BEST STREET PHOTOGRAPHY CAMERA: FUJIFILM X-100V or X-E4?
Street photographers can be quite critical people when it comes to evaluating new cameras. As a Street photographer myself (portfolio here), I want my street cameras to be; compact, non-intrusive, having a fast autofocus, used with a fast prime lens, having a tilt screen, minimalistic in design but with good ergonomics.
One year ago, I received a sample unit of the X-100V. It turned out to be the camera I would shoot most of my 2020 Street/Documentary work with and for me is still the best looking Fujifilm camera around.
The original X-100, then called Fujifilm FinePix X100, was released almost exactly 10 years ago. It was (is) a good looking range-finder like, fixed lens camera with both an optical (OVF) and Electronic viewfinder (EVF), which shook up the compact camera market. It was a very inspirational talk by US photographer, Zack Arias at the Gulf Photo Plus event in Dubai (2011?), that made me buy my first Fujifilm camera back in 2012 and it was the X-E1; quickly nick-named "the Sexy-one".
While the X100 was initially very slow to focus, through a number of firmware updates and then subsequently newer versions of the camera (X-100S, X-100T, X-100F), the X100 line eventually became very popular with a wide range of Street/Documentary photographers. I would eventually use and test all variants, but never end up owning one... Until recently!
|X-E1 (2012) - X-E4 (2021)|
But it is not all about the X-100V here. On January 27, 2021, Fujifilm announced the new X-E4. The fourth iteration of the X-E series; a camera line which till a short time ago was thought to be extinct. As the original X-E1, was my first Fujifilm camera in 2012, the X-E series has always had a special place in my heart. In January 2021, I received a sample of this new compact interchange lens camera, in order to do a camera review.
Rather than doing one of my classic "First look reviews", I decided to compare the X-E4 with the X-100V specifically for Street/Documentary style work. Being two very capable cameras in their own right, this might seem like a strange comparison but it is one Fujifilm has used themselves. Let's have a look at some of the major differences as well as some of the similarities between them.
X-100V versus X-E4 COMPARISON
|X-E4 with XF27 (1st gen) / X-100V|
SIZE / WEIGHT
When it comes to size, one will see that the X-100V is very similar in size compared to a X-E4 with the XF27 pancake lens. But what about the weight?
- X-100V 478g (1.05lbs)
- X-E4 +XF27 lens: 364g + 84g = 448g (0.99lbs)
|X-100V / X-E4 with XF23mm f2|
All X-100 series cameras had the same 23mm f2 lens, till the X-100V came out. While the lens was fine at normal focus distances, wide open at minimum focus distance, it was known to be very soft at the edges. Some people became creative with the flaw, but I was never one of them. The brand new 23mm f2 lens on the X-100V is however very sharp all the way through the aperture and focus distance range. Like its predecessors, the X-100V lens focusses very close; down to 10cm (4 inch); something neither the XF27 or XF23 lenses come even close to.
The X-E4 has the advantage of being an interchangeable lens camera, giving you more than 50 different native X-series lenses with endless manual focus vintage lenses to choose from.
Street and Documentary photographers commonly shoot with the 35mm focal length. In full frame Field Of View (FOV), the 23mm X-100 lens provides a 35mm FOV on the cropped X-series sensors; not a coincidence of course! Yes, I know it is not identical to using a 35mm lens on a Full frame body but it is close...
Together with the X-E4, Fujifilm also released an updated XF27mm f2.8 pancake lens. At the time of writing, I haven't tested the lens yet, but it seems virtually identical in size and provides similar image quality as its non-weather sealed Mark 1 version. Yes, it has an aperture ring, which the older one doesn't have. I've owned the original XF27mm lens for years, but have never really been a fan of the 40mm FOV focal length (27mm x 1.5. crop factor). Maybe I should give it another try as I know people that swear by it!
Fujifilm is selling the X-E4 as a kit with the new XF27 f2.8lens, which makes the camera very compact. Just make sure you get the new mark 2 version of the lens; the one with the aperture ring.
|X-100V weather resistant if using UV filter|
Unlike the X-100V above, the X-E4 is not weather sealed. Not a show stopper for most, but something to take into account when frequently shooting in harsh environments, including sand and dust.
