Fujifilm X-E1 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Fujifilm Cameras / Fuji X i Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Fujifilm X-E1
Resolution: 16.30 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
Kit Lens: 3.06x zoom
18-55mm
(27-84mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
ISO: 100-25600
Shutter: 30-1/4000
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 5.1 x 2.9 x 1.5 in.
(129 x 75 x 38 mm)
Weight: 24.2 oz (687 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP: $1,400
Availability: 11/2012
Manufacturer: Fujifilm
Full specs: Fujifilm X-E1 specifications
16.30
Megapixels
Fujifilm X-Mount APS-C
size sensor
image of Fujifilm X-E1
Front side of Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera Back side of Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera Top side of Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera Left side of Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera Right side of Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera

X-E1 Summary

The Fuji X-E1 may be the baby brother to the X-Pro1 compact system camera, but in many ways is its equal. With the same impressive 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor as the flagship model, the X-E1 also does away with a low-pass filter and produces images with great detail and resolution, while the X-Trans array works to avoid moire patterns. While the stylishly retro X-E1 looks a lot like its bigger sibling, it's also a lot lighter -- and less expensive -- despite boasting many of the same features.

Pros

Produces superior image quality that's better than many DSLRs; Handsome and functional camera design recalls classic rangefinder models; Surprisingly good kit lens.

Cons

Mixed-bag operational performance, with sluggish startup and mediocre autofocus speed and shot-to-shot times; Video quality is only so-so.

Price and availability

The Fuji X-E1 has been available since November 2012 as a kit with the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS lens for US$1,400, or body-only for US$1,000.

Imaging Resource rating

4.5 out of 5.0

Similar to the X-E1 but smaller lighter larger sensor cheaper But ...
loading
No cameras match your search criteria(s)
   

$1370.33 (74% more)

20.3 MP (25% more)

Also has viewfinder

Similar size

X-E1 vs Galaxy NX

$918.85 (17% more)

16.3 MP

Also has viewfinder

31% larger

X-E1 vs X-Pro1

$587.99 (25% less)

16.1 MP

Lacks viewfinder

32% smaller

X-E1 vs NEX-5R

$1661.73 (111% more)

16.3 MP

Also has viewfinder

46% larger

X-E1 vs X-T1

$781.66

24.3 MP (49% more)

Also has viewfinder

Similar size

X-E1 vs A6000

Suggestion for improvement? Head over here.

Fuji X-E1 Review

Overview by Shawn Barnett and Mike Tomkins
Posted 09/06/2012

Shooter's Report by
Posted

Though they still have "film" in their name, Fujifilm has attracted a lot of attention with their digital cameras over the last two years by giving enthusiasts exactly what they want: Cool-looking, rangefinder-like digital cameras with excellent image quality. The latest model in the X-series, called the Fujifilm X-E1, leaves out the rather elaborate hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder in favor of a simpler OLED electronic viewfinder. One of the key goals with this omission is to make a lower-priced model that's not just easier to afford, but also easier to use. Fujifilm also reduced the body size and lowered the weight, but left most of the rest of the design unchanged, using the same 16-megapixel X-Trans CMOS sensor, the same X-Mount lens, and essentially the same set of well-placed controls.

Available from November 2012 for about US$1,000 body-only, the Fuji X-E1 comes in a two-tone black and silver design (harking back to the X100 with its silver top deck and black body) as well as an all black design. The X-E1 ships as a kit with a new XF18-55mm lens for US$1,400. The 18-55mm is the first X-Mount zoom lens, and features a maximum aperture of f/2.8-4 across its zoom range, quite bright for a kit lens. The new design also features a linear motor for faster autofocus.

Missing from the front of the Fujifilm X-E1 is the Viewfinder Selector lever, omitted for the obvious reason that there's no Hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder. The X-E1's logo appears there instead. The left and right stereo microphones are also no longer on the front panel, taking up a new position on the top deck. The AF-assist lamp is just above the grip, and the lens release button is in a great spot for quick lens changes, just left of the lens mount. Finally, the focus mode selector switch is right of the lens mount, as it was on past designs.

New on the top deck is the cutout for the pop-up flash. It's very small, hinged similar to the flash on the Sony RX100, retracting flush with the top of the Fujifilm X-E1. Left of that is the focal plane indicator mark, and to the right you'll find the stereo microphones. A standard hot shoe sits behind that. The rest will feel very similar to the X100 and X-Pro1. While the X-Pro1 has a locking Shutter speed dial, the X-E1's dial doesn't lock, like the X100. The Exposure compensation dial is perfectly placed for easy activation, and the shutter button -- threaded for a conventional cable release -- is ringed by the Power switch. A small Function button resides in the upper right corner.

Starting in the upper left, the diopter correction wheel returns to the X-E1, to the same position it occupied on the X100 (there is no diopter correction on the X-Pro1). To the right of the electronic viewfinder is an infrared proximity sensor, and the new flash release button takes up a position just right of that. Four buttons line the left of the LCD, and four buttons surround the Menu/OK button on the right. The Command dial (which is also a button) is in nearly the same position, making menu navigation and adjustments easy. An AE/AF-Lock button is in good position on the thumbgrip, and a Quick Menu button is just below that.

 

Shooting with the Fuji X-E1

by Dan Havlik

You've got to hand it to Fujifilm for creating what has quickly become a fully realized group of digital cameras based on analog designs. No, Fuji was not the first imaging company to release a digital model that resembled an older film camera, but it has been one of the only manufacturers to produce such a wide lineup of retro-styled offerings. One of Fujifilm's latest cameras is the 16.3-megapixel X-E1, a rangefinder-style compact system camera which is the baby brother to Fuji's current top-of-the-line CSC, the X-Pro1.

