In my review of the Fujifilm X100V, I wrote about my switch to film photography over the previous year as a result of feeling uninspired by digital photography. The efficiency and perfection of digital photography made the process feel stale and predictable. I found myself only using my Sony A6000 for special occasions and travel, obsessing over how I would perfect each shot in post instead of simply capturing and enjoying the moment. When I got my hands on the Fuji X100V, it breathed life back into digital photography for me. I found myself using it on any and every occasion I could, as its classic camera aesthetic and iconic film simulations encouraged me to put more value on the shooting experience as I do while shooting film. Unfortunately, the X100V was on loan so I had to send it back after just a month of rekindling my relationship with digital photography. Needless to say, I promptly went back to shooting film.
Despite my glowing review, I didn’t purchase the X100V for myself, as it wasn’t quite justifiable for me in terms of practicality and budget. If I was going to shell out my hard-earned cash, I wanted to invest in the versatility of the full Fujifilm ecosystem—bodies, lenses, and all. I considered the X-T30 and the new X-S10, but neither of those quite fit the aesthetic I was after. There was also the X-E3, but after using the A6000 for so long, I wanted the latest and greatest technology Fujifilm could offer. Finally, in early 2021, Fujifilm delivered my ideal photographic companion: the X-E4. It’s aesthetically attractive, the perfect size, and performs on a professional level. Don’t tell my wife, but I think I’ve fallen in love for a second time.
What is the X-E4?
The X-E4, announced in January 2021, is an overdue update to Fujifilm’s often overlooked X-E line, the last iteration of which (the X-E3) was released in 2016. The X-E4 is a rangefinder-style, interchangeable lens APS-C camera with an appealingly compact form factor. In fact, with the right lens attached, one might say it treads along point-and-shoot territory. With this new iteration, Fuji has included its latest 26.1 MP X-Trans sensor and X-processor, same as their more professional offerings, as well as reimagined the camera’s design with a more minimal approach than its predecessor.
Often described as the X-Pro’s little brother, the X-E line is basically a slimmed down version of that series—no OVF, smaller size, slightly lower specs than the Pro, but more affordable. This latest entry also shares relation to the X100V, particularly with its clean design and small form factor. Despite being classified as a younger sibling, the X-E series enjoys a sort of underdog cult following among Fuji X-photographers, and rightfully so, as the latest iteration is definitely capable of punching above its weight.
The X-E4 is marketed toward the everyday, enthusiast shooter, falling in the same category as the X-T30, and X-S10. It’s also Fuji’s cheapest offering, coming in at $850 for the body only or $1050 for the kit including the updated version of the XF 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens. I see the X-E4 is an alternative for those who like the idea of the X100V, but want something more budget friendly that offers the versatility of interchangeable lenses.
Minimal Aesthetics, Robust Build Quality
Like most of Fujifilm’s offerings, the X-E4 replicates the look and feel of a classic film camera, which is one of the main draws for the company’s products. The aesthetic of the camera alone beckons photographers to use it on a daily basis. Consequently, this little guy is distractingly handsome, and it seems like every time I steal a passing glance, it almost always finds its way into my hands and up to my eye.
The X-E4 clearly shares a similar aesthetic to the X100V, sporting sleek straight lines with some subtle curvature. You can get the camera in either a matte black or silver finish, both of which come wrapped in a black, TPU leatherette that feels grippy to the touch. The top and bottom plates are made of high-precision molded magnesium that feels robust and adds a bit of heft to the total package. Uniquely, the top plate of the X-E4 features a set of flat strap mounts, which I think adds an extra bit of flair to the camera. The materials used certainly feel premium and durable, though I have some concerns about the paint job, especially the black version, as I can already see some wear on the bottom plate from putting the camera down on hard surfaces. Instead, I think they could have added some rubber nubs to give the bottom a bit of cushion, but that’s just a minor detail.
The internals feel densely packed into the chassis, giving it a solid feel in the hand. Nothing about the X-E4 rattles around or feels hollow. However, the port and battery doors are noticeably lacking in quality compared to the rest of the camera, as they feel plasticky and have a bit of wiggle to them (on my copy at least).
