X-E4: The minimalist tool of its time
First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Keitaro So, Divisional Head of Fujifilm for providing the loan for X-E4, XF27mm R WR and XF70-300mm R OIS WR. These units were loaned from Fujifilm Asia Pacific and returned to them. All the shots shown here were taken by me, and some shots were edited with minor adjustments inside the X-E4.
In this review, I will discuss less about the specifications and the hardware of this camera. What I will be going to share is more towards my experience of using X-E4 and XF 27mm R WR. So the review is a mixture of both together. As for the XF70-300mm, I will discuss in the next post. Let’s begin…
Design – X-E4
When I first saw the camera, the first thing that I noticed was the design language. It’s basically an X100V’s younger brother. The X-E4 borrows many similar design options from the X100V, but not quite the same as X100V. I have to say, I love this design a lot and, it quite resembles the good old film days a lot.
The next thing I noticed was the flat minimalistic camera body without the grip. I am sure everyone does notice the same thing as me. Before I hold the camera, I ask myself, how should I hold the camera without the grip? Will the camera be hard to hold without the grip?
Although the fear of dropping the camera is in my heart, it isn’t hard to get used to holding it without the grip. I guess my adaptability is fast enough. There might be a bit of discomfort because of the lack of support from the grip. Luckily, Fujifilm has included the metal grip and the thumb rest in the package.
I also notice that the Focus Mode Selector and the rear command dial were removed. I wonder why Fujifilm removed them? Was it because of achieving a minimalist look on the camera? I hope Fujifilm will answer my queries someday. In the course of using this camera, I have added the “Focus Mode” in “My Menu” option. So, besides accessing the “Q” function to change the focus mode, using the custom “My Menu” is another good option to access. It may sound cumbersome, but I am sure you will get used to it very easily.
The new flip screen is a welcome add-on feature in X-E line up. The screen flushes like an X100V when closed, and it’s able to tilt for low angle street photography, and it also has the capability of flipping up and do selfies like the X70. I can see how Fujifilm has put up the effort into this camera from the overall body design.
Design – XF27mm R WR
The XF27mm is still one of the most loved Fujifilm lenses by many enthusiastic street photographers, and I believe that the community greatly welcomes this XF27mm R WR. If the XF27mm non-WR is still available on the market, then the XF 27mm R WR is the second smallest AF lens in Fujifilm line-up because it is 1mm wider at 62mm in diameter and 6 grams heavier at 84 grams than it’s predecessor.
The most important feature of this lens is the introduction of the aperture ring. It also comes with the A-Position Lock mechanism. Of course, Weather-resistant is applied in this lens, hence the “WR”. A cute lens hood is also included in the package.
Changes from the X-E3
Besides the flip-up selfie screen, Fujifilm has actually improved the screen resolution from the X-E3, while maintaining the same 3-inch screen size.
By the way, the camera is now made in Indonesia, but that doesn’t mean bad quality. While the X-E4 has the same magnesium alloy top-plate as the X-E3, I feel that the build quality is better and sturdier.
Another good improvement is that I can charge the battery via a USB-C port instead of the micro-USB. This definitely allows me to bring one less cable for charging purposes.
Lastly, one of the most noticeable changes is the “Play” button. It has shifted and sits between the “Drive/Delete” and “AEL/AFL” buttons. Coming from a user who has both X-E3 and X100V, it took me a while to get used to shifting my thumb up to press the “Play” button — a little thumb muscle “learning curve” for me.
In my first few days of using the camera, I paired it with the XF27mm R WR. At 40mm (in full-frame equivalent), while it is not as wide as the 35mm nor it is as tele as 50mm, I am surprised that I am able to adapt to this focal length pretty fast and do not find much problems using it for street and daily usage camera.
Is this 40mm really the best of both worlds? I have no answer to it. But I have to say, I enjoy using it, and this pancake lens really pairs well with the X-E4. It gives an overall best compact package for street photographers.
