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Monday, 03 June 2013


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> As Ken Tanaka once wryly noted, "Wherever I go, there I am."

Ken was paraphrasing Buckaroo Banzai, surely?

Just a question...

Any comments on the artifacting the Fuji X series appear to suffer from?


I can't remember the last time I saw the word Spiratone used in a sentence.

Isn't it encouraging when a company does something unexpected like Fuji did when it made this line of camera. Must be an interesting place to work. Aperture rings! Sometimes I still reach for one, and I haven't owned one in a decade.

Thanks for this, Jim. There's an enthusiastic and helpful Fuji X community over at http://www.fujix-forum.com/ that's happily exploring what these cameras can do.

Jim, I was delighted to see you have the Canon 19mm lens to try out. I have one, purchased in Chicago around 1970. I have tried it on Leica's M8 and M9, but because the lens sits so deep in the camera, and its light strikes the edges of the frame at such a glancing angle, all sorts of nasty things happen at the edges of the frame. Things that don't bother you on film, like color shifts due to interactions with the microlenses that are found above the digital pixel sites on the Silicon imager. I'd love to know what happens in your setup.


Very nice review, and lots of interesting info... but I get the sense overall that most of the positives given are simply because they conform more closely to what you are used to. I.e., a good camera in your opinion is one that doesn't make you have to change anything at all about your shooting.

I see that for someone who stuck with a camera made in the '60s, and film until it quit being available, that makes a lot of sense. But it seems odd to think that way to this (casual, amateur) photographer in this day and age though.

Ah, nostalgia. I had a Canon 7 for awhile with a 50/1.8, 28/3.5, 35/1.8 & 100/3.5. But I was in the middle of my thrashing period and sold it off in the quest for something better, I forget what.

I still use my Rolleicord & LF for B&W film with an E-PL1 for digital color. It doesn't bug me as much as you but then I can't let it do so. Nice as your Fuji sounds, I've bought into the Pen series and can barely afford that. To go with Fuji, no matter how much better, will probably never be an option for me, alas.

Thank you for the reminder of what cameras once were, though. My rangefinder time gave me the chance to play with some of the finest cameras ever made - Retina, Canon, Leica & most especially a Contax with a 50/2.8 uncoated Tessar that was a delight to use. Even with my Nikkors on it, my Pen is but a pale imitation of those days. I suppose I should go yell at kids to get off my lawn, but instead I think I'll grab the Rollei and go for a walk instead... :)

Well you are obviously a talented photographer and can get a great shot with a box camera. As I was lugging my 1Dx around yesterday, I was thinking, with my lack of talent, I could probably do just as well, really as poorly, with a small mirrorless system. Alas, I like carrying around the big kahuna, I guess. Great article.

Jim's review seems off to a good start. I look forward to examples of the photos he's produced so far, which I hope will provide insight into how he uses the camera.

While I use and operate my X-Pro 1 very differently than Jim uses his, I really enjoy owning the X system. The XF lenses range from very good to excellent. There are several raw platforms that produce excellent results from XTrans raw. You do have be aware that rendering parameters that work well for Bayer sensors with AA filters will not be appropriate for XTrans raw rendering. I never use jpegs.

I finally found a replacement for the Zeiss Ikon M system I use to carry daily but abandoned because using film became impractical for me. My mis-focused reject rate with the Fuji is about the same as it was for the analog RF. Iin other words, missing focus today is due to user error rather than firmware/hardware short comings.

Thank you Fuji. I can't wait to buy the next round of prime XF lenses.

My next camera purchase is the XE-1. I currently shoot with the X-Pro1 and after finally giving it a decent run out I am getting used to using it and, more importantly, really enjoying using it.

I want to get back to my previous two camera setup, for quick changes between primes on street and documentary work. As I use the OVF less than I thought I would (partly due to its unnecessarily conservative frame lines), the XE-1 makes the most sense.

My setup, including using MF and the AF-L button on the back is pretty much the same as Jim's though I have a habit of using film simulation bracket unless I need fast response times between shots, as it locks the camera for a couple of seconds.

A word of warning: During the early learning stages, I spent a good deal of time cursing at the camera and my flash remotes while trying to setup a shot. As it turns out enabling the silent mode in the camera will suppress the flash. I subsequently spent far too long testing the remotes with other cameras and searching for my long lost sync cable (which I found, so something good came out of it) before a quick dose of RTFM put me in the right direction!

Rockwell likes his images as saturated as possible with a velvia setting. They often don't look natural

"The Fuji lenses are just bulkier."

