Fujifilm X-E4 and the Paradox of Minimalism

Fujifilm X-E4 and the Paradox of Minimalism

2000 1125 Sroyon Mukherjee

A third-century AD book about the lives of philosophers contains this anecdote about Socrates: “And often when he beheld the multitude of wares exposed for sale, he would say to himself, ‘How many things I can do without!’”

Clearly I’m no Socrates, but contemplating the many buttons, dials and sub-menus on digital cameras, I often feel the way he felt. How many things I can do without! Indeed, how many things I’d be better off without!

I’ve used a Nikon DSLR for the last ten years, but in December last year, I bought a Fujifilm X-E4 – a mirrorless digital camera with interchangeable lenses and an APS-C sensor. This article, however, is not about the much-debated topic of DSLR versus mirrorless (a debate which we’ve weighed in upon here). Nor is it a proper camera review (we already did that, too).

Instead, I’d like to reflect on minimalism and its paradoxes, using the Fujifilm X-E4 as a jumping-off point. And since this is a website about photography, not philosophy or aesthetics, I’ll link those ideas back to cameras. You might even learn a bit about the Fujifilm X-E4 along the way. All I’m saying is that this is not necessarily a conventional review.

Paradox 1: Less is more

A paradox – a statement which seems contradictory but expresses a possible truth – lies at the very heart of minimalism. “Less is more” is the mantra of minimalists everywhere, practically a definition. It sounds so catchy and contemporary – an Instagram caption par excellence. But in fact, it’s much older than that. “Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged,” says the protagonist of Robert Browning’s 1855 poem, Andrea del Sarto.

Fast-forward to 2021, and Fujifilm launched the X-E4 with the tagline “Make more with less.” Is that marketing guff, or do they really mean it? Less of what? And can we really do more with it? To answer these questions, first we need to understand what the X-E series is all about.

When it comes to models and series, Fuji haven’t exactly embraced the less-is-more philosophy. There is an almost overwhelming array of X-series cameras. If you want to get to grips with it all, this 2018 F-Stoppers article is still the best overview I’ve come across (it’s outdated, so you’ll need to supplement it with some independent research on the models which have been released or discontinued since then).

For present purposes, suffice to say that Fujifilm’s X-series cameras fall into two main camps: SLR-style (e.g. X-T5, X-H2) and rangefinder-style (e.g. X-E4, X-Pro3 and the fixed-lens X-100 series). The SLR-style cameras have a “hump,” and a centrally-positioned electronic viewfinder (EVF). The rangefinder-style cameras have a flat top, and the finder (as seen from behind) is offset to the left.

Of the bodies with the famous Fuji X-Trans sensor, the X-E models are typically the cheapest. As such, they lack various other features found on higher-end cameras. Let’s compare it with the Fujifilm X-Pro3 – another interchangeable-lens, rangefinder-style camera, and the latest of its line. The X-Pro3 boasts weather-sealing, dual card slot and a hybrid optical/digital viewfinder, all of which are missing in the X-E4.

But for my money, the X-E4 was a better choice. I can make do with one card slot, and I rarely shoot in rain or snow. The hybrid viewfinder is a marvel of technology; I still remember trying it for the first time in a London camera store, ten years ago, and it blew my mind. But in practice, I can get by without it. In fact, I’m arguably better off without it, because it’s one less choice to make when I’m out taking pictures. I use the EVF and occasionally the LCD, with no temptation to switch to the optical finder.

The upside? For me, a huge draw of the Fujifilm X-E4 was the size and weight. The X-E4 is smaller than an X-Pro3, and almost 30% lighter – a mere 315g without battery and cards. For a camera which is so capable – it has the same sensor and processor as the X-Pro3, and therefore the same image quality – the X-E4 is ridiculously small and light.

I dislike carrying gear, but the X-E4 with a small prime lens is no burden at all. When going for a night out with friends, or a bike ride along the canal, or simply popping out to buy groceries, I’ll often sling the camera on my shoulder. Call me lazy, but with a bigger camera, this is something I’m much less likely to do. In this respect, less really is more.

There’s also the price. For the cost of an X-Pro3, I could buy an X-E4 and two Fuji lenses. By settling for less when it comes to features, I had more choice in the lens department.

