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