If there's anyone that can wrap modern camera tech inside of a classically styled camera, it's Fujifilm. While the retro body style has been popular for a few years now, with the X-E2S, Fujifilm has taken a bit different approach, moving the viewfinder to the left for a design that reflects classic rangefinder cameras.
While the X-E2S isn't a traditional rangefinder with a split image viewfinder, the re-located electronic viewfinder allows you to keep one eye on the surroundings and one on the composition. And if you're a bit nostalgic for the rangefinder focusing method, the X-E2S includes a similar split image manual focusing technique.
The design of the X-E2S is a bit different from Fuji's earlier models, but the camera still wraps up a lot of what users love about Fujifilm. I headed out on a road trip with the camera in tow to see how the Fujifilm X-E2S really stacks up.
Fujifilm X-E2S Review: Body and Design
The X-E2S's biggest design change stems from relocating that electronic viewfinder. The electronic design, like others in Fujifilm's lineup, allows users to use tools like split view manual focus without using the LCD screen. The viewfinder is also automatic, so there's no need to turn it on and off to use it.
While the new location allows photographers to keep one eye on the scene, the change doesn't leave room for the drive mode dial that's on top of the X-T10. Instead, settings like burst mode and panorama are inside of a drive button shortcut on the back. Besides the changes stemming from the rangefinder-esque viewfinder, the X-E2S follows much of the same layout as a majority of Fujifilm's latest mirrorless cameras. The top of the camera houses two dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation, along with the shutter release, on/off switch and a customizable function button, which by default is set to record videos.
There's just a single control on the front of the camera--a toggle to adjust from single to continuous autofocus or manual focus. Of course, aperture adjustment (and zoom) sits on the lens itself.
At the back of the camera, the X-E2S includes a number of customizable shortcuts. Shortcuts for playback, drive mode, metering (AE), and auto mode sit to the left of the screen and double as options to zoom or delete while previewing images. Autofocus and exposure locks rest on the right near the thumb.
The menu arrows are easily customizable--I added in ISO so that I had quick access to all three elements of the exposure triangle. I used the bottom arrow as a shortcut to adjust the autofocus point--though it's worth nothing that, with all of the arrow keys used for shortcuts, you have to tap the arrow once, then move the focal point (one more click than the controls on a DSLR).
While the menu is fairly straight-forward, a quick menu offers simple access to anything you don't assign to a physical shortcut. From RAW to film presets, the quick menu has several controls that don't have a physical control (though many of them can be custom set that way).
With not quite enough room on the shutter speed dial for every setting, a control dial at the back selects the in-between speeds. That same dial is also used to select the options inside the quick menu.
With the quick menu and extra click to adjust the focal point, like any mirrorless camera, the X-E2S has a different feel than a DSLR. The shutter and EV dials, along with that relocated viewfinder, help keep a more classic feel, along with the fact that the annoying menu beeps can thankfully be turned off. The left position of the viewfinder takes some adjustment but feels like something that could be handy once you get the hang of shooting with one eye open.
While the body of the X-E2S is well-built with some magnesium alloy components, it doesn't include the weather sealing. The X-E2S feels sturdy in the hands, but after holding a weather-sealed version, there is a slight but noticeable difference.
Overall, the Fujifilm X-E2S offers a good mix of classic style and modern conveniences.
Fujifilm X-E2S Review: User Experience & Performance
While the Fujifilm X-E2S looks like an older rangefinder camera, it packs in a pretty modern performance. The camera powers up fairly quickly, in about a second in a half. The model I tested, however, didn't wake up from the sleep mode--I had to turn the camera off then on again after several minutes of misuse.
Unlike most digital cameras, though, there aren't any scene modes. The panorama and double exposure options weren't axed with the mode dial--they just hide in the drive mode menu. The X-E2S includes a full set of manual modes--using the "auto" aperture switch on the lens or the A option on the shutter speed dial switches from full manual to an aperture or shutter priority.
Auto mode is easily accessible with the button near the LCD screen. And while I didn't spend much time in auto (as the target consumer for the X-E2S probably won't), it did perform up to par.
With a 7 fps burst in the tech specs, the speed from the X-E2S was what I expected after using other mirrorless cameras from Fuji and about average for the price and category. The XE2S does see a bit more stamina, however--the camera can take up to 18 JPEGs before slowing down and keeps snapping at a slower rate. Shooting RAW + JPEG, the camera will shoot eight photos until there's a pause. Wait at least three seconds, and you can shoot a second burst set.
