In addition to my larger X Series cameras I use mainly for my work, I also like to have a small, high quality camera that I can fit into my pocket for both personal and professional work. For the past six years that camera has been the X100, but what about the Fujifilm X-E3 as an alternative?
Like for many other photographers, my Fujifilm X Series story began with the original X100. In 2012 I fell in love with the simplicity of the design, the build quality, the innovative hybrid viewfinder, the silent leaf shutter that allowed me to use flash at any shutter speed and the pocketable size that delivered amazing quality.
Today I have two X-T2s, an X-Pro2, plus nine XF lenses but I still have an X100T for when I want to just walk about with a camera that will fit into my pocket and I know will produce quality images, either for work or for pleasure.
Just before Christmas my thoughts had turned to replacing the X100T with the latest version, the 24mp X100F. I had tested the ‘F’ at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and I loved it for the same reasons I had loved the original X100. The fourth generation has brought plenty of additional benefits, including the ability to take the same battery as my other X Series cameras, the improved X-Trans III 24mp camera and improved design that included the same toggle switch on the rear panel as the X-T2 / X-Pro2.
Just as I thought my mind was made up Fujifilm through me a bit of a curve ball in the shape of the newly launched X-E3. I looked at this new compact system camera in a new light and it had me questioning my reasons for wanting an X100F. So I decided to borrow an X-E3 for a couple of weeks for a quick trip over to the Christmas Market in Dusseldorf and a couple of personal photography trips closer to home.
The first thing that struck me was the small size of the X-E3, it was almost identical in size to my X100T. It dawned on me then that I can have a camera that is as small as the X100 series but with the ability to change lenses.
There is the option to change the focal length on the X100 with the use of the converters, but you are limited to three focal lengths – 19mm, 23mm and 33mm. I did have these converters for my original X100 but I sold them as I wasn’t using them very much.
In my camera bag I have five primes and four zooms, so the X-E3 can be used with any focal length from 8mm (Samyang 8mm fisheye) up to 800mm (100-400mm with the 2x converter).
The new XF23mm f/2 lens is a bit longer than the fixed 23mm f/2 that has been a feature of the X100 series since it was launched but I also had my older XF18mm f/2 which was about the same profile as the X100T with its 23mm f/2.
So that was the theory, now was time to put the camera to the test. We jumped on a plane in Edinburgh and headed to Germany to visit a traditional Christmas Market in Dusseldorf and visit my wife’s family there. I purposely didn’t take lots of camera gear, sticking to just the XF18mm f/2, XF23mm f/2 and XF35mm f/1.4 – similar focal lengths as the X100F and the two converters.
The 18mm f/2 and 35mm f/1.4 are two of the original XF lenses and I have had them since 2013. Both are superb optics and while the AF is not as snappy as the newer f/2 lenses, they are certainly quick and accurate on the X-E3, even if they are a little noisier. In fact in the low light conditions I decided to utilise the extra stop offered by the 35mm and also benefit from the shallower depth of field.
Walking around the Christmas Market I was able to capture some great images as a personal reminder of the family trip while nobody passed a second glance at the small camera I was shooting with.
I returned to the UK and while on an overnight business trip to London I took the opportunity to visit the Christmas lights in Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus. Again the X-E3 excelled in the low light conditions.
The final test was a winter walk in the woods near to home in Scotland, the low light filtering through the trees providing a great test for the X-E3.
The X-E3 has all the benefits of the latest generation of X Series cameras and I quickly got to grips with the way the camera operated. I did find the lack of a D Pad on the rear of the camera a bit disconcerting at first but I soon got used to the ergonomics and within a few hours I found myself shooting away and not worrying about the small changes in layout.
The touch screen LCD also takes a bit of getting used to. I had first used a touch screen on a Fujifilm camera on the GFX50S. Again it takes a bit of getting used to but for choosing an AF point quickly and then flipping through the menu system or reviewing your images, it does speed things up. I did find that my nose sometimes hit the LCD and moved the focus point on more than one occasion, but perhaps I just have a big nose!
What is Missing?
The two items I thought I would miss that are a feature of the X100F were soon forgotten.
The first is the hybrid viewfinder. I thought I would miss the ability to flip between Electronic View Finder (EVF) and Optical View Finder (OVF) at the touch of a lever. However I realised that I actually hadn’t used the OVF on either my X100T or X-Pro2 in quite a while. The EVF on the X-E3 is superb and I certainly didn’t miss the lack of an optical viewfinder in the two weeks I had the camera.
The second item is the leaf shutter in the 23mm f/2 lens on the X100. The leaf shutter is silent but the focal plane shutter on the X-E3 is hardly loud and there is always the option to switch to electronic shutter if you want to be total silent. The only advantage of the leaf shutter that I could see me missing is the flash sync at all shutter speeds, the ability to use fill in flash in all conditions. It is a consideration for my work but not necessarily for its use as a personal camera.
If, like me, you already own some XF lenses then the X-E3 as a body only purchase makes perfect sense. The £849 retail price for the camera body is a big difference to the £1329 for the X100F.
If you add a lens to the X-E3 then the price point narrows considerably, with the X-E3 + 23mm f/2 retailing at £1149 but still £180 cheaper than the X100F.
The fourth generation of the X100 is still a wonderful high quality camera and offers any photographer certain advantages, including high speed flash sync and the choice or optical or electronic viewfinders. A great advantage in low light conditions.
However as I use my X100T as a personal camera most of the time, the ability to use my existing line up of XF lenses makes the X-E3 a compelling camera, especially when it is £480 cheaper than the X100F when bought body only.
My only doubt is the X100Fs high speed flash sync ability and the fact I have had an X100 in my camera bag since the first generation of the camera that started my X Series journey.
The X-E3 has been returned and I have a decision to make. I think come the spring the X100T will be replaced. The X-E3 as it is a pocketable camera that fits nicely into my existing X Series system and is capable of producing professional quality images for a fraction of the price of the X100F.