Fujifilm X-E1 Review

| Published Date
02 - Apr - 2013
| Last Updated
20 - Feb - 2018
 
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Fujifilm X-E1

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The X-E1 is one hell of a camera, leaving a few quirks aside. It is a mirrorless that can actually function as a substitute to the bulky DSLR for many users.

Fujifilm X-E1 Rating 0100100

Our Verdict

The X-E1 is one hell of a camera, leaving a few quirks aside. It is a mirrorless that can actually function as a substitute to the bulky DSLR for many users. If you're in the market for a DSLR, or want a camera system that will give you great images, then you might want to look at getting the X-E1.

PROS

  • Compact body compared to a DSLR
  • Excellent image quality even at high ISO
  • Well-placed dials that make accessing settings really quick

CONS

  • AF is a hit or miss at times
  • Lack of any sort of controls in video recording mode

Fujifilm X-E1: Detailed Review

When Fujifilm launched the X-Pro 1 into the market, there were a lot of people who couldn’t help but be impressed, whether it was by the camera’s looks or its image quality. However, the price tag was a good enough reason for many to look away. Fujifilm was quick to assess the situation, and quite promptly put the cheaper X-E1 out into the market.

Now to cut costs for the X-E1, Fujifilm did have to nix some features from the X-Pro 1. Gone is the amazing hybrid viewfinder that we loved on the X-Pro 1, replaced by an electronic viewfinder instead. The good thing though is that the EVF on the X-E1 out-specs the one on the X-Pro1 (2.3 million dots vs. 1.44 million dots). The X-E1 in all its glory is a gorgeous camera, but does it live up to the X series moniker and further, does it justify you spending your hard earned money on a piece of metal and silicon? We find out.

Features and Specifications
The Fujifilm X-E1 comes equipped with quite a robust set of features, sometimes making the X-Pro 1 seem like an overkill. For starters, as we already mentioned, the hybrid viewfinder has been replaced with an EVF, which to be honest, is a tricky difference to gauge. The EVF in of itself does a great job, rendering a scene quite well even in low light and with very little lag, but those who love the pure rangefinder experience might consider this a downgrade.

The X-E1 retains the entire top-plate of the X-Pro 1, meaning it’s got the same exposure compensation dial, the shutter-speed dial, and a standard hot-shoe. The two holes for a stereo microphone and a pop-up flash are new. The hot-shoe works with all Fujifilm proprietary flash units, and will also fire off your third party wireless triggers like Pocketwizards. Sadly, the X-E1’s shutter maxes out at 1/160th of a second for flash sync, so you might have to get creative when using flash outdoors. The pop-up flash is rather good though, with its bendable hinge that allows us to bounce the flash around and get a nice fill.

The X-E1 has a panorama mode that shoots in both horizontal and vertical orientations, which is quite handy at creating actually good panoramas. Most point and shoot cameras will only allow horizontal panning, meaning a lot of the sky and ground get cut out of the image, and leaving behind an image that looks too elongated. The X-E1’s panorama mode will allow you to shoot a horizontal panorama while keeping the camera vertical, allowing you to capture more of the sky and ground, which makes panoramas a whole lot better.

Build and Ergonomics
The Fujifilm X-E1 utilizes a magnesium alloy construction for the top and front plates of the camera, but switches to plastic for the back. The camera has a pseudo leather finish to lend it a classic feel, which it manages to pull off rather well. The buttons on the back are quite big and generously spaced, making them rather easy to access even when not looking at the camera. Alongside the buttons, there is the 2.8-inch 460K dot LCD, which we feel is a little small. Maybe Fujifilm could have made the buttons just a touch smaller and placed them a little closer to each other and bumped up the screen size to a whole 3-inches. But despite that, the images display quite well on the LCD, even under the mid-day sun. We would have loved a slightly higher resolution on the screen, but we’re not too picky about this.

