Fujifilm X-E2 Initial findings and settings for portraiture

The X-E2 is the same size as the X100s, shares the same sensor, but has a lens mount enabling the use of the growing range of superb lenses made by Fuji and Zeiss. The X-E2 brings a whole host of new features to the ever expanding Fujifilm X system. Some of the features you will love and others you will rarely use. I mainly shoot portraits so I don’t expect to be using WiFi or the video functions that much but it’s good to know that they are there.


I’ve had the Fujifilm X-E2 for just a couple of weeks but I’ve already studied the camera and the manual in detail to work out how I’m going to shoot with it. Here are three main ways I have established for shooting portraits with the Fujifilm X-E2 camera. I got caught out at times on the journey to making the camera work for me but where there is a will there is a way. Here are my three set-ups in detail…

These are my Q menu settings that are common to all three shooting systems. They affect the jpeg output and the way the image is viewed on the LCD or EVF:

DR 100
NR -2
L 3.2
H tone 0
S tone 0
Colour 0
Sharp -1
LCD brightness 0
(The size of the jpeg recorded affects the maximum in-camera playback zoom)

Shooting System 1:

This is my natural or continuous lighting set up and uses aperture priority in conjunction with auto ISO. Here are my settings for that working method:

ISO set to 200 Auto on ~ max 6400 with a minimum shutter speed set for each lens as follows: 14mm ~ 1/60th second, 23mm ~ 1/100th second, 35mm ~ 1/160th second and 60mm lens ~ 1/250th second.
Shutter speed dial set to A
Aperture dial set to f/1.4 – f/4 as required
Jpeg Fine + Raw
Auto WB
Ns film simulation

AF set to S Activated on a half press of the shutter. I then move the focus zone around the frame as needed. I set the focus zone as the smallest square available as any background detail within the square during focussing might cause the lens to back focus.

With these settings dialled in I just pick up the camera, switch it on and start shooting. I adjust the shooting the exposure compensation as required via the very convenient dial, I change the focus zone to the best position for each shot and I reset the minimum shutter speed for Auto ISO in the ISO menu (Fn button) if I change my lens.

With the AF set to activate on a half shutter press I have to focus before every exposure. I rarely shoot multiple frames the same so I really don’t mind doing this.

I set the aperture and let the camera adjust the ISO from 200 to 6400 to suit the light level. When it runs out of ISO range it alters the shutter speed. I came to the values of minimum shutter speed using my simple formula* (See the section on shutter speed below). Occasionally I’ll dial in a higher shutter speed, especially when using the 14mm lens if the subject movement demands it. I just set the shutter speed dial to the value I want and the auto ISO continues to perform just as before.

Notes: Jpeg Fine added to the Raw format ensures a 100% speed zoom function on picture review. Ns film simulation gives me a natural rendition of the contrast recorded. I change the look as required in Adobe Lightroom.

Shooting System 2:

This is my studio flash method where the ambient light plays no part in the exposure. The camera is in full manual mode:

ISO set to 200 Auto ISO switched off
Shutter speed set to 180x
Jpeg Fine + Raw
White balance set to sunny day
Ns film simulation
Aperture set to f/11
Autofocus set to Manual
Focus using AF lock button
The AF position is moved around the frame as required
Preview exposure in manual mode set to off [ Menu > Set -up 1 > Screen set-up > Preview Exp. in manual mode > toggle on or off]

Notes: The exposure preview in manual mode is fabulous but in the studio it needs to be switched off otherwise the LCD and the EVF are just black. I shoot all my studio flash work at f/11 because my principal flash heads are at 1/4 power or so, they recycle quickly and have at least two stops of adjustment available in either direction.

Shooting System 3:

I use this set up when I am in the studio using continuous light or when I’m shooting interior portraits or using Speedlights on location where the ambient light is part of the exposure. Full manual exposure.

Aperture set to f/1.4 – f/2.8 for DOF requirements
Shutter speed set manually to at least 4x the focal length (primes) or 180x if using flash
ISO set as required. ISO adjustments are 1/3rd stop so I use this for exposure adjustment [Fn button assigned ISO]
Auto ISO switched off
Jpeg Fine + Raw
White balance set to Auto
Ns film simulation
Autofocus set to Manual
Focus using AF lock button
The AF position is moved around the frame as required
Preview exposure in manual mode set to on [ Menu > Set -up 1 > Screen set-up > Preview Exp. in manual mode > toggle on or off]

Notes: This set up is perfect if the light level is not changing often. Examples include when a bride is having her hair and makeup done or boudoir shoots in hotel bedrooms. Once the exposure is set using the ISO it can usually be left alone. With the ‘preview exposure in manual mode’ switched on it is easy to see any changes necessary before the shutter is pressed. What you see is what you get.