This is my complaint with all of today's cameras that aspire to the old rangefinder form factor. (Although I tip my hat to Fuji over all rivals for their innovate approach. Including the wonderful 667 MF folder)

I remember the days of heavy cameras well. I "graduated" from my beloved 7s to an F1 Canon tank. I loved that monster. I kept well into the 80's when I finally went crazy with equipment because I could finally afford to.
I love my X-100 but will probably graduate again to a Fuji E1.
Will it never end!?

Jim. I have never had the opportunity to say a belated thanks for your work on Camera 35 (which I always sorely missed). Patricia Caulfield published my very first pic' in Camera 35 (somewhere in the mid 60's) and I never missed an issue.
Thanks for the legacy.

Wonderful review. Why can't more camera reviews have this kind of real world character and substance? Thank you, Jim.

I have a question regarding the use of the external optical finder:

If using this, I assume one has to zone focus the lens, unless you want to focus with the EVF and then use the OVF to compose. (Which would be a bit redundant.)

Since all the MF lenses have focusing scales designed for 35mm cameras, how does one know what's in focus when shooting on a crop sensor digital camera?

I've thought about trying a Fuji in exactly this configuration, but never could figure out how I'd make it work.

Being very interested in this camera I can only thank you for this post! grazie

'A blogger named Ken Rockwell...'
you just made my day :-)

Lovely write up, by the way, many thanks for that. My wife has an X-Pro1 and loves it, but I prefer the 35mm equivalent of depth of field as well as focal length, so opted for a Leica M9 (once I'd sold most of my old gear, my kidneys, and given up on my dream of a campervan). I'm intrigued you weren't also tempted by something that allowed you to stick more closely with what you knew from 35mm film. Or were you?

Very nice write up.

I notice Jim didn't compare the "Q menu" system on the X-E1 to the "Super Control Panel" on the Olympus E-PL1. It does the same job in the same way (and mostly means you don't need to menu dive when shooting: set up the camera then use the SCP/Q menu).

It might be because to find it you need to know it is there and then turn on the Custom menu ("cog cog" menu) so you can use the CONTROL SETTINGS to enable the SCP and replace the "LIVE CONTROL" UI.


A slightly unfortunate example of trying to make the camera appear simpler than it one needs to be.

Hmzzz, went looking for an X-E1 at the lokal Saturn (big electronics discounter) just to check it out after the glowing review. Now of course no X-E1 (Venlo, the Waukesha of the Netherlands, remember, is part of being local).

But what did I find, a demo GH2 with 14-140 for 609 euro, while the lens alone is 599 euro in most Dutch shops. Which means a GH2 for a tenner.

Bought.....thanks Jim. Also from my dad, who owns the camera now.

Greets, Ed.

To be honest, I can't imagine choosing the X-E1 over the NEX-6 for adapted manual lenses: better sensor edge performance, better manual focus aids, better EVF performance (higher refresh rate,) the OVF shoe is directly over the lens, and you don't have to deal with X-trans, which, while providing great high ISO quality, sacrifices chroma resolution at lower ISOs, which is inherently part of the scheme. I've been shooting an X-trans camera for a few months, and I've tried every converter at there, and they all have trade offs, so my X-trans camera is going to the auction block.

To me, the appeal of the Fuji cameras is the hybrid viewfinder and their native lenses, although, now that Zeiss is making lenses for both Fuji and NEX, that is becoming less of an advantage.

"The X-E1 offers a choice of exposure-metering modes: "multi," which does more thinking than I want any computer to do for me..."

Huh? please explain, it's reading light levels, not your PIN numbers, does it work? How well? I always understood multi to be like centre weighted metering but more context aware. Is this a hair shirt thing going on?

David Anderson said:

"Optical image stabilization: don't be proud; give it a go, you will be amazed. I never switch it off unles I am using a tripod.

"On the X-Pro 1 and I assume on the XE-1 you can leave the 'Shoot Without Lens' turned on all the time even if using XF lenses. (I do certainly). UNQUOTE

I too keep the 'Shoot Without Lens' turned on all the time. (I use a Sony NEX5n)

And I also leave "Optical Image Stabilization" turned on all the time even if using a tripod. I have made tests using a tripod with OIS both on and off and could see no image relevant difference between the two. So I leave OIS on all the time to avoid forgetting to turn it on when I take the camera off the tripod.

I think it is a modern urban legend that IOS should be turned off when using a tripod.

I enjoyed reading your post Jim but this statement made me blink twice!

"The X-E1 body does not have image stabilization, but the zoom lens does. I keep it turned off. If I haven't learned how to hold a camera steady by now, I ought not to be photographing."

