Fuji X-E1

31st Jan 2013 | 14:50

Fuji X-E1

A smaller and sleeker Fuji X-Pro1... what's not to like?

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

Like:

Improved autofocus; Retro design; Lots of dials; Fantastic EVF;

Dislike:

Not a touchscreen; Can't shoot raw in all situations; Hidden video mode;

Introduction

Updated: Now with a page comparing the Fuji X-E1 with the Fuji X-Pro1.

In recent years, Fuji has enjoyed great success, especially critically, with its premium series of X cameras. The Fuji X-E1 is the second in the lineup to feature interchangeable lenses, and is an addition to, rather than a replacement for, the Fuji X-Pro1.

Technically, it sits below the Fuji X-Pro1, both in terms of specs and cost, and as such there are notable differences between the two.

Widely praised by both critics and the audience, the Fuji X-Pro1's sensor is comparable to some full-frame sensors in our lab tests, and the images it produces are fantastic.

Fuji X-E1 review

It is this 16.1 million pixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor that is also included in the Fuji X-E1.

There's always been one huge drawback for the consumer audience when it comes to the Fuji X-Pro1 - the price. It currently retails for around £1,200/AU$1,200/US$1,700, body only, with each of the three prime optics retailing for around £500/AU$650/US$600 each.

By comparison, the Fuji X-E1 can currently be bought, body only, for around £729/AU$1,198/US$999.

Fuji X-E1 review

Or, for roughly the same price you pay for the Fuji X-Pro1 body only, you can pick up an Fuji X-E1 with the brand new 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens. In short, this is the Fuji X-Pro1 for consumers.

Another big criticism of the Fuji X-Pro1 was its autofocusing speed, which could be pretty sluggish at times. Fuji was well aware of this issue, and has now issued a firmware upgrade for the Fuji X-Pro1, which should go a long way to solving that problem.

This version of the firmware is already included on the Fuji X-E1 as standard. Fuji claims that with the new 18-55mm lens, this enables focusing speeds of 0.1 seconds.

Fuji X-E1 review

Along with the sensor, some of the other specs from the Fuji X-Pro1 are also shared with the Fuji X-E1. Because the image processor is also the same, image quality should be more or less identical.

Technology adapted from analogue film has been used to create the sensor, which features a unique colour filter arrangement to produce low-noise images even at high ISO settings.

Unlike the Fuji X-Pro1, though, the Fuji X-E1 doesn't use a hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder, instead relying on an electronic device only.

Fuji X-E1 review

It does, however, have a higher resolution. Its 2.36 million dots makes it comparable with the Sony NEX-7, and one of the brightest EVFs currently on the market. Because it doesn't have the hybrid device, the overall body size is smaller.

Available in two colours, Fuji's designers say that the X-E1 has been designed with two different kinds of photographer in mind. The all-black version is thought to be appealing to discreet street shooters, while the silver and black version - with its retro style body - is designed with more image-conscious users in mind.

With its lower price, the Fujifilm X-E1 is a more direct competitor of the Sony NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D.

Build quality and handling

Fuji's designers have once again done an excellent job with the X-E1, producing an extremely attractive body design that packs some serious photographic punch.

The body size is roughly the same as the Fuji Finepix X100, the company's premium compact camera. Despite the smaller size, lenses attached to the front of the camera don't look odd - as is prone to happening with compact system cameras (CSCs).

Although the Fuji X-E1 is smaller than the Fuji X-Pro1, it's still not a pocketable camera. It also retains a good weight to give it the same air of premium quality as its older sibling.

Fuji X-E1 review

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A textured grip around the front of the camera is present, which is helpful, especially when using the camera one-handed. Fuji has also introduced an additional grip, which can be attached to the camera if you require even more bulk.

Anyone familiar with the Fuji X-Pro1 will find a lot of similarities in the body of the Fuji X-E1. The top plate of the camera is almost identical, being just a little smaller and with the addition of the flash. Two dials to control exposure compensation and shutter speed sit on the top of the camera, along with a customisable Fn button.

