Hands-on: Fujifilm X-E2 review

Why hello there good lookin'. The Fujifilm X-E2, the compact system camera to succeed the earlier X-E1 model, may be a little older but it's lost none of that retro charm and visual appeal. That's clear from just taking one glance at this silver-topped machine.

Ahead of its official announcement, Pocket-lint got to use the X-E2 to see whether it's a subtle upgrade or a model that addresses criticisms of the earlier X-E1 model.

READ: Fujifilm X-E1 review

Visually the camera looks similar to the earlier X-E1. There have been some button rejigs: the exposure compensation dial now adjusts +/-3EV and is stiffer; the function (Fn) button on top defaults to activate Wi-Fi for sharing; there's a second function (Fn2) button to the rear; and that last point has, in turn, moved the autofocus (AF) button onto the d-pad's down key. Subtle moves, but all positive ones.

Look closer and you'll spot that the rear LCD has been upgraded to a 3-inch, 1.04m-dot version. That's a big jump compared to the X-E1's 2.8-inch 640k-dot offering.

But it's not the small things that please us the most. The two biggest features are an updated autofocus system and the same X-Trans CMOS II sensor as found in the fixed-lens Fujifilm X100S.

READ: Fujifilm X100S review

When we reviewed the X-E1 we criticised its autofocus for not being as swift as the competition, something that the X-E2 seems to put right. New lens firmware is required for it to be active, but once that's updated you'll immediately feel the difference. There's a much less hunting, the over and underfocusing is far tighter than before and the speed has also been amped up considerably.

We were shooting in and around some fairly dim offices where four-figure ISO settings were standard, but the camera - complete with the 14mm prime lens - was happy to grab a hold of subjects with ease. On some occasions it slipped up and failed to focus, but none too often.

There's also new pre-AF and face detection autofocus options that can be switched on or off - might make that casual street photography all the easier than before.

When conditions are dim the preview refreshes at 50 frames per second rather than the 20fps of the X-E1, and that makes for a far smoother experience, particularly through the viewfinder. We didn't spot too much lag here, despite the built-in EVF being the same 2.36m-dot panel as its predecessor.

Next up is that 16.3-megapixel APS-C size sensor. It's proven in the X100S and from zooming in on the back of the X-E2's screen it was looking top notch to us, even at higher ISO settings. That's all helped along by the latest EXR Processor II.

The only caveat to that is shooting close-up at wide-open apertures. It's the same "issue" that the X100S suffers, in that nothing is sharp and the camera won't warn you not to use such settings at close-up focus distances. There's a note in the manual but that's it. Be aware of this and you'll easily skip around it. Stopping down, for one, helps the problem, while shooting from a greater distance resolves it entirely.

Faster, better quality, and better thought out. That last point made all the more clear by the 180th/sec flash sync now being marked out on the shutter speed dial on top of the camera. Strobists will be happy. And those who found themselves knocking between 1/4000th sec and Auto (A) will see that the physical turn distance between the two has now been greatly increase - you should feel that motion if you're not looking at the dial.

The latest processor also means faster performance elsewhere: up to seven frames per second (7fps) burst shooting, with the ability to store eight raw files before the buffer fills. However, we couldn't test this due to no SD card in the camera.

All that goodness makes the X-E2 seem like a logical step forward, the sort of camera that's improving a large slice of the moans that users and critics alike threw its way. We'd still like a more capacitive battery on board, and that exposure compensation dial still isn't immune from being knocked, but otherwise everything is a step forward. Big thumbs up then.

The Fujifilm X-E2 will be available in November, priced £799 body only, or £1199 with the 18-55mm kit lens. It's available in all-black, or black with silver trim.