Fujifilm X-E2 digital camera
5 frames with...

5 Frames with the Fujifilm X-E2 – The Hybrid Photographer – by Sean Benham

September 5, 2020

You might say the perfect way to start film photography as a young boy is with a Canon AE-1. I took it everywhere, including multiple travels to Europe. The AE-1 was given to me by my dad for high school photography classes. This love of that SLR continued on for years until 2001 when I purchased my first digital camera, the Toshiba PDR-M61. While the photos didn’t have the quality of film, I also didn’t have to pay for processing or wait time. Add to that, people were starting to look at photos on websites or via email attachments, so even printing was less of an issue. As the years went on I would upgrade point and shoot digitals here and there until a friend of mine offered to sell me her Nikon D70 in 2010. 

The Nikon D70 was a game changer despite the fact that the D70 was going on six years. A 2004 Nikon APS-C DSLR looked very close to its film predecessors immediately before. Chunky DSLRs with a wide range of lens options despite the D70 being only six megapixels. At that time a six megapixel photo was plenty for printing and the quality was excellent in good lighting.

Digital back to Film

I had basically stopped shooting all film in 2004 with a Kodak Advantix C700 APS film camera. In 2007 I briefly pulled out the AE-1 again to take photos of my newborn son with some expired film that I developed at Target. Target was wrapping up it’s in-store photo processing around then. So for a good ten years after, my film days were dormant. Now fast forward to the beginning of 2020 — I had a total of three Nikon DSLRs and a host of great vintage film cameras and lenses I had begun collecting around 2017. You see around 2017 my desire to return to film took off again especially when I realized how cheap the cost was for most of them.

Today I still have my old faithful Canon AE-1 with a series of about five lenses, an Olympus OM-1, and several Minoltas with a dozen plus lenses. I was wanting to shoot these lenses more, and I was also tired of lugging around big Nikon DSLRs. The result was trying to find a mirrorless camera that could satisfy both. I first looked at Sony with their popular a6000, and of course the more expensive a7 series that would give me full frame and a true display of the lenses. For both neither was quite right, the a6000 didn’t feel good in my hand, and the a7 series, a bit too large.

Fujifilm Enters the Mix

Everything changed when I looked into Fujifilm. Not only did their cameras look like old film ones, but they also had a niche with film simulation, which is something that is important to me when processing digital shots. I really enjoy film simulations and would spend a lot of time in post using Lightroom with VSCO filters to get that perfect Ektar 100 or Fuji Superia 400 look from my Nikon photos. 

With Fujifilm my first sort of introduction was with their X100 series. I was eyeing the X100F quite a bit. Hearing all sorts of great reviews and constant praise of this system. The only thing was, I wanted to use my lenses. The entire X100 series has only a fixed lens like many of the film rangefinders from years back. Where would I go from here? A camera that looked more like a rangefinder than an SLR was my focus, so I started combing Reddit for answers. After posting some questions on an Fujifilm group, out popped the X-E series that could satisfy my personal criteria. I began doing comparisons of the X100 to X-E series and got it down to the X-E2.

Finding the Hybrid Answer

In February I had the opportunity to purchase the X-E2 (body only) for a fantastic price. The X-E2 has a larger viewfinder (0.5 in) than the X-E3 (0.39 in) which was even better since I wear glasses. It is basically the size of my OM-1 but shaped more like a Canonet rangefinder. Next up I purchased three Fotasy adapters for all my Canon, Minolta, and Olympus lenses. I wanted this camera to be totally a hybrid experience of both film and digital. Like film I would shoot with manual lenses and use an in-camera stock film simulation or create my own. With some research, even find recipes from experts out there for Fujifilm. Either way I could post shots straight out of the camera. No more post-processing like before! Shooting RAW + JPG is always an option if I wanted to do more post work.

Canon FD 28mm f/2.8 lens. Eterna film simulation.

Rokkor-X 45mm f/2 lens. Classic Negative film simulation.