This detail reminds me that the X-E4 is not weather sealed. It would have been a nice feature to have, but it’s a trade-off to keep that budget friendly price tag. Full disclosure, I’ve taken this camera out in a light drizzle (cautiously) and I’ve seen no issues. Don’t quote me on this, but I think most electronics these days are built to withstand a light drizzle anyway. As long as you’re not digging this thing into the sand or walking around with it in torrential rains without caution, you’ll be fine. Ironically, most of the lenses that fit best on the X-E4 body (like the bundled 27mm and the f/2 “Fujicron” primes) are weather resistant, so when you’re using those lenses at least the front of the X-E4 will have some degree of protection from the outside world.
The X-E4 falls in line with that tactile goodness Fujifilm cameras are known for. The dials are made of the same precision machined magnesium as the top and bottom plates and are satisfyingly click-y with knurled surfaces for added ease of use. The function buttons are also subtly tactile, though the two buttons below the joystick feel unusually shallower than the others, which I suspect has to do with the configuration of the camera’s internals relative to its size. With a total of eight function buttons and three dials, the control layout is concise and well organized for intuitive operation. I think the minimal, organized look makes the camera that much more inviting.
While this camera’s design shares some similarities with the X100V, Fuji had a more minimal philosophy in mind when creating the X-E4. In fact, Fuji’s motto for the X-E4 campaign is “make more with less.” With this new vision, Fujifilm revisited the X-E design and removed a few familiar features that it deemed unnecessary to the general operation of the camera. While the omissions have stirred up some negative reactions from the Fuji fan-base, overall, the X-E4 still retains the same tactile experience you expect of a Fujifilm camera. Personally, I think Fujifilm did a wonderful job of making the X-E4 look slightly more approachable (from a minimalist’s perspective) without making it feel any less capable than their other cameras. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the minimalist approach, it’s not hard to get used to operating the X-E4, especially for those who are new to the Fuji ecosystem.
A Simplified User Experience
The X-E4’s form factor is a major draw for me. I wanted a camera that encouraged me to take it everywhere, not just on my travels, and the X-E4 fits that bill, especially with the low-profile 27mm pancake lens attached. In fact, it’s compact rangefinder-esque form reminds me of the highly-lauded Minolta CLE, which makes me enjoy using it that much more.
The X-E4 is a hair more compact and lightweight than the X100V, coming in at around 446g with the 27mm lens attached (364g body only). While it’s not quite pocketable, it’s easy to throw the camera in a jacket pocket, purse, or sling bag while you’re on your way out, and light enough that it won’t weigh you down during all day outings. In fact, my X-E4 has pretty much become a staple item in my every-day carry kit, allowing me to capitalize on fleeting opportunities as they arise. In addition, paired with smaller lenses, I’ve found that the compact form factor gives the X-E4 a certain charm (read: cuteness) that makes it unimposing, borderline inviting, to my subjects. This makes it an ideal tool for documenting organic, candid moments anywhere you might find yourself.
As I mentioned, the control layout is very minimal and organized, and I think that’s a strong suit for the X-E4. The minimalism makes operating the camera feel less overwhelming, especially for new-comers. You’re provided with everything you need and nothing you don’t. All the exposure controls are positioned within comfortable reach, exactly where you’d expect them. To start, the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials flank the threaded shutter release/On-Off switch combo in a familiar formation on the top plate, which features a slight difference from the previous version.
The auto switch featured on the top of the X-E3 has been replaced with the dedicated program auto (P) position on the shutter speed dial. The fact that Fujifilm adds a dedicated auto mode on the camera always struck me as redundant, considering you can just turn the shutter speed and aperture dials to A to achieve the same thing. But in practice, flicking one dial to activate the P mode is indeed faster than two. However, it might be relevant to note here that the shutter speed dial can’t turn continuously like the exposure comp dial, which can be slightly annoying in certain situations.
In terms of controlling exposure, the X-E4 retains the same basic, hands-on exposure mode setting configuration as most other enthusiast and pro Fujifilm cameras (bar the X-S10, which replaces shutter speeds with consumer-friendly markings for PSAM). The hands-on exposure method might lend the camera a bit of a learning curve for new-comers, as there are no clearly marked consumer-focused auto modes that allow just anyone to pick it up and get great results. But there’s always the dedicated P mode, which is a nice fallback for beginner and seasoned photographers alike.
