TINY Fujifilm X-E2 Vs. the BIG Canon’s on a Magazine Cover Shoot

A recent Savoy Magazine cover shoot of Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson, head of one of America’s largest HMO hospital orgs, presented an ideal opportunity for comparing Canon lenses and image files with my new, relatively inexpensive Fujifilm X-E2 camera with 18-55mm lens during a serious, real-world magazine shoot.

Until this shoot I’d used the Fuji X-E2 only for general, mostly fun photography, often calling it my “toy camera” due to its comparatively tiny size. I’d been using the Fuji entirely for random snaps, scouting, mountain biking, hiking or any activity where a traditional camera gets heavy in a hurry.

On this cover shoot we were relegated to shooting in the CEO’s office, typically a much-too-BUSY location due to the many awards, family photos, mementos, model airplanes or whatever the CEO is into using to clutter up his office. It’s incredibly rare to find a “cool” CEO’s office where a nice cover photograph isn’t ruined by a busy background so being forced to shoot in this scenario presents a tougher scenario than simply finding the nicest location in the building. This particular CEO preferred shooting in his office so his whim became my command to make a clean cover pic and an interesting-enough image for a two-page spread in this busy room. Not ideal but it was as it was – CEO’s rule so my only recourse was to have a great attitude and somehow make it work.

Canon 1D Mark IV / Canon EF85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens / Exposure: 1/640 sec; f/1.8; ISO 640

The CEO’s office was typically busy yet had very nice natural/existing light coming in through two walls of windows. This shoot presented a good scenario for determining how the X-E2 with 18-55mm lens stacks up against my Canon 1D Mark IV and two Canon 5D’s on a real shoot. Once I had the shoot covered with my Canon gear, I switched to the X-E2 for the final 20 minutes of the interview.

After being given the Fujifilm X-E2 as a gift, I quickly realized it is NOT an action camera. The electronic shutter has improved with firmware upgrades but my conclusion to this point is if you shoot any sort of action, DO NOT sell your heavy duty Nikon or Canon cameras in favor of these beautifully light cameras. Although I no longer shoot action sports I’ve shot the Olympics and lots of pro sports – this camera is not an action sports camera even at 6 fps. I suppose I could use it, if forced, but it would be no match for my Canon 1D Mark IV, a heavy-duty tool for action photography.

For stationary subjects this little camera really does feel a bit like my constant companion for years – the Leica M4 – with which I could handhold extremely slow shutters with an extra quiet, unobtrusive camera.

Magazine covers are often “hybrid photographs” meaning the cover image is typically not THE BEST photograph from the shoot but a more functional photograph which intentionally or perchance fits the cover format while having space for cover text, masthead, cover skew, aka, all that type. Covers must be photographed a bit more loosely and on a background that doesn’t contain busy elements that compete with cover lines.

Savoy magazine was fine with an extra-clean cover photograph so I found a tiny swath of light brown wall to use for a dignified cover portrait with the hope that as the shoot then interview proceeded, I’d find a more interesting background either for the cover or for the image to be used full spread across two pages inside the magazine.

As it turned out the magazine preferred this more conservative photograph for the cover yet though the image was tweaked in post to better suit the art director’s and executive editor’s preference. The goal on any cover shoot is to make an effective cover – period – be it simple or amazing. Success!

At a current price of $1619, the Canon 50mm/f1.2 lens is one of my favorites due to it’s blazing speed, sharpness and ability to catch focus even in dark locations
Canon 1D Mark IV / Canon EF50mm f/1.2L USM / Exposure: 1/160 sec; f/3.5; ISO 800

I’m BLOWN AWAY by the remarkable quality of the Fuji X-E2’s image file at ISO 2500! At less than the price of one Canon lens, this camera and lens combo rocks!
Fujifilm X-E2 camera with XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS zoom lens
Exposure/zoom info: 55.0 mm 1/150 sec; f/4.5; ISO 2500 (in 35mm: 83.0 mm)

NOTE: The Fujifilm X-E2 image was made at ISO 2500 yet the final image is tack sharp and not overly noisy. The file quality of this camera at high ISO is remarkable. At ISO 2500 both Canon cameras would be much more noisy yet this image is entirely acceptable. I’ve caught myself accidentally shooting in daylight with this camera set to ISO 3200 only to find the image files remarkably low in noise.

Bottom line…

Although the Canon cameras and lenses are indisputably top quality, I’m amazed at the RAW image file quality of the comparatively inexpensive Fuji X-E2 used in existing light. Wow! I won’t be dumping my Canon’s any time soon but definitely endorse the Fuji X-E2 as a nice little camera with notably good file quality considering it’s a camera costing a fraction of the price of professional-level Canon or Nikon cameras.


Malcolm Bramwell - June 5, 2014 - 12:03 PM

That Fuji X-E2 is obviously capable of rivalling the traditional dSLR’s in this environment. Of course the quality of the photographer might have played a part too! After seeing it at your studio I was really tempted to get one!
I assume using flash off camera with a radio transmitter/receiver would work very well.
Oh, yes, and I like the reflection in the eye glasses and the orange splotch on the left side.

Gary Parker - June 4, 2014 - 6:58 PM

Honestly, very simple. The reflections felt natural. In life we’re accustomed to seeing such things as reflections so, tho my view varies depending on scenario, my gut on this one was no, bald guys have reflections – leave them or he’ll look plastic and unnatural tho I am good at fills. I have learned to always go with my gut after all these years and my gut said let those reflections go. I could have minimized or filled them entirely as I’ve had to do greasy spots on guys like Gates & Ellison, etc, who don’t care and won’t accept makeup but it might have looked unnatural. Otoh, I might have done lots to other parts of the images. I can theoretically create perfection in all images with Photoshop but then sometimes it then just somehow smacks of deceit. I have a somewhat basic philosophy that leaving at least one “wrong” thing in an image contributes more than distracts. Very subjective, of course, playing to visual philosophy. Obviously the magazine agreed.

Scott Hillman - June 4, 2014 - 4:15 PM

Hi Gary,

Just curious – why didn’t you (or the magazine) remove, or at least minimize the reflections on the top of the subject’s head?

And by the way, I’m looking at the Sony A7r mirrorless to augment my big Nikon bodies.


Gary Parker - June 4, 2014 - 9:05 PM

Thanks for your input, Tom. I’m not much of a gearhead so I have no plans to buy more Fuji gear. I enjoy the challenge of having just ONE lens and treating this little guy as my FUN camera! I’m with you on the weight, tho, and you’re right the files rock! I can foresee doing more “real shoots” with this camera, just for fun. Hope to get a chance to check out the XT1!

Gary Parker - June 4, 2014 - 8:18 PM

Tom, I’ve never used my X-E2 with flash. Do you use yours’ with a non-TTL flash on hot-shoe or strictly with existing light?

Tom - June 4, 2014 - 3:27 PM

Nice post. I agree with you on the Fuji X-E2. I had the Fuji X-pro 1. Loved it – except for some focus issues. Sold it and got Fuji XT1. I really love this one! Shot a wedding last weekend with the XT1 and Canon 5dII with L lenses. I will take the Fuji over my Canon any day – except when I need ttl flash. The XT1 is even an improvement over the X-E2. The lenses are really good – albeit a bit slow.