In one of the worst kept photography secrets this year, Fujifilm announced the X-E1 on September 6, 2012 – the second interchangeable lens camera that uses their newly developed “X” mount and corresponding lenses. For our regular readers, it is no secret that I absolutely love using my X-Pro1 which was announced in January of 2012. When Fujfilm let me know back in June that the X-Pro1 was about to get a little brother, I must say that I was intrigued and excited as it is great to see this line of cameras expand to include new products.
Fujifilm was kind enough to let me use a pre-production model of the X-E1 for the past week and I will have access to it for another week. The purpose of this article is let you know my initial impressions of the camera and to show you some images I have taken with it. This is by no means a complete technical review – I will leave that to websites like dpreview.com to explore all of the minutiae and fine details of the camera.
I am also assuming the reader has some familiarity with the X-Pro1.
As shown above, the X-E1 comes in two colour schemes:
Throughout this article, I often make comparisons to the X-Pro1 as a lot of DNA for the X-E1 came from its bigger brother. Having spent some quality time with this camera, it was often hard to tell whether or not I was using an X-E1 or X-Pro1. They are that similar.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are the highlights of the X-E1:
Full technical details are available on the Fujifilm website.
The X-E1’s dimensions are 12.9 cm X 7.49 cm X 3.83 cm (5.1″ x 2.9″ x 1.5″) and it weighs only 300 grams (10.5 ounces) without a battery. It is really light but the build quality is excellent and on par with the X-Pro1.
Here is a size comparison from camerasize.com
The X-E1 is smaller than the X-Pro1 – you can see that for yourself.
The difference is small as it is about 1 cm (or less) in each linear dimension. My first impression of the X-E1 is that it is a nice size, without being too small. It is a really comfortable camera to hold and even though it is lightweight, if feels solid in your hand.
What is really interesting (and not often mentioned) is that the X-E1 is about the same size as the X100, give or take a millimeter (or three). Those people who are looking for a capable camera in a small(ish) body will be very happy.
If you have used an X-Pro1, you will be instantly familiar with all of the X-E1’s dials and controls.
The rear layout is very similar to the X-Pro1 except for the following:
The X-E1 also has the “Q” button which is a blessing – it allows you to quickly access (and change) common settings such as white balance, ISO, file quality, etc. without having to dive into multiple menus. I find it a major time saver when shooting. The “Q” button on the X-E1 is slightly recessed into the camera body which is a subtle, yet welcome change. I found on my X-Pro1 that it was easy for it to be accidentally pressed as my thumb naturally hovers over this button when shooting. This never happened to me when using the X-E1. A small but nice touch.
One major change is that the X-E1 sports a 2.36 million dot OLED EVF but it does not have an optical view finder (OVF) like the X-Pro1 or X100. As the X-E1 is $US 700.00 less than its bigger brother (and physically smaller), I believe Fujifilm decided to omit the OVF and just use an EVF to help keep costs down. Not to worry though – the X-E1’s EVF is bright, sharp and the refresh rate is quite good. In fact, I would say that it is (subjectively) better than the X-Pro1’s EVF due to the increased resolution. I often use the X-Pro1’s EVF for exact framing so using the OLED EVF on the X-E1 was second nature.
The X-E1’s rear LCD is smaller than the X-Pro1’s – and it appears to be the same size as the X100’s rear LCD. Given that Fujifilm has created a smaller camera body and wanted to reduce its cost, it appears they have re-used parts from their other “X” series cameras.
Another added feature is to the left of the EVF – Fujifilm decided to include a diopter adjustment dial with the X-E1. This was missing on the X-Pro1 and frustrated those users who used corrective lenses for their vision as they had to source and purchase one on their own for use with the camera.
The controls at the top of the camera will be familiar to any X-Pro1 (or X100) user. In fact, the shutter speed dial looks like the same one used on the X100. One thing that is really nice is that there are secure (and discreet) positions at each setting so it is difficult to accidentally “nudge” these controls when taking the camera out of your bag, etc. When using my X100, I did this all of the time which was frustrating – with the X-E1 (and hence, X-Pro1), this is no longer an issue.
BTW, the “square” to the left of the hot shoe is the pop up TTL flash.
Along with the USB and HDMI ports, Fujifilm included a 2.5 mm stereo microphone jack for video users. This is absent on the X-Pro1. I believe it can also be used with a remote control or an intervalometer. One thing that is missing is the PC Sync port. The X-E1 does however, have a hot shoe which can be used with wireless transmitters or compatible flash units.
Prior to borrowing the X-E1 from Fujifilm, I updated my X-Pro1’s firmware to V2.00 which brought a few welcome changes to the camera. Most notable are the reduced SD card write times, reduced playback delay – even the auto focus (AF) and manual focus (MF) are better. Fujifilm released this update so that the X-Pro1 could match the improved performance of the X-E1 and as you will soon find out, both cameras perform equally well.
On the X-E1, AF is fairly fast and responsive. No, it is not blazingly fast nor will you be able to track fast moving objects, but the AF acquires the subject in short order and is extremely accurate. Even the 60mm f/2.4 Macro (Amazon – Adorama – B&H Photo), which is known for its slow focus, is much faster on the X-E1. The 18mm f/2 (Amazon – Adorama – B&H Photo) and the 35mm f/1.4 (Amazon – Adorama – B&H Photo) focused quickly. In addition, I did notice that AF in low light has dramatically improved.
Power up is fast and I could start shooting within a second of turning on the camera.
One thing that does trouble me is how Fujfilm implemented continuous focus on both the X-Pro1 and X-E1. Normally (with my other cameras) when using continuous mode, AF engages when you half press the shutter release (or AF-L button) and will track your subject. For some reason, the X-E1 and X-Pro1 tries to focus the moment you turn on continuous mode – and you don’t even have to use the shutter release or AF-L button either. This drains the battery quickly and I find continuous focus frustrating to use, so I don’t.
