Sunday, May 4, 2014

Re-review: Revisiting the Fujifilm X-E2 with Firmware Version 2.0

Fujifilm X-E2 with XF23mm F/1.4. 1/85th sec F/4 @ ISO 250. Coffee Bar, Gastown.





Recently I've been spending time perusing through the comment sections on DPReview.com and other photo websites, just to get a feel for what's going on out there. As a reviewer, we often get immersed in our own view of how things are and should be, so its important to leave our bubble once in a while to explore the outside world. I do follow the main websites and YouTube channels to see what other reviewers are saying, but what's it like on the street?

There seems to be an US versus THEM attitude, with endless debates over sensor size (M43, APS-C, FF), and camera styles (DLSR, mirrorless, retro, modern, ILC, P&S, etc.). This ongoing 'battle' shows how segmented the market has become, even more so than in the past. This has also affected the manufacturers, trying to predict what photographers want and adjusting their product line to satisfy their market share, and hopefully increase it. This isn't always a bad thing, and Fuji has decided to add a bit of variety to their X-series line-up.

A few months back I reviewed the Fujifilm XE-2 and felt it was the best X-series body I had reviewed up to that point... until they announced the X-T1. It was quite the departure from the direction Fuji was taking their mirrorless cameras, but it was a nice change. Although the X-T1 had basically the same sensor and processor as the X-E2, the style and ergonomics of the camera was completely different. The X-E2's styling (and all other X-series cameras) is retro-rangefinder, while the X-T1 is styled like a modern mirrorless DSLR (much like the Olympus OM-D and Sony A7 series). The question that kept coming up was which was better, the X-T1 or the X-E2? I think the better question is: who is each camera for?

The X-E2 is for someone who wants a no-nonsense, reasonably compact mirrorless camera with a bit of old-school retro styling. The X-T1 is more for a serious wedding, sports, or studio photographer (built in PC terminal, fast AF, large EVF, DSLR ergonomics). You pay for the extra horsepower and functions ($300-400), and also pay for it in weight and size. In addtion, much of the X-T1's advantages in operation will eventually be upgraded via firmware updates on the X-E2 (firmware version 2.0 just became available here), but there are some advantages the X-E2 has over the X-T1 that I've mentioned in both reviews.

If you are a quick street shooter who uses the EVF and wants to 'feel' the buttons blindly while shooting, the X-E2 is the hands down winner over the X-T1. Because the X-T1 has weather sealing on all its buttons and dials and switches, the tactile feel of the buttons and dials are less than desirable. That's the first thing I noticed when I tested the X-T1, and other reviewers made mention of this 'issue' as well. Once the weather-sealed lenses come out, the disadvantage of stiff and short travel buttons on the X-T1 will melt away as the advantage of weather-sealing will be fully embraced by those who really need it. However, for those who really don't need WS, the X-E2 is a great alternative. It's smaller, lighter, and has smoother lines, making it easier to get in and out of a bag quickly. One photographer who was auditioning both the X-T1 and X-E2 chose the later because he wanted it while riding his motorcycle and didn't want the bulk of the X-T1 (he also ordered the pancake lens to further enhance 'compactness'). 


Fujifilm X-E2 with XF56mm F/1.2. 1/1400th sec F/2.5 @ ISO 200.


Now that I've returned the X-T1 and have the X-E2 again (primarily to review the new XF 56mm F/1.2 lens), I can really appreciate the size as well as the ergonomic feel of this retro-rangefinder (yes, I know it's not really a rangefinder). Unlike the X-T1, I can change settings quickly and easily (by feel) without removing my eye from the EVF. With the latest firmware update V2.0, the EVF refresh rate of the X-E2 now matches that of the X-T1 (albeit a smaller view). Looking through the EVF with the previous firmware was pretty good, but now it's even better with a faster refresh rate (I can even notice the difference in brighter lighting). I'm also happy that I can now change the colour of the focus peaking (low blue is best) since I enjoy manually focusing while shooting on the street. 

So let's get back to the debate of which is better, the X-T1 or the X-E2? If push comes to shove, I would say overall the X-T1 outperforms the X-E2. With an articulating screen, faster AF, larger EVF (although equal rez and refresh rate), and more manual access to control features and custom functions, the X-T1 will shoot faster in most situations. But there is a price for these extras: higher price, more bulk and weight, and as mentioned, less tactile feeling buttons and dials and switches.

If I was to enter into the mirrorless market today, the Fujifilm X series would be at the top of my list. I would buy the X-T1 as my powerhouse body for work, but I would also buy the X-E2 as my alternative body (not just a backup). The beauty of these cameras is that they share the same sensor and operating system, so jumping between bodies won't change the look of the image itself, only in the way we shoot. I don't think there's a need to debate which is better, the retro-rangefinder or DSLR format. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. If all things being equal, button feel and compactness is high on your list, the X-E2 is the better choice. It feels great in the hands, it's compact, and I think it looks really good (I still get people thinking its a film camera!!) 

I also have the XF23mm and XF56mm for review with the XF18-55mm as a reference lens. I will post a review shortly. I have another all new APS-C camera system camera from another manufacturer with a similar 18-56mm lens to review. I won't tell you who its from, but the letter T is part of its new name designation.... check out my Instagram account to see what camera it is.

Thanks for reading, thanks for following. Check out extra pics and thoughts on my Instagram and Twitter account.

Here's my original review of the Fujifilm X-E2

Here's my review of the Fujifilm X-T1

Here's my mock comparison between the X-E2 and the new Leica T

Thanks for viewing, and happy shooting!

Munetake


2 comments:

  1. Congratulations on a thoughtful and sensibly balanced review, admirably free of overstatement and hype.

    I have a question about one detail. You say your prefer "low blue" for the focus-peaking colour. Are you able to say what characteristic of the visual appearance Fuji is referring to with the descriptions "low" and "high"?

    Thanks for your thoughts, and for an intelligent review!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. The "low blue" versus "high blue" is better described as "dark blue" versus "bright blue". I find the high colours (red, blue, white) washes out in high contrast or outdoor shooting. I also find there are many things red while I walk around and take pictures, so again, there's less of a contrast versus using blue. I can see for some situations where white and red or "high" would work better (low light, near the ocean, low contrast, etc.), so options are great. Thanks for your comment and questions. Happy shooting!

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