The three of you that are long time readers of this somewhat irregular blog, will know that what my camera looks like, is important to me. Almost exactly 2 years ago, I wrote an uncharacteristic post about all the Fujis I’ve loved before, and then followed it up with more angst a few months later. Both these posts have the same message: I like rangefinder bodies, the more compact the better, and my favourite one so far has been the X-E2.
Today marks the launch of the X-E3, the E2’s next incarnation. Insert googly eyed emoji here.
The X-E3 is, in a nutshell, all my favourite things, in an even smaller package than its predecessor. It’s like Yoda. You think it’s a small frog, then it turns out to be a Jedi Master.
Watch the video, in 4K or full HD:
So, what’s new in the X-E range?
- APS-C 24.3 megapixel X-Trans CMOS III sensor
- First X series model to feature Bluetooth.
- Touchscreen LCD panel with new touch functions like gesture control etc, similar to the GFX
- Updated AF algorithm for enhanced tracking performance
- 4K video capability with Fuji’s film simulations
The above is just what I’m aware of… during the course of testing this camera, I discovered other features that have been available since X-Pro2 days, like RAW output at extended ISOs. Until a couple of weeks ago, I assumed that shooting at extended ISOs produced JPEGs, like they did with the older cameras. Sent a baffled email to long-suffering Nordic product manager Karl that said “I just got an ISO 25,600 RAW file out of this thing. How is this possible?” Got an equally baffled reply back “But this has been possible since the X-Pro2?”
One day, I’ll actually remember to read the spec sheets.
But I digress.
Like all the other reviews I write, this is really more a mashup of impressions than a studied, technical review (if you’re after one of those, head over to Jonas Rask’s). I had the X-E3 to test for 3 weeks (it got to me 2 weeks late), so this review is based on:
- 1 week of shooting stills for samples, and
- 1 week of shooting video
The camera sat in a corner for the last week so I could edit, record the voiceover (as always, surprisingly difficult in Singapore), and turn the project over to my sound engineer to finish all the audio. Phew. Seat of pants.
I’ve been using the X-Pro2 since November 2015, and I still love everything about it, so I’m stoked to have that same image quality and high ISO capability it in a smaller body. And it is really tiny:
The XF 35mm F1.4, which is a perfect fit for the X-Pro2, looks humongous on the X-E3. Both the XF 35mm F1.4 and the XF 23mm F2 lenses (and by extension, the 35mm F2) felt and handled perfectly on this body though. It has the requisite joystick at the back of the body, and the buttons are laid out somewhat differently than the Pro2, but after a short period of adjustment, I found it just as intuitive as all my other Fujis. It doesn’t have an ISO dial, so I went back to using the top function button to switch ISO, just like I did in the X-Pro1 days (nice hit of nostalgia there, I will admit).
Importantly, despite it’s uber compactness, there was plenty of room for me to grip the camera and shoot, without accidentally hitting some button and changing a setting or three. This was one of big issues I had with the X-T10, that meant I never really gelled with that body. I’m uber happy this was not the case with the X-E3. I picked it up, started shooting, and pretty much forgot about the camera.
Many thumbs up. I didn’t try the improved AF tracking functions at all, so I have nothing to say about that. But I was taken aback by how fast the X-E3 focused my beat up, 5 year old XF 35mm F1.4 lens. Faster than the X-Pro2. Faster than the X-T2. For the first time in 5 years, I could use the XF 35 f1.4 on single servo focus all the time. So much win, people!
This one comes with a touchscreen, which I tried out several times, as you’ll see in the video above (go on, watch it, it’s award winning stuff). Touchscreens on cameras are generally wasted on me though. I love the X series for its dials and buttons, although previewing images and changing settings on the quick (Q) menu was a bit fun with the touchscreen, if only for the novelty.
At the moment, with the pre-production unit I have, you also have to turn the touchscreen and all its up-down-left-right swipe-able settings off, before you flick it to EVF, or your nose will activate the touchscreen. After several rounds of changing film simulations, focus settings and what-not with my nose (being left eye dominant), I simply turned the touchscreen off altogether and left it like that. Too fiddly, having to enable and disable stuff everytime I changed view modes.
I was surprised to hear that the X-E3 came with 4K video capability. So of course, the video had to be made in 4K. I’d seen a post (or maybe an ad) on Facebook, with an X-T20 on a Zhiyun Crane-M, and was intrigued. It’s been ages since I made my last video, as it got a bit frustrating to film hours of video and have only a tiny amount of useable footage owing to shake. I’ve been searching for a portable, light weight stabilizing solution for several years. All I wanted was something light and electronically stabilized so I could walk around and film, and small enough to travel with. Oh and it also had to be affordable. Not much to ask, surely?
Enter the Zhiyun Crane-M 3-axis stabilized handheld gimbal (try saying that really fast, 5 times in a row).
The Crane M was everything I wanted, perfect for the X-E3 and XF 23mm F2 lens, with a load limit of 650g. And it was small for such a sophisticated thing, looking more like a beefy selfie stick than anything else. I picked it up for SGD $523, and it was perfect for video making. As long as it was properly balanced (a 15 minute job the first time around), it just did its job with zero fuss. I had the novel experience of having 99% of everything I filmed, stable enough to use. Suffice to say, this is a big step up from my jury rigged sinker cam days, where the percentage of useable footage was about 40… if I was lucky.
I filmed on trains, buses, around hawker centers, in crowds… really, all over the place, and no one batted an eyelid.
The combination of the Crame-M and X-E3? Perfect. And it was, honestly, fun. Turn the camera on, turn the gimbal on, and off I went. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
Have I mentioned that the X-E3 is really small?
I think that’s what I love most about it. It’s so small, with that gorgeous, unassuming simplicity, that no one looked at it. This is the one to take street shooting, when you want to get a camera into places and situations without looking like a pro (or someone up to no good). It’s got the performance, it’s got the stealth. And the connectivity. I’d love to talk about the ease of the new Bluetooth capability, but I honestly haven’t tried it yet.
In Conclusion: The X-E3 is a tiny machine that packs a punch. If you’re a Pro2 shooter looking for a smaller, stripped down body to throw in your bag, this is is. If you’re a beginner looking for something rangefinder-like that will help you along with your learning curve, this is it. Me? I love it.
These JPEGs have been reduced to 2084px, and EXIF is available in the files.