This Is The Fuji You’ve Been Waiting For

 This Is The Fuji You’ve Been Waiting For

The Fuji XE2 and I started out with a classic love-hate relationship. Initially, it felt too small, I couldn’t hold it comfortably, kept mashing buttons that felt poorly placed and it wouldn’t lock focus fast enough. As I was getting ready to kick it to the curb, I found my groove. "Too small" became unobtrusive and nimble. I adjusted my grip and it became comfortable to use. Firmware upgrades and some practice improved AF performance and handling issues. As soon as I learnt how to shoot with it, it became fun. A LOT of fun. 

A Real World Review

I’ll be clear up front about what this review isn't going to be. We won’t be poring over every function, feature and technical facet of this camera. Most of the other review sites out there will help you with that kind of stuff. I took this thing out on the street with one intention in mind - to see whether it really was (as Fuji claim) the fastest “AF in the world”. My aim in this review is to feed back on how the XE2 performed in the real world and to see how they'd improved the AF ability.

All the shots I've posted are unedited and straight from camera so you can see what the images look like without any post processing.

Of course, the files here are pretty compressed and low res so you won't be able to pixel peep, but the idea is to show you generally what this camera is capable of through a variety of focal lengths.

By the way - this thing is small. If you're used to a large DSLR, or even an XPro1, get ready for a shock.

 

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_REAR

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_FRONT

 

 

Just The Facts

Here are some basics that the new XE2 comes with:

  • The sensor is the new X Trans CMOS II (the same as Fuji X100s) and the faster EXR Processor II provides faster read/write and contrast detection over the XE1. You get faster auto focus capability with the phase detect AF (more on that later) and slightly better image quality over previous X-series cameras with perhaps a touch more vibrancy to the images.
  • The dynamic range on this camera is wonderful. This is purely anecdotal but at times it felt like it was better than the range from my 5D Mk3.

 

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_ 23mm 1/1250 f2.0 ISO 400

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_1 35mm 1/4000 f1.4 ISO200

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_3 23mm 1/180 f5.6 ISO400
  • We now get +/- 3 stops of exposure compensation (compared to 2 on the XE1) and a super detailed, bright 3” LCD with 1040k dot display.
  • Manual Focus has focus peaking, magnified view and now the new digital split image system (something I tried but preferred the focus peaking system in actual use). If you really want to see the focus and read/write speeds of the XE2 compared to the XE1, someone on YouTube posted this little test video:

 

 

  • The Lens Modulation Optimizer (as found in the X100s) aims to optimize image quality at each focal length and aperture setting. We certainly get impressive center to edge sharpness and I didn’t really see much to complain about any of the lenses at different aperture settings.
  • There is a faster refresh rate on the Electronic View Finder (EVF) than the XE1, so it is smoother particularly in low light. We also get WiFi, a mic jack and now two separate AE and AF lock buttons with improved continuous shooting.

 

Is The Auto Focus Really “The World’s Fastest AF?”

Here’s the short answer - I don’t know.

Frankly, I don't really care if it is or isn't the fastest because it doesn’t really matter. In practice, for the most part, it’s fast enough. I tested it pretty extensively on moving subjects on the street, while I was also moving and often converging on the subject (so both of us moving toward each other), often shooting wide open to narrow the focal plane.

35mm 1/400 f1.4 ISO400 35mm 1/400 f1.4 ISO400

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_6 35mm 1/150 f1.4 ISO400

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_9 23mm 1/500 f1.4 ISO400

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_11 23mm 1/1200 f2.2 ISO400

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_12 23mm 1/4000 f2 ISO200

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_20 35mm 1/280 f2 ISO200 - this was one of the images when the AF just wasn't fast enough, as the subject is a little soft

I’ve spent a little bit of time with the XPro1. The XE2 is an improvement over that model as far as quicker AF is concerned, but I wouldn't say there is a great deal in it, especially with the new firmware updates for the XPro1 / XE1. When I tested the XE2 side by side with the XPro1, it felt like if the XPro1 was hunting for focus, the XE2 was too, although it felt marginally quicker to acquire focus lock over the XPro1.

Is the XE2 a revolutionary improvement? No, but it is faster, and 90-95% of the time it’s fast enough. I would say 1 out of every 10 or 20 shots are lost because it wouldn't snap focus as quickly as I would like, although those lost shots were typically the most extreme and challenging for the camera (shooting wide open, converging on a moving subject heading toward me, focus and then attempt to recompose situations). I didn't zone focus any of the shots here, I wanted to test the AF ability and almost none of the 40-50 people I shot were even aware I'd shot them before I snapped them and moved on.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_14 23mm 1/60 f1.8 ISO2000

 

 

Who Is The XE2 Aimed At Then?

If you haven’t yet tried out the Fuji X-series camera, this might just be the moment you’ve been waiting for. For most owners of the XPro 1 or XE1, the firmware updates for those models will suffice and probably won’t make it worth selling either of those cameras to buy the XE2.