Canon FD 28mm f/2.8 lens. Kodachrome 64 film simulation.

W.Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8 lens. Kodacolor film simulation.

Canon FD 28mm f/2.8 lens. Monochrome film simulation with ND8 filter.

In Conclusion

Despite the camera being six years old, the quality of the photos amaze me even today. At a high ISO of 6500, the grain is still very low. The range of speed during the day with the aperture wide open is nearly limitless. The X-E2 can shoot with it’s mechanical or electronic shutter. For super high speeds the electronic shutter can be used effectively for outdoor situations, but most of the time the mechanical one is used for light accuracy, especially indoors. And finally I find the focus peak highlight mechanism spot on. Reminds me of a rangefinder but instead of two images converging, the edge of what you’re focusing on becomes very detailed. So here you have it, this X-E2 satisfies both my love of film and digital and today is my favorite go-to camera for all situations.

Thank you. To see more of my work, please visit my Instagram page.

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Magnus919
    September 5, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    I’m glad to see some digital content here from time to time. Especially with regards to the hybrid aesthetic. This is something I’ve been chasing a bit as well.

    I’ve got a pretty good collection of Fuji kit, but also vintage lenses. The X-E1 makes perfectly suitable photos, but I find the ergonomics difficult. Especially the viewfinder refresh rate, which makes it harder to quickly compose an image or to have a good sense of what it will look like.

    The X-Pro3 has a perfectly beautiful viewfinder. But the camera is larger/heavier, and the photos are almost too clean. Missing the “character” that one would get from film or even an older digital Fuji.

    How is the viewfinder refresh in the X-E2? Is that something they’d nailed down by that point in the evolution of the Fuji system?

    Something you called out earlier that I still struggle with: vintage lenses on crop sensors. So much of the character of these lenses comes in at the edges, but the APS-C sensors crop those edges. The Sony A7 series definitely puts these lenses to better use, but the Fuji is just so much more fun to shoot with. Still wishing for the best-of-both-worlds camera.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 5, 2020 at 2:36 pm

      As a DSLR Nikon guy, I really don’t have anything to compare for the refresh rate for the X-E2 other than I’m very happy with using this electronic viewfinder. I was nervous it wouldn’t be as nice as looking through a prism, but no issues at all, and add to that I can see in whatever film sim I had set up. Probably the best part of the viewfinder is that it’s huge! Not as big as the Olympus OM-1 (the king), but still big, and bigger than my three Nikon DSLRs.

      It definitely came down to size, price, and Fuji film sims that made me decide that these vintage lenses would adapt to crop sensors. The journey still continues, so I would love to eventually pick up an old used Sony someday when prices continue to drop for newer technology.

  • Reply
    Bruno Chalifour
    September 5, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    Hi Sean, thank you for sharing your experience and your enthusiasm. Now as a seasoned photographer, one who, as a photo-instructor, had to deal with the consequences of Canon’s aggressive advertising policy regarding the AE-1, I must tell the reader that the success of this camera had a great deal to do with that policy, not what the camera offered (except automatism for those who do not want to control their exposure and f stop easily).The year it came out, to my dismay, half of my new student had bought it and I wished they had talked to me before their purchase (not to mention that then I was a Nikon guy ;o). Working it in full manual mode is far from convenient.
    Now the XE-2 is a good camera and a step better than the XE-1 (especially for the rendition of greens and AF speed), of course the XE-3 is one step better than the XE-2 regarding both areas [note: I have used all 3 models and am waiting for the XE-4]. Regarding its similitude with a range-finder, let us be clear: none. And that is why Fuji created both the X-100 and X-pro lines which are closer, without quite being it. To my knowledge now only Leica still produces “real” range-finders strictly speaking (with the exception of the latest Russian Zenith which is in fact a rebranded Leica M240).
    Regarding lenses, one note, current lenses are far better than older ones, especially than film ones for three reasons: 1-lens design, assisted by computers, has widely improved (aspherical lenses for instance), 2-as a result the resolution (their capacity to render details) has also greatly improved (close to 50% from some 40 pairs of lines per mm to over 60), 3-the coating of lenses has also greatly improved in many ways. Added to that, Fuji has always had a very high reputation in lens design and manufacturing. Another fact: lenses are designed to match the cameras they are supposed to be designed for (using a Leica M lens or a Fuji X lens on a DSLR will not produce the same results as the same lenses mounted on the cameras and sensors they were designed for). In short if I were you I would look for a used 23 mm or 27 mm Fuji X lens for your XE-2, both are remarkable lenses especially considering their prices and were designed by Fuji for your camera. The 18-55 mm zoom is a tad more expensive but is also a wonderful all-around lens with noticeable quality. I hope this was helpful and gave you some perspective. Please enjoy your XE-2 and photography.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 5, 2020 at 2:29 pm

