Fujifilm X-E3 review: stylish member of a prestigious family

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I’ve been working mentally on this review for quite a while now, so finally I guess it was about time to have all my thoughts aligned and put things in writing. It took me almost 6 weeks to have this thing completed… This is the Fuji X-E3 review and what you are about to read is my experience using this superb camera.

In case you are not aware, I don’t make scientific, technical spec-oriented reviews. I just write about my personal experience using specific camera gear I own and on doing so I don’t follow any pre-defined testing methods because every camera is different.

Hope you enjoy!

I. Intro

I bought my Fujifilm X-E3 back in June 2018 and since day one it felt like I had owned this camera for many years due to my immediate familiarity with it.

This was not only due to the X-E3’s intuitive controls that I will further describe in this review, but essentially because before the X-E3 I had previously owned the X-E2, the X-Pro1 and the X-Pro2. Now, how I ended up landing the X-E3 in my collection is something I’m happy to share.

In case you are not interested in this story, you can jump directly to the X-E3 review starting in “III. How I setup the X-E3 to suit me” section below.

II. My journey with Fuji

You can read here about my previous love affair with Micro 4/3 and how happy I was shooting with my Olympus cameras. But eventually I decided to sell everything and jump ship to Fuji. Why?

Well, as far as I can remember, I was highly interested since their first X system camera – the X-Pro1 – was launched. I liked the retro looks, the direct dials for shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation, and the arrogance of not having a dedicated video rec button.

I liked the unique non-Bayer X-Trans sensor that allowed Fuji to ditch the anti-aliasing (AA) filter for enhanced sharpness. It was a novelty in those days that ever since triggered all competitors to follow suit.

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Conventional Bayer sensor pattern (left) and Fuji’s unique sensor pattern (right).

Then there were all the positive reviews on the superb out of camera JPEG image quality, especially the excellent skin tones that every Fuji user was praising, coming out of the X-Pro1, X-E1 and the fixed-lens X-100 that shared the same camera sensor.

Furthermore, Fuji cameras looked like proper cameras, as opposed to electronic gadgets from other brands that only care to beef up their cameras with specs. Fuji always played alternative with interesting and useful innovations like their unique sensor or the hybrid EVF / OVF, just to name a few.

And last but not least, Fuji cameras looked so damn sexy!

When I decided to buy Fuji, the X-Pro1 was no longer available in my local camera store. Somehow reluctantly, I ended up getting the X-E2.

I really wanted the X-Pro1 to get a taste of the full Fuji experience with the hybrid EVF / OVF. But heck, I didn’t want to wait and was not into buying a camera online. Therefore, I bought the X-E2 and all 3 available Fuji lenses at the time: the 18mm f/; 35mm f/1.4; and 60mm f/2.4.

Foray into the X-Pro

While happily shooting with my X-E2 with excellent results, my heart was still not 100% quiet because every now and then I’d check the X-Pro1 in the internet. Then one day I tumbled upon a Facebook post from a local who was selling an X-Pro1. I didn’t think twice and went for it, even though the body was actually scratched and bruised.

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Scratched and bruised, but I couldn’t care less: my 2nd hand X-Pro1

So now I was finally in heaven… I kept both cameras with me for a while, then eventually I felt it was time to sell the X-E2 while it was still the latest model of the X-E series, so as to avoid further depreciation.

From then onwards, it was only a matter of time until Fuji launched the X-Pro2 and obviously I had to buy it, right? Not only because it was the latest model, but essentially because the enhancements of the updated model made sense.

The X-Pro1 focusing was a shortcoming since day 1, it was slow and hesitated a lot. The X-Pro2 came with the perfect fix: no more back and forth focus hunting, only quick and accurate focusing. Plus, the X-Pro2 came with a brand new 24MP X-Trans sensor.

X-Pro2: a perfect camera.

There was an improved EVF and back screen as well, and then everything else in terms of hardware was pretty much the same. The X-Pro2 was a perfect camera, period.

But…

Back to X-E

But the whole reason you use an X-Pro camera is because you want that unique hybrid EVF / OVF finder. If you are not into Fuji’s optical viewfinder implementation and prefer to use the EVF instead, then you rather use the cheaper, smaller and lighter X-E series camera – which is exactly what happened to me.

Over the years, EVFs technology had become so mature that progressively I started seeing no advantage using an optical finder. Plus, with rangefinder-esque optical finders, parallax error is always an issue and there is never 100% accurate framing. Not even in the X-Pro2 with its improvements over the X-Pro1.

