Pushing the X-E2 to it’s limits and finding them.

f/1.4, 1/50 sec, at 23mm, 800 ISO, on a X-E2

One of the few quiet moments my camera could handle this morning.
f/1.4, 1/50 sec, at 23mm, 800 ISO, on a X-E2


Day two of Thaipusam. I was up at 4 am to catch the action on Waterfall Road. Waterfall Road is one of the busiest spots during this festival. Long lines of people making their way to the temple to deposit their kavadis of milk. I brought the Fujifilm X-E2 thinking it would do well with the constant movement of people I would encounter. After all, it certainly did well in the Philippines last month. The difference is that when I used the X-E2’s AF-C (Auto Focus Continuous) in the Philippines it was in daylight. This time it was in the wee hours of the morning with very little light and it failed..badly. Almost every frame was out of focus. I didn’t just shoot in AF-C I also shot in AS-S (single) and tried to capture scenes on the move. No luck. In either mode the camera often hunted for the focus and more-often-than-not missed. There was very few people standing around waiting for their photo to be taken, so I had to change the way I photographed, or rather what I photographed. I decided to photograph for mood and less action. Here the X-E2 did relatively well. But I have to admit, I was very frustrated that I had to change my method of shooting to suit my camera rather than the camera meeting my needs.


f/3.2, 1/10 sec, at 14mm, 800 ISO, on a X-E2

Devotees perform puja before departing on their walk to the temple.
f/3.2, 1/10 sec, at 14mm, 800 ISO, on a X-E2

I write these words for two reasons. One is that if you have been reading my blog lately you might have gotten the impression the Fujifilm X-E2 could do no wrong. I want you to understand that this is not the case. It is just a camera and it has it limitations and today I found them. I also wrote this to encourage you to know that everyone has bad days. I don’t think it was just the camera that was off today. I think I was off my game as well. But take heart, often times you can find at least one or two jewels in the midst of the pile of coal.

About Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer.

In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.

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21 thoughts on “Pushing the X-E2 to it’s limits and finding them.

  1. Pingback: The Rush | Miguel muses...

  2. Pingback: Pushing the X-E2 to it’s limits and finding them | Matt Brandon

  3. Hi Matt,

    If you come away with one image having the atmosphere of the first one I am not really sure you can call it an off day! But I understand what you mean. Somedays we have high hopes but it doesn’t come off as we hoped. Do you think the 5DIII would have worked in the situation.


    • Andy, I think that my 5D MKIII would have handle it better. But it was just a hard situation for any camera to photograph in. I wanted to use my external flash but a screw seems to be stripped out of the mount and so it is too loose on the hot shoe to trust. So I was limited to the built in flash and it was too limited. I think if I would have had my flash things might have been better.

      • Thanks Matt,

        I guess knowing what a tool won’t do well(or, perhaps – at least in my case, what we are not able to do with it) either helps us to select a different tool or frees us to explore creativity within the limitations of that tool. Maybe… As you say, I think night event photography is always going to be a challenge – even if you can get the flash to work. So an image like the first one is great recompense for ‘a hard days night’.

  4. Pingback: Pushing the X-E2 to it’s limits and finding them. | xzine

  5. If that first photo represents a bad day, I hate to think what a really, really bad day looks like! I love the mood, colour and atmosphere of that first picture.

    • Thanks Martin, but I really am not all that happy with it. The mood and color are nice, but I wasn’t thrilled with just the priest body sticking out from the right side.

  6. I’ve been in the same situation with my X100S and X-E2. In these situation I choose manual focus and zone focussing. I know that the focus zone is pretty shallow since you’re wide open but I try to find the sweet spot to get the best focus zone for the scene and stay under 6400 ISO (wich Fuji handles pretty well).

    • Thanks, I didn’t mention it and I should have, but the bottom image for sure and maybe the top image were focused in manual mode. I haven’t got the whole zone thing down to shoot at 1.4 and 2.8 and with the lack of light that was what I was shooting at.

  7. The first shot is indeed a gem or as close to being one as you can hope for under the circumstances. Coming away with a least one image that captures the essence of the moment represents a good day for many experienced photographers. Too bad your external flash wasn’t working. I’d like to see this same shot with more detail in the deep shadows on the left side of the frame.

  8. Thanks for the post. I’ve converted to Fuji from Canon and love the system and lenses but I think that we sometimes give others a very unrealistic expectation of what the cameras are capable of. Some Fuji owners dismiss valid complaints as bashing or ignorance of the correct way to shoot, but like all cameras there are definitely some weaknesses.

    I’ve run into situations where the inability to focus reliably in low light has cost me some shots. I accept this problem realizing that other cameras that may handle this situation better have their own shortcomings.

    I also enjoy posts like this because I know Fuji listen to their customers and work to address these kinds of weaknesses, hopefully delivering continuos improvements.

    • Jerry, thanks for your response. I also believe that there is way too much expectations put on the x-system. The fact is they are tools and all tools have limitations. I love the Fujifilm X-system as you can tell from this blog. But just as this post shows, it has it’s limits. Does that mean I should toss it? Nope, that would be silly. The advantages of this system far outweigh the disadvantages at this point, as least for how I shoot.

  9. Matt, I am interested in how you are using the X-E2 in terms of focusing. I have been experimenting with using AF-S and AF-C, but have also been using the X-E2 in ‘back-button’ AF mode i.e. by setting the camera to Manual Focus so that pressing the AF-L button momentarily engages AF. I like to shoot like this with my dSLRs, as I find decoupling AF from the shutter release button means that I don’t need to re-acquire focus every time I take a shot (unless the subject has moved), and results in faster and more fluid shooting, as I can then concentrate on framing, composition and timing. The only shortcoming I notice with this is that the AF point cannot be reduced in size as it can with AF-S and AF-C modes, which means that critical focusing at wide apertures with shallow d.o.f. can be tricky. Do you ever shoot with the X-E2 set up in this way? If so, how do you find it?

    • I want to be honest here at the risk of people thinking I am some hack. I have no idea how to use the back button focus option. Frankly, didn’t even know there was one. I never used it on my Canons and as such I have never looked for it on the X-series cameras. On my Canons I found I had to retrain my muscle memory to use it. It just wasn’t that big of a help to warrant such effort. Call it a case of “old dogs and new tricks” I guess.

  10. I had a day like this when I went to photograph a Christmas motorbike convoy taking presents to children. I only had a small gap in the crowd to shoot through and the bikes were moving at 30 mph +, so I had very little time to focus. I took the XE-2 and 55-200mm and tried continuous and single shot focussing, it just was not quick enough in the very small window I had, and I know a DSLR would have been the better choice. Still love my XE-2, but like you I’m learning its limitations.

  11. I just use manual focus with focus peaking highlights. It saves a lot of messing around with hunting focus points in low light…try it 😉
    I use 5d iiid professionally but am a x100s addict!! 😉

    • Toby, I do use the camera set up like you’ve suggested and often in low light situations with static objects. But when I have a moving “target” so to speak, it is almost impossible, unless I shoot at a high f-stop like f-5,6 to f-8 and and pre-focus. But with this kind of light and without a flash it makes it impossible.

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