Fujifilm X-E3 review: A sound mirrorless camera
November 6, 2017
- - Supports Bluetooth in addition to Wi-Fi connectivity
- - Faster AF-C tracking in zone and tracking modes
- - Introduces Touch function to activate pre-assigned functions
- - Smaller and more compact than existing X-E-series models
- - Top-plate Fn button can be knocked when adjusting exposure compensation
- - Data port is USB 2 and micro-USB, rather than USB 3 and Type-C
- - Doesn’t handle particularly well with large zoom lenses
- - Fairly short battery life
Price as Reviewed:£849.00
Fujifilm X-E3 – Bluetooth connectivity
To activate the X-E3’s Bluetooth connectivity, enter the camera’s connection settings via the main menu, select ‘Bluetooth settings’ and 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 selecting X-E3 on your mobile device, the camera will ask if you’d like to set the date/time from the smartphone. Confirm this and the Bluetooth setup process is complete.
Every time the Camera Remote app is loaded from this point on, the camera and mobile device automatically connect (provided Bluetooth on both devices is turned on) – a process that takes about five seconds; after which the remote control, receive, browse camera and geotagging options in the app all become active.
These functions do require a Wi-Fi connection to work, but the good thing about Bluetooth is that it initiates the Wi-Fi connection faster when your device isn’t already connected to a Wi-Fi network. If it is then you’ll need to go into the Wi-Fi settings on the phone – there’s a shortcut from the app – to switch the wireless network to which the phone is connected before images can be transferred, or remote control of the camera is taken.
As well as being able to customise the X-E3’s function buttons to turn Bluetooth on and off, there’s the option to turn on Auto Image Transfer, which sends the latest batch of captured images to your mobile device the next time a connection is established. As is possible on other Fujifilm X-series cameras, a 3-megapixel resize option can be selected to keep transfers quick and file sizes small.
Fujifilm X-E3 – Viewfinder and screen
Compared to the complex hybrid viewfinder you’ll find on the X-Pro2, which combines the best of optical and electronic technologies into one, the X-E3’s is more rudimentary; it’s electronic only. Measuring 0.39in, it’s slightly smaller than the X-Pro2’s (0.48in) viewfinder, but offers the same resolution (2.36m-dot) as you get on the X-E2 and X-E2S.
When the EVF is raised to the eye it presents a crisp and clear viewing experience, with no obvious lag when you pan or recompose quickly. The beauty of the off-centre EVF is that it allows your left eye to wander at the same time it’s raised to your right eye, ensuring you don’t miss any spur-of-the-moment shooting opportunities.
Fujifilm has continued to differentiate its rangefinder-style cameras from its X-T series by equipping the X-E3 with a fixed screen as opposed to a tilting screen. If you know the latter would be beneficial to the type of images you like to take, you’ll be better off looking at the X-T20.
As far as touchscreen functionality goes, the X-E3’s screen is the most advanced we’ve seen from Fujifilm. What’s particularly nice about it is that it allows you to drag your thumb over the touch panel while your eye is raised to the EVF to 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 main menu or key exposure variables can be selected and adjusted by the tap of a finger.
Visiting the EVF touchscreen area settings from the menu lets you deactivate touch control altogether, if you’d prefer to use buttons and the AF toggle to operate the camera. It’s worth bearing in mind that if you do plan to use the touch functionality regularly, you’ll want to keep a screen wipe handy to keep it free of greasy fingerprints.
Fujifilm X-E3 – 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 claims the tracking speed is now twice as fast and is more effective at recognising smaller subjects in the frame. During Fujifilm’s presentation at the product launch, action sequences of fast-moving subjects and the speed at which the camera is capable of acquiring focus were shown, along with a schedule of when we can expect to see these improvements added to the X-T2 and X-Pro2.
X-T2 users can expect to benefit from the new image recognition algorithm and enhanced AF tracking via new firmware (version 3.00) from late November; X-Pro2 users will have to wait until late December to update their cameras with new firmware (version 4.00).