The Fuji X-E1 uses the same 16.3-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor and the same X-Mount for Fujinon XF lenses as the X-Pro1 but it's 30% smaller and significantly lighter, weighing just 12.6 ounces (358g) with the battery and media card installed. It's also about US$700 less, despite having many of the same features and looking quite similar to the X-Pro1.

The X-E1 adds a new kit lens to the line-up too, the surprisingly good XF18-55mm (27-84mm equivalent) f/2.8-4 OIS, which, at the time of this writing, was the first XF Zoom available from Fujifilm, as well as the first optically stabilized XF lens. All in all, the X-E1 would seem, on paper at least, to be a good bargain, especially for anyone interested in getting their feet wet in the world of retro CSCs (compact system cameras). Does it stand up to the exceptional image quality and solid performance of the more professional X-Pro1? Let's take a look.

In the hand. Even if you don't remember classic, film-based rangefinders of the past, the Fuji X-E1 will impress you with its simple, elegant, and highly functional design. Drawing style elements from a variety of cameras (to me, it recalled Canon's enthusiast-focused Canonet rangefinders as much as Leica's coveted M-series of cameras), the X-E1 feels like a stripped down version of the X-Pro1. Available in two color schemes, all black and silver two-tone (which is the version I tried), it's easy to mistake the X-E1 for an actual rangefinder, which, it would seem, is the point. While rangefinder cameras have their devoted fans, the learning curve for newbies is high and some photographers find the unique, manual focus-only set-up of RFs to be tricky. CSCs, with their compact, lightweight, mirrorless bodies and improving AF speed, are a good alternative for aspiring street photographers or anyone else who doesn't want to be weighed down by a digital SLR.

Instead of the distinctive, optical viewfinder window of a rangefinder, the Fuji X-E1 has a small OLED electronic viewfinder on the upper left hand corner of the rear of the camera. You can also compose photos via the 2.8-inch LCD screen on back. More about the performance of these two features in the section "EVF & LCD Screen" section below.

One difference between the X-E1 and the X-Pro1, aside from the lower price, is the build quality. While my silver two-tone X-E1 looked a lot like my old Canonet G-III QL film rangefinder, it doesn't have an all-metal body like that camera. Instead it's mostly polycarbonate with magnesium and metal accents, and feels a bit less substantial than it looks. But hey, this is why it's the less-expensive, step-down model.

Fujifilm X-E1 vs Fujifilm X-Pro1
The Fujifilm X-E1 is slightly smaller than the X-Pro1, making for a less bulky camera overall. It's still larger than most mirrorless cameras, but has that nice rangefinder appeal.

But this construction does make the Fuji X-E1 noticeably lighter than the metal X-Pro1, weighing in at 12.6 ounces (body only) vs. 16 ounces (body only) for the flagship camera. Even with the new 18-55mm kit lens attached, which increases the X-E1's overall weight to 24.2 ounces (687 grams), the X-E1 still feels a lot less hefty than the X-Pro1 and, ultimately, more portable.

The faux leather texture of the Fuji X-E1's body looks nice, but when I held the camera, I thought it felt a bit plasticky to the touch. The small, leatherette handgrip is made from rubber and has a less slippery, higher-end feel to it. It's comfortable, but I would've liked it to be slightly bigger. After a day of street shooting with the X-E1, my fingers grew tired from gripping the camera. I'd recommend springing for the optional HG-XE1 hand grip, which attaches to the base plate of the camera and then extends up the right side of the camera, giving you a thicker area to hold on to.

The top of the X-E1 looks a lot like a traditional rangefinder with a similar control layout to the X-Pro1. The camera's pop-up flash is on the small side with a Guide Number of 7 meters at ISO 200, and a range of up to about 16 feet (five meters) with an f/1.4 lens. Flash range with the kit lens set to its widest angle would be half that, or just 8 feet, and only about 5.5 feet at telephoto. And flash x-sync speed is also a little on the slow side, at 1/180s. Just the fact that the X-E1 has a pop-up flash, makes it clear that this camera is aimed at prosumers and enthusiasts rather than pros. I did find the flash to come in handy as a fill light, however, when shooting portraits or macro close-ups of flowers. You'll want an external strobe for any serious flash work, though. Enthusiasts and pros will however be pleased to know the built-in flash has a "commander" mode, allowing you to trigger compatible remote flashes wirelessly, though it can't actually control the output power of remote flashes like more advanced systems from Canon and Nikon can. That has to be done manually on the slave flash(es).

One nice design touch about the flash is that when it's not in use, it tucks back into the Fuji X-E1's top deck and stays flush so it's out of the way. Also on top of the camera are a shutter speed dial, an exposure compensation dial, a function button, and a shutter button that reminded me a lot of a shutter on an old rangefinder but without the film winder. Overall, I was very satisfied with the build and design of the X-E1. Fuji's done a great job of marrying the classic look of a traditional rangefinder with the modern conveniences of a lightweight CSC.

Controls. There's a minimalist design quality to the Fuji X-E1 but the camera by and large doesn't skimp on external controls. Along with the pop-up flash and the aforementioned controls on top of the camera, the X-E1 has a hotshoe if you want to add a more powerful external flash. While I liked the old school look of the X-E1's shutter button, it also had an unfortunate old school feel to it. It wasn't particularly responsive to the touch, feeling a bit "mushy" when you press down on it. This took me some time to get used to, especially when trying to get the right feel on how hard I needed to press the shutter to lock in autofocus.