As a result, I realized I was no longer using the optical finder of the X-Pro2, only the EVF that I much preferred and made me feel more comfortable.

Then why use an X-Pro2?

So when Fuji launched the X-E3, I did not hesitate because ultimately I’m always into smaller and lighter.

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Fuji X-E3: small and light, yet highly capable.

Incidentally, the X-E3 was not only smaller than the X-Pro2. It was actually the smallest X-E series camera from Fuji, significantly smaller than the X-E2S it replaced. So immediately I knew it was the right camera for me.

Ever since I started using the X-E3, I felt immediately at home. As a result, I sold both my X-Pro cameras in no time.

III. How I setup the X-E3 to suit me

Before I get into the image quality and discuss the photos coming out of this camera, you will find below my general comments on the X-E3’s hardware and software, plus how I have it set and customized to suit me.

My camera is not a toy or an electronic gadget, it’s a tool for me to take photos and I need to feel comfortable using it. So once set and ready I start shooting and never come back to the settings.

Now let’s get some camera porn first.

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X-E3 with the 18mm f/2 and 23mm f/2

Body

The amazing thing about the X-E3 is how light and small it really is. Fuji was able to make it smaller than its predecessor X-E2 by almost 8mm (width). Accordingly, it also weights less, although by a small margin you won’t even notice: 337g vs 350g.

What’s interesting to note is that the X-E3 is so small it’s roughly the size of the Olympus Pen-F, which is a Micro 4/3 camera. But the Pen-F is somehow heavier at 427 grams!

So when you first hold the X-E3 you will think you are holding a dummy. It’s so light it feels hollow. Then you will think the battery is probably NOT installed – only to find out that it actually IS installed. It’s weird.

This is not to say the X-E3 is not well built. It’s just that it doesn’t feel as solid as an X-Pro or a Leica M. It feels hollow. But the dials at the top are all very well executed, matching the nice silver finish of the top and bottom plates. The overall tactile quality is good.

Grip

Being a rangefinder style camera, it has no large grip. Just a small bulge at the front of the body covered by a special rubberized material. It grips well, as opposed to the remaining black faux-leather material covering the body which feels a bit too plastic for my liking.

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Thumb-rest protrusion at the back. Note the rubberised sticky material.

As usual, there is a protrusion at the back for your thumb. It makes the camera fairly comfortable to hold, although I much prefer an add-on thumb grip that gives me the extra confidence holding the camera. The best thumb grips are the Match Technical Thumb-Ups made by a guy named Tim Isaac. But these are not cheap and this time I decided to save some money and get a grip from Taobao instead. It matches the camera’s silver finish quite nicely.

Shutter release button

Not much to say here, only worth mentioning the shutter release button is threaded so you can use an old school cable release. I wonder if anybody still uses these cables though, as nowadays you can control your camera through your phone with Wi-fi, Bluetooth or whatever.

Still, it’s a nice touch and it allows you to screw in a fancy looking soft release button if this is your thing. I have mine with a low profile silver colour button matching the camera. It feels a lot better with the soft release button.

Shutter speed dial & aperture ring

Having a shutter speed dial nowadays is quite unique. Not so many cameras come with it, usually having the PASM shooting modes dial in its place instead.

Together with the aperture ring offered by most Fuji lenses, it allows you to effectively set the shooting mode through the combined positions of these two dials.

This is how it works:

  • Aperture priority: set the shutter speed dial to A (auto), then select your desired aperture in the aperture ring.
  • Shutter speed priority: set the aperture ring to A (auto), then select your desired shutter speed in the shutter speed dial.
  • Full auto: set both shutter speed dial and aperture ring to A (auto).
  • Full manual: remove both from A (auto), set your desired shutter speed and aperture.
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Aperture priority mode: shutter speed set to A (auto), aperture set to f/2.0

It may seem confusing, but it’s actually very simple and intuitive. It’s old school, but good school. In fact, this is how it worked with my old Canon AE-1 film camera. Hence I say Fuji’s got balls and attitude to go different from current trends.

No movie rec button

Why am I highlighting the lack of a feature, you ask? Well, because I appreciate Fuji’s attitude and arrogance. By not having a dedicated movie rec button, Fuji is telling us: “Listen up, this is a photo camera, ok? So no dedicated movie rec button. Thank you very much.”.

