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Fujifilm X-E3 Review - Compact Rangefinder-style Mirrorless Camera!

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There is no perfect camera. Only a camera perfect for your needs. The X-E line has catered to a niche loyal following that petitioned to get the X-E3 made.
Fujifilm X-E3 Review - Compact Rangefinder-style Mirrorless Camera!
The silver X-E3

The X-E2s was released alongside the X-Pro2 in early 2016 and seemed to be the last try of Fujifilm for the form factor for some reason. (This was also the last hurrah for the X-Trans II sensor.) If you have been following a Fujifilm focused rumor site, the X-E line was rumored to be discontinued but because of the efforts of the community, the X-E3 was made.

A lot of people were fans of the performance, the build quality and the images produced by the X-T2 and X-Pro 2 that a lot of the Fujifilm X-E line enthusiasts wanted to get them in the next version of the X-E camera so much so that they fought for it. Fujifilm responded in kind and the camera was released late in 2017.

There was a strong following for people who didn't need the Hybrid viewfinder of the X-Pro line and only wanted a full digital viewfinder in a rangefinder style body.

What was so magical about this camera that a strong following was willing to petition to get it made? Let's find out.

For our review part 1: Fujifilm X-E3 First Impressions and Camera Samples

Display Quality

Touch screen!

It is equipped with an 3.0-inch, aspect ratio 3:2, with an approximate 1.04 million-dot touch screen color LCD monitor with nearly 100% coverage monitor for the on body display. It has the same resolution as the predecessor but is now a touch screen.

The touch screen is quick and responsive. It is accurate at detecting our taps, swipes and pinch to zoom 9 out of 10 times. There were one or two times where it would misread our inputs. It is a lot better from the touchscreen implementation on the Fujifilm X-A3 that we reviewed here. Do not expect it to be like a smartphone's touchscreen in complexity though.

You have an option to disable, enable the touch screen with a button placed on the upper right hand corner of the screen. You can also pick what the tap does like: tap to set autofocus point, tap to focus, or tap to take a shot. This is especially useful in speeding up your selection of autofocus point given that you have a 13 by 7 autofocus points.

The display is fixed on the back for most situations, it will work well except when you will be shooting images from very low or very high angles. It is difficult to view the LCD and the viewfinder from an angle. This was when I missed the 2-way tilt-screen of the X-T2.

Battery Life

Bottom view with the Battery and UHS-I SD card slots
Bottom view with the Battery and UHS-I SD card slots

Specs sheet say that it is rated for 350 shots with the NP-W126S. This maybe so if you were shooting with RAW + JPEG and if you were constantly changing settings or always checking your pictures via slideshow (chimping). 

Our experience on day one was that the battery died quickly because we were still learning the camera so we were always fiddling and looking for the settings, the menu or the features we wanted, but after we got use to the camera, we would get around 450 to 550 shots per charge. This is with occasional 2 to 3 minute video recording.

The battery quickly empties after shooting 4K video. We shot 15 minutes of footage and the battery quickly went a little above 50%. If you wish to use this as a video camera primarily, We recommend carrying at least 3 batteries.

With the OEM charger we would get from empty to full within 90 minutes. So it doesn't take to long. You can also charge with the OEM USB cord and it will charge but at a longer period.

Performance

Capable performance!
Capable performance!

The camera is quite capable and can be either full auto or fully manual. The only caveat is incorporating the new touch screen to your shooting workflow. The touchscreen now enables quick settings by swiping up, down, left or right in replacement of the removal of the d-pad. The Joystick allows for quick movement of the autofocus point in case you do not like the touch screen tap to focus function.

The camera is quite capable and can be either full auto or fully manual!

My personal settings are partly-full-manual mode. I prioritize aperture and shutter speed and depending on subject, I either set the ISO and white balance to Auto or adjust it to my personal preference. 

There is still the option to have 3 sets of Auto-ISO with a limit to your preference in Maximum ISO and Shutter speed. This works for when you are shooting subjects where you have no time to set them manually.

Of course, you can choose to go full auto with the auto dial under the shutter speed dial.


