Even though, I’ve been mainly shooting with Pro Nikon DSLR gear over the last 8 years, I have recently developed a strong passion in using a mirror-less Fujifilm X-E1 camera as my standard travel companion for my shorter trips. To take it a step further, this trip would be the first one where I would leave the heavy Nikon DSLR and lenses home. Not an easy decision, but definitively an interesting challenge!
While the quality of the X-E1 EVF (Electronic View Finder) is definitively not bad, it occasionally has some lag when moving quickly. This has clearly been addressed in the X-E2 with its much faster processor and it now is one of the best EVF's I've ever used.
While the X-E1 has excellent low light performance, the X-E2 does even better at the high ISO numbers. I did a few subjective tests between the two cameras at ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 and it feels like ISO 6400 on the X-E2 equals ISO 3200 on the X-E1. The above shot was taken at ISO 3200.
To continue on the auto-focus subject; the new camera now allows multiple point auto focus tracking at 3fps, but unfortunately it is still much slower and sometimes not accurate enough, compared to modern DSLR's. This is the main reason, why I'm still shooting DSLR's when photographing high speed action like air shows etc…
Battery life; Fuji lists that 350 images can be shot on a single battery. This might be the case when one only uses the viewfinder through the eye sensor, but practically it seems to be much closer to 150-200 with the occasional use of the LCD for image review. Spare batteries are a must. I travelled with 5 for two cameras and this seemed to be the minimum for a full day of shooting on the X-E2 and the occasional shot on the X-E1. To me, battery life feels identical between the X-E1 and X-E2.
Remaining on the subject of battery life; whenever I kept the X-E2 in my camera bag, the eye sensor was keeping the camera active, which caused the battery to drain very quickly. Even though just like on my X-E1, the camera was setup to automatically shutdown after 2 mins, it looks like the eye sensor kept it active. Since doing the exact same test on my X-E1 did not have the same effect, I hope this has been corrected in the more recent X-E2 1.0 firmware.
Bracketing; I’m doing a fair amount of HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, requiring up to 7 bracketed shots at varying shutter speeds. My Nikon DSLR's allow me for several years, to shoot the standard 0 EV followed by a -1, -2, +1, +2 all with one push of the shutter button. The Fuji's, including the latest X-E2, only allows 0 EV, +1 and -1. While this might be sufficient for standard exposure bracketing, it clearly is not enough for people shooting HDR. I'm not a camera engineer, but I really don't see a reason why this can not be done with a simple firmware update. I just hope will eventually include this in a future update!@#$%
Wifi; I was very happy to see Fuji enabling Wifi in its latest camera body. I was however disappointed to learn that shooting tethered using a tablet like an iPad was not possible. One can browse through the memory card or send individual images but there seems to be no live shooting option. Also I like the option of sending the geotag info from a smartphone to the camera. It looks like this can only be done image by image. I would really like to see a continuous sending of geotag coordinates as the shoot progresses. I suspect this function does not exist due to the potential for even more battery drain. As an alternative, why not include a GPS receiver in the camera itself? Fuji, hope you are listening if you are designing the X-Pro 2
Even though, I do have quite a few CONS, some of them can clearly be solved by a relative simple firmware upgrade. The main reason why this camera does still not 100% replace my Nikon D800, is the Autofocus tracking in continuous mode. This is not limited to the Fujifilm cameras but rather seems to be a common problem with all mirror-less cameras, including the latest full frame Sony cameras.
Having said this, at no time did I miss my DSLR on the New Zealand trip, likely because there never was a need for high speed action stuff. However photographing the Al Ain airshow the coming weekend, my Fuji will unfortunately still have to stay home!
Will I buy the new X-E2? Since I already own the great X-E1, probably not. I would rather wait and see what the successor of the Fujifilm X-PRO1 will bring. Rumours have it that this will be probably be announced early 2014.
Would I recommend somebody else buying the X-E2? Definitively! If you are in need for a mirror-less camera as your main travel camera, put the X-E2 high on the list. While I love my X-E1 to death, I have over the last two weeks liked the X-E2 even more! The image quality is clearly on par with the much heavier DSLR's and all of this at a fraction of the weight! Some of the trekking trips in the mountains I would have not done if I was carrying my DSLR gear.
Given the aerial images were all shot through the plexiglass of the cockpit, sharpness might be degraded. Please do not use these images to determine the sharpness and quality of the X-E2 images.
More images, all shot with the X-E2, as well as a detailed itinerary of the trip, will be published on a separate blog over the coming days. All images of the trip can be found in the New Zealand, South Island Fly & Drive around gallery.
Lastly, I big thank you to Fujifilm Middle East for asking me to take the X-E2 on this 2 week test-drive/flight!