After toying around with the mirrorless camera world, I got to appreciate the conveniences – what I call the throw-it-in-the-car effect. Mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X100 are light, small, and not prone to bang into things with a lens sticking out of the front.
Two years after purchase, I still love my Canon EOS M. I just had someone ask me about it on Flickr, and thought I’d share my review again.
It’s a great little camera as long as you accept its limitations.
Last year, for my birthday, I purchased a gently used Fuji X-E1 from fredmiranda.com, ushering in my entry to the Fujifilm system.
After many months of using (and a bit of abusing) this great little camera, I’m going to run down some thoughts on it.
Hey – it was my birthday. What other excuse do I need to buy a new camera?
But really, it was after seeing the incredible work of La Roque and others that first attracted me to the Fujifilm system. There was a magic in these cameras, they told me, similar to Leica and Apple and all those cultish (and quality) consumer brands.
The key was to buy into the system at a discount, which is why I went with a used Fuji X-E1, the consumer-grade Fujifilm camera. For $300, I bought into a whole new camera and lens system. I also purchased the Fujinon 27mm pancake lens during last spring’s rebate. Everything was affordable, and I felt I wasn’t losing much even if my new-camera experiment didn’t work out.
It was an easy way to see what all the fuss was about. So I did it.
Happy birthday, me!
First, much like my Canon EOS M, I can see why photographers are singing the praise of mirrorless cameras. The lightness and portability are a definite plus.
In fact, the X-E1 is almost too light – or too hollow. That’s why I’m thankful my X-E1 seller included a leather case. The heft the case adds feels more natural in my hands. Even with that, though, the camera and lens combo is light. Featherweight, even. It makes my Canon M feel like a solid brick of metal.
The pancake lens adds almost nothing to the weight, and very little to the size. That may be a different story with something like the Fujinon 35mm, but I set this system up to be portable and small.
I knew that this wasn’t a DSLR, and that not everything would be accessible as a button or switch. So menu hunting gets a little old sometimes. But as long as I’m thoughtful, and think through a shooting session, I get by okay.
And can we talk about style? For someone’s who’s not concerned with fashion, getting the fun “is that a film camera?” comments has been a hoot for me. It becomes a topic of conversation, even with strangers.
Everyone’s right: there’s something very special about these Fuji photo files. I knew that from my few weeks using a Fujifilm X100 a few summers back.
I’ll say that the X100 had something really special about it. I look back at those files and realize that the X-E1′s don’t quite match up. It could be the lens that makes the difference. I don’t know. But there is a difference – those X100 images are stellar.
The X-E1′s? Still great. There’s a coldness to them, but they’re certainly sharp. I’ve found that I don’t enjoy using the film simulation modes. They do things with colors that are not pleasing to my eye. The black and white modes work pretty well, though.
The color rendering, the feel, the controls. It’s not a system that is quantitatively better if you ask me, but it is a system that just makes you feel like you have the chance to create something special every time you press the shutter release because the cameras and lenses themselves feel very special to use.
The cameras? Yes. The photo files? Maybe.
It could be that my eyes are use to seeing Canon files. It could be the sharpness is off-putting sometimes – it’s hard to describe, but there’s a crispness to the images that’s almost too much.
All in all, the Fuji X-E1 has been a great little camera. Portable, flexible, fashionable, and not obnoxious. It certainly has its quirks.
I do find myself missing Canon image files. Maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten so used to them, but the “coldness” in the Fuji files, and something about the color, isn’t as pleasing to me.
For the near future, I do see trying out a Fujinon 35mm. The 27mm makes for a fine walk-around lens, but to get truly creative, I feel like the shallow depth of field on the 35mm will open some options. And people have (mostly) nothing but good things to say about it.
Cameras contribute to the creative process in the sense that if you ‘click’ with your camera, you are more likely to get to know it by shooting with it regularly. And the more you shoot the more interesting it gets.
I don’t usually post links to anything about gear, but this relates to my last article about inventing. Dave Lawrence is testing where constraints lead to the greatest creativity. This is exactly what it’s all about:
“You push yourself a bit beyond the comfortable, but sometimes it’s a bit too far.”
That’s why I ended up grabbing a Canon 5D (mark I, natch) a few months ago off of fredmiranda.com. Many would agree that it’s a classic camera: sturdy, innovative at release, and capable of producing beautiful photos.
It’s also my first foray into the world of full-frame digital photography. My Canon Rebel T1i has done me well these past four years, but I’m prepping myself for a Canon 6D purchase this summer. Before I take that plunge, I wanted to test out a full frame camera, so I went shopping for a 5D.
It has not disappointed. It’s built like a tank, it produces sharp, beautiful photo files, and it’s not that much bigger or heavier than my T1i. And the reach! Those EF lenses are at their best when they showcase their maximum focal length.
What doesn’t it do? It doesn’t do movies. Or HDR (thank goodness). Or double exposures. Or even Auto ISO. The Canon 5D is closer to a photographer’s camera – purely focused on photography – that just about anything released these days. All you can do is make photos with it.
Grab a CF card (still available) and a card reader, and Lightroom has access to everything the 5D produces. In that way, it’s as relevant today as it was when it was released almost a decade ago.
No, the ISO isn’t as bump-able as today’s Mark III version. And the file size is smaller. But I share my photos mainly online, with a few 8×10″ prints here and there, and for those reasons the classic 5D is good enough. And I’m not alone – some of my favorite photographers working today still use the 5D (with one lens!).
I also saved a bunch of money on a full-frame camera.
Eventually the thing will wear out. The 100k shutter lifespan is quickly approaching. Even when it does die, I imagine I’ll have taken lots of photos with it. It will serve me well in, what, a few years? Maybe more?
It’s a low-end approach to photography: buy a classic camera that’s in good shape, save some money, and enjoy the benefits of Good Enough.