The eternal chase

Fujifilm X-E2 sets new standard. Is it reason enough to upgrade?

EternalChase-XE2

Update: Read my follow-up review of the X-E2

In the digital age, there is a never-ending chase to get the next best everything. In the case of photography, it is usually the next best camera body. Lenses tend to have a long life and lens technology hasn’t changed significantly in the past half century. There have been improvements in lenses, no doubt, but the fact that I can use 40 year-old glass on my X-P1 with excellent results proves that lens technology hasn’t gotten in the way of making good photos. (OK. So camera technology hasn’t gotten in the way of making good photos either. Just bear with me).

Real or otherwise, I believe there is the perception that digital camera technology is developing fast enough to improve the photographic experience with each new camera. I don’t believe new technology makes better photos. You make better photos. But, as camera manufacturers refine their products, it can lead to a better shooting experience. Which, in turn, can lead to you making better photos. However, I am not going to argue this point, one way or another. And, I’m not going to argue about whether manufacturers use technology development as a means of selling more products, more often. That seems obvious. The question should be, does that technological improvement really matter to me, how I work and what I produce? Hopefully, the answer is a considered one and not just a continuation of the chase for the next best thing.

in my personal quest to improve as a photographer, relating only to the equipment component here, I have sought the camera with which I can shoot effortlessly and get consistently excellent results. I don’t want to think about how the camera works, rather, I want to concentrate on making the best possible photo. I want that camera to work and effectively disappear during the process.

To date, that camera has been the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. I feel that I have developed a good understanding with this camera. That’s not to say we haven’t had our disagreements, but I have adapted in certain ways so that I can use the X-P1 for nearly all of my work and personal photography. For me, the X-P1 is nearly perfect. It is perfect in size, handling and image quality. And, I have adapted my shooting style to get the best out of the camera and it’s focusing modes.

This post could end right here and you would say to yourself, “yeah, I’ve read this before. So what?”

EternalChase-XE2

The “so what!”

I recently had my hands on, and various lenses attached to, a pre-production Fujifilm X-E2. I actually had it for less than a week and due to time constraints I only shot with it a few times. As it turns out, it was long enough to create a new-camera itch.

My main reason for wanting to try the X-E2 was to test it for shooting indoor events, particularly shooting in difficult lighting conditions, where I would struggle with any camera to achieve focus. I wanted to test it with the XF18-55mm zoom and on-camera flash, situations where I typically use the EVF on the X-P1 anyway. The results were promising. First of all, focus peaking is much better than on the X-P1. This is probably due to the fact that the X-E2 shares the same sensor and focusing technology as the X100s, which has an incredibly high standard in both AF and MF. Having determined that the focusing of the X-E2 was a definite improvement, I was thinking that the this would be a nice-to-have second body.

Why a second body? Well, it doesn’t have a hybrid viewfinder and I really like using the OVF on the X-P1 and X100s for lenses below 60mm. I might just be a throwback to my rangefinder shooting days, but I like seeing outside of the frame that I’m shooting. This, among other reasons, makes using the X-P1 so great.

Initial test completed satisfactorily, I carried the X-E2 around with me for a few days, with little opportunity to shoot anything. Until, while running errands over the weekend, I saw the light and colours at a local cemetery. This time of year, at that particular spot, the light is usually pretty great. So, although it was approaching mid day, I stopped to shoot.

I had my Zeiss T* Sonnar f/2.8 135mm lens and C/Y adapter on the camera. I shot as wide open as the light would allow, concentrating on shallow DOF using MF. I was one happy photographer. I watched the white-focus-peaking-highlights march across the frame in the EVF as I changed focus. Shoot. Compose. Focus (peak). Shoot. This was one nice shooting experience; it felt like I was really in control of focus, even at this shallow DOF. Later, when I was able to see the files on screen, I remained one happy photographer. The out-of-camera JPEGs were stellar, but best of all, focus was spot on. Every time.

Of course, the files that the X-E2 produced were fantastic. I was shooting in high-contrast light and the JPEGs held the details in both the highlights and the shadows. I am constantly surprised and pleased to see how much latitude I have in post for adjusting the exposure on the X-trans files. As there is no RAF support yet in LR, I worked with JPEGs. Happily.

Sadly, that was the last time I picked up the X-E2 before returning it. I really wanted to continue to shoot with it. I wanted to try every lens I own with it. I wanted to shoot this week’s portraits with it. I wanted another event to shoot with the X-E2 in hand.

My conclusion is that although the X-E2 is an evolution of the Fujifilm X-cameras, the improvements in the shooting experience, along with the refinements that Fujifilm have made, has now turned the X-E2 into a want-to-have camera. This was a surprise to me. I didn’t think that I would be looking for an upgrade or a change in cameras, but I am seriously considering taking one more step in the eternal chase for the best possible shooting experience.

For more insights and spec-by-spec reviews, be sure to read what fellow X-photographers, Patrick La Roque, Kale Friesen and Riley Joseph have to say. Their blog posts are linked below. And, yes, the lack of a “View Mode” button is unfortunate. It would be great if that issue is resolved before the X-E2 ships. Here’s hoping.

Notes: Photos made with the Fujifilm X-E2 with the Zeiss T* Sonnar f2.8 135mm lens, except for “fountain,” which was shot with the Nikkor f1.4 50mm lens. Exposure adjusted in LR 5. I did find with the X-E2 that I wanted a little more camera to hold on to. Therefore, when I order mine, I will also order the grip.

Canadian X-Photographers on the X-E2

Fujifilm X-E2 Specs

22 comments

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  6. There isn’t enough of a compelling reason for me to upgrade. I use my X-E1 with the 18-55, and the 35 1.4 MORE THAN my D800, and D700 with loads of Nikon Fast glass. I don’t see a reason to move up at this point. However, I AM WAITING on the 10-24 F4 for the X which will allow me to start moving away from the dSLR world shortly thereafter. I’m sure the X-E2 is as great or better than the X-E1 but I think I’ll hold off a while.

