Fujifilm X-E3 Review – The liberator

It’s been a long time coming. The third iteration of Fujifilms X-E line of X-series camera. Built in a rangefinder “brick” styling, but without the OVF of the X-Pro line, the X-E3 is to its bigger brother X-Pro2, what the X-T20 is to the X-T2. As always, the wishlist for features in a new fujifilm camera grow larger by the minute in various online communities, but Fujifilm kept true to concept, and improved an already great camera in some key areas.

Size, touch, connectivity. 

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Fujifilm put effort into some new technologies, mainly evolving the touchscreen capabilities and using bluetooth for an “always on” type of connection to your phone. They also made it smaller. Actually, a lot smaller! It seems as if they really wanted this camera to be a versatile mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with as small a physical footprint as possible, that would be instantly capable of social media uploading and sharing. A real 2017 lifestyle camera.

I have actually had the camera in my hands for quite some time, cause I was asked back in July if I wanted to shoot some samples with it for the upcoming printed brochure. I don’t know if it will be available at publication of this article, but you can always look for samples and brochures at Fujifilm-X.com here.

EDIT: The brochure is online here. Lovely to see my son Emil in there.

I still find it so incredibly flattering that Fujifilm involves me in these product launches, let alone have faith that I could actually produce something worthy of a brochure!

We were all set to engage on our family vacation in Venice just a day  after recieving the sample, so using the camera as a travel/lifestyle camera was the obvious choice. I really enjoyed using the X-E3 as a travel camera. So much power in such a small package. There were days where I had X-E3 with a 23mm f/2 over my shoulder, a 50mm f/2 in one pocket and a 35mm f/2 in the other. It simply doesn’t get any smaller than that in the APS-C segment!
Since returning from Italy, I have of course used it as a general usage camera in my daily photography, and just like the other X-series camera, it is incredibly versatile.

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X-E3 – XF23mm f/2

I really like how Fujifilm is starting to refine their products instead of completely overhauling them. They have a great portfolio of products, and there is a little bit of something for everyone in the X-series product line. The ultimate camera? The one to rule them all? – Let’s face it, it isn’t the X-E3, nor any of the other X-series. It will never happen. For that, the user base is too vast, and too versatile in camera-demands.

So what are we getting with the X-E3? Well, lets give this camera a run down, shall we? I will talk a little bit about the technology, the feel of things, and most importantly – how does it fare as a photographic tool.

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X-E3 – XF23mm f/2

Unlike many of my fellow X-shooters, I have never owned an X-E line camera. For a lot of you guys it was your entry into “X” – For me it was the X100 and the X-Pro1. That means that my “inter-XE-series-comparison-power” isn’t really that good. But I know when I have a great camera tool in my hands, and I know why so many of you are absolutely in love with the X-E series, so I’m going to give you my thoughts based on those criterias.

Disclaimer: The camera used in this review is a very early pre-production prototype camera. Image Quality might therefore not be final.
Disclaimer II: I’m an official X-photographer. My views are most likely as biased as they come. This being said, I’m an open and honest guy and I speak my opinions. Whether you believe my views of this camera or not, at least you get to see some colourful images from Venice 😛

IQ

I want to start the technical aspect of this review by talking about image quality. For those of you who already own a Fujifilm camera, I have nothing new to tell you. The X-E3 is built around the 3rd gerneration X-Trans sensor that debuted in the X-Pro2 in january 2016. It’s a fantastic sensor, and if you want more info on it you can read my X-Pro2 review or XT2 review. In those two reviews I go into much more detail with the actual sensor performance.
The X-Trans sensor is something you either love or hate. Since I still use the system, obviously I have a weak spot for its fantastic sharpness in the files and rich dynamic range. In the APS-C segment, I don’t really think it gets any better than this.

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X-E3 – XF23mm f/2

Files are sharp, rich and vibrant straight out of the camera. Image noise at high ISO is kept to an absolute minimum, and the grain is not that of coma-noise. It is more like luminance noise. It looks fantastic in black and white, as well as in colour images. There isn’t necessarily less noise in the Fujifilm X-Trans files – it’s just better looking.