And finally, because I’m shallow, there’s looks. The X-Pro3 is a pretty camera too, but I prefer the X-E4’s cleaner, pared-down aesthetic. I realise this is a big claim, but I find the Fujifilm X-E4 is the prettiest interchangeable-lens digital camera ever made.

So let’s revisit the two questions I asked of the Fujifilm X-E4’s tagline, “Make more with less.”

Less of what? Less features (compared to, say, the X-Pro3). But also less size, weight and cost.

And with that, can we really do more? Well, that depends on your preferences and style of photography. For me, the answer is yes. Socrates approves, and Andrea del Sarto nods along.

Paradox 2: Excessive minimalism

Minimalism is about avoiding excess, so the idea of “excessive minimalism” feels somewhat paradoxical. But anything can be taken to an extreme, including minimalism.

Philip Johnson’s Glass House, a temple of mid-century minimalism, has been described as “more like an architectural manifesto than a place you could rightly call home.” In summer it was too hot, in winter “almost insufferably cold.” When minimalism becomes an end in itself, we risk sacrificing usability, comfort and basic human pleasures. “All things in moderation,” as the saying goes, “including moderation.” Likewise, the “Less is more” mantra might be applied to minimalism itself – a caution against minimalism run amok.

Was Fuji guilty of this with the X-E4? Many reviewers seem to think so. “Basically, we’re wondering whether Fujifilm went a little too minimalist on the X-E4,” wrote DPReview.

Fujilove found the X-E4 to be “minimalistic and industrial” but “also less ergonomic and functional.”

Ken Rockwell, bless his heart, was particularly scathing. “I can’t find anything redeeming about this camera compared to other Fujifilm cameras. (…) It’s like buying a car that takes away the steering wheel.”

These reactions are not altogether surprising. The Fujifilm X-E4 (2021) replaced the X-E3 (2017). In the process, Fuji did something very unusual – almost unheard of – for a modern camera company: they released a new model that reduced rather than added.

“Budget models” are nothing new. The Leica M2 of 1957 was effectively a down-specced Leica M3. The Fuji X-E series itself is positioned as a simpler but more wallet-friendly alternative to the X-Pro.

But the X-E4 is different – it’s a direct replacement for the X-E3, and only slightly cheaper, yet, Fuji removed the following:

  • rear dial
  • focus select dial
  • view mode button
  • auto switch (replaced with P on the shutter speed dial)
  • AFL button (merged with the AEL button)
  • EF-X8 pop-up flash
  • front grip
  • rear thumb grip

What was Fuji thinking? Who would choose the X-E4 over the X-E3? Why did I choose it?

First, I should say that the “missing features” list does not tell the whole story. Fuji taketh away, but they also giveth – in this case, a tilting LCD to replace the X-E3’s fixed screen, a 26.1MP sensor (the X-E3 had 24MP), a newer processor, faster autofocus and burst mode, and additional JPEG options.

Most of these additions make little difference to me, and regarding some, such as more megapixels and faster burst mode, I couldn’t care less. But I do love a tilting screen (a fully articulated screen, like on the Fujifilm X-T5, would be even better, but I’ll settle). In fact, a big reason why I didn’t opt for one the earlier X-E models is because they all had fixed screens.

What about the omissions? For my purposes, they improve the camera. But before I elaborate on that, I want to make two quick points about online reviews.

First, as Mike Johnston wrote in a post about another Fuji camera, it seems to be human nature to “improve” products by adding more features, expense, size and weight. From the scare-quotes around “improve” it’s clear that Mike doesn’t buy into the “more is better” philosophy. But for a lot of consumers and reviewers, “more is better” is almost a default assumption. So, a new iteration that does not add but strips away seems like a regression, a folly, an affront to capitalist logic. A paradox, if you will.

Second, most online reviews are written or recorded quickly, after a couple of weeks (or even days) of use. This makes it especially easy to lapse into snap judgments. No rear dial? Must be a bad thing. No front grip? I just can’t even.

But when you use a camera over a longer period, the logic of its design slowly becomes apparent. I’ve had my Fujifilm X-E4 for over three months now – not that long, but longer, I’m sure, than some reviewers had. (To be fair, I have the luxury of not being reliant on ad revenue and having to constantly feed the YouTube algorithm – and in James, I have a very patient editor.) Anyhow, in those three months I’ve used the camera extensively – a couple of paid shoots (dance photography, see below), portrait sessions, on holiday and around town.

