IRL: Trading in Fujifilm's X-E1 camera for the X-E2

A quick look at my Engadget profile can confirm I've owned too many cameras over the years. For the most part, they've been unassuming tools that have helped me make a living. Fujifilm's recent X-Trans cameras, however, have been something more -– they've been conversation starters. From random passersby to billionaire CEOs, folks have often commented on the aesthetics and image quality of my previous X-100 and X-E1 models. Now that the X-E2 is here ($999 for the body), I expect that trend to continue.

To be fair, I found precious little to be wrong or lacking in the 16-megapixel X-E1. It was a compact mirrorless camera with fantastic image quality and eye-catching retro looks -- so much so that it's garnered a bit of a nickname as the "sexy one." The few aspects I found wanting, like sluggish write times and fairly slow autofocus speeds, appear to have been handily fixed in this updated version. And really, the X-E2 is more of an update than a brand-new model; other than an improved LCD and some button rearranging, the exterior is nearly identical to the X-E1.

Most of the changes are on the inside, including an upgraded autofocus system that uses both contrast- and phase-detection AF (its predecessor used contrast AF only). The result is noticeably faster and more accurate autofocus, especially on lenses like the XF 35mm f/1.4, which tended to hunt for focus more often on the X-E1. While Fujifilm's claims of having the "world's fastest AF speed" are more marketing speak than anything else, the improvement in both speed and accuracy are certainly welcome. Write speeds are thankfully better as well.

Image quality remains a strong suit of the X-Trans sensor line and I have no reservations about taking photos at up to 6400 ISO. The lack of a low-pass filter, not to mention the strong lens lineup, allows for clean and sharp images throughout the native ISO range, though I would only use the optional, boosted 25,600 ISO option as a last resort.

As for the minor exterior changes, the 3-inch LCD has been bumped up to a 720 x 480 resolution (or roughly 1 million dots, as camera companies like to say). Exposure and focus lock can now be handled by separate buttons, a feature I loved on Nikon and Canon DSLRs. Unfortunately, the handy "Q" quick-settings button has been moved more toward the top-center of the body, which feels less convenient when you're used to the X-E1's placement.

Overall, the Fujifilm X-E2 fixes what few things I disliked about its predecessor, and for that, it's a winner. Owners of the X-E1 will have to weigh the $999 body-only upgrade carefully to make sure those improvements are indeed worth the price. For those considering their first foray into the world of Fuji's retro X-Trans gear, the X-E2 (or the companion X-T1) is the perfect place to start. It takes what made the X-E1 the "sexy one" and makes it, well, sexier. Which begs the question: Why isn't it just called the "X-ER"?