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. 

OUR VERDICT

Price and lack of present support may be a barrier to some, but styling and image quality certainly seduce.

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