In late October, I was thrilled to be chosen by Fujifilm Australia to review their latest camera, the Fujfilm X-E3. I hadn’t used a Fujifilm rangefinder-style body since I owned the original Fujifilm X100, so I was excited to get my hands on the latest camera in the X series lineup.

Below is my full review of the camera along with sample images taken with a variety of Fujifilm XF lenses. If you can’t wait until the end though, here is the verdict:

The Fujifilm X-E3 is a compact powerhouse of a camera featuring a sleek, minimalist design. Fast auto focus coupled with an impressive shooting rate, the X-E3 is best suited for street, portrait and travel photographers using Fujifilm’s latest generation of light fast prime lenses. 

Introducing the X-E3

The X-E lineup of cameras are essentially slimmed-down versions of Fujfilm’s X-Pro lineup: I must admit until a few months ago, I’d never made that association. With a similar naming convention, it’s easier to make the link between the X-T lineup of cameras (X-T2 / X-T20).

The original X-E1 was announced in September 2012, with the X-E2 following in October 2013 and the X-E2s in January 2016. The recent announcement and release of the X-E3 was a surprise in some circles.

I love this photo of my kids on a flying fox in the park. Fujifilm X-E3 with XF 23mm F2 R WR lens. 1/240 sec at F2.8 ISO 800, Provia film simulation.   

X-E3 overview

Here are some highlights of the X-E3 specs:

  • 24.3m pixels
  • APS-C X Trans CMOS III sensor
  • 3 inch touchscreen
  • Joystick for auto focus point selection and navigating menus
  • Weighs just 337g including battery and memory card
  • 4k video recording
  • JPEG film simulations including Acros
  • Auto mode switch
  • Bluetooth as well as WiFi connectivity

and here’s what it doesn’t have:

  • Not weather resistant
  • No ISO dial
  • No tilting screen

Look and feel of the X-E3

I was pretty excited to receive the review model of the X-E3 and the XF 23mm F2 R WR lens. I took it with me absolutely everywhere with me for a week.

The first thing I noticed about the X-E3 was how light it was. The second thing I noticed was not what buttons and dials it had, but rather what buttons and dials it didn’t have. No settings dial like the X-T10 / X-T20, no ISO dial, no touch pads. Like the X-T20, the X-E3 does have a full auto lever on the shutter dial. If you ever have an issue with not being able to change settings, you may have knocked this dial by accident.

Everything about the camera is compact and sleek: in fact, on Fujifilm’s product page they say that the X-E3 was “created in the pursuit of minimalism” and it’s hard to argue with that.

Shooting with the X-E3

The X-E3 is a joy to shoot with, featuring a fast autofocus and an impressive number of frames per second. Using manual shutter, it can shoot as many as 8 frames per second – with electronic shutter as high as 14. Just make sure you have a fast memory card!

When shooting with the X-E3, there were only three things I was using most of the time – the aperture ring on the lens, the joystick auto focus point, and the exposure compensation dial. Like other smaller Fujifilm cameras such as the X-T20, the memory card slot is behind the battery compartment, which can be a bit fiddly.

Top dog? Fujifilm X-E3 with XF 23mm F2 R WR lens. 1/280 sec at F2.8 ISO 400, Provia film simulation.

Using the X-E3 touchscreen

I couldn’t help but notice the X-E3 had a touchscreen when I first turned it on – as soon as I touched it I was taking photos without meaning to! It was in that moment I discovered the X-E3 could be set up to take a picture by tapping the touchscreen. During my time with the X-E3 I preferred to either leave the touchscreen off, or just use it to select the focus point.

I didn’t use the touchscreen a lot when shooting as I would rather look through the viewfinder and select the focus point with the joystick. If you shoot looking at the screen or if you use a tripod a lot, touching the screen to select a focus point would be handy. I did use the touchscreen quite a bit before taking photos and after though, here’s why…

The X-E3 doesn’t have the four way tabs like other X series cameras, but you can swipe up / down / left / right on the touchscreen to bring up menus, all of which are customisable in the settings. I found this pretty handy when I wanted to change film simulations or ISO.

I also found the touchscreen handy when reviewing photos: you can swipe your finger to move between pictures, double tap to see the focus point and pinch to zoom in and out.

