Monday, July 7, 2014

Fuji X-E2 Mirrorless Camera System

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: 
  1. Slower more finicky auto focus.  No explanation needed there.  
  2. 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
  3. Pretty bad battery life
  4. 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'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 in my college photography classes.  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'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.


Julie said...

Thank you!! This is so helpful. I was thinking of buying a new camera and was talking to my photographer best friend who suggested that I actually buy a mirrorless and skip the dslr. I've been thinking about it seriously and this adds to the idea that maybe I should really go to mirrorless first. I do like that it's smaller!

Christy said...

This is totally exciting to see another person converting to mirrorless. My husband insisted on a more "professional" looking camera and I bought the Olympus OMD and he ends up grabbing my camera more than his. I swear it takes better pictures as if they are almost 3D. I don't know if it's the technology that makes the photos pop but I do know we love how easy it is to carry everywhere. Now we carry around a camera more often (and it's mine, not his!)

sophia said...

I just learned about mirror less cameras last weekend during the 4th when someone was taking pictures at our block 4th of July party. I remember that it was a small camera that kind of looked like a big point and shoot so I was really surprised when he showed us the pictures from the party. They were so gorgeous and colorful and sharp. My husband wants one now, of course! :) Brooklyn is so darling!

sophia said...

I just learned about mirror less cameras last weekend during the 4th when someone was taking pictures at our block 4th of July party. I remember that it was a small camera that kind of looked like a big point and shoot so I was really surprised when he showed us the pictures from the party. They were so gorgeous and colorful and sharp. My husband wants one now, of course! :) Brooklyn is so darling!

Renee said...

I have thought about buying a nicer camera so this looked like a good way to go, not so big that I won't carry it around but a step above a point and shoot. Then I saw the price. WOW. It may be cheaper than a dslr but it's still more than is in my budget right now so I guess i'm sticking to my P&S. :( It looks really cool though!

Kate said...

This is just the info I was looking for. My friend has an ex1 to sell because he bought the ex2. He says he loves it but only says because its lighter. This just convinced me to buy his 1. I like that it's small and easy to carry and I really love the retro styling too i have to admit. Good to know it really does take great pictures even with the 18-55 which he is selling too.

Brittany said...

OMG we have a bull mastiff and a Boston too! They are best friends despite their size difference. I never would have thought to put the two together but my husband had Fenway the Boston and I had the Diesel the mastiff when we met a couple of years ago. We never knew how much they'd love each other but they really do. Yours are adorable!

Kara said...

Oh man I can't believe you did this to me!!!! I really want a nice DSLR and my friend has been convincing us that these mirrorless cameras are the future and my husband was already mostly convinced. Now the decision is so hard! I really do like how small it is though. Darn, darn, darn. It'll take me a year to decide now.

Jill said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! A lot of the reviews I've seen for these new cameras have been from professionals and while I love their work, i always wondered what others thought too. I've been thinking of downsizing too and love this review it's so helpful!

sophia said...

My sister bought a Sony and loves it more than her old Canon system. It looks so small so I was skeptical but her pictures are just as gorgeous as before, I can't even tell the difference. Seems like a good thing to me!

Kendra said...

I've been trying to decide the same thing. I kind of like how you kept your 7D for the DSLR and then purchased this set. Maybe I'll take the same tactic so I can have the best of both worlds.

Lexi said...

My Dad bought a Fuji last year and I thought he was joking about how he could match me shot for shot but the pictures he takes are amazing! It almost seems like that new sensor takes almost 3D like pictures sometimes. I may start dabbling in mirrorless too, I can't be too far behind the tech curve right?

Tami said...

I've been wondering about these cameras and whether I should buy one. I can't wait to see your photos.

Anne said...

This is a marvelous post with a lot of the details I was looking for to help me decide. Thank you!

Jules said...

If I come to Italy will you take gorgeous photos of me too? It's not fair that Brooklyn gets all of the fun! :)

Ally said...

I've been living under a rock which isn't uncommon but I've never heard of mirrorless. Were the taco pictures taken with mirrorless because they look as beautiful as your other food posts! We have a Boston too which is why we love stopping by to see what Brooklyn is up to! :)

Cristine said...

I've been looking at Fuji vs. Olympus vs Sony and I was pretty set on Fuji based on their lens releases planned but you've convinced me here! I'm so excited to get mine. Hope you do more reviews of the lenses.

Carmen said...

This review was so helpful in helping me decide to buy a mirror less camera. I don't have a dslr primarily because they are so big but I really wanted to be able to take good pictures too. We are still learning, but so far so good! Thaks!

Lexi said...

Oh wow thank you for posting this! I've been thinking of buying a dslr but my best friend recommended an Olympus and I thought it looked too small because good cameras have to be big right? I didn't know about this new class of camera but will definitely look into it.

Lisa said...

Thank you for this! I have been camera shopping recently and thought about the Canon T model but I like the idea that this is kind of like investing in the future of cameras. I talked to my friend after I read this post the first time and she said she loves how light her Olympus is and never uses her big Nikon anymore.