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Mike Kobal

November 26, 2012

Field report: shooting a portrait essay with the Fuji X-E1:

Don's Passion opener

I recently had the luck to visit a good friend in Texas. I packed light for this trip, one compact tripod, one X-E1 body and three lenses, total weight for camera/lenses just under 1300 grams, including a Nikon/Fuji X adapter.
This was the first time I used the Fuji X-E1 for a portrait session. Can it replace a Pro DSLR and deliver equal results?
find out after the break

Don's Passion 01
Fuji X-E1, Rokinon 85mm, s1/250, f2.0, ISO 200
Don's Passion 02
Fuji X-E1, Fujinon 35mm f1.4, s1/2000, f1.4, ISO 640
Smith & Wesson, 44 Magnum

The Fuji’s X-E1 non threatening retro look qualifies it as a “people friendly” camera.

Don's Passion 03
Fuji X-E1, Fujinon 35mm f1.4, s1/4000, f1.4, ISO 200
Don's Passion 04
Fuji X-E1, Fujinon 35mm f1.4, s1/125, f4.5, ISO 200

I used only two lenses during this shoot, the Fujinon XF R 35mm 1.4 (53mm equivalent) and the Rokinon 85mm 1.4 in Nikon mount via adapter (128mm equivalent).

Don's Passion 05
Fuji X-E1, Fujinon 35mm f1.4, s1/2000, f2.0, ISO 1250
Don's Passion 06
Fuji X-E1, Fujinon 35mm f1.4, s1/125, f4.5, ISO 200
Smith & Wesson, 41 Magnum, engraved by John Kudlas

Let’s start with the Rokinon 85mm: I love this lens for portraits, especially outdoors when I have enough room to move around, it acts like a 128mm on a full frame sensor and produces incredible bokeh wide open and up to f2.8.
Manual focus was a breeze, the image snapped right into focus. I preferred the EVF over the LCD.
To really nail focus I used the 3x magnifier. I recommend a tripod or monopod for this focal length or anything longer, it would have been extremely difficult to nail focus without one.
One of the caveats I had with manual focus was the inability to use the magnifier while the camera wrote the data to the card. (The camera was set to full manual mode). The crispness and clarity of the EVF, especially when combined with a high speed tele lens like the 85mm is so good that I didn’t miss focus peaking, of course I would still love to see it implemented through the next firmware, it would be incredibly useful, however, for very shallow depth of field and portrait applications, the current 3xmagnifer works well enough.

07doDon's Passion 07
Fuji X-E1, Rokinon 85mm, s1/250, f2.0, ISO 200
Don's Passion 08
Fuji X-E1, Fujinon 35mm f1.4, s1/250, f3.6, ISO 200

The Fujinon XF R 35mm f1.4 is an incredible lens. The center sharpness wide open was already mind blowing and I loved the fact that it focused down to 0.28m (quite unique for a high speed lens). It was possible to get real close without a designated macro lens. Great for environmental portraits and detail shots, the shallow depth of field this little lens produced on the APSC sized sensor can truly rival the bokeh-ness of full frame cameras-if you know how to use it.
Focus accuracy was spot on wide open and I never felt autofocus speed to be a problem although it was not as fast as it would have been on my D800E or the 5D3. The camera was set to single af point/largest size. Getting real close without having to activate the macro mode came in very handy for all the product shots. Moving the af point around was annoying at times since I had to push the AF button first to activate it, I hope we will see a fix in the future.

Don's Passion 09
Fuji X-E1, Fujinon 35mm f1.4, s1/250, f1.6, ISO 200
Don's Passion 10
Fuji X-E1, Fujinon 35mm f1.4, s1/2000, f3.6, ISO 1600
Smith & Wesson, 44 Magnum, hollow point bullets

The body:
Perfect for my medium sized hands and everything is in the right place, shutter speed dial, +- wheel and aperture can be changed by feel without ever taking the eye off the EVF. I had no problems shooting vertical as a “lefty”. During portraits the hardly audible shutter sound can be a problem if shooting in an environment where the subject can’t hear it. We had serious background noise from a near by construction site and my friend missed hearing the shutter sound a few times when I was shooting with the 85mm. (I opted out of silent mode-my default setting- and things improved). I was close enough with the 35mm, no problems there, even in silent mode. The most frustrating part during this session was the OVF’s/LCD auto exposure display in manual mode. The reason I chose manual mode was to purposefully over or underexpose. Manual settings need to be correctly displayed in the EVF and on the LCD. One of the must-fixes via next firmware. Other then that, the EVF produced a clear image which made mf easy and due to the static nature of this shoot the slow refresh rate wasn’t a problem.

Compared to a Pro DSLR portrait kid:
After this session I am confident to say I would do it again. I didn’t miss my usual portrait kit, the Nikon D800E with a 50mm 1.4G lens, the Rokinon 85mm 1.4 and the Nikon 180mm f2.8. I preferred the 128mm equivalent I got from the 85mm over the 180mm. I did not miss the optical viewfinder and I will miss it even less once manual exposure will be correctly displayed. And then there is of course the weight issue, the Nikon D800E body weighs in at 2200 grams. The X-E1, the 35mm 1.4, 18mm 2.0, 85mm 1.4 with X mount adapter, weighs in at a total of 1288 grams!

Everything was shot in natural daylight and I seriously doubt the results would look significantly different if I had used my standard kit. The Fuji X-E1, just like the X-Pro1 and X100 are very likeable cameras and this can help relax the person in front of the camera, something I consider far more important than looking at a 400% crop of the lower left corner ;) .


