Analog Experience, Digital Flexibility
May 21, 2014
I purchased this camera a week ago online, and I have to admit that it has exceeded all of my expectations thus far.
For years, I've shot a Pentax K1000 film camera. This has always been my favorite camera; unfortunately, development costs associated with film have made it far too expensive for general use. I took the plunge and upgraded to its digital successor at the time, the K30.
The K30 takes stunning photos. It really does. There are numerous reasons as to why I love that camera as well, but there was one glaring weakness with the camera that I could never have anticipated.
The camera felt too "modern." Too sophisticated. Somewhere in the technological leap between 1964 and 2014, some of that romance was lost in transition.
Enter the XE-1.
The Fujifilm XE-1 is arguably the single closest thing to an analog experience you can achieve in a digital age. The design has a distinctly retro feel. And beyond aesthetics, the actual functionality of the camera is also distinctly analog.
I love the discrete knobs which control shutter speed, exposure compensation, focusing type, and aperture (rotating a dial on the lens), as well as a programmable function button (which I elected to use to control ISO, yet it could be programmed to numerous other functions such as white balance). I liked the idea that each function had its own discrete knob or switch, and I found myself spending far less time in the menu screens on the camera and spent more time composing my shots.
The actual picture quality is peerless. As many have said before me, "Fuji just understands color." They truly do. The color rendition on this camera is absolutely gorgeous. Tones meld into one another without any gradients whatsoever. Skin tones are healthy, vibrant, and lifelike. And with the ability to use Fuji's "film simulation" package, you can mimic many popular film effects. My personal favorite is the Velvia simulation,which renders everything far more vibrant and saturated without appearing overly processed.
The "kit" lens which comes with this camera is only a "kit lens" by name, and only by virtue of the fact that it is included in the basic kit. It is fully constructed out of metal, and has a pleasing range as well as a delightful F2.8 at the wide end. This is a workhorse walkaround lens that provides exceptional versatility and quality, and outstrips any other "kit" lens I've ever dealt with.
The large rear viewfinder is not an awful lot to get excited over in terms of quality. It is actually below average, I'm afraid. This is not much of a distraction however, as you really will only be using this to navigate menus and such. The electronic viewfinder however, is perfectly reasonable, and is accurate enough to give you a great idea of what your shots will appear to be. Some people have said that it lagged a bit if you pan the camera back and forth quickly, and while this may be true, this is not a camera for action or sports photography. So I don't really see this as being a significant detriment.
The autofocus on this camera is not terribly quick, but with the latest firmware upgrade, it by no means is terrible. Again, this is likely not the camera for you if you like to take pictures of sports or other fast-moving objects. This is a camera used predominately for candid portraits, still life, landscapes, and casual engagements. Sports and race cars aside, this is a fairly wide application range.
There are a number of lenses to choose from outside of the kit lens, and there are also all sorts of delightful accessories to accompany this camera such as flashes and external microphones, adding a great deal of versatility to this little camera.
This camera isn't a jack-of-all-trades. If you're brand new to photography and don't necessarily understand the fundamentals, this camera will undoubtedly punish you. If not least, you certainly won't be getting the maximum benefit from this camera, as the main ethos of its operation is to consider all of the aspects of your shot before you take it, rather than just blindly shooting and hoping for the best.
But at the end of the day, I'm completely in love with this little thing. I love it to death. Add a 35mm f1.4 and a 60mm f2.4 to this camera and I might never need another thing. This camera has single handedly restored my love of photography, because that's how I approach the way I use this camera. I'm not just taking pictures; I'm making photographs. By stripping everything down to the essentials in a very economical package, Fuji delivers HUGE image quality and a spectacular analog experience in a digital camera, with everything you need, and nothing you don't.
If you're thinking of buying this camera, you really ought to. If you can't buy this camera, consider its successor, the XE-2. Because this is the most fun I've had with a camera since the K1000.
And if it was this much fun for me, I know it will be for you too.
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