Just days before leaving for Christmas in the Philippines with my in-laws I traded my Canon EOS 5D Mark III for a Fujifilm X-E2, a Fujinon 23 mm f/1.4 and the Fujinon 55-200 f/ 3.5 – 4. If you recall from a previous post I had a few fears about selling my full frame gear and jumping headlong into the X-System cameras. I had heard so much about the X-E2 and how fast the AF was that I decided to risk one 5d MKIII body. I have not been disappointed. In fact, the the contrary, I have been amazed.
With only a little over a week or so of use the camera has proven to be quick on the focus and accurate. Is every shot in focus? Nope, but a lot of that has to do with operator error and the lens choice. Using the X-E2 with the 14 mm f/2.8 and the new 23 mm f/1.4 the camera reacts quickly and accurately in most environments. Using the 55-200 mm, well that is another story completely. That lens is razor sharp but incredibly slow to focus. Even in broad daylight it seems to hunt for it’s mark. It reminds me a lot of the Canon 85 mm f/1.2 and the troubles that lens had finding its focus.
Several of my biggest beefs with the X-Pro1 have been addressed in this camera release. Admittedly, this is a little unfair as this is an apple to oranges comparison. A more appropriate comparison would be the the X-E2 to the X-E1, but I never owned the X-E1 so I can’t make those comparisons.
Here is what frustrated me with the X-Pro1 and held me back from switching completely to the X-System cameras.
- Slow Auto Focus: Fujifilm used the same sensor they put in the X100/s and thus you’d think they would get the same focus speed, but it is faster. According to Warwick Williams, Fujifilm’s Digital Camera Specialist they didn’t stop with just using the same sensor as the X100/s they also did other modifications to make this camera even faster at focusing. I don’t own the X100/s so I can’t compare, but I can say the X-E2′s auto focus is crazy fast. Still not as fast as a DSLR, but getting dang close. Certainly fast enough for most of what I shoot. The X-Pro1′s focus has improved with firmware upgrades but it still lags way behind the X-E2. Mainly because the X-E2, like the X100/s is using both phase detection and contrast for focusing and the X-Pro1 only uses contrast. It is worth noting that to take advantage of the phase detection you need to focus using the nine AF frames in the center as all the phase detection pixels are located in these frames.
- Focus Area: On the X-Pro1 Fuji placed the button for the focus area (the focus point) adjustment on the lower left side of the camera. This meant that to change your focus point you needed to move the camera from your face and use the rear display to change it. Completely unacceptable. You should never need to pull a camera away from your eye to make an adjustment while shooting. But recently Fujifilm made a firmware update that allowed users to choose the Fn button located near the shutter button the focus area control button and this solved this issue. The X-E2 came places it natively on the back selector wheel.
- The Q button: The placement of this button on the X-Pro1 kept getting in the way. I was always pushing it by unintentionally. With the X-E2 they moved it to the top and middle of the back of the camera. Perfect.
- AF-C: The AF-C (Auto Focus Continuous) was limited to just one focus point. This was really frustrating and I never understood why they did this. With the X-E2 Fuji added the same 49 changeable focus points to the AF-C continuous focus mode as they have in the Single Focus mode.
- X-Pro1 add-on diopter: You might think this is minor, but for those of us who wear glasses this is major irritation. It is true the X-E1 but has a built in diopter over the viewfinder but it was missing on the X-Pro1. On the X-Pro1 you have to buy an additional screw on diopter. Not only was it a pain to find the right magnification, it came off easy. In fact I have lost both a diopter and the rubber ring that goes over the diopter mount. If a camera can have a built-in diopter then why use screw on lenses for diopter adjustments? Make no sense. Speaking of viewfinders, there is no Optical Viewfinder (OVF) like on the X-Pro1. But that is ok, because the Electronic Viewfinder is bright and pretty darn fast. As of yet I haven’t missed any shots as a result of lag.
What makes the X-E2 Sand Out in the Crowd?
In two words: almost everything. As I stated above, almost every issue I had with the X-Pro1 was addressed in the X-E2 (some of them earlier in the X-E1) so now I am really a happy camper. Here are a few stand out features
AF-C: The AF-C is crazy accurate and with the advent of the 49 changeable focus points it is also now usable. On the X-Pro1 it is slow and stuck in the focus point is stuck in the middle of the frame. You can now track objects that move towards and away from the camera. While here in the Philippines I wanted to test this out, so I simply went to the road side and shot 11 quick frames of a jeepney coming down the road, passing me by and then continuing on away from me. The camera nailed the focus in every frame over and over again . You can see two series of shots in this Flickr gallery here that show of the AF-C tracking. No processing on this set other than changing the dpi to 72.
Manual Focus Assist: I am digging the manual focus assist. Split screen isn’t so hot as I had hoped. But the focus peaking is amazing and really aids in manual focus.
LMO: The Lens Modulation Optimizer feature similar to the X100/S is a nice addition to the X-E2. This allows the camera to correct diffraction and some loss of corner focus in Fuji lenses. You would think that a say f/22 everything would be in focus, but the fact is because of diffraction small line in the distance can become blurred or even disappear. LMO is Fuji’s Magic that make this no longer happen. Here is a short and very helpful video on the subject on LMO by photographer Warwick Williams and the designer of the LOM Fujifilm Optical Device Engineer Ken Hayashi.