After I got  used to it. I found myself enjoying this camera. I took it out for several street photography runs. I went out with friends, took pictures of the people I care about, the food I ate and the places I went to.

I even took it to my trip to Tokyo in February and even though I had the X-T2, I used the X-E3 exclusively 90% of the trip. I had 3 lenses with me but I mostly used the XF 23 F2 and the XF 18-55 F2.8-4 kit zoom lenses with the X-E3. This made it a very versatile ready to pick-up walk around camera.

Autofocus speed is fast on body side and when coupled with the lenses that Fuji released in the last 3 years, it's even faster. Older lenses like the 35 1.4, 60 2.4 Macro tend to be on the slow side. The new algorithms Fujifilm used on the X-E3 is faster and more accurate than the one from my X-T2 but it wasn't too dramatic for single point autofocus in my experience. I did notice better continuous autofocus results from the X-E3.

Autofocus accurately focuses 9 out of 10 times. In fact, the only time it missed focus when using single point/tap to focus was when the subject was pitch black environments.

The face-detection autofocus is spot on as well. It would only hunt when we stepped outside of the frame and came back. Sometimes it would reacquire our face but sometimes it doesn't. This is for both stills and video while eye detect autofocus could use some improvements in stills.

This was both the mid shutter release autofocus and the back-button autofocus. (Back button autofocus is superior in my opinion because you can leave the focus mode dial in manual all the time and if you want to use the autofocus you can assign a button for it and it will focus. It would be best if you Google: Back-Button Autofocus. It will change your life.

I find the camera versatile. That said, it's easier to mention what this camera is not for and what it can't do:

1. It is FAST but not race car subject fast. Actions like sporting events (Racing, Horseback riding) but it is fast enough to catch your kids or your pets playing at the bright outdoors. At Continuous High mode it can shoot up to 8 fps with the mechanical shutter (25 RAW images and 62 JPEGS images) while on the electronic shutter it can shoot up to 11 fps. This is fast enough to catch your fast moving kids or city speed limit vehicles.

We HIGHLY recommend to use Sandisk Class 10 UHS-I SD Cards to avoid lock-ups and bottlenecks!

2. It has limited long exposure features which limits its use for hardcore landscape photography.

3. The fixed position of the LCD display limits the angles you can shoot from unless you connect your camera to your phone via WiFi or Bluetooth with the Fujifilm Camera Remote App from the Apple App store and the Google Play Store.

4. It is not the best option for Vlogging or professional video work. It can be, but you would need a stabilized lens, a gimbal, external microphone and a lot of batteries.

Lastly, it has the X-Factor. The camera is small and the rangefinder design makes it look like a point-and-shoot camera. This doesn't alarm people like larger cameras do. So they most of the time won't mind you taking pictures. It's stealthy too especially when using the electronic shutter where it can be virtually silent when taking pictures.

Image Quality

Embeded Flickr Image no. 1 - Aoyama dori

Note: For the full resolution straight out of camera images click here to be redirected to our Flickr Album.

For still image quality, the X-E3 is one of the best for its price point and this is just with the XF 18-55 and XF 23 F2 kit lenses.

This is also because it has the X-Trans III sensor and X-Processor Pro processor that the bigger brothers X-T2 and X-Pro 2 have which means the same Image quality. In fact the sensors of most cameras today aren't that far from each other and the differences are mostly nitpicking. It now all comes down to the photographer, the lenses and the lighting. 
Embeded Flickr Image no. 2 - Look at the detail!
Embeded Flickr Image no. 2 - Look at the detail!

YES, lenses affect image quality because the camera body processes the images rendered by the lens. Higher quality lenses will always help with better image quality. And it shows in the images we have taken that Fujifilm is applying their decades of experience with one of the best color reproduction, contrast, and resolution with good control of artifacts, of chromatic aberration and of noise.
Embeded Flickr Image no. 3 - lowlight long exposures are possible!
Embeded Flickr Image no. 3 - lowlight long exposures are possible!