This is a camera which most certainly would appeal to anyone who spent years shooting an RF 35mm camera in the '60s and '70s but that does not mean it is somehow unapproachable to any modern amateur.

The appeal is a set of primary controls, aperture, shutter speed and EV comp, that are intuitive and easy to access and don't mysteriously change with the camera mode. Compared to any other CSC camera it's very simple to understand, even without using the menus, and a perfect starter camera for anyone wanting to learn photography.

It is a mystery to me (and a curse) that CSC manufacturers all seem hell bent on reinventing the wheel when it comes to the controls on each new camera. Why? None of them have improved in any measurable way over the basic, simple 1960's format.

But it's the optics that appeal more than anything else. With a few exceptions, I am unimpressed with the offerings on most other CSC devices, and very impressed with the optics that Fuji have produced, not least my current favourite, the 14mm F2.8, which shows remarkably little (uncorrected) distortion and impressive corner sharpness.

"The X-E1 body does not have image stabilization, but the zoom lens does. I keep it turned off. If I haven't learned how to hold a camera steady by now, I ought not to be photographing."

I used to say that too, until I had a stroke. Now I require IS, and look for body IS so I have it with all lenses.

"both have the same unusual random-pattern 16.3-MP sensor in 3:2 format (an important consideration for this 35mm no-crop shooter, who hated 4:3)."

Interesting. I've always disliked 3:2 (maybe because of newspaper training where 3:2 almost always had to be cropped) and always thought no-crop was nonsense (maybe because of newspaper training where almost everything was cropped to fit between two other things.) To find a serious shooter who likes/does both of those things is a reminder that there *are* other ways.

Still, 4/3 seems almost perfect to me. I can't wait for the GX2 to come out.

"This may sound counter-intuitive, but I have the Focus lever on the front always set to "M," ... allowing me to press, with my right thumb, the "AE-L/AF-L"

This is exactly the way I use mine, Jim. Decoupling AF from the shutter button is the first maneuver I search for on new cameras. (Side note: the inability to do this on the otherwise lovely Oly OMD bugs me to no end.)

I can appreciate your comment on the rugged build of old Canons. I have an old Canon F1 and an early M3; It is as if both are carved out of solid metal billets....Amazing and equal feel of quality.

Great review, the kind that makes you want to go out and buy- but I will fight off the urge; I went with the NEX7. Retro styling notwithstanding, the NEX offers all of the flexibility of the Fujis and the 1.8, 35mm Sony and 1.8 24 Zeiss lenses are outstanding.

I also use the old 1.5 summarit (came with the M3) on the NEX. For a lens that receives no real accolades, the summarit seems kind of magical when attached to the NEX. If you don't already own one, consider buying one. They are pretty cheap. I am curious to see what it renders when attached to one of the Fuji X models.

I rented an XE-1 for a few days to try it out, and quite liked it, though in the end the EVF just didn't do it for me. Not high resolution enough, too little dynamic range, and too laggy. Unfortunately I didn't like the lack of accuracy in the X-Pro1 OVF, and that camera is bigger enough to make a difference for casual portability.

The lenses are optically very good, but I was a bit disappointed with their build quality. Compared to the Limited primes on my Pentax, which are all aluminum, the Fuji lenses felt more plasticky, the aperture and focus rings lacked feel, and weren't any lighter weight for it (based on an in-hand comparison).

I ended up getting an X100s, which I'm excitedly waiting for from my local shop, hopefully here this week...

@Jay Goldman afraid you are wrong on KR.

"The VIVID/VELVIA mode is a crock. Yes, it's more vivid, but it does a very sloppy job, simply crushing the blacks to get more contrast instead of doing it well, as do Canon and Nikon."

unless he's changed his mind this week.

I actually like the Velvia setting on the Fuji. I feel so much better knowing he doesn't. Some reviews show images where the images are so desaturated they look totally unreal :)

Jim's book on Eugene Smith is my favorite work on photography! This post is equally wonderful, especially owing to the subject, which is currently my favorite digital camera system. I can't wait for part 2!

David, I understand your point: "most of the positives given are simply because they conform more closely to what you are used to". I have a XE-1 and I tried to understand if that is the case. And my answer is no, really this layout of controls (aperture ring, shutter speed dial) is really great ergonomically. If the exposure compensation dial would not be too easy to turn, It would be perfect.

@Kenneth Tanaka-

Suprised to read your comment that the OMD can't be set up to decouple the AF from the shutter button, as I also look to decouple auto focus from the shutter button as soon as I get a new camera and I have used my OMD that way exclusively since the first day.