If autofocus isn't your thing or if you just want to experiment with the X-E1's manual capabilities, flip a switch on the front of the camera to activate manual focus, which you adjust via a ring on the front of the 18-55mm kit lens. The kit lens also has a switch on its back barrel that lets you turn the Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS) on or off. Another interesting but somewhat confusing feature on the kit lens' back barrel is a switch that lets you choose between manual aperture adjustment or auto aperture control.

The confusing part, at least to me, was the choice of nomenclature for the two settings. For manual aperture control, you move the switch to the aperture icon; for automatic aperture selection, switch it to the "A." I guess I have it ingrained in my brain from previous cameras that "A" should stand for Aperture Priority, so I kept accidentally picking that setting when I wanted to manually set the lens to f/2.8. It also took me a few tries to figure out that the rear ring on the kit lens lets you manually change the aperture settings, not the control wheel on the back of the camera.

The generously sized, knurled shutter speed dial on top of the X-E1 lets you select shutter speeds from 1/4000th to 1/4th of a second. There's also an "A" setting for Aperture Priority (there it is!), which lets you pick the aperture via the lens ring while the camera automatically selects a comparable shutter speed. For timed exposures, turn the dial to T, which lets you pick from 1/2 to 30 sec exposures. The B setting on the dial puts the camera bulb mode, which will keep the X-E1's shutter open for as long as the shutter button is pressed down, up to 60 minutes.

Most of this won't seem strange to anyone who's shot with a rangefinder or an older film camera before, but for those looking for the familiar PASM settings, scene modes and custom settings on the mode dials of most digital cameras, it could be a little confusing. Take some time, however, and you might grow to like these throwback options.

Controls on the rear of the X-E1 might look more familiar to most digital camera users and, in particular, to anyone who's tried Fujifilm's latest X-series models. There are generously sized buttons for the menu, image playback, autoexposure, autofocus adjustment, etc. Many of the camera's internal settings can be adjusted quickly via the Q (quick menu) button on back, including white balance, aspect ratio, image quality and other features.

One conspicuous absence is the lack of a dedicated ISO button on the camera. This is disappointing, especially considering that the X-E1 fares quite well at high ISOs -- more about that later -- and it would be nice to be able to change the setting more quickly. As it is, you have to hit the Q (quick menu) button on back and then cycle through to change ISO. Not hard, but a single button would be faster.

The Fuji X-E1 also has a slow system for switching the camera into video mode. There's no dedicated movie button or setting on the top dial so, instead, you have to press the Drive button on back of the camera and scroll down to the movie camera icon to engage the feature. (A slight shortcut is to scroll up one menu position, as the menu "wraps" when you scroll off either the top or bottom.) One workaround for the lack of dedicated ISO and video buttons is to program the FN (Function) button on top of the camera for one of these tasks. If you program it for one thing, however, you can't program it for the other, so you end up with one less dedicated control

EVF and LCD Screen. Unlike the more expensive X-Pro1, the X-E1 doesn't have the flagship model's elaborate hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder. To tell you the truth, we didn't miss it as much as we thought we would, especially considering the X-E1's much lower price. Instead, the X-E1 has a 0.5-inch, 2.36M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage, 23mm eyepoint, and a -4 to +2 diopter adjustment. It's not bad, but if you're already ambivalent about EVFs, this one won't likely turn you into a convert. While the resolution is high, there's a slight, jerky lag when you pan, particularly in low light. Also, when you lock in focus by half-pressing the X-E1's shutter button, the small EVF screen partially pixellates before it achieves focus.

This also occurs when using the X-E1's rear, 2.8-inch, 460,000-dot LCD display but it's less noticeable. I liked the rear screen just fine for previewing and reviewing shots, but with most cameras offering displays of at least three inches, it seemed a little small. (Again, this is a side product of the X-E1 being the less expensive, step-down model.) The X-E1's LCD also washed out in bright light, especially when I was shooting in the snow, which reflected the sun's light. With the X-Pro1's superior LCD, this was much less of a problem.

The View Mode button, which lets you switch between the EVF or LCD screen, is a helpful concept but needs a few tweaks, maybe via a firmware update. As it is, you can choose to use the rear LCD for framing shots, the EVF for framing shots, or select the Eye Sensor mode, which automatically turns on the EVF and turns off the rear screen when the camera detects your eye in the eyecup. It works fine but if you want to review shots, you can only do so via the EVF, not the rear LCD in this mode.

I was also disappointed by how long it takes to wake the X-E1 when it goes into battery-preserving sleep mode. I found myself having to mash on the shutter button to get it to wake up and be ready to take pictures. You can adjust the sleep mode and have the camera run continuously but this will drain the battery because the EVF and rear LCD use a lot of power.

Performance. I shot with the Fuji X-E1 this past winter in New York City and tested it under two different sets of weather conditions: an unseasonable warm spell in early December 2012 that had plants and flowers unexpectedly blooming; and then after a severe snowstorm hit the area in early February. In terms of performance, the X-E1 is a mixed bag. At times I really wished it was faster, yet other times it felt about right for a CSC. But if you're expecting the speed of a DSLR or one of the faster CSCs on the market -- such as Sony's NEX series -- you'll probably be disappointed. That said, once I got used to the X-E1's performance quirks, I found it to be a smooth and stealthy camera to shoot with that's great for candid street photography, if you're able to do a fair amount of pre-focusing.