The X-E1 menus are virtually identical to the X-Pro1, so I had no issue navigating and using them. Operation of the external controls were the same. Even if you are not familiar with Fujifilm’s “X” series cameras, everything is logically laid out and fairly self explanatory.
Write times were negligible – less than a second when writing a Fine JPEG file. I am using fast UHS-I SD cards in my cameras and they seem to work well in the X-E1.
After using the X-E1 for a week now, its performance and handling is virtually identical to the X-Pro1 (with firmware update V2.00). Yes, when using the X-E1, it felt like I was using the X-Pro1 – with the exception of the X-E1 being slightly smaller and having no OVF. It appears that Fujfilm has packed most of the X-Pro1’s feature set (plus a few extras) into the X-E1 – and it costs 40% less.
Image Quality (IQ) is one of Fujifilm’s key strengths and the X-E1 does not disappoint in this department. In fact, the IQ of the X-E1 is identical to that of the X-Pro1 – which means it is superb. This is because both cameras use the same 16 megapixel X-Trans APS-C CMOS sensor which does not have an Anti-Aliasing (AA) filter but does have a unique Colour Filter Array (CFA) to reduce/eliminate moiré. What this means (for us photographers) is that you get very sharp, clean images with great colour.
As RAW converters do not currently support X-E1 RAW files (at the time of writing this article), I shot this camera in JPEG mode. In fact, on my X-Pro1, I shoot JPEG+RAW and 90% of the time, I use the JPEG file as they are that good. The X-E1 also supports film simulation modes (Provia, Astia, Velvia, Pro-Neg, Monochrome) and produces the exact same results on both cameras. High ISO noise is extremely well controlled (up to ISO 3200) and I cannot tell ISO 200 through 800 apart. Even ISO 6400 is quite good. Dynamic Range (DR) is excellent and as with the X-Pro1, you have the ability configure it for reduced or expanded DR.
Overall, the IQ is as good as any of my full frame DSLR’s and in some ways (especially with regard to colour rendition), I prefer the IQ of the X-E1 (and X-Pro1). That is saying a lot as I shoot with some of the best DSLRs available.
Of course, speaking about IQ is one thing. Showing it to you is another.
These X-E1 images I recently shot are straight out of camera with no processing (except for re-sizing in Lightroom). The EXIF data (i.e. camera settings and lens used) is intact and if you click on an image, a larger version will appear in a new window. All images were shot using:
I also used all of the camera’s default JPEG settings for tone, colour, noise reduction, etc. Keep in mind that this is a pre-production camera, but you would never know it by looking at its IQ.
NOTE: These copyrighted images are not to be re-distributed or re-posted on other websites unless you have written permission from Roël Photography, however, links to this article are welcome and encouraged.
Earlier this year, Fujifilm presented a lens roadmap for their “X” mount cameras:
Two new lenses, namely the 14mm f/2.8 (Amazon – Adorama – B&H Photo) and the 18-55mm f/2.8~4 OIS zoom (Amazon – Adorama – B&H Photo) were also announced earlier this year and will be available by the end of November 2012. I have not had the opportunity to use them, however, Fujifilm will send some pre-production samples in the next few weeks for me to review. So, stayed tuned for more information.
Like everything else in life, nothing is perfect. I had a few quibbles with the X-E1 (and as well, the X-Pro1) and hope that Fujifilm can address them at a later date:
This is actually the second article I have written about the X-E1 – but the first one never got published. I deleted most of my first article as I was basically regurgitating my three posts on the X-Pro1 – with the exception that the X-E1’s firmware greatly improves the camera’s performance (same as the new firmware V2.00 for the X-Pro1). This essentially means that the X-E1 is a very similar camera to its bigger brother – except it is a more compact body that loses the OVF, gains a few additional features and costs 40% less.
Normally when I get to use a pre-production camera, there are usually a few quirks that need to be ironed out before it finally goes into full scale production. Having said that, I did not encounter anything out of the ordinary with the pre-production X-E1 that Fujifilm lent to me – in fact, I would say it functioned flawlessly and I look forward to seeing the final production units. It is a superb camera and to me, Fujifilm has come a long way over the past two years with their “X” series cameras and lenses.
Who should get an X-E1?
This is an exciting time to be a photographer. I remember a few years ago that there were only two players offering mirrorless cameras. Now, there are many companies in this market competing with high quality offerings – plus, prices have come down significantly over this time. Add to that, the image quality rivals (and sometimes exceeds) that of DSLRs. Choosing any camera is now, more than ever, a matter of what addresses your priorities – including your budget.
Fujifilm has done a very good job with the X-E1 – and it is attractively priced. I know I have referred to the X-E1 as the X-Pro1’s “little brother” – and in some ways, that is an inaccurate description. The X-E1 is every bit as capable and I suspect the X-Pro1 may get a little jealous with all of the attention the X-E1 is about to receive. One has to love sibling rivalry.
So… if you like what you see and are planning to pre-order an X-E1, I ask you to consider using one of our sponsors for your purchase:
Also, you can pre-order the X-E1 as a kit with the 18-55mm f/2.8~4 OIS lens and save yourself $US 300.00 on the combination:
With the superb “X” mount lenses (plus new ones from Carl Zeiss) being released, the continuing commitment to this system, plus the first rate image quality, I believe that Fujifilm is now and will be a major player in the mirrorless camera market for many years to come.
I look forward to future lenses, camera bodies and accessories for this system from Fujifilm.
If you have any questions regarding the X-E1, feel free to post them below and I will do my best to answer them. I often do not get the chance to respond to emails in a timely manner given the large volume of them that I receive.
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