Fujfilm X-E3 Snap Verdict
The X-E3 completes Fujifilm's cycle of updating its mirrorless system cameras to the 24.3Mp X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor and X-Processor Pro processing engine combination that appears in the X-T2, X-Pro2, X-T20 and X100F. As a result, it's capable of producing high-quality images with plenty of detail and attractive colours that are dictated by the selected Film Simulation mode. It also has an ingenious touch-control system and a mini-joystick that takes the place of a traditional navigation pad and really improves the handling. It's a gem of a camera.
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What is the Fujifilm X-E3?
The Fuji X-E3 is an APS-C format compact system or mirrorless camera with the Fujifilm X lens mount. It's the replacement for the 16Mp Fuji X-E2S which was announced in January 2016. Like theÂ camera it replaces, it has a rectangular rangefinder-like design and an electronic viewfinder built-in.
Fujifilm X-E3 Specification
Perhaps the biggest, but also the most predictableÂ upgrade that the X-E3 makes to the X-E2S is the change from a 16Mp sensor to a 24.3Mp device. It's predictable because it's the same 24.3Mp X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor as has appeared in the Fuji X-Pro2, X-T2 and X100F. Also, like these other cameras, the sensor is paired with the X-Processor Pro processing engine.
This combination enables a standard sensitivity range of ISO 200 to 12800 with extension options taking it to ISO 100 to 51200. It's also possible to shoot up to 21 uncompressed raw files or 35 jpegs at 14fps (frames per second) using the electronic shutter. If you want to focus continuously, however, this drops to 11fps and 53 jpegs or 21 uncompressed raw files. Switch to the mechanical shutter drops the maximum rate to 8fps for 62 jpegs or 25 uncompressed raw files.
In another significant upgrade upon the X-E2S the 3-inch 1,040,000-dot screen on the X-E3 is a touchscreen. And in addition to the usual Touch Shot, Touch AF and Focus Area Selection options there's a Touch Function feature that enables gesture control that's familiar from smartphones.
Fujifilm has updated the phase detection autofocus algorithm to boost its performance with moving subjects. This is now claimed to take around half the time of the X-E2 to focus and subject can be half the size that it needs to be with the X-E2S.
According to Fujifilm, the X-E3 can also get subjects sharp in as little as 0.06sec.
There are up to 325 focus points (in a 13 x 25 grid) available for selection, but if you prefer this can be limited to 91 (in a 7 x 13 grid). These can be selected individually in single focus point mode or the camera select one automatically in Wide/Tracking AF mode. Alternatively, there's Zone AF which is useful when you know roughly where the subject will be in the frame.
Like the X-T2 and X-T20, the X-E3 has a collection of five autofocus customisation options that tailor how the camera responds in continuous autofocus mode (AF-C). Unlike the X-T2 (but like the X-T20), it's not possible to adjust the individual parameters such as Tracking Sensitivity that are controlled by these settings, but they are a useful addition to the feature set. The options are:
Fujifilm doesn't offer a dedicated video camera like the Panasonic GH5 and Sony A7S II but it enables photographers to shoot video that compliment the stills by using the Film Simulation modes.
It's possible to record 4K (3840 x 2160) at 29.97, 25p, 24p or 23.98p and 100Mbps for up to 10 mins at a time. Full HD (1920 x1080) movies can be recorded at up to 59.94p and 36Mbps for up to 15 mins. If you want to shoot continuously for longer than that you'll have to drop to HD (1280 x 720) which can be maintained for up to 30mins.
There's an HDMI Micro port available if you want to record to or view footage on an external monitor and a 2.5mm socket is available for connecting an external mic (via a 2.5/3.5mm adaptor).
Build quality and handling
Like the X-E2S, the X-E3 has a rectangular rangefinder-like shape with the viewfinder fitting within the rectangle rather than protruding above the top-plate like the mini-DSLR X-T20 and X-T2. It's like a smaller version of the X-Pro2. Unlike the X-Pro2, however, there's no optical element to the viewfinder, it's purely electronic.
