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Fujifilm X-E2 review: A little faster, more streamlined

You either pick up the X-E2 and fall in love with it and its photos, or you pass.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
9 min read

With the X-E2, Fujifilm has addressed almost all the important issues I had with the X-E1. The incorporation of the X-Trans CMOS II (used in the X100S and X-M1) provides phase-detection autofocus, and in conjunction with the updated EXR II image processor the result is better, albeit not terrific, performance. It also has a larger, higher-resolution LCD, a digital split-image viewfinder display from the X100S, and a more streamlined design and control layout. Plus it gains Wi-Fi connectivity.

Fujifilm X-E2 (Body Only, Black)

Fujifilm X-E2

The Good

The <b>Fujifilm X-E2</b> delivers the same excellent photo quality as the X-E1, with a more streamlined design and slightly better performance.

The Bad

It's still not terribly fast, especially for action, and the feature set remains relatively average. Plus you really don't want to use it for shooting video unless you're very careful about frame rates.

The Bottom Line

It delivers great images and is still fun to shoot with, but the Fujifilm X-E2 isn't a no-brainer upgrade over the X-E1 and other cameras outfeature it.

The result is a camera that's generally better than its predecessor and great fun to use, but not necessarily a clear-cut buy once you lay out all the pros and cons.

Image quality
The X-E2 delivers the excellent photo quality I've come to expect from the APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor, as well as the video problems. However, it's not definitively better than the X-E1. At the same exposure settings, for instance, the X-E2 produces higher-contrast JPEG images that clip shadow detail more than the X-E1's; it's all there in the raw file, though.

Fujifilm X-E2 photo samples

See all photos

However, the combination of relatively clean, sharp images and solid JPEG processing means you really can't improve on the camera's sharpness by shooting raw at any ISO sensitivity. That said, it does help for adjusting exposure; at the default Standard (Provia) film simulation color setting, low-light images tend to come out a lot darker and more contrasty in the JPEGs than in the raws. But JPEGs are quite usable at full size up through ISO 3200 and possibly ISO 6400 depending upon scene content and lighting. And beyond that, if you shoot in black and white they're still surprisingly sharp. My only caveat vis-a-vis the stills is that there's still no raw support in the expanded ISO sensitivity range -- that goes for ISO 100 and ISO 12800 and higher.

Click to download ISO 200

ISO 1600
ISO 6400

The color looks relatively accurate in the defaults, but I find I get the best results in NH, or Pro Negative High mode, which doesn't boost saturation quite as much. Nevertheless, standard does deliver some of the best reproduction I've seen in a camera of this class. You do need to expose on the dark side to get good skies or clouds clip unrecoverably and the blue can look false and flat in the JPEGs -- raws are better. There isn't an extraordinary amount of highlight data to recover in blown-out areas, and as you'd expect you lose quite a bit of shadow detail in dark shots at high ISO sensitivities, but in the main ISO sensitivity range shadow areas can be brought out with practically no noise.

You really don't want to use the camera for video, however; as we've seen before, the X-Trans sensor produces more moire and artifacts than usual, and you have to be more conscious about what you're shooting and the frame rate you choose than normal. Sensors without OLPFs are notorious for this in video, but Fujifilm's seem worse than normal.

While I wouldn't call the X-E2 a speedster, clearly the autofocus has improved over its predecessor, and it's fast enough that it rarely frustrated me. It takes about 1.4 seconds to power on, focus, and shoot, and once on, time to focus and shoot runs about 0.4 second, though it's rounded up to that in good light and rounded down in dim. Time for two sequential shots is a little on the slow side, 1 second for JPEG and 1.1 for raw, mostly because the lens seems to reset and refocus between shots. With flash enabled, that increases to about 1.9 seconds.

Continuous-shooting performance is a bit trickier. It can burst JPEGs pretty fast without continuous AF -- 7 frames per second for about 15 frames at which point it slows to 4.6fps. With autofocus you have to drop to continuous-low mode, which delivers an effectively unlimited number of shots at about 2.5fps. In continuous-low mode with autofocus the buffer can accommodate about 14 raw shots before slowing, though it varies, at 2.7fps.

Despite problems with the video quality and a tendency to pulse on fixed subjects in video continuous-focus mode, the autofocus works noticeably better in the X-E2 than the X-E1. It retains its great manual-focus feel, though.

Both the EVF and LCD are really nice: bright, contrasty, and saturated. But the LCD doesn't tilt and can be quite difficult to view in direct sunlight. I don't really like the new digital split-image viewfinder -- focus peaking seems far easier -- though that's a personal quirk; I could never get the hang of the split-image focusing in film cameras, either.

Design and features
As with the X-E1, I like quite a bit about the X-E2's design and enjoy shooting with it. It's big for a compact, which some folks might not like, and despite the tweaks Fujifilm has made to the design one of them wasn't a needed increase in grip size. Still, the thumb rest on the back gives you enough leverage for single-handed shooting.

On top it retains the analog shutter speed and exposure compensation dials; for shutter priority shooting, you rotate the shutter dial to A. Now there's an entry on the shutter-speed dial for 1/180th second, the flash sync speed. And one subtlety I didn't catch before was the ability to select the 1/3-stop shutter speeds between the full stops by using the back dial. The camera is designed to be used with lenses that have manual aperture rings like the 18-55mm lens that comes in the kit, but it's compatible with the newer (cheaper) no-aperture-ring lenses; with those, you control aperture via the jog dial on the back. (Here are the instructions (PDF).) If you have the higher-end lenses, you choose between manual or automatic aperture modes by flipping a switch on the lens.

