Friday, 14 June 2013

Fuji X-E1 Review

Fuji X-E1 Review
By Martin Pearman


I was in the market for a new camera and found that what ever was on offer was either too expensive (I'm looking at you Leica) or too much like a DSLR. I own a Canon 400D and never bothered buying any expensive lenses for it as I found that I didn't use it that much and couldn't get inspired to just shoot. It eventually found it way to the corner of the room unused.

However I was browsing the “show off your latest purchase” section of and someone had purchased the Fuji X Pro 1 and I fell in love. The look of the camera drew my attention, simple and retro but also modern and elegant. I quickly did some research and found plenty of reviews and also details on its sister camera the X-E1. After reading, reading and more reading I decided that the newer X-E1 was the camera for me.

I purchased the Fuji from Dale Photographic in Leeds. The were friendly and let me have a look before putting the plastic in to the chip and pin machine. I picked up a spare battery as I had heard that once you were 350-ish shots in then the battery would be out of juice and would need charging. Along with a new SD card and circular PL filter I had an X-E1 and Kit 18mm-55mm OIS lens. The anticipation of using the camera was overwhelming.

First Impressions / Handling

Clicking the lens into place, putting the battery and SD card in and switching on the Fuji for the first time was a great experience, the tactile and friendly feel of the Fuji in my hands felt homely and as though this camera was made just for me. The only other time you get this feeling is with an Apple product and I think this is the highest comment I can give to Fuji. They have found a balance that is just the right side of form and function.

The above comments don't mean that this is a perfect camera, but its definitely closer to the bulky and unwieldy Canon. As said above the Fuji makes me want to go out and shoot, it slows me down and makes me think about what I’m taking. Handling the Fuji also makes sense and is easy to get to the controls you need the most, all the dials and buttons are in places easy to reach. There are a few problems and what seem like missed opportunities on Fuji's part. The compensation dial is easy to knock and could be a little bit stiffer, also when using the F button Fuji could have used the jog wheel to scroll through the sections.

Fuji could have made the rubber around the EVF better, by allowing its removal so I could use a cup eyepiece. But other than those few gripes I find the Fuji an ergonomic friendly bit of kit. All the buttons on the back are placed nicely and I like the fact that the AE-l / AF-L and Q buttons have been angled away from the thumb rest and not straight on, this stops then from being knocked by said thumb. The Macro button is easy to press by big thumbs, but thankfully Fuji allow this to be locked out to stop this from happening, this is done by pressing and holding the “Menu Ok” for a few seconds.

Menus Functions

The menus of the Fuji are simple and consist of four menu systems Q, Main Menu, Drive Menu and Function Menu. First the main menu is split into “Shooting Menu” and “Set-Up” these contain everything needed from the date and time to formatting in the set-up and ISO to shoot without lens options in the shooting menu. The Q menu as the moniker suggests its a quick menu that contains a selection of options that maybe needed more readily and offers them in a 4X4 grid. The function button serves as a quick selection for one user chosen operation, I have mine set to ISO.

Last is the drive button found on the left side of the camera back and it’s a strange choice for Fuji to put these options here but here you will find eight options “Single shot, continuous 3 & 6 fps, AE bracketing, ISO bracketing, film simulation bracketing, dynamic range bracketing, panorama mode & movie mode”

Fuji seem to have put a lot of thought in to what pro-amature & pro photographers want. Some may see the panorama and film simulation modes as gimmicks but as they work and do a good enough job why not have them.

Image Quality

So the proof is in the pudding as they say and when it comes to the Fuji X-E1 and its APS-C XTrans sensor its proves that Fuji spent their time and money well while developing this new light capturing beast. The detail you can drag form this camera is astounding and the low light performance is nothing to scoff at either.

I’ve noticed though if I purposefully under expose a shot then bring back the light in Adobe Camera RAW or other RAW processing software the files can contain allot of grain. Now I say grin rather than noise and this is what it is, if you want a film like quality with your shots (something digital has a hard time replicating) then the Fuji is a camera to look at. Also the X-E1’s colours are nothing short of Fuji-like even when the simulation of film isn't being used the straight base tones look great.

Now the OOC (Out Of Camera) JPEGS are excellent so if you don’t want to shoot RAW then this is fine. When shooting RAW though you may need to boost the colour a little as the files do seem a little dull.

Final Thoughts

Is the Fuji a camera for you? I guess if you are reading this review then you maybe considering one. Its definitely worth considering, the EVF is fantastic but does lag in low light. AF can be slow but only on occasions and again in low light. Image quality is fantastic and counter to the performance of the EVF and AF in low light the images are great, even at relatively high ISO’s.

The camera works well with legacy lenses and the amount of adapters out now you have a huge range to choose from. Fuji have also put a lot of effort in to the glass they are supplying the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 users and are tack sharp and speedy too. Operation is nice and quiet and lends the Fuji to a stealthy street shooter (alternatives are the X100 & X100s).

If you are  in the market for a great camera with DSLR crushing abilities, light, compact with interchangeable lenses then the Fuji should be a serious contender for your money. Get yourself to a dealer and have a play.

I hope you enjoyed the small look at the Fuji X-E1, if you think this maybe useful to a friend then pass on the link. If you want to leave a comment then please do. Enjoy your photography with whatever you use and happy snapping.