Powering on the X-E1 and getting it to snap a first shot is rather sluggish, even for a CSC. Our lab timed it at 2.4 seconds, which can seem like a lifetime if you're in a rush to capture a photo. The Fuji X-E1's autofocus speed is slightly slower than average for a current CSC. In our lab testing, shutter lag ranged from 0.44 second using Area AF mode (center) to 0.52 second using Multi AF mode. In real world shooting, I felt I had to anticipate shots a bit more with the X-E1 and pre-focus as much as I could. As I noted earlier, the X-E1's shutter is not as touch sensitive as a DSLR, so if you have any itchy trigger finger, this camera might not be for you.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, the time it takes to wake the Fuji X-E1 from sleep mode can take anywhere from a second to four seconds. I missed a few candid opportunities while trying to “wake” the camera, which was frustrating. Other than turning sleep mode off completely, which drains the battery, my workaround was to keep tapping on the shutter button, to make sure the X-E1 stayed awake.

The Fuji X-E1 fared extremely well when I prefocused, with a very slight lag that our lab clocked at just 0.054 second. That's faster than most SLRs and quicker than many CSCs as well. During my shoot after the snow storm, I was able to get some fairly decent shots of sledders speeding down a big hill if I pre-focused the X-E1 and timed it right. While candid photos were hard to nail at first, the more I shot with the X-E1, the more I was able to get the pre-focusing/timing down pat.

Shot to shot cycle times were a bit slower than average for a CSC, taking just under a second between images, and flash recycling took 4.2 seconds after a full power discharge.

The Fuji X-E1's continuous shooting mode was quite good, with the camera approximately reaching its maximum burst speed of 6 frames per second. (Our lab found the X-E1's maximum burst speed ranged from 5.45 fps to 5.56 fps, depending on the image file type.) Buffer depth was only average at approximately 16 JPEG frames before the X-E1 had to stop to catch up. With RAW files, buffer depth dropped to 12 frames.

So, no, the Fuji X-E1 is certainly not going to win any speed contests. However, thanks to its comprehensive external controls and its logical and well executed menu system, changing settings on the fly to adjust to different shooting situations was fast and easy. I just wish the camera was a notch faster to use overall.

Image quality. While the X-E1 wasn't as quick or responsive as a DSLR, the camera produced top-notch image quality and we got surprisingly good results from the 18-55mm kit lens. In short, this CSC captured photos that looked better than most APS-C-sensor-based DSLRs on the market.

As already noted, the X-E1 uses the same 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS sensor as is in the more expensive X-Pro1. And like the X-Pro1, the X-E1 has no low-pass filter, a move that's designed to increase resolution and sharpness. Low pass filters are typically used in digital cameras to prevent moiré from occurring in images with subjects that have repeating patterns. To tackle moiré, the X-E1's sensor (as with the X-Pro1) has a new color filter array inspired by the random arrangement of fine film grain. In the array, RGB pixels are arranged in 6x6 pixel sets as opposed to the traditional Bayer array of 2x2 pixel sets.

The X-E1 captured natural-looking color with excellent dynamic range during an unseasonably warm week this winter, and even on snowy days the images had punch.

Is it effective? Tough to say specifically, but I did get excellent detail in the landscape and cityscape photos I captured with the X-E1. Also, I saw almost no moiré in my shots, even in images of the vertical wires on the George Washington Bridge in upper Manhattan. When I zoomed in at 200% on my shots, I not only saw details I didn't know were there, they looked surprisingly sharp with few aberrations.

X-E1 also eclipsed most APS-C-based DLSRs I've tried when it came to shooting in low light at high ISOs. At ISOs of up to 6,400, the camera produced images with manageable levels of noise -- and without significant smearing of pixels from anti-noise processing. Images at ISO 12,800 were, of course, much more noisy and blurry, but in a pinch I'd feel comfortable using this setting in dim conditions. I was helping a professional photographer friend with a shoot of dancers in front of a bar in New York City, and I was able to get fairly decent shots of them as they leapt from the sidewalk at night. Sure, there was noise but considering the conditions, the camera performed quite well. In short, the X-E1 did a deft job, producing crisp images in low light at high ISOs.

The X-E1's kit lens is the first zoom -- as of this writing -- that Fuji has produced for its X-series interchangeable lens cameras. At the wide angle, it's capable of capturing good landscape photos.

I was also impressed with the 18-55mm kit lens, which produced excellent sharpness overall. I think this is due, in part, to having no low-pass filter over the X-E1's sensor, but also to the better than expected optics of the lens, which is the first zoom in Fuji's X-mount lineup. Its maximum aperture is relatively fast at f/2.8-4, and the kit lens produced images with tack sharpness in the center for portraits and nice background blur (aka bokeh), particularly for portraits and Macro shots. (One feature I liked about the X-E1 is the camera's very simple one-button adjustment on back to get it into Macro mode.)

As mentioned in the Controls section, I was a little confused by the way you switch between manual aperture and auto aperture control via a switch on the 18-55mm lens' barrel. I pretty much kept it on the manual setting and adjusted aperture on my own but, when I was feeling lazy, I let the camera pick the aperture.

Filter effects. My shots during the unseasonably warm day in December had great color that looked realistic and not too oversaturated. Of course, if you want to add some saturation, you can switch to the Fuji X-E1's Velvia/Vivid, film simulation mode, which is designed to mimic the look of Velvia slide film, with pumped up colors. The camera defaults to Provia/Standard mode, and there's also an Astia/Soft setting, as well as Pro Negative and Monochrome modes to choose from.

Monochrome
Sepia
Fuji X-E1 filter modes: I liked playing with the X-E1's Monochrome film simulation modes for classic black and white. The Sepia mode produces an "old-timey" light brown effect but it can become boring if you use it too much.

While some consumer-oriented digital cameras hit you with a ton of effects modes, many of which you probably won't use, I'm glad Fuji's kept it simple with its filter options on the X-E1. I also like that the company continues to draw on its film lineage in these film-simulation modes. After the snowstorm, I tried out several of the Fuji X-E1's black-and-white modes including traditional Monochrome, and Monochrome with a Yellow, Red, and Green filter options. I also tested out the Sepia mode, which produces an "old-timey" light brown effect. Overall, I liked the monochrome modes quite a bit, and they worked really well with snowy images I shot in a local park, giving them am austere, classic look. The sepia effect, I could take or leave, and only used it sparingly.