Now, does it make your life easier? Not really. With previous Fuji cameras, I used to assign Movie Recording to the Fn (function) button. So even though Fuji did not provide a dedicated button, it allowed you to assign it to the Fn button.

Now for whatever reason, Fuji decided not to allow this on the X-E3. So the Fn button can be assigned to everything except Movie Recording. Not sure what made Fuji put up this restriction – perhaps they are trying to further make their point that this is a photo camera, so don’t you effing assign Movie Recording to the Fn button. Who knows.

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Statement from Fuji: 4 step process to start recording a movie!

So it’s a bit annoying because every now and then I do shoot video of my kids. To record movie, you have to (1) press the Drive button, (2) select Movie, then (3) press OK to confirm. Finally, (4) press the shutter button to start recording. It’s a 4 step process, whereas previously I could simply just press the pre-assigned Fn button to start recording a movie. Wtf Fuji.

Exposure compensation dial

Not much to say here. The dial is harder than in the XE-2 so you won’t change the setting accidentally.

It goes from -3 to +3, i.e. 3 stops under or over exposure. Some people prefer to play with the shutter speed and aperture instead. It’s up to you. I mostly shoot in aperture priority, so I have shutter speed set to A and play with my exposure by turning the EV dial. It’s very useful, especially when the camera is set to Auto ISO as it will adjust ISO accordingly.

There is also a “C” position for Custom setting. It lets you preset a custom exposure value. I’ve never used it, the + 3 and – 3 are more than enough for me.

ISO

I set to Auto ISO max at 1600 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/60. Some people will tell you the camera gets clean and usable shots all the way up to 3200 or above, but frankly 1600 is more than enough for what I do with the camera. Moreover, in many review sites their findings are based on shots with plenty of light which I frankly don’t understand.

The way I see it, nowadays sensor technology is so mature that one shall not be concerned with ISO performance. Most cameras will give you solid ISO performance beyond what you need in real life situations. So just set it to Auto ISO and you are good to go.

Joystick & touch screen

The X-E3 was Fuji’s first camera with a joystick in lieu of the traditional D-pad. Plus, they added touch screen navigation to compensate for the usual shortcuts provided by the D-pad. You can swipe the screen up, down, left and right to access specific settings of the camera.

I cannot say how good or bad the touch screen implementation is because I had it turned off since day one. Not that I have anything against it, but I still prefer to interact with my camera through hard buttons. I mean, this is a camera, not a smart phone.

Plus, every now and then I read comments from people complaining about their noses rubbing the back screen and changing the focus point accidentally.

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Say goodbye to D-pad and hello to joystick: better navigation and perfect for focus point selection.

On the contrary, I really enjoy using the joystick. Overall, for menu navigation I think it works better than the D-pad. But fundamentally, I found the joystick to be very useful to change focus points.

Now please note this is coming from a traditional focus & recompose photographer. This is how I’ve been shooting for the past 20 years. However, a while ago I decided to give the joystick a go and surprisingly – even for me – I found it to be super practical and intuitive to change the focus point.

No D-pad also means the back of the camera looks sleeker and cleaner. So the joystick is definitely a plus.

Autofocus & manual focus

There is a M/C/S focus mode knob at the front of the camera to switch between Manual Focus, Continuous AF and Single AF, respectively.  Several camera brands have opted to have this knob in this same location, which I find not user-friendly at all. I can never memorize the exact positions of the focusing modes, so I have to turn the camera around every time I need to change. It’s distracting when you have to do this while a photo opportunity unfolds in front of you.

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With first generation 35mm f/1.4 attached, not the fastest AF lens. Focus Mode switch on the right.

Plus, in the X-E3, this is the worst knob of the whole camera in terms of finishing and tactile quality. It feels like a cheap plastic toy switch. It’s very hard. Not the end of the world, but Fuji could do better.

Manual Focus implementation is not bad at all. You have the usual focus peaking mode, then there is a switch image mode where a grayed out center portion of the screen will show 2 split images. Put them together and focus is achieved. This is a method copied from old film cameras. I prefer focus peaking though.

Whatever method you use, the good thing is you can always quickly press the dial wheel at the back and the display will zoom in at your focus point. This is perfect to fine tune and confirm focus. Is very intuitive as the button is easily reached by your right thumb.

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Press this wheel and the display will zoom in your focusing point for fine adjustments.

