Slim design. Excellent image quality. Speedy focus. 8fps burst shooting. Integrated EVF. Solid control layout. Crisp touch LCD. 4K video. Wi-Fi.
Omits in-body flash. Not weather sealed. No in-body stabilization. 4K footage shows rolling shutter effect. Display doesn't tilt. Pricey.
- Bottom Line
The Fujifilm X-E3 delivers excellent image quality in a slim body, making it a perfect option for photographers who like to pack light—as long as you pair it with the right lens.
Fujifilm's X mirrorless camera series is a favorite of many photographers. Models typically boast sturdy, compact designs, with chic, retro aesthetics. The X-E3 ($899.95, body only) comes in at a midrange price, and a feature set to match, and pairs quite well with smaller lenses in the X system. It omits some features we see in premium models, like weather sealing, but delivers speedy autofocus and burst shooting. Our Editors' Choice at this price is still the Sony a6300, which shoots a bit faster and is protected from dust and splashes, but the X-E3 is a strong alternative for photographers who prefer the Fuji system.
Despite using an image sensor as big as you find in consumer SLRs, the X-E3 is quite compact. It measures 2.9 by 4.8 by 1.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 11.9 ounces without a lens. With a small lens attached the X-E3 can slide into a jacket pocket. You can buy the camera in a two-tone silver-and-black finish, which we received for review, or in all black. There's no in-body flash, but a clip-on unit is included.
The camera's size, along with a rather modest handgrip—more of a bump than a proper grip, really—make it a better match with a small lens rather than a big telezoom. Because of this, the kit option for the X-E3 is a prime lens, not the more typical zoom.
You can buy it along with the Fujinon XF 23mm F2 R WR for $1,149.95, a $200 savings compared with buying them separately. The 23mm F2 is a weather-sealed lens, but the X-E3 itself is not. If you want a Fuji camera that you can use in inclement conditions, you'll need to spend more on the X-Pro2 or X-T2.
On-body controls are ample. Fujifilm opts for a dedicated switch to change focus modes, located on the bottom left corner of the faceplate. It has settings for Single, Continuous, and Manual focus. There's also a control dial up front, at the top right.
Up top you'll find the hot shoe, centered behind the lens mount. To its right is a pair of dials—to adjust shutter speed and EV compensation—along with the shutter release, which is surrounded by the On/Off switch, the programmable Fn button, and a lever to toggle between manual and fully automatic operation. The shutter release is threaded, so you can use a mechanical release cable.
Rear controls start to the right of the EVF. They include View Mode, which toggles between the EVF, rear LCD, and automatic eye sensor operation. Next up is Drive/Delete, with AE-L and the rear control dial rounding out the top row. A dedicated focus joystick (to move the active focus point), Menu/OK, Display/Back, and Play controls run in a column, just to the right of the rear LCD. Finally, AF-L and Q buttons are located at the far right, on a bump that protrudes from the rear plate and serves as a thumb rest.
Controls are ergonomically sound, and stay in line with what photographers using the X system have come to expect. You get physical control over exposure settings. Aperture control is typically handled by the lens, as most have a control ring, but can move to the front dial if you're using a lens without a ring, like the pancake XF 27mm F2.8. There's no mode dial, because you don't need one when you have dial-based control for shutter and aperture.
The X-E3 omits a couple of common control interfaces aside from Mode. One is a Record button. Fuji has a photography-first attitude to camera design, so you have to change the Drive mode to in order to access the X-E3's video functions. In an increasingly mixed-media world, I think this is a mistake. You can't even map the top Fn button to start and stop video.
The other is a rear four-way control pad. I don't miss it. The focus joystick works fine for menu navigation, and functions you typically find mapped to the up, down, left, and right buttons found on most cameras are accessible via the on-screen Q menu. And because the LCD supports touch, you can opt to navigate the 16 options found on the Q screen via touch or using the physical controls.
