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Fuji X-E2 Preview

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Fuji X-E2 Review --  Front Silver

Succeeding the Fujifilm X-E1 mirrorless compact system camera -- a model that we fell in love with last year -- comes the Fuji X-E2, which boasts the next generation of the company's award-winning X-Trans sensor technology and a host of other upgrades. This latest X-series interchangeable lens camera not only now features built-in Wi-Fi for image sharing, complete with an Easy Transfer Button up top, but also improved video capabilities, including Full HD 1080p recording at 60 frames per second.

At the heart of the new X-E2 lies the 16.3-megapixel, APS-C-sized X-Trans CMOS II sensor that employs a proprietary color filter array (a pattern that's more randomized than the traditional Bayer array) and removes the optical low-pass filter to deliver sharper, higher resolution images. In addition, the X-Trans CMOS II (which was first introduced this year on the Fuji X100S) incorporates more than 100,000 phase detect pixels on the chip -- distributed on nearly 40% of the total area of the sensor -- which helps to accelerate autofocus performance in combination with the X-E2's EXR Processor II.

Speed. Fujifilm claims the X-E2's processing speed is twice as fast as its predecessor, and that its AF speed has been significantly improved. Specifically, the company says that the X-E2 has a start-up time of 0.5s (in high performance mode with the fast XF 27mm f/2.8 lens), shutter lag of 0.05s and high-speed continuous JPEG shooting of 7fps at full resolution (with a burst lasting up to 28 frames, when using an Class 10 SD memory card or higher). Moreover, Fujifilm claims the X-E2 has the segment's fastest AF time of 0.08s (against cameras with Four Thirds sensors or larger, in high performance mode with the XF 14mm f/2.8 lens). Though we're always wary about such claims, we're especially eager to test them out since one of our few gripes with the excellent Fuji X-E1 was its relatively sluggish AF and shot-to-shot performance.

Imaging. As it previously did with the Fuji X100S, the company also claims the X-E2's APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor delivers image quality that rivals full-frame sensors. In our testing earlier this year of the X100S, we definitely saw that sensor definitely produces excellent results, though still a bit shy of full-frame quality (especially considering the difference in resolving power between the 16.3-megapixel and 20- to 30-megapixel full-frame models). Of note, Fujifilm has also added its Lens Modulation Optimizer technology to the X-E2 to reduce the effects of diffraction and other optical aberrations. Originally implemented on the X100S, it marks the first time the company has included this tech in one of its interchangeable lens cameras. Still, the sensitivity range for the X-E2 remains the same as the X-E1 at ISO 200 to 6400, and extended output at ISO 100, as well as ISO 12,800 and 25,600.

Fuji X-E2 Review --  Front Black

Design. The Fuji X-E2 looks nearly identical to the X-E1, and with good reason. That's because there's no reason to mess with a truly elegant camera body design that marries the look of film-based rangefinder cameras with the modern conveniences of a mirrorless CSC. And it appears that Fujifilm has kept the camera both lightweight and portable, maintaining the dimensions of 5.1 x 2.9 x 1.5 inches (129 x 75 x 37mm) and weight 10.6 ounces (300g) without lens, battery or memory card. Perhaps the biggest change is the rear, non-tilting screen has been upsized from a 2.8-inch to a 3-inch LCD with 1.04M dots of resolution (compared to just 460K dots on the X-E1). That's a major upgrade.

Both cameras -- old model and new -- feature mechanical Shutter Speed and Exposure Compensation dials, but the X-E2 increases the range to ±3 EV. The X-E2 also allows photographers to customize the settings of four different buttons on the top and back of the camera so they can quickly access settings and modes that they use most often. The Fn button now also doubles as the camera's Wi-Fi Easy Transfer Button that, once the camera is properly set up and paired with a smart device, can transmit images at a single touch. More on this later, but we just want to emphasize how much we love the idea of not having to dive into menus to share files wirelessly.

We noticed that the rear controls on the X-E2 have played a little game of musical chairs. The Q Menu button now sits where the View Mode button used to be, while the View Mode control evidently didn't have a spot left when the music stopped. (Note: The infrared EVF proximity sensor still remains, as you'd expect.) The AE-Lock and AF-Lock functions, which used to share a single button, have been split up into two buttons on the right side, with the now dedicated AF-Lock button residing where the Q Menu used to be. Meanwhile, an Fn2 button replaces the AF button on the lower left side, with the AF button now the bottom arrow of the four-way control that surrounds the Menu/OK button. Got all that?