For me, the missing buttons and dials don’t make it any less convenient to use. Key to this is the fact that although there are fewer controls on the Fujifilm X-E4, they are intelligently designed and highly customisable.

For example, I mapped my AFL/AEL button to focus mode, so I don’t miss the physical focus select dial. Nor do I miss the view mode button, because the eye-sensor detects when I bring the camera up to my eye and automatically switches from LCD to EVF, and vice versa when I move it away (there is a menu option to override the eye-sensor if we want to use the EVF exclusively).

If there’s enough interest, I can write a more detailed article about how I set up my Fujifilm X-E4. But in short, after a few days spent exploring, customising and refining various controls, I can access the most-used features very quickly – more quickly than I can on my Nikon DSLR which I’ve been using for over ten years, and which has many more buttons and dials.

With fewer controls, my fingers can find them more easily and instinctively. This frees me up to concentrate on more important aspects of picture-taking, such as composition and timing. And it makes the camera look cleaner, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

Of course, there are limits. A camera with just one button would be more minimalist still – but that really would be taking things too far (more on this in Paradox 4). The key is to strike the right balance, and with the X-E4, at least for my style of photography, Fuji has nailed it.

Paradox 3: It takes a lot to be minimalist

In a New York Times article, Kyle Chayka wrote, “It takes a lot to be minimalist: social capital, a safety net and access to the internet.” Henry David Thoreau, an apostle of the simple life, spent two years living in a cabin beside Walden pond. In reality, as Kathryn Schulz pointed out, Thoreau’s life was not as ascetic or self-sufficient as it sounds. The cabin was a twenty-minute stroll from his family home; his mother and sister paid him weekly visits and brought him food.

Or, to pick an example from the world of tech, Apple relentlessly eliminates ports from their devices; their minimalist look belies the fact that they often need to be supplemented with an array of dongles, adapters and other accessories.

Similarly, the light-weight, diminutive size, and clean lines of the Fujifilm X-E4 come at a cost. Take the front and rear grips, for example, which the X-E3 had but the X-E4 does not. Personally, I like this change. I mostly use small prime lenses, and on balance, I prefer the size and weight savings – not to mention the cleaner look – that result from doing away with grips. But I do think that grips make a camera easier to hold, especially with bigger lenses, or if you have large hands. In that case, you would need to buy an accessory grip or thumb-rest, possibly both.

The same goes for the flash. The Fujifilm XE-2 had a built-in pop-up flash. The XE-3 did away with the built-in flash but included a detachable pop-up (the cute EF-X8). The XE-4 has no flash at all.

Again, the no-flash configuration suits me best. But as with grips, an external flash is yet another attachment. If you regularly use on-camera flash, a built-in flash like on the X-E2 would be a better, and arguably more minimalist choice. The X-E4 works for me because I don’t use flash that much, and when I do, I prefer to use one of my Godox flashes, as in the photos below.

Paradox 4: Minimalism versus simplicity

Minimal is not the same as simple. In fact, as design goals, the two can be in conflict.

Don Norman differentiates between perceived simplicity and operational simplicity. He gives the example of a TV remote with very few buttons. Such a remote may look simple and minimal (perceived simplicity), but if it requires complicated sequences of button pushes to get the desired result, operational simplicity is compromised.

In theory, wouldn’t we all love a simple camera. A camera with few controls, easy to master, which has exactly the features we need and nothing more. That’s the dream.

The reality is we all have different ideas on what those essential features are. Some want to blaze away at 20 frames per second, while others are happy to take one carefully-considered photo at a time. Some want auto-focus which can detect and track a bird in flight, while others like to use manual focus only. What are camera manufacturers to do? There are three basic strategies.

The first is the maximalist approach. Throw simplicity out of the window, pack the camera with as many features as possible, then pile on the buttons, dials and D-pads. You want features? I’ll give you features. You want custom buttons? Here, have half a dozen. Oh and a custom dial too, for good measure.

The second approach is the polar opposite. Toy cameras or Fuji Instax are extremely simple, but you compromise on quality and creative control.

