Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fuji X-E2 - Hands on review

Hard to believe Fuji X-cameras have been around long enough to need an update move to a second generation. That is exactly what happened when the X-E1 was recently replaced with the X-E2. The X-E1 was a scaled down version of the X-Pro1 with no optical finder. Because the X-E1 was introduced after the X-Pro1 it had some advanced features the X-Pro1 did not have -- not exactly a desirable situation where the younger sibling out-shines the bigger brother.  This time around Fuji is introducing the X-E2 first, presumably to garner feedback it can use to enhance the X-Pro2, whenever that will be.

The X-E2 looks and feels like its predecessor. Upon closer examination we see the differences in layout of controls, and after delving deeper find that performance has also been improved with some additions and tweaks. The sensor is still 16mp, but is the enhanced X-Trans CMOS II version gaining raves inside the X100S, and is now coupled with the a new EXR processor II for improved performance. If you liked what the X-E1 delivered, you're going to like the X-E2 even more. Keep in mind that digital camera technology has reached a high level of sophistication so changes between models are not going to be as dramatic as they had been in prior years, as when sensor megapixels and ISO ranges were making huge leaps from one camera model to the next.

The Fuji X-E2 with 23mm f/1.4 lens and surrounded with the two Fuji zooms and 27mm pancake lens. 
Auto-focus has been improved once again to a spurious claim that this is the fastest auto-focus in existence. One of the more important focus changes for me has been adding the same 49 changeable focus points to the AF-C continuous focus mode. Previously, AF-C was limited to only one point in the middle of the frame, making it all but useless to a wide number of users, including me.

The rear of the camera has received most of the physical changes. The Q button has been moved to a spot where it is less likely to be hit accidentally.  The AF button whose function has now been taken over by the circular selector ring has been replaced with an additional Fn2 function button. The preview arrow has moved to the upper left and its spot replaced with a speaker.  The AF-L and AE-L button has now been separated into separate buttons.
Wireless capability has been built into the camera so you can see and transfer images on your smartphone using the Fuji APP. Image transfer only works with jpg captures. If you shoot RAW and intend to use this feature, you will need to include an additional jpg file in addition to the RAW.

The auto-ISO feature has been improved to include a minimum shutter speed setting. On the previous camera the low shutter speed was often set arbitrarily low. In addition, it did not allow compensation for the focal length being used, taking into consideration, for instance, that telephoto lenses require a higher minimum shutter speed to stop movement than shorter focal lengths.

The LCD monitor has been increased from 2.8" to 3".

A Lens Modulation Optimizer feature similar to the X100S has been added to the menu. This allows the camera to correct diffraction and some loss of corner focus in Fuji lenses. 
The viewfinder remains essentially the same as the one on the X-E1 except that low light frame refresh rate has been substantially increased from 20 to 50fps.

Continuous shooting in high has been increased from 6 to 7fps for about 28 jpg images. This is made possible by a faster write to disc time than the X-E1.  More importantly, at the low setting of 3fps the viewfinder now refreshes and refocuses between each frame. This is particularly handy in AF-C mode where you can now also change the focus point.

Battery life remains the same at approximately 350 images, which is what I was achieving in my tests.

The new PRE-AF option allows the camera to continually focus the lens even when the shutter button is not half-pressed -- a really good way to quickly drain your camera battery. For this reason alone, I keep it set to OFF. 
ISO sensitivity and excellent low light capability remain the same at ISO 200-6400 with extended ranges of ISO 100, 12800, and 25600.


Sample Images:

Individual focus points can now be selected in AF-C continuous focus mode.  The camera was quickly able to discern the difference between the foreground and Empire State Building in the background when taking this photo with the long zoom.

Click here to download a high res version of this image.  Taken with the 55-200 zoom lens at f/5.6.



Autumn leaves photographed with a +2 close-up filter on a Fuji 35mm lens set to f/1.4 for extremely shallow depth of field.

New York's Guggenheim Museum photographed on an overcast day with the 18-55mm zoom.

An autumn panorama created from two side-by-side images taken of the Turtle Pond in Central Park and combined later in Photoshop.