Auto ISO: One of the changes to the X-E2 was the ability to specify a minimum shutter speed for your choice of a maximum ISO. This is really handy. If this wasn’t cool enough, the minimum shutter speed can now over 1/125s and can be set as fast as 1/500s.
WiFi: I actually saw the WiFi option on this camera as more of a marketing feature rather than a serious function. I can transfer jpgs to my phone or iPad really quickly. By having family and friends download Fujifilm’s free smartphone or iPad app I can share y photos with them in the field. Once I downloaded the images to my camera roll they then synced with my Facebook account and I was able to post the images on my timeline. This is a perfect workflow for personal times like vacations, family events and parties. I wouldn’t use this for client work.
The WiFi also enabled me to use the Fujifilm’s camera app on my iPhone to geotag my photos. Not perfect but a really good attempt. Here is why it is not perfect. You enable the WiFi on your camera. The phone connects and then you open the Fuji camera app and select “Geotagging”. The camera then pulls the current coordinates from the phone’s gps and sets the current location. The key word here is “current”. It does not keep updating the location coordinates. If you change locations you must reconnect and send new coordinate to the camera. So it is useful, but limited.
Bright Big LCD Display: The X-E2 has a new 1,040k dot, 3″, display with a 3:2 aspect ratio. This is a big improvement over the X-Pro1′s display and the X-E1′s 420k dot, 2.8″ 4.2 display.
Exposure Compensation: The X-E2 sports an extended stop on each end of it’s range. The dial covers a range of ± 3 EV. The X-E2′s flash output compensation now covers a range of ± 2 EV, a big improvement over the X-E1. But I wish users could access the flash compensation directly through one of the configurable Fn buttons, instead you have to dig through the menu to reach it. This makes it all but unusable in the field.
Video: There has been a lot of talk about the X-E2′s ability to record Full HD 1080p (1920×1080) at frame rates of 60fps or 30fps. I am not a video guy, but I can say when I saw the quality of the short clip of video I shot below I was impressed. Fuji has seen fit to allow users to add their film presets to the video as well as add the capability of exposure compensation of ±2 EV.
I am so very impressed with this camera that it is an effort to find things I don’t like. But to be fair there are a few things. One real limitation it is the shutter speed. For whatever reason Fujifilm has limited the top shutter speed to 1/4000s. I would say this was to keep it in the prosumer marker, but the X-Pro1 is also limited to the same top shutter speed. Topping out at 1/4000s makes it almost impossible to shoot in bright light with a fast lens wide open. At this point, if I am going to shoot in broad daylight with the 35 mm at f/1.4 or with the yet to be announced 56 mm at f/1.2, I’ll need the addition of an ND filter and that’s is a royal pain. It would have been nice if Fuji had built in an ND filter as they did on the X100/S.
Here is a real beef that seems like a actual step backwards. The X-E2′s double exposure function no longer saves a RAW file of the composite image, you only get a JPEG. That is nuts. I have come to love this on the X-Pro1. In fact they did this to all the “Advanced Filters.” Now you have to add these Advanced Filters to your RAW file after you shoot in-camera. Make no sense to me. I have to ask, is this a firmware limitation that they did to keep this camera from surpassing the X-Pro1?
The body is a little small for me. Of course it is the same size as the X-E1 but I never owned an X-E1. If I had, I would have said the same thing, a little small. The X-Pro1 is a perfect size. The 23 mm and the 55-200 mm dwarf the x-E1 &2 and give it an odd feel. I remedied this by buying the Really Right Stuff L-plate and grip. Not a cheap solution by any means. But I would strongly suggest it to anyone using both the X-E1, E2 and Pro1. It not only makes the camera feel more secure in your hands it eliminates the need for a tripod connector plate. Most every plate I have seen or used when attached to the bottom of the camera covers the battery door and make it impossible to access the battery compartment while screwed on to the camera. A pain in the field. To be fair I have read on fujirumors.com a notice that Fujifilm has announced a new set of hand grips that “provide enhanced grip and hold for the X-Pro1 and X-E1/E2, plus allow access to the battery and memory card slot without removing the grip.” You can find the press release here.
I love the flash on the X-E2. But it seems really flimsy and I have fears that if I was to leave it up by mistake it my get bumped and bent or worse ripped of the body.
An articulated display screen would be nice for those really low shots or the really high over the head shots. I am not saying by not having it this camera lacks anything, but at the same time it would be a nice extra touch to an already great camera.
More thoughts on the X-E2
This camera is very responsive. I have read reviews where people say, it is a nice improvement. I think that is an understatement. This is a huge improvement. The X-Pro1 one was sluggish. This camera is flat out responsive, especially when you put the AF point in the center where the phase detection is. It seems to nail the focus immediately.
The image quality is great. In fact, I would say it it is comparable to anything out there today, better than most. The high ISO grain is almost nonexistent. Certainly up until around 1600 (See the next image below).
I can say with certainty that even after only two weeks of (daily) use I have no regrets trading my Canon 5D MKIII for the Fujifilm X-E2. None whatsoever. This camera is everything I had hoped for when I first bought the X-Pro1. The X-Pro1 was a a great start and frankly there is a good chance that the X-E2 would not be the camera that it is today without it. Fujifilm has built on it success and unlike other camera companies, it has listened to it’s users. Fujifilm is a company that I am excited to watch. What will be next? I would assume that it will only get better.