If you don’t already own something mirrorless or an X series camera, then the XE2 was almost designed specifically for you.

This will probably not be a replacement to your DSLR, especially if you require a high megapixel studio camera. My workhorse is my 5D Mk3 and I shoot both stills and video. You can’t manually change the shutter speed of the XE2 so it makes it practically useless for any sort of professional video work but that’s not really why you should be thinking about buying the XE2 anyway.

The main reason you should think about buying this camera is for the complementary aspects it can bring to your work - if the big DSLR is your large SUV or minivan to take the family out, the XE2 is a small 2 seater convertible to let you run rampant and get a little crazy with. The fantastic image quality and the convenience - or “fun” factor - means it can go anywhere and not weigh you down or get in the way of the shots you want to make. It is so small and light and so unobtrusive, you barely notice you have it with you. More than once, I suddenly panicked thinking I’d left it somewhere only to remember it was actually over my shoulder, I just couldn’t feel it hanging off my side.

 

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_7 35mm 1/1500 f1.4 ISO400

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_10 23mm 1/8 f9 ISO200

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_17 23mm 1/60 f2 ISO2500

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_18 18mm 1/1400 f2.8 ISO400

35mm 1/2900 f1.4 ISO200 35mm 1/2900 f1.4 ISO200

 

What About That Love/Hate Thing?

Ok, let's update my relationship status with the XE2 real quick.

If you’re used to a big DSLR, you have to give these small mirrorless cameras a bit of time to dial in. If you like the feel of the XPro1, or you’re used to a pretty big size DSLR, this thing might well feel too small initially. At first I wasn’t even sure how to hold it properly. You don’t grip the thing so much as use finger tips. It's weird and takes time to work out how to handle it.

The battery life still seems average at best, and in the cold weather, it's bad. I kept the LCD off completely and it didn’t help much. Be prepared to carry at least 1 if not 2 additional charged batteries for a full day of shooting.

I kept the AF assist beam off most of the time (naturally, it does help with it on in low light). The AF is fast, faster than previous X models, but sometimes it still hunted. In conditions with a fair amount of light and contrast on my subject, I was surprised how much focus hunting was still going on before it locked focus. Firmware updates have subsequently improved this however and Fuji seems great about pushing out updates that actually make a difference to operability.

All of that said, once you start to get to grips with it, the initial frustration subsides and you just open up a world of fun.

 

Final Thoughts

There are two reasons I grew to love the XE2 and why I'm likely to be placing an order for my own when I hand back the review model.

First, the image quality is phenomenal. Yes, part of that is the camera body, and part of that is the glass but Fuji has done a great job of working it's lenses and bodies together to produce outstanding results. I tested the XE2 with three Fuji primes (the 18mm, 23mm and 35mm), and the quality of glass of each is fantastic. If you’re looking for a light, discreet camera with some great glass to carry around for travel, street or just everyday shooting, the XE2 will tick all of those boxes perfectly and the image quality won't let you down. The images you get from this thing are great, and while it’s not “cheap”, for the price of the body and some nice fast lenses, it feels like great value.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_13 23mm 1/2500 f2.8 ISO200

 

Secondly, and almost more importantly, the camera just lets me capture the moments I want and is a lot of fun to use. A 5D and a bunch of L glass helps me do my job but it’s not particularly small, light and “fun” to carry about all day and use candidly. The Fuji on the other hand is so small and light, it’s almost impossible to have an excuse not to bring it out with you. People really seem to notice you less with a small camera like the XE2.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_Fujifilm_XE2_15 23mm 1/60 f2 ISO400

If you already own a Fuji X series body, none of the improvements will feel too revolutionary, especially with the improved AF performance through firmware upgrades. If on the other hand like me, you have a large DSLR with a bag of heavy glass weighing you down wishing for an alternative, I present to you the camera that could very well be the Fuji you have been waiting for.

 

The Fuji XE2 is available now from B&H for $999 body only and for $1399 with the 18-55mm kit lens

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45 Comments

Andrew Chavis's picture

I want that camera badly. After comparing it to the XPro 1, yes it's powerful, excellent image quality, and has the pro features you'd want the XE series has the same image processor is cheaper and if you can do without the optical viewfinder the XE series will give you an enjoyable shooting experience.

If you are a street shooter I think the XE-1 or 2 are much more compact and give you the features you need.

David Geffin's picture

yep - i was initially concerned about the lack of optical VF but once you get used to an EVF (and the XE2 has a nice EVF) I found i didn't really miss the OVF.

Totally agree and the 23mm lens is the perfect match. Love both.

David Geffin's picture

23mm lens review coming shortly.... :)

Art Dickinson's picture

I ordered one in October after reading a review online. I have had it now for about a month.

I’m a corporate Nikon shooter. I chose the XE2 as a fun walk around camera and also as a backup to my D800’s. I have never loved a camera like I do the XE2. Fantastic image quality on par with a D300 and so small and light, you can keep it with you all the time. I bought it with the 18-55, great image quality with a very useful range. This camera makes me want to shoot everyday stuff and explore the planet for new images ! After over 20 years shooting professionally it was time for me to let loose with some personal work and this camera is giving me the desire to do just that !