When using Manual Focus, you are turning a focusing ring which is actually a by-wire system, not mechanical. There was significant improvement here from Fuji: I remember the first time I tried with my X-E2 several years ago, it took ages to achieve focus. You turned, turned and turned even more, and nothing seemed to happen. It’s a lot better now, and effectively usable.

Still, I prefer Auto Focus. Speed and accuracy obviously depends on the lens you are using. In short, the first generation Fuji lenses – the 18mm f/1.8, 35mm f/1.4 and 60mm f/2.4 – are slower.

Kudos to Fuji though: when these lenses were first launched, they were sluggish and hunted back and forth irritatingly. Ongoing enhancements through firmware updates improved things significantly, to the point they are now perfectly fit. They are not super fast by current standards, but definitely fast and not slow.

Put on one of the newer generation lenses though and everything changes. With the 23mm f/2, Auto Focus becomes lightning fast.

I mostly shoot with Single Point auto focus. Focus and recompose is my preferred method, but recently I started using the joystick to move the focusing point and found it to be very intuitive and useful.

As an alternative, you can use AF Zonewhen moving the joystick, instead of a single point, you are moving a larger focusing square. The camera will then pick the focus point within the square. It’s a clever way to select focus, though I had never used it extensively.

Continuous Focus and Face Detection are reliable. I don’t use much, but sometimes I have to when I’m shooting my kids who can never stand still. And it works fine.

In short, Auto Focus with the X-E3 is fast and reliable. Unless you are a sport / action photographer looking for the ultimate focusing performance, you will find the camera’s auto focus perfectly suitable for your needs.

EVF

The X-E3 comes with an EVF sporting 2.36 million pixels and 0.93x magnification. If these numbers mean nothing for you, don’t worry. All you need to know is that this EVF is very good and will become second nature the moment you start using it.

The image is bright and clear and the colours are accurate. Sometimes there is too much brightness and everything seems to be blown out and overexposed. Not an issue at all, you can quickly adjust through the Q menu. Refresh rates are very good even in dark lit situations and to my eyes  I see no lag at all.

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Diopter adjustment (left) and proximity sensor (right). View Mode button just adjacent.

Pressing the View Mode button on the right of the EVF allows you to toggle between the different modes of EVF, LCD and Eye Sensor activation, namely Eye Sensor and back screen LCD always on, EVF always on with LCD always off, LCD only, etc… There is a total of 5 different combinations and I’m sure there will be one that suits you.

As for me, I have the EVF always on and the LCD off. Firstly, because I don’t like the slight delay of the Eye Senor turning the EVF on only when you look through it. Secondly, I seldom shoot with the back screen LCD and I don’t bother to have it turned on to show whatever information.

Regarding the information, you can obviously customise what you want to show in live view: framing guidelines, electronic level, focus point, histogram, AF distance indicator, white balance, touch screen mode, image size and quality… Mind me, it’s a bit paranoid and a lot of rubbish.

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EVF screen set to show minimum information: shutter speed, aperture, EV and ISO.

So I have mine set with the minimum I need to shoot. I don’t need useless information in the screen to distract me.

The bottom line is, this EVF is really a joy to use and when you realise spec-wise it’s not the best around – the Leica SL provides 4.4 million pixels! – yet it’s still so good, you just sort of understand why optical viewfinders are disappearing from the industry. T

his is also the reason why I stopped using the OVF from my X-Pro2. I much preferred shooting with the EVF, which led me to sell the camera and get the X-E3 instead.

JPEG vs RAW

Now this is an interesting one. As a matter of principle, with every camera I own I only shoot RAW. In case you don’t shoot RAW, I strongly recommend you start doing so because shooting JPEG means you are letting your camera edit and post-process the photo for you.

In case of the Fuji X cameras though, things get a bit more complicated for me. When Fuji launched the X system, most photo editing software couldn’t read and open the RAW files coming from the unique X-Trans sensor. While many photographers found ways to convert and overcome this with third party applications, I didn’t bother to go this way. As a result, I kept shooting JPEG only and got used to the superb out of camera JPEGs from Fuji cameras.

Colours look amazing, especially skin tones. Everything looks very warm and vivid, even on cloudy days, yet nothing gets over the top. Colour tones and contrast are just en point.

Several years had passed and now you can pretty much open Fuji’s RAW files in every photo application. And I confess I’m a bit confused with this now. Currently I mostly shoot RAW with my X-E3 because the amount of information you lose shooting JPEG is significant.

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Straight out of camera: RAW (on top) and JPEG (bottom). 