Some of the control layout changes include better placement for the AF-L and AF buttons. Sarah Tew/CNET

The shutter button has threads for a wired shutter release, and there's a programmable function button next to it that you can map to one of a variety of frequently needed settings; in playback mode it brings up the Wi-Fi connection. The popup flash can be tilted back for bouncing, a feature I really like. An autofocus mode switch -- single, continuous, or manual -- sits on the front of the body.

On the shutter dial there's also a 1/180-sec stop to quickly access the top flash-sync speed, plus there's a second programmable button on the top. Sarah Tew/CNET

You'll find the review, drive, metering, and a second programmable function button down the left side of the LCD; the function button defaults to white balance. Fujifilm considers movie recording a drive mode, so you have to inconveniently dive down to turn it on, and you can't shoot photos while you're in that mode.

On the right side sit the four-way navigation buttons, one of which is dedicated to macro mode and the second to the now-relocated AF-area selector button, plus menu/OK in the center. The Q (quick control) button is close to the top center of the back, to the left of the jog dial, making it a little awkward to reach, while separate AE- and AF-lock buttons now more conveniently occupy the thumb rest bump. The quick-control screen still could use some customizability, but it's at least straightforward to use.

Fujifilm X-E1 Fujifilm X-E2 Olympus PEN E-P5 Sony Alpha NEX-6
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS
16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II 16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
23.6x15.6mm 23.6x15.8mm 17.3x13mm 23.5x15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.5x 1.5x 2x 1.5x
OLPF No No No Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Continuous shooting 6fps
unlimited JPEG/8 raw
(7fps with fixed AF)
4.5-5fps (lens dependent, IS off)
70 JPEG/20 raw
(9fps with fixed AE/AF, no IS)
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder EVF
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
Optional EVF
2.36 million dots
100% coverage
1.48x/ 0.74x
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 49-area
Contrast AF
49-area contrast AF; phase-detection AF 35-area contrast AF 99-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 sec x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 sec x-sync 60 - 1/8,000 sec; bulb to 30 min; 1/250 sec x-sync
(FP to 1/4,000 sec)
30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering 256 zones 256 zones 324 areas 1,200 zones
Metering range n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash No No Yes No
Image stabilization Optical Optical Sensor shift Optical
Best video 1080/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p @ 20Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input
LCD size 2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed LCD
1.04 million dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen LCD
1.04 million dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
Wireless connection None Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots 350 shots 330 shots 270 shots
(with viewfinder)
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 5.1x2.9x1.5 5.1x2.9x1.5 4.8x2.7x1.5 4.8x2.8x1.1
Body operating weight (ounces) 12.6 12.7 15.1 12.3
Mfr. price $699 (est, body only) $999.95 (body only) $949.99 (body only) $749.99 (body only)
$999.95 (est, with 18-55mm lens) $1,399.95 (with 18-55mm XF lens) n/a $899.99 (with 15-60mm PZ lens)
n/a n/a $1,449.99 (with 17mm f1.8 lens and VF-4 EVF) n/a
Ship date November 2012 November 2013 July 2013 October 2012

While the feature set has grown a tiny bit, it's still relatively basic. You can't control ISO or shutter speed in movie mode, though you can still set aperture beforehand. The Wi-Fi implementation is serviceable with Android but not so much iOS, at least with the latest version of the app at the time I wrote this; I couldn't get it to connect to my iPad, and I wasn't alone in that if the user reviews were anything to judge by. On my Android device (an HTC One), it worked okay, though it frequently took multiple tries to get it to connect, even with the camera and phone side by side. Even when it works the capabilities are unremarkable -- you can remotely browse or download photos and geotag.

The tripod mount is right next to the battery compartment/SD card slot, which makes swapping cards or batteries a real problem if you're a tripod user. Also, some folks have complained about the X-E1's inability to set a minimum shutter speed when in aperture-priority mode; still can't in the X-E2.

While the camera gets bonus points for the EVF, tilting flash, and focus peaking, the rest of the feature set is pretty average and the lackluster Wi-Fi barely moves the needle. However, with the exception of the minimum-shutter-speed issue, and perhaps a desire for time-lapse or increased number of shots during bracketing, there's still enough here to keep most photographers happy.

For a complete accounting of the X-E2's features and operation, download the PDF manual (PDF).

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Olympus PEN E-P5
Sony Alpha NEX-6
Fujifilm X-M1
Fujifilm X-E2
Fujifilm X-E1

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

*The earlier Fujifilm X series cameras only support continuous shooting with fixed exposure and focus.

**The X-E2 only supports continuous autofocus and exposure in the low-speed 3fps continuous-shooting mode. It gives 7fps without continuous autofocus.

For its image quality and shooting experience, the Fujifilm X-E2 remains a winner in its price bracket. But it falls short for action shooting and video, for which you can get a better experience by paying a few hundred more for a camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 or a dSLR like the Nikon D7100. While it will be a lot more expensive to jump up to full frame -- and even more so if you want OLPF-free full frame -- I think a lot of profressionals who might have jumped at the X-E2 as a supplement (or alternative to) their dSLRs might be lured by one of Sony's options. While the E-P5 can't compete on pixel-peeping photo quality, there's still the attraction of the tilting LCD, access to a wider variety of native system lenses, and faster flash sync, and the the OM-D E-M1 additionally has sturdier construction. You either pick up the X-E2 and fall in love with it, or you pass.

Furthermore, given the price drop on the Fujifilm X-E1 and the relative similarity to its successor, that might be a nice option as well.

Fujifilm X-E2 (Body Only, Black)

Fujifilm X-E2

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Performance 7Image quality 9