Staggered between the main controls are the quick menu (Q) button as well as an unmarked function button that is set to display your ISO settings by default (because there is no physical dial for ISO settings). I would have liked to see the same ISO dial implementation as the X100V, but I personally prefer to set my ISO to auto and forget it. Traditionally, Fujifilm places the Q button in a position on the back of the camera near the thumb, but by combining the auto mode switch with the shutter speed dial, Fuji made space to move the Q button to the top plate. This isn’t as uncomfortable as it might seem and prevents you from unintentionally launching the Q menu, which I’ve seen Fuji users complain about with other cameras.
The back of the X-E4 has a total of six function buttons including the navigational joystick. I know a lot of Fuji-X users miss the D-pad, but I personally prefer the joystick as I find it faster for navigation. Gone are the days of the back dial, which has been removed from this iteration of the X-E line-up. This was one of those features that Fujifilm decided was not necessary to the operation of the camera, and contrary to popular belief, I haven’t really missed it. When I tested the X100V, I reconfigured the back dial to utilize back button focusing (BBF), but due to the X-E4’s smaller form factor, it seems Fuji removed the dial in order to allow the thumb ample real estate to rest on the back. And honestly, it’s not a bad trade-off considering that the AEL/AFL button is now within comfortable reach for BBF.
Controls on the front of the camera are scarce. There’s the command dial, which can control a couple things depending on your settings, and the aperture ring on the lens (if it includes one). That’s it. Usually, the front would also be home to the physical focus mode switch, but this is another feature Fuji removed in light of its minimalist approach. This omission in particular seemed to throw Fuji-X users up in arms, with many considering it a deal breaker. Personally, since I use back button focusing, my focus mode is almost exclusively stuck in continuous focus, which (with the BBF method) can act as both single AF and continuous AF without actually changing modes. So, I only ever change my focus mode to manual when I adapt a legacy glass. But if you do switch focus modes often, you can still use the Q menu, remap one of the available buttons, or set a touch screen gesture for quick access to the focus mode setting. While I’m not as passionate about the removal of this switch, I do think that they probably could have left it for that extra bit of tactility or speed of use when needed and utilized the same switch design as the X100V.
The minimalism of the X-E4 will disappoint photographers expecting a high degree of customization. There are only three fully custom buttons on the X-E4: the Q button, the unmarked function button, and the AEL/AFL button. The front dial is semi-customizable as you can select whether it controls the aperture, shutter speed, program shift, or exposure compensation based on your dial settings. For example, you can adjust your shutter speed incrementally when you’ve set the aperture ring to A for shutter priority, or you can adjust exposure when the exposure comp dial is set to C. But it won’t do much more than that. The lack of custom buttons forces users to utilize the X-E4’s touch screen gestures.
The 3-inch articulating touch screen offers four extra ways to access your more frequented settings. Some might not like it, but I have no qualms against utilizing this less tactile method. In fact, I found the touch screen to be very responsive and useful for quick operation of the X-E4, though at times, prone to accidental touches that can activate the AF functionality. The screen is really nice to use and is a significant upgrade from the X-E3’s fixed LCD. The new version sits flush with the camera body for a clean look, it’s bright enough to use in direct sunlight, and with the same specs as the X100V, X-T4, and X-Pro3 (1.62 million dots), it displays photos with beautiful color and detail. To add to that, it’s able to tilt up to 180 degrees, allowing for easy waist-level, over-head, and selfie shots.
On the other hand, Fujifilm left the EVF unchanged from the previous version, but it’s still on par with competitors in the category. With the exact same EVF as the previous X-E3, we’re getting an OLED panel with 2.3 million dots, 0.62x magnification, and a diopter adjustment. Nothing more, nothing less. The eyepiece is a bit small, but it’s not so small that it’s difficult to use. It’s clear and bright, making for a good alternative when it’s too sunny outside to use the touch screen. In fact, I use the EVF more often to compose my shots than the touch screen mainly because the X-E4 is so reminiscent of a classic camera that it feels natural to pull it up to your eye in almost every situation. In real world use there’s not much difference between the X-E4 and any of the higher rated Fuji cameras’ EVF. However, I did find the EVF on my copy to be a bit oversaturated out of the box, as it didn’t seem to match the color of the touch screen, but you can easily adjust details like that in the menu.