Full HD video. 1920 x 1080 @ 24 fps. Click image to view/download 16MB MOV file.

Video. For video, the Fuji X-E1 can capture HD clips at the increasingly standard 1080p resolution but only at 24p (24 frames/second), not at 30p as with most competing cameras. I also wish it was faster to switch into video mode. Instead of a dedicated video button, or a setting on the mode dial, you have to press the Drive button on back of the X-E1 and scroll all the way down to the movie camera icon at the bottom of the screen to engage the feature. If you're looking to capture video of one of those precious, spur-of-the-moment slices of life, you might miss it. As mentioned earlier, a workaround is to program the Fn (Function) button on top of the camera for video, but that prevents you from giving it any other functionality, such as for adjusting ISO, which you might want.

Movies can be recorded in full Auto mode, or in Aperture priority mode, and you can use the full selection of available film modes, including the various black and white modes. As with still photography, this feature can create some pretty classic-looking video clips. Video quality, compared to a good DSLR, is only so-so and gets worse in lower light. There are also significant rolling shutter effects when you move the camera rapidly, especially when panning. Most of my videos of sledders zooming down a big hill were fine when I focused on a single spot but if I tried to pan with them as they moved, I'd get the wobbly "jell-o" effect in the video.


One big plus for shooting video with the Fuji X-E1 is that its zoom kit lens has built-in OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), which made it far easier to handhold the camera when recording movies. While the XE-1 has a built-in stereo microphone, sound quality is limited, so you'll want to take advantage of the external mic jack to capture the best audio.

See our Fuji X-E1 video page for more details and sample clips.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with the lightweight build of the Fujifilm X-E1: It's solid without seeming too bulky. It's still a larger camera, but I'd be happier carrying it around than the larger, heavier X-Pro1. Inclusion of a kit zoom lens makes more sense for the consumer market, but the good news is the X-E1's introduction also includes another prime to appeal to the X-Mount owner, a 14mm f/2.8 prime. Given its excellent image quality, the X-E1 looks like another winner for Fujifilm.

 

Fuji X-E1 Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins

Like the X-Pro1 before it, the Fuji X-E1 is based around a mirrorless Fujifilm X-mount that's just 2.5 mm thick, reducing flange back distance to 17.7 mm. Ten small gold pins at its base provide for communication between body and lens.

At its center sits an APS-C sized X-Trans CMOS image sensor with 16.3 megapixel resolution, unchanged from that featured in the earlier camera.

The X-Trans sensor replaces the standard 2x2 Bayer color filter array found in almost all digital cameras with a proprietary, Fuji-designed 6x6 X-Trans array that the company says better emulates film, and in the process reduces the incidence of moire patterns.

Just as in the X-Pro1, there's thus no resolution-robbing, moire-erasing low-pass filter in the Fujifilm X-E1, yet we've rarely encountered moiré issues with either camera.

Output from the unusual X-Trans CMOS sensor is handled by Fujifilm's proprietary EXR Processor Pro, also inherited directly from the X-Pro1. The Fuji X-E1's ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 25,600 equivalents is unchanged; note that only ISO 200 to 6,400 equivalents are available to the ISO Auto function.

The Fuji X-E1 delivers around the same burst shooting rate as the X-Pro1, at up to six frames per second. The company predicted a startup time of around 0.5 seconds, and a shutter release lag of 0.05 seconds, but we found the startup time to be much longer in our testing and use of the camera.

As promised in June 2012, Fujifilm has created its first X-mount zoom lens, which debuted alongside the X-E1. Although the 18-55mm focal length range (equivalent to 27-84mm on a 35mm camera) is quite standard, the maximum aperture is uncommonly bright, ranging from f/2.8 at wide angle to f/4 at telephoto.

It's not only the first X-mount zoom; it's also the first stabilized X-mount lens; Fujifilm claims approximately four stops of shake reduction is possible. Focusing is provided for with an in-lens, linear autofocus motor. (More on that in a minute.)

The optical formula features 14 elements in 10 groups, with three aspheric lenses and one extra-low dispersion element. The aperture diaphragm has seven rounded blades, and there's an aperture ring on the lens barrel, as well as 58mm filter threads.

There's also a new 14mm f/2.8 prime shipping alongside the X-E1, which likewise accepts 58mm filters and has a seven-bladed, rounded aperture. The optical formula includes 10 elements in seven groups, two aspherics, and three ED elements. The barrel offers up both distance and depth-of-field scales.

This new prime joins the three that shipped when the X-Pro1 was launched, taking the total stock of X-mount glass to five lenses. Five more are planned to arrive in 2013 or by early 2014, including three more primes and two stabilized zooms.

You can also mount third-party lenses from the likes of Carl Zeiss, Leica, Ricoh, and Voigtländer using Fujifilm's M-mount adapter, announced last May.

We mentioned the linear autofocus motor of the 18-55mm zoom lens: Fujifilm says this is key to the swift performance of autofocus in the Fuji X-E1.

Fujifilm claimed that focus lock can be achieved with this lens in just 0.1 seconds, but we found a full autofocus cycle took considerably longer. Shutter lag is very brief if you pre-focus before snapping your shot, though.

We're told that other lenses will also offer improved performance on the X-E1, but won't be quite as fast as the 18-55mm zoom. These improvements are said to be down to firmware--likely an increase in algorithm performance, the speed data is clocked off the sensor, or both.

