The Fujifilm X-E3 vs X-E4: A Practical Comparison

This article is mostly intended for photographers trying to decide if they should upgrade their Fujifilm X-E3 to an X-E4, though it will also be valuable for photographers trying to decide on the X-E3 vs X-E4.

There are a lot of X-E3 vs X-E4 comparison articles out there, most of which discuss how the cameras are different on a specifications level. Which is important, don’t get me wrong.

But what practical impacts will that have on you as a photographer? Especially if you love your X-E3 and are deciding if you should upgrade to an X-E4?

There’s actually a lot to consider.

The Obvious Differences

Initially looking at the X-E3 and X-E4 side by side, it’s obvious that the body is a bit different. The X-E4 is actually smaller than the X-E3, both a blessing and a curse, especially for those with large hands.

This is awesome if, like me, the X-E3 was your backup or secondary body. The slimmed-down X-E4 will hide in your bag a bit better. It’s a touch smaller (almost 25% slimmer) because there are fewer protrusions (no thumb or handgrip).

Even though it’s slimmer, the LCD touchscreen now tilts up a full 180° – great for waist-level photos, shooting above your head, and even checking yourself during movie recording.

You can also probably guess that the tech is better. The X-E4 features the latest 26.1MP backside-illuminated sensor and X-Processor 4 computer. That’ll give it some extra capability we’ll get to in a minute.

If you love Fujifilm cameras for their in-camera JPEG styling capabilities, the X-E4 will give you all the latest options in the X-series line. All of the film simulations like Eterna Bleach Bypass and Classic Neg, Color Chrome Effect and Color Chrome FX Blue, and the Clarity setting. This alone may be reason enough for you to ditch the X-E3 in favor of the X-E4.

But wait…there are some important subtleties to consider first.

The Subtle Differences

This is where the X-E3 vs X-E4 comparison articles skim over, but can have some serious implications for your technique.

Look closer at the body. There are way fewer physical controls!

xe3 v xe4 top
xe3 v xe4 back

This does make it sleeker, but also means that more must be done in menus versus dial or button activations – one of the reasons we love our Fujis.

Here’s a list of what’s different in the X-E4 from the X-E3:

  • No Focus Mode switch on the front. The Focus Mode must be changed in the AF/MF SETTING menu. You can program a custom function control to FOCUS MODE or put this in a custom menu for faster access if this is something you use a lot.
  • No Rear Command Dial. This was for enabling the focus zoom and also refining shutter speed. But it is no more. You can still enable focus zoom by programming the FOCUS LEVER SETTING – PUSH to ZOOM. And now all exposure refinements will be crammed into the Front Command Dial, which can be pushed to cycle through three different settings you can set.
  • Combined AE-L and AF-L. Like the X100V, these two buttons have now been merged into one. If you used both of these on the X-E3, you’re going to have to change up your technique in the X-E4.
  • Missing View Mode button. If you constantly found yourself going back and forth between EVF ONLY or EYE SENSOR depending on your needs…this is now in a menu.

Other control differences include:

  • No AUTO mode lever on the X-E4.
  • Added a “P” setting on the shutter speed dial for quickly getting to Program AE mode.
  • The Q button has been moved to the top plate.
  • The Playback button has been moved to above the LCD.

These aren’t necessarily complaints. All I’m saying is that, if you’ve had that X-E3 muscle-memory and technique for years, going to an X-E4 is going to take some re-learning.

Custom Setting Hell

I loved my Custom Settings to create different “Film Recipes” to stylize my photos based on the subject matter & mood I was photographing. Whereas the custom settings in other cameras let you save things like focus & shooting settings, the custom settings in the X-E3 and other Fujifilm cameras were all about the image styling.

Fujifilm has now included all the shooting settings, focus settings, and more into the new Custom Setting structure in the X-E4, and that’s been a huge pain point for me. Another blessing and a curse. More on that in this video.

“Under the Hood”

Ok, so we got all the “usability” stuff out of the way, considering the X-E3 vs X-E4. What about the techie specs?

Shooting & Exposure

With the newer sensor and processor, you now can now go to a lower native ISO (160 vs 200). The expanded ISO can also go lower (80 vs 100).

If you do a lot of burst photography, like for sports or wildlife, the X-E4 will give you a faster Continuous High burst mode. The speed nearly doubles, from 14 frames per second to 20. Just note that this uses the Electronic Shutter; the Mechanical Shutter still tops out at 8fps. You can get an even faster burst mode, up to 30fps, by enabling a 1.25x cropped image.

There are some additional features found in other newer Fujifilm cameras, like Pre-Shot ES and Sports Finder Mode, which are both useful for sports, action, street, and wildlife photographers.

