(Note: Chuq von Rospach recently tried out a Fujifilm X-Pro1 and wrote about shoot he did with the camera, musing about whether or not it would work for him as a landscape photography camera. I wrote a lengthy comment in reply and since I think it might be useful to others considering these interesting Fujifilm mirrorless cameras, I have decided to share the comment again here, with a few edits. Do note that the X-Pro1 that he used is not the same camera as the X-E1 that I use.)
I’ve been using the Fujifilm X-E1 Digital Camera quite a bit for the past few months. This camera is a mirrorless “rangefinder style” body with an electronic viewfinder. There is also a model with a hybrid electronic and optical viewfinder, the Fujifilm X-Pro1. A decent set of Fujinon lenses is now available with more on the way – see a list at the end of this post. (There’s an earlier report here at my blog – see Fujifilm X-E1: From DSLR to Mirrorless – that article gives a bit more background about these cameras and their unique X-trans sensor. It needs updating now that I have a lot more usage of the camera under my belt, and I plan to write this real review soon.)
I think that the main issue with trying to use the X-Pro1 or the X-E1 as a landscape/nature camera is that this is not really what it is best suited to doing. That said, it could make an excellent lightweight and small backpacker’s or hiker’s camera for those who aren’t trying to do in their photography what I’m trying to do, but who want the potential of very good image quality. The image quality from this camera is quite good considering its diminutive size and weight, but not what you’ll get from a full frame DSLR for sure.
I find that this camera is great for street shooting and other sorts of “on the go” photography done without the tripod, where small size/weight is critical, and where you might want to work somewhat quickly. (Although the AF system is not well suited to shooting particularly active subjects, though there are ways to make it more effective.)
I’m just back from four days in Portland, Oregon, where I used it to shoot urban subjects (mostly) and was grateful for its small size, which allowed me to carry it , along with other non-camera stuff, in a small messenger bag – which, not incidentally, works much better as carry-on luggage that what I must take when I shoot my DSLR. My full frame DSLR would have made for such a large bundle on this trip that the messenger bag wouldn’t have worked, but I could carry this camera (with the 35mm f/1.4 and the 14mm f/2.8) and my small laptop plus all of those other assorted things that typically come along on such a jaunt.
For photographing many urban street scenes, it is near perfect, especially for my style of shooting such subjects, which might be just a tiny bit slower than that of some real street shooters. One soon learns to “reawaken” the camera with a half press of the shutter button as soon as a potential subject appears, and sometimes manual focus can be a better option than AF – how’s that for “old school” street photography style shooting?
I’ve adapted now to the camera’s interface and I’m getting to the point where I can mostly use it quite quickly and intuitively – though I’m not to the same level as I am on my primary DSLR system. The Fujinon lenses are tremendous – much better than I expected – and the system can produce some excellent image quality for an APS-C sensor camera. I’m with you regarding the camera’s ability to handle large dynamic range scenes. The AF is mostly good, though there are occasions where I have to be slightly patient with it. One of the fun surprises of using this camera in more urban settings – at least for those of us who otherwise shoot with some rather bulky gear – is that it makes you almost invisible to others around you. I was struck by this when I shot in Balboa Park (San Diego) earlier this year, and I did not get much attention at all. (Even from other photographers, who seemed more interested in ogling one another’s big ol’ DSLRs! ;-)
For balance, there are a few issues that potential buyers will want to know about. The battery life is considerably shorter than that of a typical DSLR system – though, in fairness, you are essentially shooting in live view mode all the time with the EVF, and live view naturally drains power faster. There is something a bit different about the color balance of images from the X-E1 (and almost certainly from the X-Pro1 as well) that I haven’t quite put my finger on just yet. It isn’t a bad thing – just a different thing. The Fuji images perhaps seem just a bit more saturated than the Canon raw files I’m used to, and perhaps also a bit more so in the blue channel. Some of the controls are a bit too easy to move. I partially chalk this up to my need to simply learn better instincts for this camera – for example, at first I often found myself accidentally hitting the macro button, and I still occasionally move the AF mode switch accidentally. The aperture rings tend to move a bit too easily, and others have mentioned that it would be nice if the detents were a bit more positive. The Q (for “quick”) button ISO settings are presented in a strange way, though once you figure it out it makes some sense and is easy and quick to adjust.
I could offer a list of similar “criticisms” for any camera, so no one should consider these deal-breakers. Instead, it is very important to recognize what this camera is and what it isn’t. What it is is a very high quality and very small and light rangefinder-style camera that can augment or stand in for a higher quality full frame DSLR in certain situations. And for that I like mine a great deal.
Here is a list of some of the Fujifulm system gear currently available. The links go to site sponsor B&H photo.
- X-E1 – interchangeable lenses, electronic viewfinder (this is the one I own)
- Other Related Bodies
- Fujifilm X PRO – (body only – functionally very similar to the X-E1 but with an optical viewfinder option)
- Fujifilm X100S Digital Camera – (digital rangefinder with fixed focal length non-interchangeable lens)
- Fujifilm X20 Digital Camera (Black) – (mirrorless body with fixed zoom lens)
- Fujifilm X20 Digital Camera (Silver) – (mirrorless body with fixed zoom lens)
- Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R Lens *
- Fujifilm 18mm f/2.0 XF R Lens
- Fujifilm 60mm f/2.4 XF Macro Lens *
- Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R Ultra Wide-Angle Lens *
- Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS Zoom Lens *
- Fujifilm XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Lens **
* I have used these lenses and am very impressed by their quality.
** The 55-200mm zoom has been announced but is not yet available. I have one on order and should receive it soon.
© Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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