    • I completely understand. I think that your POV falls under the considered approach to new camera technology. If what you own works well for you, there is no need to change. I know what you mean about the Nikons sitting in the closet, too.

      Thanks for reading!

  7. Pingback: More X-E2 feedback: “If the devil is in the details, this thing’s a demon — A good lil’ demon” | Fuji Rumors

  8. MartinL

    Really good to read someone saying how good the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 is and that they have adapted to the camera. Just what I have done and the quality never ceases to amaze me.
    Moving from DSLR to the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 was the best decision I ever made.

    • Thanks Martin. My sentiments exactly. I took the intermediate step of moving from DSLRs to rangefinders, before the switch to X-cameras. The similarity of shooting with a rangefinder was one of the first features to drawn me toward the Fujifilm cameras. The versatility and amazing quality have kept me hooked.

    • I fully subscribe to your statement. I just came home from a 10-hour (event-)shoot where I used the X-Pro1 as main camera with the 18mm + 60mm FUJINON lenses and the X-E1 (with ZEISS Touit 32mm). I don’t feel the urge to shoot like a nervous Ninja-Fighter when framing and composing my images with the Fuij X-cams. I see the scene in front of me, know how to set my camera and have more than fast enough AF to catch my subjects. When ever I feel like going “more artistic” I switch to MF … Now I feel a bit tired. During the shoot I was just doing fine …. (Thinking back at the times with two heavy DSLRs and all that bulky glass ….. ) Oh boy …

  9. Pingback: The Fujifilm X-E2 and XQ1 become official and the X100 gets a boost | MirrorLessons - The Best Mirrorless Camera Reviews 2013

  10. Scott

    First off I call Fuji X cameras RDC Retro Digital Camera just has a ring to it. I have a X E1 and I love it great camera and the shots just blow me away, But it wasn’t all that fast some times best to jab the shutter button down and the AF worked if it didn’t stop to think about it. I am so ready to make the X E1 my old film lens camera and my ordered X E2 my FUJI FX lens camera!

    • Scott, thanks for reading. Having two bodies is a great strategy for quickly switching from one focal length to another, when using fast prime lenses. And, adapting manual film lenses to the X-cameras is really great. Enjoy the new X-E2 when you get it.

  11. I have been contemplating moving away from the dslr as my wrist has some issues and the 1d MK II leaves me hurting for several days after using it. I will still keep my 5d if for nothing more, the HSS flash abilities. I primarily photograph weddings and portraiture for my bread and butter, wildlife and landscapes for fun and an occasional print sale. I have always loved shooting rangefinders for several reasons and welcome the X E2 into my bag of tools. I have been looking at all the lens possibilities that I can go with and trying to figure out where to start. It’s expensive starting a new system so I’m leaning towards the standard “kit” lens for now which, from what I’ve read, is anything BUT a “kit” lens. This is exiting news for me, but I still love the fast lenses. I have been looking at a number of 50mm lenses for my portrait lens and may actually get a few just for their unique look, both IQ results and the fact that some of the old lenses just look so cool on it! If Fuji or Metz were to come up with an HHS flash for this system, my Canon gear would most likely be sold. I think I’d still keep my Sigma 50-500 for wildlife; adapters aren’t overly expensive ;)

    • Dwight, thanks for reading and commenting.

      I shoot a lot of portraiture for my job and use the XF60mm lens on my X-Pro 1 most of the time. I have tried a couple of legacy 50mms (Leica Summilux and a Nikon f/1.4), but find that the XF lenses are really great. In fact, I sold the Summilux as I didn’t find it to be any better than my Fujinon options. When I use flash for portraits, I use it in manual mode and trigger with a radio controller. Works great. I don’t see a benefit to TTL flash in these circumstances other than adjusting flash exposure from the camera. A non issue for me. For group portraits, I use the X100s or the XP1 with the XF18-55mm lens. Yes, the XF18-55 delivers great results too.

      For event photography, I use flash on the camera a lot and set it to Auto mode. With experience, I have determined the best settings for the flash and the camera to get consistent results. Because the high ISO performance of the X-cameras is so fantastic, I set it at 1000 or 1250, which results in needing much less power on the flash. Recycling time is faster and the battery charge lasts longer.

      I have two Nikon SB800s and a SB28, if necessary. As the SB800s can also be used as slaves, I can trigger them with another flash or the onboard flash of the X100s and the X-E2. Just set the flash on those two cameras to Commander mode and they will trigger the slaves, without trying to light the scene.

      If you want to ditch the DSLRs, I believe that you can. You just need to know how to get the best out of whatever equipment you use. The X-cameras are certainly capable of giving you great results. However, it will take some investment in time spent with them to get there.

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  13. Pingback: All lit up. An updated review of the Fujifilm X-E2 | Don Craig

  14. Anthony

    Hello Don .The Fujifilm X-E2 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. You are using Fine? or normal . Fine is the best

    • Anthony, I use Fine when shooting JPEGs. I am looking for the best quality available. I suppose if I was shooting for Web use only, I might consider shooting in Normal and/or a smaller size. I recently shot a couple of portrait sessions and an event where I shot RAW + JPEG/Fine. I ended up just using the JPEGs and throwing away the RAW files. The colour and dynamic range of the JPEGs was great and I couldn’t improved upon them with the RAW files, IMHO. Of course, in all situations, I set a custom WB and nailed the lighting/exposure before I started to shoot the job. Well worth the effort, as it saved me SO much work in post, if I had been lazy and just shot RAW and expect to fix problems later.

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