Unlike my earlier posts, this is not a Fuji love-fest. When photographing plants and other inanimate objects in my office, it was easy to be mesmerized by the sharpness of the lenses and the surprisingly rapid focus acquisition. My field experience would prove otherwise.
The first thing I noticed was the difficulty of making exposure adjustments. While the ability to see both the shutter speed and aperture setting when viewing the camera from above, it wasn't as convenient (for me, at least) as viewing the control panel located atop most DSLR cameras. Pressing the clearly marked ISO or the White Balance buttons on the body would display the current settings in the control panel. Checking these settings in an X-camera requires you to look for the shutter and aperture settings in two different locations, and then switch to the viewfinder/LCD display to access menus to change the ISO and white balance. After years of working with digital Nikon bodies, this difference was more than a little inconvenient. Granted, there are programmable keys on the X bodies, but one would need to remember what these programmed functions were, something I haven’t really considered until now. But when used under even lighting conditions (open shade in the case of Photo #2), the X-E1 proved to be an excellent camera. This shot, made with the 35mm 1.4 shot wide open, is just about perfect.
Flash! Fuji's EF-42 Flash is definitely not up to the X camera’s professional potential. First off, this dedicated flash was extremely difficult to adjust on the fly.
- The flash has only two adjustment buttons: one to select the mode, and one to make the adjustments.
- The adjustments are changed in an “around the world” mode: You can go from full power to half power, but returning to full power requires a trip through quarter, eighth, sixteenth, and thirty-second power before you can get back on top.
- Plus and minus flash Exposure Compensation, along with zoom (beam spread) adjustments must be done by navigating to a specific menu dedicated to each adjustment.
- Exposure Compensation for the flash was only +/- 1.5 stops in 1/2 stop increments, compared to Nikon's +/- 3 stops in 1/3 stop increments. This is too narrow a range to be of much use beyond the liberal requirements of a "party flash", and can make it difficult to fill shadows at short shooting distances.
- When the flash is mounted in the hot shoe, you can no longer see the shutter speed dial.
The X-E1's Flash Synchronization: The X body itself has limits. The maximum flash synchronization speed of 1/180th of a second translates into relatively small apertures when shooting in daylight. To get this shot (Photo #3), I switched to my X100s set to 1/400 of a second, 5.6, ISO 200, and the flash set to manual, full power. You can see the flash improves the detail in the shadow side of the children's faces , even at a distance of over 20 feet. The image was cropped severely.
The Nugget: After some thought, I felt I could summarize the Fuji X-camera experience by saying this:
- You set the exposure on an X-camera; you control it on a DSLR.
- X-cameras are marginally more responsive when it comes to handling (weight, eye placement), while DSLRs are more responsive when it comes adjustments.
Both the Leica M3 and the Nikon F had their adherents when Kodak was king, and with the introduction of the Fuji X-cameras we have a way to experience two different approaches to photography in a digital venue. Obviously Burrows knew the circumstances when one camera platform would be superior to the other, and in his choice of both rangefinders and SLRs, appears to have been well prepared for whatever came his way.