      Yeah the Canon AE-1 is sort of a different beast when you compare to a real manual camera. I probably didn’t get the best education of manual shooting back then but was pleased with the final results in the lab when developing my film. It’s amazing even today how popular it is, and a bit more than other similar cameras.

      I really wanted the X-E3, with it’s expanded film sims and newer technology, but as this was a test of sorts for my lenses, I didn’t want to spend too much. $200 price tag for a mint X-E2, and I couldn’t pass it up. And yes it weighed on me greatly to just grab a Sony a7 series camera to appreciate the entire glass of these vintage lenses. I have been wanting to try out a 23mm or 27mm lens and see the difference. A manual lens is a labor of love and getting a crisp shot can sometimes just be luck. Thanks for all the info!

  • Reply
    Peter
    September 5, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    My first dive into digital mirrorless cameras was a Fujifilm X-E1 and a Voightlander 21mm f/4 Color Skopar. Fujis are fun and perfect for hybrid photography due to the shutter speed dial they have verses a PSMA one.

    These are great photos and keep on shooting!

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 5, 2020 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks! The A and Shutter Speed dials selections are all I need!

  • Reply
    Holly Gilman
    September 5, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    I love it when the articles on here really get me thinking. I’m not sure how I feel about “getting a film look on digital” but I’m really intrigued to look into this camera now and explore my feelings/preconceptions more. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 5, 2020 at 8:29 pm

      The digital vs film look is always a touchy subject, but ultimately whatever aesthetic makes the photographer happy. Good luck!

  • Reply
    David Hume
    September 6, 2020 at 3:18 am

    Thanks for the read Sean – I followed quite a similar path that included an XE-2 and a dumb adapter for my Nikkors. The first thing I thought on reading this was “but you’re not getting the character of the lenses because you’re only using the middle part of the image,” to which the obvious answer is “Speedbooster!” which is great in theory but you’d need one for each mount of course, each of which would set you back more than the XE-2…
    A cheeky suggestion I’d make is dropping $100 on the 7Artisans 35mm f1.2 in Xmount and having a play with that. In my view it has a nice feel to it and is like using a vintage lens except for the clickless aperture. That with the XE-2 is such a tiny “nifty fifty” combo for $300 total as to be pretty unbeatable for the money (IMHO). I’ve gotta say that while I love my old Nikkors, using them on the Fujis (X-E2 or X-Pro 3) just doesn’t cut it because of the crop factor and the extra bulk of the adapter – but now your post has got me thinking about speedboosters again… might have been an expensive read.

    • Reply
      Hong
      September 6, 2020 at 12:21 pm

      You could get a speedbooster for the Canon EF mount and then purchase very cheap EF adapters for other mounts. I use this setup on my XE1 to adapt M42 and Nikon F mount lenses.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 6, 2020 at 4:41 pm

      Oh that 7artisans is an interesting option! More pancake-like, designed for crop, and no click sounds which could be cool for video. Thanks for that tip! I have been recommended the Speedbooster, I need to look into that again. I do love Nikkor glass but only shoot from my DSLRs, which is fine. I did try an adapter on my APS-C Nikons for Minolta SR mount. It can work quite well in certain situations, but unreliable at times when shot wide open (odd/interesting bokeh) and can ghost flare in sunlit shots.