Menu organization beats my A6000 by a long shot. But one thing I didn’t notice in my time with the X100V was the implementation of the My Menu. My Menu is a fully custom menu panel within the main menu that allows you to add settings from all categories that you might need occasional access to. It’s set to open by default when you press the Menu button, which basically eliminates any need for menu diving entirely.
A Note on Ergonomics
In line with the minimalist approach, Fuji chose to omit any sort of grip, rest, or grooves from the X-E4. This seemed to be a major point of discontent in all the reviews I’ve read and watched regarding this camera. Well, I’m here to say that it’s not a deal. The X-E4 is easy to hold, particularly due to its weight, and will have a familiar feel in the hand to those who are used to shooting with classic cameras that feature little to no grip. Many classic cameras were boxy and often accompanied by add-on accessories to improve the ergonomics of the camera if needed. And this seems to be the same approach Fujifilm has taken with the X-E4, which is basically just a flat rectangle.
My hands are on the smaller side, so the X-E4 is a nice fit, and because I’m used to shooting with analog cameras it just feels natural. The light weight of the camera means I never felt like the camera would slip out of my hands at any point. Holding it one-handed might require a slightly tighter grip, but you get used to it, and the textured TPU material that covers the body provides a little extra security under the fingertips.
If you are so inclined, Fujifilm does offer some accessories to improve the way the camera feels in the hand. Some might consider this a money grab, but the indirect focus on ergonomics makes sense to me considering the target audience and the minimalist philosophy of the camera. Nevertheless, you can always purchase Fujifilm’s hot-shoe thumb rest for $69.99 and/or the attachable hand grip for $89.99. The native accessories are quite expensive and add a bit of extra heft to the camera, but they do help inspire more confidence for those who need it.
However, I’m not entirely convinced that the accessories are necessary. I own both attachments, and based on my preferences, I found them to be minor improvements except for specific use cases. For example, if you have big hands, the hand grip will definitely help you out. But if your physical features agree with the form factor of the X-E4 and you intend on mainly using smaller prime lenses like I do, I don’t think the additional grip is needed. I think it’s most useful as an add-on when you plan on using larger, heavier zoom lenses on the X-E4, as the camera is easily thrown off balance in this type of configuration.
The thumb rest does add noticeable comfort to the camera, but it can make operation feel a bit cramped, particularly when you’re accessing the Q menu or turning the shutter speed dial. For those who plan to use the AEL/AFL button for back button focusing (BBF) like I do, the thumb rest does block a bit of the surface area along the top of the camera, so you might find it cramped there too. It bothered me at first, but I’ve since acclimated to operating the camera with the thumb rest and it stays on permanently. I think the thumb rest is most useful if you don’t use BBF and/or you plan on using manual focus and manual focus lenses.
Overall, the X-E4 feels just as good in my hands naked as it does with the accessories attached. If you feel the need for extra comfort, I think most people could get away with either the grip or thumb rest. You probably don’t need both. And to save an extra bit of cash, I recommend looking at third party manufacturers, as the prices of the native accessories are a bit outlandish for what they are.
Familiar Image Quality
I don’t want to get caught up on image quality in this review because the X-E4 features the exact same 26.1 MP crop sensor and processor combo as the X-S10, X-T30, X100V, X-T4, and X-Pro3. That’s one thing I really like about Fujifilm as a company. The inclusive philosophy they follow for their image quality formula means that photographers can choose their camera based solely on their preferences for budget, form factor, and style without compromising on the quality of the images the camera can produce. Needless to say, for half the price of the X-Pro3, the X-E4 can produce the same stunning results that feature the same deep dynamic range, stellar ISO performance, and renowned color science as Fuji’s flagship offerings.