A key difference from the X-Pro1 is the Fuji X-E1's viewfinder. Gone is the earlier camera's unusual hybrid viewfinder, replaced with a more standard--if very high resolution--EVF.

At its heart is an Organic LED panel said to have a resolution of 2.36 million dots, which Fujifilm notes is among the highest electronic viewfinder resolutions to date.

Horizontal field of view is 25 degrees, with a 5,000:1 contrast ratio. An eye proximity sensor are included in the design, just as in the earlier X-Pro1; diopter adjustment is a (very welcome) new feature.

On the rear panel is a 2.8-inch LCD monitor. Resolution is approximately 460,000 dots.

The new panel is just a little bit smaller than the 3.0-inch panel on the X-Pro1, a concession to the Fuji X-E1's smaller body. It's also a standard RGB LCD, rather than the brighter / lower-power RGBW type used in the pricier camera.

The Fuji X-E1 offers shutter speeds ranging from 1/4,000 to 1/4 second or T (1/2 to 30 sec.), controlled via a photographer-friendly dial on the top deck. There's also a bulb mode for exposures as long as 60 minutes.

Exposure compensation is also provided for with a physical dial on the top deck, just as in the X-Pro1. The range of +/- 2.0 EV with a step size of 1/3 EV is unchanged from the earlier camera.

In a nod to the fact that the Fuji E1 is aimed more at enthusiast / prosumer use than at pros, there's now a built-in, popup flash strobe. That's something pros would likely shun, and so isn't found on the higher-end X-Pro1. Though it does have a simple (non-TTL) "commander" mode that can be used to trigger slave flashes.

Of course, there's still a hot shoe as well. It's compatible with Fujifilm's EF-20 and EF-40 strobes, as well as the attractively retro EF-X20 that was launched alongside the X-Pro1. There's no X-sync terminal though, unlike that camera.

Like the X-Pro1 before it, the Fuji X-E1 includes a good selection of creative functions. Dynamic range can also be bracketed, as can film simulation, exposure, and ISO sensitivity. Hinting at Fuji's film heritage, there is a selection of film simulation modes that reproduce the look of popular Fuji film formulations of days gone by, including Provia, Astia, and Velvia. There are also two settings based on professional color negative films: Pro Neg.Std, and Pro Neg.Hi. Also retained from the X-Pro1 are a two-shot multiple exposure function and a consumer-friendly ability to stitch panoramas in-camera.

The X-E1 also retains the X-Pro1's 24 frames-per-second, Full HD (1080p / 1,920 x 1,080 pixel) movie capture capabilities, but with two important changes. Firstly, there's now an external stereo microphone jack, letting you record off-camera sound, something that's not possible for X-Pro1 shooters without resorting to a separate audio capture device. You can also now use both Film Simulation and Monochrome modes during video capture.

Like that on the X-Pro1, the Fuji X-E1 unfortunately has a tripod mount that's quite a way from the central axis of the lens. That's less than optimal if you're planning on shooting a lot of panoramas. Another issue: it's very close to the battery / flash card compartment door.

Connectivity options include USB data, and a Mini (Type C) HDMI high-definition video output. The USB port is compatible with Fuji's optional RR-80 remote release cable. You can also use the microphone jack as a shutter release, or a mechanical shutter release cable on the shutter button.

The Fujifilm X-E1 stores images and movies on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types. Images can be saved in both JPEG and raw formats, and the X-E1 includes the ability to process raw files in-camera.

Power comes courtesy of a proprietary lithium-ion battery pack, which the company says provides battery life in the region of 350 frames based on CIPA testing standards, about 50 shots more than for the X-Pro1.

Available since mid November 2012, the Fujifilm X-E1 is sold both body-only, and in a kit with the new 18-55mm zoom lens. Two body colors are offered: either black, or a handsome two-tone black and silver.

Body-only pricing is around US$1,000, well below the US$1,700 tag for the X-Pro1 body. The Fuji X-E1 kit with 18-55mm zoom lens sells at a US$400 premium, for a final price of approximately US$1,400.

The kit zoom lens by itself costs about US$700, and the new 14mm prime lists for US$900. If you're using the earlier X-Pro1 body, you'll need to apply a firmware update to shoot with either new lens.

As well as lenses, M-mount adapter, flash strobes, and the remote cable, Fuji also offers several accessories for the X-E1. These include a leather half-case, hand grip, and protective filters sized to match the various lens options.


Fuji X-E1 Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Fuji X-E1 with the Fuji X-Pro1, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Panasonic GH3, Pentax K-5 II and Sony NEX-7.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. (We used the very sharp XF 35mm f/1.4 R lens for the two Fujifilm cameras.)


Fuji X-E1 versus Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 100

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 100
Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 100

Sporting the same resolution Fuji X-trans sensor, we'd expect these two cameras to yield similar results in image quality. The X-E1 does show slightly better contrast in the mosaic, while the X-Pro1 shows slightly better detail in our red swatch.

Fuji X-E1 versus Olympus OM-D EM-5 at Base ISO

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 100
Olympus OM-D E-M5 at ISO 200

The E-M5 is incredibly sharp here at base ISO, obviously outperforming the X-E1 in most respects, especially in the detail of the fabric threads. The Olympus applies much stronger default sharpening, though.

Fuji X-E1 versus Panasonic GH3 at Base ISO

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 100
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 125

The GH3 shows slightly more detail in the first two images, but far outshines the X-E1 in the rendering of fine detail across all 3 fabric swatches.

Fuji X-E1 versus Pentax K-5 II at ISO 100

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 100

The K-5 II pumps the yellows in the mosaic and the magenta in the lower pink swatch beyond what is actually on the target. The detail and sharpness are better, but the colors are just too overprocessed.


