Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Am I A Fuji Fanboy?

Fujifilm X-E1 & 18-55mm Lens
Ever since I bought myself a Fuji X-E1 I've been singing its praises. It's not exactly a new camera, yet after I began using it I realized that my other digital gear was only going to collect dust, so I sold them off. The Fuji camera is fantastic and I love using it!

Because I've been so impressed with the camera and talking about it so much, I've been accused of becoming another one of "those" Fuji fanboys. A camera fanboy is someone who talks highly of one brand and negatively of the other brands. They unfairly hold one brand up too high and the other brands down too low.

I don't think I'm a Fuji Fanboy because I'm not talking negatively of other brands. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, etc., all make excellent products. I know this because I've used these brands at one time or another. I don't have anything bad to say about them, and if you are using their gear that's great.

But I have been talking highly of Fuji. That's because they've done some things different that I really appreciate. It's like they had me in mind when the designed the camera, and so it's been a real joy to use it. You may not think the same way about it, and that's alright. Different strokes for different folks, right?
Steps - Salt Lake City, Utah
Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm lens.
So what is it about the Fuji X-E1 that I like so much? Really, it's the same for all X-Trans cameras, not just the X-E1, but the X-E1 is the one that I own.

First, Fuji did away with the PASM dial. And I realized very quickly how completely unnecessary and (in my opinion) dumb that dial is. Instead, Fuji went old-school and put an aperture ring on their lenses and a shutter speed dial on the body.

Want to shoot in Aperture Priority? Set the shutter speed to A. Want to shoot in Shutter Priority? Set the aperture to A. Want to shoot in Manual Mode? Set the aperture and shutter to what you want them to be. Want to shoot in Program Mode? Set the aperture and shutter to A and select the ISO that you want. Want to shoot in full auto? Set the aperture and shutter to A and select auto-ISO. That's all simple and logical and with fewer menu options.

Using the camera is a more mechanical experience. There are dials and rings instead of buttons and menus. I'm not looking at the rear screen so much. While looking through the viewfinder I simply turn wheels that adjust everything that I need to adjust--they're all easily reached. It reminds me of using classic film cameras. Fuji has simplified the process and made the experience feel less digital. For me that's wonderful!
Night At Mirror Lake - Mirror Lake, Utah
Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm lens.
Next is Fuji's unique X-Trans sensor. Actually, the sensor is an "ordinary" Sony 16-megapixel (now 24-megapixel on the newest cameras) APS-C sized sensor that's been used in a lot of different cameras (Sony, Nikon and Pentax have all used this sensor). What makes Fuji's different is the color filter array that they use.

It's semi-random design makes the use of the sharpness-stealing optical-low-pass filter unnecessary. That's not a huge deal and some would argue that it's not completely necessary with the tradition Bayer color filter array (in fact, the Ricoh/Pentax GR has the Sony 16-megapixel sensor with a Bayer color filter array and without an optical-low-pass filter). So it's a good thing, but not necessarily a top benefit of the X-Trans sensor.

Because of the semi-random color filter array, the X-Trans sensor has 55% green light-sensitive elements, 22.5% red light-sensitive elements and 22.5% blue light-sensitive elements. A Bayer color filter array has 50% green, 25% red and 25% blue. Since the majority of luminosity information comes from the green light-sensitive elements (red and blue are used primarily for color information), the X-Trans has a greater ability to gather light information.

What this means for the photographer is that the X-Trans sensor has a one-stop high-ISO advantage over the best high-ISO APS-C sensors, and an even greater high-ISO advantage over the same sensor with a Bayer color filter array instead of the X-Trans color filter array. The X-Trans cameras have an ISO capability similar to some full-frame cameras.
I Am Nature - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm lens.
I should also mention that the way the digital noise looks is more film-grain-like than any other digital camera that I've ever used. This is because it is desaturated with almost no color. I'm not sure if this is clever processing or a direct result of the color filter array, but however it is achieved I much prefer it over the digital noise found in other cameras.

The X-Trans cameras have a greater dynamic range over their Bayer counterparts. This is also because of the extra green light-sensitive elements on the sensor, which allow for more room in the shadows.

But here's the thing: all digital cameras nowadays are capable of producing good image quality. It's nearly impossible to find one that isn't capable. The outcome of an image is predicated on the one using the gear and not the gear itself. It doesn't really matter that the X-E1 is a little bit better in this area or that area, it only matters what I do with it. So all that I've said about image quality means very little.

Fuji has developed a reputation for having excellent lenses. They seem to be just a notch better than much of the competition. I can attest to this! Even their basic "kit" zoom is good, better than any I've used from other brands. Glass is just as important, if not more important, than the sensor. But, again, every camera brand has excellent lenses available, so the advantage for Fuji is really small. And it might be negated altogether by price and somewhat limited options.
Urban Bicyclist - Salt Lake City, Utah
Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm lens.
But here is something that to me does matter: Fuji's in-camera JPEG processing. I don't have the time to post-process a bunch of RAW files anymore. I no longer desire to sit in front of a computer manipulating RAW images. I've done my fair share of RAW development and I'm just not interested in it any longer. Fuji's very good JPEG engine is the number one reason that I love using a Fuji camera.

I rarely post-process RAW files anymore. The JPEGs that come out of the camera look a lot like post-processed RAW files. And if I got some setting wrong, because I shoot RAW+JPEG, I can go back and reprocess the RAW file in-camera and get the JPEG that I meant to create. It only takes a moment. I almost never edit pictures on a computer anymore because I don't have a reason to.

When I have edited RAW files from the X-E1 on my computer, they never turn out much different than the JPEGs, and I ask myself why I spent all that time editing to gain almost nothing. In most cases it's just not worth it. The JPEGs simply look great! It just takes a little extra care "in the field" to make sure that everything is set as I want it.

The two things, really, that make the Fuji X-E1 stand out from the crowd: design and JPEG processing. There are other good points, too, but only two that really hold a lot of weight for me. Do these things make me a Fuji fanboy? No, because I'd like to see other camera manufacturers incorporate them into their gear.
Umbrella Abstract - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm lens.
Why can't Nikon or Sony or Canon or whoever else make simple controls that don't use a PASM dial? (I know, Nikon halfheartedly tried and it didn't turn out so well). Why can't these companies improve their out-of-camera JPEGs so that they look more like post-processed RAW files? I think that they could and I hope that they do.

Someone wanted to know if I'm getting paid by Fuji or getting free stuff from them or are one of their "ambassador" photographers. The answer is no. I've never been contacted by Fuji or received anything from them. However, I'm flattered by the suggestion, because the Fuji "ambassadors" are all very talented photographers, and to be mentioned with them is a compliment, even if it is unintentional and undeserved.

I'm just a photographer who uses a Fuji camera. The gear I use works well for me. Use whatever it is that works best for you, and use it to the best of your ability.

I am not a Fuji fanboy. But I do like their products a whole bunch.


  1. Hello

    I am also satisfied owner of Fuji X-E1
    Great blog!


    1. Thank you for the compliment and comment!