Jeremy Boon on the decks for 2 blissful hours, in Zouk's main room. 1K screen grab of 4K footage shot with the X-E3 at ISO 3200.

The Fujifilm X-E3: a really lightweight video kit

Charlene fujifilm gear 6 Comments

Flemming and I spent Saturday night making stills and video at Zouk Singapore, for a Fujifilm Nordic video in the works. It’s the first time I’ve been to the new Zouk in Clarke Quay. When we made the promotional movie for the XF 16-55mm lens, the club was still at its original venue in Jiak Kim street.

But that hasn’t been the only thing that has changed. Our video making has changed markedly in this time too, although its biggest leap is a very recent development.

Video with the X-E3

It may not have been entirely clear, but my X-E3 promo movie that was released on Sept 6? Most of it was filmed in 4K with the X-E3. Every scene without my face or X-E3, was shot on this tiny powerhouse.

Watch it here if you haven’t already.

As an enthusiast of small, discreet cameras, the X-E3 is a dream to bring on the streets. But its heaviest impact right now? Reinvigorating my enthusiasm for video in a BIG way, by eliminating two headaches in one hit.

Shooting video with the X-T1 in 2015

It’s best put in context of the last video Flemming and I made in Zouk: The XF 16-55mm F2.8 promotional movie in 2015. It was where I walked around with what looked like sticks of dynamite stuck to a Gorillapod, in the picture below. And they still let us in. We love Zouk.

Steady-sinker in action. Photo: Flemming Bo Jensen

When we made that movie, the X-T1’s firmware for manual video was in pre-production, shooting video in high ISO was sketchy, and my stabilizing rig was the above Gorillapod with 3 kilos of lead (the “dynamite sticks” were my father’s fishing sinkers) strapped to it. The “stabiliser” for standing still with the camera in hand, but not for much else. Read about the experience here.

At the time, having only filmed Beyond with far less equipment and clue, it was a massive improvement. But 2 factors continued to bother me about the footage I was getting:

  1. High ISO footage was painful to look at. All the in-club footage used in the movie was shot at 2000 or higher. I couldn’t do much with it in post production, so being able to shoot with the Velvia film simulation was very handy.
  2. Stabilization, or lack thereof. Never mind moving around with the camera, getting reasonbly unshaky footage while standing still in a crowded club was a challenge.

Both the above limitations meant that I had to get a lot of footage, because 60% or more would be unusable, whether because video quality was too poor if the lighting wasn’t optimal (or as optimal as it gets in the light-dark extremes of a club), or it was too shaky to rescue.

These 2 challenges were exacerbated in a club environment, but they did present most other times.

Of both though, stabilisation was the bigger, and more frustrating challenge. There are ways to compensate for video quality limitations, but in my limited experience, unintended shake = useless footage. Bound by the practical (size, weight, budget) limitations of a travelling life, big stabilized rigs were never going to be what I’d want to carry around, or use. I’ve long been looking for a small, simple stabilising solution that I can afford, whether to buy or make, without too much success.

Then, a few weeks ago, I got the X-E3, and solutions for lightweight kits were suddenly viable.

Video with the X-E3 in 2017

Flemming, lost in the lights. 1K screen grab of 4K footage shot on the X-E3, at ISO 3200. Zouk Singapore, 2017.

4K video has been available in the X-T2 and X-T20 cameras for a little while now. With the X Trans III sensor, it was a no brainer that these bodies were going produce miles better video than their predecessors, in whatever resolution. But I don’t own either of them, so I’ve never made 4K video (and precious little 1K video with my X-Pro2) until now.

X-E3 high ISO footage

There are screen grabs of ISO 3200 (X-E3 + 18mm f2 lens) footage in Zouk from Saturday night, scattered around this post. It is unbelievably, ecstatically CLEAN. I filmed all night at ISO 2500 and above. 100% of the footage is usable, with latitude to grade in post.

Filmed in 4K, with the Pro Neg standard simulation, the picture is sharp, and colours beautifully accurate, even with white balance set to auto.

1K screen grab of 4K footage shot on the X-E3, at ISO 3200. Zouk Singapore, 2017.

Stabilisation

I had the X-E3 mounted on the Zhiyun Crane-M stabilizer again (covered in my original review), using either the 23mm f2, or 18mm f2 lenses. It’s ridiculously easy to balance and use.

This one combination has made discarding video because of a shakiness, a thing of the past (now I discard them because I miss focus… ah well, nobody’s perfect). The stabiliser’s maximum load is 650g, so it suits the X-E3 + small prime lens combination really well, though filming with any of the heavier primes, like the 16mm f1.4, or the 56mm f1.2 is out.

The way the camera is mounted on the stabiliser also means that the lack of a flip screen isn’t a show stopper, as the entire rig is light enough to hold so I could always see the screen.

Autofocus

1K screen grab of 4K footage shot on the X-E3, at ISO 3200. Zouk Singapore, 2017.

The X-E3 promo video was shot with focus tracking enabled, and it handles the xf 23mm f2 lens so efficiently that you only notice it focus hold on the subject once in that 5 minutes. The older lenses perform markedly better on it too, though not like the 23 f2. In general, I can’t get over how fast and accurate the autofocus is on this tiny body.

I turn the touchscreen off when shooting stills, but enabled it in AF mode for this particular night, as that tap-to-focus ability was pretty handy. Having to film Flemming at f/2, it meant I could set focus on the fly with a light tap, rather than disturb the set up by pressing buttons. It’s not a big thing, but certainly one that adds to the ease of getting quality footage.

Yep, I love it

All in all, filming with the X-E3 on the little stabiliser is a real pleasure. The stabiliser takes the hard work out of achieving smooth, balanced movement, and the camera takes care of the picture. I become a decision-maker and one-who-points-camera-at-stuff. And it really is so small that no one looks twice when I’m filming, because the whole shebang doesn’t look like much more than a serious selfie contraption.

Keep in mind, that I don’t say all this as someone who is a professional filmmaker. I’m not. But I am a photographer who shoots video, and this camera (like so many others) allows me to transfer my photo skills to making video without a grinding learning curve. Vive la technology!

I’m planning to make a lot more video in the coming weeks. Stay tuned, next time there might be actual video samples posted.

Comments 6

  1. This is seriously mad mad quality for that tiny little camera. Magic sensor. Magic cinematographer. Seriously, your stills are as good as my pics in quality and for some of the more manic light scenes in clubs with strobes and lasers and stuff going off I might just try filming a sequence in 4K with a reasonable shutter speed and pick out stills from it!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hahaha, aw your pictures are great! Nothing I could have captured on video. Magic together!

  2. Have you got the 18-55 at hand and tried it with the Crane M? The combo should just be within the payload maximum but maybe the length of the lens poses a problem.

    Your video from the other post has inspired me to shoot video again during my next vacation. Haven’t done that in 12 years. Now waiting for my X-E3 to arrive.

    1. Post
      Author

      I don’t have the 18-55, but I’m guessing, as you said, the length might be a problem to balance. I’m pretty happy using the primes I do have access to though.

      Have a ton of fun with video again! 🙂

  3. If I may ask a follow-up question regarding the Crane M: How easy or cumbersome was it to switch between filming and taking photos? Did you leave the camera on the gimbal for still pictures? Wondering if my family would tolerate mounting and dismounting the camera all the time… 😉

    1. Post
      Author

      So far I’m using the gimbal for video only. I like having the camera in hand for stills. The camera is mounted on the Crane-M like a tripod – single screw on the base plate. It’s easy enough to disconnect. I also happen to be using straps that have quick releases, so it’s incredibly easy to go from mounted-video to in-hand-stills.

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