Mali & Bram’s Wedding, Puglia region, Italy.
When: Sept 5 -7, 2014
Where: Masseria Montenapoleone
Body: Fuji X-E2
Lenses: 35mm f1.4, 23mm f1.4
At the start of September, I headed to the Puglia region in Italy to shoot Mali and Bram’s wedding. Mali is my niece (although we are the same age; the family tree is complicated), and living continents apart as we do, we don’t get to participate in the big moments in each other’s lives much. So their big day was a special day for me too.
The wedding itself was a weekend long affair. The bride and groom had arranged for an small group of their closest friends and family to celebrate their big day, by enjoying a relaxed time together in the idyllic Italian rural setting that is Masseria Montenapoleone.
My good old X-Pro 1 was showing signs of imminent failure after the last 2 years of rough handling – files were randomly getting corrupted, and a quick look into this by Fuji’s service department suggested that it could be a sensor issue. Luckily, Fuji Nordic (Denmark division) had lent me an X-E2 for the summer, so my gear for this event consisted of:
- X-E2 (on loan from Fuji Nordic)
- XF 23mm F1.4 (also on loan from Fuji Nordic),
- My battered old XF 35mm f1.4
- 4 batteries
- Spare memory cards
Past wedding set up:
Back in my wedding assisting / second shooting days which ended in early 2012, standard fare was:
- 2 DSLR bodies
- 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 lenses on each
- an ultra wide angle in the bag
- maybe a 50mm and/or 35mm prime for fun
- 2 flash units + batteries
- reflectors / small soft box for the flash
It was a lot of heavy gear, but it was how I learned to shoot weddings from the photographers I assisted for 6 or 7 years. When I was the primary photographer, this set up served both me, and the assistant I inevitably had along, equally well. I got the coverage and variety I wanted – 24mm through to 200mm – without having to stop and fiddle with equipment, and someone to help me manage many kilos of said equipment.
This wedding (2014)
Shooting this wedding with one camera body, 2 primes and no assistant was something completely new for me, but the simplicity of the arrangement was wonderful. The whole thing for me, felt similar to street shooting with more structure, interaction, and a better looking environment than what I’m used to.
The notable practical difference between this wedding and others I’ve shot: no physical discomfort.
Small Fuji gear = no back pain. For 3 days, I ran around the masseria with the X-E2 and one mounted lens on my shoulder, and the other lens, 3 spare batteries, extra memory cards, and a litre of water (it was hot in Puglia at the time) in a backpack. The heaviest thing in the bag was the water.
I had asked to borrow an X-E2 instead of the new X-T1 for one reason: that it is essentially another incarnation of the X-Pro 1.
I am a big fan of the X-Pro 1’s retro, simple-rectangular-box styling and general layout. I had teething issues with it when I first switched over from my Nikon DSLR system, but I came to love the X-Pro 1’s simplicity and quirks (and toughness, if you’ve seen its present state). It works for me very well. The X-E2 promised all of this with X-T1 quality images. For me, it was a win-win proposition.
Working alongside Flemming at the summer music festivals in Copenhagen, I was already impressed with the X-E2 compared to the X-Pro 1:
- Much better general performance, in particular: faster autofocus & less shutter lag
- Better noise handling: super clean files at ISO 6400
- Great detail even in poor lighting conditions
- That brilliant, super clear, high refresh EVF. It sees better in the dark than human eyes do. I love it.
- Smaller and lighter build than the X-Pro 1 (a boon for photographers who walk around with the camera for long periods)
- It has -3 EV instead of stopping at -2. This has been incredibly useful for every single night time shoot I’ve used it for.
XF 35mm f1.4 & XF 23mm f1.4
- Using 2 small primes, instead of 2 big zooms, makes me immediately more unobtrusive, and able to get close to people without making them uncomfortable.
- Super fast f1.4 as opposed to 2.8 on the DSLR zooms
- Excellent optical quality, great contrast and color delivery – if you are after an assessment of edge to edge image fidelity and pixel by pixel deconstruction of these lenses, please visit a gear review site. For practical purposes, they work beautifully and deliver crisp, well-formed images.
In a portrait/event scenario like a wedding, this set up means my subjects are less focused / stressed out by gear. Far from having a beast in the shape of a DSLR snarling at them, all they were looking at was a cute little box with tiny lenses on it. It contributed to a more relaxed time for all involved, as well as much amusement. All weekend long, the guests were tickled that such a small camera – many had point and shoots / phones of about the same size – could yield photos of quality on par with high end DSLRs.
It also meant that people didn’t mind me walking right up to them to get the shots I was after. In a lot of cases, they didn’t notice. I could work quickly, and efficiently, without drawing too much attention to myself. Transitioning from day to night time shooting meant pushing up the ISO without worry that files would lose important detail or be too noisy to use.
Owing to its similarity to the X-Pro 1 in layout, switching over to the X-E2 was fuss free, save a couple of differences that bug me about this otherwise great little camera:
#1: No view mode button. There is an FN2 button in the lower left corner of the LCD now which I’ve set to toggle between EVF, LCD and Eye Sensor modes, which solves this problem to some degree. But having to choose between these view modes with the arrow keys is nowhere near as intuitive as having a purpose built button for an essential function.
#2: Image previews don’t show up on the LCD by default. Having to manually select the LCD every single time, when using the EVF is unnecessary and awkward. I don’t notice this with normal shooting as I rarely preview my shots, but during events, when people are excited about being able to see a picture of themselves on the back of the camera, it is a pain.
#4: Ditto with Menu options. Selecting menus inside the EVF (which I do because I extra button clicks suck) is very awkward.
My recommendation to Fuji on the next firmware update: have image previews and menu options display on the LCD by default, retaining the option to let the user send it to the EVF if they desire.
#5: Get rid of the M mode start up message! My camera is set to manual focus, as I use the AF-L button exclusively for focusing. When I first turn the X-E2 on, this appears:
“[Af-L button icon] One Touch AF
[Command wheel icon] Focus Check”
It prevents The AF-L button from working until one of 2 things happens:
#1: I half depress the shutter button to get rid of it, or
#2: I wait until the message disappears
It seems a pointless and very counter-intuitive element of initialization. I don’t need the camera to tell me how to focus, or where to check said focus. I already know this as I chose that setting. I especially don’t need it to remind me every single time I turn it on. It gets me every time. I would like to be able to turn my camera on and shoot, not have to fiddle with it while my shot disappears. Fuji, please fix this!
Aside from the few things I don’t like about the X-E2 though, it is still a smaller, lighter, faster, higher performing version of the X-Pro 1, which delivers images on par with the X-T1. It is a pleasure to use and its low profile, rangefinder-like design makes it ideal for working around people, and carrying everywhere. A few gear heads have commented on how it might not be “enough” camera for a wedding shooter. I would say that on a practical level, the camera and lens combination performs well, and delivers high quality images with no issues. The rest is up to the photographer.
Thank you Fuji Nordic for extended loan of such great gear!
NB: Yes, I will be using the same set up in another wedding next year.