I finally did it. After months and months of researching and wavering, I took the plunge and dove headfirst into a mirrorless camera system. Yikes. She's kinds of a sexy little thing isn't she? It's no coincidence that X-E2 rhymes with sexy you.
I won't write a long detailed post on all of the bazillion technical pros and cons of mirrorless because truth be told, I'm hardly qualified. It's a relatively new system that I'm still learning. I'll let others with more experience and research tell the mirrorless story. If you are interested, just do a search on mirrorless and there will be as many stories for why the system is the future of cameras (like DSLRs were to the old film SLRS) as there are stories on why mirrorless will never replace DSLRs. Some of the most influential to in convincing me to convert to mirrorless were this article (though I'm not advocating the death of DSLRs) and David duChemin's review.
While mirrorless cameras have definitely gained ground over the past 5 years, DSLRs still rule the world and for good reason...they have proven themselves. Like all technology adoption, it's a bit overwhelming to just jump in. I just reminded myself that there was a time though when SLRS ruled the world and DSLRs were the new kids on the block.
The other hesitation is that neither Canon nor Nikon have done all that much to join the mirrorless market. I know Canon, I have a 20+ year relationship with Canon and I'm not going to lie to you--being courted by Sony, Fuji, Panasonic and Olympus felt a little weird.
In the end though, mirrorless convinced me to give it a go for the following reasons:
Weight and Size: Everyone who is converting to mirrorless or supplementing their camera gear with a mirrorless system lists these as some of the top driving factors. They were the number one draw for me especially for my upcoming move to Italy. I wanted a lighter more compact system that wouldn't take its toll on my back or shoulder after an hour. With my Canon and my favorite lenses and accessories, I could be lugging close to 8-10 lbs of gear. The Canon 70-200 2.8 IS II alone weighs over 3 lbs. It doesn't sound like much except to those that have lugged a camera system around all day. The Fuji plus lenses comes in at under 3 lbs...and only 1.5 lbs if you go with only the 18-55 walk around lens. It weighs even less if you snap on a 32mm prime. Less than 1.5 lbs...seriously, mind blown.
Cost: I was able to purchase the body plus 4 lenses for just about the resale value of my 5D Mk III body. The Zeiss lenses were on some crazy is-this-a-scam-pricing, so I was super lucky there, but a full system for the price of the Canon body? Enough said.
Image Quality: No camera regardless of weight or cost could convince me to switch over if I didn't feel the image quality was rock solid. While I'll admit that I'm not a pixel peeper, I studied a lot of photos on Fuji flickr groups and via reviews and found the image quality of Fuji to be shockingly indistinguishable in the hands of a talented photographer. So many photographers and friends I admire have been converting to mirrorless too and underneath it all, I'm really just a follower.
So then why Fuji? I don't really have a great answer for this one. Sony has a full frame system with exceptional reviews but I think it was really the Fuji lens roadmap that impressed me. Mirrorless's area of opportunity is in the lens selection. Fuji's roadmap showed an investment to the system and lenses and their lenses are consistently close to 5 stars....this is pretty much the same reason I chose Canon as it turns out. Fuji customer service is supposed to be outrageously good though my one experience with them so far was outrageously awful. Fuji's demand is exceeding supply at times and the 35mm prime that I'd purchased with the X-E2 went from 2 day out of stock to 2 months. With the time approaching for my trip, I finally got nervous about receiving the lens prior to leaving and contacted customer service. The response I received back was one of those canned responses that answers a question I didn't ask and shows that they didn't actually read the inquiry but just sent a response to check it off as complete. Oh Fuji...seriously my pet peeve. I ended up canceling and going with the Zeiss lenses at that point.
Some of the things I'm not excessively fond of are:
- Slower more finicky auto focus. No explanation needed there.
- EVF--electronic view finder. Awful. Hate it. I will ensure my next body purchase has an Optical View Finder. Every time I look in that thing I'm surprised by how much I hate EVF. Yes, I've read the arguments for why it's better but it'll take me awhile to come to grips with EVF
- Pretty bad battery life
- Shutter speed maxes at 1/4000
All of these things however, are things that I would expect a newer camera system to be able to work out in newer models..it's the nature of evolving technology. The two Fuji lenses I own are pretty spectacular so the above are not really complaints.
I agree with an article I read that stated mirrorless feels more intentional. Maybe it's the slower autofocus or the retro styling, but as the article states, it's not the kind of camera you want to grab if you have more of a spray and pray style of shooting. I wouldn't grab it first for action shots either.
So enough blah, blah, blah, let's see how sexy she really is.
I love the retro styling. Here she is next to the Canon SLR I used college long ago in the days of film and dark rooms. (Anyone else remember trying to roll film onto those developing rolls in the dark?--I love how far photography has come) Back to the styling....the X-E2 comes in all black too, but what fun is that? Aside from retro appearances, the Fuji system (not sure about the other mirrorless systems) returns to old-school controls. Shutter speed is the top dial again and aperture changes are via the lenses. I panicked and cursed a little at first when I couldn't find the aperture digital dial but finally channeled the force to remember how film cameras used to work. Aperture on the lens ring really is so much easier, intuitive and tactile.
The lenses. I love lenses like men love cars. I still contend that I'd make out with lenses if I could. I love my primes so opted for a 12mm (18 equivalent on a Micro 4/3 or crop sensor) and a 32 mm(50ish equivalent). The 56mm is a new release which shows that Fuji is taking their roadmap and release schedule very seriously. I haven't played much with it so more to come on the actual lens performance. At 1.2, it's a pretty wicked fast lens but also the heaviest lens at 14oz. It almost has me convinced that Fuji also supplies tanks to the US military. Again it adds to that film camera and solid metal lenses frames from the days of yore feeling.
The Fuji 18-55 has actually surprised me a bit...it's a kit lens that doesn't deserve to be called a kit lens. I'd definitely wouldn't hesitate to grab it as the only lens for a day out. iPhone added for size perspective.
For another size comparison, here's my Canon love. I couldn't bear to part with the entire system and kept my 7D along with the uber amazing 35 1.4. Someone offered to buy the lens and while I let the 50mm 1.2 go, I just could not sell my 35mm. Until mirrorless can nail action or becomes quicker in response, I'll hold on to these guys. This below setup and bag though is still a beast to carry around.
Side by side the size difference of the bodies is pretty amazing but it's the weight differential that is most mind-blowing.
The X-E2 does require that I carry some CPL and ND filters around because of its 1/4000 shutter speed restriction but it's a small price to pay for a compact system.
Seamus and Brooklyn don't really care that when I zoom into the original photos, I can see my reflection clearly in their eyes, but I do. My relationship with Fuji is definitely off to a good start.