Fujifilm X-E1 hands-on preview

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Fujifilm X-E1 : price
Smaller, lighter, the X-E1 is also quite cheaper than the X-Pro1. Sold €899 body only, it is €800 less than its elder brother. How about that ? The only sacrifice you'll do is a little bit less magnesium alloy parts and a 100% electronic viewfinder. Better, bundled with the XF-18-55mm lens, the X-E1 is sold 1299, that is the price of today's Sony NEX-7 with the poor and bulky 18-55mm lens.

A few days before Fujifilm unveiled its new X-serie system camera, the X-E1, they flew me to London to meet the Japanese staff of the Fuji X series, a dedicated team to the prosumer cameras. They had something to show me… the X-E1. I had the opportunity to try it for a few moments with various lenses including the new Fujinon XF 18-55mm zoom lens, the first X mount zoom lens. Here are my first impressions from the first contact with the Fuji X-E1.

Fujifilm X-E1 hands-on
The Fujifilm X-E1 is a new addition to the X-series lineup, and can be seen as the X-pro1 little brother. Fujifilm Japanese team told me that the Fujifilm X-E1 would have the exact same image quality as the X-Pro1. For that, it gets the same X-Trans sensor, an APS-C CMOS sensor without optical low pass filter to improve sharpness and a complex pattern RGB matrix to prevent moiré. When I worked on the X-Pro1 review, I found the best sharpness of any other APS-C cameras, sharper than the 24MP sensor found in the Nikon D3200 and Sony NEX-7.

 

 

 

Fujifilm X-E1
I loved the Fujifilm X-E1 user interface that makes it handy to be used in PSAM modes and a real joy. If you are an aperture priority kind of photograph, you will have a lot of fun using the X-E1 in this mode and setting the aperture through the lens’ aperture ring, machanichal on prime XF lenses. You can adjust the exposure with this exposure compensation manuel ring easily. Too easily ? Yes, they have replicated the same mistake as on the X100 and the X-Pro1 : this exposure compensation ring is not locked and too loose. You will en up wasting photos because of this damn ring which always move and have to be extra cautious your camera is not set on +2 or -2EV… Well other photographers shout at me because I wrote that. They do think the opposite/ And they are true as well. If you are using the exposure compensation ring on all your shots, you will hate this lock….
Fujifilm X-E1 Q menu and macro
I love the Fuji Q menu that let’s you practically access 99% of the settings you need to access in the touch of a single button + dials. The X-E1 gets a macro button… I hated how far the closest focusing distance of the X-Pro1 is with XF lenses and that forces you to frequently put the camera on the macro mode. We could face the same issue on the X-E1 although Fujifilm development team told me that the firmware V2 of the X-Pro1 had changed that…
Fujifilm X-E1 EVF
Here is THE main difference between the expensive X-Pro1 and the more affordable X-E1 : the viewfinder. bye bye the gorgeous hybrid viewfinder. But, not sure you are going to cry once you will have tried this EVF. Fujifilm did things the right way : they are using simply the best EVF on the market, the same as Sony’s NEX-7, NEX-6, SLT-A99 and SLT-A77, the OLED technology 2.36 millions dots display is well defined, smooth, and offers great color reproduction. But Fujifilm is not a company like others. They did push the concept a little bit further and added two aspherical lenses to improve the viewing image quality with what is said to be a “stress free” image. I don’t know what they meant, but I can tell you that the X-E1 EVF is undoubtedly the best EVF on any camera and pretty well offsets the loss of the optical hybrid viewfinder of the X-Pro1. The thing is the loss of the hybrid viewfinder ends up in a much smaller camera body and a highly reduced price tag.
Fujifilm X-E1 camera : built-in flash
What a relief, finally an interchangeable lens compact camera with a pop up flash ! It is very modest with a guide number of 6 at ISO 200. But it is there, always ready to enlighten a shadow on a face, to offset a backlit situation or to light a dark room or subject. So many other mirrorless cameras come to the market with a ridiculous external flash that you have to carry around… Of course, the Fuji X-E1 still gets the external flash hotshoe. I liked how the flash pops up. Once deployed, it reminds me of Wall-E or ET.
Fujifilm X-E1
The Fujifilm X-E1 is a very smooth camera to use. The shutter button operation is both soft and gives a good feedback when it triggers. By using it, you can tell you are using a pro camera. Is the autofocus any better than on the X-Pro1 which was not consistent and had issues focusing in low-light situation ? Well, undoubtedly, with the new XF 18-55mm zoom lens, the X-E1 does a really good job and focusing very fast, with no real delay. With other lenses on, that don’t have the linear motor system as a focus motorization, I am not quite sure, the progress is important enough so that you can really feel it. Yet, Fujifilm has worked a lot on it and improved both the X-E1 focusing algorithm and the X-Pro1 system through its V2 firmware update. I only tried the X-E1 for a few moments in a meeting room so I can’t really say for sure. I did not measure it. But I did feel a much more responsive autofocus with the 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM lens.

 

Fujifilm X-E1 : price
Smaller, lighter, the X-E1 is also quite cheaper than the X-Pro1. Sold €899 body only, it is €800 less than its elder brother. How about that ? The only sacrifice you’ll do is a little bit less magnesium alloy parts and a 100% electronic viewfinder. Better, bundled with the XF-18-55mm lens, the X-E1 is sold 1299, that is the price of today’s Sony NEX-7 with the poor and bulky 18-55mm lens.

 

Fujiflm X-E1 vs X-pro1 size comparison

 

X-E1 vs X-Pro1
The X-E1 is much smaller than the X-Pro1. I took some images to show the comparison but they don’t quit reveal the gap between both cameras. In real life, the X-E1 seems much more compact.

 

XE-1 vs X-Pro1 side by side
The X-Pro1 looks light when you grab it for the first time. The X-E1 is even 100 grs. lighter.

 

Fujifilm X-E1 vs Fujifilm X-Pro1
On this image, the size difference really shows. Don’t take the lens into account of course.

 

Fuji X
The X-E1 EVF saves a lot of space as you can see here.

 

Fujifilm X-E1 preview : presentation slides

 

Fujifilm X-Pro1 firmware V2 autofocus reactivity improvements - With LM drive
Fujifilm X-Pro1 firmware V2 autofocus reactivity improvements – With LM drive

 

Fujifilm XF lenses roadmap
Fujifilm XF lenses roadmap / Fujinon XF lenses to come out in 2013.

 

Fujifilm X-E1 vs X-Pro1 technical specs comparison chart
Fujifilm X-E1 vs X-Pro1 technical specs comparison chart

 

The new AF
LM AF drive system