Fujifilm X-E3 Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Performance starts with image quality, which is the criteria used as the foundation of our digital camera ratings. Ergonomic issues may get in the way, but in the end, image quality counts the most. For an ILC, image quality greatly depends on the lens used. While color, noise, exposure and dynamic-range are properties of a camera, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are properties of the lens. Sharpness and contrast depend on the weakest link. That is, a camera cannot capture more details than a lens lets through. Conversely, it is quite possible for a lens to transmit more details than a sensor can capture.
Image Noise & Details
The Fujifilm X-E3 delivers image quality comparable to the best APS-C cameras available today. There is a huge leap in sharpness and details compared to the X-E2 that precedes it. Image noise is nearly invisible until ISO 1600 where starts appearing being visible when shown at 100%. From ISO 100 to 800 though, maximum-sized prints look absolutely perfect.
ISO 3200 show a mild increase in noise which comes with a noticeable loss of details due to noise-reduction. At these sensitivities, print sizes get reduced yet mid-sized prints such as 15"x10" still come out looking good. Although noise has virtually no impact on colors, it brings on a significantly noticeable loss of contrast.
As it happens sometimes with overly aggressive noise-reduction, ISO 6400 looks a little better than 3200. Images at that sensitivity are visibly more noisy yet that hides the blurring of details from noise-reduction. This sensitivity can produce some fairly decent mid-size prints up to 12" x 8". ISO 12800 gets more noise and a little softer too, so prints are limited to relatively small sizes.
The expanded ISO 25600 setting remains usable for small prints. This is very good performance. Colors and contrast are still well-maintained even that such a high ISO. The finest details are gone by then but once shrunk to a small size will appear very reasonable. The final expanded ISO of 51200 is barely usable. This is about a full-stop of improvement over previous generation which allows Fujifilm to keep up with the competition.
Sharpness is controllable in 9 levels. Things start from a very soft to over-sharp, so each step is quite coarse. The default level leaves a little softness and one above adds a touch of sharpness with minimal artifacts. Recall that the X-Trans CMOS III sensor has no Anti-Alias Filter is not prone to moire either, so it is capable of capturing very fine details.
Color & White Balance
Color accuracy of the X-E3 is very good. Hues are realistic with Film Simulation modes mostly affecting saturation. The Provia film simulation gives a very natural rendition of colors. Fujifilm is renowned for their expertise in color. The X-E3 offers a high number of Film Simulation modes to cater to different tastes. Each one is further adjustable with 9 levels of saturation, where the default is set right in the middle which works out to realistic colors for Provia.
Automatic White-Balance is quite dependable under typical conditions. It handles both natural and artificial lighting surprisingly well, only leave the occasional yellow cast under incandescent lighting. The twisted issue though is that AWB is sometimes previewed incorrectly, tricking the user into incorrectly changing settings. The Custom White-Balance option is there for difficult situations and is perfectly accurate.
Exposure & Dynamic-Range
The Multi-Segment metering system of the X-E3 is generally quite reliable. It is slightly less conservative than its predecessors yet it manages to avoid burning major highlights. The only exception is when using the expanded Low ISO 100 sensitivity where metering suffers from frequent overexposure. At all other sensitivities, exposure is spot-on most of the time and rarely off by more than 2/3 EV. Unfortunately the EVF and LCD have a much more limited dynamic-range than the sensor which often makes it appear as if overexposure will occur.
In addition to the Multi-Segment metering mode, this camera offers Center-Weighed, Spot and Average modes. Center-Weighed is a less sophisticated version of Multi-Segment and much more prone to overexposing the background. Spot and Average metering work just as expected.
All Fujifilm mirrorless camera have controllable Dynamic-Range. At its native sensitivity of ISO 200, the camera is set to capture a normal dynamic range which is referred to as 100% DR. While this setting does not change at Low ISO 100, there is clearly a loss of dynamic-range at that sensitivity. Starting at ISO 400, the X-E3 allows 200% DR to capture twice the dynamic-range. This gives it a dynamic-range comparable to top-of-the-line APS-C digital cameras. From ISO 800 to 12800, it is possible to select 400% DR which captures 2 stops more dynamic-range than the standard level. At that level dynamic-range is truly exceptional for an APS-C sensor.
The X-E3 can capture high-contrast scenes better than most mirrorless cameras thanks to its dynamic-range control. One can simply select 400% DR and the camera will reduce it to 200% or 100% when the chosen dynamic-range is unavailable.
Fujifilm pioneered on-sensor Phase-Detection and introduced it in its mirrorless cameras with the X-E2 and has been working on it ever since. The new Fujifilm X-E3 takes it up a notch with a 325-Point AF system that combines Phase-Detection and Contrast-Detection plus subject recognition to track focus across most of the frame. A 91-Point grid of Phase-Detect sensors covers 75% of the vertical image area and 50% of the horizontal one. Contrast-Detect points complete the set.
Autofocus on the X-E3 is very quick and extremely precise. There are virtually no focus misses in Focus Priority mode, which is the default when the camera is set to Single-Shot. Keep in mind that the default when Continuous Drive is engaged is Release Priority. That can lead to focus misses since the AF system is not quite capable of tracking as fast as the camera can shoot. An option in the AF/MF menu allows this to be changed at the expense of uneven shooting speed.