One of the reasons the X-E3 is so slim is that its rear display doesn't offer any sort of tilt adjustment. Fuji has a very similar camera that offers this capability, the X-T20, if it's a feature you want. The 3-inch display packs plenty of resolution (1,040k dots) and shines through on sunny days thanks to adjustable brightness and strong viewing angles. As I've mentioned, it's sensitive to touch. You can set it to tap to focus, tap to focus and fire, or disable the tap focus and use it in conjunction with the top Fn button to adjust different settings. You can set different functions for a swipe up, left, right, or down.
The EVF is at the top left corner, like you'd see on an old-school rangefinder. It's surprisingly big to the eye when you consider the X-E3's size, sporting a 0.62x magnification. We've certainly seen larger EVFs in mirrorless cameras, but typically on larger bodies. It's quite sharp in its own right, with a 2,360k-dot resolution.
Fujifilm continues to include a strong group of film simulation options for JPG shooters. If you want a bit more artistic oomph, move away from the Standard picture profile and explore. Options include the oversaturated Velvia, the muted Classic Chrome, the black-and-white Acros, and others. Each film mode has a customizable level of film grain.
Connectivity and Power
The X-E3 includes a few connection ports, all covered by a flap on the left side of the camera. You get a 3.5mm microphone input, micro HDMI for video output, and micro USB for data transfer. There's a hot shoe on the top plate, to house the included flash or an on-camera microphone. The single SDXC slot is accessible via the bottom, in the same compartment as the battery.
You can charge the battery in-camera via USB, or in the included external charger, which plugs into a wall outlet. CIPA rates it for 350 shots per charge, which is a solid figure for a mirrorless camera. Video recording does drain the battery, however—you can only expect to net about 50 minutes of recording on a charge. Thankfully you can charge on the go with a USB backup battery.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are included for smartphone connectivity. Bluetooth is used to keep the X-E3's clock set correctly, and allows you to automatically transfer images to your phone as you shoot. It's an all-or-nothing prospect if you take this route, which limits its usefulness. For individual file transfers or to use your phone as a remote control, you'll need to connect the two via Wi-Fi. The free Fujifilm Camera Remote app is used for either protocol, and is available for Android and iOS.
The X-E3 is very responsive. It starts, focuses, and captures an image in as little as 0.8-second. Speedy autofocus, about 0.1-second in our tests, is driven by dual on-sensor focus points, both contrast and phase type. The phase sensors, speedier and better for tracking moving targets, are represented by the larger square on the image to the right, and work in conjunction with contrast points, which cover the same area. The smaller sensors that flank it are contrast only, and are only used when the camera is set to AF-S mode. For continuous focus—used for subject tracking—only the central points are utilized.
You can choose to display either 91 or 325 points in the central area, so you can opt for quick or precise manual focus point selection. Additionally, you can adjust the size of the moveable focus box, to hit anywhere from a single point to a group of 25 points. In addition to single area settings, you can set the focus system to cover a larger moveable zone, or to automatically select an area or areas based on scene recognition. It's a very versatile system.
There are other fine-tuning options for focus tracking. By default the camera is set to a multi-purpose mode (Set 1) for shooting a variety of subjects, but there are other tracking options. Set 2 tracks a subject, ignoring obstacles that might come between it and your lens. Set 3 tunes the system to follow subjects that change speed while in motion. Set 4 looks for subjects that pop into the frame unexpectedly, and Set 5 is for subjects that move around eratically while also changing speed without warning.
Burst shooting is available at up to 7.9fps with the mechanical shutter and 13.1fps with the electronic shutter. How long the camera can keep that pace depends on your file format. When working in Raw+JPG or Raw you get 23 shots at 7.9fps and 22 shots at 13.1fps before the rate slows. I tested the camera with a 300MBps memory card and found that you have to wait about 20 seconds for a Raw+JPG burst to clear to memory and about 15 seconds for a Raw burst. Shooting in JPG mode extends the duration to 66 shots when shooting at 7.9fps, but only to 29 images for 13.1fps capture. The buffer clears quickly, in about 8 seconds.