Of course, to our eyes the images are better than any smartphone camera's we've ever tested but this is relative to our experience. We will leave the sample images below along with full high-resolution Flickr links for your own viewing and pixel peeping pleasure.


Fujifilm X-E3 Image Sample 25
Embeded Flickr Image no. 4 - XF 23 F2 WR bokeh is nice but soft wide open!
Fujifilm X-E3 Image Sample 38
Embeded Flickr Image no. 5 - XF 18-55 F2.8-4 One of the best Kit Lenses ever!


Video Quality

The X-E3 is a capable video camera but it may be lacking for those looking for a advanced amateur to professional grade videography. It is good for those spur of the moment video recording. Those moments will fly by, and you wouldn't be disappointed with the output from the X-E3.

It shoots video with a full sensor readout but with line skipping. This means that you get the full width and full angle of view of the lens but at cost of some resolution. When we compared it to footage with the X-T2, the footage from the X-E3 is wider but it does have a noticeable reduction in resolution. It's still sharp, the X-T2's footage is just noticeably sharper.

It does not have internal log profile recording nor does it have a headphone jack for checking audio.

As discussed above, the continuous and face-detection autofocus in video is better than older Fujifilm cameras. It isn't perfect though. Lastly, There isn't much change in single point. Eye detect autofocus could use some improvements in video as well.

To improve your videos, we recommend bringing a motorized gimbal, the image stabilization is good, but nothing is better than gimbal stabilized footage.

Writer's Note / Recommendations: One of the most important specifications of camera is not in the body itself but the ecosystem. (It's like how Apple's App ecosystem made the iOS dominate the mobile landscape with an app for everything.) The X-E3 has access to at least 20 Fujifilm lenses that cater to a wide variety of use. This gives you a wide set of choices should you want to move on from the kit lens. We recommend the Pancake XF 27 2.8, XF 23 F2, XF 35 F2,XF 50 F2. These are all lightweight high performance prime lenses that will work great with your X-E3 and not be too heavy and cause extra camera shake due to the weight of the lens being heavier than the camera body itself. The other kit lens, the XF 18-55 F2.8-4 is also an incredible lens in versatility and image quality against other zoom lenses. It is a matter of preference of either a zoom or a prime.

Competition: The mirrorless camera that competes with the X-E3 in terms of specifications is the Canon EOS M6. The main advantages of the M6 is the better dual pixel autofocus and better articulating screen. The X-E3 has a wider NATIVE lens selection while you have to use adapters and HUGE lenses if you want to access the wider EF/Canon DSLR lenses and the X-E3 is rated for 350 shots while the M6 is rated for 295 shots. In terms of build quality, I would say they are even, so it is a matter of preferences.

But if you are interested in video the Panasonic Lumix micro four thirds are a better choice but even the micro four-thirds lens selection is limited.

Pros - Improved Autofocus from previous Fujifilm Cameras, One of best kit lenses in terms of optics and image quality rendered, Lightweight body, Access to more than highly regarded 20 Fujinon lenses, High resolution, Compact Rangefinder Style with electronic shutter makes it a stealthy camera, Assured Firmware updates and support from Fujifilm

Cons - Fixed LCD display limits shooting angles, The grip could be improved, tripod screw mount is not in line with the sensor, Videography features can be improved, no weather sealing, Eye detect and Continuous Autofocus could be improved in a future firmware update

Verdict

It is the perfect walk around and stealthy camera that you can change the lens with your prefered focal length because of the size, rangefinder like design and the electronic shutter. 

There is a lot to like about the X-E3 because it can do a lot for its size with little weakness like the fixed LCD display limiting creative angles and the limited video features. So if you are looking for a camera without weather sealing that focuses on stills photography that you can carry around with you and take great pictures but have the option for changing focal lengths then the X-E3 could be for you!

We highly recommend it for people looking for an interchangeable lens camera in a rangefinder form factor that do not find going full digital for a viewfinder.

Build / Design - 4.25
Display - 4.25
Image Quality - 4.5
Video Quality - 3.75
Average - 4.1875 / 5
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