In my X100V review, I mentioned how Fuji’s color science made me rethink my photography workflow by potentially skipping any post processing entirely. This still holds true for me with the X-E4. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but there’s something special about the JPGs that come straight out of these cameras. The 18 film simulations, including the newly added Eterna Bleach Bypass, help make the experience feel much more like shooting film in the sense that the photos have an intentional look to them the minute I actuate the shutter. I still shoot JPG + RAW, so that I have the option if I feel the need to make modifications in post. But since trading my A6000 for the X-E4, I’ve been more inclined to make my modifications ahead of time through the in-camera image quality settings. By messing with settings like White Balance, Clarity, Grain Effect, and Tone Curve, you can build off Fujifilm’s existing film simulations to create “recipes” unique to your personal taste. Or you can experiment with the numerous recipes that strive to replicate different classic film stocks shared within the Fuji community. Either way, the results straight out of the camera are sure to instill pause at the idea of post processing.
It’s also worth noting that the ISO performance of the X-Trans sensor still surprises me. Coming from the Sony A6000, it seemed like anything over 1600 ISO looked too noisy and smudgy. With the X-E4, ISO capabilities range from 160 to 12,800 natively and expands from 80 to 51,200. I’m happy setting my auto ISO up to 6400 and confidently snapping away. I’d even venture up to 12,800 to get the right shot. Something about the way in which this sensor renders noise makes it look very film-like and pleasing to the eye.
I have no complaints about the autofocus performance of the X-E4. And I expected nothing less considering it sports the same sensor as more expensive Fujifilm cameras. Personally, I’ve never used the X-E3, but with the new X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor, I can only assume the autofocus performance has improved over the previous iteration, with Fuji claiming an autofocus speed as fast as 0.02 seconds. The latest sensor includes 425 hybrid autofocus points across the frame (up from 325 on the X-E3) as well as the ability to detect contrast and movement down to -4.0 EV and -7.0 EV respectively. In real-world use, that basically means the X-E4’s autofocus is pleasingly snappy and accurate even in less-than-ideal situations. For an APS-C sensor, I see no concerning issues when shooting indoors with lower light, though it’s not impervious to focus hunting in extremely dim situations.
The X-E4 retains the standard AF modes (single point, zone, wide/tracking) seen in all of their other cameras, so there’s not much to talk about there. I like to keep my AF mode setting on ALL, which basically allows me to cycle through the modes just by pressing the joystick and flicking the front command dial. When it comes to tracking performance, the X-E4 offers face and eye detection, both of which work fairly well for my use case. Maybe even a tad better than I experienced in my time testing the X100V. Tracking can be a bit jumpy in more fast-paced situations (due in part to the 27mm’s external focusing mechanism), but overall, it does a good job of detecting subjects and sticking to them. Luckily, I have not experienced the X-E4 locking focus on faceless subjects, a phenomenon I experienced in my time with the X100V.
The camera is capable of shutter speeds up to 1/4000th mechanically and 1/32000th electronically, so it can capture images with shallow depth of field in practically any lighting. For the burst shooters out there, the X-E4 can take photos as fast as 8 fps with the mechanical shutter, which is respectable for a camera in this range, though there are faster cameras on the market (for example, my 7-year-old A6000 can shoot up to 11 fps). Electronically, the X-E4 can shoot up to 20 fps, which is significantly better, but can cause the rolling shutter effect when capturing fast moving objects. Also, can’t forget the dedicated sports mode which allows you to shoot up to 30 fps with a slight crop. Honestly though, I think the native performance of the mechanical shutter is enough for the average person’s needs. While the X-E4 does a decent job with continuous shooting, some might be let down by its relatively shallow image buffer. Because the processor is limited to a single UHS-I memory card, it takes some time to write burst shots to memory. But the X-E4 is not exactly intended for professional sports photography, so it certainly won’t be that noticeable for those just looking to freeze everyday candids on the streets or at home.
Speaking of street candids, the X-E4’s focal plane shutter has a subtle sound to it, though it’s not nearly as whispery as the X100V’s leaf shutter. It has an affirmative, pleasing sound that’s not obnoxious or sharp (like my A6000), but it’s not necessarily unnoticeable either. While it might not be as discreet as a leaf shutter, it’s subtle enough that I still feel comfortable shooting street photography with the mechanical shutter in normal public settings without anyone noticing. For quieter surroundings, I do like to switch to the electronic shutter to remain as stealthy as possible.