Enabling AF-C slows capture to about 8.1fps when using the electronic shutter and to 7.5fps when using the mechanical one. In both cases the X-E3 put up a strong hit rate in our standard test, in which the camera photographs a target that moves toward and away from the lens. I used the XF 50-140mm to perform focus testing.
Image and Video Quality
I used Imatest to evaluate the X-E3's 24MP APS-C X-Trans image sensor. When shooting JPGs at default settings it delivers clean images, containing less than 1.5 percent noise, through ISO 6400. Pushing to ISO 12800 increases noise to 1.6 percent, and we see 2 percent at ISO 25600.
As you'd expect, image quality is at its best at the lowest ISO 200 setting. Details in our ISO test scene are crisp at the base setting, and hold up very well through ISO 1600. There is a drop in clarity at ISO 3200 through ISO 25600, where we see small details erased by noise reduction. At the top setting, ISO 51200, the image is quite blurry; I'd avoid using it when shooting JPGs.
Raw capture is also an option. The X-E3 shows a bit more detail in textures in our test scene when shooting in Raw, even at lower ISOs, but also a bit less color saturation. At higher settings, we see that detail holds up better, even though output is grainier. I'd still try and avoid ISO 51200, but if you don't mind some roughness to images, shooting through ISO 25600 is a viable option.
Video is available at up to 4K quality at 30 (29.97), 25, 24, or 23.98fps, without cropping, for up to 10 minutes per clip. You can also shoot at all of these frame rates at 1080p and 720p, as well as at 60 (59.94) and 50fps, for up to 15 or 30 minutes at a time, respectively. The video itself is quite crisp, especially when rolling in 4K, with loads of detail. The camera focuses quickly, although it does hunt back and forth a bit when shooting in AF-C, even when honed on a static subject. It's a very minor fluctuation in focus, but my suggestion is to only use AF-C for video when you need it.
There is quite a bit of skew, a product of rolling shutter, when shooting in 4K. The effect is still there, but minimal, at 1080p. Skew shows up when making quick pans or recording subjects moving from one side of the frame to the other. The bottom half of the frame advances more quickly than the top. For example, if you're shooting a train pulling into a station, from the platform, it will appear as if the straight up-and-down lines of doors are angled. This is pretty typical for cameras of this type that shoot 4K; you'll need to start looking at higher end models that are designed with video in mind, like the Panasonic GH5, to minimize the effect.
The Fujifilm X-E3 is a lovely little camera. It delivers strong image quality, right up there with other cameras that use the 24MP APS-C image sensor format, and won't leave you wanting for focus or burst speed. It's ideally suited for photographers who like smaller lenses—it's perfect with Fujfilm's newer F2 prime lens series, and the 27mm F2.8. But if you're a fan of big telezooms, the X-T2 and X-T20 are the Fujifilm cameras to look at.
The X-E3 enough control to keep shutterbugs happy, and includes a quick Auto switch if you need to hand it over to someone else to grab a shot. The touch display is a solid update and makes navigating on-screen menus an intuitive experience for smartphone veterans, and it's backed up by physical controls, including a focus joystick, for more seasoned photogs.
There are some drawbacks, so we're not awarding it our Editors' Choice. I would have liked to see dust and splash protection, which would pair well with a good portion of Fujfilm's lens lineup. I also would have liked the video function to be more readily accessible, instead of buried in a menu. The Sony a6300 is still our favorite model in this price range—it delivers images that are just as good and has a killer autofocus system, and is protected from dust and splashes. But if you prefer the Fujifilm way of doing things, with more physical controls and more small, high-quality lenses available, the X-E3 is worth a look.
Other Fujifilm Digital Cameras
By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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