Fujifilm X-E1 Review

 
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Fuji X-E1 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Very good color with excellent hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
1600
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.
Saturation. The Fuji X-E1 produces images with fairly bright, pleasing color using standard, default settings. The camera pushes most colors by a small amount, red by a moderate amount, but undersaturates yellow, aqua and cyan by just a bit. Default saturation at the base ISO of 200 is 110.4% (10.4% oversaturated), which is about average these days. You can of course tweak saturation and/or select a different film simulation mode. Mean saturation fell gradually as ISO increased as it often does, ending up at 106% at maximum ISO. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Fuji X-E1 rendered Caucasian skin tones that were a touch on the pinkish side when white balance was adjusted to match the light source, because of the moderate push in reds. Still, results were quite pleasing, with a healthy look. (Here, too, the X-E1's saturation and/or film mode adjustments may come into play for some users, letting them tweak the color on skin tones, if they find the default rendering a bit too saturated for their personal tastes.) Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Fuji X-E1 produced only a few small color shifts relative to the mathematically precise translation of colors in its subjects, and has excellent hue accuracy overall. Most noticeable were shifts in cyan toward blue, orange toward yellow, as well as some smaller shifts in yellow, green and purple. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) Average "delta-C" color error after correction for saturation was only 4.02, which is excellent. Hue is "what color" the color is.

Saturation Adjustment
The Fuji X-E1 has a total of five saturation settings available ("Low", "Medium Low", "Mid", "Medium High" and "High"), which the user manual simply calls "Color." That's not as many steps as most cameras, and as you can see the steps are pretty fine, making the effect very subtle except for reds. It had no effect on contrast, which is good.

Saturation Adjustment Examples
Click to see XE1OUTBSAT1.JPG Click to see XE1OUTBSAT3D.JPG Click to see XE1OUTBSAT5.JPG
Low Mid High

The table above shows results with several saturation settings including the default and both limits. Click on any thumbnail above to see the full-sized image.

Click to see XE1FAR2I0200.JPG Click to see XE1OUTBAP0.JPG Click to see XE1hSLI00200NR3D.JPG
See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto and Incandescent white balance were quite warm, but very good results with the Manual setting. No exposure compensation required.

Click to see XE1INBAP0.JPG Click to see XE1INBTP0.JPG
Auto White Balance
0 EV
Incandescent White Balance
0 EV
Click to see XE1INBMP0.JPG Click to see XE1INBK26P0.JPG
Manual White Balance
0 EV
2,600 Kelvin
0 EV

Indoors, under typical incandescent lighting, color balance was quite warm using the Auto setting, with a fairly strong reddish cast. Results with the Incandescent white balance setting were also warm, with a yellow/orange cast, but Incandescent kept more of the mood of the lighting than the Auto setting. The Manual white balance setting was quite accurate and neutral, while the 2,600 Kelvin temperature setting produced a slight yellow tint. The Fuji X-E1 required no exposure compensation here, while most cameras need about +0.3 EV for this scene. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

Outdoors, daylight
Very good color though slightly cool outdoors. Excellent exposure accuracy.

Click to see XE1OUTBMP0.JPG Click to see XE1FAR2I0200.JPG
Manual White Balance,
0 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Fuji X-E1 produced good color at default settings, just slightly on the cool side, so we preferred Manual white balance for our "Sunlit" Portrait shot. The Fuji X-E1 required no exposure compensation adjustment to produce fairly bright facial tones on the mannequin. Despite the bright appearance, there was only relatively minor clipping of highlights in the white shirt, though specific channels were clipped in the flowers as is usually the case. Shadows contain very good detail, with low levels of noise except in the very deepest tones. Most cameras require about +0.7 EV to produce a bright face in this shot, so the X-E1 did much better than average here. Skin tones are pleasing, with a healthy-looking pinkish cast that's not too overdone. The Fuji X-E1 also did a great job exposing our Far-field shot, producing very few clipped highlights or lost shadows. Again, color was just a touch cool with the Auto white balance setting. See the Extremes: Sunlit section below to see how the X-E1's Highlight/Shadow Tone and D-Range settings deal with harsh lighting like this.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
Very high resolution, ~2,300 lines of strong detail from JPEGs, about the same from RAW.