Although the grip on the front of the X-E3 body is quite shallow and there's only a small thumb-ridge on the back, they are both covered with a grippy, textured finish that makes the camera feel comfortable and secure when you're shooting one-handed. And while it feels okay with a lens like theÂ XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS mounted, it looks and feels more natural and better balanced with a prime lens like theÂ XF 23mm F2 R WR.
Although the X-E3 will seem familiar to X-E2S users, there are some significant and welcome changes to the control arrangement. The most significant of these is that Fujifilm has done-away with the usual navigation pad on the back of the camera. Instead, there's a mini-joystick control that Fuji calls a 'focus lever'. This sits in line with the Menu, Display and Playback buttons and falls within convenient reach of your right thumb. It makes it easy to navigate through menu options, make settings selections and set the AF point. It's much faster and easier to use than the navigation pad.
Further good news is that getting rid of the navigation pad means there's more room on the back of the camera for your thumb so the X-E3 is easier and more comfortable to hold than the X-E2S.
Fujifilm has also given the X-E3 a front dial, which works in tandem with the rear dial for scrolling through menu options and browsing through settings.
While there's a lens aperture ring and both shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on the X-E3's top-plate there's no sensitivity (ISO) dial. However, there's an 'ISO Command Dial Setting' option in the Set-up menu that enables you to set ISO via the new front command dial. I found this useful for those occasions when I wasn't using the camera in Auto ISO mode.
As I mentioned earlier, the X-E3's screen is touch-sensitive and it's possible to swipe up, down, left and right to access key features such as AF mode, sensitivity (ISO), Film Simulation mode and white balance. Initially, I had mixed success with using this gesture control but then I discovered the swipes need to be quite fast. When the camera doesn't respond, the natural response is to drag your finger slowly, but the camera seems to be looking for a quick swipe so you need to do the opposite.
Once you've sorted out how to activate the Touch Functions, it takes a little while to remember which way to swipe to access what you want, but it's something you become familiar with and it speeds-up making adjustments.
These gestures can also be used while the camera is held to your eye and you can specify whether you want to use the whole screen or just the left or right area. This is a bit trickier to use for left eye users, but it's pretty nifty for right-eyed shooters.
It's possible to customise the Touch Function via the Button/Dial setting option of the Set-up menu and there's a total of 31 options available, plus 'Off'.
In addition, you can drag your thumb on the screen to select the AF point you want while you look in the viewfinder, but I found it easier to use the Focus Lever (joystick).
Viewfinder and screen
While it's not the largest EVF that Fuji as on offer, X-E3's electronic viewfinder provides a clear view of the scene and it matches the final image well. The screen is also good and doesn't suffer excessively from reflections. It's disappointing, however, that the screen is fixed. It would be nice if it were possible to tilt it to have a clearer view when shooting from high or low angles. A dual-tilting mechanism like on the X-T2, or even a more common vari-angle hinge would be even better.
As I mentioned earlier, the X-E3 has the same sensor and processing engine as the Fujfilm X-T2, X-Pro2. X-T20 and X100F. This means that it produces very similar images and noise is controlled well throughout the native sensitivity range (ISO 200-12,800). Naturally, some detail is lost at the uppermost settings, but the results are good and even the expansion settings can produce passable images.
As you'd expect, if you want the best images, the sensitivity should be kept to the lower values as that ensures the highest level of detail and best colour saturation. Ideally, keep to ISO 3,200 or lower but don't stress too much if you need to go to ISO 6400 or even 12,800.
Fujifilm's Film Simulation modes, combined with the Shadow and Highlight tone controls allow you to give jpegs the look you want. Everyone has their favourite, but some suit some scenes better than others. I particularly like Classic Chrome for it's slightly muted colours and warm tones. I like to push the Shadow tone pup a little to deepen the shadows and boost contrast. Acros is also another favourite for black and white images.
