The X-E1 Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera is an interesting take by Fujifilm on the EVF cameras that have been dominating the mirrorless category for a couple of years now. Since the mirrorless camera by nature does not allow for a true through-the-lens viewfinder, if manufacturers wanted to put a viewfinder on the camera they had to used an electronic one. That is, until the Fuji X100 came along. (I’m leaving digital rangefinders out of this statement because they are not the same thing as a mirrorless camera although they are functionally similar).
While technically a compact professional camera, the Fujifilm X100 was such a game-changer that Fuji expanded upon that camera with a few more fixed lens models before finally releasing the Fuji X-Pro1 Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera in 2012 based on that same innovative Hybrid Viewfinder that wowed so many of us in 2011. The combination of interchangeable lenses with that unique viewfinder proved to be a mighty force in the camera world and has proved to be a decent seller despite the apparently steep introductory price tag.
With so many people crying again for a better EVF for use in manual focusing and with legacy lenses, Fuji has responded promptly with the Fujifilm X-E1 Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera. This is all very interesting of course, but the real question stands, does it hold it’s own against its predecessors and really compete with its contemporaries?
Pros and Cons
- Lighter and smaller than the X-Pro1 but still ergonomic and devilishly sexy
- Vastly Improved EVF over the X-Pro1
- Pop-up intelligent flash! I know this camera really shines with an external flash, but in a pinch this is a really big asset
- Not the greatest EVF in its class
- AF is not the best in its class
- Not a major update over the slightly older X-Pro1, but it does save you some bucks because of that.
Fujifilm X-E1 Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4R LM OIS Lens
Promaster 16GB SD Card
Vivitar 285HV Flash
Think Tank Retrospective 40 Camera Bag
Specifications pulled from Dpreview.com
|MSRP||$1,399.95 with 18-55mm lens, $999.95 body only|
|Body type||Rangefinder-style mirrorless|
|Max resolution||4896 x 3264|
|Other resolutions||4896ｘ2760,264 × 3264, 3456ｘ2304, 3456ｘ1944, 2304 × 230, 2496ｘ1664, 2496ｘ1408 , 1664 × 1664|
|Image ratio w:h||1:1, 3:2, 16:9|
|Effective pixels||16.3 megapixels|
|Sensor size||APS-C (23.6 x 15.6 mm)|
|Color filter array||Primary colour filter|
|ISO||Auto (400), Auto (800), Auto (1600), Auto (3200), 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200, 4000, 5000, 6400 (100, 12800, 25600 with boost)|
|White balance presets||7|
|Custom white balance||Yes (1)|
|JPEG quality levels||Fine, Normal|
|Optics & Focus|
|Autofocus assist lamp||Yes|
|Lens mount||Fujifilm X|
|Focal length multiplier||1.5×|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Screen type||TFT color LCD monitor|
|Viewfinder coverage||100 %|
|Minimum shutter speed||30 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/4000 sec|
|Built-in flash||Yes (Pop-up)|
|External flash||Yes (via hot-shoe EF-X20, EF-20, EF-42)|
|Flash modes||Auto, On, Off, Red-Eye, Slow Sync, Rear-curtain|
|Flash X sync speed||1/180 sec|
|Continuous drive||Yes (6 fps)|
|Self-timer||Yes (2 or 10 sec)|
|Exposure compensation||±2 EV (at 1/3 EV steps)|
|AE Bracketing||(at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)|
|Resolutions||1920 x 1080 (24 fps), 1280 x 720 (24 fps)|
|USB||USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)|
|HDMI||Yes (Mini connector)|
|Remote control||Yes ( Optional RR-80)|
|Battery description||Lithium-Ion NP-W126 rechargeable battery & charger|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||350|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||350 g (0.77 lb / 12.35 oz)|
|Dimensions||129 x 75 x 38 mm (5.08 x 2.95 x 1.5″)|
Starting at the back of the camera you will find the brains to the madness. This is also where your face will be for most of the time you are using this camera, so it is a great place to start becoming familiar with the unit. Any former or current Fuji X-Series user will already be intimately familiar with this layout, but for newer users this will take a bit of getting used to and some owner’s manual familiarization. Two note-worthy additions over the X-Pro1 are the diopter adjustment wheel on the left side of the EVF and the pop-up flash release button on the right.
The hand settles nicely on the camera, much like the X-Pro1 but with slightly less bulk. Even without that extra bit of camera body to grip, this makes for a very comfortable and secure grip on the camera for long periods of time.
On the front you will see the small built-in grip that comes with the camera. Although I did not have one to test with this camera, the extra handgrip you can purchase for the X-E1 can make for an even more comfortable and natural hand hold on the camera body (I tried one with the X-Pro1 and it was a dream).
