Big quality in a small package

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(Cybertech) – Back at the end of January 2021, Fujifilm announced this, the X-E4, one of the more junior models in its mirrorless camera line-up. It’s not the total baby of the range, though, a title which goes to the X-T200. The X-E4’s main difference to that camera? It brings the coveted X Trans CMOS sensor type into the fray.

When we first heard announcement of the X-E4, we thought it looked a little like the fixed-lens X100V, except with the obvious addition of an interchangeable lens mount. And given how fond we were of the X100V, that set up this interchangeable equivalent in good stead. Except this adds a flip-forward screen to the series for the first time.

So is the Fujifilm X-E4 a real mid-range champ, or does it lack innovation to elevate it above and beyond its X-E3 predecessor and surrounding X series cameras?

Design & Lens Mount

  • Fujifilm X mount (for XF lenses)
  • Dimensions (body): 121 x 73mm x 33mm / Weight: 364g
  • Built-in electronic viewfinder (0.39-inch, 2,360k-dot OLED)
  • Vari-angle mounted screen, with touch controls (3-inch, 1,620k-dot LCD)

If you’ve been thinking about a Fujifilm camera then there’s three current models that sit fairly close to one another: the X-T200, the X-E4 on review here, and the higher-end X-T4. So how do they differ?

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The X-E4 sits in the middle of the trio, with a more advanced sensor technology than you’ll find in the lower-end X-T200 – but other features are otherwise fairly similar. The higher-end X-T4, meanwhile, has the exact same sensor as you’ll find here – so while the ‘T’ model doesn’t mean higher quality images, it has more dedicated control dials and can shoot much faster.

The X-E4 is designed with small-scale in mind, too, so our attachment of a 10-24mm f/4 lens (not included) makes it look a bit bigger. Really Fujifilm intends to sell this camera with the 27mm pancake lens, which is sold as a kit, because that really enhances the small scale – but we’d only suggest doing that if you know you’ll want to buy other lenses later, otherwise you may wish to look to the X100V instead (if you can find it for a good price anyway).

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Prominently the X-E4 adds a flip-forward LCD screen for the first time in the X series, enabling that selfie or vlogging angle for those who need to frame themselves. However, the design of the camera – there’s also a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) – means you cannot simply flip the screen up in one swift movement. Although it’s not complex, we find the two-part movement to get the screen forward is rather fiddly. And even then the EVF’s marginal protrusion stops it from being completely vertical.

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The screen quality is otherwise perfectly decent, at 1,640k-dots, and the little nub on the side makes it easy to position by 90 degrees (or similar) in a single motion – which is handy for waist-level work. The touchscreen is highly responsive, which is both great for quick reaction, yet annoying because we took heaps of unwanted pictures while the camera was in low-power mode in-between shooting proper.

A big part of any X series camera is the style, though, with this silver and black finish the epitome of retro cool. The X-E4 is made primarily from magnesium alloy, which gives it a robust feeling in the hand. However, it’s not weather-resistant like the pricier X-T4, so if you’re keen to always run around in the rain then this might not be the choice body for you.

The camera’s dials aren’t just there to look pretty either – you can quickly control the shutter and exposure compensation via their individual dedicated dials (many XF lenses have aperture control rings as the third piece of the puzzle). Sadly, there’s no lock of the exposure compensation dial, which we found was a little too easy to knock out of place (and so we took a number of images at +/-0.7EV).

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Want to point and shoot? No problem. The X-E4 can be set to auto in every regard so you can just snap away. Even applying various filters – Toy camera, Miniature, Pop color, High-key, Low-key, Dynamic tone, Soft focus – if you want to get a bit ‘arty’ with results.

Performance

  • Battery: 2,200mAh (circa 450 shots per charge)
  • Autofocus system: 117 selectable areas
  • Face Detection & Eye Detection AF
  • Low-light focus: to -7EV
  • Adjustable AF point size
  • Up to 8fps burst

The X-E4’s focus system is an echo of the X-T4 too. The camera uses a massive 2.16-million phase-detection pixels embedded across its sensor’s surface, designed to cover the full width from edge to edge. That means you can focus anywhere in the field of view, as far vertically or horizontally as you wish, and still acquire the same focus ability as you would in the centre.

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The autofocus system is pared down to 425 areas maximum – it’s 117 selectable areas though – which can be further reduced to simplify operation as you wish. The AF point can be adjusted between a variety of point sizes, too, by using the front thumbwheel; the miniature joystick to the rear, meanwhile, handles repositioning with speed – if you’re not using the touchscreen.