As with other Fujifilm cameras, the X-E3's automatic white balance setting is a good default option, but the Daylight setting delivers slightly more attractive results in some natural light situations (shade for example) â in others, it's indistinguishable from the Auto WB result.
As it has an electronic viewfinder that can show the image as it will be captured, taking into account the exposure and colour settings, it's rare that you'll find an image that isn't exposed as you'd like it to be. Nevertheless, I found that in its Multi setting the X-E3's 256-Zone metering system copes well with some scenes that might fool other cameras. When photographing a river under an overcast sky, for example, it delivered an excellent image with no intervention on my part. In fact there were remarkably few occasions when I needed to use the exposure compensation dial to prevent the subject from being under- or over-exposed.
If you should underexpose an image, either accidentally or to protect the highlights, you'll find that the X-E3's low ISO raw files have good dynamic range and can withstand quite substantial brightening.
The Fuji X-T2 or X-T20 is perhaps the more natural choice for shooting sport and action as their shape works better with long lenses, but the X-E3's autofocus system is fast and accurate so it is feasible to shoot fast-moving subjects with it if you want.
However, the X-E3 is more at home with small prime lenses than it is with long telephoto zoom optics, so it's more likely to be used for landscape, documentary and street photography. But it's good to have the potential if you need it â and fast focusing can be useful for street photography.
The X-E3's AF system also proves reliable in quite low lighting and with the XF 23mm F2 R WR mounted, it achieved sharp focus even with some really low contrast subjects during my testing.
I found the X-E3's Bluetooth and Wi-Fi automatic image transfer system rather hit and miss. There were many instances when I saw the lights on the camera flashing as I turned it off, but when I checked my phone, the images weren't there. The problem was usually solved by opening the Fujifilm Remote app on my phone and tapping the camera's name to reform the connection. The app usually issued a warning about the need to open the phone settings and connect to the camera's Wi-Fi system, but if I waited a few seconds it worked it out for itself.
From this point, I could then use my phone to browse the images on the card in the camera and select the ones I wanted to transfer â and they would copy across without a hitch. After that any images, I shot subsequently would also usually transfer automatically until the next time that the camera and phone were out of range and I'd have to make the connection again.
It's clear that there's a little work to be done before we can expect automatic image transfer to be seamless.
Follow this link to view and download full-resolution X-E3 files
Fujifilm X-E3 Review Sample Images
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When I first heard about the X-E3 I assumed it was a mini X-Pro2 with a cutdown feature set that meant it was destined to be the camera people bought if they couldn't afford the one they really wanted. However, Fujifilm has made it much more than that and there are valid reasons why people might choose it instead of the camera above it in the manufacturer's line-up.
For a start, it's smaller and lighter, but it also offers a different way of working that cuts through some of the button use that can slow you down. The Touch Function gives a speedy route to four key features (provided you can remember which is accessed in which way) and the joystick controller that Fuji likes to call a focus lever, takes the place of a space-hungry navigation pad. As well as being easier to use with your thumb while you're looking in the viewfinder, the joystick takes up much less space than the usual navigation pad so the camera looks cleaner and is easier to hold.
And while the X-E3 might be shaped to make it more comfortable for use with prime lenses, it has an autofocus system that can make good use of longer optics, so you can use it to photograph a wide range of subjects â including sport
Add to this the fact that Fujifilm cameras have a recipe that enables them to deliver attractive looking images with pleasant colours and nice mid-tone contrast you start to see why the X-E3 really hits the spot. I just wish it has a tilting screen and that Fuji can hurry-up and iron out the Bluetooth/Wi-Fi connection issue.
Fujfilm X-E3 Rating
Build and Handling:
Should I buy a Fujifilm X-E3?
If you like traditional exposure controls, want a fairly small camera that has an understated appearance and is capable of delivering high-quality results, then the Fujifilm X-E3 is a great choice. It's a camera you will grow to love.