To test the new high-speed image recognition and subject tracking algorithms, I used the X-E3 to photograph a series of action shots of downhill mountain bikers. I opted for a wide focal length lens to find out how the camera would focus on a fairly 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 and 14fps.
The X-E3 proved that it’s more than up to the job of focusing on fast, yet relatively small subjects. Following the subject through the frame and keeping the mountain bikers within the boundary of the AF zone produced some sharp and satisfying results. Switching the X-E3 from its multi-purpose AF-C custom setting to Set 4 for suddenly appearing subjects further improved my hit rate of pin-sharp shots.
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 way a subject moves within the frame, how fast the subject moves, and where in the frame it prioritises focus. They’re purposefully designed to enable the autofocus to perform at its best in a host of different shooting scenarios.
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 come between a subject that’s in the process of 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.
Fujifilm X-E3 – Performance
The performance of the X-E3 has come on a long way from the X-E2S, and the hasty speed and accuracy of the autofocus system is what most existing X-E series users will notice straight away.
It was quite a surprise when Fujifilm introduced the same 91-point AF system found in the X-T2 into its enthusiast-friendly X-T20, and it’s great to see such a sophisticated autofocus system filtering down again, this time to the X-E3.
Mirrorless cameras gained a rather poor reputation for the speed at which they focused when solely relying on contrast-detection. However, this is no longer the case with hybrid AF systems, which make use of the speed of phase detection AF and combine it with the strong low-light performance of contrast detect AF.
With fast focusing, good coverage of AF points, a brisk start-up time and high-speed shooting, X-E3 users will struggle to find an excuse for missing a shot or letting any opportune moments pass them by.
Image quality and processing speeds also take a big leap in the right direction, thanks to the employment of the new sensor and faster processor. Users will be very satisfied by the reproduction of colour from the X-Trans CMOS III sensor straight out of the camera, and the JPEGs it produces are splendid so there’s no reason to be reluctant to use them.
The X-E3 has a very capable metering system, too, with more extensive exposure compensation control than in the past. The only thing I found in use was that my index finger naturally wanted to rest on the function button on the top plate when I adjusted the exposure compensation dial with my thumb. With this in mind, you’ll want to avoid pressing it by mistake – which is something I did on a number of occasions.
Although it doesn’t have the same number of customisable 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 in the menu and you’ll find you can assign different functions to the screen based on the direction you swipe your finger across it. These so called ‘touch functions’ work very well and bring a new way of working to the camera.
As an example, you can flick your thumb from right to left across the screen to instantly load ISO – or, alternatively, swipe your finger up from the bottom to quickly access the AF modes. The touchscreen can be used to scroll through the various settings in each function, and the Menu/OK button or AF toggle are again used to confirm any change.
One of the nicest things about the X-E3’s touch function feature is that it can be used when your eye is raised to the EVF. To make it even better, though, I’d have liked the screen to acknowledge a quick double-tap to sanction a setting change once it had been selected.
Anyone who tries shifting the AF point around the frame using the screen with their eye to the viewfinder will find it isn’t overly effective. There’s certainly room for improvement here; you’re better off using the AF toggle to shift the AF point precisely where you want it.
It’s also worth knowing that double-tapping the AF toggle returns the focus point back to centre, and that depressing the rear dial loads a magnified view of the focus area on-screen. This can be magnified further by scrolling the rear dial one click to the right.
The X-E3 was tested with three Fujinon lenses comprising the excellent 23mm f/2 R WR, 35mm f/2 R WR and 50mm f/2 R WR. These small primes pair up and handle very nicely with the petite size of the body. However, it’s important to stress the X-E3 isn’t weather-sealed and shouldn’t be expected to fare as well in poor weather or hostile environments as Fujifilm’s weather-resistant (WR) optics.
Fujifilm X-E3, Verdict:
Those who choose the X-E3 are unlikely to be disappointed with their decision. It’s a sound mirrorless camera that puts in a highly respectable performance.