Same as with all the other newer Fujifilm cameras, you get the fantastic jpeg engine as well as the amazing film-simulations. And yes, you get Acros® , Velvia ®, and Classic Chrome® just like in the other newer Fujifilm X-series cameras. They’re fantastic. Nothing less. So whether you’re into RAW files or jpegs, Fujifilm has got you covered with the X-E3.

And just like the X-T2 and X-T20 the X-E3 does video in up to 4K resolution. I don’t use video, so I don’t really care about it. For words on video you need to check out other reviews.

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X-E3 – XF23mm f/2

Speed

Fujifilm apparently one-up’ed the high speed autofocus modes in the X-E3. Just as I wrote  in my reviews of the X-Pro2, X-T2 and X100F the autofocusing speed of these Fujifilm cameras are now so good that it’s no longer a hindrance for obtaining the shots that I want. And I know I’m not a dedicated sportphotographer, but for what I shoot (which includes a lot of high paced action in lifestyle, street and sports) these latest generation Fujifilm cameras behave just like they should.
Anyway, Fujifilm did some algorithm magic and cramped an extra few milliseconds out of the camera. They also made the points of differentiation smaller, so in theory it should be better at achieving critical focus. Honestly, I can’t feel the difference between the X-E3 and the X-Pro2/X-T2, so I’m just going to conclude the whole speed-thing like this:
It’s more than fast enough for what the potential users of this camera would ever need. 

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X-E3 – XF23mm f/2

UI

Now this is where it gets interesting. Fujifilm did some bold things in the user interface / user experience department of the X-E3.
Let’s start with the most obvious thing when you pick up the camera. They removed the D-pad.

That is one bold move in itself, and when I first got my prototype back in July my first though was clearly “WTF!” – I suddenly found myself missing 4 function buttons that gave me quick access to my white balance, film simulations etc. But as I soon found out Fujifilm did something extremely clever instead:
You simply swipe up, down, let or right on the touchscreen to bring up the assigned functions of the old D-Pad.
It works very well, even with your eye pressed against the EVF, and I’ve gotten so used to it, that I now start swiping like that on my other Fujifilm cameras. In the heat of the moment, it’s actually faster knowing that you swipe right for WB access, instead of having to locate the right D-pad button. I don’t know if my opinions will change when winter season kicks in, and I have to wear gloves!

In comparison to the X-E2(s) Fujifilm added the little joystick-selector-knob-thingie, which works just like on the X100F, X-Pro2, XT20 and X-T2. The combination of the joystick and the new touchscreen swipe functions makes for a really nice and fast user experience, and I really think this bold move from Fujifilm is a look into the future of the X-series.

No doubt that the removal of the D-Pad made it easier to shrink the camera to a smaller size, and in conjunction to this the removal really streamlines the camera. It’s almost the same as Leica is doing with their M cameras.  Taking away superfluous features and simplifying the UX.

Fujifilm added a scroll wheel on the front of the camera, and since they did not include the amazing ISO/Shutter dial from the X-Pro2, you can assign the aperture to the scroll wheel for easy ISO changing. This works really well.

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Just like with the X-T10/X-T20 the X-E3 now features the “full-auto” panic switch® ;). It’s a great feature and on our trip to Italy it was very handy to be able to switch it to full auto and hand it to my wife who, bless her soul, has no interest in learning the photographic parameters. When using the full auto mode, the camera overrides every setting, and uses advanced metrics to analyse the scene. This sadly means that it doesn’t give you a RAW file. Only jpeg. – I would love for Fujifilm to incorporate that full auto makes a jpeg+RAW file if specified, although I don’t think there is enough processing power to do all this. But here’s to wishing 🙂 – Whenever you’re done in full-auto, you just flick the switch and you’re back to the parameters that you set manually. It’s really great and intuitive.

Connectivity

The X-E3 is the first camera from Fujifilm to feature a new bluetooth image transferring standard. You can have a ultra low power consuming connection feature to your smartphone or tablet. Gone are the tedious days of tranferring through wi-fi after trying to connect in what seems like forever.

The new remote app lets you pair your X-E3 directly to your camera, and after that you can have it transfer all your files automatically or you can choose which files to transfer.

