Time for a Change; welcome the Fujifilm X-E3

October 21, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I have been shooting a good many years now and using the Fuji X system since it began, so I have decent experience with the system.  I have become a bit more ruthless and less prone to keeping gear because I am attached to it, plus I am more in touch with what is actually benefitting me.  This has seen me make a significant change in the camera department.

 

I really liked my X-T1 as it was the second Fuji body I bought and brought a truly professional grade camera to the system that had very clear performance enhancements over the X-E1.  It served me well and totally reliably, through a number of weddings, client shoots, air shows and motorsport events.  Fuji's firmware updates saw it evolve constantly and what I just sold was ironically a far better camera than what I bought back in 2014!

 

Somehow the X-T1 had found itself getting used less and less and not in any way because it was a bad camera.  I was just finding that for specific photography purposes I was choosing other cameras instead of it.  If I shoot an airshow or drag racing, I want the best possible AF and EVF tracking performance, so the X-T2 gets chosen.  If I want a small, lower cost travel camera to take on holiday or walk the streets with, I choose the X-T10 or X-70.  That left the X-T1 in a slight limbo.  It was still a great wedding camera, but I was finding that using it alongside the X-T2 was causing me ergonomic frustrations when I flitted between bodies, mainly in the selection of AF points....joystick or D-pad?!  Compared to the X-T2, it was similar but was feeling like a "Beta" version of that camera.  Despite improvements I do feel that AF was significantly weaker than the newer cameras, even in static conditions.  I felt the sensible option was to sell while it was still worth significant money.

 

When the X-T20 came along I was tempted but decided it was a no go as I already had the X-T10 as a smaller travel camera/backup and would rather save the money for when the next full pro spec X-T came along.

 

Then the X-E3 was announced and I couldn't help myself being very interested.  In some ways I had always loved the sleek form factor of the X-E1 that allows it to easily slip into small bags and the left-mounted EVF that keeps your nose off the screen, makes controls accessible with the camera to your face and makes for a very quick lift to shoot response.  I was especially taken by Fuji's evolution of the control system that seemed to lose nothing significant but gained interesting ideas.  I love the touch screen on the X-70 and this looked more advanced.  Losing the D-pad seemed to be an excellent idea as all people do is criticise the feel of the buttons and frankly, it is a slow way of accessing stuff, especially focus points.  It has had its day.  Here was a camera with all the imaging power and response of the X-T2 in a really small form factor, which offered a different user experience, while being easy to integrate into multi body shooting due to menu and control similarity.  For travel and street shooting it looked like a dream and I really wanted another camera with the X-Trans 3 imaging system.  I am now a completely happy EVF shooter and find only advantages, so the lack of an optical finder was not significant.

 

I put the X-T1 on Gumtree and got a great price as it was in beautiful condition.  I ordered the X-E3 kit with the 23mm f2 lens as it represented a great saving on the lens and I wanted to add it to my collection due to the great difference in size between it and the f1.4 prime.  I have fallen for the f2 primes for street and travel shooting as they make a huge difference in what can be carried in a small bag.  My only gripe is that Fuji don't include the nice little felt lens pouch in the kit, which I thought was a bit mean!

 

Here is the camera alone and compared in size to the X-T2 and X-T10.  Striking is how "clean" the lines of the camera are. It is simply smaller than the X-T2 everywhere and similar but with less height and fewer "sticky-out bits" compared to the X-T10.

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I have fitted the latest Peak Design Cuff strap to the camera and it looks and feels great.  Brilliant news is that we no longer need any bodges or work-arounds to use these straps as the latest V3 anchor links fit easily through the Fuji eyelets.  It is easy to detach the cuff and use a shoulder strap that attaches to the same anchor links....a very neat system.  The termination that the anchor clips into is a little on the large side for small bodies but is very light and you soon get used to it.  Part of me is tempted to use the leather strap that came with the free Fuji leather case (pre-order promotion) but I think the Peak Design option will be more versatile.  The below image also gives a good idea of how small the camera is in the hand and my hands are not huge!

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As I already have an X-T2, setting up the camera was fairly painless with a few tweaks needed due to the slightly different availability of physical buttons and dials.

 

I absolutely love the concentration of buttons on the right side of the camera as everything is in reach for one-handed control and with the camera raised to the eye.

 

Although the X-E3 has similar shooting capabilities to the X-T2, it of course lacks the weather sealing, dual card slots, articulating screen and battery grip, which are a trade off for the smaller size and much lower cost.  Although technically very capable for frame rate and AF, it would probably feel rather small and unbalanced when used with the bigger Fuji zoom lenses.  The smaller primes in particular will suit it just perfectly, and the f2 lenses are a perfect match.  For my use case for this camera I will happily trade a flexible screen for the touch screen.  Ironically, until the other bodies get the latest firmware in November, the X-E3 theoretically has the best AF performance of any Fuji X camera!

 

There is only 1 physical function button to the right of the shutter release.  However, this is backed up by 4 virtual function buttons that operate with finger swipes across and up/down the screen.  It really works and does not take long to adapt to.  There are AE-L and AF-L (AF-on option) buttons too and the rear command dial can be pushed to access a function.  It defaults to review at 100% zoom and I am happy with that.  More good news is that ISO is still easy to access despite no dedicated dial.  A simple push on the front command dial allows scrolling through the options. Overall there are slightly fewer function buttons than the X-T2 but this means an uncluttered body and that everything is easy to reach.

 

I have currently set photometry, face detection, AF Mode, AF-C custom setting and WiFi to the function buttons and set the AF-L button to AF-on. 

 

The control joystick is present and is great for both accessing focus points and navigating menu options.  Miles better than a D-pad!

 

I know lots of people don't like change but I really see the control interface as a maturing of the ergonomics that loses nothing of the retro appeal of direct access dials and control rings, but brings usability bang up to date.

 

The EVF is plenty good enough.  It's a bit small compared to the huge X-T2 magnification, but comparable to the X-T10/20 and bigger than the X-pro 2.

 

As with all Fuji cameras there are 7 custom settings presets within which you can set the various parameters that dictate how your jpeg files look.  I love Fuji Jpegs and they are one of the reasons I love the cameras so much overall.  A bit of time spent setting them to your preferences means you can shoot pretty much anything with a variety of appearances and get great results.  Here is a table showing my setup which is the same as for the X-T2 due to the identical imaging pipeline, except for the ISO setting because the X-T2 is dial driven and does not have an ISO option here.

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Obviously preferences here are very personal.  I do not use the Velvia simulation as I find it too gaudy and too prone to blocking the shadow detail.  I turn noise reduction to the minimum -4 as I actually like the film-grain like Fuji noise and prefer to do noise reduction after shooting if need be.  The other adjustments are mostly tweaks of the contrast curves, lifting shadows where I feel they tend to clip too early and trying to preserve highlights. I turn grain off as a nice film like grain appears at higher ISOs and I found it a bit too much with this on as well.

 

My set up of the Q menu gives me access to those things I would like to have access to but would not fit on the function buttons....Kind of second tier priority.  This is similar to the X-T2 again but includes the shutter type as I ran out of function buttons!

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There is a good "My Menu" feature to list the most useful/used menu functions and I have set this up the same as the X-T2.

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Early days but so far I love the camera and was excited by getting it due to having the great X-Trans 3 processing engine in a such a small, clean body that would give me a different use case compared to the X-T2.  In no time at all I have adapted to the ergonomic changes and can really see the logic behind them.  I may find a few niggles along the way and I certainly agree that if one could have only one camera then weighing up the pros and cons of the choices would be hard indeed!!


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