The Fuji X-E1, 6 months on…

Posted by: In: Camera Equipment 22 Sep 2013 Comments: 7 Tags: , , ,

Fuji X-E1 @ 35mm. Long Legs & Short LegsWith my ownership of the Fuji X-E1 approaching 6 months, I thought I’d do an update post to let you know what I think now that I’ve had the camera for more than 5 minutes. You can read my original post a few days after purchasing the Fuji X-E1 here.

I’m not regretting it – that’s for sure! That was my biggest worry. Would I miss the features and speed of an SLR?

In a word – No.

It took a bit of getting used to, but I’m able to operate the little Fuji X-E1 with the same speed as my 50D. The only real problem is the issue of using the camera on full manual control (see below). I almost always now set the camera to AUTO ISO 6400, auto shutter speed and control aperture with the aperture ring. I then adjust the exposure using the exposure compensation wheel.

X-E1 vs X-Pro 1

Did I make the right choice? I don’t know for sure and can’t objectively state one way or another. I’ve not missed the OVF and if it’s pouring down outside I’m generally not going out in it for me, never mind my camera! Weather proofing therefore is not something I’ve missed. Locking shutter speed dial and a slightly smaller LCD screen are things I just haven’t noticed missing. I’ve not owned the X-Pro 1 so I can’t tell definitively, but I really cannot seen how the X-Pro 1 would have been a better choice for me.

Manual Control

Right. The problem with this is that the minimum shutter speed as decided by the camera is too slow for my hands. It’s as simple as that. In poor light, the camera will set its minumum shutter which seems to be the reciprocal of the (adjusted) focal length. This is 1/50sec for the 35mm. A simple ability to set the minimum shutter speed in AUTO mode would be of great help. This feature is oft asked for in Fuji forums so I’m not alone in this.

So why am I not shooting in full manual like I did on the Canon? It’s far too fiddly. Aperture is fine on the barrel of the lens. Shutter speed is annoying to change and physically awkward if you’ve got the camera held to your eye. The dial on the camera top is also in full stops which doesn’t give a lot of fine control. You can adjust in 1/3 stop increments, but that uses the controls on the back of the camera. Full manual control also means loss of the Exposure Compensation wheel.

On my 50D, ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed were all controlled easily via two thumb wheels that could be set to move in 1/3 stop increments. I could have the camera close to my eye and make 1/3 stop adjustments to either shutter speed or aperture very easily. It’s just not that easy on the Fuji X-E1, and it’s not something I can get used to. I can, however, live with it.

So How Would I Fix This?

In an ideal world, and assuming Fuji techs read this and think I’m awesome…

  • Keep aperture control on the lens barrel. For all lenses, also allow aperture to be controlled by the rear horizontal scroll wheel (like it does for the 27mm)
  • Keep shutter speed where it is, but when it’s set to a non-auto speed, allow the Exp Compensation wheel to adjust the shutter speed in smaller increments, don’t just disable it!
  • Allow the user to set a minumum shutter speed for any lens so that ISO will ramp up to compensate in Auto-ISO mode

This would make full manual shooting far quicker and less cumbersome than it is at the moment. It would also make it more usable in fast moving situations (street photography, events etc)

Other Changes

Other than the difficulties of manual control, the camera is a dream to use. It’s physically a lot smaller than the 50D and beefing this up with a thumb rest and a case that has a built in grip has really helped! I’m toying with the idea of a Sugru modification, but haven’t got round to that yet. The addition of a shiny red soft release has helped my fat fingers find the shutter button more easily too.

My Pimped Fuji X-E1

My Pimped Fuji X-E1

The whole package is far lighter than my DSLR setup, and for landscape and street work, it’s wonderful. I’m not regretting the loss of all that weight. In terms of user-friendliness, I’ve found the menus more intuitive than my Canon and changing settings and formatting the memory card are a lot quicker.

JPEG vs Raw

I’m not good enough to shoot JPEGs. It’s sad but true. I often need to tweak White Balance or adjust highlights. Having the Raw files often helps with this and is far more forgiving than trying to alter a JPEG. So I’m back to Raw shooting. I did shoot Raw + JPEG for a while but ended up discarding the JPEGs if I needed to adjust in Lightroom. the whole thing became a bit of a faff, so now I just shoot in Raw.

Another downside of shooting Raw is that those wonderful in-camera JPEG presets are lost (unless you shoot Raw+JPEG). On the upside, there is a chap who is working on a whole bunch of Lightroom presets to emulate film. His Filmbot site is here. His plan is to keep these presets Open Source (i.e. Free!) so these could be a good place to start if you’re missing the JPEG presets. Personally I find the Filmbot Velvia emulation to be very different to the in-camera Velvia emulation so I do plan to have a look at creating some LR presets to try and replicate the in-camera modifications, but that’s a job for another day!

The Lenses

The primes (35 & 14) are awesome. I used to own a 10-20mm for my Canon 50D, and did wonder whether just moving to a fixed 14mm would be a problem. It isn’t! I can manage just fine with the single focal length. As to the 35mm, I’ve found that I think  I prefer that focal length (it’s an effective 52mm) as opposed to my old 50mm f1.4 which was effectively 80mm on my old Canon.

