I’ve finally got my hands on an X-E1!  Actually it’s been sitting waiting for me for a while, but as I was away I didn’t get hold of it for two weeks.  I was all set on the silver version, but when I got to play with them at Photokina I immediately fell for the look of the black one, and that’s what I managed to get.  I bought it as a body only as I already have the three X-Mount prime lenses.

FUJIFILM FinePix X100 (23mm, f/8, 1/40 sec, ISO1000)

You may notice various bits of tape all over the body… I like to protect the main areas that get knocked and potentially damaged.  It might not look pretty, but I like to take care of it!  I’ve also taped up the X-E1 logo as I rather like the look of the plain black front as per the X100 and X-Pro1.

The power of an X-Pro1 in the body of an X100?

X-E1 is a camera I’ve seen some describe as the successor to the X-Pro 1, but it would be a mistake to think of it like that.  When you hold them side by side you can immediately see that the X-Pro1 is worth that extra money.  Not only for the viewfinder, but it just feels more solid and well built, more ‘professional’ for want of a better word.  Yes, Fuji have developed the X-E1 from experience with the X-Pro1, it’s only natural that some things on it are a development of that camera.  It isn’t a replacement, and I couldn’t describe it as being “better”.  The X-Pro replacement camera will be a further development on the series when it becomes available, it will be better than the X-Pro1.  The X-E1 shares many similarities, but it most definitely is a different camera aimed at a different segment.  I’d also say that it isn’t a replacement for the X100.  The X100 has a special place in mine and many people hearts, that feeling won’t be replaced easily.  The X100 with it’s fixed lens is smaller as an overall package, and it also benefits from having the near silent leaf shutter, which is something I just love.

So, to answer my question… yes, I think the X-E1 does have the power of the X-Pro1 in the body of the X100 – but… at the same time I don’t feel it replaces either.  It’s a hard job to shoehorn a camera into the range between these two greats and make it neither too much like one nor the other, but I think Fuji have actually managed it and created a new segment in the X-Series range that will appeal to new buyers as much as it will to people wanting a second X-Series body, especially at such an attractive price.

FUJIFILM FinePix X100 (23mm, f/8, 1/40 sec, ISO800)

What’s new or different?

I’m going to get my first and pretty much only complaint about the X-E1 out of the way right up front.  The rear section of the base of the camera is plastic that then runs up the back of the camera.  Yuck! Lightness, price, whatever the excuse, it just doesn’t feel right on an X-Series camera.  At £749 for a body it does rank amongst the more expensive mirrorless cameras and I would have liked to see a little more metal for my money!  Having got that out of the way, I’m happy to say that it is actually a solid and well build camera, though perhaps not with as much of the tough built-to-last feeling of the X-Pro1 and X100.  Unless you’re used to the full metal bodies of the X100 and X-Pro 1 you’re probably not likely to find it as irritating as me!  It’s just something that struck me immediately as soon as I removed it from the box.

The camera is almost exactly the same size as the X100, and it is also considerably lighter than the X-Pro1.  It feels easier to hold in the hand than the X100 thanks to the addition of the rubber grip on the front.  For my personal preference I still like holding the bigger bodied X-Pro1 more, it just feels more comfortable in my hands.

FUJIFILM FinePix X100 (23mm, f/8, 1/40 sec, ISO1600)

It’s almost pointless to talk about the image quality if you’re familiar with the X-Series cameras as it’s identical to the X-Pro 1 – head over to my X-Pro 1 review if you’re interested in reading about that.  It shares the same 16.2Mpx X-Trans sensor.  Suffice to say that it’s fantastic!  You will get no complaints whatsoever from me here, and if you do complain about the image quality of the X-E1 then I’m not sure what will satisfy you!  It’s faultless, super sharp, amazing colours, beautiful image rendering, great high ISO performance – enough said!

FUJIFILM X-E1 (60mm, f/4, 1/110 sec, ISO200)

Something I did notice is that the shutter sound is different. I don’t know if that is the way is resonates inside the smaller body, but it definitely sounds different to the X-Pro1.  When I first started using it I couldn’t believe how noisy it was.  It isn’t actually really noisy at all, it’s pretty much identical to the X-Pro 1 – I had just been using the X100 for the past two weeks and had become used to the near silence of that camera!