X-E3 Bluetooth

I love the WiFi transfer capabilities of the X series cameras – when it actually works. Using WiFi with my X-T2 / X-T1 in the past has been hit and miss, so I was excited to try out the Bluetooth option on the X-E3.

I followed the instructions in the manual step-by-step, but I just could not get it to connect to my iPhone 6. I then tried to repeat the Bluetooth connectivity set-up with an iPhone 7 – but after 45 minutes of trying with two different smartphones, I gave up. Funnily enough, the WiFi connectivity worked instantly on the X-E3.

I’ve since found out that a firmware update has fixed this issue X-E3 users should have no problems with this feature now.

Little Miss on the flying fox in the local park. JPG with minor Lightroom tweaks, Provia film simulation. 1/320 sec at F4 ISO800, Provia film simulation.

Using the X-E3 with different lenses

I used the X-E3 with the following Fujifilm lenses:

  • XF 16mm F1.4 R WR
  • XF 23mm F2 R WR
  • XF 23mm F1.4 R
  • XF 56mmF1.2 R
  • XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro
  • XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS
  • XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

The X-E3 was a joy to use with all the lenses I tried on it, other than the beast that is the  XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. The lighter lenses that I used XF 23mm F2 R WR / XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro certainly felt the most comfortable. The mid sized lenses such as the XF 16mm F1.4 R WR / XF 23mm F1.4 R / XF 56mmF1.2 R all felt well-balanced (although noticeably larger and heavier than the XF 23mm F2 R WR) and even the XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS did not feel out of place on the X-E3.

Even though the 23mm WR is a perfect companion to the X-E3, the body itself is not weather resistant.

Using the X-E3 on a tripod

I used the X-E3 with the XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS lens on a tripod at Kangaroo Point, overlooking Brisbane’s CBD. When  you attach either an Arca-Swiss or Manfrotto quick release plate to the X-E3, the battery door is obscured, making it impossible to change battery – or SD card – while the plate is on.
This is fine if you are just taking a few shots or if you are changing your composition for different shots, but this could be annoying if you are trying to shoot a time lapse or a series of photos of the same scene over a period of time. This is not a huge criticism of the X-E3 though, if you’re into this kind of shooting, you’ll probably go for the X-T2 anyway. The X-E3 is compatible with the Fujifilm RR90 remote release.

Brisbane: X-E3 with XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS lens. 1/30 sec at f/9 ISO 200, Velvia film simulation.

Handheld landscape test shots

I took the X-E3 down to Wellington Point in the Redlands (Brisbane Bayside)  at dusk and enjoyed using it. However, it was for some of these shots where I really noticed the lack of tilting screen.

Wellington Point sunset: X-E3 with XF 16mm F1.4 R WR lens. 1/160 sec at F/8 ISO 200, Velvia film simulation. JPG with minor Lightroom tweaks.

Wellington Point colours: X-E3 raw file edited in Lightroom.

Portraits

I really enjoyed using the X-E3 for shooting portraits, it was nice having something a bit lighter in my hands to shoot with.

Sarah in a field. JPG with Lightroom tweaks. Fujfilm X-E3 with XF 56mmF1.2 R lens. 1/1100 sec at F1.4 ISO800, Provia film simulation.

Little Miss. JPG with minor Lightroom tweaks. Fujifilm X-E3 with XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro lens. 1/1800 sec at F2.8 ISO 400, Provia film simulation.

Nature shots

I loved using the X-E3 for nature shots, but again I missed the tilting screen. The beauty of the X-E3 is its portability – the first image below was taken while I was waiting for my wife at a medical appointment. I spotted these pretty yellow flowers and just had to lie down low in the car park to take some photos.

Flowers in a car park. Fujfilm X-E3 with XF 23 F2 R WR. 1/450 sec at F4 ISO 200, Velvia film simulation.

Waterlilly at my local pond. Fujifilm X-E3 with XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens. 1/680 sec at F5.4 ISO 400, Velvia film simulation.

Waterlilly with a buzzing bee. Fujifilm X-E3 with XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens. 1/850 sec at F5.6 ISO 400, Velvia film simulation.