A feature I’ve come to love that started in the X-T3 but is missing in the X-E3 is Auto White Balance Lock. This is now in the X-E4. Set your White Balance to Auto (there are three Auto flavors in the X-E4 for different moods), assign the AWB-LOCK ONLY function to the top Fn button, and press it when the auto white balance “looks right”. That white balance will now be set for more consistent colors from one JPG to the next in a series of photos.

Using the LCD in a “normal” shooting environment, expect to get close to 100 more photos out of a single battery charge in the X-E4 (460 vs 350).

Autofocus

The X-E4 now has super-duper fast autofocus, the same found in the X-T4. It’s spec’d down to .002 seconds for an AF lock, and that’s pretty darn fast. There are also improvements in the way Face & Eye detection works and continuous autofocus tracking.

On top of the improved autofocus algorithms, the X-E4 also features more focus points on the sensor (425 vs 325). Phase-detection points now cover the entire sensor instead of the middle only, enabling better autofocus tracking of moving objects.

Autofocus capability in low light is also significantly improved, down to -7EV like in the X-T4.

Movies

While both could record 4K at 30fps, the X-E4 has a bitrate up to 200Mbps (vs 100Mbps in the X-E3). The X-E4 now has a High-Speed Recording option for super-slo-mo movie recording.

Other movie features in the X-E4 include 10-bit output when connected to an HDMI monitor, F-Log recording for better control in post-processing, and a separate set of Movie menus when DRIVE is set to Movie.

Which Camera is for You?

xe3 vs xe4 front

So you have an X-E3 and are on the fence about upgrading to an X-E4. Or you’re new to these cameras altogether and are trying to figure out which one to get.

Only you can really answer this, but here’s my two cents.

When this camera was first announced I said, I must have this and get on a preorder list! To be able to replace my X-E3 with a camera that had the same innards as my X-T4 would be amazing.

Then I held the camera and looked at the redesign of the controls, and said, no, I don’t think this will work for me.

But then when I started going into the menus and seeing all the ways I could customize the camera, I said, yeah, this actually might work for me!

Then I took it out in the wild. Even after a week of trying to get used to the new controls, I had to go back to no, this just won’t work for me.

I don’t want to have to re-teach my brain how to use a camera that, for me, is supposed to be something I can seamlessly put down and pick up between using another camera body.

But that’s just me. My opinion – Fujifilm sacrificed a proven UI for slick looks.

Decision points

That’s not to discourage anyone from using this camera. I really want to love it.

If you’re only using an X-E3 then yes, I’d absolutely say you should consider the X-E4. Just know that you’re going to have to re-learn how to use it.

And if you’re new to Fujifilm cameras altogether, yes, I think you’d love it since you’re learning Fujifilm X cameras from scratch on this one.

But if it’s a compliment to your collection of other Fujifilm X cameras, I just want you to consider that it might trip you up. Most other Fujifilm X and GFX cameras are similar enough in the way they’re controlled, but the X-E4 seems to cross that threshold.

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is, did you get the shot? And if you missed it because you reached for a rear command dial that wasn’t there, then tried to remember what the substitute is, that’d be a shame.

If you do decide to go with the X-E4, I have an X-E4 tutorial course available to take you through the camera features.

What do you think about the new camera?

4 Comments

  1. “I don’t want to have to re-teach my brain how to use a camera that, for me, is supposed to be something I can seamlessly put down and pick up between using another camera body.”

    Exactly! I was so happy that Fujifilm kept the X-E class alive, but upon seeing the specs and physicality of the E4, all it did for me was to make me baby my X-E3 so that it can last as long as possible. My E3 supplements my X-T2 and T3 and X-PRO2, and I can grab any of them and in a second get on with shooting without regard to which camera is in my hand.

    Thanks for doing this article.

    • And don’t even get me started on the new way it does the custom settings. The more time I spent with that the more I wanted to chuck it in the lake, but it wasn’t mine, so I had to restrain myself.

  2. I had the xe4 twice John. The first time focus peaking was not working accurately. Since I have extensive experience with Fuji x cameras I returned it. The second time I ordered it pulled out the LCD and the image flipped upside down if not in the right position. I did the firmware update no help. I shoot a lot of street totally unacceptable so I returned it. The feel was fine for me but for now I will use my xt20 in conjunction with my x100v. I ordered the xe4 when first announced but terribly disappointed in the camera. My xt 20 has a cracked LCD so probably will pickup the xt 30

    • Yeah I’ve heard about those problems from others. Quite disappointing. I really wanted to keep this camera to get more consistent images between my primary (X-T4) and secondary (X-E4) but will have to stick with my X-E3 for now.

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