Fujifilm X-E1 Review

 
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Fujifilm X-E1 Video Recording

Like most new interchangeable-lens cameras produced in the last few years, the Fujifilm X-E1 includes high-definition video recording capabilities, albeit with a somewhat limited feature set in this case. Similar to Fujifilm's other X Series interchangeable-lens camera, the X-Pro1, the video capabilities on the X-E1 do not appear to have been a priority in the design of the camera; many features, settings and recording formats for video present on similar cameras in this price category are not available on the X-E1.

Recording screen

The X-E1 does, however, offer full 1080p high-definition video recording at the cinema-friendly 24 frames per second. Users are also given the option of 720p HD recording at this same frame rate. The X-E1 does have full-time autofocus during video recording, which many people will welcome, although the option for manual focusing during video is available. Audio is recorded in stereo using the built-in microphone, although unlike the X-Pro1, users now have the option of using an external microphone.

Users have the option of adjusting the depth of field before recording video by manually setting the aperture. However, aperture, exposure compensation, and focus mode, along with movie settings like video resolution, film simulation effects and white balance cannot be changed during video recording.

The other limitation in video recording is the lack of video frame rate choices. Video recording on the X-E1 is limited to only 24 frames per second, which is nice for that cinematic look and feel. However, if you're looking to shoot fast action scenes for use in slow motion video, for instance, at a more appropriate 60 frames per second, another camera would be a better choice.

All in all, the X-E1 is a stills camera first and foremost, with a limited set of video capabilities as a nice add-on feature. It's there if you want it, or need it. It doesn't provide a wide range of enthusiast- or professional-level video features, but for the target customer of the X-E1, the video features should suffice.

Fujifilm X-E1 Basic Video Specs

  • Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (1080p) or HD 1,280 x 720 pixels (720p) at 24 frames per second, in H.264 MOV format.
  • Autofocus functions during movie recording; manual focus also available but fly-by-wire control means there's still focus motor drive noise.
  • Image Stabilization is available in Movie Mode, with lenses that support stabilization.
  • Program or Aperture-priority exposure, but aperture must be set before recording starts.
  • Exposure compensation, white balance, and film simulation mode adjustments are available, all set before recording starts.
  • Stereo audio recording via built-in microphones, but with very little separation between channels.
  • A 2.5mm external stereo microphone jack is provided; kudos for the jack, but you'll need an adapter for most mics.
  • Video recording time for individual video files is limited to 29 minutes.
  • Unique viewfinder eye sensor that switches off the LCD and enables the electronic viewfinder when you place the camera up to your eye. Primarily for still photography, but works identically in video mode.

Fujifilm X-E1 Video: Image Size, Frame Rate, and Encoding

The Fujifilm X-E1, like its bigger brother, the X-Pro1, offers video recording at two different video resolutions: either 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (aka Full HD / 1080p), or 1,280 x 720 pixels (aka 720p), with a fixed capture rate of 24 frames per second. No standard-definition modes are offered. The X-E1 records movies in H.264 format with stereo PCM audio, using an MOV container. No spec is provided for the audio sampling rate, though video players report 16-bit, 48 kHz stereo audio, regardless of resolution.

The table below shows the specs for various video recording options:

Fujifilm X-E1 Video Options
High Profile MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Format (.MOV files)
Resolution
Frame Rate
Average Bit Rate

1,920 x 1,080
(16:9 aspect ratio)

24 fps (progressive)

~14 Mbps

1,280 x 720
(16:9 aspect ratio)

24 fps (progressive)

~9-10 Mbps

The Fujifilm X-E1 offers only one video recording format: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264. Compared to the older Motion JPEG formats still used in a few cameras, the X-E1's MPEG-4 file format is rather more efficient in its use of memory card space for a given image quality level, but seems to be a bit harder for older computers to read. As is often the case with digital still cameras, continuous movie recording is limited to 29 minutes to satisfy European tariff restrictions, regardless of resolution. Fujifilm recommends use of at least a Class 4 Secure Digital card to avoid issues with write speeds during video capture.

