Well well well. It sure looks like the X-E line isn’t dead afterall. One of the most pocketable APS-C Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras just got even more pocketable, and even more sleek and stylish. All of it without compromising features of the models that comes before it.
But is there really a place for a camera in 2021 that doesn’t have any form of weather resistance? Well, I guess we’ll have to find out, cause one thing that Denmark has had a lot of these past 3 months is shitty weather. And I brought the X-E4 into most of it!
Normally I would split my articles for two such product releases, but since I’ve mainly been shooting the new XF27mm f/2.8R WR on the X-E4 as a super-compact combination since December, I thought it would make sense to write about both of these products in one article, just like with the GFX100S & GF80mm f/1.7R WR article.
But before we get going as always, I’ll be courteous and write down my usual disclaimers.
Feel free to skip everything but number 3
Disclaimer 1: I’m an X-photographer. That’s spelled brand ambassador for Fujifilm. I don’t get paid for doing these write-ups (and I have been doing them even before getting involved with Fujifilm). This means that I’m just about as biased as I can get, and whether you choose to believe my views or not is entirely up to you. I expect you to be adults, capable of forming your own opinions based on presented information.
Disclaimer 2: All the images in this article have been shot using an early prototype of the X-E4 as well as a prototype XF27mm f/2.8R WR lens. Image quality might therefore not be final.
Disclaimer 3: All shots with- and of the product have been shot by me, and are not to be used without my explicit permission.
So let’s start with the complex machine, and then get to the glass afterwards.
During the past 10 years, FUJIFILM has launched many different layouts and models using the same technology. They’ve been differentiating their cameras based on the specific need of specific types of photographers. Instead of other manufacturers one-camera-model-suits-all approach. I really applaud FUJIFILM for the way they stick to this strategy. It makes a lot of sense, and it ensures that more photographers can find a camera that is just right for them.
Me? I’ve always been an X-Pro or an X100 shooter. Still am. Nothing can ever change that. I love the layout of those two cameras, and I love the Hybrid viewfinder. I might be a growing minority, but I love the functionality and the looks it brings to the design of the cameras.
When the X-E line came along, it never got much of my attention. I just didn’t like the look of the thing. It looked like an amputated X-Pro1 without the viewfinder. Thats probably why I never reviewed either the X-E1, X-E2 or the X-E2s. Then in 2017 I was handed the X-E3 prototype and was given the task to shoot images for the camera brochure during our holiday in Venice, Italy. It was the first time that FUJIFILM got rid of the D-Pad and replaced it with directional touchscreen gestures.
I used all the smaller primes available at the time, and guess what….I completely loved it. So small and handy, yet as powerful as my then superior X-Pro2 camera. I wrote an article on it that you can read here
And here we are. It’s 2021 and despite rumors that FUJIFILM was killing off the X-E line, today they’re announcing the latest camera in the series, the X-E4.
Let’s have a look at what’s new and improved, and what unfortunately stayed the same.
Design, Build and Feel
This is actually where the biggest upgrade to the X-E is to be found. The design has been given a very nice overhaul, and the X-E4 is much more hard edged, squared and modern looking than the softer curved X-E3. The new design looks really nice, and fits more inline with the equally hard-edged X-T30. It even has many design similarities with the design jewel of the X-Series, the X100V.
The design has been cleaned up a lot. This also means that FUJIFILM has removed some buttons in comparison to the X-E3. Most notably they removed the back scroll wheel. They didn’t really replace it with anything, which I think is a shame. The design team removed the small front “grip” as well as the back thumb grip, making it completely brick shaped akin a Leica M camera. Instead of having these clumsy little bumps in the camera build, they also introduce a real grip, with arca swiss plate on the bottom, which gives a proper grip handle if you’re into that.
They also make a dedicated thumb rest for the hotshoe. These two things instantly transform the X-E4 into a super comfortable camera to handle. I like that FUJIFILM said no to the previous half-assed attemps at giving users a grip. Instead they said, if we’re gonna offer a grip, lets offer a real grip! – This way you have the choice between compact and stylish, or comfortable with less focus on sleek design. – The downside? You will have to pay for the thumb rest and the grip!
FUJIFILM removed the Auto Mode “panic switch” that was situated right next to the shutter speed dial on the X-E3. Instead they put a dedicated “P” mode on the shutter speed dial. They do the same thing, yet the latter certainly helps to declutter the top plate of the camera.
