Fujifilm X-E1 Review

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Fujifilm X-E1 Review

A little while ago, The Fujiguys sent me the new Fujifilm X-E1 camera and two all-new lenses, the Fujinon XF 14mm 1:2.8 R and the Fujinon XF 18-55mm 1:2.8-4 R LM OIS.

I should start by saying that there are a lot more similarities than differences between the X-E1 and the X-Pro1, so if you have not yet read my review of the X-Pro1, you should read that first.

It’s Ok…I’ll wait.

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Confession

If you have read my Fujifilm X-Pro1 review (which, by now, you should have), you’ll know that I was very impressed. So going into this review, and knowing what I knew of the camera, I was somewhat sceptical of the X-E1 living up to my demands. (SPOILER ALERT!) Sadly, I have to confess that my fears were not completely unfounded. In short, the X-E1 is not the camera for me. I’d rather just pony-up the extra $400 to get the X-Pro1. To me, the X-E1 is missing of bit of the magic that the X-Pro1 has. While a little quirky, the X-Pro1 is a splendid camera to use.  The saving-grace of the X-Pro1 is its brilliant hybrid viewfinder. It makes every other minor quibble…well, minor.  But, without the hybrid viewfinder, I found the overall experience of the X-E1 less to my liking.

It’s easy to overlook a few quirks when you’re behind the wheel of a race car.  But take out the 1200 bhp Bugatti Veyron engine and swap it with a Honda Civic engine, and all of a sudden, those quirks become more obvious. It’s not that the reset of the car changed, but it’s easier to get stuck on the details when you’re not being distracted by some bit of magic.

Now, that’s not to say that the X-E1 is a “bad” camera, because it isn’t — far from it! Everything that was great or good about the X-Pro1 that’s in the X-E1 is just as great. In fact, I know some photographers who prefer the electronic viewfinder and love the X-E1 because of it. I’m just not one of those people. Que sera.

But that said, it’s not all doom and gloom! The X-E1 really is a great camera in this (growing) segment and it owes a lot of its design to the X-Pro1.

[I had actually been holding on to the camera for a while (as you'll see in my photos), not ready to publish my review until now because I felt I hadn't really given it a fair run. I needed to shoot with it some more...and yet, heading out the door, given my choice of cameras, often the Fuji remained behind. Again, it came down to the magic quotient, and I just don't think X-E1 has it for me. But this past weekend, I was lucky enough to have tickets to the 10-year Arts&Crafts record label music festival, Field Trip Music and Arts Festival, and figured that if this camera can shine anywhere, it is here.  So, in the review, you'll find images taken from Toronto Fashion Week in March, Field Trip Music and Arts Festival, and some shots around Toronto.

And while the X-E1 can do many things well, exceptional battery-life is not one of them. So sadly, after about 9 hours of sporadic shooting, my battery gave up (with little warning) and I was left to shoot the headlining act, Broken Social Scene, with only my Blackberry. Fortunately, the exceptional show made up for my dismay of a dead battery.]

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What’s the Same

Both cameras use the same fantastic 16MP APS-C “X-Trans CMOS” sensor. I couldn’t see any difference between the images made on the X-E1 and the X-Pro1.

Both cameras use the same wide range of XF-mount lenses. No surprise here. Same sensor, same lenses. Fuji has spend a lot of time and money in their R&D with these Fujinon XF lenses. They’re light-weight design, familiar tactile controls, and excellent optics makes this line a winner.

Both use the same battery and flash, which is great if you are buying the X-E1 as a backup to your X-Pro1. Throw a handful of batteries in your bag, and you’re good to go for days, even if you need to swap camera bodies. (If you need to swap ACTUAL bodies, you’re on your own!)

The menu system is the same, so if you know one, you automatically know the other. Well done, Fuji! No need to re-invent the wheel each and every time.

Camera controls are ALMOST the same – with the exception of the playback button, which is now moved to the left-hand side column of buttons. This, of course, took some getting use to, but wasn’t a major issue by any means. The E-X1 is also missing shutter-speed dial lock.

Physically and electronically, the XE-1 and the X-Pro1 are very similar cameras, and where there is no clear winner, the X-E1 does have the advantage in the size and weight category…but just.

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What’s Different

Both cameras are roughly the same shape, although the X-E1 is a little smaller and lighter all around. 129 (W) mm x 74.9(H) mm x 38.3(D) mm (5.1 in.(W) x 2.9 in. (H) x 1.5 in. (D)) versus 139.5 (W) x 81.8 (H) x 42.5 (D) mm (5.5 (W) x 3.2 (H) x 1.7 (D) in.) And approx. 350g / 12.3 oz. versus approx. 450 g / 15.9 oz. (including battery and memory card). The X-E1 is clearly smaller and lighter, in every aspect, but the difference is fairly minor in actual use. Some reviews disagree.