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X-E3 – XF35mm f/1.4

The automatic transfer starts when you enter play mode or whenever you turn off your camera. You will get a small icon on your screen that shows the number of files that is set to be transferred.
When using the “transfer order” function you get to choose which files you want to tranfer. The “transfer order” is found on page 2 of the playback menu, but there is a shortcut you can use by pressing “play” and then “A-FL” – It takes you straight to the menu.

Since this is bluetooth, you can have an always-on connection, and you will experience close to zero power consumption of the camera.

Build/Portability

The X-E3 has been made smaller than its predecessors. Not by much, but still enough for it to feel substantially smaller. We are now in X-A10 territory.
Fujifilm took away the pop-up flash and instead included the EX8 in the package. I don’t mind, since I never ever use the built in flash of my cameras, but some of you might find this incredibly annoying.
The smaller size makes this an amazingly portable camera. It’s perfect for lifestyle, travel and street photography.
I sincerely enjoyed this during my trip to Venice. I carried the X-E3 along with the XF23mm f/2, XF35mm f/2 and XF50mm f/2 and it fit snugly in my ONA Bowery bag and I even had spare room for some Aperol Spritz 😛
On the streets I use the XF23mm f/2 and carry the 35mm in my pocket. Simple as that. This camera is built for portability. It’s everything the GFX is not in this regard!

The build and feel of the camera is phenomenal. Metal built, nice silver or black coating as well as a very clean and streamlined layout of the camera back. It looks even cleaner than the X100F. It feels like a high quality product despite of the compact size.

On the top plate you find a shutterspeed dial (up to 1/4000s), the auto switch, the shutter release (which is threaded), the exposure compensation (+3 to -3 and a “C” position where you can use the dials to dial in +5/-5) and an Fn button. All in all a very familiar layout to Fujifilm X series “rangefinder” users.
The curves and lines on the camera have a very organic and fluid feel to them. Not any kind of hard edges anywhere.

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X-E3 – XF23mm f/2

Conclusion

So, the X-E3 is the latest from Fujifilm. But is it the greatest? Let me tell you right now, that I have tried and tested all the cameras that Fujifilm has put to market for the past 5 years, and It continues to evolve and finetune the hardware in a very meticulous manner. Fujifilm has made two very distinct “lines” of cameras with different users in mind. The XT2/XT20 SLR type action cameras and the X-Pro2/X-E3 rangefinder style lifestyle type cameras. I prefer the latter, but that is such a subjective choice that I cannot guide anyone into what “line” they should choose.
With the X-E3 you get top op the line portability, connectivity and IQ within the Fujifilm X-series system. This is indeed a perfect carry around camera for those who do not want a fixed lens camera like the X100F/X70. – It’s getting rather tiresome to write, but Fujifilm has yet again made an incredible camera.

Samples

Picture time! – As most of you probably know, I’m not the guy who posts straight out of camera jpegs in my reviews. You can find those images elsewhere. I have processed these images in Lightroom to my liking as I always do. I usually use Capture One, but it would not recognise the X-E3 RAW files.

 

A lot of other great photographers have tried and tested the X-E3. One of them is fellow X-photographer Charlene Winfred. Read her thoughts and see wonderful images HERE

My brother from another mother Palle Schultz made a great movie about the fantastic Sonja Ziegler using the X-E3. You can see the video HERE

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45 thoughts on “Fujifilm X-E3 Review – The liberator

  1. Overall I am pretty disappointed with the X-E3. Unlike the X-E1 and 2 it isn’t an EVF only XPro. The 1 and 2 were on par with the XPro1 only missing the OVF and some minor features but adding some convenience on top. The X-E3 is more like a X-E30. As an X-E2 shooter this is totally not what I hoped for. Instead of making the camera smaller Fuji should have incorporated a much bigger EVF (maybe even the size of the X-T2 ones) with the possibility of attaching an eyecup. This doesn’t look and feel like a prosumer camera anymore. And why would someone even use Bluetooth for the file transfer? It is much slower than WiFi and even the transfer via WiFi was slow on the X-E2.