If I’m shooting dramatic location flash with the ambient light exposure cut by two or more stops I switch the ‘preview exposure in manual mode’ facility off otherwise I can’t see to compose. In sunlight or bright daylight I often use a NDx16 or NDx32 filter to get from f/11 or f/16 down to f/2.8. The great news is the brightness of the LCD or EVF on the Fuji X-E2 adjusts accordingly once the exposure preview is off so it’s business as usual. On an SLR it would be tough to see the picture with this amount of ND. Hence SLRs often need high speed sync to achieve a similar look. That option is not always possible when using big pro flash systems so the Fuji X and ND filter is the best all round solution. The Fuji X-100 has a handy NDx8 ( 3 stop) filter built in.

When working with the Fujifilm X lenses set to a wide aperture I adjust the position of the focus zone using the controls on the back of the camera. I use this system because the lenses are a flat field design. That is, the edges of the frame focus at a further distance from the camera than the centre of the image for any given lens position making the focus reframe method of shooting far less accurate. The great news with the X system is that unlike a dSLR the peripheral focus zones are very sensitive and are completely useable. One problem though is I have yet to find a way of setting the focus area to a smaller size on the X-E2 in Manual mode. It remains a big white rectangle. I think that this must be a system bug that will be corrected with a firmware upgrade soon. Fujifilm are very good at providing firmware upgrades on a regular basis.

*A note about shutter speed and focal length with Fujifilm X cameras. For hand held shooting I have found that the pixel pitch of a 12mp APS-C sensor (X100) requires a shutter speed of 1/ (3*F) where F is the focal length of the lens. So for the X100 where F=23mm I use a shutter speed of 1/80th second as it is the closest value I can set using the auto iso function above my calculated value of 1/69th second. When I’m shooting hand held using a manual exposure system I have to choose 1/125th second as the shutter speed dial is in whole stop increments. With an X Trans APS-C sensor of 16mp (X-Pro1, X100s and X-E2) the pixel pitch is smaller still and I find I need a shutter speed 1/(4*F) to get acceptably sharp pictures hand held.

The future: I hope that there is an X-Pro2 camera and it has in camera, or on sensor, stabilisation especially if the pixel count goes up to 21 million pixels on an organic APS-C  sensor. That will ensure the 56mm or 60mm lenses can be used hand held at 1/60th second rather than 1/250th second. Having to use a monopod is a bit of a pain that I can do without. I doubt I’ll ever be shooting the 56mm lens wider than f/2 except for full length portraits but we will have to wait and see.

I hope this first findings guide is useful. Being an early adopter of any system is a challenge in itself but I get the added advantage of a long service life from my cameras before they become superseded.

Feel free to comment on these settings and mention other ways you use the camera for shooting portraits.

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About Damien

Damien Lovegrove learned his trade as a cameraman and lighting director during 14 years at the BBC, working on programmes such as the Clothes Show, Top of the Pops and Casualty. Fifteen years on, Damien has become one of the foremost trainers of photography and entrepreneurial business strategies in our industry. A published writer and regular columnist, Damien has travelled the globe sharing his knowledge and expertise. “Photography fascinates me” declares Damien. "Much of my photography is inspired by a burning enthusiasm within me” explains Damien. “Picking up a camera gives me such a rush that I’m instantly driven to create pictures.”

31 thoughts on “Fujifilm X-E2 Initial findings and settings for portraiture

  1. Hi Damien, great post as ever. Given the new sensor and other improvements would you advocate an X-E2 over an X-Pro1?

  2. Thanks for this Damien; your detailed explanations are always useful. I’ve found with the XE 2 that even when setting a minimum shutter speed and setting the aperture ring to A the camera will still override the minimum set speed if it thinks the image will be underexposed. Have you found this?

