Cape May with Fuji X-E1 and 18-55 lens. Singh Ray Mor-Slow 10 stop filter
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the Fuji X cameras I’ve been using. I thought it might be useful to share my thoughts on why I went with Fuji and have both the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 along with the X100.
I was getting tired of lugging 40 lbs of gear in a backpack. I was intrigued by the “mirrorless” revolution and started to investigate what was out there. The Sony left me cold, feeling more like an electronic device rather than a camera. The Olympus is a micro 4/3 sensor and I wanted at least APS C. I wanted the bokeh and performance that a bigger sensor would provide. That said, the new Olympus is getting rave reviews for its performance. I think Michael Reichman said it best in his recent review, “MFT used to mean some compromises when it came to image quality, but those days are past. Only the most neurotic pixel peeper will find anything to kvetch about with files from the Olympus E-M1 and its contemporaries.”
X100 with Soft Release and Thumbs Up
After much research, I settled on the retro looking X100, a dedicated 23mm non-interchangable lens camera. I admit, I fell for its retro looks and unique and highly regarded dual optical/EVF viewfinder. It has its quirks such as slow focus speed, however, when I opened the first file of a family that asked me to photograph them for a Christmas card, I was ASTOUNDED! The color, tones and sharpness of the images were truly breathtaking.
I was hooked and excited to see what Fuji would do for an interchangeable lens version of the X100. They came out with the X-Pro1 but is was a bit too pricey for me. I waited a bit longer until they released the X-E1 and got it with the 18-55 lens. Then recently with the price falling by $600.00, I decided to get the X-Pro 1 as well. I should note that the X100 has been replaced with the X100s and is arguably the best camera in its class. Why both the X-Pro and X-E1? Because, I wanted a backup body for trips where I’ll be taking just Fuji gear. (see comment on Cuba below) And I wanted the availability of the optical view finder that I loved in the X100.
What are the differences between the X-Pro 1 and X-E1? Essentially there are two that really matter to me. The X-Pro 1 has the patented and amazingly good dual viewfinder. With the flip of a lever on the front of the camera, you can switch between the optical (rangefinder style) viewfinder or the EVF (Electronic View Finder) The X-E1 has just the EVF. That said, it is a better EVF than the PRO. By removing the optical view finder the E1 is a smaller camera. The other major difference is the ability to use an electronic cable release. The E1 has this capability while the Pro does not relying on the old style plunger style release that fits into the shutter button. The sensor is identical and the image quality virtually the same on both cameras. I have big hands and like the feel of the Pro better. There are a few other small differences. The E1 has an adjustable diopter in the view finder and the Pro does not. On the pro you will need to purchase diopters separately. The E1 has a built in flash where the Pro does not.
X-Pro 1 with Thumbs Up and Soft Release
There are three essential accessories that you should consider should you purchase one of these cameras. First, the Thumbs Up from Match Technical. This gives your thumb a place to rest and makes the camera more secure in your hand. While on the Match site pick up a Soft Release. You might think these are purely cosmetic and they are cute, however, they really provide a function in that you can squeeze a shot off with less camera shake making hand holding lower shutter speeds easier. Next, pickup a Gordy’s Leather Wrist Strap, the best $18 you’ll spend. I also purchased the Sling. Last, if you’re going to use your tripod or even if you’re not, I would highly recommend the Really Right Stuff grip that doubles as an “L” bracket. Not only does this make using the camera a breeze on a tripod, it makes the camera fit in your hand perfectly. Everyone who tries these has come to the same conclusion, The camera feels just right with the Thumbs UP and the RRS grip.
Lets talk lenses for a minute. I stared with the 18-55 “Kit” lens. This is no ordinary kit lens. It is image stabilized and produces great results throughout the entire range. I also have the 55-200 and was honestly expecting to be a little disappointed as I’ve come to love my “big boy camera” 70-200 2.8 lenses. While the 55-200 does not quite have the bokeh that the 2.8 Nikon does, again I was stunned with the IQ of this lens. Fuji is expected to announce the 10-24 anytime. I’m guessing PhotoExpo in October. This will then give you an effective range of 15-300 with these three lenses. In addition too the stellar stable of quality zooms, Fuji keeps coming out with very high quality prime lenses. I own the 14mm 2.8, 35mm 1.4 and the 60 2.4 macro and plan on getting the 23mm 1.4 as well. Each of these lenses fall into the excellent category. The 60mm received poor reviews early on until Fuji addressed the poor focus speed with firmware updates. This leads me to comment on firmware updates. Fuji has done an incredible job of responding to customer feedback rolling out a number of firmware updates to both the body and lenses. Each time Fuji has addressed issues and frustrations. Most recently Fuji has added focus peaking to the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 via firmware. Being responsive to customer feedback is a big plus for Fuji!
Fuji has always been about color with great emulsions (thats film for you young kids) and they have nailed color in each of these cameras. In fact, I’ve never shot JPEG’s opting for RAW files. I shoot both now and often use the jpeg with no processing, they are that good. I have always shot in sunny or daylight white balance, not with Fuji, I shoot AWB, why? Because once again Fuji nails it. I mean even with sunrise and sunset colors. AWB is crazy good on these cameras. What about high ISO you ask? GREAT! I’ve been shooting at ISO 3200 with minimal noise.
Needless to say, I’m a big fan. Will the Fuji cameras replace my Nikon cameras and lenses? Not yet, however the more I use them, the more I don’t miss my Nikons. As my buddy Tony Sweet recently wrote, 40 lb. back pack, 7 lb. shoulder bag? 40 lb. back pack, 7 lb. shoulder bag??? So where does the Fuji fall down? High speed shooting, sports for instance or bird photography, probably better for the DSLR. Inclement weather might be better with my sealed Nikon. Other than that, I’m thinking Fuji.
Tony and I will be leading another group in Cuba this coming January, all I’m bringing is Fuji gear. This is where these cameras shine. Their small size is so much less intimidating than the big DSLR’s. And of course the light weight will be very much appreciated!
X-E1 and X-Pro1 with Gordy’s Strap, Match Technical Thumbs Up and Soft Release and the Really Right Stuff “L” bracket grip
These cameras have made photography fun again! I love the retro look, feel and especially the image quality. And their size allows me to always have one with me. Anxious to see what they come up with next!
Here are some excellent links should you want to learn more.
Zack Arias Why he ditched his DSLR gear.
Tom Grill Comparing the X-Pro1 an X-E1
G Dan Mitchell – A solid and thorough review