My first outing with the Fujifilm X-E2 involved packing the camera with the 23mm f/1.4 lens, the 14mm and 35mm lenses into my Millican ‘Christopher’ bag and heading for the stunning County Down coastline.
The Fujifilm X-E2
The X-E2 offers something special. I am constantly amazed by each generation of Fujifilm X camera. The X100 remains an amazing camera yet the X100s still manages to add considerable value. The X-E2 works on the same principle, the X-E1 remains a trustworthy and reliable workhorse yet the X-E2 adds a little extra magic. I packed the X-E2, the 23mm and the Fujinon 14mm wide angle lens.
I ended up locking the 23mm lens to the X-E2 and shot the entire day at 35mm (full frame equivalent). The X-E2 camera feels snappier, more responsive, the software also seems to be faster and the little green “in focus” icon on the bottom left of the screen is a really nice bonus. The screen itself also sees an upgrade with the X-E2 offering a three-inch 920,000 dot screen, the X-E1 was slightly smaller and 460,000 dot. I am using the 1.1 firmware (released 19th December 2013).
The performance improvement continues with an upgrade to the continuous focus system while holding the shutter release button half down and the introduction of WIFI connectivity.
Like WIFI on the X-M1 it offers is the ability to connect the camera to your portable device for both image transfer and to access the GPS features on your mobile device. I don’t expect to use the photo transfer function very often as I like to view images on a large screen before they are published but the Geotagging feature will come in very useful.
The CMOS II & EXR Processor II combination is spectacular. Early generation mirrorless cameras were often criticized for performance when compared to DSLRs.
The X-E2 narrows the gap and the argument for retaining any DSLR camera becomes thinner and thinner. The only time I use a DSLR these days is for music photography where I need the reach and speed, even then the X100s is packed and performs (see the music samples here).
Unfortunately the 62mm Lee Filter adaptor hadn’t arrived so I was capturing long exposure images by holding the filter against the lens. It really wasn’t ideal but it worked, to a degree anyway. (St John’s Point, late afternoon). Sadly the sun was high when I arrived in Dundrum so this long exposure of the abandoned boat isn’t as smooth as I’d like.
The X-E2 v X100s
As you may know I am big fan of the X100s (See my full review). The X-E2 and 23mm camera offers the same focal length, the same processor and the same sensor but with a f/1.4 aperture. I love the 35mm (equivalent) focal length, for me it is the perfect documentary lens.
Both the X100s and X-E2 (with the 23mm lens) offer similar potential but each brings certain advantages. The X100s offers ultimate portability but the restriction to a fixed lens. The X-E1 and 23mm lens is larger and slightly heavier but the f/1.4 aperture is amazing. The X-E2 offers the ability to change lenses so there are pros and cons for each system least of all the price.
The following image isn’t exactly visually appealing but it goes someway to show how sharp and dynamic the images from the X-E2 are straight from the camera.
It might sound odd but I predict the X100s will be carry around, everyday camera. The X-E2 will be my professional level camera with the 23mm being the lens of choice but will carry the awesome Fujinon 14mm and 35mm lenses.
If you are looking for a second camera to your current setup then the X100s may be the best choice. If you are looking for a primary camera system then the X-E2 and 23mm comes highly recommended.
The X-E2 looks almost identical to the X-E1 and the good news is this Fujifilm X camera used the same battery pack as the original X-E1, X-Pro1 and X-M1. It might sound like a small point but if you run more than one camera there is a massive advantage in your cameras using the same batteries.
I was able to process the RAW files from the X-E2 by using the release candidate of Lightroom 5.3 (The final release is now out). The images offered stunning colour and depth.
I locked the 23mm lens at f/1.4 and bounced the focus point around different points of a scene and I was struck at just how accurate the focus was with each image. The LCD screen on the X-E2 is vibrant and accurate but it’s only really when you view the images on a large screen do you discover how accurate your composition actually was.
One of my favourite advanced tool that appears on a number of the Fujifilm cameras (although not the X-M1 from what I can see) is the ability to capture sweep panoramic images.
I don’t know if I am getting better at capturing this type of photo or whether the technology is getting better but I managed to capture 3 sweep panoramic shots without any issue.
There was no banding or overlapping and it is a really handy tool when out on the hills. I have reduced these down for the web but if you click on any of the panoramas you can view a 1400px wide preview.
I know a number of people missed the optical viewfinder when using the X-E1. I have to say it isn’t something I miss. Even when using the eyepiece the digital render of the scene is brilliant and offers a good representation of what is going to be captured.
Fujinon 23mm f/1.4
If I had to describe this lens in a single word it would “Spectacular”. It is probably the heaviest of my Fujinon lenses but I mean this in the context of my Fuji gear, it is still remarkably light and portable.
It is great having a 35mm (equivalent) lens with the aperture adjustment on the lens barrel. I kept the aperture at around f/5.6 and rotated the lens wheel to dial in the amount of depth-of-field I needed. The ability to shoot with a very shallow depth of field (larger than f/2) meant I could grab fast portraits of the locals as I made my way around the Mourne Mountains.
50mm is roughly equivalent to how the human eye see things so the 35mm (full frame equivalence of the 23mm) is like taking a step back and in my opinion is a focal length that works perfectly for general everyday photography. I was able to capture closeups, family candid shots and long exposure landscapes all with the 35mm focal length.
Unlike the X100s the 23mm lens offers an aperture of f/1.4 and those extra stops offer great lowlight shooting as well as some impressive bokeh.
I also love the fact the aperture is controlled on the barrel of the lens. This allows easy adjustment of the depth of field from f/16 through to f/1.4.
I have really enjoyed watching the Fujifilm X range of cameras mature into quite specular imaging devices. Some debated if the first incarnation could really threaten the DSLR market and now, with this latest generation it is clear the same reliability, quality and speed of the DSLR is now available in more refined package.
I think Fujifilm should be complimented for their committeemen for the entire range. Almost year after the X100s was released they were still developing and releasing new firmware for the original Fujifilm X100 that was putting broad smiles on to owners who ordinarily would have been left out in the cold.
What to buy?
If you are taking your first step into the mirrorless range then in my opinion invest in the latest release Fujifilm you can afford with the understanding it is a camera you can rely on for a number of years.
The X100s is one of my favourite cameras but if you think you will need the option of interchangeable lenses then you simply can’t go wrong with the X-E2 camera. If you can stretch to the X-E2 and 23mm you won’t want to set it down, it is a powerhouse that offers remarkable image quality in an stunning package.
The 23mm f/1.4 and X-E2 is the perfect combination for documentary and even long exposure photography, any additional lens is simply a bonus. The X-E2 along with the 23mm lens has become my main rig over the last month of use and I can’t see that changing in 2014. If I had to give it a score it would have to be 10/10. I love it.