  2. ..The M1 (2) is indeed even smaller and a full X-Trans 2 – to be a bit picky. Only issue I have it that M1 does not show actual exposure unless shutter button is ½-pressed. Else it is an impressive small house with the T1 intestines more or less.

    But the E3 is interesting..

    -J!

  3. Thanks for this great review.
    As a X-E2 user, X-E3 looks promising.

    I have a question, Jonas.
    Is it possible to set the viewmode : EVF only for shooting & LCD for review and menu ?
    Because, unlike the other bodies of Fuji, it wasn’t possible on the X-E2..

  4. There is a typo in the texte : “Taking away superfluous features and simplifying the UX.” i think, you mean the “UI” and not “UX”.

    Great article, makes me think about getting one … 😉

  5. Great post Jonas. Congrats!

    Could you please tell me what is the external viewfinder that is mounted in one of the photos? The one with a Canon lens.

    Thank you in advance?

  6. One of the few reviewers on the Internet whose photos are leaps and bounds better than their already very strong technical reviews. Lovely seeing what Jonas can make these cameras do – they are at their best in his hands.

    Dave

  7. I loved my XE2 but it has stopped turning on. For the XE3 I’d really hoped for a larger viewfinder with eyecup possibility. I only bought the XT20 awaiting the XE3 and I’m disappointed that the cries for a tilt screen were ignored. This could’ve been my 3rd X camera purchase of the current lineup after also buying the X100f. I’ve looked at tilt screens and they really don’t add bulk considering the many pluses, like being able to shoot from the waist. On the bright side I could use my savings for the well-received Rokinon 135mm/f2, except the Fuji bodies lack IBIS. Hm…

  8. I think, it would be interesting to combine this with the XF27 Pancake as a small package to take everywhere. What do you think?

      1. I would like to raise the flag for the Meike 28/2,8 (or the Zonlai 35/1,8) as a low cost and totally manual alternative to the excellent Fujinon’s.
        About 80 USD and the IQ is not easy to differentiate from a Fujinon – although the 27/2,8 have some more punch in colors.

        But it is a nice lenses with a good feeing.

        If you like old school !

        -J!

  9. Jonas, Im interesting in bluetooth feature.
    Will I able to see live preview with a cell phone and taking picture ? If so, then swivel-screen is no longer needed
    Moreover, if I can set the aperture, speed, iso and focus point etc etc with cellphone.. then I’ll be in heaven

    Jason

    1. Yes, it is my understanding that the bluetooth connectivity will enable remote capture with exposure controls and live view. Much like the existing wifi capabilities on other X models. The pre-release X-E3 models do not have bluetooth + app integration fully developed yet, so it’s only speculation at this point.

  10. Does any of you guys know if there’s a delay waking up the camera when it goes to sleep? Or is it instantaneous like the XPro2? Thanks

      1. Great! I bought the xt20 just a month ago after regretting selling the XPRO2. The ON delay after the sleep mode is annoying. Looks like I’ll be trading soon. Haha. Thanks JR!

  11. Well done as usual Jonas. Great write up with very thoughtful analysis. You covered much more detail than I did in my “first look” review, so I linked up to you at the end of my post for folks to dive deeper. Ha!

  12. Would you be able to confirm whether it’s true that Fuji actually DOWNGRADED the viewfinder on the X-E3, meaning that it’s not just smaller than the X-T2 (sad but to be expected) but actually smaller than the X-E2?

    1. The X-E3 EVF will never be as big as in the XT2 – Just look at how big the “hump” on top of the XT2 is.
      As I wrote, I have not used either the X-E1, X-E2 or X-E2s – So I don’t know if they downgraded the EVF from those.

  13. Hey Jonas,
    Great review and fantastic photos! I’m an editorial portrait, music, documentary photographer, primarily a Canon shooter, but LOVE the Fuji cameras and have owned the XE2 for awhile. Really want to switch to using Fuji for assignments, and debating XE3 or X-Pro2? Any thoughts? Also, would the bluetooth feature on the XE3 work for giving the clients a look at what I’m shooting, similar to tethering a Canon?

    Thanks!

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