Fujifilm X-E1 - A Concentrated Mirrorless Camera




The Fujifilm X-E1, as a concept, is irresistible. Whoever drew up the design spec for the X-series was either a photographer, or really understood them. As the furthest evolution of the X100 to the X10 and the X-Pro1, the X-E1 and the XF lenses stand as a testament to knowing what photographers want: Small body, large sensor, access to controls, fast lenses and beautiful image quality.

In translating that spec to reality though, some things seem to have been lost in translation. AF performance has improved, but not yet to the level of today's best mirrorless cameras, i.e. current generation Micro Four Thirds or Nikon 1 cameras (at this point, we think Fujifilm should just license the technology from somebody). Changing AF points is a chore, just as it's always been.

The X-Trans sensor giveth and taketh away. It provides exceptional clarity, the kind you can't get with an AA filter in your way, plus exceptional high ISO/low noise performance which easily ranks it among the cream of the APS-C sensor crop. At the same time however, color smearing and edge glows (which might be part of the same phenomena) can happen, so you'll need to decide if the increased acuity is worth the potential trade-off. The RAW image workflow also presents a challenge; if you shoot RAW and work in anything other than Fujifilm's Silkypix, then you might have to consider how best to process your images.

So while we think the X-series is one of the most promising mirrorless systems for photographers, we also think it still has some way to go. The X-E1 is certainly a fine camera which will produce a lot of beautiful images, but it's not perfect by any means. Its faster AF speeds over the X-Pro1 make it an easier camera to love, but it's still a camera for a considered, slower pace of shooting than something with a wicked fast AF like the Olympus E-M5 or a DSLR camera.

And the camera is certainly not for someone who wants to shoot video, while it can shoot 1080/24p video with stereo, you'll notice that there are no video controls placed front and center. This is really a stills camera geared for the stills photographer.

Now, price. The X-E1 is cheaper than the X-Pro1, but it's not cheap by any means. The X-E1 with the XF 18-55mm kit lens will set you back S$2099, while the body alone is S$1499. The X-Pro1 body alone was S$2399. Lest you think that's a massive discount, consider the competition. An XF prime lens will cost you S$899 per lens. If you go body alone with a 35mm f/1.4 prime, that's a retail price of S$2398. Not exactly competitive in a landscape full of mirrorless system cameras going for less. If the retro look and AA filter-less APS-C sensor appeals to you, then maybe. If not, there are other cameras that can get you, if not as good, but good enough image quality for less money.

While using the X-E1, we never felt at any point that it was a diluted version of the X-Pro1. Rather, the X-E1 feels to us like a smaller, concentrated version of its more expensive predecessor, with all its strengths as well as (some) weaknesses.

The Good
Improved auto-focus system
Manual dials for easy control
Good electronic viewfinder
High degree of clarity in images
The Bad
AF point switching laborious
Auto ISO has no minimum shutter speed
Occasional color smearing in images
Difficult RAW workflow

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