The button and dial layout on the X-E1 is just like the one of the X-Pro 1, which we found to be extremely comfortable. The only gripe we have is with respect to changing the autofocus points. The process requires the pressing of the AF button, which happens to be at the bottom left corner of the camera, and was often uncomfortable to press without removing the camera from the eye. If you shoot solely using the LCD, then there shouldn’t be any problem, but we do wish that Fujifilm had placed the AF button more in line with the right hand’s thumb.

The Fujifilm X-E1 is of an extremely solid build, and we wouldn’t expect anything else from a camera that emulates the rangefinders. In fact even the 18-55mm f/2.8-R kit lens that comes bundled with the X-E1 is built rather well, feeling like a sturdy hunk of metal through and through. This is quite rare of kit lenses, especially in the mirrorless segment as they end up feeling very light and seem like they’ve been made from cheap plastic.

Focussing
The AF system on the X-Pro 1 was a little disappointing, with slow and unreliable performance. The X-E1 also has the X-Pro1’s manual, continuous and single shot AF modes, but the implementation in our opinion was slightly better. The switch is right off the X- Pro 1, so if you’re familiar with the camera, you won’t have any issues working with this one and if you’ve never used either of these cameras before, then it would take you a negligible amount of time to get used to it.

The AF system on the Fujifilm X-E1, is good, but we feel it could use a little more refinement. The Continuous AF mode for example, does exactly what the name suggests. In this mode, all AF points are replaced by a single cross in the middle of the screen, which is where the camera will continue to track focus. Now the problem we faced was when actually shooting. The camera will continue to track focus without the shutter button being pressed, but when we did pressed the shutter button, it went on to re-acquire focus on the subject. We feel that this defeats the purpose of focus tracking entirely, as precious time is lost in re-acquiring focus lock. This was especially true for shooting moving subjects.

The single shot AF mode is what we found ourselves using the most, thanks to the 7x7 grid of AF points which gave us immense flexibility in composition. The 49 points are evenly distributed throughout the entire frame, allowing for framing of subjects that lie on the edge of the frame. Choosing a point of focus is as easy as pressing the AF button and moving the point around with the direction keys. Only catch in this AF mode is that many a time, our lenses simply refused to lock AF, despite decent lighting and adequate contrast on the subject.

The Fujifilm X-E1’s manual mode is something many will love because of its simplicity and the fact that all Fujinon lenses come with a focussing ring to give a very DSLR-like feel. The X-E1 even allows the user to customize the direction in which the manual AF should move, left to right for closest to infinity or vice versa. However, the lack of a focus distance indicator on the kit lens can make manual focus a little confusing as the scale on the LCD at the back isn’t all that helpful. The same goes for the 35mm f/1.4R lens, but not the 14mm f/2.8R as it involves a clutch mechanism to go between auto and manual focus and switching to manual reveals a nice focus distance markings.

Overall, we felt that the X-E1 is amazingly quick (and silent) to acquire focus with the kit lens, but we encountered some issues locking focus with the 35mm lens, despite good light and being well within the minimum distance. The performance was hit or miss even in low light, despite the AF assist beam, but was far more reliable when shooting with the supplied 18-55mm kit lens. We wish that the X-E1 had a full-time manual focussing feature, where manual focus could be employed in conjunction with auto focus. It does work the other way round though, as in when shooting in Manual mode, AF can be used by pressing the AF-L button to get the camera to auto focus and then fine tune it using manual focus.

Image Performance
Fujifilm has laid the claim that their in-house developed X-Trans sensor can compete with any full frame DSLR sensor in the market at the moment. A conventional sensor has 50% green pixels, 25% red pixels and 25% blue pixels with only two colours per line of pixels. Fuji’s X-Trans sensor has the same ratio of colour pixels, but each pixel row has all three colours distributed randomly. This allows Fuji’s sensors to capture colour information more accurately and also negate moiré, effectively doing away with the need for an anti-aliasing filter. This coupled up with Fuji’s EXR Pro image processing chip has allowed Fujifilm to make such a tall claim. But, does it really match full frame quality?