Aperture is controlled via a ring around the lens. All of the prime optics have the aperture values written on the ring, while the 18-55mm zoom lens is text-free, since the maximum aperture is dependent on the focal length used.

Fuji X-E1 review

There's no fully automatic mode as such, but by switching both the shutter speed dial and aperture dial to 'A' you get a close approximation in the form of Program mode.

One thing to watch out for here is when using the new zoom lens. It can be fairly easy to accidentally grab the aperture ring instead of the zoom mechanism, leading to errors in the aperture setting if you don't pay attention.

The back of the camera is also very similar to the Fuji X-Pro1, as is the menu system. This would make a great second camera for existing Fuji X-Pro1 users.

Fuji X-E1 review

Many of the parameters of the Fuji X-E1 can be controlled via direct buttons. For instance, there's a dedicated button for Drive Mode, AF point and Macro mode.

You can push a 'Q' button recessed into the thumb grip at the back of the camera to bring up the most commonly used settings, such as white balance and ISO sensitivity.

One small criticism here is that finding the 'Q' button with a thumb while the camera is pressed to the eye can be a little tricky, especially since the thumb is drawn to the 'AE-L/AF-L' button above it, which sticks out a touch.

Fuji X-E1 review

Once you find your way around the back of the camera, using it with the EVF becomes a lot easier.

The Q menu also offers the fantastic benefit of storing up to seven sets of custom settings, which can be immediately accessed. So, for instance if you regularly find yourself shooting low-light scenes, and landscapes, you could save one group with a high sensitivity selected, and the other with a low one selected.

Selecting one of the 49 autofocus points is done via the AF button on the back of the camera and then moving the point around with the arrow keys. It's easy to do, and relatively quick, though of course it would have been much quicker to implement AF changes with a touchscreen.

Fuji X-E1 review

The Drive mode enables switching between single image shooting, continuous shooting, panoramic mode, various bracketing modes and - curiously hidden away - movie recording.

We can only assume that Fuji doesn't believe that users of its cameras are avid videographers, since there's no dedicated button to activate it, and you could be forgiven for thinking it doesn't offer it at all.

If you do want to regularly create videos, it might be a good idea to assign the Fn button at the top of the camera to video mode.

Fuji X-E1 review

As with the Fuji X-Pro1, an eye-sensor to the side of the Fuji X-E1's EVF detects when the camera is lifted to the eye, automatically switching between the LCD screen and the EVF.

Handily, you can switch off the eye sensor via a dedicated button if you want to only use the EVF, or only use the LCD screen. The EVF itself has a soft resin on the eyepiece, which is especially useful for glasses wearers, while a dioptre dial enables you to adjust the distance between your eye and the EVF for a viewing position that best suits you.

The eye sensor reacts well and quickly, while a good angle of view from the eyepiece can be enjoyed. You don't need to be welded against it to see the display, and neither does it switch too soon as to be annoying.

Performance

We had very high hopes for the Fuji X-E1 when it was announced. Because it shares the same sensor and processor as the already excellent Fuji X-Pro1, we fairly confidently predicted that image quality would be on a par.

Happily, our initial expectations proved to be correct, and we have been very impressed with the image output from the Fuji X-E1.

Fuji X-E1 review

Colours are rich and punchy without being overly vibrant, and each shot contains bags of detail. The new 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens is no ordinary kit lens either, with its premium construction and superb results making this an ideal everyday lens.

For those hankering after analogue days, film simulation modes enable you to recreate classic film stock, such as Velvia, Provia and Astia.

Fuji X-E1 review

Shooting in Provia is the standard option, while if you have a scene with bright colours that you want to emphasise, Velvia is a good choice.

The ability to shoot in raw format while recording means that you have a clean image too, should you choose against the film simulation later down the line.

Fuji X-E1 review

Film bracketing modes enable you to shoot three images at once, each with a different film simulation mode applied. Unfortunately, when shooting in this mode, raw shooting is disabled, meaning you have no clean image to go with the three simulated images. This seems a bit of an oversight by Fuji.

Panoramic mode can also be found in the Drive menu, enabling you to shoot an ultra wide-angle image by sweeping the camera across a scene and then stitching the images together in-camera.

Fuji X-E1 review

This mode is quick to use, but unfortunately unless you're using a tripod to keep the camera on a perfect level, it's likely that you'll see evidence of the stitching in the finished image.

Even though it has a lower resolution, the LCD screen is still a good performer, not suffering too badly from glare or reflections. Even though it's not articulating or tilting, it's still fairly easy to use when shooting from unusual angles, giving a good angle of view.

Fuji X-E1 review

Meanwhile, the EVF is a real joy to use. Its high resolution makes it preferable in many cases to using the optical device from the Fuji X-Pro1, which is prone to inaccuracy.

It's almost good enough to make you forget you're using an electronic device, with the added benefit of the taken image flashing up in the viewfinder for an instant assessment of whether you got the shot.

Fuji X-E1 review

In very bright sunlight, you might find you need to shield the EVF for a better view, though.

Leaving many of the camera's options in automatic mode is great for relaxed shooting. Automatic white balance does a good job of accurately reproducing colours in the majority of situations, except for very yellow artificial lighting.

Fuji X-E1 review

Similarly, multi-purpose metering (referred to as photometry on the Fuji X-E1) mode performs well in most conditions, only struggling a little in areas of very high contrast.

Because the Fuji X-E1 uses an electronic viewfinder only, rather than an optical hybrid device, we can expect maximum battery life to be poorer than on the Fuji X-Pro1.

Fuji X-E1 review

We found that after using the camera almost constantly for around three hours and over 300 shots, the battery was more or less drained. This is a bit of a concern for heavy users, but it's worth noting that less frequent use should see the camera last at least a full day.

Autofocusing speed was one of the key criticisms of the Fuji X-Pro1, but the new firmware upgrade is designed to solve this problem.

Fuji X-E1 review

Fuji claims that pairing either of these cameras with the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens produces autofocusing speeds of up to 0.1 second, putting it on a par with other compact system cameras currently on the market.

The new firmware does make the camera much more practical, and there's much less chance of missing a shot, especially in good light.

Fuji X-E1 review

It's still the case that some of the other lenses, especially the 60mm macro, suffer from slower speeds, sometimes hunting around before locking onto focus.

It's also fair to say that if the lighting conditions are a little less favourable, autofocus speeds also drop - so if you're shooting a relatively fast moving subject, you may struggle.

Fuji X-E1 review

Along with the dedicated macro lens, there's also a macro mode, which can be activated to boost the close focusing distance of other lenses. When using this mode with the 18-55mm lens, you still can't get too close to the subject, but you could zoom in to the full telephoto lens to get the crop you desire.

Manual focusing can be activated via a switch on the front of the body, though attempting to use manual focus can be a little slow. It's preferable to use autofocus, and then switch to manual focus to make micro adjustments to the focus if necessary.

Fuji X-E1 vs Fuji X-Pro1

With the introduction of the Fuji X-E1, many people will be asking why they would still want to purchase the more expensive, and larger, Fuji X-Pro1. Here we take a closer look at the key differences between the two compact system cameras (CSCs), to help you make that decision.

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fujifilm X-E1: sensor

Both the cameras use exactly the same 16.3 million pixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor. Because they also both use the same EXR Processor Pro, it's pretty much a given that image quality will be identical from both cameras.

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fujifilm X-E1: viewfinder

One of the key differences between the two cameras is the viewfinder used. Whereas the Fuji X-Pro1 uses a hybrid optical and electronic device, the X-E1 is electronic-only.

