Some time ago I picked up a used Fujifilm X-E2 for my still photography. One way or another I ended up with the X-T1. So rather than going through the hassle of trying to sell the X-E2, probably for a pittance, I decided to experiment with it for video. At the outset please note I don’t try to vlog with my X-E2.
Until the X-T2, video on a Fujifilm camera was a bit like having a hoof pick on a Swiss army knife — something you’d never use but included anyway because it’s the done thing. But when you think about it, the X-E2 can capture high quality still images through reputable lenses. So why not video?
Several years ago in answer to the question “How important is video to your customers?” Fujifilm told us: “It’s becoming more important. For example we’re speaking to professional photographers who are telling us that their clients are demanding more and more video as well as stills.”
Can the X-E2’s 2013 technology and its most recent firmware (device-embedded software) deliver quality HD (1280×720 pixels) and Full HD MOV files? Full HD is video recorded at 1920×1080 pixels. In the X-E2, MOV is an H.264 MPEG-4 video format. It was originally developed by Apple. The X-E2 will record HD continuously for 27 minutes before it has heat issues and Full HD for half that time. It’s unlikely the average amateur would need to record for that long. The X-E2 can’t record 4K video (4096 x 2304).
I’ve now captured enough X-E2 video to know the visual quality I need is there. However, there is one intractable issue: auto-exposure during shooting. It’s very useful of course to have the camera adjust exposure automatically in many contexts, especially when hand-holding outdoors, but there are times when it ruins a shot altogether. It would be wonderful if the AE-L button could be programmed to lock the exposure for the duration of a recording to increase your chances of capturing more usable frames overall.
For example, I set the camera on its back to record light wispy clouds passing overhead against a blue sky. When more cloud entered the frame the camera very noticeably adjusted the exposure. Then, of course, it opened it up again when the cloud had thinned. This affects colour density and brightness and can’t be fixed.
It’s true that locked-in exposure may result in blown detail when brightness increases, but deliberate slight underexposure would definitely have given me more to work with when editing. I can manually override exposure but the camera still auto-adjusts within that setting. Even walking past the camera during recording can cause the exposure to flicker briefly. It looks naff. Other cameras can be set up to work around this and some lenses offer smoother transitions. Could it be fixed by a firmware update? I’m no expert, so perhaps not. See Justin Brown’s very helpful video below offering top tips for video-shooters.
Apart from this auto-exposure problem I found in practice it was best not to trust the camera in continuous focussing mode. Every now and then it would slip in and out of focus regardless of my autofocus settings. That might be a hassle for the more typical vlogger but my style of shooting relies mainly on manual autofocus using the AF-L button. This locks the focussing on a single point. I didn’t experiment with other lenses. A wide fast prime may do better.
If you’re using the X-E2 hand-held you’ll likely want to have a stabilised lens attached to make things a bit smoother. But turn it off again when the camera’s on a tripod. If there’s no switch on the lens it can be done in-camera by finding “5: IS Mode” in the menu. There’s one big lesson I’ve learned while shooting video and it can be summed up in just three words: tripod, tripod, tripod! Action works well occasionally, but a solid support makes a big difference to the presentation. If you shoot action camera-style with a DSLR or a mirrorless camera make sure you go as wide as you can. That helps.
Before shooting you might want to experiment with various settings to see how it impacts the files’ colour, contrast and sharpness straight from the camera. For example, sharpening after the fact may not be as helpful as the sharpening values that are applied by the camera before the file gets written to the card. Some experts suggest lowering contrast values before shooting so you have more control in software. Some cameras can be set to produce very muted results with precise grading in mind. I’m content shooting Astia/Soft with +1 colour saturation. To avoid all those weird white balance shifts I use the Shade setting all the time outdoors regardless of conditions. I’m also experimenting with 60fps. Not entirely sure why yet, but I am…
Do You Post Videos On YouTube?
Maybe at this point I could make a few general observations and suggestions? Hope it doesn’t come across as a rant! Producing videos at the computer can be really hard time-consuming work. I know. I’ve done just a few. I’ve watched many 100s of these videos over the years and there are a few bothersome issues that keep cropping up.
The most obvious to me is how music is managed. Often it crashes in at full volume which has me reaching for the volume control or the mute button. I watch 99% of YouTube content on my smart TV and believe me it’s a bit of a pain when inferior canned music is so much louder than everything else. Simply pull it down in software by 20% or so for a much more professional and enjoyable result. Think too about how loud your background music is. It can make it harder for the viewer to concentrate on what’s being said, especially if you have a marked accent. Generally, it’s best to lose background music as quickly as possible.
And while on the subject of volume, be sure to adjust your vocal soundtrack throughout your timeline so all your segments are around the same level. I often have to turn up the volume for a few seconds, then back down again, then up again…
When you’re talking directly to the camera be sure to look at the lens and not the pull-out screen, otherwise it looks as if you’re addressing someone sitting beside the viewer. Looks a bit odd. Finally, if you can be bothered, please include key text information somewhere in your video because when you point to links etc “below” all I can see is my livingroom carpet.
To expand on that last point: video-makers need to realise that more and more people are watching their work on smart TVs. An oddball habit with video presenters is their insistence on pointing here and there while referring to banners above, or videos to the side, or links below, and so on.
Apart from anything else it seems such a waste of all that 4K hard work to assume a video is being watched on a small device. Why bother with all that quality? Your video will look way better and as intended on the bigger screens. Another point to remember is if information and links are made available “below” on the YouTube page without occasional text included on-screen during the video it’s likely they won’t be seen at all. It’s one downside of viewing on a smart TV, but text in your video can be very helpful.
All things considered then the X-E2 records HD and Full HD video that looks very good to me, especially on my smart TV. I’ve linked to two of my somewhat amateurish X-E2 videos below, one of them totally hand-held, both using the lightweight XC 16-50mm OIS II lens. Bear in mind that thanks to additional compression and all the sinister dark magic that goes on in the background, uploaded files typically won’t look as good as the originals. In my opinion this seems to be more of an issue for the little guy on YouTube than on Vimeo. If I’d 10,000 YouTube subscribers would I fare better? (Are YouTube “views” videos that have been watched the whole way through? It’s misleading if they’re not.)
For more on shooting amateur video see HERE
Finally, I’ve also linked to a couple of videos you may find of interest if you’re planning on shooting movies with the Fujifilm X-E2. Be sure your camera/lens combination has the latest firmware installed and keep this in mind when you’re watching Will Crockett’s video. It was made a number of years ago.