Fujifilm X-E1 review (written script)
Appearance and Handling
The design of the Fuji X-e1 has the retro styling of an old film camera, which could be an important of a potential purchaser, as it gives the camera style and personality all of which some people value when buying a camera and Fuji has definitely delivered. The feel of the body is very sturdy and solid and features a rubberised texture on the front for gripping. In terms of the button layout, Fuji has gotten rid of the standard PASM mode dial and replaced it with a dedicated a shutter dial and exposure compensation dial. The aperture can be changed by the ring on the lens itself. Of course your full manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and program modes are all there, they just require you to put the shutter dial on the camera and the aperture switch on the lens into different positions. For example for aperture priority you set the switch on the lens to the little aperture blade icon and the shutter dial on A. There is only one dedicated function button located on the top, which I customised to ISO but It can be customized to what ever you prefer such movie recording mode, image quality white balance etc. To change focusing modes there is the little switch on the front, which can be switched through single point auto focus, continuous auto focus and manual focus. Located on the left side there is a 2.5mm microphone input, mini HDMI input and mini USB input. I am not a fan of the location of the SD card slot as it is buried underneath with the battery, which can make life hard sometimes when using a tripod for example. Also concealed on the top is a pop up flash that can be pulled back for some bounce flash when needed. The menu layout is simple and works quite well, especially the quick access menu, which allows you fast access to other options such as custom functions, ISO, Dynamic range and white balance which you can get to without burring your self in the main menu settings. Most of the various other shooting modes such continuous shooting, bracketing settings, motion panorama and movie recording are placed in the drive menu section for reasonably fast access. Going back to the continuous shooting, the Fuji X-e1 manages to push out an impressive 6fps, which is plenty for trying to capture that critical moment. Fuji’s in camera raw conversion is very robust and extensive letting you adjust everything from exposure by 1/3 of a stop to dynamic range, noise reduction, color space white balance, it’s all there in camera if you need it. The camera features a very high-resolution 2.36 million dot EVF, which looks fantastic and really has to be seen to understand how clear it is. In contrast the back LCD screen is only a 460,000-dot display, which looks good and gets the job done but is definably noticeable when reviewing images. There is also an eye sensor right be side the EVF which is very quick to respond when raising it to your eye, although I personally prefer to leave it on the EVF most of the time. The lens that came as a kit with my X-e1 is the Fujinon XF 18-55mm from f2.8-4 which also has image stabilisation built in. Fuji claims the stabilization to be good for about 4 stops and I found this to be quite accurate. The build quality of the lens is very sturdy just like the camera body, and it provides a very versatile range from 27mm-84mm in the 35mm terms.
Now to the image quality, the camera offloads 16.3MP images right onto your memory card, which are very sharp and crisp, with great color saturation and impressive dynamic range. Talking about the sharpness, Fuji has removed the anti aliasing filter in front of the sensor which in result has produced more resolving detail in images. But you might be thinking this has now made it prone to moiré, interestingly this is not the case. Fuji have designed what they call the X-Trans CMOS sensor which uses a different colour filter array than the conventional Bayer pattern used in most other digital cameras. For example taking a look at this picture, which could easily produce moiré on a normal digital camera and its not existent on the Fuji image (Note: taking into account You Tubes compression and if your viewing the video on a lower resolution you will see moire, but when viewing at normal size you shouldn’t see really any). Fuji has added their own line of creative filters, which they call “film simulation modes” which by that very name is supposed to mimic old film such as velvia, astia, sepia, monochrome and black and white. I personally really like the velvia simulation as it makes the colors punchy and contrasty. The camera also features a dynamic range extended from the ranges 100%, 200% and 400% which give you the ability to capture more highlights and shadows in your images. For examples shown in these pictures, cropping in on the towel, which with each increase in dynamic range, it captures more highlight detail on the towel but at the expense of an increase in ISO. The ISO performance from the X-E1 performs wonderfully. You get usable shots up to about ISO 3200 and even ISO 6400 in some cases which just amazing for this type of camera, very, very impressive. Focusing speed is pretty good out in bright daylight, I did however find it to hunt a bit in lower light, but either than that it performed well and was not a huge concern while shooting. Continuous autofocus works well, especially with the 6fps, but I wouldn’t consider the Fuji X-E1 an action camera. The motion panorama feature built into the camera is very robust and easy to use, automatically stitching the photos together in camera, also letting you choose a medium or large field of view. I am not much of a panorama person myself but it was fun to play around with. Battery life is rated for about 350 shots, which I found to be fairly accurate if you are not constantly checking and reviewing your shots on the LCD screen.
Now we get to video mode, which gives you a reasonable 24 frames per second at 1080p but unfortunately no 25 or 30fps options. The Fuji X-E1 produces very crisp sharp video very much like its stills especially with the 18-55mm Image stabilized lens. In video, the stabilization did make a difference, not a huge difference but it is definitely noticeable, especially when walking on unstable ground. When I was filming repeating patterns or fine lines I did encounter very slight moiré, but I was deliberately forcing it so in any real world situation it shouldn’t be any huge concern. All of the Film simulation modes are also available here which look really nice and I personally think they works better with video in some cases.The Auto focus provides smooth transitions between focus points, I did find it to be unreliable at times as it would just stall and not readjust focus but the good news is switching to manual focus is only to two dial switches away, allowing you to use the buttery smooth focus ring to pull and adjust focus which would be my recommendation to use when filming. But what really lets it down is the fact you do not have absolute full manual control over your video. For example you have no control over the shutter speed no matter which mode you put your camera in, the ISO is also locked into automatic. Also In aperture priority you cannot change the aperture while recording. These smalls things unfortunately are a let down for me in this camera. It does output some very enticing video but doesn’t’ shine due to these reasons.
The Fujifilm X-E1 is at heart just a smaller version of Fuji’s flagship mirror less camera the X-pro1 but without the hybrid viewfinder, which on the upside makes it more affordable. I personally found the camera a real joy to use especially out on the street with the old style feel and buttons. It’s a very subtle unassuming camera and can be quite inconspicuous at times as it is a lot easier to blend into the environment with this camera rather a DSLR. Overall Fuji has created an outstanding stills camera with their primary focus being on stills. As I stated before the video is good but I feel it was not the primary purpose of this camera and if your looking to buy a camera which has equal ability in stills and video I do not think this is the best choice. But for stills absolutely give this camera a look.
(All images were shot in jpeg and unedited as was the video)
For processed RAW files check out my Flickr and 500px photo streams.