Camera assessment - Part 3 - The Fuji X-E1





There are cameras that I like, and look good but take so-so pictures, there are cameras that take great pictures, handle well but are somewhat aesthetically challenged, there are cameras that look good and take great pictures but are a pain to use. Then there is the Fuji X-E1. Pretty close to everything I want in a camera and looks sexy too. But there are some problems for me.

THINGS THAT WORK FOR ME

Great Image Quality - now including Raw processing via Aperture and / or Photoshop.
Wonderful accurate colour.
Gorgeous retro design.
Nicely laid out controls.
Much simpler menu system than X-Pro 1.
Polarised sunglasses friendly EVF and screen.
Great lenses. (Though see later)


THINGS THAT DON'T WORK FOR ME

Limp shutter.
Poor battery life and no accurate battery meter.
So-so video.
No focus peaking. Manual focusing difficult at times.
Lens range (See below)

Whether or not a lens system is a good one depends on whether it has the lenses you want. In the main the X-E1 does for me at the short and mid-range focal lenghths, but the telephoto end is limited to one large heavy zoom which isn't even in the shops yet. I'm currently using a Voigtlander 90mm m-mount lens with an adapter, but manually focusing it with no focus peaking can be difficult. I'm sure the Fuji zoom will be good and the reviews indicate that it is, but walking with that plus the 18-55mm for the distances I do wouldn't be comfortable. 

The video also needs improving, as I believe Fuji could offer a really good video option if they tried and the battery life is not good. A spare is essential for any prolonged shooting and there is no % remaining battery meter.

The X-E1 is a much better camera for me however than the X-Pro 1. Its simpler and easier to use and addresses some of the problems of the X-Pro 1, such as the lack of a dioptre adjustment for the EVF. I've written before that this could be a system that pretty much handles everything, but for me, despite the fact that I love the looks, there is still much of an air of 'enthusiast plaything' about it. The Fuji X-Trans sensor and Fuji's capacity to produce great lenses* should be taking this into new territory, as a top of the range mirrorless camera, giving us all a worthy alternative to the DSLR. In the end however my Nikon 1 V1 actually has more 'pro' like features as standard. Long-lasting battery, proper battery meter, superb video, visual confirmation for manual focusing (the famous Nikon white dot) with a great set of lenses. With the V1's capability for upsizing there isn't a lot the Fuji can offer me as an advantage. However, if you work in low light and use high ISO's then the Fuji obviously wins out there.

The X-E1 is certainly a less frustrating camera than the X-Pro 1, but frustrating is what I find it. I'm constantly having this 'battle' with Fuji cameras, in that I love the image quality they produce and aesthetically they look great, but they just don't seem to get some of the basics right. Its all very well having fancy viewfinders and lots of retro knobs and dials, but if they can't produce a battery that lasts all day and lets me know how much power is left, then something is wrong somewhere.

*It seems from initial reviews that the Zeiss lenses for the X-system might not actually be better than what Fuji produce, in terms of sharpness. Some might be surprised by this, but personally I'm not. Firstly not all Zeiss lenses are good, in fact some of them are downright bad. (Their 18mm's for example) They also seem to produce some pretty indifferent AF offerings for camera systems. Their offerings for both the Sony Alpha and NEX systems have struck me as being pretty average. I never liked the 24mm f/1.8 for the NEX system, for example. I thought it was significantly overpriced for what it delivered. I've had some Zeiss lenses (m-mount) that are superb, but I've had some that were average, at best. All of the Fuji lenses I've used, 18mm, 35mm, 60mm and 18-55mm have been superb, with excellent optical performance and build quality. Maybe its because Fuji feel they have something to prove, wheras Zeiss seemingly feel they don't. We will see with more reviews and more samples what the truth actually is.