Strong detail to
~2,300 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,300 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,300 lines horizontal
Raw File Converter EX
Strong detail to
~2,300 lines vertical
Raw File Converter EX

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,300 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and about 2,300 lines per picture height in the vertical direction as well. (Some may argue for higher, but lines begin to merge at after 2,300 lines.) Complete extinction of the pattern didn't occur before the 4,000 line limit of our chart in both directions. Fuji's bundled Raw File Converter EX (based on SilkyPix) wasn't able to extract any more resolution from this high-contrast target, and it generated noticeable color moiré which was a bit of a surprise. The Fuji X-E1 on the other hand did an excellent job suppressing color moiré in its JPEG output here. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Very good detail and sharpness overall, with only minor edge-enhancement artifacts appearing around some high-contrast subjects. Mild noise suppression is visible in the shadows at base ISO.

Very good definition of
high-contrast elements,
with only minor evidence of
edge enhancement.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
though detail remains strong in
the darker parts of the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Fuji X-E1 captures very sharp, detailed images, though some minor edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the thicker branches and pine cones in the above left crop. Fine detail such as the smaller branches and pine needles however show very little edge enhancement, though the pine needles do look a touch soft. Still, excellent results here. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows low levels of luminance noise suppression, as the darker areas of the model's hair still show a pretty good amount of detail. Some individual strands do merge together when local contrast is low and as shadows deepen, but performance here is very good. The Fuji X-E1 does a great job at keeping chrominance noise low as well. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

Demosaicing. As mentioned elsewhere in this review, the Fuji X-E1 doesn't use the standard Bayer 2x2 color filter pattern. The X-E1's 6x6 pattern is designed to reduce the occurrence of color moiré, which means a resolution-robbing low-pass (anti-alias) filter is not required. As you can see from the crops at right (magnified 2X) comparing the X-E1 to the Sony NEX-6, the Fuji does a better job a avoiding color moiré and has better per-pixel sharpness. You can however see that the X-E1 struggles a bit with rendering the fine italic text, leaving what look to be small gaps and extra strokes in the letters, and some rough edges as well. Still, you have to look very closely to spot these errors and overall, the increased per-pixel sharpness and reduced color moiré really are worth the tradeoffs in our opinion.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Fuji X-E1 produces sharp JPEG images with very good detail at default settings. Let's see if we can extract more fine detail from RAW files without introducing additional sharpening artifacts:

In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above, and clicking on the link will load the full resolution image. Examples include (from left to right): an in-camera Fine JPEG at default settings, the matching RAW file processed through Fuji's Raw File Converter EX software (which is based on SilkyPix) at default settings, and another processed with Adobe Camera Raw 7.4rc (with improved X-Trans sensor support), which was then sharpened in Photoshop using unsharp mask of 250% with radius 0.3 pixels.

As you can see, the Fuji Raw File Converter EX version at default settings renders the image rather differently than the camera. Color rendering is warmer and fine detail is a little courser, though local contrast appears a bit better. We still prefer the in-camera JPEG. Adobe Camera Raw does a pretty good job here, but doesn't really extract more detail than the camera does. Bottom line: Fuji's in-camera processing is excellent, and there's very little advantage to shooting raw in terms of detail reproduction, at least at low ISOs.

ISO & Noise Performance
Excellent high ISO performance, with strong detail to ISO 3,200.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600 ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

Just like the X-Pro1, the Fuji X-E1's images are very clean and detailed up to ISO 800. Luminance noise "grain" is quite fine and tight, and there is very little sign of chrominance noise. At ISO 1,600, noise reduction efforts are little stronger as you'd expect, but fine detail is still very good. ISO 3,200 shows another slight increase in noise and blurring, but fine detail remains very good. 6,400 is the first ISO where luminance noise becomes noticeable, though it's still fairly fine-grained, and chrominance noise is well controlled. Image quality drops off more rapidly at ISO 12,800, with more visible grain, blurring, noise reduction artifacts, and blotchy chroma noise in the shadows. Fine detail at ISO 25,600 is quite soft with heavy luminance noise accentuated by sharpening artifacts, and chrominance noise in the form of large yellow and purple blotches. Still, noise performance in high ISO JPEGs is excellent, among the best we've seen from a 16-megapixel APS-C sensor, and as expected, very similar to the X-Pro1.