The hybrid AF system of this camera is sensitive down to moderately low light levels. In good light, it looks very decisively yet it shows hesitation in typical indoor lighting. The autofocus algorithm takes depth-of-field into account, so it noticeably slows down at close range where depth-of-focus is more shallow.
Continuous AF shows much improvement. The X-E3 is capable of tracking smaller subjects - Fujifilm claims half-the-size - almost across the entire frame. There are continuous focus modes to track different types of motion: Standard, Obstacle, Acceleration, Frame Entry and Erratic Movement. For slow moving subjects, it can keep up reasonably well at 8 FPS. Faster subjects are obviously more difficult to track.
The focusing system in the X-E3 is extremely flexible. Giving it a wider area increases the chances of quickly locking focus while risking to do so on the wrong subject. This makes it critical to select the right target size which there are 10 of, from a single point to nearly the entire frame.
The Fuji X-E3 is extremely fast camera. It can shoot continuously at up to 14 FPS for up to 35 JPEG images or 22 RAW files. This is possible only with the Electronic Shutter which is completely silent. There is also a similar 11 FPS mode. When using the Mechanical Shutter, it can shoot at 8 FPS for up to 62 JPEGs or 25 RAWs. There are 5, 4 and 3 FPS modes which allow longer bursts. 8 FPS is a fairly speedy mechanical shutter. The internal buffer clears quickly when using a UHS-I memory card.
This mirrorless is quite responsive. Nearly all actions occur without delay, although you must learn to push the shutter-release far enough since it has more travel to the halfway point than any recent digital camera. When enabled, the Instant Review is absolutely instantaneous. Too bad images cannot be deleted right there.
The following measurements characterize the performance of the Fuji X-E3:
- Power-On: ¾s. Quite good.
- Power-On to First-Shot: 1s. Superb.
- Autofocus: ¼s-½ typically, up to ¾s when close-focus in low-light. Quite good.
- Shutter-lag: Instant with nearly no blackout. Excellent.
- Shot-to-shot: 1/3s with AF, ¼s in MF. Superb.
- Playback: 1/3s to enter or exist. Very good.
- Power-Off: Just over 1s, including sensor cleaning. Very good.
- Video: Instant start and stop. Perfect.
This is one of the best all-around performance from any digital camera. Autofocus speed is just slightly more variable than expect but is generally very fast. Every other performance number is absolutely fantastic. When using the electronic shutter in particular, there is no blackout just an extremely brief flash of the viewfinder. Having a true video mode, engaged as a separate Drive Mode, makes the camera ready to start recording immediately and preview framing correctly.
The Fuji X-E3 is powered by a small proprietary Lithium-Ion battery which provides 350 shots-per-charge. This is below average for a mirrorless, considering the X-E3 does not have a built-in flash. The battery gets drained rapidly unless frequently turned off since the EVF and LCD are quite power hungry and one of them is always on until the camera enters its Sleep Mode. It is highly recommended to purchase another two batteries not to run out unexpectedly.
The Fujifilm X-E3 is truly an excellent mirrorless camera. Its 24 megapixels X-Trans CMOS III sensor with built-in Phase-Detect AF and fast X-Processor Pro truly deliver an exceptional all-around performance. Image quality is very good and the 325-Point autofocus system is extremely quick. Neither delivers the best-in-class performance yet both come extremely close, showing a rare combination of top-notch image-quality and speed.
Images from the X-E3 show very little noise until ISO 3200 when noise-reduction starts taking away details to smooth things out. Above that, ISO 6400 and 12800 remain usable for mid-size prints and even the top expanded sensitivity of ISO 51200 can be used for small prints. Dynamic-range from ISO 800 is class-leading with a very wide 200% range available at ISO 400. Color rendition is very natural with good contrast and saturation, with several Film Simulation modes and parameter to fine-tune rendition.
This mirrorless is very fast and responsive. Its hybrid autofocus system can lock focus almost instantly in good light. The all important shutter-lag is perfect with nearly no following blackout. Shot-to-shot speed and video recording speed are nothing short of exceptional. There is only battery-life is to complain about when it comes to performance.
The X-E3 has been redesign with some unique changes, notably the removal of the ubiquitous 4-way controller in favor of an 8-way joystick. It is a bold move that Fuji executed nearly perfectly, keeping the X-E3 efficient with plenty of highly accessible features. The 2.4 megapixels 0.39" EVF with Eye-Start sensor, 0.62X magnification and 100% coverage is very nicely specified but unfortunately falls short when it comes to the preview quality. It is rarely Exposure-Priority and is often misleading, an unfortunate thing for a mirrorless camera. The LCD does not provide a better preview either. The sturdy body of the Fujifilm X-E3 is very compact, even compared to its predecessors thanks to the joystick replacing the 4-way controller.
Extremely few digital cameras deliver such an excellent blend of image quality, performance, ergonomics and compactness. For this, the X-E3 is one which deserves serious consideration, either as a first mirrorless or as an upgrade to another entry or mid-range level mirrorless. The X-E3 only lacks a weatherproof body to compete with high-end offerings.
Fujifilm X-E3 Highlights
Sensor-Size: 24 x 16mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|24 Megapixels Mirrorless||ISO 100-51200|
|Fujifilm X Mount|
|0.39" Built-in EVF 2.4 Megapixels (0.62X)||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|1 Axis Digital Level||Spot-Metering|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Hot-Shoe|
|8 FPS Drive, 62 Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3840x2160 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|3" LCD 1 Megapixels|
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