to hand to keep the screen clean.

Autofocus The upgrade of the image recognition algorithm is designed to bring improvements to the accuracy and response of the X-E3’s AF-C zone and tracking modes. Fujifilm declares the tracking speed is now double as fast and is more useful at recognizing smaller subjects in the frame. X-T2 users can expect to benefit from these improvements via new firmware (version 3.00) from late November, whereas X-Pro2 users will have to wait until late December for version 4.00.

To test the new high-speed image-recognition and subject tracking Algorithms, I took a series of action shots of mountain bikers.

I opted for a fairly wide lens to find out how the camera would focus on a small subject entering the frame, and set the camera to Zone AF and continuous high (CH) shooting mode, before rattling off several bursts at 8fps using the mechanical shutter.

The Fujifilm X-E3 proved that it’s more than up to the job of focusing on fast, relatively small, subjects. Following the subject through the frame and keeping the mountain biker within the boundary of the AF zone produced very sharp results. Switching to Set 4 for suddenly appearing subjects further improved my hit rate. The X-E3’s AF-C custom settings will be well received by those who’d like to fine-tune how the camera reacts to the speed and movement of a subject, and where in the frame focus is prioritized. The default ‘Set 1’ multi-purpose mode is used when no specific AF-C custom setting is selected. Set 2 is designed to ignore obstacles that appear in front of a subject that’s being tracked, whereas Set 3 is intended for focusing on subjects that accelerate or decelerate towards the camera. As mentioned above, Set 4 is best used for erratic subjects that suddenly enter the frame, while Set 5 is intended for obtaining optimum settings for accurate subject tracking.

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Performance The performance of the Fujifilm X-E3 has come a long way from the X-E2S; it’s the improvements to the AF speed and response that X-E series users will notice first. It was quite a surprise when Fujifilm introduced the same 91-point AF system that’s found in the X-T2 into its more enthusiast-friendly X-T20, and it’s Great to activate Bluetooth connectivity, enter the camera’s connection settings via the main menu, select ‘bluetooth settings’, then click on ‘pairing registration’. From here you’re prompted to load Fujifilm’s Camera Remote App on Your mobile device and select the pairing registration option. After choosing E3 on your device, the camera will request if you’d like to place the date/time on the smartphone. Confirm this and the Bluetooth set-up process are complete.

From now on, each time the Camera Remote app is loaded, the camera and mobile device automatically connect (provided Blue tooth on both is turned on). It takes about 5 seconds for the remote control, receives, and browses camera and geotagging options to become active. These functions require a Wi-Fi connection to work, but the good thing about Bluetooth is it initiates the Wi-Fi connection faster, provided your device isn’t already connected to a Wi-Fi Network. If it is, you’ll need to go into the Wi-Fi Settings on the Phone to change the wireless network the phone is connected to. As well modifying the X-E3’s role buttons to turn Bluetooth on and off, there’s the alternative to turn Auto Image move on, which sends the last batch of Images the Mobile device the next time a link is established. As on other Fujifilm X-series cameras, a 3MP resize option can be selected to keep file transfers quick while not filling up memory space too quickly to see such a sophisticated autofocus system filtering down again, this time to the Fujifilm X-E3. Mirrorless cameras garnered a rather poor reputation for the speed at which they focused when they solely relied on contrast detection, but that’s no longer the case with hybrid AF systems, and any-E3userswillstruggletofind an excuse for missing a shot. Image Quality and Processing speeds have also taken a big leap forward, and the X-Trans CMOS II sensor’s JPEGs are exceptional.

The Fujifilm X-E3 Has a Very Capable metering system, too, with extensive exposure compensation control. The only thing I found was that my index finger naturally wanted to rest on the function button on the top plate when adjusted the exposure compensation dial with my thumb. With this in mind, you’ll want to avoid pressing it by mistake– something I did end up doing on a number of occasions.

Although it doesn’t have the same number of custom function buttons as the X-E1, X-E2 or X-E2S, the X-E3 does benefit from the most sophisticated touchscreen we’ve seen so far on an X-series model. Enter the function (Fn) settings the menu and you’ll find you can assign different functions to the screen based on the direction you swipe your finger across it. The Touch functions’ bring a new way of working the camera. You can flick your thumb from right to leave the screen to instantly load ISO, or swipe your finger up from the bottom to access the AF modes. The touchscreen can be used to scroll through the various settings in each function and the Menu/OK button or toggle is used to confirm any change.

One of the nicest things about this functionality is that it can be used when your eyes raised to the EVF, the button makes it even better I would have liked it to acknowledge a quick double-tap on the screen to sanction a setting change.

Anyone who tries shifting the AF point around the frame using the screen with their eye to the viewfinder wills find it’s not particularly effective. To shift the AF point precisely, you’re better off using the AF toggle. It’s Also Worth knowing double-tapping the AF toggle returns the focus point back to center while depressing the rear dial loads a magnified view of the focus area on the screen, which can be further magnified by scrolling the rear dial one-click the right.

I tested the Fujifilm X-E3 with The 23mm f/2 R WR, 35mm f/2 R WRand50mmf/2RW lenses, Which handle very nicely with such Appetite body, but it’s important to stress that the X-E3 is not Weather sealed and shouldn’t be expected to fare as well in poor conditions as Fujifilm’s weather-resistant bodies.

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