RAW (left) and JPEG (right). The JPEG shows nice contrast and punchier colours, but details are lost in the darker areas. You may need to increase your screen’s brightness to see the difference. Or just click the full size thumbnails below.

Nevertheless, when I’m out shooting family photos, I shoot JPEG only. I reckon these photos are not to be edited in depth, so I’m perfectly happy keeping just the JPEGs which, again, look amazing. In fact, I guess if I shoot RAW in these occasions, probably I would end up editing the files to look like the out of camera JPEGs.

See how I’m contradicting myself?

Mechanical shutter & electronic shutter

Being an interchangeable lens camera, the X-E3 uses a conventional focal frame shutter, as opposed to fixed lens cameras like the XF100 that offer nearly silent leaf shutters. Still, the shutter mechanism of the X-E3 is not very noisy. There is a slight vibration in the body whenever it is activated and personally I like it better than leaf shutters because I like the mechanical feel it provides.

The focal plane shutter maxes out at 1/4000, which by current standards is pretty good but not the fastest. The X-Pro2’s shutter goes all the way to 1/8000.

You may thing such fast shutter speeds are not needed, but actually they are if you want to take wide open shots for subject separation and creamy bokeh in broad day light.

Fortunately in these occasions you can use the X-E3’s electronic shutter, which goes all the way to 1/32 000. By default the electronic shutter is not turned on, so you have to activate it in the camera’s settings.

I have mine set to kick-in automatically if a shutter speed above 1/4000 is required. Thus it’s seamless in operation and I can happily shoot at f/1.4 in broad day light.

Menu & custom settings

It’s the same with every camera I buy: I turn off all the nonsense sounds, the focus confirmation beep, the navigation clicks and the likes, plus the stupid AF light assist. Then I remove from the display and the view modes all the unnecessary information to keep the shooting view and interface as simple as possible. And that’s it.

The X-E3’s Menu is what it is. I don’t have much to say about it. It’s complicated and non-intuitive like every other digital camera in the market nowadays. All cameras have complicated menus with ridiculous amount of customization and useless options. All except Leica.

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Press the Q button to access this menu. All you need is here.

Fortunately Fuji offers the Q (Quick?) menu. Press the Q button on the thumb-rest protrusion on the right and that’s it. This is a shortcut for your essential settings.

Photography is about taking photos, so don’t waste time fiddling with customization and settings. Get used to your camera as it is, you will build the muscle memory to interact with it efficiently.

Full Auto switch

This one is quite funny. It’s for the lazy and/or dumb photographer who wants to use the X-E3 simply as a point & shoot and lets the camera decide everything. Full Auto is for the user who knows nothing – so let the camera take the photo.

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Full Auto: turn this switch on and the camera will decide everything for you.

Turn Full Auto on and the camera transforms itself into an electronic gizmo that will shoot 200% automatic with all its available electronic features. Needless to say, I never use it.

A guy I know made the comment that the Full Auto mode is useful when you want somebody to help you take a family photo, which I consider a very valid point indeed!

Battery management

The X-E3 has a High Performance power management mode which is said to increase auto focus speed and display refresh rates at the cost of battery life.

You have to activate this mode which is buried deep inside the camera’s Menu, in order to unlock your camera’s full performance. I think this is a bit weird. It’s like you buy a Ferrari, but then by default it is set to Eco mode to save fuel. Think about it.

I have my camera set to High Performance at all times and never had issues with the battery, it lasts a full day. Hence I have one battery only and never felt the need to get an extra. Obviously this is subjective and personal, depends on the way you use the camera.

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Old school external charger. Not much to say here.

With the X-E3, Fuji supplies an old school external charger that plugs directly to the mains. Alternatively, you can charge directly from the camera through its micro USB connection. An LED in the back will light on to confirm it’s charging.

This is my preferred method since I have an USB power station at home that is always ready with something charging: iPhones, iPads, Airpods, my son’s smart watch… So I just plug in my camera and that’s it. Quick and convenient.

IV. Image Quality

Now that the camera is set and ready, let’s put everything out of the way and focus on image quality. After all, this is what’s all about.

Obviously, the X-E3’s image quality depends on the lens you are using. But in a nutshell and going straight to the point: if you are using a Fuji prime lens, chances are you will get excellent image quality. And this is coming from someone who owns several Fuji prime lenses. To be clear:

  • XF 18mm f/2 R
  • XF 23mm f/2 R WR
  • XF 27mm f/2.8
  • XF 35mm f/1.4 R
  • XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS
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My current Fuji family.