David Geffin's picture

what you've said summarizes my last 2 weeks with the thing perfectly. Enjoy letting loose and having fun Art!

I've anticipated this camera for some time, after reading this article and seeing the images I am impressed enough to take the dive!!

I agree Art. The 18-55 is like shooting with the Nikon 24-70, except lighter!

How is the image Quality compared to a 5D Mark III in terms of Colors and Dynamic Range???

Mark Schueler's picture

It's not as good as a 5DmkIII, but for me, it was close enough, and I sold my Canon gear. It's probably more comparable to a 5DmkII. But you have to realize you're comparing a tiny, $1,000 APS-C camera to cutting edge, pro quality full frame $3000+ DSLRs.

For me the switch was a no-brainer, but importantly, it's a good fit for my photographic style and needs.

David Geffin's picture

honestly, i was surprised just how good the color rendition and DR is from the shots i've taken straight out of camera. I can comment other than purely anecdotally but it compares very favorably with my Mk3.

I just ordered my X-E2 gear, but the shadow and highlight recovery samples I've seen online seem to be on par with my D800, which is about 2 stops better DR than the 5DIII. And the lack of OLPF means the 16.3MP is closer in actual resolution to the 5DIII's 22MP with OLPF than you might think, with less moire than the 5DIII. And IMO high ISO performance is better than the 5DIII due to its film grain-like luma noise rather than the unpleasant chroma noise of the Canon sensors. This is why I switched from the 5DII to the D800E: superior DR and more pleasant high ISO performance.

Would u choose this over the Sony a7R? Ignore the price part.

David Geffin's picture

price aside, and i've not played with the A7R, i think they are different tools for different jobs. The A7R has double the megapixel count and is more of a potential DSLR replacement, so will do well for studio work or images that need to be cropped or enlarged. The XE2 is small and lightweight and probably better (in some ways due to lower pixel count) for faster street type shooting.

The answer to me would start with the question "what do you want your camera to be for?".

Thanks. My answer: I want the camera small enough for professional use.

David Geffin's picture

Depends on what sort of "professional use" you mean, i would guess, but aside from the small form factor you mention, you'll probably want to think about the megapixel count difference between the two cameraas and if that makes any difference in your work. If it does, you'll probably have your answer.

I will stick with my Hasselblad H5D

How you could even begin to think that this could be a replacement to a Hasselblad is beyond me... The sensor size isn't even remotely close and the glass available can't begin to compare...

Thats why i am sticking to my Hasselblad... ;)

Lucky you...mine also have a "five" but it's written the "roman" way, so when it comes to digital cameras comparison it's out of the equation...

The AF on the a7R is pretty darn good (especially if you're not gonna need it so much) and the electronic viewfinder kicks ass. If you want small it's worth it.

thanks for the review.. been eying this one for a month or so...

Does it have the fast flash shutter sync capability that the X100s has?

Mark Schueler's picture

No, it doesn't because it doesn't have a leaf shutter--flash sync speed is 1/180th... not great, not terrible...

David Geffin's picture

no leaf shutter on the XE2 so max sync speed is 1/180s (which has a dedicated setting on the shutter speed dial now).

Roshan Ravi's picture

Is the image quality noticeably different from X-E1 ? I have been shooting with an X-E1 since February and love image quality. I wonder how better is X-E2 from X-E1 and if it is worth an upgrade just for the IQ. I am not too keen on AF as I prefer to shoot with manual focus.

David Geffin's picture

In pure IQ terms, i don't believe there is any change

I've had my X-E2 for about three weeks. Haven't picked up my D3s, D700, or D300 since I got it, except to shoot comparison shots. It's just plain awesome. I'm definitely selling the D7100. Yes, it is small and that takes some getting used to. Battery life is laughable. BUT image quality is stellar and dynamic range out of this world. Low light performance is on par with the D700/D3s and is the best of any APS-C camera I've ever used. Absolutely clean up to ISO 1600, and useably clean at 6400. My impressions: focus performance is marginally inferior to the D3s but equal to the D700. I will have no hesitation to shoot weddings with it. It's not a sports body, but for what it is, it's near perfect.

Andrew Chavis's picture

Yeah I've heard from other photographers that they start using their Fujifilm X camera more and more. What lenses do you use? I'm trying to stop myself from going new camera crazy with buying more stuff that I truly don't need.

I have the 18-55 and the 35mm f/1.4. IMO, to refer to the 18-55 as a "kit" lens is to slander it. It's a wonderful piece of glass. While it's a beautiful lens, I find the 35 a bit long for my purpose. That's my fault, because I'd gotten so used to full-frame. Anyway, I'm getting ready to pull the trigger on the 23mm f/1.4. Anybody want to buy a brand new 35mm?

in your opinion, would this be an able camera for wedding and portrait photography?

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