Photographed with the Fuji 55-200mm zoom at maximum focal length.  Quick and accurate continuous focusing with changeable focus points is important in wildlife shooting where the subjects are moving rapidly and unpredictably.

There is something about the color from the X-E2 that is really nice -- rich and vivid. 



Shot at wide open aperture directly into the sun with the 55-200mm lens.

Conclusion:

With this model Fuji has moved well beyond the introductory phase of the X-series with new features and modifications that make a real difference to a pro using this camera. Admittedly, many of these new features appear to be subtle changes, but taken together they substantially affect how the camera can be used dependably and repeatedly as a working tool. We take image quality for granted, auto-focus issues are a thing of the past. The X-E2 responds quickly and smoothly, exactly the way a pro camera should operate.

Fuji is building a strong reputation for listening to its client base and incorporating the changes and suggestions from their field use of Fuji products. There is undoubtedly a good reason that the X-E2 was introduced before an updated X-Pro1. It will give Fuji more time to apply what it will learn from X-E2 feedback to the new X-Pro2. I use both cameras because I do appreciate being able to switch over to an optical viewfinder, but there is something nice to be said about the compactness and handling of the X-E2 body.

As stated earlier, ground-breaking changes between digital camera models are behind us. One question that pops to mind is whether or not a switch from an X-E1 to X-E2 is worth the price. This says a lot about the X-E1, which is an exceptional camera in its own right. Nonetheless, the changes made to the X-E2 address issues that are important to anyone using these cameras in a work environment. Now that I have had time for a hands-on assessment of the X-E2, I can say unequivocally that it was well worth the switch.

Taken with the 35mm f/1.4 lens shot wide open and with a +2 close-up filter.
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Fujifilm X-E2 Mirrorless Digital Camera Black Body  is available at:  BH-Photo    Amazon
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9 comments:

  1. Just got mine xe2 yesterday and like just about everything it offers... faster AF, faster viewfinder refresh, great image, lovely Fuji color. But my battery only lasts some 60-70 shots per full charge. Wondering how you're getting some 350 shots? Do you primarily use viewfinder and turn off the lcd? How about the high performance mode? Thanks in advance for you feedback.

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    1. I rarely use live view on the LCD, preferring the viewfinder instead. Check to see that you have the new PRE-AF feature turned off. That will eat you your battery faster than anything. Since writing this article, I am still consistently getting around 350 RAW shots per charge.

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  2. Do you feel this camera can complement the Nikon D800 well? I really want a small lighter capable camera. I have the Df on order, but that price is making me cringe and I'm not sure its going to much lighter than the D800 I already own. I've always hesitated to work with two systems but it may be time to do just that.

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  3. Brian - I already use the Fuji X cameras to complement the Nikon D800 when I want a lighter system to carry with me. Nikon touts the Df as the smallest pro camera, but is only slightly smaller than the D610, which is not only less expensive, but 24MP to boot. Of course you would still have to carry around the bulkier Nikon lenses for either a Df or D610 so it won't be that much of a smaller system compared to a D800. An X-E2 or X-Pro1 ( or X-Pro2 when it comes out) would be a substantially smaller system. Plus it's a lot of fun to use. - Tom

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  4. Thanks Tom, I'm really enjoying your writing on all of these topics. Your blog is an excellent read.

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  5. Hi Tom, great read and points touched upon, thanks for this article. I have one quick q, I have and love my X-E1 but am waiting for the Pro2. So, the niggle that drives me nuts is, on the X-E2 can you use the thumb wheel to select ISO yet? With the X-E1 you have to drop your thumb down and search for the up or down button. Using the thumb wheel to select ISO would be a huge improvement as your thumb is already there... dunno how they keep missing this as it is a dead button when in that mode. Same on the X-E2?

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  6. Bradley - I change the ISO on the X-E2 in one of two ways:

    1. I use the Q menu and change it there by rotating the command wheel.
    2. I press the Fn button, which calls up the ISO chart, and, yes, you can change ISO simply by rotating the command dial on the X-E2.

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  7. Thanks Tom, I'm really enjoying your writing on all of these topics.

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