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Fujifilm X-E2: First Look


Fuijfilm X-E2: First Look

Around a week ago, and just a few days before I released my X-E1 review, Fujifilm announced the upgrade to the hugely popular model in their mirrorless X-series lineup: the Fujifilm X-E2. At first it doesn’t appear to be significantly different in any way – not on first glance, at least – but looking through the highlights of Fuji’s press release, the few improvements look rather important, and could make the X-E2 an even better camera than the wonderful X-E1 already is.  I’ll be trying to dig around and find out exactly how ‘upgraded’ the X-E2 really is compared to its predecessor, sharing all my findings with you here, and that’s what this post is all about. Keep reading!

Alright, so the basic idea of the Fujifilm X-E2 is to take the best of the already-wonderful X-E1, add a few (or many) enhancements and some newer tech into it, and make it as close to perfection as they can manage. Sounds fantastic – just what an upgrade should be – but did they pull it off?

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

Well, on first glance, it appears so. The biggest (and only real) flaw of the X-E1 for me has to be the AF system (and I doubt it’s just me who feels that way) and the X-E2 addresses this by introducing the new X-Trans II sensor with on-chip phase detect autofocus (PDAF) – that, together with the regular (and probably improved) contrast detect AF (CDAF) technology, creates the new Hybrid AF system that Fujifilm claims to be the ‘world’s fastest’. Big claim – don’t take it literally just yet – but it really makes you believe the autofocus issues have been properly addressed

Apart from that, the newer EXR II processor, will help boost performance in every other way (shot-to-shot speed, burst shooting) while keeping basic operation nice and snappy. Not that the X-E1 was slow in these areas, but improvement in speed is always a good thing. The LCD has also been upgraded, WiFi has been included, video has been improved, and the control layout has slightly been changed

All this, for $399 more than the X-E1 goes for – for the kit. Is it worth it? Well, if it all works as is claimed, and you’re in the market for a new mirrorless system, it’s definitely worth it. But remember that this is all just on paper yet. There are no full reviews out right now, nor have I even touched the camera at this time – so if I were you (and especially if you’re upgrading from the X-E1) I’d wait for more solid evidence. Read on, though – I’ve done a bit of digging around to get as much information on this camera as I could!

Ordering/Pre-ordering Links: Fujifilm X-E1 on Amazon and Fujifilm X-E2 on Amazon / or get Fujifilm X-Series on B&H Photo

If you’re impatient and you’re buying it today – pre-ordering is already open: it’ll ship on November 20th. Please use my links above if you’re getting it. But seriously – wait a bit

Specifications You Would Want To Know

  • Body: Rangefinder-style, magnesium alloy/polycarbonate
  • Lens Mount: Fujifilm X Mount
  • Image Stabilization: No (lens-based IS)
  • Resolution: 16 mega pixels
  • Sensor Size: APS-C (22.3 x 14.9mm)
  • Sensor Type: X-Trans II CMOS
  • Shutter Speeds: Max 1/4000 sec, Min 30 sec
  • ISO Range: 200-6400 (expandable to 100-25600)
  • White Balance: Auto, Custom, Color Temperature, Presets
  • Video: 1024p @60fps/30fps
  • Video Format: H.264
  • Metering Modes: Multi-area, Average, Spot
  • Exposure Modes: P, A, S, M only
  • Built-in Flash: Yes, pop-up (flexible head)
  • Hot-Shoe: Yes
  • Autofocus Hybrid AF System (PDAF & CDAF Hybrid)
  • AF Modes: Single (multi area, single area), Continuous, Manual
  • Number of AF points: 49 (Need clarification on this)
  • Manual Focus: Yes
  • Screen: 3.0” LCD (1,040,000 dots)
  • Articulated: No
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Optical/Electronic Viewfinder: Yes, EVF (2.36m-dot,with diopter adjustment)
  • Max Drive Speed: 6fps (3fps mode with continuous AF)
  • File Formats: JPEG, RAW
  • Connections: USB 2.0, HDMI Mini, WiFi
  • Memory Card Types: SD/SDHC/SDXC
  • Dimensions: 129 x 75 x 37mm (body only)
  • Weight: 350g (body only, including battery/memory card)

First Thoughts

Well, it looks to be a solid upgrade, doesn’t it? At first glance, at least. There are loads of little improvements all over the place, from the LCD to built-in WiFi to the new burst shooting mode – while keeping the overall appearance, and most of the operation, which was fantastic on the X-E1, just the same. But while this is all great – I hope I mention them all, read up on the specs just to be certain – the most significant ones, the ones I’m closely looking at, are the sensor and the AF system that it helps provide, as well as the new processor