What if you want simple but high-quality? The digital Leica M11 has no autofocus, no video, no EVF, no image-stabilisation. The Leica M-A is even simpler – a 35mm camera with no electronics whatsoever, not even a light-meter. The purity of conception is appealing in theory, but in practice, there are few photographers who would choose such a simple camera for daily use, and fewer still who can afford it.

So, these are cameras designed for a niche, exclusive clientele, and that’s reflected in the price tag. The M11 will set you back almost 9,000 US Dollars, body only. Which reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon – an interior designer telling his client, “Of course, we can do spare and minimalist, but not on your budget.”

The third strategy is a compromise, and that’s what the Fujifilm X-E4 tries to achieve.

Architect Robert Venturi’s gentle manifesto argued for “the difficult unity of inclusion rather than the easy unity of exclusion.” In Living with Complexity, Don Norman says people always ask him, “Why is our technology so complex?” His answer: because life is complex. Good design, he says, “can help tame the complexity, not by making things less complex – for the complexity is required – but by managing the complexity.”

And that, precisely, is what Fujifilm does exceptionally well. The X-E4’s list of features can rival any modern digital camera; the manual runs to over 300 pages, which is not minimalist by any stretch. Nevertheless, its interface remains deceptively simple. With few buttons and dials, the camera scores high in the perceived simplicity stakes. At the same time, especially if you take the time to customise and familiarise yourself with the settings, it is operationally simple too.

As Ariel Diaz puts it, “Truly elegant solutions are the result of fighting through complexity.” The Fujifilm X-E4, in my book, is a truly elegant solution.

Paradox 5: Minimalism is a privilege

Diogenes, the ancient Greek philosopher, was a minimalist to end all minimalists. Some say he had only three worldly possessions, and one of them was a cup. One day he saw a child drinking with cupped hands, whereupon he threw away his cup saying, “That child has beaten me in simplicity.”

Once when Plato threw a banquet, Diogenes trampled on his rich carpets, proclaiming, “Thus do I trample on the empty pride of Plato.” To which Plato rejoined, “With quite as much pride yourself, O Diogenes.” Which goes to show that minimalists have been annoying the rest of humanity since at least the 4th century BC.

Why are minimalists so annoying? Diogenes’ behaviour offers some clues. The assumption that minimalism is a moral virtue, and that its adherents are somehow superior. That they know better than the rest. The condescension and general lack of self-awareness. All of which applies to many modern-day minimalists too.

At least Diogenes was frugal; in that respect, he undoubtedly walked the talk. But minimal doesn’t always equate to frugal; indeed, it’s sometimes the opposite. Kim Kadarshian’s family home, which she described as a “minimalist monastery” is a 60 million dollar mansion. Which reminds me of another New Yorker cartoon: “Only the rich can afford this much nothing.”

As Jenn Sutherland-Miller argues, minimalism – at least as practised by many minimalist bloggers and influencers – is a privilege. The buy-it-for-life movement is all very well, but not everyone can afford high-quality, durable products (the Vimes boots theory applies). Jia Tolentino reminds us that “poverty and trauma can make frivolous possessions seem like a lifeline rather than a burden.”

So while we admire a Scandinavian birch table or a Leica M-A – or even, for that matter, the much cheaper Fujifilm X-E4 – it’s worth remembering that these are luxuries which millions of people simply can’t afford. In fact, as a result of purchasing the Fujifilm X-E4, I now have two digital cameras instead of one, which is not very minimalist of me.

That said, minimalism has its merits. It offers an alternative, perhaps even a panacea, to rampant consumerism and its attendant environmental, social and psychological impacts. Granted, a camera is a commodity too. But if I’m going to use a camera, my preference is for one which is simple, well-designed and intuitive. It keeps me light on my feet, and more engaged with my surroundings.

Robert Venturi turned the less-is-more slogan on its head, asserting that “more is not less.” Photography is an art, and we all have our own way of engaging with it. For some, that might involve studio lights, backdrops and reflectors. For others, big lenses and tripods for astrophotography or wildlife. These are all valid approaches (more is not less). But my personal ideal was summed up by Marc Riboud, who made the iconic photo of a painter on the Eiffel Tower.

The year was 1953. Riboud was walking the streets of Paris on his first visit to the capital, with just his Leica, a 50mm lens and a single roll of film. He noticed the painters high above, climbed up the tower, and made several pictures, among which is that unforgettable image of Zazou dancing with his paintbrush. “I think photographers should behave like him,” said Riboud. “He was free and carried little equipment.”

