Fujifilm X-E3 Review

October 23, 2017 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Fujifilm X-E3 is a mid-range rangefinder compact system camera that replaces the previous X-E2S model. The XE3 is very similar to the DSLR-like X-T20 camera in terms of its core specification, boasting the same 24.3 megapixel APS-C sized X-Trans CMOS III sensor, 2.36m dot resolution OLED electronic viewfinder, 3.0" 1.04m-Dot Touchscreen LCD, 4K video recording at 30fps, 8fps burst shooting (14fps with the electronic shutter), expandable sensitivity range from ISO 100-51200, exposure compensation up to ±5 stops, AF-C Custom Settings where you can choose from five AF-C presets, ultra-fast auto-focusing speed of 0.06sec, 325 AF points including 49 phase-detect AF points, and the latest X-Processor Pro engine. The key differences between the two are that the X-E3 has a fixed rather than tilting LCD screen, a thumb-operated joystick rather than a more traditional D-Pad, a new mode called Touch Function which effectively replaces the D-Pad options with onscreen gestures, and no pop-flash (replaced by the small EF-X8 flash unit supplied as standard). The Fujifilm X-E3 is available in all-black or silver and black. It costs £849 in the UK and $899 in the US body-only, or £1249 / $1299 with the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS kit lens.

Ease of Use

The new X-E3 camera takes the rangefinder-esque design of its predecessor, the X-E2S, and crosses it with the main strengths of the similarly-priced, DSLR-like X-T20, whilst introducing a few new features of its own that are designed to appeal more to smartphone users looking for a better, dedicated camera.

The XE3 looks at first glance like a mini X-Pro2, with a classical retro look and feel. From the front, the main difference to the previous X-E2S is the very welcome addition of a front control dial, which in conjunction with the retained rear dial makes it a cinch to quickly set the main exposure parameters. The only fly in the ointment from this point of view is the lack of a dedicated ISO speed dial - instead, you have to dip into the Quick menu, which despite its name isn't quite as quick as a dedicated dial.

This camera has exactly the same 24.3 megapixel APS-C sized “X-Trans III” CMOS sensor as the X-T20 and the same X-Processor Pro engine, so on paper there should be little or no difference in image quality when using the same lenses. Instead, choosing between the two comes down to which control layout and style of camera you prefer.

Fujifilm X-E3
Front of the Fujifilm X-E3

This camera has the same high-resolution OLED electronic viewfinder as the X-T20, with a resolution of 2.36m dots, magnification of 0.62x and short lag-time of just 0.005 sec. Although this viewfinder isn't as complex as the X-Pro2's hybrid viewfinder or as magnified as the X-T2's, it's still very nice to use. Positioned over to the far-left of the camera, this is a major difference to the X-T20's centrally located viewfinder, so that may be an important reason to choose one model over the other.

The Fujifilm X-E3 is very well-built, with little movement in its chassis, and it weighs in at 337g body only with the battery and memory card fitted, some 50g less than the X-T20, whilst measuring 121.3mm (W) x 73.9mm (H) x 42.7mm (D). Most of the external controls are obviously made from plastic, though, which you may not like given the more mid-range price tag that the X-E3 now has.

The camera has a small-ish hand-grip at the front and a more prominent rest at the rear for your thumb, with your grip helped in no small part by the textured faux-leather surface that runs around the full width of the camera. Two small metal eyelets on either side of the body are used for connecting the supplied shoulder strap. A metal tripod mount is positioned slightly off-centre from the lens and next to the battery/memory card compartment, so you'll have to remove the camera from the tripod to change the battery or the memory card.

Fujifilm X-E3
Rear of the Fujifilm X-E3

The X-E3 offers a pleasingly fast continuous shooting rate of 8fps for up to 62 JPEG or 25 Raw files. This shooting rate cab be further increased to 14fps by using the electronic shutter, a speed which is very competitive with the fastest compact system cameras in its class, although the focus and exposure are locked at the first frame of the sequence. The X-E3 only offers compatibility with Ultra High Speed UHS-I SDXC memory cards, whereas the more expensive X-T2 and X-Pro2 cameras are also compatible with faster UHS-II cards.

The XE3 can auto-focus in as little as 0.06 seconds and offers an increased number of AF points - 91 versus the X-T2S' 49 - laid out in a 7 x7 grid, with a lot more of the imaging area covered by faster and more precise phase detection AF pixels. If you want even more control, you can select the 325 points option which splits the same area of the frame into a 13x25 grid of smaller AF points, of which the central 77 are phase-detection points.

The 3-inch 1040K-dot LCD screen is touch-sensitive, which means you can use it to set the AF point too, or even fire the shutter release. On the right-hand side of the screen you’ll see a small icon which if you press allows you to choose between using the screen to set AF point, or to have it focus and then take a picture. If you prefer, you can turn off this functionality altogether, but it’s much quicker than using the buttons to set the point.

Fujifilm X-E3
Top of the Fujifilm X-E3

New to the X-E3 is the Touch Function feature, which effectively replaces the physical D-Pad that has been completely removed from the camera. Instead, you can flick left, right, up or down to activate various pre-assigned functions. In practice, it's a little trickier to use than a physical control, but maybe that's simply because we're more used to the latter than the former.

Furthermore, you can actually change the focus point whilst holding the camera up to your eye by dragging across the touchscreen with your right thumb. Again, it's a little tricky to get it right at first, but persevere and it soon becomes more natural, if not quite second nature.

Note that unlike on the X-T20, the X-E3's screen is fixed into place, rather than being able to tilt it up or down for easier composition in certain situations.

Fujifilm X-E3
The Fujifilm X-E3 In-hand

One other major difference between the two is the new Focus Lever, or joystick, a feature first introduced on the X-Pro2 and then the X-T2 cameras. As with the touchscreen drag feature, the rear joystick lets you change the focus point whilst holding the camera up to your eye - in practice, we preferred using the joystick to do this rather than the touchscreen.

The Fujifilm X-E3 can record 4K video, with 24/25/30p frame rates on offer, for up to 10 minutes of recording time, which is a little on the short side. If you don't need 4K, the X-E3 can also record Full HD 1080p movies at 60p / 50p / 30p / 25p / 24p for up to 15 minutes with stereo sound. There is a HDMI port for connecting the X-T20 to a high-definition TV, and you can adjust the level of the internal microphone and attach an external mic for better sound quality via the Mic and Remote ports. Strangely, despite the increased emphasis on video recording, the X-T10's doesn't have a one-touch Movie Record button, instead it's been assigned to the drive mode button, where it's marooned right at the bottom of the menu.

The final new feature, and one that only the X-E3 offers out of all the various Fujifilm X-series cameras, is Bluetooth connectivity. As with Canon's implementation on some of their recent models, you can use this feature to connect the X-e3 to a smartphone, even when the camera is turned off, and automatically transfer images from for backup or more probably sharing via your social network of choice.