Fuji X-E1 vs. OM-D E-M1 (Part 2 - Traveling with the Fuji X-E1)

europe Nov 30, 2013

With travel preparations complete (aided in no small part by my wife, who is a closet travel agent), we boarded our Air Berlin flight and made our way to Vienna. The netbook that I mentioned in the previous installment was not placed in my camera bag, but travelled in another carry-on bag. Putting that little guy into my Think Tank Retrospective 10 would have sent me to the chiropractor. It usually traveled via suitcase and stayed in our hotel room awaiting our return at night.

I am not going to bore you with the details of the trip (I have tortured enough relatives already, no point in harming innocent bystanders) but I will go over my findings and back them up with images.

Carry-ability

Mirrorless cameras’ major selling point is small camera size with big camera images. Fuji scores well in this area. The X-E1 is pretty small. Here is a comparison to the Leica M (courtesy of camerasize.com):

Mvsxe1
 
Now to be fair, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 does well in this category as well. Here is the same comparison to the Leica M:
 
Em1vsm
 
And now, I am obligated to show the two contenders side-by-side:
 
Em1vsxe1
 
So, aside from the SLR-style viewfinder hump, the X-E1 and E-M1 are very close in size generally. Here are the two cameras compared to my main camera, the Nikon D800E:
 
Em1xe1vsd800e
 
It’s actually much more pronounced than that because I have the MB-D12 battery grip permanently bolted on the bottom of my D800E. So, I can safely conclude that both cameras are much more carry-able than a mainstream DSLR. On the trip, I had no issues carrying the Fuji X-E1 for extended periods of time. I must mention that I am generally averse to camera neck straps. I prefer to attach a wrist strap to the smaller cameras or a hand strap to the larger bodied ones. For the Fuji X-E1, I ordered a custom wrist strap from Gordy Straps. These are excellent, hand-made leather straps that are durable, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive. I paid around $35 for the one I used.
 
Now I have fairly large hands. One thing I had to do on the Fuji was to add a grip. Fuji offers one, but it covers the battery/card door and that adds a step to the entire process. Good for ergonomics, bad for workflow. ReallyRightStuff sells a grip/L-plate combo that adds Arca Swiss style rails to the camera and bulks up the grip while maintaining access to the battery/card door. RRS gear is top of the line and their prices reflect it. Sadly, that put them out of my budget. However, eBay came to my rescue in the form of the iShoot Grip. The iShoot Grip also included Arca Swiss style rails, all metal construction and maintained clear access to the battery/card door all at nearly ⅓ the cost of the RRS grip. Ka-ching! Since the X-E1 sports a rangefinder style body, it also inherited some other design quirks from it’s parentage. Most notably, a place to put your thumb and a relatively small shutter release button. These two issues were solved by adding a Lensmate Thumbrest and a soft release. There are several makers of soft releases, but I chose one from newcomer Artisan Obscura. The AO soft releases are made out of wood; furniture grade exotics like Blood Wood, Ebony, Olive Wood, Cherry Burl and Figured Walnut to name a few. The soft release screws into the cable release threads and increases the diameter and height of the shutter release allowing for smoother operation and therefor, less camera shake. In the end, my X-E1 ended up looking like this:
 
My Fuji X-E1
 
 
On the other hand, for the OM-D E-M1 I have ordered the following: A Gariz Design leather half-case and a matching Gariz Design Wrist Strap. The OM-D E-M1 has sufficient grip already that a leather case and wrist strap was all that was needed to complete it. This says something for the design engineering that goes into these cameras.
 
Garizdesigncaseem1
 
Garizdesigncaseem1 bottom
 
Garizdesignstrap
 
I fully expect the E-M1 to be just as carry-able as the X-E1, but for now I can conclude that the X-E1 was much more carry-able than my D800E. The ergonomics are OK, but when you add all of the extras, it becomes very comfortable to use. Granted, if you have smaller hands, you may not encounter these issues, but this is what I had to do to make it work for me.
 
In the field

As the trip progressed, I discovered a couple of things about the X-E1: First, the OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) in the kit lens is very, very good. This combined with the excellent quality of the lens, and the X-E1 lack of an anti-aliasing filter led to some pretty amazing captures (with my photographic skill being the main limitation). Second, the X-E1’s high ISO performance is only exceeded by pro level DSLR’s like the Nikon D3 & D4. These two factors combined allowed me to shoot most all of my night shots hand held.
 
Grand Canal
 
Il Campinario di San Marco
 
St. Mark's after Dark
 
Santa Maria della Salute
 
Lido Noir
 
Salute Noir
 
The only reason to use the tripod with this camera is include yourself in the picture (assuming there is no one around to take the shot for you). That’s it for this installment. In the next article I will cover some of the features of the X-E1 that I really found useful.
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