  3. Damien I just realised a couple of mistakes in my previous comment. I meant the shutter speed set to A and the min shutter speed set in Auto ISO. So if I set the min speed in Auto ISO the camera will still override if it runs out of ISO and aperture. I would prefer it not to do this as I don’t like shooting at less then 1/125

  4. Damien,
    Superb article that should help all of us new to the X way of life. Do you find that IQ has been improved over the Pro1 sensor? I’m trying to get use to the feel of the camera. I will try and make some prints later as I’m sure the screen does not do the files true justice. Proud ProPhotonut since 09

  5. Hi Ian,

    Thanks. The X-Pro1 is still the best Fuji X camera. The X-Pro LCD is far higher resolution and a better aspect ratio meaning the image is clear of info graphics etc. However some of the features on the X-E2 are deal makers. The X-Pro1 is now nearly 2 years old and ready for replacement. The prices of the X-Pro1 are tumbling too making it a bargain right now. Any X-Pro2 will leap frog the X-E2 and I’d expect some sort of announcement on the X-Pro1 replacement early in the new year.

    Best regards,


  6. Hi Richard,
    The trick is to set the shutter speed to 125th instead of A. The picture will then just get darker once the highest ISO setting has been reached. It’s that easy :) Damien.

  7. Hi Terrence,

    I’ve not noticed any differences in image quality with the new sensor. I have only been processing jpegs from the X-E2 so far as the colour profile for the X-E2 in the beta version of Lightroom is not good enough to use at the moment. I’ve also not shot both cameras side by side as my X-Pro1 is in Africa for a month on a safari project.

    I hope to see you again in 2014. Take care my friend.


  8. Hi Damien, just getting used to my new fujix 100s, i think if you were to bring out a dvd tutorial on the fuji system ie- xpro 1 or 2 and 100s they would fly, these cameras are very popular, if you do please consider speed lights which are perfect with the small fuji you can go anywhere with them, anyway just an idea.

    All the best Brendan

  9. hi gould you explain to me why pudeł pitch is important weń considerating sharpness in image? i had heard only about the focal lenght being same clue to getting the night exposure but ever bout pixel pitch.

  10. Hi Serafin,

    The small pixel pitch delivers a very fine resolution. The slightest of camera movement is recorded as a blur in a 16mp APSC that still appears sharp in a 16mp FF sensor. I get pin sharp shots using my formula so I know it works.

    Kind regards,


  11. Thanks Brendan,

    I have a few video projects involving the Fuji X series in the pipeline. I’m just waiting on financial clearance to get them underway.

    Kind regards, Damien.

  12. Re: “When I’m shooting hand held using a manual exposure system I have to choose 1/125th second as the shutter speed dial is in whole stop increments. ”

    You can set shutter speed for the X100 by 1/3 stop with the ring thing on the back. But it doesn’t remember after you turn the camera off and then back on. Same thing with the aperture. Btw, thanks for the article. Your setting examples, and especially the rationale behind them, are very very useful.

  13. Hi Damien,
    It’s always great to see how you approach working with specific equipment. I’m using the X-E1 and X100.
    A lot of people were really keen to see minimum shutter speed when using auto iso for the X-E1 and Fuji have implemented this it seems in the X-E2, which is great. I find however that Fuji didn’t ignore the feature in the X-E1. While you can’t set a minimum, the camera does seem to have preset minimum shutter speeds, depending on lens – looks like it’s 1/52 on the 35mm lens and 1/30 on the 18mm. This of course won’t suit everyone as we all have preferred minimums and setting it manually is an option.
    Another thing I notice is the amount of work the camera does on the Jpegs. The 18mm in particular suffers from quite heavy colour fringing and barrel distortion – this is seen clearly in the RAF files (can be fixed in Lightroom) but is greatly reduced in the Jpegs. I’m really enjoying learning to use these cameras and know they’ll be used a lot in my work in 2014.
    Sorry if this is a little off topic, you were posting about the X-E2 after all.
    Best wishes,

  14. Damien,

    Thanks very much for this Blog post. It is a great help. I currently shoot with a Nikon system (D4, D3 & glass), and will be transitioning to a Fuji X camera system. I’ll be purchasing the X-E2 first, waiting for the X-Pro update for my primary camera.

    This post gives me a lot of insight into how I will have to adjust my shooting for optimal results. It will take time since I’ve used Nikon SLR’s since 1967:-) I borrowed an X-Pro from another pro for a weeks testing and I was very impressed, just shooting JPEG only.

    I totally agree with your thoughts on the X-Pro2. I would just add flash sync up to 1/250th sec.
    Take care,

  15. Thanks Tony,

    I’d rather the shutter speed was set with the thumb wheel and stayed put rather than keep resetting itself. The shutter speed dial looks nice but SLRs were right to ditch it ten years ago.