FUJIFILM X-E1 (60mm, f/4, 1/900 sec, ISO200)

One great thing about the X-E1 is that is shares the same battery as the X-Pro1, so if you’ve got a complement of spare batteries as I have then you don’t need to go and buy a new set of spares.  It also means if you’re wanting to travel light you only need to take one charger with you.  It’s great to have two chargers around too as you can get your main & spare batteries charged up quicker!  Kudos to Fuji on this one, too many manufacturers make up a new battery for each camera these days.

Support for the X-E1 camera RAW files is available from Adobe ACR, they are obviously the same format as the X-Pro1 so no long wait this time, and I’ve had no problem viewing or processing them in Lightroom 4.  Support is still missing in Aperture though, so for those using that you’ll have to use the bundled software to process your RAW files.

FUJIFILM X-E1 (60mm, f/4, 1/140 sec, ISO200)

FUJIFILM X-E1 (60mm, f/4, 1/90 sec, ISO200)

The “Q” Quick Menu button has been recessed in the thumb grip.  It’s something I complained to Fuji about with the X-Pro1.  I’m guessing I’m not the only one and I’m glad to see they have done something about it.  No more randomly changing important settings by mistake!

The EVF is a higher resolution unit than in the X100 and X-Pro 1.  This makes it crisper and simply nicer to look at, especially if you’re looking to manual focus.

Whilst the EVF offers higher resolution, the rear screen is a lower resolution than the X-Pro 1, 460k against the very impressive 1230k pixels on the X-Pro1.  If you’re a viewfinder shooter then you’re not really loosing out that much, but the extra pixels on the X-Pro1 makes for better review and focus checking of your images. The rear screen is also slightly smaller at 2.8in against 3.0in of the X-Pro1.

FUJIFILM FinePix X100 (23mm, f/8, 1/40 sec, ISO1000)

The X-E1 has a built in pop-up flash. Now I’m not a fan of on-camera flash, especially these small units, but they are sometimes useful for a fill-in flash during the day time.  As I do with the X100 I will use it to fire a slave flash remotely, which is something I can’t do with the X-Pro1 without a radio sync remote.  The X-Pro1 does have a PC flash sync port though, which is missing on the X-E1.

FUJIFILM FinePix X100 (23mm, f/8, 1/40 sec, ISO800)

There is an input for an external microphone.  This also doubles as an electronic remote shutter release connection.  I’m delighted to say that the Canon remote release cables work in this connector and function perfectly with both the pre-focus and shutter release.  Happily Fuji didn’t remove the screw-in remote release connection, but the addition of an electronic one will be welcome by many people.  It will be great for firing the camera from radio flash sync systems such as the PocketWizard with a Canon cable in a studio environment.  Canon use two different remote connections, to clarify, this is the 2.5mm jack connector version that goes in the mic input on the X-E1, the other type is a propriety Canon connector.

FUJIFILM FinePix X100 (23mm, f/8, 1/40 sec, ISO2000)

The USB connector is a standard micro USB connector – that’s also something I mentioned to Fuji about the X-Pro1 and I’m glad to see that it’s on the X-E1, no more having to search around for the proprietary Fuji cable when you need it!

The Missing OVF…

This is the biggest difference from the X-Pro and X100 cameras.  There is no OVF on the X-E1.  Fuji say it’s about making it cheaper and smaller. I’m not sure I buy that argument entirely as the X100 is the same size and still manages to fit one in.  I think it’s much more about price.  It’s not a bad thing.  It brings the X-Series X-Mount cameras down to the same sort of price as the other high-end mirrorless cameras, and that can only be a good thing for us Fujifilm X-Series enthusiasts.  More X-Mount cameras out there means more support, more 3rd party accessories, cheaper prices.  Fuji needed to do this.

