Review: Fujifilm X-E4 Compact

I know that using a proper camera these days is not the done thing.  Why have a proper camera when you have a smartphone in your pocket? Why carry two devices?

And I find this sad.

Yes, I’ll agree that a smartphone is fine and dandy when you just want to snap off some quick party shots, or the dish you ordered at a restaurant or when your mates do something really stupid.

But I am seriously baffled when people tell me they need the latest and greatest smartphone because the camera is “so good”, and then simply stick it on auto everything. Why spend all that money to just do that?

So, if you are serious about your photography / video, then you should just get a cheap smartphone you can basically say “hello” and “goodbye” into, perhaps ask it for the quickest way to the nearest decent French restaurant and whether you have enough money to buy that meal.

That’s all you need.

And then go and get a decent camera with decent lens options and controls so you can take truly great pictures.

Which brings me neatly to the Fujifilm X-E4.

I have had one on loan here for a while now, and whilst there are a couple of niggles I don’t like about it, mostly I would heartily recommend it to someone stepping up from a smartphone to a camera suitable for photography and also able to shoot 4K video as a sideline.

Now at this point it is tempting to venture into the area of technical capabilities and waffle on about pixel counts, bit rates, F-logs and other esoterica, that in reality, I don’t believe the market for this camera – potentially – is that interested in. If you are, then look here.

As I say, the market for this camera, at the price point it is set ($1400 approx for the body and a basic 27mm lens) is the enthusiast who wants to learn more about the hobby without needing to go into the complicated (and expensive) world of dSLRs.

And so they will get something that being from Fujifilm, has a great pedigree, inherits many of the characteristics of its more expensive brethren and has a large range of X mount lenses to choose from down the track as and when necessary.

Of course you get all the controls any decent camera needs to take decent images – as long as you understand how to use those controls of course, and what their purpose is and how to take advantage of them under different circumstances.

And for this, the X-E4 is brilliant. The menu system is intuitive making it simple to follow, and more importantly lets you easily try out different options to see what they will do and how they will affect an image. This encourages experimentation, and hence learning.

There are even a few party tricks such as Fujifilm’s nifty and bloody clever film simulations; you get 18 of those.

And the touch screen is one of the best I have used anywhere. It is extremely responsive and more than passable in sunlight.

So what didn’t I like? I have never been a fan of the standard shape of so-called compact cameras, having always preferred a built-in grip “hump” for the right hand to curl around. The body texture also appears to be a little slippery for my liking – refer to my previous point about grip – and this can lead to slightly wonky shooting. Sadly as there is no in-body stabilization this may be an issue for some.

The autofocus is not as responsive as I’d like either.

Hang on there though. Considering my opening statements about turning on auto everything, does that not make me slightly hypocritical? Well, yes it does I admit.

I cut my teeth originally on fully manual cameras with no auto focus, no stabilisation and no other whizzbang electronic functions and this forced me to understand how a camera works. We had no “bokeh on” function, or automatic “keep focus on that dog running away” capability.

But under some circumstances, yes, they are nice to have, especially when you have tried every know way to get the right shot the manual way and nothing has worked.

And so if they are there, I like them to work properly.

But in the overall scheme of the X-E4, these are minor points. In short, I’ll say this: if you are thinking of graduating from an all-singing, all-dancing smartphone for photos and video, then the Fujifilm X-E4 is a damn fine place to start looking. At the price point, I don’t think you’ll find better.



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