Shooting Video with the Fujifilm X-E2

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.

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 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 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…

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 our 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.)

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.

 

 

To the Top of Slieve Binnian (video)

Tap or click on the picture.

I left the foggy car park at 5:45am on my hike to the top of Binnian in the Mourne Mountains, Co Down, N Ireland. By the time I’d reached the top of the lane the fog was slowly breaking up into patches on the lower slopes. As you can see in the video I was soon looking down on it.

For me early morning in clear conditions is by far the best way to experience the mountains, especially for photography and shooting video. That’s not always possible of course.

I didn’t catch them on camera but I was lucky enough to see a fox and a few hares. Can’t wait to go back.