Fujifilm X-E1 review: Great photos, fun to use

Design and features
There's a lot I really like about the X-E1's design, and I enjoyed shooting with it quite a bit. It's relatively large, though, which some folks might object to, and I wish the grip were slightly bigger, but the thumb rest on the back is big enough that it's comfortable for single-handed shooting.

On top it's got analog shutter-speed and exposure-compensation dials; for shutter priority shooting, you rotate the shutter dial to A. The camera is designed to be used with lenses that have manual aperture rings like the 18-55mm lens that comes in the kit, but a recent firmware update has rendered it compatible with the newer (cheaper) no-aperture-ring lenses; with those, you control aperture via the jog dial on the back. (Here are the instructions in PDF format.) If you have the higher-end lenses, you choose between manual or automatic aperture modes by flipping a switch on the lens.

The shutter button has threads for a wired shutter release, and there's a programmable function button next to it that you can map to one of a variety of frequently needed settings. The popup flash can be tilted back for bouncing, a feature I really like. An autofocus mode switch -- for single, continuous, or manual -- is on the front of the body.

Down the left size of the camera back are the review, drive, metering, and autofocus-area selector buttons. Fujifilm considers movie recording a drive mode, so you have to inconveniently dive down to turn it on, and you can't shoot photos while you're in that mode.

On the right side are the four-way navigation buttons, one of which is dedicated to macro mode, and a menu/OK button. On the thumb rest are an AE/AF-lock button and Fujifilm's Q to bring up the quick control menu. I'm getting to the point where I wish I could customize the options that appear on this screen, since there are too many I never use and they all have equal visual weight.

  Fujifilm X-M1 Fujifilm X-E1 Olympus PEN E-P5 Samsung NX300 Sony Alpha NEX-6
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS
n/a
16.3MP X-Trans CMOS
n/a
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
20.3MP hybrid CMOS
n/a
16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
23.6mm x 15.6mm 23.6mm x 15.6mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5mm x 15.7mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.5x 1.5x 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/ 200 - ISO 6400/25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/ 200 - ISO 6400/25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Continuous shooting 5.6fps
30 JPEG
6fps
n/a
4.5-5fps (lens-dependent, IS off)
70 JPEG/20 raw
(9fps with fixed AE/AF, no IS)
8.6fps
n/a
3fps
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder None EVF
0.5-inch
2.36 million dots
100% coverage
n/a
Optional EVF
2.36 million dots
100% coverage
1.48x/ 0.74x
None OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/0.73x
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 49-area
Contrast AF
49-area
Contrast AF
35-area contrast AF 105-point phase detection, 247-point contrast AF 99-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync 60 - 1/8,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync
(FP to 1/4,000 sec)
30-1/6,000 sec.; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/180 x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering 256 zones 256 zones 324 areas n/a 1,200 zones
Metering range n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV n/a 0 - 20 EV
Flash Yes Yes Yes Included optional Yes
Wireless flash Yes No Yes No No
Image stabilization Optical Optical Sensor shift Optical Optical
Best video 1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p @ 20Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60p/30p; 1,080x810/24p AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps
Audio Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input
LCD size 3-inch tilting
920,000 dots
2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen LCD
1.04 million dots
3.3-inch tilting AMOLED touch screen
768,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
Wireless connection Wi-Fi None Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi
Battery life (CIPA rating) n/a 350 shots 330 shots n/a 270 shots
(with viewfinder)
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.6 x 2.6 x 1.5 5.1 x 2.9 x 1.5 4.8 x 2.7 x 1.5 4.8 x 2.5 x 1.6 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.1
Body operating weight (ounces) 12.8 12.6 15.1 10.9 (est) 12.3
Mfr. price $699 (body only) $799 (est., body only) $999.99 (body only) n/a $749.99 (body only)
$799 (with 16-50mm lens) $1,199.95 (est., with 18-55mm lens) n/a $649.99 (with 20-50mm i-Function lens) $899.99 (with 15-60mm PZ lens)
n/a n/a $1,449.99 (with 17mm f1.8 lens and VF-4 EVF) n/a n/a
Ship date July 2013 November 2012 July 2013 March 2013 October 2012

There are some aspects of the design I don't like, though. The biggest caveat goes out to tripod users: the mount is right next to the battery compartment/SD card slot, which makes swapping cards or batteries a mega pain when it's on a tripod. Also, some folks have complained that there's no way to set a minimum shutter speed when in aperture-priority mode; still can't, even after firmware update.

While the camera gets bonus points for the EVF, tilting flash, and focus peaking, the rest of the feature set is pretty average. With the exception of the minimum shutter-speed issue, and perhaps a desire for time-lapse or increased number of shots during bracketing, there's enough here to keep most photographers happy. But in addition to the poor video quality, there're very few options for video; ironically, you have more control over the audio quality than the video quality (though you can apply the film simulations while shooting).

For a complete accounting of the X-E1's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

Conclusion
If you just want the great photos, save your money and buy the cheaper X-M1; the X-E1 is just as much about the shooting experience as the photographs, and the cheaper kit lens from the X-M1 will likely disappoint you if you're attracted to the philosophy of the X-E1's design.

If you want something a little more well-rounded, though, with better performance and (at the very least) decent video quality, the Sony Alpha NEX-6 is still my recommendation for this class.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Olympus PEN E-P5
0.2 
0.2 
0.3 
0.2 
Sony Alpha NEX-6
0.2 
0.2 
0.5 
0.2 
Olympus OM-D E-M5
0.6 
0.5 
0.5 
0.3 
Fujifilm X-M1
0.9 
1 
0.7 
0.3 
Fujifilm X-E1
1 
1 
0.8 
0.5 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Fujifilm X-E1
5.7 

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Sensor Type X-Trans CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.3 Megapixel
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.6 x 23.6mm