Here are some examples of video shot with our sample of the Fujifilm X-E1:

Fujifilm X-E1: Video Samples
1,920 x 1,080
Progressive, 24 frames per second,
Download Original
1,280 x 720
Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
Progressive, 24 frames per second, Night video
Download Original
1,280 x 720
Progressive, 24 frames per second, Night video
Download Original

Fujifilm X-E1 Video Quality

Surprisingly, the X-E1 produced only average quality video during the day, but did strikingly better at night. In our daylight test videos, there was a noticeable flickering noise pattern with the appearance of compression artifacts in highly textured areas such as the asphalt street.  High contrast details were crisp and sharp, but any subtle local contrast or texture very quickly became mushy looking, losing a lot of fine detail. Color rendition appeared natural, bright and accurate.

Nighttime and low-light video is, forgive the pun, like night and day with this camera. The X-E1 did unexpectedly well in our standard night tests. Very little noise was seen in the overall image, and even in the shadow areas, noise was barely noticeable or well controlled. The fast kit lens (f/2.8 - 3.2 in the focal length range we were using) helped quite a bit in this area, as it allowed us to shoot a lower ISO speed than we normally do for night videos. The X-E1 was set to ISO 2000 in this case, rather than the typical ISO 3200-6400 range. (Most cameras end up at about ISO 3200 in our standard night shots.)


Fujifilm X-E1 Video-Mode Focusing

  • Multiple focus modes:
    • Single AF
    • Continuous AF
    • Manual focus
  • Single AF and Continuous AF function identically during video recording
  • AF-L button for One-Touch AF in Manual focus mode prior to recording
  • Focus check in Manual focus mode; magnifies screen prior to recording

The X-E1 does offer full-time autofocus during video recording, much like other mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, but in our tests, AF performance during video left a lot to be desired. In bright, sunny conditions, shooting with the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS kit lens, the camera had trouble locking on and tracking focus of moving subjects. It seemed to hunt for focus if the subject moved out from the center of the frame, but even objects in the center of the frame drifted out of focus at times.

In Single AF (S) mode, the user must first press the shutter button halfway down to focus on the desired subject, however whenever the shutter button is completely pressed and video recording has started, full-time autofocus will take over. Continuous AF (C) mode works identically during video recording, the only difference being that the camera is constantly autofocusing, so the initial half-press of the shutter button is not needed. Fujifilm does note that Continuous AF decreases battery life.

Manual focusing is also available in video mode, both before and during recording. Using the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS kit lens, manual focusing was smooth and gradual, although it did take more rotation of the focus ring to rack focus from near and far subjects than we expected. The AF-L button is a nice feature that bridges the gap between manually focusing and autofocus; while in Manual Focus mode, you have the option of pressing the AF-L button to quickly autofocus on your subject. This is similar to half-pressing the shutter button in Single AF mode. The AF-L button is deactivated once video recording has started, though.

Another nice feature is the ability to magnify the view to check your focus before recording. This feature is understandably unavailable during recording, as it would interfere with the video stream. (It sure would be nice if someone could develop an optional magnified live view mode that could be used during movie recording, though.) You are also presented with a focus distance meter (note the blue/green bar in the screenshot above right) on the screen before and during recording, which allows you to estimate your focus distance to your subject. This is a nice little feature, as a reasonable estimate of subject distance is often close enough at video resolutions.


Fujifilm X-E1 Video Exposure

  • Shutter speed and ISO are adjusted automatically by the camera before and during recording.
  • Aperture-priority exposure mode can be used for video, but the aperture must be set before recording.
  • Exposure compensation settings can be changed prior to recording.
  • White balance can be set to Auto or changed to the various presets, identical to stills options, with the exception that Manual white balance isn't available. Again, white balance changes can only be made prior to the start of recording, though.
  • Your choice of Fujifilm Film Simulation exposure styles (same set as in stills mode):
    • Provia/Standard
    • Velvia/Vivid
    • Astia/Soft
    • Pro Neg. Hi
    • Pro Neg. Std
    • Sepia
    • Monochrome
      • + Ye Filter
      • + R Filter
      • + G Filter

The X-E1 doesn't give the user many options when it comes to video exposure control. The camera always sets two out of three sides of the exposure triangle for you automatically: shutter speed and ISO. Depending on the lens being used, there is the choice of having the aperture set automatically or manually. On the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens that we used with this camera, the aperture ring could be used to manually adjust the it prior to video recording. Once video recording has started, though, you're locked into that aperture, and shutter speed and ISO are continuously adjusted by the camera accordingly.

