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  • Writer's pictureSteve Gemmell

Fujifilm XE4 First impressions

I have recently been playing with the new Fujifilm XE4 camera and I thought it would be useful to share my initial impressions of this little mirrorless camera. But first some background on my mirrorless journey...

After starting with a Fujifilm Xpro 1 nine years ago, my next experience with Fujifilm X system cameras was the Fujifilm XE1 with the 18-55mm lens. I liked it. Especially when later on I began using it with some of the excellent Fujifilm prime lenses. For many years, when I was shooting weddings, it was part of my X system kit. Mainly as a third backup camera, but occasionally I would use it with the 35mm f1.4 lens. I would use back button focusing and fine tune focus manually using the peaking display. Being a bright f1.4 lens, this worked well for capturing moments where the focus point could quickly change by a small degree.

Now, having moved to the much larger Fujifilm GFX system I thought maybe another XE camera would be useful as a carry around “everyday“ option. Initially I looked at the Fujifilm XT4 with the 16-80mm f4 zoom. A very nice camera, but still a little on the large size for my needs. Having used two Fujifilm XT1s as my main wedding shooters the XT4 certainly was a very familiar camera to use apart from the flip out screen. The Fujifilm X100V is a similar size and design as the XE4, and I did consider it. But I still hankered for the form factor of the old XE1. So when Fujiilm announced the latest incarnation, I felt I had to give it a try. It’s big advantage over the X100V is of course the option to change lenses. Apart from that I have never been a huge fan of the hybrid optical viewfinder which pushes up the price on the X100 series. I have used several incarnations in the past but always found I very rarely used the optical option on these cameras.

From reading reviews etc, as far as I am aware, the inner workings of the XE4 are much the same as the XT4. It does feel much more compact and a little less “professional“ than the XT4. The weight difference 364g compared to 607g is quite substantial. Instead of the flip out screen on the XT4 the XE4 as an ingenious “pull out” and tilt option. It feels a little flimsy but seems to work OK in practice and folds back neatly flush with the camera body. However, I was perplexed to discover that if I held the flip up screen close to my body, the image display would immediately flip upside down! Eventually I discovered the way to avoid this happening. When you flip the screen down you also need to pull it towards you so that sits away from the camera body. Of course the XE4 hasn't got in body stabilisation or weather sealing. I’m not too bothered about that as I won't be using it professionally. Another minus for most pros is the lack of a dual card slot. I can understand why photographers like the dual slot. However in my case I have never felt the need for one. In my early days of wedding photography I used to backup cards to a portable device as security at the end of the evening. This was mainly so that I had a second copy in case the card got lost or damaged. But even back then when I was using microdrive compact discs I never had a card fail on me. They were essentially hard disks in compact card format. My Canon cameras and the Fujifilm XT1s all had single card slots. I tend to think dual slots are overkill unless you are writing two different file formats on each card e.g. Raw and jpeg. Just my opinion. I know many would disagree. The minimal design of this new XE camera also appeals to me. Fewer dials to deal with. I love the way you can use aperture priority and the compensation dial, which usually changes the ISO on the fly. It's a quick way to operate the camera in everyday use. Another irritation is the method of finding a focus point with the joystick. On other cameras, even on my GFX, a quick press of the joystick will re-centre the focus point. This doesn't work on this camera at present. You therefore have to drag the focus crosshair from the corner of the screen each time you focus. Hopefully this will be fixed in an update. Alternatively a quick way to focus is via the touch screen and I was impressed with how speedy that method was. Especially useful if working with the camera on a tripod.

The lens that comes with the XE4 is the 27mm f2.8 which is a compact “pancake” lens. It sits well with the size of the camera. However I found it to be very noisy in use. My favourite lens camera combination was with the 50mm f2 lens. I used to love using the 56mm f1.2 on my old XT1 cameras, but that lens is much bulkier than this 50mm version. The 56mm was such a beautiful lens to use. I therefore wasn’t expecting too much in terms of image quality from the 50mm by comparison, given the much lower price. However I was pleasantly surprised by the swift focus and decent image quality from this small lightweight lens.

In conclusion, I am finding the XE4 a useful everyday camera to carry around with me wherever I am. It has a few quirks to overcome and adapt to. As with all cameras I have ever used, it’s a question of getting familiar with the quirks and finding the best ways to work around them. With regular use on a daily basis I think the Fujifilm XE4 could end up as one of my all time favourite cameras.

All of the images shown here were taken with the 50mm f2 lens.

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