    Cheers, Damien.

  16. Hi Damier

    I use PocketWizard TT5 – TT1 – AC3 with nikon SB 900 and SB700 with XE 2 and i can
    remote manual the power ,do you have any idea to use XE2 with flash for wedding photography wireless ?


  17. Hi George,

    I’ve not tried the Fuji TTL system and I’ve not used the Fuji X series cameras with hand held off camera Speedlights in dark situations. There is no reason why it shouldn’t work if you can focus the camera. However the AC3 on the PW TT1 and TT5 is not as suitable as an SU800 on the TT1 because there is no focus aid on any Pocket Wizard unit. So when it gets dark there is no way of finding focus easily.

    I’ll be researching hand held flash for covering events with the Fuji X series when the moment arises. Until then I’m using any make of Speedlight in manual mode on a stand triggered by a simple radio system. It works perfectly but it’s not a ‘party’ rig.

    Kind regards, Damien.

  18. Damien,
    Would you shoot a wedding in lovegrove fashion with an XE2 or any X cam? If so what would be your comparable kit solution? I’m thinking of exploring this area possibly in the coming year.


  19. Hi Damien I note you mention minimum shutter speeds for different lenses, is it possible to set these on the X pro 1? Would also like to say your blog is a mine of information and the images are just delightful.

    Thank you

  20. Hi Graham, yes it will be, or no not yet, are both valid answers. The firmware due out this week will add that functionality to the Fuji X-Pro1. Thanks for your kind words about my blog and pictures.
    Regards, Damien.

  21. Hi Terrence,

    I’m going to be shooting a wedding or two using the X cameras. I still have to sort out off camera TTL flash. Radio Popper might be a solution but I’ve yet to establish how the Fuji TTL system works. This is a project for boxing day. I use TTL flash for some sessions at weddings because of rapidly changing scenarios. I shoot weddings at f/4 for very good reasons and I don’t go over ISO 800 either unless there is a very specific need for high ISO. I therefore use flash a lot more than most photographers it seems. These settings and system keep our wedding pictures bright, clean, vibrant and consistent.

    I’ll report back when I’ve done more research.

    Kind regards,


  22. Thanks Damien for that excellent review! One thing missing that interests me, is for your studio and non-studio work, what “Photometry” do you use – Multi or Spot? Thanks :)

  23. Hi Steve,

    I rarely use photometry because I rare use the camera meter. But in the odd instances when Auto ISO is used along with Aperture priority it is in multi. I then look at the screen and adjust the exposure by eye in real time ahead of exposure using the +/- exposure compensation.

    Kind regards,


  24. Hi Damien

    Thanks for your very informative article, which I’ve stumbled onto a little late it seems, but it still must rank well also with Google. Happily I have found many links to you before on Scoop!

    I was most interested to see your formula for a safe shooting speed for manual lenses, given the greater pixel density of 16mb sensors, and was just wondering if you might have a rule of thumb for shooting with stabilised zoom lenses? My understanding is that both the 18-55 and 55-300 claim around 4 stops, so I was thinking 1x focal length should be safe?

    I am sure you understand the issues much better than I do, so I am hoping you might expand on your calculation.

    It’s likely your words will float around the Googlesphere for many years to come. Thanks again for your great articles.

  25. Hi Richard,

    Yes Google loves my blog for some reason.The zooms are so stabilised that my only consideration is subject movement. I only shoot portraits so I rarely want to use less than 1/125th anyway. But I’ve shot the 55-200 at 200 using 1/30th second and got a pin sharp picture. I was just ‘testing’ as you do.

    I hope this helps,


  26. OK thanks Damien. Amazing what a huge difference stabilising makes. Seems you just have to consider a speed suitable for the subject and can forget the focal length.

    Thanks again.

  27. Hi Richard,

    That’s pretty much it. When I shoot portraits With the 55-200 lens I tend to shoot wide open with a 1/125th second to freeze my subject movement. When I work with the 56mm or 60mm lenses I use 1/250th second to freeze the camera movement.



  28. Hi Terrance,

    The X-E2 was eons ago. With my Fuji X-T1 I use: Highlight tone-1, Shadow tone-1, sharpness-1, Noise reduction-2, RAW & Jpeg fine. I hope this helps :) Damien.

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