Fuji X-E1: Getting a grip on the camera
I am enjoying the small Fuji X-E1 camera for its handleability and excellent image quality. I has been used mainly with manual-focus Leica lenses as I outlined in this review. From the moment I received it I was keen to get some extra grip.
Instead of a full camera strap I prefer a wrist strap, particularly the excellent Barton1972 Braidy, and I like also to add a bit of extra grip. The Fuji does have a slightly raised hump at the front, but it doesn't provide the sort of firm grip I like.
Most manufacturers of mirrorless and rangefinder cameras offer a factory grip which usually screws into the tripod mount and provides a substantial finger hold on the front of the camera. An alternative to this type of device is a deceptively simple thumb grip which slots into the hotshoe and offers a comfortable home for the right thumb. It can give similar stability to a full-blown grip while keeping down the bulk.
I have had the opportunity to try both Fuji's own X-E1 grip and the newly introduced Thumbs Up designed by Tim Isaac of Matchtechnical in Seattle. I've had several of his TU grips in the past (for Leica and Fuji and have always been impressed, despite the relatively high price.
Fuji HG-XE1 Handgrip
Fuji's grip for the X-E1 follows more traditional design and consists of a base plate with attached front grip. The base screws into the tripod mount and needs six turns of the integral screw to secure it to the camera. It must be removed for access to the battery or SD card and, after a time, those six turns of the screw become frustrating.
Unforuntely the Fuji grip has a particularly deep, 1cm base which ads substantially to the depth of the camera. It is also chamfered at the base and this makes the camera unstable on a flat surface. Even with the light 35mm Fujinon lens, the camera will flop down onto the lens.
In contrast, Leica's M9 grip completely replaces the standard M bottom plate (giving access to the battery and SD card) so it adds nothing to the depth of the camera and provides a stable bottom.
Above: The Fuji grip is bulky and the chamfered base makes the camera unstable when it is placed on a flat surface. When using the grip it is very easy to inadvertently move the rather loose exposure compensation dial.
The Fuji grip does what it claims; it gives a more substantial front grip and makes the camera more stable, particularly used one-handed. In addition, when used in conjunction with the wrist strap, the grip is nicely balanced and allows the camera to be dangled down with just a light fingerhold on the front of the grip. The latest model is the EP-9S specially designed for the X-E1.
I am a great fan of Tim Isaac's Thumbs Up grips which offer a neat solution to the problem of adding grip and stability without the trade-off of extra bulk. Thumbs Up grips are milled from solid brass and perfectly match the finish of the camera they are designed for. I've had Tim's grips for Leica M9, Fuji X100, Fuji X-Pro 1 and Fuji X10; all have been excellent and well worth the rather expensive price tag. They also sell well on the after-market, as I found when I sold the earlier Fuji X cameras.
I knew what to expect when I opened the box which arrived all the way from Seattle. But I had a surprise when I saw the new lug which slides on to the top of the camera and further improves stability. The grip slides into the hotshoe and is firm without being too tight. The one-piece silicone strip which fits on the inside of the grip is a work of art in itself. In additon to protecting the back of the camera, it provides a buffer between the top lug and the camera body.
There was another surprise in store when I attached the Thumbs Up to my X-E1. As you can see in the picture below, the grip totally protects the loose exposure compensation dial from prying thumbs. This loose dial has been the bane of Fuji X owners from the X100, through to the X-E1 and, although a little tighter than before, it is certainly far too easy to knock away from neutral. The Thumbs Up completely solves the problem and is worth having for that reason alone.
In use, the X-E1 Thumbs Up works in exactly the same way as previous grips I have had with my other cameras. In some ways it works better than on the Leica M9, for instance, because the Fuji does have a raised grip on the front of the camera (the Leica is smooth) and this, in conjunction with the Thumbs Up, makes for very secure and comfortable handling.
Since the Thumbs Up arrived last week I have sidelined Fuji's bulky and wobbly grip and much prefer the handling of the camera with Tim's new device.
The Fuji HG-XE1 handgrip costs £74.99 from Fuji dealer while the Thumbs Up EP-9S from MatchTechnical in Seattle is $129.88 plus postage. It is available in black or silver to match the camera.
by Mike Evans, 12 February 2013