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.
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.
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