Most glaringly different is the total lack of optical viewfinder. The X-E1 does away with the somewhat heavier and more complicated hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, and opts for a 2,360,000-dot OLED color viewfinder, more typical of other cameras in this class.

Also missing is, of course, the OVF/EVF front switch.

As mentioned, the shutter speed dial is missing the “A” lock and the Play button has been moved to the right.

The X-E1 also has a more “consumer-friendly” built in viewfinder dioptre adjustment, as opposed to the traditional screw-in type that is usually favoured by professionals.

The rear display has a plain smooth protective glass covering, whereas the X-Pro1 has a multi-coated oleophobic glass covering that works very well to keep fingerprints and face-smudges at bay. I think this should have been included with the X-E1.

The X-E1 has the very welcome addition of a tiny (but effective) pop-up flash!

And, $400. That’s the street price difference between the X-E1 and the more expensive X-Pro1.  That’s nearly 30% less money for the X-E1, which means you’ll have money left over for other things, like a lens!

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Conclusion

While I might not love the X-E1 like I do the X-Pro1, it’s hard not to at least like it. After all, it performs like a champ, uses the same great range of Fujinon XF lenses as the X-Pro1, is small and light-weight, and looks like a million bucks! For some people, I think the X-E1 is probably the perfect compromise  It has most of the same professional features as the X-Pro1, but is a smaller, lighter, more consumer-friendly package, and would certainly be a welcome gift by any photo enthusiast.

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Bottom Line:

The X-E1 packs a lot of punch in a very small, mid-priced, interchangeable-lens, EVF camera. It get’s you 90% of the way to a X-Pro1, but at a decent cost, size, and weight savings.  However, in my mind, the lack of optical viewfinder would make this a tough sell to full-time pros, like myself.

Until next time.

J R BERNSTEIN

Remember your ABC’s – Always Be Capturing!

Also of note, I had the pleasure of recently announcing that I am now an official Fujifilm X-Photographer!

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Comments

  • SKPhoto12

    Hardly a review. At best a self serving summary of some personal opinions and some pictures.

    • J R BERNSTEIN

      Not sure how this is “self serving”, but yes, you’ve described the definition of a review quite nicely: a summary of personal opinions. If you wanted a list of technical specifications beyond what I go into here, there are plenty of other resources for that, including the Fuji website, http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/ I also refer to the “summary of some personal opinions and some pictures” I wrote on the X-Pro1, which goes into more detail on image quality and performance of the same sensor and processor.

  • alex

    Thank you for sharing this! Appreciated!!
    I would like to ask if you noticed any slow auto focus issue with x-e1 ?
    Also, did you try the panorama feature? Personally for me it is important to know if x-e1 stitches perfectly 2-3 pics of interior space for instance (not a landscape) without need of panoramic head, etc.

    Thanks in advance!

    • J R BERNSTEIN

      Great questions, Alex.

      I’d say the AF speed is about the same (if not exactly the same) as the X-Pro1. Which is to say, it’s Ok. Nothing special, but it does work. Make sure you have the latest firmware installed though…there have been improvements since the first release. That said, the X100s and X20 AF speeds are still much faster.

      Yes, I did try out the panorama feature and it worked quite well, but that was for landscape/outdoor shots. I’ll have to try it on an interior shot and report back with my results. In case you don’t know, the pano feature works by taking many overlapping shots (not just 2 or 3) over a specified width. It does work quite well, but it does seem to have some difficulty with the geometry with near objects, which can look distorted. There’s also no way to set where the middle of your pano will be, which means that you’re guessing as to where to start shooting (without an indexed pano head).

  • Mat - MirrorLessons

    Great images! Love the ones of the snowy landscape. I too feel the same way about the X-E1. I’d be more willing to cough up a few extra hundred euros and go for the X-Pro1.

  • bradleyhampsonBradley

    Hey JR

    Nice review, I appreciate your candor and viewpoint. I have and love the X-E1, but having been an M shooter in my distant past, I really miss the OVF. I am hoping that the X-Pro2 will incorporate all the X100s improvements along with two changes I really think need to happen:

    1: The mem card needs side access so we don’t have to pull our grips or tripod speed plates every time we want to upload (cables suck)
    2: The little thumb wheel needs to be more usable, like when scrolling options in menus.

    The latter could likely be addresses in firmware, the former is a little tougher, but I think it’s really necessary.

    Thanks for sharing, keep up the nice site and troll deflection skills :-D

    • J R BERNSTEIN

      Great points Bradley.

      Side-access battery would be welcome too, for the same reason!

      I will pass the suggestions along to Fujifilm for you!

  • marco monetti (@marcomonetti)

    Lovely review, indeed it’s exactly what I needed to develop a personal opinion about the “sexy one”.
    I’m thinking about trading a couple of old DSRL lenses to get a backup body.
    Do you think that the X-E1 + 18-55/2.8-4 could give me a nice colour rendition of wall painting/street art?
    Thanks for your attention.
    P.S.: I agree with Mat, I’m amazed by the snowy landscape pictures.