FUJIFILM FinePix X100 (23mm, f/8, 1/40 sec, ISO1000)

I know some people who wouldn’t even consider a camera without an OVF, I understand their point of view.  It’s what they are used to, especially if moving to the system from a DSLR.  I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I almost never use the OVF on my X100 or X-Pro1.  Yeah, I know that’s supposed to be their best, stand-out feature, but it just isn’t for me.  I’m fussy, I like to see exactly what I’m shooting.  I’m a slow shooter who spends time thinking, composing, and lining things up in the viewfinder before pressing the button.  You don’t know how frustrating it is to do that with the OVF, press the button and then find it doesn’t frame up as you wanted.  I don’t want to have to crop in post if I can help it.  Where I do tend to use the OVF is on the X100 if I’m walking the streets with the camera turned on all the time wanting to save battery life, but that’s rare.  So for me only having an EVF simply isn’t a problem.  The EVF is one of the best around, super high 2.36Mpx resolution (the X100/X-Pro1 EVFs are 1.44Mpx).  This makes for a crisp sharp image that’s easy to live with.  There is some lag in dark conditions, but it honestly isn’t at all bad, and way better than EVFs used to be.  Side-by-side, no better than the X-Pro/X100 though in terms of an noticeable lag in low-light.  If you haven’t tried an EVF in a while then I suggest you get out and try one in more recent cameras as they are all much improved on early EVFs.

What I’d like to see that’s missing.

Still no minimum shutter speed for Auto-ISO.  I don’t get why this is so hard to get on there, it’s on the X100, why not on the X-E1 (or X-Pro1 for that matter)? Frustrating!

No interval timer function.  A pain if you like shooting time-lapse. Though with the addition of a remote port on the X-E1 you can at least add a 3rd party shutter release with that function.

I’d like to see some of the buttons on the D-pad used to access quick functions as they are on the X100.  As it is, only the ‘up’ button is used for switching macro mode on and off.  I’d like to see at least the flash mode on there. Yeah yeah, I know… Q-menu right?  No, it’s still not the same as a dedicated button you can single press without thinking about it when looking through the viewfinder.  I realise you can just pop the flash down on the X-E1, but that doesn’t work when you’ve got an external flash like the EFX-20 attached, and it’s a pain to keep turning it on and off from the top.

Now I’m being really picky here, these are things I would find useful. That doesn’t mean you would, and it certainly doesn’t make it a bad camera, I just think it would be a little bit better with those things!  It’s also a lot shorter list than I had for the X-Pro1 when it was first released, it just shows Fuji are really listening to its customers.

The price.

This has always been a contentious issue with the Fujifilm X-series cameras.  They have been criticised for being too expensive.  I think that’s partly to do with the fact that until now you could only buy fast prime lenses for the system and not a cheap kit lens, so entry was quite high to start with if you bought the X-Pro1.  Let’s just have a run through to see how the X-E1 compares to the competition.  All prices taken from Amazon UK are as of the 11th Nov 2012.

X-E1 + 18-55mm kit lens. £1149
OM-D + 14-50mm kit lens £1148
NEX-7 + 18-55mm kit lens £888

The NEX-7 comes in significantly below the others here, but that’s to be expected as it has been out for longer than the others and has benefitted from subsequent price cuts.  As you can see, the X-E1 and OM-D kits prices are almost identical.  You do have to take into account that the kit lens with the X-E1 is an f/2.8-4 lens, which is significantly faster (especially at the long end) than the other two kit lenses.  It’s also optically excellent and really not that far from the Fujinon X-primes.

Now let’s compare it with a single good all-round focal length prime lens that you could use everyday from each system.  I’ve picked the 35mm f/1.4 from the Fuji, but it doesn’t really matter if you choose the 18mm or 35mm as they are both the same price.  I chose the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 Leica lens for the OM-D and the NEX-7 only really has one good prime to choose from, which is the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8.

X-E1 body + 35mm f/1.4 lens £749 + £449 = £1198.
OM-D body +  25mm f/1.4 lens £999 + £440 = £1439.
NEX-7 body + Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 lens £805 + £849 = £1649.