So my assessment is based on my experience using the X-E3 with the lenses above. And all I can tell you is that, while some are better than others, all Fuji lenses I own are good performers when coupled with the X-E3.

With the XF 35mm f/1.4 R

The XF 35mm f/1.4 R is the best one in terms of image quality and the perfect example. Coupled with the X-E3, the results are so good I wrote a separate review just for the purpose here.

The XF 35mm f/1.4 R is a lens you can use wide open and still get extreme levels of sharpness across the entire frame with no light fall-off whatsoever. When appreciating the photos in full resolution, the results can be jaw dropping.

Straight out of camera JPEGs are bright and clear with very vivid colours. There is also a 3D richness in them, and not only because of the bokeh and subject separation. It’s the smooth colour and shadow gradations that make the difference.

Just check the photos below. No editing made whatsoever.

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XF 35mm f/1.4 R: 1/5000 sec, f/1.4 @ ISO 400
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XF 35mm f/1.4 R: 1/6400,  f/1.4 @ ISO 400
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XF 35mm f/1.4 R: 1/6400,  f/2 @ ISO 400
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In case you are a pixel peeper… 100% blow-up of the photo above.
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XF 35mm f/1.4 R: 1/3200, f/1.4 @ ISO 200…
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…and respective blow-up as well. Take a look at the texture captured by the sensor.
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XF 35mm f/1.4 R: 1/2500, f/1.4 @ ISO 200
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XF 35mm f/1.4 R: 1/1250, f/2 @ ISO 400
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XF 35mm f/1.4 R: 1/1250, f/2 @ ISO 400
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XF 35mm f/1.4 R: 1/3200, f/1.4 @ ISO 400

With the XF 35mm f/1.4 R lens, you will find very rich micro-contrast in specific textures such as human hair. Skin colours are typically smooth and great looking as well. It’s quite amazing in fact. The X-Trans sensor, combined with the superb quality of Fuji lenses, renders portraits beautifully.

With the XF 18mm f/2 R

Below some photos with the XF 18mm f/2 R wide angle lens. Again, all straight out of camera JPEGs.

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XF 18mm f/2 R: 1/8000, f/2 @ ISO 200
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XF 18mm f/2 R: 1/1000, f/5.6 @ ISO 200
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XF 18mm f/2 R: 1/1000, f/5.6 @ ISO 200

You will notice the bokeh in the first photo above, even though I was shooting in broad daylight. This was possible due to the fast shutter speed from the X-E3’s electronic shutter that kicks-in above 1/4000 of a second.

With the XF 23mm f/2 R WR

Below a set of photos I took recently with the XF 23mm f/2 R WR. In case you are interested, the full collection of this photo session is here, in a post I published just recently.

The XF 23mm f/2 R WR is one of my favorite lenses, it’s a good everyday lens due to its equivalent 35mm focal length and relatively fast aperture. And it’s very small and light as well. Being a newer generation lens, when coupled with the X-E3 the autofocus is super fast and accurate.

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XF 23mm f/2 R WR: 1/200, f/2.8 @ ISO 400
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XF 23mm f/2 R WR: 1/4000, f/2.8 @ ISO 400
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XF 23mm f/2 R WR: 1/320, f/4 @ ISO 400
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XF 23mm f/2 R WR: 1/5000, f/2 @ ISO 400
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XF 23mm f/2 R WR: 1/60, f/4 @ ISO 1250

These photos were post-processed to taste using X-E3’s RAW files. In some photos I made some heavy cropping as well, and they hold on nicely. The 24 megapixels from the X-Trans sensor gave me enough room for this.

Overall the files are solid to work with, the dynamic range is pretty good. There is decent latitude for fine tuning of brightness, contrast, colour tones and other parameters as well. However, as mentioned before, the X-E3’s RAW files are certainly not as rich and flexible as the ones coming from my full-frame Sony RX1R II.

With the XF 27mm f/2.8

For the sake of comparison, and also to demonstrate the importance of a lens in the image outcome, below I’m sharing some photos I took with the XF 27mm f/2.8 coupled with the X-Pro2. In case you are unaware, the X-Pro2 and the X-E3 share the same X-Trans sensor and image processor, so technically the photos they take are exactly the same. So I’m including these photos here.