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21 Comments »

  1. Nice work! Did you shoot RAW or JPEG? Film simulation mode or Dynamic range adjustments?

    Comment by Eli — November 27, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

  2. thanks much, Eli! everything was shot raw and converted to dng via latest converter. the whole problem shooting raw drove me crazy during the time i owned the x pro1, the main reason i ended up selling it. the latest converter does a pretty good job, not perfect but doesn’t affect my type of work in a negative way, a friend of mine is a landscape shooter and he is definitely affected, has problems with chroma smearing and reproducing foliage, he ends up shooting jpeg and raw and uses silky pix for his best shots

    Comment by mike.kobal — November 27, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

  3. Mike, you made my day! I have an x-e1 in the mail and was hoping to use it as a replacement for my DSLR for some jobs.

    Comment by Martin Ranger — November 27, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

  4. definitely, i compared the raw quality to the D800E in crop mode and the X-E1 is slightly superior :) seriously thinking about getting a second body, makes the perfect travel kit and sometimes I need a still camera along my video shoots, this will be the one from now on

    Comment by mike.kobal — November 28, 2012 @ 10:57 am

  5. hi mike, lovely series! i am very impressed with the close ups of the 44 magnum, good to know to be able to get that close with the 35mm

    Comment by bernhard — November 28, 2012 @ 11:01 am

  6. thanks bernhard! definitely a bonus, esp with a high speed lens

    Comment by mike.kobal — November 28, 2012 @ 11:04 am

  7. Very nice mini-review and fine images. Makes me consider trading my Nex 7 in on one; what do you think? Fuji sure makes nice sensors and the body control layout looks way better than my 7. mmmm

    Comment by ron greer — November 29, 2012 @ 1:07 am

  8. Hi Ron, the Fuji is definitely a better people camera the controls are straight forward, best apsc sensor on the market and more then adequate AF speed esp with the 18mm in good light. Best jpeg output of any camera on the market. However in raw and converting to dng chroma noise smear can be a problem esp when shooting foliage/nature/landscape.

    Comment by mike.kobal — November 29, 2012 @ 8:57 am

  9. [...] mikekobal review [...]

    Pingback by X-E1 reviews: differences to DSLR | Fuji Rumors — December 1, 2012 @ 4:26 am

  10. Mike, some great insights and fantastic images. Re: landscape/ nature shots, is the X-E1 a no go? Is it better to stick with ‘normal’ sensors? You also mentioned your friend using silky pix – how much of the chroma smearing & foliage problem does this resolve?

    Comment by Steve Caudwell — December 1, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

  11. Hi Steve, thanks! The sensor is fantastic for landscapes, just ACR conversions can cause problems, esp with wide angle lenses. I personally think its worth the trouble to use silkypix for the money shots, there won’t be any chroma smearing, as good as ooc jpegs with the obvious raw advantage, using it as a default converter though will really only appeal to the hard core masochist.

    Comment by mike.kobal — December 1, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

  12. Hi Mike, I curious about your combination of lens and lens adapter. From what I can see the Rokinon has an apeture control ring but you have used an adpater with aperture control ring as well.

    Is this necessary when using an F mount lens on the Fuji X-E1?

    The reason I ask is that I am considerng getting an X-E1 and a Zeiss 85mm 1.4 with Nikon F mount to Nikon X lens adapter but I am not sure if I will need an adapater with or without an apeture control ring.

    Any advice you could provide would be great.

    Great pics by the way.

    Comment by Angus — December 1, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

  13. Hi Angus, if the lens has manual aperture control/ring you won’t need it. However, the adapter is just a few bucks more and will allow you to use g lenses or any other lenses without an aperture ring down the road

    Comment by mike.kobal — December 1, 2012 @ 11:36 pm

  14. [...] the 56mm 1.4 to be introduced in 2012, seemed more what I wanted than the Sony offers. In the end, Mike Kobal’s field report clinched the [...]

    Pingback by Fuji XE-1: Initial Impresions | Martin Ranger | Blog — December 7, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

  15. Great quality images, and great information you provide. I’m very impressed with your blog.

    This Nikon converter will open up some interesting possibilities for me. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by R.j. Knackstedt — December 7, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

  16. thank you! glad to hear you found something useful. if i may suggest, get the 50mm 1.8 G lens, reasonable price, focuses faster then the 1.4 G on the D800 and due to the light weight balances great on the fuji’s :)

    Comment by mike.kobal — December 7, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

  17. [...] هستند ( راستی در ایران دیده شده است؟) Google Translate Field report: shooting a portrait essay with the Fuji X-E1: � Mike Kobal Test Fujifilm X-E1 : gestion du bruit �lectronique – Focus Num�rique Fujifilm X-E1 review – [...]

    Pingback by Fujifilm X-E1 - صفحه 6 — December 17, 2012 @ 11:12 am

  18. These are breathtakingly beautiful. They would be great published in a Guns N’ Ammo magazine. I love my Fuji X-E1, and will hopefully have the 35mm lens soon. I am still trying to find the perfect RAW converter though. What is your favorite nowadays?

    Comment by Lainer — February 16, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

  19. Thank you very much, Lainer. I am converting to dng for now, I found turning sharpening off completely minimizes the squirly-esque noise/grain pattern. Still waiting for the perfect raw converter …..

    Comment by mike.kobal — February 16, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

  20. Just happened on this.

    Great images. Not much of a useful critique I know, but they’re great.

    Comment by Robert — October 25, 2013 @ 11:34 am

  21. thanks Robert!

    Comment by mike.kobal — October 25, 2013 @ 11:39 am

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