I’m also beginning to love the 18-55 too. I tend to have it set on auto aperture to avoid accidents with the aperture ring, which is good, because the 18-55 is my “I don’t-know-what-lens-I-need” lens. For walkabouts it’s fine.

Fuji X-E1 & 35mm lens with a new lens hood!

Fuji X-E1 & 35mm lens with a new lens hood!

I did get annoyed by the lens hood on the 35mm. It doesn’t reverse, it has a tendancy to slip off, and you can’t use a standard lens cap with it. It looks cool though which is why I persevered with it for a while. In the end though, I plumped for a cheap 52mm screw in hood that allows me to use a proper lens cap and doesn’t fall off in a stiff breeze. The cool factor is still there.

The Prom

#2 Daughter's Prom

Fuji X-E1 @ 35mm, f1.4, 1/60sec, ISO200

I shot #2 daughter’s prom on a mix of the 35mm and the 18-55. Most of the problems were due to faults between the floor and the shutter button. The Fuji X-E1 isn’t a fast camera for me, and I don’t have steady hands! AUTO ISO was a bit of a let down and caused generally low shutter speeds all around until I set the ISO to a fixed 800 which pushed the shutter speeds in general up. There were a few blurred shots though.

Panic was also a factor, with little time to get the shots off. In all honesty, I don’t think I did as good a job with #2 daughter’s prom as I did with #1 daughter 2 years ago shot on the 50D with a 24-105. However I think that if I were to shoot it today, I’d do a much better job now that I know the nuances of the Fuji X-E1 better. I’d also have shot in Raw which would have meant better results in post processing. The Grandparents were happy with them though so it wasn’t a disaster!

Overall Thoughts Fuji X-E1 vs DSLR

Yep. For me, the change was well worth it. More and more threads are cropping up these days with people asking what it’s like to downsize to the Fuji X system. There is no true answer to this, other than to say that some people (including me) have changed and absolutely not regretted it. I can take just as good a picture on my X-E1 as I ever could on my Canon. And as I said in my other post. I enjoy it far more these days.

Fuji X-E1 @ 35mm. Brent Lane, Crowton

Brent Lane, Crowton. Fuji X-E1 w/35mm f1.4 Lens. Flickr Explored, September 2013

Thanks for reading!

Comments: 7

  1. Posted by Bob 31 Dec 2013 at 2:22 pm Reply

    I have had my Fuji X-E1 for a few weeks and previously I used a Canon 5D II which I have enjoyed except for the weight. I always shot RAW with my Canon and used Canon’s DPP software primarily to postprocessing and converting photos to JPEG. I am having trouble finding RAW conversion software for the X-E1. I have briefly tried the in camera RAW conversion but was not to thrilled with the software. My question is, what is a good RAW conversion software for converting X-E1 RAW’S to JPEG.
    Thanks in advance for your response.

    • Posted by Ian 05 Jan 2014 at 12:47 am Reply

      I did mess around with other options after hearing bad things about Adobe Camera Raw. However even after shooting RAW+JPEG & comparing the results, I’m not convinced that using ACR (either standalone/free or bolted into Lightroom) is a problem. Give it a try and see what you think.

      Ian.

  2. Posted by Mike Croshaw 10 Oct 2013 at 9:03 am Reply

    Nice article! I’m about 6 months in on my Xe-1 as well. I tend to shoot in full manual and the auto iso works really well for me most of the time. I’ve mapped the Fn button to ISO to enable me to change it quickly if I need to, but mostly exposure compensation does the trick. The other thing I’ve found that helps with speed of use is to use the AE/AF lock button to autofocus ( and leaving the focus on manual ). It separates the shutter button from the focussing system and I’ve found it makes it quicker to fire off a bunch of shots. Great camera though, glad you are enjoying yours!

    • Posted by Ian 10 Oct 2013 at 11:04 am Reply

      Thanks for the comment!
      I haven’t been able to figure out how to get Exp comp working on full manual unfortunately. Also, I tend to use AE/AF lock for exposure lock because my subject is rarely the “middle ground” exposure. Back button focussing is awesome though coming from a DSLR. If they could shift aperture control to the rear wheel for all lenses, and allowed the exp comp dial to adjust shutter speed incrementally, I’d be able to adjust the exposure manually and then could use AE/AF lock for focussing. I’d be a happy bunny for sure!
      Ian.

  3. Posted by Ian 25 Sep 2013 at 12:39 am Reply

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Jay. Some interesting images there. I’m constantly surprised by the amount of people either selling, or leaving their “pro” level gear at home in favour of something more portable. All it took was Fuji to bring out the X line.

    I hope you continue to enjoy your photography!

    Ian.

  4. Posted by Jay Bryant 23 Sep 2013 at 10:09 pm Reply

    Great review and I would agree with all of your points. I am now using my X-E1 almost daily and leaving my Nikon’s in the cabinet.

    Here is a recent set of photos shot with my X-E1 on a trip to Japan: http://www.jaybryant.com/japan

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