Fujifilm X-E1 review
Six months ago Fuji finally joined the compact system camera goldrush with its X-Pro1. As the model name indicated this was a high-end interchangeable lens compact that came across more as a budget (at £1,000+) digital version of a £5,000 Leica, complete with rangefinder-like controls and tank-like solidity, than a mass market device. Aiming to broaden the appeal of its fledgling ‘X’ range, Fuji has now come out with the X-E1, which is marginally smaller, lighter and more affordable. That said, at the time of our review, just £70 separated the current asking price for a body-only X-Pro1 and the newer X-E1 complete with 18-55mm zoom lens.
Crucially the X-E1 retains the retro, 1960’s/1970’s Leica-alike styling of its predecessor, with two top plate dials allowing adjustment of exposure and shutter speed without having to drill down into on-screen menus, plus (largely) the build quality. Sadly, prior to attaching the lens, which adds solidity, we did sense some corners had been cut to bring the X-E1 in at a similar price to the X-Pro1, yet with the addition of said lens. The back plate buttons and camera base in particular feel disappointingly plastic-y, where the X-Pro1 had not.
Happily also retained is the APS-C sized sensor as found in its forebear – which is of the same physical dimensions as those found in larger digital SLRs – offering a maximum effective resolution of 16.3 megapixels. That’s on a par with competing compact system cameras in this price bracket such as the Olympus OM-D E-M5, also gorgeously retro and almost as fully featured, albeit with a smaller sensor. Alternatively there are the Sony NEX-6 and NEX-7 if you aren’t bothered about traditionalist design but are still hooked by the APS-C sensor and high resolution.
Another aspect to note when considering the X-E1 is that Fuji’s system is so new there are presently only five lens options from its maker that support it. And, although a further five are promised throughout 2013, contrast that with 70+ EF lens options available to Canon EOS M users equipped with an adapter, and there is certainly some catching up to do.
Great design and superb image quality courtesy of the provided 18-55mm zoom, even if the price makes it more long term investment than impulse buy
Fortunately there is a lot else to love about Fuji’s semi-pro X-E1; namely its inclusion of built-in flash plus vacant hotshoe for optional accessory flashgun, plus integral stereo microphones along with additional port for the attachment of an off-camera microphone. There are other ways to add to the system for even more professional results. Whilst we don’t get the unusual ‘hybrid’ optical/electronic viewfinder of the X-Pro1 here, we do get an amazingly high 2.36 million dot resolution EVF to satisfy purists, plus standard 460k dot, 2.8-inch backscreen as alternative. Whilst auto focus isn’t lightning fast like a DSLR, it is sufficient for more considered shooting and the quality of images delivered by the 18-55mm zoom is as impressive, allowing for some lovely shallow depth of field effects that help subjects jump out of the frame.
Price and lack of present support may be a barrier to some, but styling and image quality certainly seduce.