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XF 27mm f/2.8: 1/850, f/8 @ ISO 200
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XF 27mm f/2.8: 1/550, f/5.6 @ ISO 200  
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XF 27mm f/2.8:  1/680, f/5.6 @ ISO 200
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XF 27mm f/2.8: 1/350, f/5.6 @ ISO 200

I was never fully happy with the XF 27mm f/2.8. I feel the photos coming from this lens lack the richness I get when using other Fuji lenses. Couple it with the X-Pro2 (or the X-E3, which for the purpose is exactly the same) and all of a sudden the images look pedestrian, like coming from a small sensor camera. Therefore, I seldom use this lens now.

My final word on the X-E3’s image quality

In the previous section of this review I made a point on my indecision between shooting JPEG or RAW. The truth is, while in JPEG you always lose part of the details that are available in the RAW file, the out of camera JPEGs of the X-E3 are punchier, with the right amount of brightness, contrast and colour saturation.

Moreover, the colours per se deserve a special reference: they are vivid and warm, gradations are smooth and skin colours always look very pleasant.

On the contrary, the RAW files from the X-E3 look plain and flat. While one can argue RAW files are not supposed to look dramatic because they are what they are – RAW information as captured by the image sensor – the truth is, with other cameras like the Sony RX1R II or the Leica M-E, I shoot RAW and RAW only because the outcome is superb, jaw-dropping at times and definitely way better than the respective out of camera JPEGs.

With the X-E3 it’s exactly the opposite, which is weird.

Not that I see it as a problem though. If anything, I can shoot simultaneously with both JPEG + RAW. Yes, it takes up more disk space, but whatever. It’s worth keeping both files when the camera delivers JPEGs with such magnificent quality.

As with many other cameras, the X-E3 tends to over expose, especially when outdoors under bright sunlight. So I normally under expose by 1 stop, setting the Exposure Compensation dial to -1.

However, on doing so, recently I noticed the limitations of the X-Trans sensor. I realized the RAW files don’t have the same dynamic range of my Sony RX1R II, so I don’t have the same flexibility pulling out the details of darker areas in post-processing.

Maybe this is not a fair comparison as I’m bench-marking an 24 megapixel APS-C sensor against a 42 megapixel full-frame sensor. Anyway, when people say sensor size doesn’t matter, I have my own reservations now.

All in all, in a nutshell

Put on a Fuji prime lens in the X-E3 and you will get excellent image quality. The X-Trans sensor, which has no AA filter, will deliver extremely sharp images with a good level of micro detail.

Don’t you ever discard the straight out of camera JPEGs. You can fully trust the X-E3’s in camera processing. It’s superb. Fuji got it right because the JPEGs are rich and punchy. They are perfect. Period.

Mic drop, case closed.

V. Final thoughts

In a world where camera brands compete with each other in a spec race that doesn’t necessarily benefit camera design, launching new camera models every year without much innovation, Fuji had always distanced itself from this business attitude and walked its own path. 

Fuji certainly doesn’t follow the pack. While a full frame competition had recently been ignited with several brands progressively joining the race now, Fuji didn’t even care and decided to go medium format instead.

They do what they know is right, and with this they had successfully created their own style and identity. Fuji cameras are well thought out and photographer oriented, as opposed to spec oriented. Fuji cameras are beautifully designed, stylish and user friendly because they have the photographer in mind.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s not. Most manufacturers produce cameras designed by their marketing departments, with provisions and layouts that are sometimes hard to believe.

I have a lot of respect for Fuji’s attitude towards new camera models. Firstly, they don’t rush new models every year like their competitors. Secondly, while a new model introduces improvements and enhancements to the camera’s previous model, usually in terms of hardware you can hardly see the differences between new and old models.

This happens in all their camera series: just compare the several iterations of the X100, X-E, X-Pro and X-T models. Over the years there was technical evolution, but the new models look exactly the same as the original ones. Instead of X-T3, you could call it the X-T1 Mk III instead.

This design consistency is honourable and similar to Leica with their M system cameras. This is how you create your own identity and Fuji cameras of today are future classics – I have no doubt about this.

So this is where the Fuji X-E3 comes from. It is not only a small, lightweight and portable camera able to produce photos with stellar results. The X-E3 is an artfully crafted camera that takes design heritage from Fuji’s recent, yet very rich, mirrorless past.

And is a member of the prestigious Fuji family.

VI. Samples gallery

For full resolution and EXIF data, click thumbnails below.

 

 

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