Fuji X-E1 versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 100

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 100
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 100

All 5 previous cameras are roughly 16 megapixels, so we decided to throw a 24 megapixel camera selling for about the same price as the X-E1 into the mix to see how it compared. Obviously the detail in the NEX-7 images is far superior, and very accurate in terms of color, with an incredible overall rendering of our ever-difficult red swatch.

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1,600, 3,200, and 6,400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1,600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to suffer at this setting. We also choose 1,600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Fuji X-E1 versus Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 1,600

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 1,600
Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 1,600

This is pretty much a draw, as expected, with perhaps slightly better detail in the fabric crop from the X-Pro1.

Fuji X-E1 versus Olympus OM-D E-M5 at ISO 1,600

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 1,600
Olympus OM-D E-M5 at ISO 1,600

While the E-M5 outperformed at base ISO, here its aggressive noise processing and what looks to us like a fundamentally noisier sensor starts to show signs of unnatural image blurring and distortion. The X-E1's images are very reasonable for ISO 1,600.

Fuji X-E1 versus Panasonic GH3 at ISO 1,600

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 1,600
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 1,600

The GH3 displays noticeably more noise here than the X-E1, and a bit more softness in certain areas like the mosaic.

Fuji X-E1 versus Pentax K-5 II at ISO 1,600

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 1,600

Again, the X-E1 wins this battle. The K-5 II shows more noise and grain in the Mas Portell bottle and the shadow behind it, loses all contrast and definition in the red swatch, and once again artificially pumps magenta into the pink swatch.

Fuji X-E1 versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 1,600

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 1,600
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 1,600

The different sizes of the two images due to megapixel differences make an accurate comparison a bit tougher. However, there are both pros and cons to be found for each camera at this ISO, with the X-E1 staying fairly consistent across the images and the NEX-7 showing some noise in the top bottle, considerably more low-frequency noise in the shadowed background, and some blotching in the mosaic due to slightly more aggressive noise processing.

These days, ISO 3,200 is a very viable shooting option for most good cameras, so let's take a look at some comparisons there.

Fuji X-E1 versus Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 3,200

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 3,200
Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 3,200

Once again basically a draw here, with the X-Pro1 showing slightly more grain in the bottle but rendering the fabric swatches slightly sharper.

Fuji X-E1 versus Olympus OM-D E-M5 at ISO 3,200

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 3,200
Olympus OM-D E-M5 at ISO 3,200

The E-M5 really begins fall behind here, with more noise in the bottle, blotchiness in the mosaic and the shadowed background, and losing all detail in the red swatch. More aggressive sharpening makes the type and lines on the Mas Portell bottle pop more, but fine detail is coarsened in the process.

The X-E1's approach here is much more consistent and generally pleasing in comparison across all three images crops.

Fuji X-E1 versus Panasonic GH3 at ISO 3,200

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 3,200
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 3,200

With the exception of the swatch of pink fabric at the bottom (where it does extremely well), the GH3 loses this round to the X-E1, with more noise, blotchiness, and loss of detail in most other areas.


Fuji X-E1 versus Pentax K-5 II at ISO 3,200

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 3,200

As we've now said a few times, the K-5 II shows artificially pumped yellows in the mosaic and magentas in the pink fabric swatch. And there is far more noise in the Mas Portell bottle and background and much less detail in the red fabric swatch.

Fuji X-E1 versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 3,200

Fuji X-E1 at ISO 3,200
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 3,200

The NEX-7 shows more noise in the bottle and more blotchiness in the mosaic. The NEX-7 shows more contrast in the red fabric swatch, but the X-E1 shows more detail, albeit with very low contrast. We'd like to see more contrast in the X-E1's red swatch, but prefer it over the blotchiness of the NEX-7's rendering.


Detail: Fuji X-E1 versus Fuji X-Pro1, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Panasonic GH3, Pentax K-5 II and Sony NEX-7.

Fuji
X-E1

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Fuji
X-Pro1

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Olympus
OM-D E-M5

ISO 200
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Panasonic
GH3

ISO 125
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Pentax
K-5 II

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Sony
NEX-7

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Detail comparison. The E-M5 tends to stand out in these comparisons when present, and for good reason. It does a great job of rendering detail as in the lines inside the letters, although part of the "pop" of its images is the result of stronger in-camera sharpening. If you apply careful sharpening to the X-E1 or X-Pro1 images in Photoshop, you'll see that there's actually more and finer detail present in those shots. The NEX-7 is also fairly good with detail here. Both Fujis and the Panasonic do a pretty good job, with the K5II coming up last in the crisp detail department for these crops.

Fuji X-E1 Print Quality Analysis

Excellent 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100/200; a good 16 x 20 at ISO 1600; and even prints a good 4 x 6 at ISO 25,600 (!)

ISO 100/200 yields excellent 24 x 36 inch prints, with sharp detail, rich colors and only minor softening in our target red swatch. Prints for wall display are great all the way up to 36 x 48 inches.

ISO 400 prints very nicely at 20 x 30, with the wall texture from our difficult shadowy areas still rendering accurately. 24 x 36 inch prints are nice here as well, but have more noticeable softness in the red channel. 30 x 40s are quite usable for wall prints.

ISO 800 produces nice prints to 16 x 20, with sizes up to 24 x 36 usable for wall display and other purposes where a mild softening effect in certain areas is desirable.

ISO 1,600 yields a nice 16 x 20 inch print for this ISO. Larger prints introduce softness in some areas and minor noise in the shadows, but would look good on a wall as large as 20 x 30.

ISO 3,200 prints well at 11 x 14, and are still usable for less critical applications at 13 x 19.

