Hands-on with the Fujifilm X-E1: Sleek, Small, and Very Solid All Around

We had a chance to play around with the new Fujifilm X-E1 at Photokina 2012, at a meeting attended by people who were the brains and hands behind the camera. Announced back on September 6, the X-E1 is the more affordable counterpart to the well-regarded X-Pro1. It’s an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera with the same beastly APS-C sensor, shedding 30% in size, 21% in weight, the fancy hybrid viewfinder in favor of an all-electronic one, and 41% in price (from $1,700 to $1,000).

The camera is noticeably smaller than the X-Pro1, but it retains the same Leica-esque retro rangefinder design. Like the new affordable DSLRs that are emerging (the Canon 6D and Nikon D600), the X-E1 feels extremely light without feeling cheap and flimsy. When attached to some of Fujifilm’s heftier X-mount lenses, the body actually feels lighter than the lenses.

Feature-wise, the X-E1 is virtually identical to its bigger and more expensive sibling. It still has a 16MP CMOS sensor, ISO that can be boosted to 25,600, 1080p HD video recording, and RAW files. It gains a built-in flash, longer battery life, and a built-in mic jack, but loses some speed (3fps instead of 6) in addition to the hybrid viewfinder.

On the back is a vivid 2.8-inch LCD screen — a bit smaller than the LCD screens that we’re seeing on cameras this year and .2 inches smaller than the X-Pro1 screen, but quite sufficient and appropriate given the X-E1’s smaller form factor:

The top of the camera hasn’t changed in its layout, except everything has been subjected to a shrink ray. A good portion of the left side is also occupied by the new built-in flash:

Here are some comparison photos of the X-E1 next to the X-Pro1:

If the main reason for a $700 difference in price is the loss of a hybrid (optical+electronic) viewfinder in favor of a purely electronic one, you’ll want to know how the EVF performs. The answer: quite well. It’s extremely sharp, featuring a resolution of 2.36 megapixels — one of the highest you’ll find on the market today. We did notice some strange pixelation going on when focusing on subjects, but this might be due to the fact that the bodies we handled were still pre-production models.

It’s also a tad bit laggy in low-light, but we can’t really say anything different about all the other electronic viewfinders out there — it’s one of the big problems when switching from optical to electronic.

Here’s a video showing what it’s like to use the X-E1 through the EVF. We recorded it using a phone, so please excuse the poor quality and shakiness:

The shutter lag has reportedly been reduced to 0.05 seconds, and the focusing speed to 0.1 seconds. From the brief time we had to test it out, it did indeed seem like the autofocus was snappy and useable.

It’s pretty superficial, but another nice aspect of the camera is the sound of its shutter click. It’d be sad to have a retro-styled camera with a cheesy shutter sound, but the X-E1’s is quite satisfying.

Fujifilm is the only company right now toying with the idea of Leica-esque cameras for mirrorless-esque prices. While the Olympus OM-D EM-5 is another retro-styled camera in this price range, it’s designed more like an old SLR rather than an old rangefinder. Beauty is obviously a subjective matter, but we think the X-E1 is drop-dead gorgeous.

The X-E1 is a very solid camera, both specs-wise and in its design. For $1,000, you get a DSLR-sized sensor, a sleek design, and a camera that you can comfortably use both as an everyday camera and as a camera for more serious photography work.

Update: Here’s a new video we just came across showing the camera’s AF in action:

  • Nick Brickett


  • S Azrin

    time to upgrade from my x10.

  • Joey Duncan

    nice looking camera!

  • foggyflute

    Still find no reason going for this instead of NEX 7

  • hexx

    i guess it’s controls vs focus peaking

  • jimmyC

    Not made by Sony :)

  • foggyflute

    If compare to every other nex, it’s true, the menu is too stupid. But I can live with nex 7 fine. Just the video record button in stupid place.

  • Just passed by

    Heard that the EVF is made by Sony..