Final thoughts

If you want to know more about the Fujifilm X-E4, Clayton D’Arnault wrote a great article about it. But on the off chance that your appetite for reading about this camera is still not quenched, I have a question.

I mentioned before that the Fujifilm X-E4 is cleverly designed and highly customisable. This is one of my favourite things about the camera, and I’m thinking about an article describing how I set it up – or rather, about how I am setting it up, because it’s an ongoing process of constant tweaking. So, would you be interested in such an article? Is there something in particular you’d like to read about? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see what I can do.

Given the topic – minimalism – it’s ironic that this is one of the longest photography articles I’ve written. The core ideas, however, are simple and few. Minimalism, in cameras or anything else, is inherently neither good nor bad. I personally find it appealing, but it’s not for everyone. For some, less is more, while for others, less is a bore.

Having said that, featuritis is real. If you want a relatively simple but high-quality camera (and are unable or unwilling to pay Leica prices), your options are limited. Camera manufacturers tend to cater to maximalists, and as you can see from the reviews I quoted earlier, making a camera simpler – as opposed to adding more features and controls – is bound to meet with pushback. Fuji deserves credit for their clarity and conviction, and for going against the flow. I hope the Fujifilm X-E4 is not the last of its line, and I’m curious to see what the X-E5 will be like.

Minimalism is also subjective. The Fujifilm X-E4 may be too minimal for some, and for others, not minimal enough. Ultimately, it comes down to your individual preferences and priorities. What do you need, and what can you do without? Graphic designer Milton Glaser said, “Less is not necessarily more (…) Just enough is more.” For me, the Fujifilm X-E4 is just enough.

(The sample photos in this article were shot with the Fujifilm X-E4 and four lenses: Samyang 12mm f/2 (manual focus), and the Fujinon 18mm f/2, 50mm f/2 and 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7. The gear photos were shot with a Nikon D5200. For more of my work, feel free to check out my website and Instagram.)

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Sroyon Mukherjee

Sroyon is an amateur photographer who likes making images with pinhole cameras, smartphones and everything in between. He also enjoys working on collaborative projects, alternative processes, and developing and printing in the darkroom.

All stories by:Sroyon Mukherjee
  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. It was quite entertaining because it was not a regular review. Your photographs are wonderful and look like they were taken on film. I have an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II but I am considering switching to Fuji, so I would be quite interested in learning how you set up the camera. Cheers, Francis.

    • Thanks Francis! I must admit haven’t explored the film simulations in detail, I mostly stick to the standard (Provia) sim and occasionally Velvia or BnW. So the film-like quality is mostly down to the rendering of the sensor and lenses, and perhaps to an extent the kind of subjects and scenes I am drawn to (I like film photography too, in fact this is my first article about a digital camera).

      I’m slowly trying out other sims and the various jpeg options, but the article I had in mind would mostly be about setting up the controls (custom buttons, menus and so on), not so much about how to achieve a certain look, which I honestly don’t know much about 🙂

  • Great article. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and exploring its various links.
    I own a Fuji X-E2 from 2014. I use this camera mainly for street photography but also for travel and macro photography. It fits me like a glove.
    Sometimes I thought of upgrading to a newer X-E model. The X-E4 is charming but I was set back by the removal of direct access to some functions like the focus mode selection.
    In the article you hint to a workaround it which is brilliant. So, I personally would like to know more about the customization you did to your X-E4.
    I also look forward to a Fuji X-E5 hoping they will not further minimalize it and actually reintroduce a feature of the X-E1 and X-E2 that is very important for glass-wearers like me: a higher eye-relief and magnification viewfinder (even if this would require the camera to become marginally bigger).

    • Thanks Marco! “Fits me like a glove” is how I feel about the X-E4 too 🙂

      I basically programmed the LED swipe-down gesture for focus mode, and the AEL-AFL button for single-point/zone/wide focus. The X-E4 works for me because I tend to shoot with similar settings 90% of the time. For example I almost always use single AF (except when using my one manual focus lens, Samyang 12mm f/2, where I obviously have to use MF). But even with the MF lens I don’t really need to change the focus mode, just stay in single AF and use the focus ring. I use continuous AF very rarely. So you can probably see how the focus mode switch would be somewhat superfluous for me. If you regularly change settings, I can appreciate how more controls might be helpful 🙂

      I wear glasses too, and I agree with the higher eye-relief and magnification viewfinder. That’s probably one of the few features for which I would be willing to accept a slight increase in size. Another is a fully articulated LCD.