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

Starting with the sensor: the X-E2 has got the newer X-Trans II CMOS sensor, the one found on the X100S and the X20. As far as I can tell, the image quality will be the same, and that’s a very good thing. The only real difference (and this is important) is that this new sensor has phase detection pixels on it – which allows for the faster form of autofocusing: phase detect AF

And that’s why the new X-E2 has its fancy Hybrid AF system. The most exciting feature of the X-E2, for me, as the X-E1 was, as I’ve repeatedly mentioned, rather ordinary in the AF department, most frustratingly so in low light, the new AF system of the X-E2 promises to be fast. The world’s fastest, according to Fujifilm. And is it so? Well, I’ve used the X20 and X100S. They’re faster than their predecessors, which had CDAF systems, so I have an idea of how the new sensor improves AF speeds. And I also know PDAF systems, and what they do, and how they improve things. Based on this information, let me tell you this: the new AF system will definitely speed things up in good lighting conditions. In daylight. It’ll also improve continuous focusing – something the X-E1 wasn’t great at, I admit. But in low light, the hybrid AF system is designed to switch back to CDAF – as CDAF is considered stronger in low lighting conditions. Which means…you know what this means…the low light AF performance might not really be improved that much! Oh no

Yeah, so based on my experience and on what I know about the technology, the improvements in the AF system might not be as useful as it appears. In daylight, it will probably work great, and will track your subjects better than the X-E1 does, but in low light – the area where the AF system needed improvement the most – I’m not very sure it’ll be that much faster. Again, this is speculation – no evidence yet – but from my experience with the X20 and the X100S, this is what I’d expect from the X-E2. It’s all the same sensor, isn’t it? And this is why I’m advising you guys wait before buying/upgrading. And if you’re wondering about the ‘world’s fastest AF’ claim, this statement is based purely on tests that Fuji did, probably in perfect lighting conditions, with their 14mm XF lens (wide angles are always faster than zooms), using a particular high-speed AF mode. In regular operation, using the XF 18-55mm, you’re not going to get anything too close to that ; if you’re after speed, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is what you should be looking at

Moving on: the new processor, which I’ve used on the X100S/X20, should be fast and it’ll be a noticeable improvement over the X-E1, for things like shot-to-shot and power-on speed etc. The X-E1 isn’t too slow in these areas either, though, but like I said before, faster is usually better!

The EVF has got an upgrade in refresh speed, so in low light, you’re going to see things much clearer – with no ‘blur’. That’s useful. On top of that, the LCD on the X-E2 is quite a bit better than the X-E1’s. First of all, it’s larger (3”) and now is in the 3:2 aspect ratio – and has a much higher resolution of over 1m dots

The other new features that comes to mind that I should talk about before the other little ones is the new Lens Modulation Optimizer. This basically corrects your lens errors in-camera; but don’t let that simple explanation make you think its nothing new. It’s quite a special features in new Fujifilm cameras, and will result in perfectly corrected images with no side effects, if you get what I mean. However, the XF lenses are optically excellent anyway, so I don’t really think it’s something you would NEED on this system, but it’s nice to have

What else? Video has been upgraded from 1080p @24fps to 60fps and 30fps. WiFi has been built in. Yeah, those are useful improvements too. Indeed

The design is identical, although a few controls have been changed (read up on this under Controls) – and that’s about it, really

NOTE: If you think I’ve forgotten to talk about image quality, I haven’t. I just don’t expect anything too different (or any different) from the X-E1. The sensor is still X-Trans, which is a truly magnificent sensor, but there’s not much different in image quality between the X-Trans I and II; so while the new sensor aids AF performance, image quality should be around the same. And that means the image quality should be brilliant

All in all, it’s a solid upgrade to a fantastic camera system, and all these little and not-so-little improvements really make the X-E2 a better camera in many ways than the X-E1. But the X-E1 is a very good camera as it is, and the only reason I see to switch from it to the X-E2 is the AF system, and disappointingly, this AF system doesn’t seem to have been upgraded to one that will really fix the issues that I had with the X-E1. That’s not to say that autofocusing on the X-E2 is substandard – no, in every way the X-E2’s AF system is probably better than the X-E1’s – but it doesn’t appear to address the specific issue that the X-E1 had, and for me that’s a reason to think twice (or thrice) about spending the extra money for it. I may be proven completely wrong once I get hands-on time with it, so look out for a full review if I get the chance. But right now, I’m sticking with the X-E1

Controls & Handling

Handling should be identical to the X-E1. And the X-E1 handles like a dream. Everything just falls right under your fingers and thumb. Perfect