When you compare it like this the Fuji suddenly seems like excellent value.  Not only does it come in much cheaper than the other two, the lens is (almost) a whole stop faster at f/1.4 compared to f/1.8 of the Zeiss – that means (almost!) twice as much light!  You also have to remember that f/1.4 on the X-E1 isn’t the same as f/1.4 on the MFT’s smaller sensor.  For the about same price as the NEX-7 with one good prime lens, you could get the X-E1 and two fast primes.

X-Pro1, X-E1, X100 …. which to choose?

That’s a very hard one to answer!  It’s a very much a personal thing.  When it was announced I thought the X-E1 could effectively replace the X-Pro1, but having used both I don’t feel that is the case.  Yes, the X-E1 is likely to be more popular, but that’s mainly down to price in the market, not competition between the two Fuji cameras.  I had also thought I’d be selling my X100 and using the X-E1 as a second body to my X-Pro1, but the X100 is also different enough to have it’s own place too.  Buy the X-E1 if you don’t need an OVF or don’t have the money to stretch as far as the X-Pro1.  You’re still getting the same great image quality that makes this system stand out, you’re getting access to the fantastic Fujinon X-Mount lenses, the same feel as the X-Pro1.  You won’t be disappointed.  If you prefer a smaller camera then the X-E1 is the one for you.  Would I personally choose this over the X-Pro1 if I could afford either? No, I’d still go for the X-Pro1.  That’s coming from a position of using the X-Pro1 for the past 7 months though, I’ve got an attachment to it.  If I was starting over from scratch I might not think the X-Pro1 was worth the extra £400 (street price).



As I said, I thought the X-E1 would replace my X100 as the perfect second camera to my X-Pro 1.  Let me just say right here that it won’t, no way, no how!  The X100 is still the greatest digital camera around bar none.  It’s the camera I grab as I go out of the door.  There is something about it that isn’t replicated in either the X-Pro 1 or X-E1.  I can’t tell you what it is, you have to feel that for yourself.  Even if the sensor in the X-E1 is better, it takes other lenses, the buttons are more in the right place, AF is arguably better, bigger battery, and for a whole bunch of reasons that don’t make any sense I’d still choose to keep the X100 if someone had a gun to my head and told me I could only keep one camera for the rest of my life.  That’s just me though!  If you’re starting out with the X-Series cameras, the X-E1 is the one I’d advise you to choose as a starting point to build from.  The saving over the X-Pro1 allows you to (just) buy an additional lens, and if you’re starting out that is likely to be more important than the body as it will give you more flexibility.

Conclusion

This is another great camera from Fujifilm, worthy of the X-Series badge.  The perfect price-point to compete with cameras such as the NEX-7 and OM-D.  Buy the NEX-7 if you want the advantages of a larger sensor, buy the OM-D for their great primes, buy the X-E1 if you want both of these in one system!  For me it’s not just the beautiful body that draws me to the Fujifilm X-Series cameras, it’s the whole package that make this the best mirrorless system around.  Fujifilm have shown their genuine enthusiasm for photography, it is reflected in their cameras.  One of the things you can always be assured of when buying a Fujifilm X-camera is that they are committed to continuing to develop the camera even after they have released it and you’ll benefit from firmware updates that will keep on improving that already great camera well into the future.  You won’t be sold out with a replacement model 6 or 9 months down the line, leaving you with a worthless camera that the manufacturer considers obsolete.  If you love your X100 but want an interchangeable version then this is the camera for you, you’ll feel right at home with it straight away.  If you’re looking for a second body to the X-Pro1 this is also the perfect companion, with a few of advantages over the X-Pro1 that you might just find useful.

The X-E1 is available is available in the US at Amazon US

It is available in the UK from Amazon Body only in Black or Body only in Silver – I can’t find any of the kits, and if you search for X-E1 it doesn’t come up at all for some reason!
The X-E1 is in stock and available in the UK at X-E1 at Wex Photographic too.

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About The Author

Matthew Maddock is a commercial photographer based in the Lake District, UK. Specialising in the hospitality and outdoor sports industry. He is a Fujifilm X-Photographer and Getty Images contributor. His portfolio can be viewed at memaddock.co.uk

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