The shooting experience is snappy. I do not feel any performance difference between X-E4 and any other X-Trans IV cameras that I own (X-T3 and X100V). The focusing speed is awesome, there is nothing much to complain about. However, I notice that the shutter sound from the X-E4 is louder than the X-T3 and X-T4, and slightly louder than the X-E3 (maybe it’s just me). I think it might bother some photographers but not me.
As for the lens, I didn’t use the non-WR version before, so I cannot provide my opinion on the overall lens performance and image quality between the two. But according to the official sources, the optical design remains the same as its predecessor. Through my loan period, I find that the image quality is decent for a compact lens like this, especially in images taken at night. Unless I am shooting in an extremely low light situation, I do not observe any focusing issues. Overall, I have no complaints about it.
The X-E4 is with no doubt an appealing, retro rangefinder-style camera. Despite being the smallest camera in Fujifilm X series lineup, it still comes with the best design body and decent technology from Fujifilm. I feel it’ a pity that this camera lacks WR. Because shouldn’t a WR camera body with a WR lens be a perfect match?
In my opinion, the grip-less camera body design is a bold move. Without the grip, it still works well with small lenses like the F2 lenses and the XF35mm F1.4. But if you are mounting big lenses like the XF50mm F1.0 and the XF70-300mm, I will say the metal grip is recommended.
Another one is the EVF, it is still retaining the same magnification and resolution. The EVF is usable, but who wouldn’t mind having a bigger EVF, right?
There is one thing to take note of. When I tilt up the screen (say at 90 degrees angle), and I bring the camera closer to my body, the image displayed in the screen actually flips. I believe this is due to the eye sensor being mistaken that I am using a selfie mode. Hopefully, this can be resolved with a firmware update.
XF27mm R WR
The Minimum Focus Distance (MFD) is at 0.34m. What does it mean? It means that it is not capable of shooting subjects at a very close up distance. But simple food shoot is okay. If you are not looking for a bokehlicious background, portrait shots are decent enough. I hoped that the MFD could be shorter, but I guess it needs to sacrifice somewhere for the compactness. In addition, the lens flare is not that beautiful.
By the way, 40mm is definitely not a good focal length for selfies and vlogging. You might consider using wider lenses if you are into it.
Who is this for?
This is probably the most important chapter in this review. This camera is set to aim for beginner, travel-friendly and budget-conscious photographers, and all those who wish to dip their toes into the Fujifilm system. Not forgetting that this camera is also designed for street photographers too. It’s small enough to pocket with and not sacrificing image quality.
It is also the cheapest camera with the most film simulations Fujifilm has to offer (except Nostalgic Negative which is currently available in GFX 100S only). Something my X-T3 still missing out some of them.
It is still using the old battery model (NP-W126s). Not the best battery from Fujifilm, but it is affordable, and you might have some of them lying around. The battery issue is not a problem for me, just bring one or two extras in my camera bag.
How does the X-E4 + XF27mm R WR compare to the X100V?
One is an interchangeable lens camera, while the other one is a fixed lens. One comes with EVF only, while the other comes with a hybrid viewfinder. One comes with built-in ND filter, while the other doesn’t. One comes with a leaf shutter, while the other doesn’t.
From my standpoint, it is not a fair fight. Both have their pros and cons, and it is up to the photographer to utilize the capabilities of the cameras.
But something worth taking note is the weight. The weight of the X-E4 with the 27mm R WR is 448 grams, while the X100V is 478 grams. The X-E4 is just merely lighter than X100V. The difference in 30 grams is probably unnoticeable to most people. Having said that, I guess the price is the only major factor for one to consider which one to get.
After a week of using this combination, I have to say that I am comfortable to shoot with this camera and the XF27mm R WR. I am really fond of this combination. I feel that they complement each other very well. The overall package really brings the joy of shooting on the street. It’s lightweight, has a decent performance, and the best thing is that most people will not bother about its presence.
Alwin is a 37 years old engineer, husband and Fujifilm fanboy from Singapore. His first encounter with Fujifilm was the launch of the X10 in 2012. It was love at first sight. It was a joyful compact camera and it also introduced film simulations to him. But what brought him deep into Fujifilm was the X-T2 and the love grows further. He loves to experience and discover many genres.