Travelling with the Fuji X-E1
Rather surprisingly, Karl Shaw leaves his Nikon D3X and various fast glass at home and takes his new love on holiday, the Fuji X-E1
I’m not sure whether it’s irony or Sod’s law that the one thing that is meant to guarantee a week or two of stress-free rest and recuperation actually causes us so much stress. Sometimes I think a holiday is more trouble than it’s worth. From deciding where to go, stepping off the plane onto some heat soaked runway, the logistics and planning that goes into our well earned time away is nothing short of a full blown military campaign. And don’t get me started with the ‘this time next week’ game and the ‘I must just delete the spam work emails’ while away. Bloody smartphones…
Ditch the DSLR?
Now, you might think that being a photographer and jetting off to some fabulous foreign destination is as close to heaven on Earth as it gets. Don’t get me wrong, it can be, but there are certain decisions that must be taken if you’re to come out the other side unscathed – I did liken this to a military campaign after all. You have to decide if the photographer in you will step aside and play the family guy role, ditching the DSLR in favour of the compact and swapping 5am sunrises for pool-side holiday snaps, after all, you’re beyond such frippery. Somehow we feel that just taking record shots is a bit beneath us, a bit ‘amateur’ and such duties should be delegated to someone less experienced.
The Whole Nine Yards
I will now remove my tongue from my cheek and explain myself. You see, I’ve always wanted to travel everywhere with every piece of camera gear I own. ‘I know we’re going on holiday, darling,’ I would exclaim, ‘but, I’m sure I’m going to need off-camera flash, triggers and reflectors at some point.’ I used to live in fear of stumbling across that perfect scene and only having a compact camera with which to record it, and then cursing myself back home in front of the computer when annoyingly, that little fingernail sized sensor failed to capture the scene in the same artefact free, high detail way that only a professional full-frame DSLR with a professional lens attached can. I was prepared to lug around heavy pro gear because I wasn’t prepared to compromise image quality, even on a family holiday. Silly, I know.
Her Name is Fuji
However, things changed about a year ago. I was lucky enough to be sent an X-Pro1 by Fuji and I did state at the time, in this magazine, that it was a game changer. And I still stand by those words. Fast forward a year and Fuji’s X-E1 now goes with me wherever I go. The X-E1 has the same internals as its bigger brother but outwardly is slightly smaller with less viewfinder options, but with a very handy built in flash – basically the same camera to all intents and purposes. But given this isn’t a camera test, I won’t go to the far ends describing every detail and explaining every feature. All I will say is that gone are the days when you ‘need’ a DSLR. Strong words? Maybe.
Back to the Holiday
Okay, my camera bag usually has its own postcode it’s that big. This time my much smaller bag contains a Fuji X-E1 with 18-55mm lens attached and battery charger – and that’s it (#nervous). The whole package weighs virtually nothing and easily slips under my seat on the plane – most liberating. You may think that by shunning the DSLR that I’m stifling my creativity and somehow missing out on certain shooting opportunities – far from it. In fact, the longer I live with the Fuji the more I realise that certain shooting situations lend themselves to a more compact and quieter camera. Also, because it feels more ‘snappy’ I found myself shooting the record shots. This was my game plan for the week away – mix it up a bit – get the holiday snaps and half a dozen ‘arty’ shots for my study wall, which will hopefully capture a real flavour of each location visited.
Man’s New Best Friend
The X-E1 never let me down. Because it’s more discrete and less in your face, you can do the whole street photographer thing – set the lens to around 35mm, use aperture priority in conjunction with the excellent and proper exposure compensation dial, set the meter to average and away you go. You’re also less likely to stand out in the crowd with what appears to be a slightly larger compact than you would if you were brandishing a bigger, more ‘professional’ looking camera. That’s what street photography is all about – getting in close, getting intimate with shorter focal lengths, rather than honing in with a long lens and adopting a sniper’s approach.
I have to say, the Fuji X-E1 turned out to be the perfect travel companion. I now know I don’t need the bulk and inconvenience of a heavy, professional camera. I can travel lighter, shoot quicker and sleep easily knowing that the files will retain as much, if not more detail than my usual weapon of choice.
Not Just for Holidays
But it’s not just for holidays. I’ve used the Fuji for portraits and fashion shoots, in the studio firing strobes and on location and never once felt short changed. What I will say is that for 90 per cent of the things you want to shoot, the X-E1 does the business. Okay, you’re not going to shoot sport, wildlife or such like, but for everything else, especially street photography, I can’t think of a better camera – well, maybe its bigger brother, the X-Pro 1, but then again, maybe not. I did find the X-E 1’s pop-up flash surprisingly useful. Then again, you never know what’s just around Fuji’s corner.
If in doubt, shoot. Something that may look quite mundane at the time could potentially make a great piece of wall art: ‘always look up’ was my art teacher’s advice, words that I’ve never forgotten. Get in close and photograph your lunch, dinner or dessert, shoot that dilapidated bike, that abandoned building or colourful local – it all adds to the experience, especially if you’re planning to design a photo book of your trip. And whatever you do, don’t forget to snap the family.
Fujifilm has recently announced the successor to the X-E1, bringing out the X-E2, which you can read all about by clicking here.
To see the high-res versions of Karl's images, to get a better look at the quality, simply click on their hyperlinks in the resources selection below and have a nose!
This featured in the November issue of the magazine, available to buy online here.
Landscape Karl Shaw
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