We're pixel-peeping to the extreme here though, which isn't always representative of what you see in prints. As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Very high resolution with very good overall detail. Very good highlight retention and shadow detail. Excellent low-light performance.

Click to see XE1OUTBMP0.JPG Click to see XE1OUTBMP1.JPG Click to see XE1OUTBMP2.JPG
0 EV +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight.
As mention previously, the Fuji X-E1 performed very well with the deliberately harsh lighting of this test; much better than average in terms of exposure. We preferred the default exposure overall, because exposures at higher exposure compensations were too bright with too many clipped highlights. While a few highlights were blown in the model's shirt and flowers at 0 EV (default exposure), the amount of clipping wasn't as high as many cameras we have tested. Shadow detail is very good, with low levels of noise except in the very deepest shadows. The Fuji X-E1 performed quite well here.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

Contrast Adjustment
The Fuji X-E1 does not offer a traditional contrast adjustment. Instead, it offers Shadow and Highlight Tone settings, which let you adjust contrast in highlights and shadows independently. There are five settings each: "Soft", "Medium Soft", "Standard" (default), "Medium Hard", and "Hard."

"Sunlit" Portrait Highlight and Shadow Tone Comparison
Highlight
and
Shadow
Tone
Settings:



Highlight: Soft

Highlight: Standard

Highlight: Hard


Shadow: Soft

Shadow: Standard

Shadow: Hard

Shadow and Highlight Tone. Above you can see the effects of three of the five settings for Highlight and Shadow Tone control on our high contrast "Sunlit" Portrait shot. Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to visit the full resolution image. Note how the Highlight settings mainly affect the brighter portions of the image, while the Shadow settings impact the darker areas. Both settings can be used simultaneously, giving more flexibility to tune the tone curve at both ends compared to a single contrast setting.

Above, you can see the effect of the same Highlight and Shadow Tone settings on our Far-field shot.


"Sunlit" Portrait D-Range Comparison

Histogram

Highlight Retention

Shadow Noise (levels boosted)
D-Range Setting:
DR 100% (default)
(ISO 200)
DR 200%
(ISO 400)
DR 400%
(ISO 800)
DR Auto
(ISO 800)

D-Range is Fuji's name for their dynamic range enhancement technology. D-Range designed to preserve hot highlights, by exposing for highlights and then boosting mid-tones and shadows. There are three levels: DR100 100% (default), DR200 200%, DR400 400%, as well as an Auto mode. Mouse over the links above to load the corresponding thumbnail image, histogram, highlight and shadow crop. Click on the links to get to the full resolution images.

As you can see the images above, the Fuji X-E1's manual D-Range settings were very effective at retaining clipped highlights in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, though the Auto setting did little. As they say, though, there's no free lunch: if you look closely at the full resolution images or the crops, you'll see that improved highlight retention comes at a cost of increased noise in the shadows. This is because the camera raises minimum ISO to 400 and 800 for DR 200% and 400% respectively. Still, even with the DR 400% setting (ISO 800), noise from the Fuji X-E1's sensor is low enough that it shouldn't be an issue for most applications. (Note that the shadow crops above have had levels adjusted in Photoshop significantly to reveal the increase in shadow noise.)

Far-field D-Range Comparison

Above, you can see how the various D-Range settings affect our Far-field shot.

Face Detection
The Fuji X-E1 does not offer a face detection AF or AE mode which is a little odd for a camera that uses only contrast-detection AF, though we don't know if the camera employs either automatically.

Dynamic Range
A key parameter in a digital camera is its Dynamic Range, the range of brightness that can be faithfully recorded. At the upper end of the tonal scale, dynamic range is dictated by the point at which the RGB data "saturates" at values of 255, 255, 255. At the lower end of the tonal scale, dynamic range is determined by the point at which there ceases to be any useful difference between adjacent tonal steps. Note the use of the qualifier "useful" in there: While it's tempting to evaluate dynamic range as the maximum number of tonal steps that can be discerned at all, that measure of dynamic range has very little relevance to real-world photography. What we care about as photographers is how much detail we can pull out of the shadows before image noise becomes too objectionable. This, of course, is a very subjective matter, and will vary with the application and even the subject matter in question. (Noise will be much more visible in subjects with large areas of flat tints and subtle shading than it would in subjects with strong, highly contrasting surface texture.)