The X-100V has a built in Neutral Density (ND) filter built into the lens; probably easier to design with a leaf shutter mechanism like on the X-100 series. But what is the use of an ND filter in still photography? Well, the 4 stop ND allows one to shoot at wide open apertures using a much slower shutter speed in bright daylight conditions. Great when one wants a shallow depth of field in bright conditions by retaining the mechanical shutter (MS). Until recently the ND filter could not be used for video on the X-100V, but the recent 2.0 firmware update has just changed this. Video shooters will love this!
Needless to say that you can buy screw-on ND filters for your X-E4 lenses, but remember that different X-series lenses, also often have a different lens diameters.
Personally do not like flip-out screens for Street/Documentary photography. Flipping it out to the side, especially for candid photography, makes it stand out too much. A classic tilt screen, which allows for waist level shooting is all I need! The X-100V provides exactly that. Do you not like a tilt screen? It is so well designed and flush with the body, that you actually won't even notice it. Just do not use it.
|X-100V Tilt screen|
The new X-E4 also has a well built in tilt screen; even more versatile than the X-100V one. It does not only flip down, it also flips up; great for vloggers and selfies but not something I would often use in my Street/Documentary photography.
|X-E4 with tilt-up screen|
Normally I'm not concerned about damaging flip out screens. The X-E4 is a little different here, as I can see people touching the rear ribbon LCD cabling, when vlogging or making selfies; see image below. I would have loved to see more protection here and hope this is not an oversight. When only using the screen as a standard flip out screen (like the X-100V), this issue is not really a factor. The camera I tested was a sample unit; not sure if the final products will have the same issue.
|X-E4 (LCD screen cabling)|
Lastly, the X-E4 can be used as a "webcam", which might be useful for all those Zoom and Teams meetings during the pandemic. The X-100V, has just received the same functionality through the latest 2.0 firmware update. Thanks Fujifilm.
Like all X-100 series, the X-100V has an Electronic (EVF) and Optical viewfinder (OVF). The X-E4 on the other hand only has an EVF. While I do love the idea of the OVF, I'm not using it as much as I thought I would. Guess the quality of the EVF is too good!
The X-E4's 0.39inch - 2,36 million dot OLED LCD is fine but when directly comparing it to the X-100V - 0.5 inch - 3.69 million dot EVF the difference is remarkable. As long as you do not have the direct comparison you will probably be fine! Shooting a lot in very bright conditions? This might be more of an issue, especially since none of the cameras have a large rubber eyecup like the X-T series.
|X-E4 with XF27 (1st gen)|
All of the X-100 series have leave shutters which is much more quiet than the other X-series cameras. With the average ambient noise, your subject will more than likely never hear any shutter sound at all. As the X-100V is my main candid photography camera this is important for me.
I found the X-E4 a bit louder compared to some of the other newer cameras. Yes, one can use the completely silent Electronic Shutter (ES), but especially when shooting in artificial light or with fast moving subjects this is known to sometimes create some strange artifacts. Having said so, the ES has improved a lot over the years!
Unlike the recently released X-S10, both cameras allow for soft release buttons to be mechanically screwed into the actual shutter button. Something I like for a more tactile feel but also is esthetically pleasing.
To me the X-100V is near perfect when it comes to button lay-out. Especially after having added the LensMate thumbrest, it feels great for extensive handholding and single hand shooting. Most of the time, I’m using it with a simple leather hand-strap which.
Strange enough, Fujifilm uses the slotted eyelets on the X-E4 to connect your camera straps. As I mainly use round metal rings at the end of my straps (classic and hand-straps), I much rather have the round eyelets.
It looks like Fujifilm wants to differentiate more and more between their different camera lines. While before the X-E line was pretty much like a mini X-Pro without the optical viewfinder in a cheaper package, this seems to be no longer the case with the X-E4.
As with the launch of every new camera, Fujifilm uses a specific tagline. With the X-E4 it is: "Make MORE with LESS" and they have taken this literally. They are clearly going the minimalistic route with the X-E4. Before going any further, a list of the items that have been removed from its predecessor, the X-E3, are:
- Focus selection dial at the front
- Rear dial
- Front and rear grip
- View mode button
- AF-L and AE-L combined into a single AEL/AFL button
|X-E1 (left) / X-E4 (right)|
At first, I must say, I wasn't very impressed with the above. After having shot the camera for more than a month, I'm getting more comfortable with it now.