ISO 6,400 is the first ISO in this series that starts to introduce obvious graininess from image noise. Other than losing most of the contrast in our target red swatch, we'll rate 8 x 10 as good here.

ISO 12,800 is capable of a good 5 x 7 inch print, which is really good for this ISO.

ISO 25,600 yields a good 4 x 6, which is yet again quite good for ISO 25,600.

With its award-winning X-trans sensor, the Fujifilm X-E1 follows in the footsteps of the X-Pro1, delivering excellent image quality in print and on screen. Simply put, it was hard to make this camera print bad images. We threw higher ISOs at it, threw higher print sizes at it, and still it held fast. It wasn't until ISO 6,400 (which not so long ago was the end of the line for most cameras) that noise and softening really became apparent above 8 x 10s, which is the largest size most people ever print. If you want really great-looking prints, especially if you shoot in low light on occasion, you're in good hands with the Fuji X-E1.

 

In the Box

The Fujifilm X-E1 retail package includes:

  • Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera
  • Fujinon XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens (with kit)
  • NP-W126 Li-ion battery pack
  • BC-W126 battery charger
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • Body cap
  • Metal strap clip
  • Protective cover
  • Clip attachment tool
  • Lens cap
  • Rear lens cap
  • CD-ROM software
  • Owner's Manual
  • One-Year Limited Warranty

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Fuji X-E1 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Significantly less expensive than Fuji's flagship CSC, but with many of the same features
  • Really excellent image quality overall, JPEGs are very clean, with very conservative sharpening. (Who needs RAWs?)
  • Lots of resolution and detail from 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor thanks to absence of low-pass filter
  • Very low incidence of moiré despite having no low-pass filter
  • Excellent low-light/high ISO shooting capability; crisp photos up to ISO 6,400
  • Very good dynamic range
  • Color and exposure are both quite accurate
  • Separate highlight and shadow tone adjustments
  • Bracketing available for many features, not just exposure and white balance
  • Elegant camera body design that marries the look of film-based rangefinder cameras with the modern conveniences of CSCs
  • Lightweight and portable camera build
  • Top-notch image quality that eclipses most entry-level, APS-C based DSLRs
  • Surprisingly good results from the XF18-55mm (27-84mm equivalent) f/2.8-4 OIS kit lens, with impressive sharpness and good bokeh at f/2.8
  • Very fast shutter response when you pre-focus
  • Speedy 6fps continuous shooting mode
  • Clear and easy to navigate menu system
  • Logical control layout and smart design
  • Decent Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with good resolution
  • Electronic level
  • Fun and useful film simulation modes, which can also be used for video shooting
  • External stereo mic jack
  • Limited selection of X-mount lenses
  • Needs bigger handgrip for extensive use
  • Mushy shutter button feel
  • Mediocre autofocus and shot-to-shot speeds
  • Wakes slowly from sleep mode
  • ISO, Film Simulation, and Dynamic Range bracketing disable RAW recording
  • Auto white balance too red indoors, Incandescent setting too yellow
  • Saturation adjustment not very effective
  • Some minor demosaicing errors
  • No RAW support at extended ISOs (100, 12800, 25600)
  • Weak built-in flash, with reddish tint in some flash shots
  • No dedicated ISO or video buttons
  • Only +/-2 EV compensation range
  • Slow buffer clearing with RAW files
  • Kit lens doesn't focus very close
  • LCD is smaller and lower resolution than some competing models
  • LCD screen washes out in bright light
  • Movie framerate still limited to 24p
  • So-so video quality with significant rolling shutter effect
  • More bulky than other APS-C based CSCs

 

The Fuji X-E1 may be the baby brother to Fuji's flagship X-Pro1, but in many ways is its equal. Most importantly, the two cameras share the same impressive 16.3-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor, which produces image quality superior to most APS-C-sensor-based digital SLRs, but in arguably more attractive camera body designs. The X-E1 is also significantly less expensive than its older sibling, while boasting many of the same features. We loved the X-E1's look, which marries the design of a classic rangefinder camera with a smart and sophisticated CSC. We wished the camera grip was larger and more comfortable; it's not a great camera to handhold over long periods of time, but if you're just going out for a day of street shooting, it should be fine. The Fuji X-E1's polycarbonate-and-magnesium build make it quite light and highly portable, especially when compared to the X-Pro1. The X-E1's shutter button, which has a nice old-school look to it (minus the film winder), unfortunately is mushy to press and doesn't feel very responsive.

Our photos, however, looked wonderful -- with lots of resolution and detail (partly due to the absence of a low-pass filter). And thanks to the X-Trans sensor technology, there was also a low incidence of moiré despite the lack of the LP filter. While we didn't expect much from the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens -- which is the first zoom for Fuji's X-series interchangeable lens cameras -- it produced images with impressive sharpness and professional looking background blur (bokeh), which is great for portraits. The X-E1 also really stood out against the competition in low-light situations and higher ISOs (especially in the 1,600 to 3,200 range).

The camera's operational performance was a mixed bag, however, with some full AF shutter lag and shot-to-shot speed issues. The X-E1 was also painfully slow to wake up from sleep mode, which resulted in some missed candid shots.

Bottom line though, there's not a lot to complain about with the X-E1, especially considering its more budget-friendly price tag. The X-E1 is a great addition to Fuji's impressive line-up of retro-style cameras and one of the finest digital cameras Fuji has ever produced. The Fuji X-E1 is a strong Dave's Pick as one of the best compact system cameras on the market today.

Follow Imaging-Resource.com on twitter!

 

Print the overview page for the Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera reviewPrint this Page

Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

Follow Imaging Resource

Purchase memory card for Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera
Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate