Fujifilm X-E1

    Photo Review 8.8
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    Fujifilm X-E1

      In summary

      Buy this camera if:
      - You’re looking lighter and cheaper, retro-styled camera with manual shooting modes and raw file capture plus Full HD video recording with stereo soundtracks.
      - You want above-average performance in low-light conditions at up to ISO 6400.
      - You'd like manually-adjustable aperture and zoom rings.

       Don’t buy this camera if:
       - You require an optical viewfinder.
       - You want a wider range of lenses than Fujifilm currently offers.

      Full review

      Having provided a detailed 'First Look' at Fujifilm's X-E1 interchangeable-lens camera in September, rather than re-hash the information supplied there, we'll concentrate on aspects of the camera we were unable to assess in our initial overview: handling and performance. The X-E1 has been eagerly awaited, largely because it combines sought-after features from the X-Pro 1 with a smaller, lighter and cheaper body.

      Front view of the Fujifilm X-E1, shown with the new 18-55mm zoom lens. (Source: Fujifilm.) 

       If you liked the X-Pro 1, you'll probably love the ergonomics of the X-E1 because most of its controls are the same – and the buttons and dials are in the same places. People who found the X-Pro 1 too big and intimidating should be happy with the XE-1, even though it's relatively large for a mirrorless camera.

      The rangefinder style of both cameras combines the best of traditional ergonomics with the latest digital technologies. Shared features include the 16-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor and EXR image processor, along with dial controls for shutter speeds and exposure compensation. Aperture controls are located on the interchangeable lenses.

      Like the X-Pro 1, the top and front covers of the X-E1's body are made from die-cast magnesium and the body is clad with textured leatherette to provide a 'quality' look and feel. In the black model, the metal top and base plates are coated in black. The silver model leaves them uncoated.   

       The two colour options for the Fujifilm X-E1. (Source: Fujifilm.)

      Also carried over from the X-Pro 1 is the rubber grip on the front panel, which makes for comfortable handling  and makes the X-E1 easier to operate than the X100, which is almost the same size but has a fixed lens. The X-E1 also uses the same battery as the X-Pro1.

      Front panel of the X-E1 with no lens, showing the locations of key features. (Source: Fujifilm.)

      The top panel layouts in both cameras are almost identical, right down to the design of the shutter button and on/off lever control. Both cameras have the 'traditional' dial controls, with a programmable Function (Fn) button right of the shutter button.

       The top panel of the X-E1 with no lens fitted, showing the locations of key features. (Source: Fujifilm.)

      However, the X-E1 has a built-in pop-up flash, which can be used for fill-in with contre-jour subjects and also for firing off-camera accessory flashguns. Unlike the X-Pro1, there's no PC flash sync port. The X-E1's inset flash pushes the hot-shoe mounting a little closer to the shutter speed dial and the sensor plane mark is located a little further over on its left side.

      Since the hybrid viewfinder has been replaced by an EVF, there's no need for the lever on the front panel for switching viewfinder modes. The focus mode switch on the front panel is closer to the lens mount.

      The EVF in the X-E1 is very good indeed. providing higher resolution than the finders in previous X-series cameras. Unfortunately, compromises have been made for the monitor, which is smaller than the X-Pro1's and much lower in resolution (460,000 dots against 1.23 million dots in the X-Pro1). Photographers who prefer using a viewfinder for framing shots should be content with the EVF but the loss of pixels on the LCD creates problems when reviewing shots, particularly for focus checking.

      The rear panel of the X-E1, showing the locations of key features. (Source: Fujifilm.)

      Most of the button controls on the rear panel of the X-E1 are in the same places as the equivalent buttons on the X-Pro1. However, the play button has been moved to the left hand side of the rear panel and there's a new button for popping up the built-in flash beside the viewfinder eyepiece.

      One feature we didn't mention in our First Look was that the shutter release button is threaded to accept a screw-in cable release which, interestingly, accepts Canon remote release cables. The overall similarities between the X-E1 and the X-Pro 1 will make swapping between bodies easy for photographers who adopt the Fujifilm system and existing X-Pro 1 owners who want a smaller, lighter camera.

      We have a couple of minor criticisms of the XE-1. For starters, the shutter will  trigger when the image isn't focused. In addition, only one of the arrow pad buttons is used to access quick functions, unlike the X100, which uses them all. In the XE-1's case it's the top button that lets you switch macro mode on and off. The buffer memory is very limited for a camera of this calibre and frame rates for continuous shooting are relatively slow.

      While there's a Quick menu interface, it's somewhat quirky as you have to use the arrow pad to select the function then toggle through the settings with the dial control. There's no Auto options in the ISO  settings displayed and, when you select Auto ISO  via the menu, you can't set a minimum shutter speed to minimise camera shake (this ability was provided on the X100).

       Once again, the X-Trans CMOS sensor and EXR Processor Pro combo has delivered excellent image quality. Subjective assessment of test shots revealed although slightly soft straight out of the camera with the default setting, they contained plenty of sharp detail and natural-looking colours that could be extracted with a capable image editor.

      High ISO  performance was so good we were left wondering why Fujifilm didn't support raw file capture at the lowest (ISO 100) and highest (ISO 12800 and ISO 25600) sensitivity settings. Raw file shooters will be pleased by the ability to extract full details and obtain natural-looking colours when they process the files using Adobe software – or an equally capable third-party application.

      Imatest confirmed our subjective assessments and, thanks to Adobe releasing an evaluation version of Camera Raw 7.3, we were able to convert RAF.RAW files from the camera into editable 16-bit TIFF format and gain results that reflected the quality the camera can deliver (unlike the results produced by the bundled software with the X-Pro1 (INSERT LINK). Both JPEG and raw files exceeded expectations for the sensor's resolution in tests conducted with the new Fujinon XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens, which was supplied with the review camera and is reviewed separately. (INSERT LINK)

      Resolution remained relatively high throughout the camera's sensitivity range, tailing off very gradually as sensitivity was increased. Raw files produced slightly higher resolution than JPEGs, as shown in the graph of our test results below.

       Long exposures at night showed little in the way of noise right up to ISO 6400, with a gradual increase in the visibility of noise and overall softening at the ISO 12800 and ISO 25600. A slight loss of colour saturation and blocking up of shadows could be discerned at ISO 25600.
      Flash exposures were even in the middle of the ISO  range, with slight under-exposure at ISO 100 and ISO 200 and very slight over-exposure at ISO 25600. The same loss of contrast and colour saturation could be seen in flash shots at high ISO settings as we found for long exposures.
      Auto white balance performance was similar to other Fujifilm cameras we've reviewed. The review camera's auto white balance failed to totally remove the orange cast from shots taken under incandescent lighting but came quite close to producing neutral colours in shots taken under fluorescent lighting. Both presets over-corrected slightly, the various fluorescent lighting settings imparting slightly different colour casts. Manual measurement corrected all colour casts.

      Autofocusing was generally fast when shooting stills, particularly when using the monitor for shot composition. Unfortunately, the EVF showed a noticeable lag, which you could tolerate for stationary subjects, although not for photographing  anything faster than moderately-paced movement. This problem was particularly noticeable when recording movie clips, where it tended to produce significant blurring as focus shifted when zooming and panning.

      Movie quality was nothing to write home about and marred by slow autofocusing. Sound tracks were much as you'd expect, given the small size and very close spacing of the microphones. But then, this camera is designed primarily for stills photographers, for whom the video functions will probably be irrelevant.

      We carried out our timing tests with a 32GB  SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC U1 memory card, one of the fastest available. The review camera took just under a second to power up but shut down almost instantly.

      We measured an average capture lag of 0.2 seconds, which was eliminated with pre-focusing. Lag times were as long as 0.5 seconds when the lens was seriously defocused when the shutter button was pressed. It took 1.8 seconds, on average to process each file, regardless of whether it was JPEG, RAF.RAW alone or RAW+JPEG pairs.

      Shot-to shot times averaged one second without flash and 2.5 seconds with. In the high speed continuous shooting mode, the camera recorded 12 full-resolution images in 2.4 seconds. It took 7.1 seconds to process this burst.  When raw file capture was selected, the camera recorded 10 frames in 2.2 seconds but took just over 18 seconds to process them.

       If you're in the market for a mirrorless camera and not committed to other systems, the X-E1 is well worth a look, particularly if you prefer a traditional control layout. Aside from the X-Pro1, the main competitor for the X-E1 is Sony's NEX-7, which also has an APS-C sensor but a much less traditional control layout. 

      Serious photographers could also consider the Olympus OM-D, which also provides traditional styling, albeit with a more convoluted control interface (which provides more options for customisation plus a wider range of in-camera adjustments). But its sensor is smaller, although a great performer for its type.

      With the addition of the X-E1, Fujfilm has made a genuine step towards establishing a serious mirrorless camera system that could attract discerning photographers. Whether it will compete effectively depends on how soon the company can expand its range of lenses and other accessories for the two current cameras and grow the system into the future. This company  has shown itself to be one of the most creative, innovative and photographer-attuned players in the arena so we look forward to future developments.

      Buy this camera if:
      - You’re looking lighter and cheaper, retro-styled camera with manual shooting modes and raw file capture plus Full HD video recording with stereo soundtracks.
      - You want above-average performance in low-light conditions at up to ISO 6400.
      - You'd like manually-adjustable aperture and zoom rings.

       Don’t buy this camera if:
       - You require an optical viewfinder.
       - You want a wider range of lenses than Fujifilm currently offers.


      Image sensor: 23.6 x15.6mm (APS-C) X-Trans CMOS with  primary colour filter; 16.3 megapixels effective
      Image processor: EXR Processor Pro 
      A/D processing: 12-bit
      Lens mount: Fujifilm X mount
      Focal length crop factor: 1.5x
      Image formats: Stills – RAF.RAW, JPEG (Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG; Movies – H.264 MOV with Stereo sound
      Image Sizes: Stills – 3:2 aspect ratio: 4896 x 3264, 3456 x 2304, 2496 x 1664; 16:9 aspect ratio: 4896 x 2760, 3456 x 1994, 2496 x 1408; 1:1 aspect ratio: 3264 x 3264, 2304 x 2304, 1664 x 1664; Motion panorama: 7680 x 2160, 7680 x 1440, 5120 x 2160, 5120 x 1440; Movies: 1920 x1080 pixels, 1280 x 720 pixels  (24 frames / sec.) with stereo sound; Individual movies cannot exceed 29 minutes in length
      Image Stabilisation: Lens based
      Dust removal: Ultrasonic vibration of low pass filter
      Shutter: Focal plane shutter; shutter speed range 30 to 1/4000 second (min. 1/4 sec. in P mode) plus Bulb to 60 minutes; flash synch at 1/180 second or slower
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
      Bracketing: 3-step AE and ISO bracketing of +/- 1EV in 1/3 EV steps; Film Simulation bracketing (3 types), ISO  bracketing (3 frames in 1/3, 1/2 and 1 EV steps) and Dynamic Range bracketing (100%, 200%, 400%)
      Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
      Focus system: TTL contrast AF with AF  frame selection for EVF/LCD; 49 areas with 7x7; OVF; 25 areas with 5x5; Multi (adjustable AF frame with 5 sizes)
      Focus modes: Single & Continuous AF plus manual focus; distance indicator and AF assist illuminator available
      Exposure metering: TTL 256-zone metering with Multi, Spot and Average modes
      Shooting modes: Programmed AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual exposure
      Film Simulation modes: 10 types: Provia/Standard, Velvia/Vivid, Astia/Soft, PRO Neg Hi, PRO Neg. Std, Monochrome, Monochrome+Ye Filter, Monochrome+R Filter, Monochrome+G Filter, Sepia
      Dynamic range adjustment: Auto (100-400%), 100%, 200%, 400%
      Photographic functions: Select custom setting,  Motion panorama, Colour space, Colour (Saturation), sharpness, Dynamic range, Film simulation, Gradation, Auto red-eye removal, Framing guideline, Frame No. memory, Histogram display, Preview depth of focus, Focus check, Electronic level, Multiple exposure, Fn button setting (RAW, Movie, etc)
      Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 200-6400, extendible to ISO 100, ISO 12800  and ISO 25600 for JPEGs only
      White balance: Automatic scene recognition; Custom, Colour temperature selection (K)
      Preset: Fine, Shade, Fluorescent light (Daylight), Fluorescent light (Warm White), Fluorescent light (Cool White), Incandescent light, Underwater
      Flash: Built-in TTL pop-up flash GN 7 (metres at ISO 200); hot-shoe attachment also provided
      Flash modes: Red-eye removal OFF: Auto, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Slow Synchro. Rear-curtain Synchro Red-eye removal ON: Red-eye Reduction Auto, Red-eye Reduction & Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Red-eye Reduction & Slow Synchro. Red-eye Reduction & Rear-curtain Synchro
      Sequence shooting: 3 frames/second for up to 6 shots
      Storage Media: SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards; UHS-1 compatible
      Viewfinder:  0.5-inch OLED colour viewfinder withapprox. 2,360,000 dots with 100% FOV coverage; approx. 23 mm eyepoint, -4 to +2 dpt adjustment, built-in  eye sensor
      LCD monitor: 2.8-inch TFT LCD monitor with approx. 460,000 dots; approx. 100% FOV coverage
      Playback functions: RAW conversion (to JPEG), Image rotate, Red-eye reduction, Photobook assist, Erase selected frames, image search, Multi-frame playback (with micro thumbnail), Slide show, Mark for upload, Protect, Crop, Resize, Panorama, Favourites
      Interface terminals: USO 2.0, HDMI (Type C Mini). 2.5mm stereo mini connector
      Power supply: NP-W126 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 350 frames/charge
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 129.0 x 74.9 x 38.3 mm
      Weight: Approx. 300 grams (without accessories, battery and memory card)

