Recently, I purchased a Fujifilm XE-2 compact mirrorless camera in the hopes of having a lightweight, high quality camera that I can walk around with that isn't my Canon 7D. I've been a "Canon guy" since day one of my photography journey and have been using Canon products for around 8 or 9 years now and have thoroughly enjoyed their products, with one exception. They're heavy. The 7D weighs in at around 820 grams or 1.8 lbs. add on a 35 mm f/2 lens and you're over 1 kg, or 2.2 lbs, which may not seem that heavy, but when it's dangling from your neck all day it does start to wear on you. The XE-2 weighs in at a svelt 350 grams, add to that the 35 mm f/1.4 lens and you're at 537 grams. About half the weight of the 7D.
Now, I've owned mirrorless cameras before. I had a Panasonic GF1, which I really enjoyed, but it lacked that professional feeling, and the sensor was far too small (18 mm x 15.6 mm). This made low-light photography all but impossible with the GF1. That worry is a thing of the past with Fujifilm's X-series cameras. All X-series cameras ship with APS-C size sensors measuring 23.6 mm x 15.6 mm.
Currently, Fujifilm has a promotion running until August 2014 where if you buy an XE-2 body (or X-Pro1) you get a free 18 mm f/2.0 lens through mail-in rebate. I haven't received mine yet, obviously, since I only just purchased it. So, with my XE-2 I purchased a 35 mm f/1.4 lens which I'll talk about later.
I took my brand new lens and camera to a wedding reception to test it out and see how it would work. I felt this would be a great first challenge for the camera as it would be indoors in very difficult lighting situations.
As you can see from the above image, even at high ISO the images are clear and colourful with very little noise. I was throughly impressed by the camera's low-light performance. A lot of this can be attributed to the APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor.
Fujifilm claims that the XE-2 has the world's fastest auto focus. Now, I'm not going to dispute how fast the auto focus system is, because it is very fast. However, it's not always the most accurate, especially in continuous focus/tracking mode. I found it would hunt a lot for its focal point and it became quite annoying at times. I wouldn't recommend using the camera for sports or a lot of fast moving objects, but in high-speed mode I'm sure you can spray-and-pray your way through it. The camera isn't designed for sports photography in mind, no doubt, but I was a bit disappointed coming from the superb auto focus of the Canon 7D.
Fit and Feel
OK, so granted this is going to be a subjective portion of the review as not everyone will feel the same about these characteristics. The camera does feel a tad small in my hands, but again, I'm coming from a 7D which is roughly twice the size. The external body feels solid and well-built. The body is made from magnesium and it definitely feels like better material than the 7D I owned previously. The camera isn't weather-sealed but that's not a huge deal-breaker as none of Fujifilm's lenses are weather-sealed anyway. It's something to keep in mind thought if you plan on going outdoors in difficult weather conditions. For instance, I travel to Newfoundland every winter for snowmobiling in -20C weather. I have no doubt this is going to be difficult for the camera and will have to work around it. I'll let you know next February.
The XE-2 uses and electronic view finder (EVF). I've actually never used a camera with one before, so I wasn't sure how I would feel about it. The EVF is bright and allows you to see exactly how your image will turn out before you even press the shutter button. The camera automatically switches from the rear LCD to the EVF as you bring your face closer to the EVF which is a pretty slick feature and much appreciated.
35 mm F/1.4 Lens
The lens feels solid and well-made, just as the body does. Bokeh looks wonderful thanks to the seven aperture blades in the lens. Macro capability is not great, but it's not really designed to be a macro lens, so I can't fault for that. With a 1.5x crop factor from the APS-C sensor the lens works great as a normal 52 mm lens, great for every day walking around use. The lens comes with a hood, which I definitely prefer for protection over filters. The problem with the hood is that the standard lens cap isn't compatible. Fujifilm provides you with a rubber-ish, rectangular cap to go over the hood as a substitute, but it's flimsy and falls off easily. I wouldn't recommend using it, as it will inevitably fall off and get lost. The hood is deep enough on its own to protect the front glass.
Although I've only had limited time with the XE-2, I really can't say I miss my 7D at all. In fact, I've sold it! I do need to get some more lenses for the XE-2, particularly wide-angle ones for landscape. Keep checking the website for more updates on my adventures with the XE-2.