  • I really enjoyed this article as well. So much so that I forwarded it to others.

  • I’d love an article on configuration on this little marvel. Got it an year ago and still learning.

  • I’ve been using the XE4 for over a year. I use it with a thumb rest and a grip because of some numbness issues in my Right hand. I learned how to program it and I shoot with it almost every day with a variety of lenses from a XC 50-230, Tamron 17-70 to a Viltrox 56 or a TTArtisans 50/f1.2. It’s a fantastic camera and has the same image quality as the XS10 which I also have. Takes a while to set up, but once you’re there, it’s a joy to use.

    • That’s great that the thumb rest and grip helped with your numbness issues! I have the XC 50-230 too, got it secondhand for less than USD 100 and it’s proved to be wonderful value for money. At some point I’d quite like to try a large aperture lens (f/1.4 or wider). Have you shared photos from the TTArtisans 50/1.2 anywhere?

  • Hello.
    How are you ?
    I have bought the first one. It was with all my analog cameras. I have really enjoyed : simple, light, efficient, great results, works well with many lenses. Finder too small. I have replaced it to buy a Sony A7 R II. I am still sad to have make this choice. Sony are great cameras but not so easy to get good results they need the good lenses. Fuji delivers very good results. This is a great camera.

    • Hi Eric, I’m well thanks, hope you’re doing good too! My understanding is that Sony has better autofocus, plus ofc full-frame has some advantages too. So in that sense Sony A7 is probably a more practical camera. I like Fuji because of the old-school dials, small size, JPEG quality and company philosophy (among other reasons), but I agree, a slightly bigger finder would be nice.

      • By the way great article like every time.
        Exactly the same than you, the old school dials. Love them too.
        My last purchase is a Zeiss Ikon super Ikonta Tessar. You know what ? The focusing is incredible for the epoch !!!
        With the Fuji I was able to get good results for the first shot. I have used many lenses from my Leicas M or Nikon F and of course the Fuji my favorite was the 27mm pancake for street photography. My Zeiss Biogon for Leica M 21mm C f4.5 worked very on Fuji but poorly with Sony and I have sold it, I miss this great lens.
        Of course I love also the pictures of your article.
        Thank for your reviews.

        • Thanks Eric! The Super Ikonta looks very cool, a camera with a lot of history. I would like to try it someday. By any chance do you post your photos somewhere like Flickr etc?

  • I’d like to see an article on configuration – so that after some tinkering I can let the cameera disappear in my hand.
    It already almost does, this little one.

    • Thanks, yes that’s the goal which I am also working towards – to have the process become as instinctive and natural as possible.

  • JDW in Melbourne March 28, 2023 at 4:46 am

    As the entirely satisfied owner of an XE2, I’ve played with this new baby (the XE4) and the acclaimed Fujinon 28/2.8.

    I have to say I enjoyed it, my initial feeling was and still is… meh!

    this may well be mostly to do with the 28, which I found underwhelming. This lens didn’t really do anything that I thought satisfied me, an entirely personal viewpoint, of course. I rated it as lower than my 18/2.0, my Go To lens for everything I shoot when I go traveling with the XE2. (I also have an XT2 which I consider as an entirely different kettle of fish, but this thread is about the XE4, so it’s best that I stay with that.)

    Fuji claims the ‘4’ has all sorts of new(ish) improvement but fewer bells and whistles, while most reviewers have praised its “minimalism”, so two entirely opposing viewpoints.

    On the whole I liked it, and my list of ‘negatives’ for this camera is not overly long. For me Fuji’s biggest no-no was to get rid of the molded built-in grip. Without this the XE4 felt too small in my hand and I thought it lost some of its ergonomic flexibility. Many may not mind this, but I’ve got used to the grip on my XE2.

    The XE4’s price in Australia is to me, rather on the high side (AUD $1200+ for the body only) and buying an optional grip which for me would be an absolute must, would add an extra $150.