Although optical viewfinders are preferred by many, the electronic device found in the X-E1 is larger and has a higher resolution (2.3k dot) than the 1.4k dot LCD viewfinder found on the X-Pro1. The X-E1's EVF is one of the highest resolution devices on the market.

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fujifilm X-E1: LCD screen

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fuji X-E1

Another important difference to bear in mind is the rear LCD screen. On the X-Pro1 you'll find a larger, 3-inch, 1.23k dot resolution device, whereas on the cheaper X-E1, it's a smaller 2.8-inch, much lower resolution 460k dot screen.

If you use the screen a lot, whether for composing or playing back images, the X-Pro1's will appeal more.

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fuji X-E1: design

Fuji is very proud of the design work that has gone into its X range of premium cameras, and rightly so. The X-E1 features many of the same design points as the X-Pro1, but one noticeable absence is the shutter speed dial lock.

This was something that was incorporated into the X-Pro1 based on feedback from users of the Fuji FinePix X100, the company's premium APS-C format compact camera. This stops the shutter dial from being accidentally knocked from Automatic, and is a handy addition that prevents mistakes.

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fuji X-E1

The X-E1 is also smaller than the X-Pro1, measuring roughly the same dimensions as the X100 (body only). While the X-Pro1's front, top cover and back is constructed from sturdy magnesium alloy, only the front and top cover of the cheaper X-E1 get this same ultra-premium treatment. The X-E1 is also around 100g lighter than the X-Pro1.

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fuji XE1: battery life

With only an electronic viewfinder, it would be safe to assume that battery power on the X-E1 will be more limited than on the X-Pro1. That's both true and false, depending on how you look at it.

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fuji X-E1

The potential maximum shot life of the X-Pro1 is around a 1,000 frames, when using the optical viewfinder. However, when using the electronic viewfinder, the X-E1 is said to be capable of delivering around 350 frames, compared with the X-Pro1's 300.

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fuji X-E1: price

Of course the biggest difference between the two cameras in the mind of the consumer is likely to be the price. Fuji is yet to announce the official RRP of the X-E1, but it promises that it will be significantly cheaper than the X-Pro1.

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fuji X-E1

At the time of launch, the X-Pro1's body only price was around £1,500/US$1,700, with lenses each retailing for around £500-£600/$600-$700. A few months down the line and you can pick up an X-Pro1 for around £1,100/US$1,400/AU$1,400 from certain outlets.

In contrast, the Fuji X-E1 was priced, body only, at around £750/AU$1,200/US$1,000 on its release.

Fuji X-Pro1 vs Fuji X-E1: verdict

Choosing between these two cameras is tricky, especially considering we don't yet know the official price of the X-E1. Fuji is squarely aiming its new camera at the mass market, which the X-Pro1, with its high price, was unable to appeal to.

We can see the Fuji X-E1 becoming extremely popular with a large cross section of the camera-buying community. Existing Fuji X-Pro1 users will likely be tempted to add another body to their collection, while those who couldn't quite justify the price before will also find themselves lusting after this.

When it comes to making a buying decision, it all comes down to whether you can live with using an electronic viewfinder only, or would prefer an optical device as well. The better screen and slight differences in design may also play a part in making a decision.

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Fuji X-E1 with the Sony NEX-7, Fuji X-Pro1, Panasonic GH3 and Olympus OM-D.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Fuji X-E1 review

These results show that the Fuji X-E1's JPEG files have the strongest signal to noise ratio of all the cameras tested here, with the exception of the Panasonic GH3 at ISO 200. The Fuji X-Pro1 is the next strongest performer here, followed by the Olympus OM-D and Sony NEX-7.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Fuji X-E1 review

The signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Fuji X-E1 don't compare quite as well for signal to noise ratio as the JPEGs did, coming behind the Olympus OM-D at all sensitivities and below the Panasonic GH3 at ISO 200 and 400. The Fuji X-E1 beats the Panasonic at higher sensitivities though, and beats the Sony NEX-7 and Fuji X-Pro1.