Set the camera to S AF mode. Then choose mode 3 in the custom settings for the AEL/AFL custom settings (it puts AF on the AFL/AEL button but leaves AE coupled to the shutter button). Change the custom setting for Toggle/Lock for for AEL/AFL to Lock. Set the Movie button to be your AEL/AFL button.

Now focus the camera using AEL/AFL (Movie) button for auto focus, compose your frame and take the photo.

Untoggle the AF when you move on to a new subject or change your shooting position and refocus. You can use the MF ring to fine tune if you choose S AF/M.

So it's doable on the OMD EM5.

Cheers, JD in Australia

Re: "Wherever I go, there I am." The originator of the sentiment, I believe, was Fichte - but he said it in German, and he isn't nearly as popular as, say, Justin Beiber, so it's safe to steal from him.

(OT Addendum)
Thank you to everyone who took time to send me the solution for decoupling AF from the shutter button on my OMD. Very helpful and greatly enhanced my experience with that camera. Thank you, thank you!

@Kenneth Tanaka

It can be done! On the E-M5 the procedure is as follows (it's very similar for other Olympus models):
Under custom menu A, find the 'AEL/AFL' item; select it and then 'MF', and set to 'mode3'. You'll also need to configure one of the customizable buttons to 'AEL/AFL', if you haven't already, which can be done under custom menu B. Now, when you set the camera to MF mode, your designated 'AEL/AFL' button will perform S-AF.

Ah, thanks for the OMD instructions... I thought there was a way to do it. Now if only there was a proper big button on the back for AEL that my thumb could hit (not that little recessed that forces me to angle in with a nail.)

And getting back to the topic, thanks for the review, Jim, I found it enjoyable. Our one real camera shop in town has a beautiful new display case (Fuji supplied) loaded with the Fuji bodies and some lenses, and I ogle them frequently.

The necessity, or absence thereof, of turning optical stabilization off when using a tripod is highly implementation-dependent.

Here's what using VR on a tripod with my Nikon 70-200/2.8 VR at 1/30 second produces:

(Full article on my Vr test here and nearby on my website.)

David Anderson writes: "you can leave the 'Shoot Without Lens' turned on all the time." Thanks, I'll try it. That's what I get for believing the manual. As for image stabilization, I will continue to keep it turned off. My 76-year-old hands are already as steady as a tripod! But again, thanks.


Scott Kirkpatrick asked if I had tried my old 19mm f/3.5 Canon RF lens with the Fuji X-E1. I hadn't yet, but had high hopes. Now that he asked, I just went outside, shot a few frames in the garden and learned more than I wanted to know. To use one of Ctein's favorite words, the edges appeared "smeared," not surprising since the rear element almost touches the sensor. I will do a more thorough test when time allows, but it doesn't look hopeful.


Mark wrote: "A word of warning: During the early learning stages, I spent a good deal of time cursing at the camera and my flash remotes while trying to setup a shot. As it turns out enabling the silent mode in the camera will suppress the flash." Thanks, but I actually knew that from taking a magnifier to the manual. It doesn't apply to me, however, since the only time in the last 35 years I have used flash was to photograph a dead sump pump deep in a watery black hole in my basement so that the hardware store could sell me a proper replacement!


BH asked, regarding my bright-frame accessory finder: "Since all the MF lenses have focusing scales designed for 35mm cameras, how does one know what's in focus when shooting on a crop sensor digital camera?" The scales still work, as do depth-of-field indicators. Think of it this way: what's appears in focus on an 11x14 print will still be in focus if you crop that print down to 8x10. You could, however, achieve greater relative DOF on a camera with an APS-C sensor than you would with a so-called full-frame digital simply because the lenses used on the former would be shorter. For example, your "normal" lens for the smaller sensor would be a 35mm while for FF it would be a 50mm. Does that help clear the muddy water, or make it murkier?


Harry noted: "I prefer the 35mm [film] equivalent of depth of field as well as focal length, so opted for a Leica M9 (once I'd sold most of my old gear, my kidneys, and given up on my dream of a campervan). I'm intrigued you weren't also tempted by something that allowed you to stick more closely with what you knew from 35mm film. Or were you?" Of course I was tempted. But at $7-9,000 just for the body? I'm retired, and I quite enjoy not having to take the subway to work.

— Jim Hughes

Ah! A Main-ah! I'm in Rockland! I love love love my x-e1 with the 18-55 and my 35. I also shoot it with my legacy Minolta Rokkor lenses as well. I find myself shooting less and less with my D800 and d700...
I'm looking forward to the new 10-24 hopefully to be available before an upcoming stock shooting trip to NS.

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