A couple of weeks ago I already shared my first impressions about the new Fujifilm X-E2 with you and I followed up with my observations after the lens firmware was updated. Originally I was only supposed to test out the camera for a couple of days but Fujifilm Belgium was so kind to let me keep it a bit longer so I could take it with me for a week of teaching at Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai. I knew I could give the X-E2 a proper test drive during that week that goes beyond taking some pictures of my family.
I saw my first impressions pretty much confirmed, so I won’t be repeating everything here. I’ll just add what I think is important in this post.
The most important improvement is the sum of all the small things that have been improved or added. There may not be any really spectacular big new things to be found but everything just works a bit better and faster which creates a much more comfortable user experience. The X-E1 was a very capable camera in the right hands but it need some getting used to and an investment in time from the photographer. The X-E2 is probably a lot easier to get to know for someone who want to get into the X-series.
Although I use a lot more natural light these days, I still am a lighting guy and the X-E2 makes it easier to work with off-camera flash than it’s predecessors. I’ve already talked about the dedicated flash synchronization setting of 1/180, which is a big improvement to me. Another big thing is the fact that you now have control over how the viewfinder (or lcd) behaves when shooting manually. You can either set it to produce a clear image whatever the settings are (like on the X-E1/X-Pro1) or you can set it to reflect the manual settings you’ve chosen (this is how it works on the X100s). When I shoot ambient light, I prefer the manual settings. It means I get to see how the final picture will look before I press the shutter. But when working with off-camera flash or in the studio, this can make life a lot harder. Imagine, you want to shoot in a dark studio at iso 200, 1/125, f/16. If the viewfinder would be set to manual settings, you’d get a black viewfinder. So in that case I leave the viewfinder to automatic. It will basically behave like an optical viewfinder: you’ll get to see what happens in front of your lens but not necessary how the final picture will look.
The option to switch between these two ways to use the electronic viewfinder means the X-E2 will feel right at home in the hands of a natural light documentary photographer as well as the hands of a studio photographer.
Let’s stick to the viewfinder a bit longer. A lot has been said and written about electronic viewfinders lately. A lot of photographers hate them and personally I have hated some electronic viewfinders but not the idea of them. EVFs with limited resolution make it hard to judge critical sharpness and are often tiresome after a couple of hours of intense use. A slow refresh rate of the EVF gives you a jittery view at your subject. But those are just technological limitations and they have a tendency to be conquered pretty fast. The electronic viewfinders on most of the most recent cameras (including the X-E2) have come to the point were those technological limitations aren’t much of a problem anymore, if at all. They also offer the what-you-see-is-what-you-get advantage before you even have to push the shutter. I also noticed that the X-E2 can see in the dark. In very dark situations you can still see what’s happening in the viewfinder, that’s something even the clearest optical viewfinder of a DSLR can’t do.
I’m pretty confident that in a couple of years optical viewfinders will be a thing of the past or nothing more than a nostalgia feature.
The in-camera metering of the Fuji’s works so well that even a die-hard manual shooter like myself, feels safe shooting in aperture priority. The metering can be overridden with a -/+ 3 stops exposure compensation dial (with 1/3 stop increments) now. The previous X-cameras only had -/+ 2 stops of exposure compensation which is enough in a lot of cases but sometimes you just need more.
The autofocus system has definitely improved. I didn’t think it was bad on the previous cameras and I can’t say I missed many shots because of it. But it’s always good to have faster and more confident AF. That said I still think you should allow yourself a bit of time to learn how to use the AF if you come from a DSLR.
The X-E1/X-Pro1 suffered a tiny bit but not unnoticeable bit of shutter lag. I got used to it and didn’t think much of it anymore until I started shooting with this camera and started noticing that I timed my shots just a touch early. Simply because my shutter finger is trained to compensate for that bit of shutter lag that seems to be gone in the X-E2.
What about X-E1/X-Pro1 users, should you upgrade to the X-E2? That depends, it’s not a radically new camera and the image quality and appearance of the camera are pretty much the same. However if you struggle with the AF-speed or overall responsiveness of the X-E1/X-Pro1, the X-E2 is definitely an improvement. If you work regularly with off-camera flash on location or in studio, the X-E2 has also a couple of features that may warrant the upgrade. But whatever new camera comes out, it doesn’t make your old camera bad.
And if you are wondering if I will upgrade to the X-E2: I’m not sure yet. Currently my X-Pro1 is my main portrait camera and the X100s is my main reportage camera. The X-E2 can’t replace the quietness, the leaf shutter and the hybrid viewfinder of the X100s. On the other hand it’s a considerable upgrade for my X-Pro1 except for two details that are important to me: I don’t use the optical viewfinder on my X-Pro1 a lot but I sure like to have the option to switch between optical and electronic. But the most important thing is size. The X-Pro1 just fits my hands a bit better than the X-E2 and even though it shouldn’t matter, the X-Pro1 looks a bit more professional to my commercial clients. So I’m still undecided on this. If I get an X-E2 it won’t be replacing my X-Pro1 completely. On the other hand, if I should get an X-E2, I’m sure it would be my most used camera for portraiture and commercial work. I’ll keep you posted.
I’m hanging on to the test camera for a couple more days, so if there’s anything you want me to test or figure out, let me know in the comments. I’ll do my best to address your questions.