The top control configuration is a normal setup for the X-Series cameras, with the slightly more protected exposure compensation dial upgrade from the X100 but lacking the lock button on the shutter speed dial that the X-Pro1 possesses.
The pop-up flash extended. It looks like a possible weak point in the camera due to the articulating arm, but seems relatively steady. Only time will tell how well this part of the camera will stand up to extended use. Also, in front of the hotshoe you can see the built-in stereo microphone pickups for video capture.
If you choose to use an auxiliary microphone, you can find the port for the jack here next to the HDMI and USB ports behind a hard plastic dust cover door.
A familiar sight from the X-Pro1, you can find the rotary focus selection dial to the right of the lens mount and the lens release is directly opposite this on the left.
The battery and SD storage are directly borrowed from the X-Pro1, inconveniently placed directly next to the tripod mount rendering them inaccessible if your camera is mounted to a tripod or quick release plate.
What really sets the XE-1 apart from the rest of the cameras though is the EVF. If it looks familiar that is because information-wise almost nothing has changed since the X-Pro 1, but the resolution of the EVF has been significantly improved over its older brother. Still not industry-leading in EVF resolution, but vastly better for constant use than those in the X100 and X-Pro 1.
Like the rest of the X-Series of cameras, the X-E1 has a premium feel to every aspect of its construction. Even though it is slightly smaller than its bigger brother, the X-Pro 1, it feels just as solid and only a tinge lighter. It is a well balanced camera for its lighter build, even with the heavier 18-55mm lens attached it. In the hand it feels as solid as an old mechanical camera or a prosumer DSLR, but with even more functionality and manual control available at your fingertips. If you have held an X-Series camera like the X100 or the X-Pro 1, this camera will feel extremely familiar with just a hint of newness and variation.
The X-E1 seemed to be slightly more efficient than the X-Pro 1 with its autofocus, but not by a large majority. This particular aspect of the cameras seems to be the Achilles heel of the X-Series with almost every camera suffering from a lapse in quick and precise autofocus. This is not to say that the camera is not capable in focussing, but it is trailing behind a few of its competitors by a small margin. However, Fuji always seems to improve things like this incrementally in its firmware updates for the cameras and they have announced that the new X100s is going to have blazingly fast AF, so this could change in the future for the X-E1.
Ease of Use
If you have used the X-Pro1 or X100 before, the controls menus on this camera will be extremely familiar and easy to use. If you have not ever tried an X-Series camera before this will be a great starting model for you. While retaining the beautifully simple manual controls and interface that has contributed to this camera series being such a hit in the industry, it lacks the complications and additional menu options that come with the hybrid viewfinder that is found in both the X-Pro1 and X100. While the step from a fully digital control system to a tactile (although still digital) control system is fundamentally different, it is a very quick learning curve and one that is extremely satisfying to master. If you are thinking this is the camera for you, be looking forward to mind-melding with the camera and letting it become an extension of your shooting persona.
In our tests, the XE-1 overexposed images by around 1/3 of a stop during our Sunny 16 tests. That still isn’t that bad at all.
This is the trademark of the X-Series cameras: amazing image quality with wonderful tones straight out of the camera. While this is true, I did do a tiny bit of post in Lightroom 4 on most of these for a realistic look at common output. Some have nothing done to them apart from the default LR RAW import conversion tweaks such as this first one.
High ISO Images
While not a spectacular image, this one should give a decent idea of the High-ISO performance of this camera, especially with a 100% crop:
Not bad for 6400, but I still highly prefer lowering the ISO and using a flash!
Raw File Versatility
The RAW files are wonderfully flexible to deal with in post, even severely underexposed images like this one could be saved without butchering the file. I would advise to get the exposure right the first time, but if you are ever in a bind over a particular image, you could just save it if you shot it in the Fuji RAF RAW format.
This camera is yet another worthy installment in the X-Series of cameras that Fujifilm is producing. While my personal favorite remains the X-Pro1 for its innovative hybrid viewfinder combined with the interchangeable lens mount, this camera I hold in high regards and appreciate the cost savings of $700 (before they started discounting the X-Pro1). However, if you are pairing this camera with a legacy lens that would be focused manually and using the EVF, I would much prefer the X-E1 over the X-Pro1 for its much improved EVF. The pop-up flash is a nice touch, especially since the articulating arm allows you to bounce the flash vertically (I mentioned this in the First Impressions article on this camera). I do think this camera has a place in every Fuji enthusiast’s bag, as well as anyone interested in using beautiful old legacy lenses like Leica M-Mounts and Zeiss lenses with mirrorless cameras that are significantly less expensive than the M9 and its brethren. If I had the spare change I would have one of these in my personal collection right now. Since I don’t have the moolah for that, I ended up having to send it back to Fuji with a heavy heart. Do yourself a favor and go pick one of these up for yourself right now!
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