As far as it goes these days with digital cameras, one-upmanship is a bit of a sticky wicket. Speed no longer kills; it’s de riguer. The fact is that autofocus speeds have finally usurped and trounced megapixel-counts. This is a good thing. In the days of yore it may have just been disco trendies and sports journos who needed it, but these days the need for speed is ubiquitous. Whether it’s presentations for school, your blog, LinkedIn job searches, finding a date or showing off on YouTube, everyone can find a use for a faster-focusing camera, and everyone from Olympus to Panasonic to Sony has been souping up their AF systems lately.
Well, welcome the Fujifilm X-E2 to the race. The company claims its new camera is the fastest-focusing APS-C camera of them all, with a phase-detection AF system that’s able to lock in on a subject in less than a tenth of a second (0.08 seconds, to be exact), according to S.L.R. It uses the same 16-megapixel X-Trans CMOS II sensor as its galvanized cousin the Fujifilm X100S, and, like the X100S, the X-E2 doesn’t have an optical low-pass filter. There’s one huge difference between the two: the X-E2 is an interchangeable-lens X-Mount camera instead of a fixed-lens shooter.
When set in rapid-fire mode, the X-E2 captures 7 frames per second with focus locked on the first frame or 3 fps, with dual contrast/phase-detection autofocus making instantaneous adjustments on every shot. Better yet, it does yeoman work in video-capture mode, too, with the ability to shoot 1080p video at a smooth 60fps. ISO ramps up to 6,400 if you’re shooting in RAW (or 25,600 if you’re capturing JPEGs). Bottom line, for all that photo-pro terminology, if you’re a layman and a little nervous about stats and superlatives, is that you will be able to use fast shutter speeds, especially in the dark. This is where you get to gob smack the friends and acquaintances you have who say you’re a snob ‘cos their iPhone’s photos are just as good. Well, really, here’s proof that they’re not!
Like most recent Fujifilm cameras, the X-E2 uses old-school aesthetics that really are as practical and easy to understand first time out of the box. And the manual really is easy to read. You get physical buttons and dials to adjust shutter speed, focus modes, exposure-compensation settings, a focus/exposure lock so nothing gets wiped out by accident, focus modes, and other adjustments. There’s also a nice, chunky grip that fits comfortably in your hand, a bugaboo always with Sony camera products. The body may look old-fashioned indeed, but just call it ‘classic’. Indeed, it’s loaded with Wi-Fi capabilities, so you can offload images to a mobile device or a computer without messing around with cables.
Fuji also made a whole series of adjustments designed solely to improve focus. Continuous AF is no longer limited to the center of the frame, AF point selection is now on the 4-way controller, you can click on the rear dial to access a zoomed-in focus check while in AF mode, and there’s a 3 fps continuous shooting mode with focus tracking and live view between frames. Fuji has also added a third type of manual focus aid – Digital Split Image – to accompany the magnified view and peaking display on the X-E1.
Really big on listening to their customer reviews of the X100-S, Fujifilm’s attention to detail pays off. These little tweaks really make the camera more enjoyable to use. All the better if you’re a manual control aficionado or wannabe. It hit the stores in mid-November. Color-wise it comes in either in black-and-silver two-tone or in all black. The Fujifilm X-E2 costs US$1,000 for the body only, and it will sell for US$1,400 as a kit with an 18-55mm/F2.8-F4 zoom lens.