Fujifilm X-E1 vs. X-E2

fuji_x-e1First off let me start by saying that I’m trying to be as tech free and camera neutral as possible since I think it’s the process of seeing light that is the most paramount aspect of creating a good image, not the camera. To put it another way, the camera is just the messenger, not the message. I bet you could give David Hobby a toy camera and he would get great images with it since he of all people knows how to light an image. But that being said, we still have to know our gear and be proficient with it to be able to get the image in our mind’s eye to our SD card.

Last month I took a long hard look at my rarely used DSLR trying to figure out why it just wasn’t getting any love. First off, my favorite lens, my 20mm F2.8 prime lens just didn’t translate to the smaller frame sensor size very well. For years I had considered selling the 20D and getting a full frame 5D MKII and adding a 16-35 F2.8L to the bag but for as little use as it got, I just couldn’t justify the cost. The size made it inconvenient to carry along since I had a daughter that require so much gear every time we left the house.

I stumbled upon an article reviewing the Fujifilm X series of cameras and it seemed to fit the bill of allowing me to have a small and extremely capable body that I could get with a wide angle lens. So I figured I would set the ships on fire and sell my current kit which would pay for the Fuji system. Even though the Fuji X-E2 had just come out I figured I’d dip my toe in the water as well as save some money and get the X-E1, after all, from everything I read they were pretty much the same camera with the X-E2 being a little snappier.

Let me just say that I adore this camera! It is everything I had hoped for and even more. As I had envisioned, its size allows me to take it with me more often than not and the images I get from it are stunning. But I did quickly hit a couple of limits with the camera rather quickly. First off, I use speedlights most of the time and sometimes I need to crush the ambient which calls for a fast shutter speed. The camera’s top sync speed is 1/180th of a second but there was no way to set it. I could set it to 1/125 and hope that was enough for push the command dial arrow to go to 1/160 or 1/200, but not 1/180. I found that it would inconsistently return to 1/125 which drove me nuts.

The other thing that made we want to lose my mind was trying to photography my 3 year old daughter who never stops moving. Trying to get a picture of her was like trying to photograph Bigfoot. Rare and blurry and the occasion you caught her out in the open. The X-E1’s autofocus system just couldn’t keep up.

It was rumored online that the X-E2 had come with the ability to set the shutter speed at 1/180th and had a much improved autofocus system. So even though I has just bought my X-E1 a month ago, I ordered the X-E2 body to see if it was any better. I did quite a bit of research to see if it was worth the upgrade and posted in some photo forums to get people’s opinion, but there was little real data to base my decision upon so I would have to see for myself.

There are quite a few changes from the X-E1 to the X-E2 and I won’t belabor them all, but did want to touch on a few points since I was having trouble finding information where someone had used both and could speak to the true nature of the autofocus performance of the new model. So with that in mind here are my initial thoughts on the new X-E2 body 24 hours after it was delivered.

fuji_x-e2

I received the X-E2 yesterday and haven’t had too much time to test it out, but so far, I like it. Right off the bat just looking at the two side by side there are some obvious changes like the bigger screen and buttons have been moved around a bit. I give those things a solid, “meh.” Maybe I am just used to the old locations of the X-E1’s buttons, but I never had any heartburn with them. To be honest, the more buttons you have the more things I tend to accidentally push. The X-E1 struck just about a perfect balance between ease of access to common features and too much stuff to get in the way. Not a deal breaker, but just giving my initial impressions of my time with it. One thing I REALLY like is that I can select the highest sync speed of 1/180th of a second on the shutter speed dial. Nice fix, Fuji! Going from +/- 2 stops to +/- 3 stops exposure compensation up there is nice too.
The Wifi is nifty but not stellar. Yes, you can geotag now and push photos off of it but it’s a bit onerous to use at the moment. If they firmware the X-E2 to use your iPhone as a remote shutter release, that would be the bee’s knees. Let’s hope they backport that from the X-T1 soon.
Alright, now the good stuff, the reason I upgraded, the Auto Focus. There is a noticeable speed increase overall with the X-E2 which by itself wouldn’t be worth the price to upgrade. But some of the new AF features certainly justified the cost to me. Face recognition is a great feature and seems to work faster than me moving the focus point around with the arrows but not quite as fast as hitting the eyes and recomposing, which has its own issues. Low light AF is also better but it seems that something with the new sensor’s PDAF system gives it better AF in low light at the center of the screen. For example, I set the focus point near the right side and couldn’t get a backlit 3 year old in focus. It would hunt and just wouldn’t lock on despite all my attempts. Then I moved it to the center and boom! Locks right on. I was able to repeat that little test so it doesn’t seem like an anomaly, rather how the PDAF pixels are located and weighted. I didn’t try it in continuous mode yet, but will have to play with it more to see what changes have been added there. The focus point is also a square whereas the X-E1 was a rectangle and pushing the center button would snap it back to the center focus point which was a nice shortcut that no longer exists on the X-E2. You have to now hit the back button to snap it back to the center AF point.
To test it out I setup a couple of Speedlghts, one with a Softbox III and the other with a little snoot and just snapped away at my little girl who never stops moving. With the X-E1 I would get a SD card of blurry, but I was very happy with how well the X-E2 did locking on to my little maniac and getting a pretty high success rate of photos that were useable and sharp. Kudos to Fuji for their work on the AF improvements!

So, in summery, the new features of the X-E2 are great, but if you’re on the fence about your X-E1, take the money and buy more glass unless you really need the faster AF. Otherwise be happy with the X-E1 and hold out for the X-E3.

For me, I’m glad I took the gamble and upgraded since it addressed the big issues I had with the X-E1’s autofocus system and high shutter sync speed.

I hope this is helpful to anyone who is trying to get more info on whether or not to upgrade, and like I mentioned, I was pretty frustrated trying to get info on the practical differences between the two, not just spec sheet data, hence this post.

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