Fuji X-E2 + 23mm f/1.4 First Impressions from a New Fuji User

Discussion in 'Fuji X-Mount Cameras' started by napilopez, Jan 27, 2014.

  1. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    27
    Dec 14, 2013
    NYC
    Napier Lopez
    Dear readers of FujiXspot.com,

    My name is Napier Lopez. You may not know me, but I’ve been a community member of this forum’s sister site, Mu-43, for a couple of years. You’ll be seeing a lot more of me now. Amin recently contacted me looking for help expanding this forum and its sister sites--Mu-43, TalkEmount, SeriousCompacts, and LeicaPlace--with regular editorial and review content. I was eager to oblige. Starting out as a complete photography novice, I lurked around Mu-43 and its sister sites for for months, finally made an account and posted many of my very first “real” photos for critique, and have since developed my style and technique by observing the works of countless other members more experienced than me. I’m a philosophy graduate preparing for an advanced degree in physics, but photography is an equal passion of mine (some friends have called me the triple ‘ph’, although I’m most fond of philographerist), as well as my full-time source of income. That probably wouldn’t have ever happened without the warm, thoughtful, and encouraging community that is Mu-43.

    All that being said, I now hold the title of Contributing Editor, and you can expect to see posts from me on the front page at least once a week in the form of opinion pieces, gear and software reviews, and more spread across Amin’s various sites. I hope you’ll join me in helping FujiXSpot become an essential resource for all Fuji X camera enthusiasts, and in fostering the continued growth of this wonderful community.

    Fuji X-E2 and the XF 23mm f/1.4 First Impressions from a New Fuji User


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    When I first signed up to do reviews, one of the systems I was most excited to work with was Fuji's X Mount. Fuji has made strides in the camera world by introducing an old-school mentality into the modern world of digital cameras at a manageable price point. Of course, this is a forum of experienced Fuji users, but I thought the impressions of a newcomer may provide a fresh perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of the system. I've played with some of the system's gear for hours, but there's nothing quite like hands-on experience in the field.

    I'll leave the most of the technical stuff for my upcoming full reviews, since the X-E2 and XF 23mm f/1.4 have been out for a while (they'll be getting individual write-ups). I'll also be posting impressions of the kit XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 soon. For now, these are just some quick impressions for a first time Fuji user. Please note that unless otherwise stated, I'm treating this gear as if it were my own and images are thus run through my typical editing process. This allows me to better familiarize myself with the gear. As such, edited images may not all be fully representative of straight-out-image quality or rendering.

    Fuji X-E2



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    The Fuji X-E2 is Fuji's second-in line camera, somewhat replacing the X-E1. I say 'somewhat' because save for a few additions, most people probably won't notice a significant difference.

    The first thing I noticed when picking up the body was how light it was. Don't get me wrong, it's solidly constructed and feels like it could take beating all around, but I was surprised to find it felt a lot lighter than the Olympus OM-D E-M5 I normally shoot with. Once you add lenses, the differences become much less apparent, but the X-E2 with the 23mm f/1.4 and 18-55mm was still a bit lighter than the E-M5 + 25mm f1.4 in either scenario. That said, the E-M5 is weather sealed and feels a little more solid overall, but the two bodies aren't direct competitors (comparing against the upcoming X-T1 will be much more interesting).

    The second thing was Fuji's more retro approach to handling. Of course, there's the rangefinder-like aesthetic, but more interesting are the division of Aperture and Shutter control to the lens control ring and dial on the top plate. I spent a good 5 minutes wondering how a camera of this caliber could not have a PASM dial, before remembering modes were controlled simply by what you set the various exposure settings to. It's a pretty rare system in the digital age, but one that gets you think about the importance of your settings a lot more than just leaving your camera in one mode all the time.

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    Fuji 23mm f/1.4

    Really, the whole camera invites you to really involve yourself not just in taking photos, but also in the photo-taking process. For example; I was going to complain about the lack of grip, but I find myself unable to really do so. This is because immediately, I felt this was a two handed camera. The aperture ring encourages you to have your left hand around the lens barrel, and most of the settings being on distinct physical control points makes for a shooting experience that's a lot more upfront and involve than I'm used to. Whereas on other cameras I'm often just lazily aiming at things withthe camera in my right hand, here I feel almost as if my whole body is involved in the shooting process.

    But of course, you guys already know that; it's just refreshing for a newcomer. Some other collected impressions from the past couple of days:

    • The exposure compensation dial seems stiffer than what I remember on previous X-Mount cameras, but it's still been unwittingly knocked up or down a couple of times.
    • The viewfinder is nice, but a bit too contrasty. I wish there were a way to adjust EVF contrast independently from JPEG settings. Shadows often seem a lot more crushed than they need to be. This is unfortunately an issue with OLED viewfinders in general, and can make composition at night more annoying than it should be.
    • It's great to have a screen that's actually, you know, the same aspect ratio as your camera's sensor.
    • The singular most unpleasant aspect of the camera so far has been the lag in the display whenever I focus the camera. I tend to "focus-pump" a lot to capture slow moving subjects, and on the X-E2 that unfortunately results in a very laggy/jittery image. Hopefully this can be addressed in firmware. Otherwise, the camera feels very responsive.
    • AF speed and accuracy overall feel quite good. Not the fastest I've seen, but competent with your average DSLR, and I've had no trouble focusing at night even with the AF lamp off. I'm also glad to see the low light refresh rate has been much improved over its predecessors.
    • White balance on this camera is spectacular, probably the best I've ever used. I've yet to find a scenario indoors or outdoors where I've felt the need to make an adjustment for WB.
    • The split prism focusing aid is really cool and does work well.
    • Fuji JPEGs really are best in class. From white balance to skin tones to contrast and dynamic range, I can't help but be impressed throughout, even as a RAW shooter.
    • Wi-Fi Integration is awesome. It's pretty easy to set-up, and works quickly and smoothly. I edit all my images before publishing them, but it's really nice to have this feature when I simply want to share pictures with friends quickly. In fact, I'd probably spend a lot less tempted to edit my social pictures if I'd had this feature before.