The X-E4 lacks IBIS, but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker for a stills shooter. In low light situations, I can happily capture photos with little to no camera shake just by pushing my ISO up to 6400 or higher. In addition, you can also activate electronic shutter mode to remove the possibility of shutter vibration. Personally, I’ve been able to take photos at shutter speeds as low as 1/15 of a second with my 35mm f/2 lens, but I might have a steadier hand than others.
Battery life is pretty average. Fujifilm claims the X-E4’s NP-W126S battery has enough juice to fire off around 380 shots per change. It’s not best in class, but it does just fine for everyday carry. I tend to be a conservative shooter, so I can easily get through a full day of shooting with just enough charge. But I like to keep a spare or two on me for longer outings to be safe. For power management, Fujifilm implements an auto power off setting in their cameras to help save battery, which is nice, but with this enabled, once the camera automatically powers off, you have to flip the camera off and then back on to wake the camera up. This can be a bit annoying at times, and I think a simple sleep mode would be a more welcome option. I’m also very happy to note that the X-E4 doesn’t experience any internal overheating like its cousin the X100V.
Embracing the Minimalism
The X-E4 sits in a grey area. It keeps in line with the form factor and price of the previous X-E models, takes aesthetic inspiration and performance from the X100V, and yet utilizes a minimal philosophy of its own that might throw seasoned Fujifilm users for a loop. For some, this might represent a step back for Fujifilm’s X-E line. For others, it’s a near perfect digital camera.
The X-E4 is not exactly a niche camera like the X100V, but I do feel that it’s minimalist user experience would be best appreciated by those who don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles of Fuji’s more expensive cameras.
While the X-E4 produces professional quality results, the camera’s minimalism might not lend well to professional shoots and client work. (Though, I can see how it could be a good option for professionals who need a B-camera.) I think the minimalism of the X-E4 best suits photographers just looking for a daily-driver camera they can use for personal or artistic works. It’s an especially wonderful companion for those interested in street, documentary, and travel photography, as it carries discreetly and looks unassuming to subjects. When paired with Fujifilm’s smaller lenses, the size and weight of the X-E4 makes it a perfect everyday carry option for photographers looking to capture organic, candid moments for themselves.
Those looking to break into the Fujifilm ecosystem, especially those who are already familiar with analog photography, should also consider the X-E4. These newcomers are more likely to appreciate the minimalist philosophy that drives the X-E4’s operation and design, as the experience exudes a familiar spirit to the limited features of classic cameras. In addition, the tactility of the X-E4 manages to mix the intent of analog photography with the instant gratification of digital, while the film simulations provide straight-out-of-camera results that imitate years of beautiful Fujfilm colors. Not to mention the classic camera styling of the X-E4 make it an ideal candidate for adapting legacy glass which will make the shooting experience feel that much more film-like.
Having picked up film photography in light of losing interest in the digital medium, I learned that aside from the tactility, the simplistic experience of the process is also a major draw. When shooting with a classic camera’s lean feature set, you realize there’s a certain charm in their limitations. But as the industry progressed into digital photography, companies kept innovating and adding on features—various digitally enhanced exposure, focus, and metering modes as well as the menus, buttons, dials, and switches needed to accommodate them. While these advancements made cameras more capable and productive, they also made them fiddly and, at times, more confusing. Consequently, when shooting with full-featured digital cameras, it’s easy to get caught up in selecting the perfect combination of settings for the moment, rather than focusing on the moment itself.
But the minimalist philosophy of the X Series, and by extension the X-E4, feels like a conscious effort by Fujifilm to reclaim a bit of the simplicity we’ve lost with the departure from classic to modern cameras. While omitting features from a modern camera might sound like a step back, I can vouch that the minimal operation of the X-E4 revives an element of the simplistic charm provided by classic cameras. And I love that.
Though I would have liked to see Fujifilm do some things differently, I’ve fully embraced the minimalism they’ve employed with the X-E4. This, along with Fuji’s recreation of analog tactility, has created a winner in my book. All aspects of the camera—from its compact form factor, to its minimal, yet tactile operation—encourage me to shoot more freely, capturing ordinary and extraordinary moments alike. And by fiddling less with my camera, I find myself emphasizing the value of the moment as I do while shooting film. At the risk of echoing my review of the X100V, it seems that the “make more with less” ethos of the X-E4 has truly rekindled my relationship with digital photography.
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