Fujifilm X-E3: Minima with the Maxima

 

After a long gap of four years since the X-E2, there is a more to Fujifilm X-E3 than meets the eye, making it a worthy upgrade. K Madhavan Pillai reports.

Fujifilm X-E3

Fujifilm X-E3

Fujifilm’s X-E lineup is intended to woo the advanced enthusiast by being lower priced than the pro-level X-Pro series, but by delivering a similar feel as the X-Pro bodies. The X-E3 comes after a long hiatus. In Fujifilm’s own description the X-E3 was ‘created in the pursuit of minimalism, striving to stimulate the senses of the person wielding it, aiming to draw out the true intent of the photographer’. Minimalist and small it certainly is. Yet, under the hood are technologies that rival its high-end brethren.

Features
Containing the same, lauded third generation 24MP X-Trans sensor (without an anti-aliasing filter) of the X-Pro2 and the X-T2, as well as the same processing engine (the X-Processor Pro), the X-E3 is the smallest and lightest in these three line-ups. Like the X-T2, the X-E3 supports 4K30p (100Mbps, full width) video, external mic input, and HDMI monitor output. Users can select from the various Film Simulation modes during movie shooting.

The X-E3 is now capable of shooting at 8fps for 63 JPEG or 25 RAW frames, with the mechanical shutter. Enabling the electronic shutter allows 14fps, with a top shutterspeed of 1/32,000sec.
AF functionality (325 phase detection focus) has a significant upgrade, with a new set of recognition algorithms, allowing faster, more precise AF tracking. Single point, Zone and Wide Area focus can be selected in either AF-S or AF-C. In AF-S, the size of the frame around the selected focus point can be changed from a miniscule square to a larger frame in six steps, for greater precision. In AF-C, the camera also has five presets for tracking moving subjects in different situations.

Other important additions are the new touchscreen that increases functionality in several ways, including AF area selection when the eye is to the EVF, and customisable swipe functions to replace the original four-way controller no longer available on the X-E3. There is no in-built flash too, removed to make the camera smaller. However, a clip-on TTL flash that mounts on the hot shoe (guide number 11 at ISO 200) and draws power from the camera comes bundled. It syncs at 1/180sec or lower, but does not allow high speed sync.
New to the X-series is the ‘always on’ bluetooth connectivity that switches Wifi transmission on and off to conserve power, sending images (either full resolution, or 3MP) conveniently to your phone as you shoot. The phone also doubles as a remote.

 

Film Simulation modes, and combinations of saturation, contrast, dynamic range, highlight and shadow settings can result in some rich, interesting tones. Exposure: 1/15sec at f/7.1 (ISO 3200) / Photography K Madhavan Pillai

Film Simulation modes, and combinations of saturation, contrast, dynamic range, highlight and shadow settings can result in some rich, interesting tones. Exposure: 1/15sec at f/7.1 (ISO 3200). Photograph/ K Madhavan Pillai

Handling
The camera is light (less than 340g), but built of metal, encased in leather trim all around, with rubber on the grip and thumbrest. It feels sturdy and looks classy. Between the shutterspeed dial on the camera, and the aperture ring on the more conventionally designed lenses, you can set the camera to Program, aperture or shutter priority, or operate it all manually. There is a certain elegance to this, and it is surprisingly quick.

The other controls, though few, are placed so that even larger hands are home. The functions available on the touchscreen, AF and navigation joystick, and the clickable input dials are well thought through, and make using the camera quite a pleasure. There is a also large level of customisability, allowing the user to assign functions to dedicated buttons. It does take some time to figure out the best combinations, but once you do, the camera handles like a dream.Performance The camera starts up with barely any lag. Likewise, there are no lags while shooting, or on the EVF or LCD. This is also the best X Series camera yet in terms of AF performance, locking quite comfortably in low light, and tracking reasonably well. The camera lends itself well to quick, snappy picture making as well as to slow precise photography.

I am particularly fond of using the Film Simulation filters. The sensor is exemplary… but lagging slightly behind the 20.9MP APS-C sensor of the Nikon D7500 and D500. My only serious gripe was in the level of unnecessary, but automatic, noise correction that shows up as articacts in the JPEGs, especially at higher ISO settings.

The sensor produces plenty of dynamic range, making in-camera image settings both effective and fun to use. Exposure: 1/160sec at f/8 (ISO 200) Photography K Madhavan Pillai

The sensor produces plenty of dynamic range, making in-camera image settings both effective and fun to use. Exposure: 1/160sec at f/8 (ISO 200) Photograph/ K Madhavan Pillai

 

The X-E3 lends itself well to precision, and equally to being quick or casual while shooting. Exposure: 1/1000sec at f/8 (ISO 200) / Photography K Madhavan Pillai

The X-E3 lends itself well to precision, and equally to being quick or casual while shooting. Exposure: 1/1000sec at f/8 (ISO 200).                     Photograph/ K Madhavan Pillai

Conclusion
The X-E3 is exactly what mirrorless cameras are meant to be. Given Fujifilm’s superb line of optics, the X-E3 gives itself wonderfully to a demanding travel, street or art photographer who wants something nondescript, but also affords that little extra to those who want speed.

Released at USD 899, it promises to arrive on Indian shores comparably well-priced. Competition comes from the Sony A6300, which is also relatively small, fun to use and delivers a good level of performance. However, the two are hugely different. For those who prefer the conversation-starter retro good looks and rangefinder-esque handling, but with enough customisations, technology, and performance, to challenge the very best APS-C mirrorless cameras out there, the Fujifilm X-E3 is certainly it!

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Sensor, speed, AF, 4K video, touchscreen
14/15
Performance
Image quality, ISO performance, speed
42/45
Build Quality
Light, compact, metal barrel, sturdy
21/25
Ergonomics
Intuitive, customisable controls, design
14/15
Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty, limited service network
3/5
MRP USD 889
OVERALL 91%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5
Who should buy it? Street photographers, portraitists, serious enthusaists… for X-E series users, an excellent upgrade.
Why? A highly capable sensor within an extremely light, tiny, understated, rangefinder-styled body packed with advanced features and great all-round performance..
Tags: better photography, Camera, Fujifilm Camera, Fujifilm X-E3, K Madhavan Pillai, October 2017