Getting used to any new camera takes time. I should know, I have had enough of them over the years, ranging through Olympus, Yashica and Pentax. But after using the Fuji X100and XPro I am now firmly fixed to the FujiFilm mast. The X100 series are just brilliant cameras, simple, elegant, beautifully constructed with such a retro feel. I believed the XE2 would be a logical update to my kit along with the XF35mm lens. So here is my real world review, a week in Venice, with the Fuji XE2
There are a couple of points I should make straight away. If like me you normally wack in a usb lead to connect up your macbook, then you need to buy a new micro cable, It isn’t supplied.. I know you can plug in the memory card easily.. so no problem really. And battery life is seriously disappointing, they are a different size to X100 series and use a different charger. To preserve power as long as possible I have the camera set to electronic viewfinder only. The EVF is simply wonderful, clear and bight with no lag as far as I can tell. But with this prescribed you are destined to look at all your settings through the viewfinder. There is no quick way back without scrolling through the menu. Another point: silent mode is not silent. I don’t know why I was expecting no shutter sound, similar to X100, but there is a distinct, quite pleasing little click. Bear in mind in silent mode nothing bleeps or chings, but you can’t use flash or focus assist.
Here I am ready for a week in Venice. Lightly packed, one camera, one lens, one iPad. The XF35mm lens is gorgeous. really fast, really sharp, well made and nicely balanced on the XE2. I also love the square, flat hood, it looks great. The 50mm equivalent is what I grew up with, whilst aspiring to fast, wide angle primes I could never really afford them.. hence I stuck with, what back then, was the standard lens. So I was intrigued to see how XE2/35mm combination would fare in the bright shimmering light of Venice, how it would manage both street, landscape and architecture.
In preparation I have created four pre-sets, the first using Classic Chrome, auto ISO, auto DR, sharpness -1, NR low and so on. Plus three others with different film simulations, one for black and white and low ISO. I like the Q menu, although it doers seem a little counter-intuitive. I am pretty sure Base is not the first, most commonly used setting but the setting you are currently using, so hitting base does not take you back to setting one. Instead you have to use the scroll wheel. Well, over a few days I selected base, thought I was shooting in Classic Chrome, tuns out on uploading images all in ProNeg, at ISO 200. Ah, well, the shots look great anyway.
I have also set up my function buttons, face detection, film simulation, raw, and exposure mode. I found over the week that I missed focus several times, just getting a red stop light instead go green go. Failing to lock on focus seemed random, and was not particularly in low contrast scenes. I enlarged the focus area by a couple of steps and this definitely helps to improve focussing performance. Re-composing the shot was never a problem, but a couple of times I missed what I thought might be a nice street image. The XF35mm was stunning and I loved being able to get in close. I controlled exposure almost exclusively with the compensation dial and usually under exposing by half a stop preserved detail in the shadows and prevented blown out highs.
Managed to capture this image as the Gondolier fended off the wall. Didn’t nail focus, I know, I thought I was shooting in auto ISO which would have bumped up the minimum shutter speed. I also forgot to use facial recognition even though it was on a function button. Just not used to it, but Crikey! when I did use it, superb.
So I was pleased to take some raw images. yep, press the Raw function button, shoot away. Nice clean viewfinder display no information just me and the subject. Hmm, best not, better to display as much information as possible I now feel, in retrospect, because rather stupidly pressing the Raw button takes one shot and then reverts to jpg/fine. Absolutely no problem ‘cos the Jpgs are really rich and well rendered. Pixel peep all you like with this lens, every image is bang on..
Before setting out I downloaded the FujiFilm App which works like a dream. The WiFi connectivity is amazing, looking at what your lens sees through the iPad is brilliant and having more or less full remote control is going to come in handy some day. I also uploaded the day’s photos over Wifi to the iPad. This took only a second or two to set up and the transfer was almost immediate. It meant immediate access to Social Media, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram in my case. The first shot I tweaked was the header image for this page. I know the water looks pretty green, but the light in Venice is translucent, green, reflective, bright.. so I think the white boats against a green ground is effective.
The next image is a heavily cropped shot of a Ballet Dancer model undergoing a shoot just off St. Mark’s square. The shadows, contrast and colour exemplify what this lens/camera combination can handle. A really frustrating idiosyncrasy of this camera is the inability to hit the play back button and turn on the rear screen. I hate chimping but sometimes it is nice to show a subject what you are doing. With this camera, ridiculously, you have to scroll through the menu in the viewfinder to re-selct LCD
As primarily a landscape photographer, I found the XE2 to be perfect too in an enclosed street capacity. But Venice demands shooting at dawn and dusk, when it is quiet and the shadows come out to play. No complaints then, with any of my images.
Finally here is the lovely model Molls, which shows, for me, the XF35mm is no slouch in the portrait field either.
One of the things that has really impressed me about the XE2 is the manual focus mode with highlight peaking. Using my vintage Pentax K mount lenses with a Fuji XF adapter is superb. Yes, I have even shot with a fifty year old 58mm Helio lens and had lovely results. No stabilisation though so remember to use the reciprocal of lens length for shutter speed as minimum. To wrap up: I love this quirky little monster. We are still getting to know each other.