A couple of days ago, I got a call from Fujifilm Belgium to ask if I wanted to play around with one of the first Fujifilm X-E2‘s that have landed on Belgian soil. These days I’ve learned to be happy with the equipment that I have and not always want the latest and newest but I was still curious to see how Fujifilm has done on the second generation of their interchangeable lens cameras.
If you are used to the X-E1 (or any other X-camera), everything feels very familiar with the X-E2. It took me only seconds to set up the camera the way I like it. Within minutes I took a couple of quick pictures of my kids in their Halloween costumes. I lit the picture below with just a small LED flashlight on the floor.
Fujifilm has been very good in keeping what works and improving what can be improved. And I consider the X-E2 as logical second generation evolution. They have changed very little to the camera body but improved some of the functions and implemented other things that we already saw in the X100s and the X-M1.
To start of with the negative points, I find it a mistake to not have the View Mode button anymore. This button on the X-Pro1 and X-E1 allowed you to quickly switch between lcd, viewfinder and eye sensor. I use the eye sensor the vast majority of the time. If I hold the camera to my eye it automatically switches from the lcd to the viewfinder. But there are some occasions where I want to switch to either the lcd or the viewfinder. On the X-E2 you can still switch between the different modes but you’ll have to get into the menu system instead of using a button. Let’s hope Fuji will allow us the option to assign this function back to one of the programmable function buttons. I would have loved to see the tilting screen of the X-M1 on the X-E2 but unfortunately that’s not the case. But that’s all the negative things I can think of after using this camera for a couple of days.
On the plus side, there are a lot of small improvement that make life a lot easier. The exposure compensation dial, now has three stops instead of two and the shutter speed dial, now has a dedicated flash sync setting of 1/180. The layout of some of the buttons has slightly changed. I don’t find it better nor worse than before. I just hope that Fuji will stick with the same layout on all its future cameras. We also get the long awaited option to set a minimum shutter speed in auto iso.
At the moment, the RAW files are not supported by Lightroom yet so it’s hard to say much about the image quality. The JPEGs look amazing and without any scientific testing, I’d say the image quality is at least as good as the older cameras and probably a bit better in high iso settings. Everything feels a lot snappier with this new camera. The X-E1 is a great camera but it required concentration from the photographer. The X-E2 is a lot easier to shoot with. If you set the camera to aperture priority and auto iso (minimum 200 iso, max 6400 iso, min shutter speed at 1/100), it’s ready for pretty much any situation. I still shoot most of my work on full manual for complete control but I often put the cameras that I’m not using in those semi-auto settings. That way, I know I can quickly get them out and fire a shot without needing to fiddle with the settings. With the X-E1 and X-Pro1 this wasn’t possible because they are generally a bit slower and in low light, the shutter speed would generally be too slow.
The X-E2 has on-board wifi. I used to think it was a bit of a gimmick but lately I’ve started to really dig that functionality. The wifi options are pretty limited at the moment. You can’t control the camera with your phone or shoot wirelessly tethered. I can only hope that Fuji will expand the options with firmware upgrades and apps. When I try to browse the pictures in my camera on my iPhone the app regularly crashes. It might have to do something with the fact that I’m running iOS 7 on an iPhone 4, I’m not sure.
But the most important thing is that I can easily and quickly shoot something, transfer it to my iPhone, edit it in Snapseed and then share the picture. Last weekend we visited friends who just had a couple of babies. I was able to take a quick picture, edit it and mail it to them within a minute without the need for a computer.
I generally carry a camera with me and I’m happy to document my life and the lives of friends and family. The thing I’m not happy about is all the time I spend at the computer importing, editing, exporting and sharing those images. With the Wifi option, I can keep the fun of shooting without the computer hassle. Autofocus has always been a bit of the weak point of the Fuji X-series cameras and although it has been greatly improved by firmware updates, it still wasn’t exactly class leading. The X100s was a mayor breakthrough with it’s much improved AF technology but the interchangeable lens cameras stayed behind. I’ve learned to work with the limitations of the X-Pro1, X-E1 and X-M1 and the AF was definitely not half as bad as some people said it was. The only times when I missed the AF of my Canons was during my son’s soccer games. In fact, I hardly shot any soccer action since I sold my Canon kit.
The X-E2 has an AF system that combines contrast detection and phase detection technologies. Theoretically this should improve focus speed a lot, particularly in good light. So I took the X-E2 and the 55-200 to Kobe’s soccer game last weekend to give the AF a serious challenge.
I didn’t expect the X-E2 to focus as fast as a Canon 1Dx or a Nikon D4 but I also didn’t expect it to be really useable for shooting soccer. But to my surprise it held up pretty well and I got quite a few action shots. The continuous focus is still a bit hit or miss, but it focusses so fast that I got some nice stuff in single shot focus mode.
I’ve seen some impressive numbers about the focus speed after the lenses will have received a firmware update, so things can only get even better in the near future.
The X-E1 was a talented and beautiful teenager but being a teenager it could also be a bit moody and extreme at times. The X-E2 is the adult version: the talent is still there and more developed without the rough edges. It feels like a very natural extension of my eyes and hands and allows me to focus on my subject instead of the camera. That became clear when my lovely wife offered to be my subject for a ten minute test portrait shoot. You see, my wife isn’t the kind of person that enjoys being in front of a camera and this was actually the first time she posed for some portraits. So I really wanted this to be a good experience and have some nice results. I was actually pretty nervous knowing that if I messed it up it would take ages for her to volunteer again.
The X-E2 was the perfect partner for this first shoot. We both hardly noticed the camera was there.
So far, so good, I’m really impressed with the evolution that the X-E2 brings to the Fujifilm X-line. I’ll be doing more testing in the next couple of days and will report back soon.