  • Jonas N

    I wonder if focus peaking actually is such an advantage when the EVF is so high resolution that you should visually see what’s sharp or not.

  • Lance Andrewes

    Nice video from the phone :-) The only thing that irks me is the flash cover-plate. Hopefully it won’t irk me so much once it’s in my hot hands.

  • hexx

    If you own few old lenses it’s really really helpful, if you don’t and use only E-mount or X-mount lenses with AF I don’t think you’d use that feature often

  • Henk

    Nex 7 has ugly colours, Fuji colours (X10, X100) are nice!

  • foggyflute

    When all come down to RGBA, I control it all, lightroom then photoshop. Only noise and sharpness matter when compare camera with today technologies. Every cameras that better than D90 are more than capable to me for daily use.

  • Andy Welch

    The X-E1 is certainly superior to the NEX-7 when it comes to noise free images, especially at high ISO’s. As far as sharpness goes, Fuji’s prime lenses kill anything for the NEX platform with the possible exception of the Zeiss 35 f/1.8.

  • Andy Welch

    Yes, it is the new Sony OLED EVF with a 5000/1 contrast ratio, same as the one in the NEX-6. Slightly better than the one found in the NEX-7, which has a 3000/1 ratio.

  • Andy Welch

    I do wish Fuji would come out with their own version of “focus peaking”. Like hexx said, it would be very useful with old manual focus lenses.

  • foggyflute

    The margin is small on noise. And I’m not using any NEX lens, for the record. When I say there’s no reason going for this instead, I mean this camera is not beat nex 7 with a large enough margin for me to change my destination upgrade (I’m using nex5k).
    I’m not even count the avaibility / accessories / video quality (can sell CZ and use Fujinon, so I’m not counting focus peaking as advantage) in this comparison yet.

  • Santa Fe Ranger

    One thing everyone seems to be overlooking with the new XE1 and X-Pro1 is the lack of a decent RAW workflow. The X100 worked great in Lightroom, ACR, etc. The X-Pro 1, almost a year after its introduction, still has a serious problem with smearing and awkward software. Adobe’s LR 4.1 converts the files, but very poorly. Apparently Fuji’s X-Trans sensor is the issue regarding RAW conversion problems. The JPEG’s are quite good, but the X-Pro1 is billed as a “professional” level camera.. and yet it is extremely difficult to get good RAW output !!

  • Bermellotheke

    Same for all EXR-esques cams. No way to manage that technology advantage from LR or ACR. Adobe, we need you to catch it once and for all!

  • Andy Welch

    This is true but the problem has been blown out of proportion a bit. Tweaking the settings in ACR and Lightroom can fix many of the problems.
    That being said, this is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed by Fuji (and I’m sure that it is).
    The unorthodox color filter used by the X-Trans sensor requires completely new, far more complex algorithms to demosaic. The X-1Pro/X-E1 use two specialized DSP chips to do this and an additional chip for creating jpegs from their output.
    Basically, the 6×6 color filter that Fuji is using is so state of the art that no one, even Fuji, has created an adequate software solution. Fuji has obviously, as demonstrated by the camera’s excellent jpeg output, developed a good demosaicing algorithm but hasn’t successfully implemented it in consumer software solutions yet.

  • Nobackhand

    who then Jimmy?, only a few companies can make these

  • Christoffer Ramstad

    same here!

  • Richard Scott Marsh

    F22 No wonder the finder is dark so long

  • Michael Watkins

    Same as the NEX-6, the A99, and the RX1.

    That the X-E1 has a decent EVF, finally, makes the camera interesting to me . I wish it had a 16MP Sony sensor, or LR/ACR support existed now. Tempted… but not quite.

  • Oman Mirzaie

    Are you blind? Resolution, colors & low noise @ high iso’s is enough reasons for me to get a Xe-1!! Its sexy and built well. Superb camera, just needs better video options and l would never buy another camera again!