Live histogram

Other exposure adjustments include exposure compensation, which functions just like it would in still image mode, but it can only be set before recording. Also, white balance can be set automatically or from the standard array of settings that are present in still image mode.

One nice feature is a live histogram that can be enabled to display on the screen. This is a handy addition that will let you know if you are under or over exposed. As is often the case, the histogram is only available before recording, disappearing once recording starts.

 

Fujifilm X-E1 Audio Recording

  • Built-in stereo microphone
  • 2.5mm external stereo microphone jack
  • Recording level manually adjustable in 4 steps, prior to recording only
Mic Level

Audio options on the X-E1 are pretty limited, but as mentioned earlier, it does provide the option to use an external microphone. The X-E1 itself has a built-in stereo microphone, although we found the stereo separation relatively poor. You do have some control over the microphone recording level, which can be adjusted in 4-stage increments prior to recording. Again, there is no way to change the audio level in the camera during video recording.

If you choose to use an external microphone, be aware that the microphone jack on the X-E1 is a 2.5mm jack, therefore a 2.5mm to 3.5mm mic jack adapter will be needed for most microphones. Also, the mic jack on the X-E1 is a dual-function jack. This port can also be used with a remote release, such as the Fujifilm RR-80 (sold separately) or other third-party remotes. You have to specify in the Video mode shooting menu what function you want to use (mic or remote).


Fujifilm X-E1 Movie Recording/Playback User Interface

The primary mode of the X-E1 is for still images. In order to shoot videos, you will have to enable it in the DRIVE menu. Unlike many other cameras, the X-E1 does not have a separate video record button that lets you to start recording video immediately. Once in video mode, recording is started and stopped with a full-press of the shutter button. Some reviewers have complained that the movie mode option is all the way at the bottom of the Drive menu, but you can just arrow-up and the menu selection will wrap around, making it just two button presses to get to where you want. It's still much slower than having a dedicated external button. As we pointed out in the Shooter's Report section of this review, you can always assign the Fn button to enable video mode, but that of course means not being able to use it for some other parameter like ISO.

Live histogram

The menu options available to you in video mode are fairly limited. The primary menu screen is comprised of only six options: Movie Mode (1080p or 720p), Film Simulation (image effects), White Balance, Mic Level Adjustment, Mic/Remote Release and Display Custom Setting. This last menu option allows you enable or disable various on-screen information such as framing guides, electronic level, histogram and exposure compensation.

The Quick menu button gives you fast access to four main options in movie mode: Movie Mode (movie resolution), White Balance, Film Simulation and LCD brightness.



Rolling Shutter Artifacts ("Jello Effect")

Fujifilm X-E1: Rolling Shutter Artifacts
1,920 x 1,080
Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original

With video from most any stills camera, rolling shutter artifacts are something that you will have to contend with any time the camera or subject moves. Some cameras do a much better job at minimizing this effect than others. The X-E1, sadly, does not do well in this area. In both 1080p and 720p video, rolling shutter was very noticeable and pronounced with even modest camera motion. At higher frame rates, you'd normally see less of an effect, but the X-E1 only offers 24 frames per second, so keep that in mind when shooting video. Slow pans only!


Computer Requirements for Viewing HD Video

The MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 image compression used by the Fujifilm X-E1 is one of the more compute-intensive formats, and its maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels means there's a LOT of data in each frame to deal with. As a result, you'll want a fairly recent computer to play the X-E1's Full HD video files, and a pretty powerful machine for Full HD video editing. Here in the office, we're largely Mac-based. For reference, old machines with Core Duo processors really can't handle AVC / H.264 video. Core 2 Duo machines are usable for viewing, but you'll often see minor glitches. You should really have a Core i5 or Core i7 processor for best results. (Sorry, we don't have any experience with Core i3 or AMD-based Windows machines, so can't offer any guidance there.)

You also have the option of viewing your movies on a high definition TV via the Mini HDMI (Type C) output (cable optional). If you're still on a standard-def TV, though, you're out of luck, as the X-E1 doesn't offer any form of standard-def video output connectivity.

 

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