JPEG dynamic range

Fuji X-E1 review

JPEG results for the Fuji X-E1 show strong dynamic range, just ahead of the Olympus OM-D, Fuji X-Pro1 and Sony NEX-7. The Panasonic GH3 has much lower dynamic range at low and middling sensitivities, but overtakes the X-E1 at ISO 6400 and beyond.

Raw dynamic range

Fuji X-E1 review

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Fuji X-E1 show weaker dynamic range than the JPEG images, compared with the other cameras. The Olympus OM-D comes out top, followed by the X-E1, then the Sony NEX-7, Fuji X-Pro1 and Panasonic GH3.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Fuji X-E1, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 200 the Fuji X-E1 is capable of resolving up to around 24 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Fuji X-E1 review

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 200, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 800, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 1600, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 3200, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 6400, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 200, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 800, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 1600, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 3200, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji X-E1 review

ISO 6400, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Sample images

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

An impressive amount of detail can be captured by the Fuji X-E1's 16.1 million pixel sensor. This was shot using the 60mm f/2.8 macro lens.

Fuji X-E1 review

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Colours straight from the Fuji X-E1 are bright and punchy, without being overly saturated. This was shot in the Provia standard film simulation.

Fuji X-E1 review

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As we can see here, the Fuji X-E1's metering has struggled a little with a scene of extreme lighting contrasts.

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The new 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens is a versatile optic, making the Fuji X-E1 a great camera to use every day.

Fuji X-E1 review

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Several film simulation modes are available, including Provia, Astia and Velvia from the classic film stocks of Fuji's analogue days. This is Monochrome+Red Filter.

Fuji X-E1 review

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This panoramic image shows what kind of angle of view you can get when shooting with the panoramic mode. If you look at the full resolution image you'll see on the horizon exactly where the image has been stitched together.

Fuji X-E1 review

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Another example of how good colours look straight from the camera.

Fuji X-E1 review

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Three different shooting ratios can be chosen, to include 3:2 (as standard), 16:9 (widescreen) and this square crop of 1:1.

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The camera's automatic white balance has done a good job of producing accurate white colours, while the metering has done well in a shaded area with a bright rear light source.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Fuji X-E1 review

Full ISO 200 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Fuji X-E1 review

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ISO 400

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 6400

Raw

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Fuji X-E1 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 6400

Verdict

Overall, the Fuji X-E1 is an extremely interesting proposition that we can see being incredibly successful.

Combining the fantastic technology of the Fuji X-Pro1 with a more consumer-friendly price and a smaller, more streamlined CSC body will surely appeal to a wide range of people.

Adding a new 18-55mm kit lens to the lineup of the X range is also a smart move, which is again likely to appeal to a new crowd looking for something a little more versatile.

It's nice to see that Fuji's premium quality and build has gone into the design of the kit lens, elevating it far above the realms of the usual bundled optic.

We liked

The improved autofocus speeds that Fuji's new firmware brings, coupled with the 18-55mm kit lens, make this a fantastic camera to easily take on its DSLR rivals.

We disliked

There's not many things to dislike about the camera, with just a few small niggles keeping it from perfection. It would be nice to have seen a touchscreen, while the autofocus speed when using other lenses could do with being improved.

Final verdict

The premium end of the compact system camera market is now looking extremely interesting. This new camera competes much more closely with the Olympus OM-D and Sony NEX-7 than the Fuji X-Pro1 was able to. As such, other manufacturers are likely to carefully watch Fuji's proposition.

Currently, Nikon and Canon don't have anything in this niche segment of the market, while Panasonic's cameras arguably sit just underneath. It'll be interesting what kind of responses we see to the camera in the coming year.

With the X-E1, Fuji has brought the next evolution of the X series of interchangeable lens cameras. As the system is set to grow in the coming year, we can see this camera appealing to a large group of people.

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