Because of the lack of buttons, I'm now using the Q button even more than before. The original Q button, is now my Shutter type (Electronic/Mechanical), while the unlabelled button at the top has become the Q button. I've done this change as the original Q button is hard to be reached when the thumb rest is installed.
The lack of Single/Continuous/Manual setting dial has been added to one of the touchscreen swipe functions just like the Photometry. It takes some time, but you will get used to it.
I use the front clickable command dial for ISO and Shutter speed; click it and it will cycle between both modes with a little prompt on the screen. Because of the lack of rear command dial, I would recommend only using lenses with an aperture ring; i.e. the new XF27 versus the 1st generation one.
Fujifilm is selling an optional thumb rest (TR-XE4) for 69,-USD and metal hand grip (MHG-XE4) for 89,-USD. The latter provides a built in Arca-Swiss camera plate (to mount on a tripod) but also has a nice front camera grip. When using longer and heavier lenses (XF70-300, XF16-80, etc...) I would definitively recommend using it.
Here the X-E4 is clear the winner! Until recently the Custom setting functionality of the X-series cameras only allowed the user to save the IQ (Image Quality) functions. With the latest releases of the X-S10 and X-E4, one can now save many more things from the AF/MF and Camera setting menu such as Focus mode, Face/Eye detection, Touch screen functionality, Photometry, etc... To me this is something all X-series should have had since day one. I was disappointed to see that the recent 2.0 X-100V firmware has not opened up this functionality. Fujifilm are you reading this?
Both cameras are available in Silver and Black. Especially for Street photography, I normally recommend black in order to be as stealthy as possible. With the X-100V I however picked the silver one as I find it even more stylish.
Generally after using a silver X-series camera for more than 6 months, I start to see some scratches and other battle damage. The X-100V, I've been shooting for an entire year has none of that. Clearly the finishing is far better than my previous silver camera, a two year old X-T3. Unfortunately I wasn't able to test the silver X-E4 to see if the finishing is as good as the latest X-100 series.
|X-100V with vintage Yashica-Mat|
In order to compare pricing, let's have a look at recent US prices, excluding taxes. For those of you in the UAE, pricing will be very similar to the US.
The X-100V presently sells for 1399,-USD while pre-ordering an X-E4 and XF27 lens will put you back 1049,-USD. This makes the X-E4 combo still 350,-USD cheaper while being more versatile.
Want to use the X-E4 with the great XF23mm or XF35mm f2 lens? Your set-up will still 100,-USD cheaper than the X-100V.
As both cameras uses the same sensor and processor, the image quality is very similar and only dependent on the lens being used on the X-E4. To me there is no clear winner here. Both cameras will allow you to shoot excellent work; the limitation being more the photographer rather than the camera.
I love the newish Classic Negative film simulation for my colour work which is available on both cameras. Only the X-E4 has however the new Bleach Bypass one. I was hoping the X-100V would get the same with its latest 2.0 firmware but felt being left out.
As there is a limit on the images I can post here, I invite readers to go to my Instagram where loads of images shot with both cameras have been posted. Just check the #xe4 and #x100v hashtags to see which camera has been used. A few Street/Documentary photos shot with both cameras can be found below.
So, shall you get the X-100V or X-E4 for your Street Photography needs? Like most things in life, it depends. Both cameras are actually very capable for the genre.
Do you have another X-series camera? If you do and you are looking for a dedicated camera to shoot street/documentary work, I would seriously consider the X-100V, as it will provide you with a great shooting experience and lots of consistency throughout your images. Doesn't hurt that the camera looks so damn good as well!
Are you new to Street photography and/or will this be your only camera? The X-E4 might actually be what you are looking for. It will allow you to discover your favorite focal length by trying several different lenses, while remaining very minimalistic.
Own a X-E3 (or older X-E model) and considering the upgrade? This is a much harder question and one which only you can answer!
Remember: "There are no bad cameras. Only bad photographers"!