The size of the camera remains largely the same as the X-E3. It comes in at 121.3mm x 72.9mm x 32.7mm. Weight is approx 364 g with the NP-W126S battery installed.
The camera feels really well built and really sturdy. Even though it’s completely brick-shaped I think the grip you get is quite nice. I didn’t think about the lack of grip in use, so that must mean that it doesn’t bother me. I am however accustomed to using my Leica M cameras.
The new “flip over” LCD screen
This is a big one, and probably the biggest change to the X-E series to date. The X-E4 features the totally flush, sleek flip screen that we first saw introduced on the X100V. But this LCD has an extra hinge which makes it possible to flip it out even further, and in turn turn it all the way over the top plate, so that you end up with a front facing selfie screen thingie.
This type of screen made its debut on a FUJIFILM camera with the launch of the now classic X70. If I was ever to need a selfie-screen thingie, this would be the type of screen I would go for, rather than the X-T4 type screen. I know that the flipover screen will probably conflict if you’re using a shotgun mic in the hotshoe, but then again I don’t do any vlogging, so. If you’re serious about video in the FUJIFILM X-series system, the X-E4 probably wouldn’t be your best bet anyway. It would probably be the X-T4.
The added hinge on the screen actually makes it a bit more usable than the X100V screen, since you can now tilt it downwards to 90 degrees. Quite handy when reaching high above crowds etc (Hah! there’s a scene that I havn’t seen in a year or so 😀 )
I seriously enjoy this new flip screen. It’s very cool and handy.
Specifications and functions
If I was to say that the X-E4 was an X100V without an optical viewfinder, and the ability to change lenses I would actually hit the nail on the head.
It has the same 26 megapixel X-Trans 4 CMOS sensor, the same X-Processor 4. Same single card slot and exactly the same image creation options in regards to stills as well as video.
The entire specifications sheet can be found over at fujifilm-x.com. I don’t want to do a complete re-write of it here. ‘Cause again, it’s basically the same as the one for the X100V with very very minor differences if any.
One thing that the X-E4 has that the X100V doesn’t is the added ETERNA bleach bypass film simulation. This simulation prviously reserved for the GFX100 and X-T4 now found its way into the X-E4. I never used that simulation much, and I probably never will. It’s not my style.
Autofocusing is the same as with the X-T4 / X-Pro3. Super fast and accurate. I don’t have much else to add to this.
Now. I wrote at the beginning of this article that I would comment on “what unfortunately stayed the same” with this camera. This means just one thing. I need to address the elephant in the room. – The X-E4 comes with no form of weather resistance!
I still cannot believe that FUJIFILM would release a camera in 2021 without weather resistance. The end user expects to be able to bring their cameras in any weather, and not having to worry about breaking waranty or even worse breaking the camera itself. Luckily I have never had any of my non-WR X-series cameras malfunction on me because of using them in the elements. I usually take good care of my gear, but I’ve gotten so used to WR by now that having my camera slung over my shoulder in a Danish torrential downpour has become a habit.
So this is definitely a big minus for me regarding the X-E4. For some of you it might not matter, and to be honest it never mattered to me while using the XT30 or the X-E3. But I had hoped that the X-E4 would signal the coming of WR to these smaler cameras. If it was possible in the X100V, it should definitely be possible on the X-E4.
This lack of WR gets even more annoying when seeing that the two recent mkII lenses (XF10-24mm f/4R WR and the XF27mm f/2.8R WR) from FUJIFILM has gained weather resistance.
If you want the big analysis of what kind of image quality you can expect from the X-Trans 4 / X-Processor 4 combo I invite you to check out my articles on the X100V here, X-Pro3 here or X-T4 here – They all feature the same sensor and image making engine, so the results will be the same.
The images coming from the 26.1 megapixel BSI X-Trans 4 sensor are amazing. It has been my go-to APSC sensor since the summer of 2019 when I was first handed my X-Pro3 prototype unit. I love the output from this sensor.
But the sensor is only one part of the image quality equation. So without further ado let’s move on to part 2 of the first look preview, and talk about the new and improved XF27mm f/2.8R WR lens.
I have always had mixed feelings about the 27mm f/2.8 lens. To me it has always been a weird “in between” focal lentgh. To me it’s a lens that couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be a 35mm or a 23mm. In full frame equivalent terms it is equal to a 40mm FOV. The 40mm/45mm full frame focal lentgh has a nice history of great optics from Leica/Minolta, Zeiss and Canon. The whole Leica CL/Minolta CLE system was based around 40mm frame lines. and so was the Voigländer Bessa R cameras. But again, I never fully appreciated that 40mm FOV.