The added burst capacity is a nice change (compared to the X-T10 that slows after only eight JPEGs), but the shutter on the XE2S also sees a bump up from the original E2. Fujifilm added in an electronic sensor allowing for speeds up to 1/32,000. While only very brightest scenes and wide apertures will benefit from that top speed, it's a nice addition. One disadvantage, however, is that the maximum flash sync speed is 1/180, while many cameras can still reach 1/250 with a flash.
Autofocus has also improved over the 2013 model, but owners of the original X-E2 can download a firmware update for the same speed. Individual shots are about half a second apart, and the autofocus is quick enough not to notice a big difference between manual and autofocused shots.
The kit lens that's often bundled with the X-E2S also offers excellent performance. While the lens covers the basic 18-55mm zoom range, the lens is much brighter than most kits. The f/2.8-4 aperture is a nice performance boost for shooting in low light.
The Fujifilm X-E2S is a fun camera to use. The experience doesn't change much from options like the X-T10 except for that bigger burst speed buffer and the experience of using that rangefinder-inspired viewfinder. Shooting with one eye open takes some getting used to, though--I didn't find myself shooting that way very often. But, overall, the camera packs in a good mix of speed and features for the price.
Fujifilm X-E2S Review: Image Quality
The X-E2S maintains what I love about every X-Trans camera that I've tried: the color and detail in the images. I used the camera on a road trip, and while there are a few shots where you can see where the Smoky Mountains got their name, the greens and even the sky popped well. I was surprised at the dynamic range I could capture with a single image, considering I didn't use a polarizer or graduated filter for the sky.
Shots from the X-E2S, paired with the 18-55 f/2.8-4 lens, are sharp and don't lose definition at the long end of that zoom. There is some chromatic aberration on very finely shaped lines, but nothing extreme. The sharpness from the lens and the vivid colors helps details like texture to pop.
Noise reduction is solid, with some grain creeping in for close crops at ISO 800. Images that don't see a cropping tool could even be considered acceptable at ISO 3200. Image stabilization isn't built into the camera but is included in some of the lens options, including the kit. The stabilization and noise reduction together help create make the X-E2S a pretty powerful low light performer. I shot inside a cavern without a tripod and was still able to capture images without blur or distracting noise.
|ISO 100 (300 pixel crop)||ISO 200||ISO 400||ISO 800|
|ISO 1600||ISO 3200||ISO 6400||ISO 12800|
Video from the X-E2S adapts many of the qualities of the still shots, though indoor footage had a higher noise level. The camera does refocus while recording (with the focus switch in the front set to C), though it does focus in and out a few times. Thankfully, the zoom lens is quiet. Overall the video quality wasn't the best we've seen but didn't hit any major pitfalls either.
The images from Fujifilm's X-Trans sensors are one of my personal favorites -- and the X-E2S doesn't disappoint.
Fujifilm X-E2S Sample Images
Fujifilm X-E2S Review: Conclusion
The Fujifilm X-E2S certainly lived up to expectations with solid image quality, good performance and a simple yet classic design. I traveled through five states with the X-E2S and was even happy with how the camera performed inside a cave--literally.
But, the mirrorless category is pretty crowded. The X-E2S doesn't have two many big changes from the original, but a nice set of smaller adjustments like the relocation of the viewfinder and faster electronic shutter. With the newer model being (unusually) priced lower though, there's no argument there--unless pricing changes significantly, the E2S is the better choice.
The X-E2S sits about $100 higher than Fujifilm's X-T10, but allows you to shoot more photos in a row without pausing, one of the bigger downfalls of the budget model. Another $400 gets consumers even more physical controls and a weather-sealed body, but similar speed and image quality, with the X-T1.
The closest competitor outside of Fujifilm's own lineup is the Olympus PEN-F, which uses a similar rangefinder design with the viewfinder on the left but manages to fit a mode dial on the top, moving a control dial around the shutter release. While the F has the faster burst speed without image stabilization on, the X-ES2 has the better shutter speed. The biggest difference is that the F uses a smaller 4/3 sensor. The F is also more expensive at $1,200 without even a kit lens, though it includes in-body stabilization so (theoretically) the lenses should be cheaper.
The Fujifilm X-E2S offers solid image quality, design and performance and sits at a much more affordable price than its closest competitor. While there's not enough big changes for owners of the original E2 to upgrade, the camera is an excellent option for an enthusiast looking to jump into a mirrorless kit.