    In two words, no thanks… I’ll stay with my XE2 which I use either with the astoundingly good 18-55 zoom or the (to me) legendary 18/2.0. It does all I want it to do and I’ll stay with what I have and know best.

    Let us now wait and see if Fuji comes out with an XE5, and if so what it does with it. Not holding my breath on this, but it could be interesting, if they handle it right.

    Otherwise, in all ways a most excellent article with an interesting personal viewpoint. Well done as always, Sroyon, many thanks,

    DANN in Melbourne

    • Thanks Dann! Yes if the grip is important to you, the older XE models may be better. Although there are third-party grips which are much cheaper than the Fuji ones, including some very nice wooden grips. In fact, some say they find that an XE4 plus accessory grip is more ergonomic than (though maybe not as pretty as) the XE2/XE3. But I don’t know, because I haven’t tried accessory grips myself.

      I have the 18/2 too, and use it a lot. I tried the 28/2.8 at the Fuji store but decided against it.

      As you say, it’s a personal viewpoint 🙂 The XE-4 certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste. In fact my own tastes are a bit unusual (prioritising simplicity, small size, light weight and few buttons, sometimes at the expense of ergonomic compromises). And camera manufacturers tend to cater to more mainstream preferences. I had kind of resigned myself to that, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised by the XE-4.

  • Thanks for this great post.

    I have my copy for 2 years now after it replaced an XT-30 I had for a year. Simply not my ergonomics. The XE4 is a chameleon. Straight out of the box (in the kit with the 27mm pancake), if you have used cameras of the past, you just go and shoot (better if you have tweaked it to suit your needs/style of course). No manual to read.
    Want some of the best images Fuji has to offer ? Put the additional grip, screw one of the last 1.4 LM WR lenses in and off you go.
    Wanna try the Leica mode ? Easy peasy. Screw in a fast 23mm MF lens, put the beauty in a (not too small) pocket and you’re good to go.

    In fact, over 90% of what is really needed in practice to take some great pictures is on board.

    Aren’t we told that making an artwork is all about simplification and exclusion ? My guess is that the XE 4 follows that rule pretty well. It’s not perfect (WR and fully articulate screen) but pretty close.

    What I find funny is when people praises a Leica Mxx for its “roots” ergonomics and at the same time criticize the fact that there is no more button to access to AF-C mode on the XE4.

    Definitely, the XE 4 isn’t about technology or features (which it has both). It is about taking pictures. And it does it well IMHO

    Oh and by the way, your settings would be a welcome addition. As for AF, like you, I am always in Back Button Focus Mode, which not only allows precise manual correction when needed, but also allows me to use some m42 lenses without any further tweaking. Just put the glass and off you go.

    Florian from France

    • Thanks Florian! This is one of the things I like about Fuji – that we can get the same sensor and processor in a wide range of bodies, which can be further customised with lenses and accessories to match individual tastes and needs.

      • +1
        Especially if we remember the old saying which states that what is important is the glass (and the photographer of course), not the camera …

  • Beautiful article! I laughed and cried at the same time, seriously. I own one for one year by now and totally agree with you.
    Maneuvering complexity gives you a sense of control. But is it necessary? And is it practical? I rather have minimal control (with hidden complexities, of course) and concentrate on the content, like you.
    This article should be read by Fujifilm people. It would encourage them to be more functional and minimalistic in designing X-E5 ( X-E4 was designed mostly by a young Japanese woman.)

  • Lovely photos and article – but, as an owner of an XE3 and an M10P, I’d encourage you to sell both your cameras and buy a Leica. I am completely smitten with mine and have been since I bought it a couple of years ago. It’s wonderful to use, and for street in particular, once you’re used to it, you just don’t have to think. I honestly think most people can afford it if they prioritise differently; I spent £10k on my camera and only £1500 on my car, whereas most people do it the other way around. Works for me – and Voigtlander are now producing superb M mount lenses at reasonable prices. Just go for it. Best, Pete

    • Hi Pete! I own a Leica M3 and use it a lot, but I honestly don’t see myself getting a digital Leica. I have a frugal approach to material things in general; the Fuji X-E3 is literally the most expensive thing I own (I got the M3 several years ago before prices went up), and I can’t justify spending much more than that on a camera. Like you say, it’s all about priorities. But price is not the only reason – for example my Fuji was partly funded by paid shoots (dance photography) which I couldn’t do without autofocus. I’m glad you’re enjoying your Leica though, and thanks for the kind words about my article!