We first started out testing with the standard kit, that is, the Fujifilm X-E1 and the 18-55mm kit lens mounted. Between turning the camera on and firing off our first shot, a mere second or so had passed. A speedy startup time coupled up with the Linear Motor in the 18-55mm lens allows the camera to fire off shots rather quickly, all the way up to 6 frames per second. The LM designation is the same as the USM or SWM on Canon and Nikon respectively. The motor is incredibly silent and quick, to the point that we initially thought that it wasn’t even auto-focussing, even though our shots were in focus.

The images out of the X-E1 leave a lot of room for misinterpretation. For starters, there are the several film simulation modes, which could yield not-so-pleasant colours and contrast (depending on taste) if not used correctly. However, the bigger problem arises in case you are shooting RAW. Adobe just updated its Camera Raw to support the RAW files from the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 an X-E1, but still, we find some colour variances through ACR. The worst happens to be that all images imported through Lightroom seem to automatically get cropped and we had to manually reset each one to its original aspect ratios, which was rather cumbersome and annoying. But neither Fuji nor Adobe is to blame. For just simple adjustments, SilkyPix is simply amazing (though a little complicated) and if you do need to do a full on edit, we recommend saving files from SilkyPix as 16-bit TIFF files for use in Photoshop.

Moving on from this slight hiccup, we noticed that images out of the X-E1 often needed little to no editing. When shooting on Neutral settings (no film simulation) and 100% DRO, the images showed a decent amount of colour saturation, but were slightly low on contrast. Moving the contrast to 1 seems to do the trick. Once you’ve managed to get your preferred mix of colours, contrast and sharpness, we see very little need to even shoot in RAW. The JPGs out of this camera are exceptionally good.

Low Light/High ISO Performance:
The Fujifilm X-E1 goes up to ISO 6400 natively, and up to 25,600 when used in expansion mode. Frankly we’re not too fond of working in expanded ISO modes as they are mostly implemented through software in the camera, and not the hardware.

So, we went out in the evenings/nights and shot with the X-E1 set to ISO 3200 and 6400 for various situations. We shot RAW just to be on the safe side (in case they needed heavy noise reduction) and turned in-camera noise reduction off. The images we got from this test were surprisingly quite useable. ISO 3200 looks incredibly clean, with noise becoming visible only when we pixel peeped. Even then, the absence of ugly chroma noise (red and blue dots) was immediately apparent and the noise was close to resembling very fine film grain, even finer than salt-and-pepper grain.

Noise was a lot more apparent in the ISO 6400 shots, but that is to be expected. The X-E1 does have an APS-C sensor after all, which shows in these shots. The shadow areas were quick to lose their signal to noise ratios as were skin tones (in shots where people were involved). Despite the noticeable noise, the images cleaned up rather well in Lightroom, with very little loss in detail. But then again, images shot at ISO 6400 will have lesser detail to begin with. We recommend getting around this hindrance by using fast primes and if you are stuck with the kit lens, then don’t shy away from using the on camera flash.

Video Performance
The video quality out of the X-E1 is exactly like the image quality. It shoots incredible footage when paired with a good lens and good light, but unfortunately, lacks any kind of control, which seems a little weird seeing how the X-series is all about giving you control. The stereo microphones on the top plate do a pretty good job at capturing audio, but seem to suffer if the sound is coming from the sides. Low light video is also pretty good, but requires using fast primes to rake in as much light as possibly to avoid banding noise in the shadows, especially at higher ISOs (3200 and up)

Conclusion
The Fujifilm X-E1 is a camera that aims right at the heart of old-school photographers stuck in the new age. It employs a rangefinder design that is sure to attract many, but at the same time, its bulky, block-like design might not appeal to some part of the audience. But moving past the form factor, the images out of the X-E1 are absolutely stunning, requiring little to no editing for any sort of colour or contrast enhancement. The noise levels remain fairly low even through the highest ISO’s and Fujifilm’s X-Trans sensor does a good job of simulating film grain to lend an old-school look to the images (if needed).

