White Smoke Studio
Dorota Kaszuba and Michał Warda; they both live in Warsaw. Dorota is a graduate of the ZPAF (Polish Association of Artistic Photographers) and Photography University and the Faculty of Multimedia Communication of the University of Arts in Poznan. Michał is a self-taught journalist who has gained his journalistic skills working for news agencies. The main area of their activity is photography and videography. Their main activities in photography are reportage street photography. In 2006, they founded the WhiteSmoke Studio, which was a pioneering team successfully transferring street and fashion to wedding photography. They gained experience and reputation in portrait photography working for the press and advertising agencies. They published in the most important polish and foreing journals.
Italian Magazine JM: JUST MARRIED two years in a row (2009 and 2010) have recognized WhiteSmoke Studio as some of the best wedding photographers in the world. They are winners of numerous international industry competitions organized by the WPJA, AGWPJA, ISPWP and Fearless Photographers and the IPA.
Speakers / Lecturers: 2015 Fearless Photographers Conference, Bucharest, Romania and 2016 Snap Photography Festival in Wales, UK and many appearances at Polish conferences dedicated to wedding photography. They are one of the best known polish wedding photographers. They are jurors in international industry competitions. Since 2012, they have been running their own photography workshops, where they host photographers from all over Europe.
WHAT DOES A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER NEED A SMALL AND DISCREET CAMERA FOR?
It needs to be inconspicuous enough so that it doesn’t draw people’s attention as you do your street photography. It has to be efficient and reliable so that it can be used as backup to your main bodies as you shoot reportage for your clients. Last but not least, you could use it for wedding snaps. Guests at weddings will feel much more comfortable in the presence of a photographer with a small piece of gear instead of a large camera.
Also, we often look for locations before large photo shoots. On such occasions we like to throw something small and light into the bag. A camera such as the X100V is usually ideal in such situations. However, there are times when the fact that you can’t change the lens can be a bit bothersome. Especially if, as you plan your shots, you prefer to attach the ‘target’ lens and see how the frame is set. The idea of opting for a small camera works so well in the life of a photographer that we can easily assume that everyone should have in their arsenal a small, light and discreet camera with a powerful sensor. Anyway – let’s be honest – not a day goes by without us taking a camera along, even for the shortest walk with the dog.
The FUJIFILM X-E4, which made us consider all that, is a perfect partner for two pancake lenses – the 18mm and the 27mm. As part of this combination, it is a splendid portable, everyday camera. Ergonomics, however, is the most common issue with such discreet bodies. And it’s why the first thing I recommend for compact cameras is the so-called thumb grip. As the name suggests, it helps hook the thumb on the body, so that despite the lack of a traditional grip, you can still hold the camera more securely. In the case of the X-E4, a poor grip is not a problem, as the thumb grip comes as part of the package. Way to go!
As far as the body goes, the X-E4 is surprisingly heavy for such a tiny size. It’s smaller than most smartphones, but don’t get me wrong – it’s not heavy per se. It only feels this way when you pick it up. Your first thought is of a solid build. And that’s what it really is. My impression is that with the launch of the X100V, Fuji introduced new quality to their less advanced cameras as well. The X-S10 is extremely solid, and so is the X-E4. In the summer of 2020, as I was wondering whether to choose the X-E3 or the X100V, it was build quality and that solid feeling that tipped the scales towards the X100V. Nowadays, the choice would be a bit more difficult, though this equipment is definitely targeted at a different audience. Whereas the X-E3 competed directly with the X100V, the X-E4 seems to be complementing it. You could say it’s a smaller brother that you can permanently attach the 18 mm lens to, and carry it around it as a wider-angle alternative.
When working with such a small-sized camera, I usually stop using the electronic viewfinder altogether. I choose the LCD screen instead, as it feels more natural, especially when shooting in the street. The X-E4 doesn’t fall behind in this respect. It’s both a tilt and a touch screen. Even on a sunny day, you can still use it comfortably. Of course, the EVF is better for a critical assessment of exposure, but you can frame your images as easily using the LCD.