Controls are identical for the most part, but a few things have been changed up. To avoid confusion and to make it easier to write, I’ll go through it from scratch

On top, things have not changed at all: you have the shutter speed dial, the exposure compensation dial, the shutter button (with power switch around it) and the Fn button. The Fn button now doubles as the WiFi button as well, which is new

Fujifilm X-E2 Top. Image from Amazon

Fujifilm X-E2 Top. Image from Amazon

Ok, a few things have changed. Firstly, the exposure compensation dial now offers up to 3 stops of EV adjustment, compared to the X-E1’s 2 stops. The shutter speed dial has also changed, and now sports a dedicated 180x position, which makes it easy to access this shutter speed when using external flash units. Also, the A position on this dial has been set a bit further apart, for you to easily differentiate this position from regular shutter speeds – if you’re an aperture priority shooter like I am, this is useful

On the back, the number of buttons are the same, but things have been moved around a bit. On the left of the LCD, there are still four buttons, but they are now used for: Playback, Drive/Zoom in, AE/zoom out, and Fn2/Delete

Fujifilm X-E2 Rear. Image From Amazon

Fujifilm X-E2 Rear. Image from Amazon

On the right of the LCD, there’s the four-way pad, and a Display/Back button. The UP button the pad controls macro mode, while the DOWN key adjusts the AF area in single area AF mode. If you can’t remember what things were like on the X-E1, the AF button used to be where the Fn2 button now is, and the DOWN button used to be customizable

On the right of the EVF is the flash release button, and the Q menu button. On the thumb rest, there are two buttons for AE Lock and AF Lock. The X-E1 had one button for both AE and AF Lock, keeping the second thumb rest button for the Q menu. The X-E2 does away with the X-E1’s View Mode button (which was used to toggle between the EVF and LCD) and uses it instead as the Q menu. This allows for both thumb rest buttons to be free, and the X-E2 uses them for separate AE and AF locks. I never found much use for a dedicated View Mode button (which, on the X-E2, is found in the menu), but I liked the Q menu position on the X-E1, so I’m not sure I’m a fan of that – but everything else is fine. Reading my own writing just there, I realize that might have been confusing, so to clarify: on the right of the X-E2’s EVF, there’s the flash releaser button and the Q menu, while on the thumb rest you have an AE Lock button and an AF lock button!

Fujifilm X-E2 Front. Image from Amazon

Fujifilm X-E2 Front. Image from Amazon

The front has the lens release button and the AF mode selector switch, just like the X-E1, and that’s all for controls

Performance

Well, I spent most of the earlier part of this post talking about performance, as most of the new features of the X-E2 are basically performance enhancements, but I’ll briefly go through the speed-related information that I know of the X-E2 here again

The EXR II processor is new, which means things like power-on speed, shot-to-shot speed and burst performance will be noticeably better than on the X-E1. I had no issues in any of these areas of performance on the X-E1, to be honest, but really, faster is better, so why not?

Autofocus performance should be very good in daylight. In low light, I can’t say yet. Maybe the CDAF system has been significantly improved too – although, if it has, why not talk about it as well? Either way, this remains to be seen. But from my experience with the X20 and even the X100s, AF performance at night isn’t too impressive. And considering that’s the sensor that the X-E2 has, the sensor that allows this new AF system, that’s what you should be expecting. Initial reviews will be the only way of confirming this; but seriously, AF performance will be the primary factor that determines the success of the X-E2. It’ll help everybody decide if the X-E2 is worth the $399 over the X-E1. I know that’s what I’m looking at

Burst shooting speeds are the same as the X-E1, at 6fps, but it also has a new 3fps continuous AF burst shooting mode that the X-E1 lacked. It could be very useful to some

And that’s about all I can come up with for the performance of the X-E2. It should be very good, bordering on excellent, in general. It could be better, it could be excellent or mind-blowing, based on the Hybrid AF system, and how it performs. But I don’t know enough about that. Not yet. I’ll update you as soon as I can

Conclusion

The Fujifilm X-E2 is a very good upgrade. Simple as that. Fuji has attempted to take everything good out of the X-E1 (the design, the handling, the image quality) and enhance/improve the areas where it was lacking (autofocus system, WiFi, etc.) – and I think they’ve done a pretty good job out of it


The reason I don’t recommend you blindly go out and buy the X-E2 is quite simple: the X-E1 is just that good. To me, there’s no real reason to upgrade from the X-E1, other than to get a better AF system. And there’s just no real evidence (other than on paper) that the X-E2 will be THAT much better than the X-E1 in this regard. Not yet, anyway. So, X-E1 users, hold off on that upgrade just yet. And even if you’re buying your first X-series camera, the X-E1 is still a great option. Look at the X-E2 if you feel you NEED a specific feature like WiFi, or even the 3-stop exposure compensation dial or better LCD i.e. don’t get it purely for the better AF system. Then ask yourself if you feel these features are worth $399. If not, the X-E1 is there, and it’ll soon be an even better bargain

