I wanted to like the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 (see my review here). I really did. The fit and finish. The metallic heft. The reminiscent styling. And the new x-trans sensor mojo with image quality rivaling bigger sensor systems. They were on to something here with this no anti-aliasing filter wizardry and whether concocted by the pinstripe suit marketing executives or fashioned in the basement by doctorate scientists, no matter. My eyes didn’t lie. Me like.
Autofocus performance and overall sluggish performance made me think better of it. And then there were the niggles, like no built-in diopter adjustment capability for these aging eyes. No easy-on flash for quick fill for shady conditions.
So, like Bogart and Bergman, we parted on the misty tarmac. Ah, what could have been… what could have been…
OK, I’ll stop messing around. The newest X-mount body from Fujiflm is a dream come true. It solves just about every problem I encountered on the X-Pro 1 and then, for kicks, goes even further up the tickle-my-fancy meter. This is the camera I had been waiting for. This is The One.
Read on for some impressions.
The X-E1, available in a very X-Proesque black or more X100-like silver topped finish, is a smaller and lighter body. I did find the X-Pro to be a bit heavy and oddly tall for my liking. Most likely because there’s no need to house the mechanics of a full hybrid viewfinder, the X-E1 is squatter and without lens, especially, its lightness gives you the distinct impression that baby brother has been manufactured with a bit more plastic than the Pro version.
Did the loss of the nice hybrid viewfinder bother me? Actually, it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting with the X100 and you can’t beat having the ability to look through clear glass at the world in front of you. But the higher resolution electronic version in the X-E1 is wonderful. Much as been written about lag and it’s clearly not as snappy as the viewfinder in the Olympus OM-D (another camera I love – see here), but it’s more than adequate for my type of shooting. If you’re someone who moves the camera all about in quick fashion, trying to see and capture what lies in front of you, especially in lower light conditions, then I think there are many more reasons why the X-mount system isn’t the one for you.
How about the autofocus? Much, much improved. That’s a function of some software updates along with a built in motor within the exceptional, and I mean exceptional, kit lens. It’s faster and sharper than any other kit lens I’ve used and so it’s almost a shame that Fujifilm had to package this lens with the X-E1 as many reflexively look down their noses at it, thinking, ha… it’s only a kit lens. Well, look again. Fast, sharp, and the ability to adjust aperture on the barrel is wonderful. Manual focus, again because of firmware changes, is actually useful. The upcoming X cameras have focus peaking and the X100s has a digital split-prism effect. It would be wonderful if Fujifilm could backward add those features to the X-E1 now that the code is written. That would make an outstanding camera even better.
The little pop up flash is a godsend in certain lighting conditions. It burns a bit bright, so I toned mine down by default and now we get along just fine. Outdoors during the harsher sunny hours, having the ability to pop that puppy up to brighten the eye sockets of subjects is handy.
The image quality is indistinguishable to me from the X-Pro 1 and that’s a very good thing. It seems to be the latest fad for manufacturers to remove the anti-aliasing filter and Fujifilm’s sensor array seems to prevent moire and other concerning artifacts completely. I saw no such problems.
I hate shooting with eyeglasses on so the built-in diopter adjustment capability is much appreciated. The Q menu, introduced on the Pro, allows for easy and quick adjustment of key parameters and I find the Fujifilm menus to be logical and easy to navigate. Oh how I wish Olympus would get in line…
Handling the X-E1 is very satisfying. The distinct exposure comp dial coupled with the ability to spin changes to shutter speed and aperture are great. I leave the top-sided function button defaulted to ISO and so when I need to change it, it’s easy. The metering and auto-ISO on the X-E1 is so good, I usually just leave it alone, allowing the camera to operate in a range all the way up to 3200. Usable and reasonably clean files all the way up to 3200 and arguably 6400 is super and very full frame-like. It would be nice if you could specify parameters around threshold shutter speeds for auto-ISO performance so I hope Fujifilm will continue, as is their custom, to improve their cameras post-purchase by offering helpful firmware updates.
So, I’m looking forward to continuing to use the X-E1 and I can’t wait for the 14mm and then telezoom options to land. It’s a fabulous system and I’m thoroughly enjoying using the X-E1. Yes, it’s The One.
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