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Friday, December 06, 2013

Fuji Follow-Up



It's been two years since I fell down the Fuji rabbit hole. It's been a wonderful (and public) experience, and I probably get asked more questions about Fuji than anything else.

So today we're taking a small side trip from lighting and heading into mirrorless. Apologies to the uninterested. I'l be back soon. But for those considering a foray into Fuji, I hope you'll find this helpful.
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Long story short, they have changed nearly everything about my photography. I travel much lighter, am more likely to have a camera on me and end up shooting lots more photos as a result. I just edited out my 2013 faves, and was not surprised to find that 18 out of 22 of them were shot with an X-Series camera.

I have no hesitation taking them on paying jobs, and have never been disappointed by them in that respect. My Nikons have fallen to a state of only occasional use. Like my friend Zack Arias, I am far more likely to bounce between the Fujis and the Phase. (With the former getting far more use than the latter.)

One of my favorite things about them (other than the leaf shutter on the 100's) is the consistency of the chip across the platform of different cameras. What chip a Fuji sports is a function of when it was made, not how much it costs.

As a result, you can choose your camera based on features, UI and/or cost—and still get the same quality of image.

If you are thinking of taking the plunge, here is a quick rundown that might help you to better choose which model is for you.


Original X100



My first Fuji, pictured above, which I just this week willed to a friend. The first iteration of this camera was a love-hate thing. There were a couple of things it got wrong, but so much it got right.

Amazingly, Fuji dropped a major firmware release which closed much of the performance and UI gap between this camera and the X100s, which was it's replacement. This is pretty unheard of, and I applaud Fuji for doing it.

As a result the original X100, which can be had on eBay for ~$600 on a good day, is an obvious choice for the cash-strapped. It's not an X100s, but with much-improved manual focusing, focus peaking and a much better normal-to-macro transition distance, it is great value for dollar.

Like the X100s it also has a leaf shutter, which makes is a positively amazing camera for shooting flash outdoors.


The X100s



I am proud to say I bought the very first X100s sold on the planet, and I have fallen in love with this camera. X100 firmware upgrade notwithstanding, this thing is still better than its predecessor in every respect. Except for price.

It is fast, sharp, fluid and (like the X100) dead quiet. This is the camera that goes with me nearly everywhere, and I will gladly travel with just this body.

If you can handle a fixed, sharp 35mm equivalent f/2 lens, it's a no-brainer. And they are finally caught up with demand, so you don't have to wait.


The X-M1



This tiny little camera gets you a great chip in a very different user interface. To save space and money it eschews the viewfinder (no optical or EVF) and instead gives you an articulated (tilt, not flip) viewing screen.

I use the tilted screen like a big, juicy waist-level finder. And with focus peaking turned on it is nearly flawless as such. This allows me to remain in eye contact with my subject, which is fantastic.

The built-in wi-fi is awesome in theory (xmit full-sized jpegs wirelessly to your phone and then to anywhere) but the supplied apps are a bit hinky in my experience. I'd love to see Fuji offload that programming via an API. One can only imagine what motivated photographer/programmers could do with this. We have suggested this to Fuji and are crossing our fingers.

I feel the X-M1 makes a much better 2nd X-camera for a photographer than it does a primary one. And you can swap cards and transmit files form other X-cameras via the X-M1's wi-fi functions.


The X-Pro 1



Think bigger, with all of the bells and whistles, and a more robust-feeling camera. The optical/electronic viewfinder is fantastic—if you do not wear glasses. Those of you who, like me, wear glasses, will find the eye relief and lack of a variable diopter confusingly frustrating.

But for those of you who do not wear glasses, it is a first-rate body. If you can afford it. For those of you who wear glasses I would instead suggest an X-E1 or an X-E2, depending on your budget.


The X-E1



The X-E1 has proved to be Fuji's most popular X-camera, and for good reason. It is a great compromise of features and price. It's not as fast or fluid as an X100s, but does offer access to Fuji's excellent interchangeable lenses in a more compact body that the X-Pro 1.

With the release of the X-E2, I think the remaining X-E1s may represent the best combination of features, form factor and price in the interchangeable lens cameras.

If you see a good price on one, I'd buy it without hesitation.


The X-E2

The X-E2 gets incremental improvements all around as compared to the X-E1, but that's not to say the X-E1 is not useable. Quite the reverse. The X-E2 is just faster and better at everything.

The X-E2 adds the wi-fi found in the X-M1, so that feature appears to be about when the camera was released rather than how much it cost. I love that Fuji doesn't neuter the internal platform features based on the cost of the camera.

(I'M LOOKING AT YOU, NIKON…)

The X-E1 and X-E2 also have a remote jack, where the other bodies don't. That's odd, and important to know if you are into things that require it.


What About Lenses?



That's a personal thing, and will be different depending on your needs. But my favorite lenses, in order, are the 23mm (35) f/2 built-in lens on the X100 and X100s, the 35mm (50) f/1.4 and the 14mm (21) f/2.8. These are all total gold.

The 18-55/2.8-4 zoom is quite good, too. But it is f/4 out long so that will be a limitation. But don't think of it as a kit zoom—it's better than that.


What About The 23mm/1.4?

It's amazing wide open. If you need f/1.4, take the plunge with confidence. But to my mind, if I had, say, an X-E1 system and I wanted a fast 35mm equivalent, I'd think seriously about just grabbing an X100 or an X100s.

For not much more (or less, if you choose the X100) you get an amazing camera around an f/2 version. And because of the hand-hold-ability (that's a word) of the X100 body type as compared the focal plane shutter behind the f/1.4, I'd say you are giving up only ⅔ of a stop, net. Maybe even only ⅓.
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What I Tell People Who Ask

• If you can live with a 35mm (equivalent) fixed lens, get an X100s if you can afford it or an X100 if things are tight.

• I think the recently replaced X-E1 represents far and away the best value play in the interchangeable lens models.

• The X-Pro 1 is not great for eyeglass wearers.

• Look beyond the (very good) kit zoom and think about the 35 and 14 primes. They are epic.

• And lastly, there is a learning curve to these cameras. But it is soooo worth it. I think they're wonderful. Especially the X100s, which is my favorite camera I have ever owned.
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Got a comment? Disagreement? Rant? Question? Use the twitter hashtag #StrobistFuji and include "@Strobist" if it is important that I see it. And obviously, feel free to argue passionately amongst yourselves.

Pics on this post were all shot with X-cameras, though not necessarily by the camera being talked about nearest the photo.


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