If the X-E2 is proven to have a really spectacular focusing system, that would change things. I’d definitely suggest existing X-E1 users to upgrade, and new buyers to get the X-E2 instead. But that remains to be seen. And until this can be confirmed, stay with your X-E1 – or wait before you make that purchase

Ordering/Pre-ordering Links: Fujifilm X-E1 on Amazon and Fujifilm X-E2 on Amazon / or get Fujifilm X-Series on B&H Photo

That’s all I have for you in this post. Leave a comment if you have anything to say about either the X-E1 or X-E2 – I’d love to hear your thoughts comparing the two cameras. And as always, please use my links if you’re buying this camera (or the X-E1) – you know why. Until next time

By Heshan Jayakody
All content in this post is my own. All images from Amazon
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Discussion

14 Responses to “Fujifilm X-E2: First Look”

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing. I’m starting to feel less inclined to upgrade my X-E1. A new lens instead, perhaps?

    Posted by Chris | October 27, 2013, 21:06
  2. A few interesting little changes. I don’t think the sensor change is the biggest one for the user – that’s more for marketing. Maybe focusing will be marginally better.. sure. But the little changes in the controls, the WiFi, those are what do it for me

    Posted by Jon | October 28, 2013, 06:33
    • Yeah, like I said, if you find those little improvements – WiFi, better LCD, shifted-around control layout, faster EVF – to be worth $399, go for it. And if you’re upgrading from the X-E1, take into account the amount you’re going to lose when selling your current X-E1 too – you’re going to have to sell at a considerable loss, thanks to the newer model being available soon!

      Posted by pixelogist | October 28, 2013, 07:57
  3. The more i read about this camera, the more I feel it’s not a significant improvement at all. the biggest thing Was supposed to be the PDAF chip and that doesn’t seem to do much. We’re supposed to be upgrading for few things like WiFi etc. Not cool

    Posted by Blake | October 29, 2013, 08:52
    • I agree. When I first saw the press release, I was super-excited. Almost put my X-E1 on eBay. Then I waited n read more. Apart from a very few things, like WiFi (which I can’t say I need right now) and the faster EVF, the rest of the new features should appear on the X-E1 in the next firmware update

      Posted by pixelogist | October 29, 2013, 11:18
  4. Nice! I actually heard the build quality is better than the X-E1. Any info on this?

    Posted by Bob | October 31, 2013, 18:48
  5. sorry, not impressed. it’s a cool camera, just like the X-E1, but that’s the problem. it’s just like the X-E1! why pay $400 more for…hardly anything? wifi? cmon. i can get an eye fi card for that. AF system? no major change. yeah. not impressed

    Posted by Vince Cooper | November 7, 2013, 16:45
    • Haha, I sort of feel the same way. There’s not much in it that warrants an upgrade. Nor does it have much that warrants the extra $400 like you said. If it was being sold for the same price, and the X-E1 was lowered in price, it would’ve been worth considering. But at $1399, that’s not really the best deal. The X-E1 is

      Posted by pixelogist | November 8, 2013, 09:33
  6. the X-E1 is a terrific beast. the X-E2 looks to be, well…the same. The sensor might do a bit for AF, but image quality – not much…and that’s about it. Very few differences, not worth the $300 or so more.

    I might take the common advice and get a second lens with that money!

    Posted by Harris | December 5, 2013, 20:26
    • Haha, I feel the same way. That’s why I’m sticking to my X-E1. And got myself a nice 35mm instead. I was considering upgrading once I read about the newer AF system, but when I read more hands-on reviews on it, it seems to perform just like the X20 vs X10 i.e. not much different, and not different at all in low light – so no, X-E1 it is!

      Posted by pixelogist | December 6, 2013, 09:02
  7. On the X-E2, the Q button to access the popular Quick Menu has now replaced the View Mode button of the X-E1. The View Mode functionality is still available, but it’s buried in the setup menu. Sadly, there’s no way to assign the View Mode function to any of the camera’s four(!) function buttons. This could easily be rectified with a firmware upgrade, though. On the bright side, the improved View Mode function now includes a new “EVF only” option that activates the EVF only when you are actually using it. This is basically an energy saving mode: When it’s on, the LCD display stays dark all the time, and the EVF is only working when someone is looking through the viewfinder.

    Posted by Danial Strickland | January 8, 2014, 13:08

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