      RRP: AU$1199 for body only; AU $1599 or US$1400 with 18-55mm lens (as reviewed)
      Distributor: Fujifilm Australia; 1800 226 355; www.fujifilm.com.au


       JPEG files:

       RAF.RAW files converted with Adobe Camera Raw 7.3 (release candidate version).




       Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

      18mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/7.1.

      55mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/280 second at f/8.

      30-second exposure at ISO 200, 21mm focal length, f/5.6.

      5-second exposure at ISO 1600, 21mm focal length, f/5.6.

      2.5-second exposure at ISO 6400, 21mm focal length, f/5.6.

      1.5-second exposure at ISO 12800, 21mm focal length, f/8.

      0.7-second exposure at ISO 25600, 21mm focal length, f/11.

      Flash exposure at ISO 200, 55mm focal length, 1/80 second at  f/4.

      Flash exposure at ISO 1600, 55mm focal length, 1/80 second at  f/4.

      Flash exposure at ISO 16400, 55mm focal length, 1/80 second at  f/4.

      Flash exposure at ISO 12800, 55mm focal length, 1/80 second at  f/4.

      Flash exposure at ISO 25600, 55mm focal length, 1/125 second at  f/4.

      Dynamic range with auto setting; 18mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1400 second at f/8.

      34mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/180 second at f/16.

      50mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/240 second at f/13.

      50mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/680 second at f/13.

      55mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/20 second at f/4.

      55mm focal length, ISO 3200, 1/125 second at f/5.6.

      21mm focal length, ISO 6400, 1/400 second at f/6.4.

      30mm focal length, ISO 25600, 1/350 second at f/14.

      Still frame from Full HD video clip recorded at 1920 x 1080 pixels.

      Still frame from HD video clip recorded at 1280 x 720 pixels.
       Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Fujinon XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens.


      RRP: AU$1199 for body only; AU $1599 or US$1400 with 18-55mm lens (as reviewed)

      • Build: 9.0
      • Ease of use: 8.8
      • Autofocusing: 8.3
      • Image quality JPEG: 8.8
      • Image quality RAW: 9.0
      • Video quality: 8.0