  • As an owner of an x-e4 would be very interested to read of how you set up yours in more detail. Great article 👍🏻

  • JDW in Melbourne May 17, 2023 at 10:26 pm

    Hello again from the Fuji devil’s advocate…

    Hm. Interesting take on a Leica (versus an XE4) from Pete.

    Respectfully, may I both agree AND disagree?

    Different strokes for different folks apply here. One can do as much with a Fuji XEwhatever (I have the XE2, Sroyon eulogies the XE4 and may I say, for so many good reasons), Pete soapboxes for his Leica – but as noted, doesn’t tell us which Leica he has, other than to say he coughed up ten grand for it, in quids no less, so close to AUD $20,000 given this week’s US66 cents value of our South Pacific Peso in exchange for the Yankidolla. Which ain’t hay. by any stretch of the imagination!!

    But then Pete also has an XE3, another camera I would happily buy if I could find a good one at an affordable price. Just this week a camera seller in Melbourne (unfortunately, not one I consider as reputable, so other than perusing their web site now and then I won’t buy from that mob on principle) has an XE3 on offer, but for AUD $895 – bearing in mind that a new XE4 can be acquired on order from any camera shop selling Fuji in Australia for AUD $1,300 plus $200 more for the Fuji grip, is I reckon, too rich for my blood and surely my pensioner’s budget. (I do agree, however, about the Voigtlander lenses, they are superb optics). So no, as much as I like the ‘3’, I won’t be ponying up to the shop to acquire this one. Maybe another will come my way. Or maybe not. Either way, my XE2 will go on doing the sort of imagery I enjoy making – nowadays mostly B&W candids, which the ‘2’ excels at – for the time being.

    On the other hand, if I had my change (and the cash) I would happily buy a Leica QE or even the , which to me symbolizes THE perfect minimalist digital camera. I don’t, well I do, but I don’t want to part with so much money even for something almost hand made in , so I won’t.

    Now I will try to be nice to everybody. Good on Pete for having the $$ to indulge his whims. Good on Sroyon for praising the Fuji XE4 as he did and obviously doing so many good images out of it. And good on me for doing my small bit to save the planet and staying with my XE2. It’s entirely win-win-win for us all.

    So yes, good on you, Pete. We are all madly envious of you and your bank balance, as well as your choice of cameras. Most of us will stay with what we have. Nikons and Fuji for digital work. For film, when an analog mood comes over me, I can play with my Nikkormat FT2s, my Contax G1s, my Nikon N65s, my VOigtlander Perkeo II or my Zeiss Nettar. Oh, and one of my four Rollei TLRs.

    Now the secret is out and you all know why my bank balance is nowhere near Pete’s, tho’ in my own defense, may I say I’ve owned some of those cameras since the 1980s, and one of my Rolleiflexes since 1966. So yes, I hang on to my good things, and I try to use them well.

    All the above to say, I mostly agree with you, Pete. You thought it all out and then wrote it well. As I say, different strokes…

    All this said without prejudice, as lawyers like to opine Maybe a little envy on my part, but as I see it, that’s a good feeling.

    DANN in Melbourne

  • Fantastic article. Thank you. I love this camer and at the same time find it to be a bit of a challenge to feel like I have any control. I would love to hear how you set up your Fujifilm X-E4.

  • Thank you for your article and how you approached it. Not just a camera review, indeed!
    It is now July 2023. I got excited to find the camera only to find out it has been discontinued! Do you know, did it not sell well so it was discontinued?

    • Hi Mark, thanks for your kind words! My understanding is that the camera sold well enough (in fact, it was discontinued shortly after I wrote my review and now often sells on the used market for higher than the original retail price!) but Fuji had supply chain issues, so they chose to focus on more profitable cameras such as the X-T and X-H series. But this is just hearsay from photo forums, FujiRumors, etc., I don’t have a confirmed source for it. Anyway, let’s hope an X-E5 will be released sometime soon!

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Sroyon Mukherjee

Sroyon is an amateur photographer who likes making images with pinhole cameras, smartphones and everything in between. He also enjoys working on collaborative projects, alternative processes, and developing and printing in the darkroom.

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