What makes most sense then, is to specify useful dynamic range in terms of the point at which image noise reaches some agreed-upon threshold. To this end, Imatest computes a number of different dynamic range measurements, based on a variety of image noise thresholds. The noise thresholds are specified in terms of f-stops of equivalent luminance variation in the final image file, and dynamic range is computed for noise thresholds of 1.0 (low image quality), 0.5 (medium image quality), 0.25 (medium-high image quality) and 0.1 (high image quality). For most photographers and most applications, the noise thresholds of 0.5 and 0.25 f-stops are probably the most relevant to the production of acceptable-quality finished images, but many noise-sensitive shooters will insist on the 0.1 f-stop limit for their most critical work.

JPEG. The graph at right (click for a larger version) was generated using Imatest's dynamic range analysis for a Fuji X-E1 in-camera JPEG file with a nominally-exposed density step target (Stouffer 4110). At default settings and normal base ISO (200), the graph shows an impressive 12.5 f-stops of total dynamic range, with 7.73 f-stops of dynamic range at the High Quality level. Both Total and High Quality dynamic range scores are very good, particularly the total dynamic range. Note though that this measurement has a margin of error of about 1/3 f-stop, so differences of less than 0.33 can be ignored. With that in mind, the X-E1 scored about the same as the X-Pro1 at the highest quality levels (7.73 vs 7.89), but the X-E1 did better at lower quality levels, with a total dynamic range score of 12.5 vs 11.5, likely due to Fuji tweaking default JPEG output since the we tested the X-Pro1.

Raw. The graph at right is from the same Stouffer 4110 stepchart image captured as a raw (.RAF) file, processed with Adobe Camera Raw using the Auto setting, then manually tweaking from there. As can be seen, the score at the highest quality increased by about 1.1 f-stops from 7.73 to 8.82 compared to the in-camera JPEG, while total dynamic range also increased by about 2/3 f-stops from from 12.5 to 13.1. That's pretty close to theoretical maximum dynamic range that can be tested with a Stouffer 4110 step chart (13.67 f-stops). While total dynamic range is very impressive, we've seen scores at the highest quality level exceed 10 f-stops from other 16-megapixel APS-C sensors (such as the Pentax K-5's 10.2 score and the Nikon D7000's 10.1 score). This is most certainly due to the Fuji's X-E1's base ISO of 200, which is naturally a little noisier than other cameras with lower base ISOs such as the Pentax and Nikon. Still, very good dynamic range results from the Fuji X-E1.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16fc
No NR
ISO
100
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2 s
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200
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400
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800
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f2.8
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ISO
1600
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3200
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f2.8
ISO
6400
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f2.8
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ISO
12800
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f2.8
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f2.8
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f2.8
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25600
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f2.8
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1/8 s
f2.8

Low Light. The Fuji X-E1 was able to capture bright images at the lowest light level with the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). Color balance looks quite good with the Auto white balance setting, just a touch cool at higher light levels, and a bit warm at lower. Noise is quite low up to ISO 3,200, and at higher ISOs, noise grain is very fine and tight so detail remains very good, though chroma noise gets a little blotchy at the highest ISOs. We didn't notice any banding issues, nor where there any uncorrected hot or bright pixels except with NR was turned off where you'd expect to see some (though there were very few).

The camera's contrast-detect autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to just above the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted, thanks in part to the relatively fast (bright) kit lens. With the AF assist lamp enabled, the Fuji X-E1 was able to focus in complete darkness (as long as the subject was in range of the focus assist lamp). Keep in mind that the longer shutter speeds here demand the use of a tripod to prevent any blurring from camera movement. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) The Fuji X-E1 uses contrast-detect autofocus, as is found in most point & shoot cameras, so its low-light focusing ability is less than that of some SLRs with phase-detect systems. That said, though, the larger, more sensitive pixels of the X-E1's sensor do better under dim lighting than do the tiny pixels of most point & shoots, (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

Output Quality

Print Quality

Excellent 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100/200; a good 16 x 20 at ISO 1,600; 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 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.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 Mark II studio printer, and the Canon Pixma MP610 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II review for details on that model.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Fujifilm X-E1 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Fujifilm X-E1 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

Fujifilm X-E1

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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.

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