  • Reply
    Marc
    September 6, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    I love to shoot my X-E1, i do find the Rendering of the E1 somehow more Film-alike, than the E2, or E3.
    Currently, having Fun with it, whileas using the PerGear 25mm F1.8 cheapskate Lens, my other E1 (black) does use the Zonlai 22mm F1.8,
    which is also nice, and does have Charactor, like the PerGear also. Both do render more Vintage-esque Pictures.

    But mostly these days, i love to shoot Film. my X700 is one of my most used SLR, besides my Contax Gear.

    Good Light.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 7, 2020 at 9:40 pm

      Wow, the PerGear is a very reasonable price. I can see getting one of those to make the camera even more portable (no hassle of adapter for older lenses). I’ll have to look up some photos taken with that lens. I too have the Minolta X-700, excellent camera.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 13, 2020 at 4:59 pm

      Thanks for the Pergear recommendation! I bought the 35mm 1.6 and really enjoy it’s size, bokeh and sharpness. I actually was missing a 35mm lens in my line up, so a perfect fit.

  • Reply
    Stis
    September 6, 2020 at 11:56 pm

    Reminds me of my camera transition over the years. I started with a Nikon FE2 in the late 90’s. That was my mainstay through the early years of digital, when digital just seemed to be lacking. My interest in photography slipped a bit until I got a point shoot, the lumix LX-3, which had a Leica lens. That was a hint of the joys of digital photography to come. I started a 365 project, before the days of camera on every phone and instagram. Next, I too came into a used D70, and was blown away by the film like quality of the sensor. I was thoroughly hooked again on photography, but the size and weight of the camera was not ideal. After a lot of research, I settled on a Fujifilm X100F, which reminded me of what I loved about the LX-3, the small size, but with image quality to rival the D700. I now own an XPRO-3 as well, and feel really happy with the Fujifilm system.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 7, 2020 at 1:09 am

      Our stories cross even a bit further, I purchased a Lumix FZ-40 with a Leica lens in 2011. My first bridge point and shoot with a massive zoom. It’s a fun camera, RAW is slow! I use it mainly for live shows as it doesn’t have a detachable lens. Cameras for every occasion and Fujifilm somehow figured it out for me. BTW, I do own a Nikon N6006 and N80 which I share a few lenses with my D70 and D7000. It’s a nice mix!

  • Reply
    Clive W
    September 7, 2020 at 6:45 pm

    This can be a dangerous rabbit hole! (I should know – I’m in it.) My initial experiments with an X-E2 and a scallop-ringed Nikkor-S 35mm lens have metastasized into a drawerful of film-era Nikkors, plus five (not all at once) Nikon film bodies and a revival (and augmentation) of the Pentax film kit I already had. Oh, and I now have four modern lenses for the X-E2 as well; it’s a very satisfying camera in its own right. I like very much that I can take the same basic aperture-priority workflow from film to digital and back.

    Come to think of it, the one thing I seldom do these days is to put a film lens on the X-E2 – although that old Nikon 35mm is probably the one that’s most likely to get an outing; pointed towards the sun, it goes entertainingly crazy in a way no modern lens can.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 7, 2020 at 7:55 pm

      Do you have a favorite modern lens for your X-E2? I’ve yet to purchase one, but would love to get the 27mm f/2.8 just for it’s compactness alone.

      • Reply
        Clive W
        September 8, 2020 at 10:35 am

        I love the idea of a 27mm but the lack of an aperture ring on the XF lens puts me off – that workflow I mentioned wouldn’t work, or flow, so well. (There are rumours of a Mk2, with an aperture ring – but in Fujiworld there are rumours of just about anything.) I really like the 16/2.8, but then the 24mm-equiv has been a favourite for years; I have one for each film system too. But on my recent trip, the lens that got the most use was the much-maligned 60/2.4 – very effective for picking out a face, or a section of a rolling English landscape.

        • Reply
          Sean Benham
          September 9, 2020 at 12:25 am

          Yeah the lack of the aperture ring makes it less flexible. I’ll check out the 60/2.4, thanks.

  • Reply
    Nathan Bobinchak
    September 8, 2020 at 6:21 am

    The X-E series is truly awesome. My primary digital body is an X-E3 with the MHG-XE3 grip permanently installed. I far prefer the updated sensor and menu system of the X-E3 to the previous bodies, but of course that is a personal preference (and I don’t wear glasses, so the eyepoint difference doesn’t bother me). I have an X-E1 as a backup and together they are phenomenal. Fuji lenses are amazing, though I often end up shooting adapted Nikkors on my Fujis because I enjoy their rendering so much!

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 8, 2020 at 5:44 pm

      I heard Fujifilm considered scrapping the XE series, now I’m hearing an X-E4 is on the way. That is tempting, and I hope true!

      • Reply
        Clive W
        September 8, 2020 at 10:51 pm

        I hope so too! I’ve ducked the X-E3, although it would bring me level with my X100F in terms of film sims (Acros is lovely) and the focus stick, which is great. In-camera charging too, which lightens the travel bag by a charger and cable, and is one thing less to leave behind in a hotel room. But it wouldn’t really be a big enough advance on the E2 to justify the cost. An E4, on the other hand, with an upgraded EVF, tilting rear screen, the latest sensor and processor and the gorgeous Classic Neg sim – now that could be worth the pain to my credit card.

        • Reply
          Sean Benham
          September 9, 2020 at 12:31 am

          That skip to X-E4 would make it more desirable for me. Do you know about the workaround/hack of gaining all the modern in-body film sims of the latest gear using the free version of Capture One for Fuji and a meta tag editor (I use exiftool)? You can edit the software field and change it to say an X-T4, then be given the full list of film sims for your current camera. I think it works quite well, and I have the workflow pretty fast. If you haven’t tried, I can list steps.

  • Reply
    eric
    September 8, 2020 at 8:50 am

    Dear Sean,

    Thanks.
    I am a Leica M, RolleiFlex, and Nikon film man, with a Sony A7 RII which has replaced my Fuji X-E1 which has given me great pictures with Leica M lens and Nikkor lens. I wanted a full frame, and Sony A7/A9 series are great cameras, but … it is more difficult to get good results from my point of view with my other brands lens than the Fuji.
    I will certainly upgrade my gear with a X-E3 or a Pro 3, but the X-E3 are small and now I like small cameras.
    I give one example, one of my beloved lens was the Zeis ZM 21mm compact Biogon which was marvelous with film with my RF Leica’s and Rollei RF 35, and very good with the Fuji, but very very bad with the Sony that I had sold it, and there is many lens like that which work well with Fuji but are difficult with Sony system.
    Another example, the Leica Tele-Elmarit 90 mm f/2.8 which I love because it is so compact, worked very well with Fuji but works poorly with Sony. Mostly the problem is to focus. Sony are cameras which need very very good focus to produce great results, if the focus is not very good, quality goes down and many lens do not work well, corners, dark side, and so on.
    The camera is small and not heavy but very well made, and the Fuji lens are excellent nearly better than Leica lens …
    But, my point is not full frame, and reason why I have changed, when I have a 40 mm I want to see a 40mm. Despite this format problem the X-e series are very very good cameras. To start a X-E1 can be a not expensive camera which can work with all your lens, a X-E2 upgrade the quality, and the X-E3 is good.
    They are very well made cameras and lens too, I have fall down my Fuji 35mm f1.4, and nothing happen …
    So Fuji is a very good choice. Actually for me there is only one thing I do not do : nothing from the red empire of the middle, which means no phones (I buy from Korea), no app, no cameras, no lens, … nothing, I do not want to support dangerous megalomaniacs …

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 8, 2020 at 5:48 pm

      What kind of focusing does Sony use on manual lenses? I’ve often wondered about that. Ultimately regardless of full frame or APS-C, if a photo isn’t in focus, it can ruin everything.

      • Reply
        eric
        September 9, 2020 at 12:40 am

        Sean 😉

        The Sony when I use, I use the magnifier or the picking with the red.
        The Sony is made to be used with his lens which are AF and these cameras are great at focusing well and fast. Manual lens on this camera is folklore …
        With the Fuji before for street photography I found the Fuji 27mm pancake very good, and with manual lens just f8 and lens at 4 or 5 meters and all in focus like with a M, but it works very poorly with Sony. Manual lenses on Sony are good for landscapes, macro, but not for street photography and after Sony lens or other brand E mount are big, only the 35mm Zeiss is compact with good focus. My point of view is only a few wide angle manual could be used for street photography with the Sony. The Fuji are really better because they can work wisely with more manual lens.

        • Reply
          Sean Benham
          September 9, 2020 at 1:38 am

          That’s good to know, thank you. I did find that when I tested out my cousin’s a6000 with a Canon FD 50mm lens I wasn’t finding anything like focus peaking and was doing a basic sharpening without any real visual aids. I decided it wasn’t as advantageous as when I heard about Fuji focus peaking.

      • Reply
        Soft619
        September 9, 2020 at 9:36 pm

        Thank you for the post She opened my eyes to stimulating films. I used to mindlessly click everything on Velvia.

        About my lenses: Before the pandemic, I adapted a 35\2.8 lens from p&s Nikon Pikaichi to my X-E2 and fell in love with this drawing. I also often shoot with 7artizans 25\1.8. It’s great lens. Now the original Fuji 35\1.4 is on the shelf.

  • Reply
    Lee
    September 8, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    This article really hit the nail on the head for me. I too am a hybrid digital shooter with a Fuji X-E2 and a variety of vintage manual focus lenses. As I was already shooting on film with a bunch of different SLRs from various manufacturers, it totally made sense to adapt these lenses to a mirrorless digital camera and get double the utility out of them. I basically have full access to the Fuji X-E2 through my father-in-law, who bought the camera new, but seldom ever uses it, so it’s essentially mine, and I can’t complain about free access to a camera that allows me to shoot all my vintage lenses digitally. The availability of relatively cheap dumb adapters for any kind of lens mount makes it even easier to shoot in hybrid style. I have lens adapters for Nikon F, Canon FD, Minolta MD, M42, and M39 lenses. And I really like the built-in film profiles of the Fuji X cameras.

    I’ve gotten to the point now where I simply prefer shooting with manual focus, even on digital, and the focus peaking aids available with mirrorless cameras make it so easy. Even though the Fuji X cameras are all APS-C, I have not really wished for a full-frame sensor either. I’m into the Fuji X cameras with both feet now and have contemplated looking for a used Fuji X-H1 of my own for a couple reasons. Firstly, because I like the SLR-style form factor a bit better, and the larger/chunkier size of the X-H1 appeals to me. Secondly because the X-H1 has the highest resolution EVF of any Fuji X camera, making manual focusing even easier. And thirdly, because it’s the only Fuji X camera with IBIS, meaning that any vintage lens I mount would become a stabilized lens. All are good reasons in my opinion.

    • Reply
      Sean Benham
      September 8, 2020 at 5:42 pm

      The X-H1 sounds interesting, I’ll have to look it up. I agree, I really have no need for full frame and despite that I might not be getting the most out of these manual vintage ‘full frame’ lenses, they still perform outstanding. There were a couple of comments regarding 7artisans and Pergear manuals that could save on lens real estate, so that does interest me. My Rokkor 45mm f/2 with the adaptor makes it quite small nonetheless. And yes, something about manual focusing has always been a more fulfilling experience than auto.

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