Ease of use has always been a great advantage of Fuji cameras. Whatever the model, you always get a similar, well-thought-out “buttonology”. What you notice is a consistent doing away of some of the buttons. You only get what’s absolutely necessary. What I wrote about with regard to the XS10 applies here, too – it’s a camera for minimalists. Everything you need, the shutter speed and exposure adjustment dials, is where it should be place, and the viewfinder on the left side reminds you of the old analogue compact rangefinder cameras with the non-replaceable lens. Does anyone remember FujiFilm Fujica? Same body size. The purpose also seems to be similar. We started our photography adventure with this type of rangefinder compact. You can tell that Fuji goes deep into tradition. On the minus side, one thing needs to be mentioned – the lack of an AF mode lever. In order to switch from AF-C to AF-S, you need to go into the menu or assign one of the slots in Quick Menu that has been moved to the top – next to the exposure compensation wheel. The Full Auto switch has disappeared from the top cover, which suggests the X-E4 might be geared more towards the more aware photographer 😉
Another compromise that you can often stumble across in the case of small and discreet cameras is a poor-quality sensor. The X-E4, however, offers the traditional, full set of film simulations and the same sensor you’ll encounter in the flagship X-T4 model. Fuji is perhaps the only manufacturer that, regardless of the camera series, offers the same, consistently high image quality. Let me explain why it’s so important from the perspective of a professional photographer.
When traveling on assignment to places located hundreds, or sometimes thousands of kilometers away from home, we don’t like to bring along several identical cameras. Each body has its own specific purpose and a pre-assigned lens. When working with mirrorless cameras, we hardly ever change our lenses. Over the course of a full day of reportage picture taking, we’d have to change them 20, 30, maybe even 50 times Not only would it slow down the process. It would expose the sensor to unnecessary dirt, too. It does matter – if, like us, you often work with apertures in the f8-f11 range and arrange your composition in a multi-plane manner. Of course, you can work with two identical X-T4 or X-Pro3 bodies, with a set of 23mm and 35mm or 56mm lenses. However, if you too sometimes need an 18 mm or 16 mm lens, then buying a third large body does not necessarily make sense. This is where smaller and cheaper options come in, such as the X-S10 and the X-E4. It may be hard to believe, but it’s impossible to tell, by looking at the files alone, which picture was taken with a more expensive camera and which you took with the cheaper model. The file is processed in exactly the same way, and you get the same color and quality. This improves the entire workflow incredibly, which cannot be overestimated in the case of professional photographers. What often distinguishes a professional photographer is their optimized workflow and work efficiency.
Speaking of efficiency – the speed and precision of the AF system is another aspect that is often neglected with small cameras. we can safely say that the AF was OK. In only a few instances, when it was extremely dark and the scene had little contrast, the AF made a mistake. But on the dance floor, not only against the light but also in very dynamic situations, the percentage of good shots was very high. The AF speed goes hand in hand with the overall responsiveness of the camera. It’s ready to work immediately after switching on, there are no annoying delays, the shutter button responds very quickly and we the burst mode is 8 frames per second for the mechanical shutter and up to 30 frames, should you opt for the electronic shutter. Fast memory cards are strongly recommended for comfortable work in continuous shooting mode as well. As a comparison – one of our professional SLRs also achieved a speed of 8 frames per second. It’s amazing to have such a fast camera of such a small size.
Summing up, though it’s not a revolution, the X-E4 is definitely an evolution of the X-E3 in a very good direction. A camera that we have recommended to our friends on many occasions as a perfect tool for everyday work. A sensor as that in the X-T4, a fast and reliable AF, the buttonology simplified to the minimum, the same battery as in the X-Pro3 and the X100V, a solid build and a thumb-grip included. It’s a baby endowed with great possibilities that will fit perfectly in your coat pocket.