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    Fuji 23mm f/1.4 R. Don't worry, the flare was added in post.

    The Fuji X-E2 retails for $1399 with the excellent 18-55mm f2.8-f4, or for $999 body only. It has been a pleasure to use so far, and I look forward to getting to know it a bit better.


    XF 23mm f/1.4 R


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    The XF 23mm f/1.4 was a highly anticipated lens for the system, and I can summarize it so far simply by saying it's an amazing optic and performs exactly how you would hope.

    The lens is pretty large, with a diameter near the height of the X-E2, but not all out of the norm for its class. Not that heavy either; as mentioned previously, the X-E2 plus 23mm f/1.4 is slightly lighter than the smaller sensor kit of the E-M5+25mm f/1.4. Construction feels very solid (although it's a shame it's not weather sealed), and it comes with a petal lens hood that's kind of huge for this angle of view. It nearly doubles the length of the lens, but thankfully easily reverses for storage.

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    The most notable thing about this lens' design is certainly its snapping focus ring allowing you to switch between from AF to MF by pulling back the focus ring (and revealing a distance scale underneath). However, I personally have some mixed feelings about the mechanism as employed here. It's a great idea overall; having hard stops makes the lens feel a lot more mechanical, and the distance scale is very useful for folk who like to employ zone-focusing. Unfortunately, the fly-by-wire mechanism feels a bit too slow for my tastes; meaning that if I turn the focus ring to a certain distance, the lens always seems to be a third of a second or so behind where I set it to. I tend to like using MF for easily catching moving subjects (a bit unusual here, I know), and this isn't quite responsive enough to facilitate that. I also wish there were a way to use AF+MF for micro adjustments, but Fuji doesn't support this, and in any case the focus ring is locked if not in MF mode. But I suspect for most people who use MF more sparingly, none of this will be a big deal.

    One other small annoyance about the mechanism is that the distance scale seems to be written a bit too close to the focus ring, making it a bit hard to read from typical from-the-hip shooting angles. I'm just nitpicking, but it feels like Fuji could have simply moved the text slightly higher:

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    The focusing ring partially covers up the distance scale text at typical from-the-hip angles.


    But hardware quirks aside, you buy this lens for the images, and there it performs flawlessly. There is not a single thing I have found to complain about yet.

    One of the more surprising things about the lens was how smooth its bokeh is wide open. Lenses of this angle of view are not typically meant for portraiture, so their bokeh is often average or underwhelming. Not the case here! The bokeh circles have a smoother quality than many lenses in a normal-to-telephoto range I've used.

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    Wide open, straight out of camera JPEG

    Similarly, the transition from in-focus areas to out-of-focus areas can often be a bit harsh on wider lenses. Here it is incredibly creamy.

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    Wide open, straight out of camera JPEG

    The smooth rendering of out of focus areas means this makes a surprisingly good portrait lens if you can keep perspective distortion under control.

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    Wide open, straight out of camera JPEG. Also, look at that indoor white balance. Absolutely identical to the setting.

    I've never felt a need to stop down with this lens yet, but I'll be sure to get more technical for the full review. So far though, I love what I'm seeing.

    The 23mm f/1.4 R is expensive at $899, but it feels worth every cent of its price (and more) for its build and optical performance.

    Closing Thoughts

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    Trying out Fuji's system for an extended period of time has been a revelation. Of course, there are some things I miss about my Olympus gear--imagine the low light performance of this set up if the X-E2 had 5-Axis IBIS--but surprisingly, not as much as I originally thought. This body and lens feel like they were made by photographers, for photographers, something which shows ever more strongly due to Fuji's dedication to improving their cameras through firmware. My time shooting the X-E2 and 23mm have made me feel completely involved in the photo taking process, and has me excited to go out and shoot some more.

    In particular, I haven't been able to do enough of what I've wanted to do the most with this set-up: street photography. It's where I think this set-up feels most natural, and I'm excited to see the results I can get from the combo.

    Stay tuned for my upcoming impressions of the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens, as well as full, in-depth reviews of the gear mentioned here in the coming days and weeks.

    Please note that it helps us out a bit financially if you choose to buy any of the products mentioned here by going through the B&H links in the text.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2016
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  2. bilzmale

    bilzmale FujiXspot Veteran

    353
    Feb 3, 2013
    Perth, Western Australia
    Bill
    Welcome Napier and thanks for an interesting write-up. Looking forward to more.
     
  3. Isoterica

    Isoterica FujiXspot Regular

    170
    Feb 10, 2013
    Thanks for the intro and the review Napier.
     
  4. mnhoj

    mnhoj FujiXspot Regular

    93
    Aug 25, 2013
    So smooth Napier.
    Well done.
     
  5. elandel

    elandel FujiXspot Regular

    105
    Feb 4, 2014
    Thanks