However, there’s still no Panasonic Lumix S1-style Pinpoint mode, which we always miss when using other brands’ mirrorless cameras. Pinpoint is great for still life work, as it enables really specific focus – not that the X-E4 struggles, but you may find focus is positioned a millimetre forward/back to expectation based on available contrast, for example.

Now we wouldn’t say the autofocus is the very best going for moving subjects, but it’s still highly capable. It’s hard to ignore Sony’s forward motion in this department, really, where it’s excelling in fast-moving subject capture.

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The 8 frames per second (8fps) burst shooting is also capable, although approaching half that of the X-T4 – which is yet another clue of the X-E4’s target audience.

Autofocus is said to be good to -7EV, which means really dim conditions. With the curtains closed and not much light available the camera had little qualms in capturing – even when the sensitivity was forced to be maxxed out to ISO 12,800 as a result.

In terms of longevity the X-E4’s battery is relatively high capacity, capable of delivering 450 shots per charge or thereabouts. This will vary depending on the screen’s on time, how much movie shooting you wish to do, and so forth. There is a low power mode that auto-activates by default, though, so the rear screen will go into a low brightness and super-low refresh rate to retain battery – but mean it’s instant to reactivate when you want it for that next shot.

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Recharging takes place via USB-C, much like an Android phone, but you’ll need to use a 15W charger at the wall for the fastest possible recharge times. It’ll take about three hours to recharge the one cell, which isn’t especially quick, but use a low power USB port and it’ll take three or four times longer than that. In short: don’t think plugging it into the side of your computer will serve the same result, as it won’t.

Image Quality

  • 26.1-megapixel X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor
  • 4K at 30fps, Full HD (1080p) at 60fps
  • Sensitivity: ISO 160 to 12,800

Inside, this lightweight camera houses the same 26.1-megapixel X-Trans CMOS 4 and X-Processor 4 combination as you’ll find in the X-T4 – so quality is, in effect, one and the same. It’s lens dependent, of course, as that’s a major part of what attributes part of the clarity and sharpness of an image.

This sensor type is backside illuminated, with the copper wiring placement beneath the photo diodes in the sensor, in order to create a cleaner signal path. But the real sell is the X Trans CMOS aspect, which uses Fujifilm’s unique colour array, not the typical Bayer array, to make benefit of a larger sequence to determine colour results.

Fujifilm shots tend to look very natural as a result, sometimes a little cooler in appearance, but there’s a lot of options within the camera to manipulate as you please – including traditional film stock equivalent, if you want to shoot Velvia for added punch, or Provia for softer portrait tones.

We’ve often praised Fujifilm for its image quality prowess, a trend that the X-E4 continues. It’s handled our various snaps well in terms of exposure, colour balance, scale and detail. The real sweet-spot is in the lower to medium ISO sensitivity, as higher up the range things beging to reveal a lot more image noise – not to the point of destruction, as such, but detail drifts away and processing is more apparent, even from ISO 3200.

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That you’re getting Fujifilm’s current best-of-best (well, ignoring its medium format line-up) in a camera that sits in the middle of the range is impressive.

Verdict

Although the X-E4 is the first Fujifilm X series camera to offer a screen that can face forward, we don’t actually think that’ll be the main appeal for its target audience (it’s also a bit fiddly to position as so) – as much as the spec can cater for vloggers wanting to shoot 4K or Full HD video. 

The real appeal of the X-E4 lies in a range of points: from the top-tier image quality from the X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor, to the small-scale body and retro chic design; to the capable autofocus system and variety of filters and film stocks.

If you don’t want the super-fast shooting of the X-T4, don’t need the weather-sealing either, then the X-E4 wraps much of its higher-spec cousin’s features into a smaller, tidier body with a smaller price tag.

Also consider

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Sony A6400

Not the most up-to-date Sony – that goes to the over-four-figures A6600 – but the A6400 is a great example of small scale with big capabilities. And it did the whole facing-forward screen feature first too.

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Fujifilm X-T4

Want that water resistance and almost double-speed burst mode? That’s where the X-T4 comes into play. It’s far pricier, and it’s larger too, but it’s all-round more accomplished – and will feel better balanced with larger lenses, too, if that’s your future thinking.

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Writing by Mike Lowe.



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