The lens ecosystem Fujifilm has built for the X-E1 is quite nice, with a strong initial focus on prime lenses. There’s a 14mm f/2.8R, an 18mm f/2.8, a 35mm f/1.4 and a 60mm f/2.0 Macro. Fuji’s already added the 18-55 zoom and plans on bringing a 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 and a 10-24mm f/4.0 in the latter half of 2013, along with a new 56mm f/1.4 prime lens as well. All in all, the X-E1 is a superb camera with excellent image quality, but we just wish the AF module could keep up with the sensor’s performance. It would also be nice if the continuous AF mode just track focus and shoot off frames when the shutter button is pressed, instead of working on reacquiring AF.

Leaving these few quirks aside, the X-E1 is one hell of a camera, a mirrorless that can actually function as a substitute to the bulky DSLR for many users. If you’re in the market for a DSLR, or want a camera system that will give you great images, then you might want to look at getting the X-E1.

Visit page two for a detailed look at the Fujifilm X-E1's specifications...

 

 
Sensor
Max resolution
4896 x 3264
Effective pixels
16 megapixels
Other resolutions

4896x2760,264 × 3264, 3456x2304, 3456x1944, 2304 × 230, 2496x1664, 2496x1408 , 1664 × 1664

Image ratio w:h
1:1, 3:2, 16:9
Sensor size
APS-C (23.6 x 15.6 mm)
Sensor type
CMOS
Processor
EXR Pro
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed
30 sec
Maximum shutter speed
1/4000 sec
Exposure modes

Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual

Built-in flash
Yes (Pop-up, tiltable)
External flash

Yes, ISO standard (via hot-shoe EF-X20, EF-20, EF-42)

Flash modes
Auto, On, Off, Red-Eye, Slow Sync, Rear-curtain
Flash X sync speed
1/180 sec
Drive modes

Single, Continuous, Self-timer

Continuous drive
Yes (6 fps)
Self-timer
Yes (2 or 10 sec)
Metering modes

Multi, Average, Spot

Exposure compensation
±2 (at 1/3 EV steps)
AE Bracketing
(at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
WB Bracketing
No
Videography features
Format
H.264
Microphone
Stereo
Speaker
Mono
Resolutions
1920 x 1080 (24 fps), 1280 x 720 (24 fps)
Image
ISO
200-6400 (100, 12800, 25600 with Boost)
White balance presets
7
Image stabilization
No
Uncompressed format
RAW
JPEG quality levels
Fine, Normal
File format
JPEG, RAW
Optics & Focus
Autofocus

Contrast Detect (sensor), Multi-Area, Continuous, Center, Live-View

Autofocus Points
49
Autofocus assist lamp
Yes
Digital zoom
No
Manual focus
Yes
Lens mount
Fujifilm X
Focal length multiplier
1.5×
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCD
Fixed
Screen size
2.8″
Screen dots
460,000
Touch screen
No
Screen type
TFT color LCD monitor
Live view
Yes
Viewfinder type
Electronic
Viewfinder coverage
100 %
Viewfinder resolution
2,360,000
Connectivity
Storage types
SD/SDHC/SDXC
USB
USB 2.0
HDMI
Yes (Mini connector)
Remote control
Yes ( Optional RR-80)
Physical
Environmentally sealed
No
Battery

Battery Pack

Battery description

Lithium-Ion NP-W126 rechargeable battery & charger

Battery Life (CIPA)

350
Weight (inc. batteries)
350 g (0.77 lb / 12.35 oz)
Dimensions
129 x 75 x 38 mm (5.08 x 2.95 x 1.5″)


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