Event shots

I wanted to try out the X-E3 in as many conditions as possible, so as well as the usual portrait / landscape / nature shots, I headed to the Supernova event in Brisbane with the X-E3 and XF 23mm F2 R WR lens. Inside the event itself, the lighting conditions were dull, so I enabled auto ISO and let the camera do its thing. I’m very happy with the images taken at higher ISO levels – the first image below is ISO 1250.

Meow! Fujfilm X-E3 with XF 23mm F2 R WR lens. 1/80 sec at F2, ISO 1250, Provia film simulation.

Is that you Pennywise? Harley Quinn and friend at Supernova. Fujifilm X-E3 with XF 23mm F2 R WR lens. 1/220 sec at F2.8 ISO 200, Provia film simulation.

Who is the X-E3 best suited to?

I don’t think the X-E3 will sell anywhere near the amount of units that the X-T20 will, just because photographers moving over from DSLRs might feel comforted by more controls rather than less. The X-E3 is more of a niche market product that won’t appeal to everyone – but its minimalism is one of its strengths and I’m sure it will have many devotees. I believe the X-E3 is best suited to:

  • street shooters
  • portrait photographers
  • travel photographers (when you need to keep the weight down – I carry quite a bit of kit on my trips)

Competitors to the X-E3

In the Fujfilm X series lineup there are a few obvious competitors to the X-E3, I’ve outlined them below:

X-E3 vs X-T20

  • Both 24 megapixel, both touchscreen, same sensor
  • Like the joystick, rangefinder style body and bluetooth capabilities? Get the X-E3.
  • Prefer the tilting screen, SLR type body and built in flash? Get the X-T20.

X-E3 vs X Pro 2

  • Like weather sealing and more dials? Get the X-Pro 2.
  • Like less weight, less cost and bluetooth? Get the X-E3.

X-E3 vs X100F

  • Prefer to change lenses? Get the X-E3.
  • Prefer an even slimmer profile? Get the X100F

Sarah at Kangaroo Point. Fujifilm X-E3 with XF 23mm F1.4 R lens and Godox TT350F. 1/35 sec at F2.8 ISO200, rear curtain sync flash.

What I liked about the X-E3

  • It’s light
  • It’s fast – both in terms of auto focus and the number of frames per second it can shoot
  • fantastic image quality
  • loved the joystick

What I didn’t like about the X-E3

  • Bluetooth connectivity didn’t work on two iPhones – however this has since been fixed with a firmware update.
  • I really missed the tilting screen that the X-T line of cameras has. I use the tilting screen quite often and particularly missed it when I was shooting low to the ground.

What I’m not sure of

  •  The touchscreen – at first I really didn’t like it, but it grew on me. I love the X series cameras because they have actual dials and buttons, so I am kind of torn about the touchscreen.

Final thoughts

Even though I’m unlikely to buy an X-E3 (I’ve just bought an X-T20 as it turns out) I did really enjoy using it and was sad when it went back to Fujifilm Australia. Thanks again to Leigh and Neil for providing a review camera and lens to me.

Have you used the X-E3? What do you think of it?

Posted by Matt Murray

One Comment

  1. Wonderful write up. Thank you! I’m a proud new owner of the xe3, my first fujifilm after 15+ years on a Canon DSLR. I got the 23mm f2 lens and am so happy with it. I debated between this lens, the 27MM pancake and the 18-55mm kit lens. I tried all three and decided this was the best fit for me. I’m very happy with my choice.
    One thing I’m wondering if you can help with since I see you shoot jpeg.
    I’m SO BAFFLED by the raw+jpeg thing. I’ve always shot raw only and processed in Lightroom. I import my photos, edit one or two and find a combination of settings that I apply to the whole shoot. Then I go through and edit each file manually as needed.
    But the fujifilm JPEG are so nice, I’d like to use them. However I’m shooting raw+jpeg so I have the raw files if needed, and I do find that I need them for about 5-10% of my shots. Here’s my big issue. Hoping you can help!
    I am spending SO MUCH more time working through them than I did when I was using raw only. I import them all the Lightroom which means I have double the files. When I go through and reject those I don’t want, I’m doing double the work to reject both the jpeg and raw file. And I don’t have any easy way to track which raw files I want to use and which I can remove because the jpeg is good enough. I want so much to use the jpeg from the fujifilm but I’m spending WAY TOO MUCH TIME on this process. I’m about ready to go back to raw only and am so disappointed. Any suggestions for me?

    Reply

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