Fuji X-E2 Review --  Back

The X-E2 employs the same 2.36M-dot OLED viewfinder with 100% coverage as its predecessor, which we found to be quite good with excellent resolution. We're glad to see this hasn't been downgraded, as we've seen on other camera models recently. And the camera features built-in "Super Intelligent" pop-up flash, as well as a hotshoe for attaching external flashes.

Video. We mentioned it upfront, but we want to highlight again that the Fuji X-E2 can shoot Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) at frame rates of 60fps or 30fps. Movies recorded with the camera also feature a high bitrate of 36Mbps. To maximize creative expression, Fujifilm's classic film simulation settings can be applied during movie recording, and so can exposure compensation of ±2 EV.

Wi-Fi. The X-E2 can connect with an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet using the Fujifilm Camera app that can be downloaded free from the Apple App or Google Play stores. When paired and using this app, photographers can transfer up to 30 images at a time from the camera to their devices. The same goes for movies, though Fujifilm doesn't provide additional detail on how many at a time, or if there are limitations.

After the camera and device are paired, the Easy Transfer Button (the Fn button on top of the camera that bears the secondary label Wi-Fi) can be pressed and held to share images and movies to a smartphone or tablet -- without having to mess with menus.

Fuji X-E2 Review -- Silver and black with no lenses

Other key features. Digital Split Image technology -- reminiscent of how film SLRs used to be manually focused -- is integrated into the Fuji X-E2, letting you fine-tune manual focus by lining up four stripes that are displayed on the LCD/EVF in Live View mode. (This is yet another feature carried over from the X100S.) Additionally, you can employ the camera's Focus Highlight Peaking function to quickly and accurately discern precise focus by enhancing the outline of your subject with high contrast.

For creativity's sake, you can apply a number filters to your images taken with the X-E2, ranging from Pop Color to Dynamic Tone to Toy Camera. There's also a Motion Panorama mode. Of course you'd expect this Fuji camera to employ the company's unique Film Simulation modes that replicate classic film effects such as Provia, Astia, Velvia, Sepia and monochrome. The camera also features a cool bracketing mode that allows you to apply up to three different Film Simulation effects per shot. (In addition to more traditional AE, Dynamic Range and ISO bracketing.)

In Playback mode, you can perform in-camera RAW conversions, rotate images, remove red-eye, mark images for upload, crop, resize and much more. And through the menus, you can access a depth-of-focus preview, an electronic level and a histogram display, as well as set custom button functions, adjust dynamic range and geotag images.

Connectivity. In addition to the aforementioned built-in Wi-Fi, connectivity options include USB 2.0 High-Speed data, and a Mini (Type C) HDMI high-definition video output. The USB port is compatible with Fuji's optional RR-80 remote release cable. A 2.5mm microphone jack is also provided, and you can use the mic jack with a shutter release, or use a mechanical shutter release cable on the shutter button.

Storage and battery. The X-E2 uses SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards with support for faster UHS-I types, and records still image files as JPEGs, RAW or RAW+JPEGs. Videos are recorded in H.264 (MOV) format with stereo Linear PCM audio. The camera is powered by a Li-ion battery (NP-W126) with a CIPA-rated life of 350 shots per charge (the same as the X-E1).

Fuji X-E2 Review -- Silver and black with lenses

Pricing and availability. The X-E2 starts shipping in November 2013 for a body-only price of about US$1,000 in black or two-tone black and silver. A kit with the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens will cost US$1,400.

The X-E2 is compatible with X-mount lenses, which includes several primes ranging from the XF 14mm f/2.8 to the XF 60mm f/2.4, as well as several zooms including the complementary XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 OIS lens.

Additional accessories are also available, such as an all-leather case (BLC-XE1) with cloth wrap, an M-mount adapter, a hand grip (HG-XE1), three dedicated external flashes (EF-X20, EF-20, EF-42) and more.

Bottom Line. The X-E2 builds on what’s becoming a solid tradition for Fujifilm, delivering exceptional image quality (thanks to their unique X-TRANS sensor technology) and enthusiast-level features at an appealing price. This is also a camera where you won't regret buying the kit lens; the Fujinon XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS is easily the best "kit" lens we've tested to date.


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