The GF50mm f/3.5 is the GFX version of the XF27mm f/2.8. But what attracted my attention with the GF50 was the fact that it made perfect sense on my GFX50R to have a really compact MF system.
During the summer of 2019, I shot the GF50mm so much, that I finally got a feel for what this “in between” 40mm full frame equivalent FOV focal lentgh could actually do. And I’m now a huge fan of this focal length for my street-photography and daily life leisure photography.
So to me it’s perfect timing for FUJIFILM to update the already stellar optical performer that is the XF27mm f/2.8.
Build and Feel
Since the optics of the XF27mm f/2.8R WR are exactly the same as those in the original version of the lens, obviously the changes that warrant a mkII release are to be found elsewhere. In this case it’s in the build department.
The XF27mm f/2.8R WR is absolutely tiny! It is a pancake lens with a length of a mere 23mm(!!!) and a diameter of 62mm. It uses a 39mm filter thread.
The lens is made from metal. Has a metal mount and still uses external focusing. The big two changes with this lens is that FUJIFILM introduced
- Weather resistance
- Aperture Ring
The aperture ring on the XF27mm f/2.8R WR is the best aperture ring on any XF lens to date! The hardness of the clicks is perfect! – Not too loose, not too tight. Just right!
For all the mkII lenses that FUJIFILM might be planning, this should be the aperture ring feeling that they should strive for. It’s THAT good.
The aperture ring even features a lock when put into A (auto) position. A super nice feature, which makes the size of this lens even more impressive!
The lens comes with a super small dome hood in the same design of that of the GF50mm f/3.5. It makes total sense for this little lens.
The image quality of the XF27mm f/2.8 has always been very very good. Despite its compact pancake build, it has excellent sharpness even near the corners, and has very good background blur quality.
The fact that you an focus quite close to your subject makes it possible to achieve great portraiture work with a nice blurry background.
The trait of the 27mm f/2.8R WR that I never understood before, is something that I really appreciate now. When you photograph at a distance you get a feeling close to that of a 35mm full frame FOV, but when you move in closer to do portraiture based photography the focal length acts more like a 50mm full frame FOV.
This fact really makes the 27mm (40mm full frame eq) a true everyday alround lens for any street- or lifestyle shooter.
The added WR and aperture ring makes it feel like a perfect companion to the X-Pro3 if you want a setup that is almost as compact as the X100V. And if you want a truly compact system, disregarding the WR portion, pairing it with the X-E4 will give you a camera system that is actually as compact as the X100V.
Conclusion & sample gallery
The X-E4 is a great update. It has been cleaned up and made into a very sleek little pacckage. I love that FUJIFILM had the guts to do a completely brick shaped bodydesign, and offer a grip and thumbrest separately for those who would prefer added ergonomis.
It features the amazing X Trans 4 CMOS 26.1MP sensor, that I love to shoot with. The new screen is really well designed and is very usable in almost all situations I can think of.
It’s a shame they didn’t add weather resistance though. It would have made the X-E4 a much more complete pacckage.
The XF27mm f/2.8R WR update is an absolute amazing one. FUJIFILM didn’t change the optics at all. They didn’t have to, since the XF27mm f/2.8 was already a stellar optical performer. Instead they made it weather resistant and added the best aperture ring ever to grace an XF lens. All while keeping the size of the lens the same. BRAVO FUJIFILM!
I have shot mostly street-, portraiture- and lifestyle images with the X-E4 and XF27mm f/2.8R WR. This doesn’t mean that they won’t perform in other fields of photography. The camera is as versatile as it gets. It’s super compact, so you an bring it anywhere to get good spontaneous shots.
I don’t shoot brickwalls. I’m not a reviewer, I’m a photographer. (Well actually I’m a doctor, but who’s counting..) Thats why I don’t do SOOC comparisons etc. You can probably find those elsewhere. All images can be viewed by clicking the gallery below. Download them at will and look at the EXIF. Everything is there. Knock yourselves out.
About the Author
Jonas Dyhr Rask is a Doctor M.D. and a photographer from Denmark. He’s an official Fujifilm X-Photographer and a member of the KAGE collective. You can find more of Jonas’ work on his website, Instagram, Flickr, and 500px. This article was also published here and shared with permission.