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Fujifilm X-E1 review

Sabyasachi Biswas April 17 | Updated on May 03, 2013

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For its compact form factor, the X-E1 packs in a lot of manual control options, giving the user the full imaging control.

The optical image stabilisation is very good - even 1 second exposure shots can be taken handheld.

The Velvia film simulation mode gives a very vivid effect, but the exaggerated colours are never jarring.

As mirrorless cameras grow in popularity, manufacturers are adding a touch of vintage to their products. Fujifilm’s X-E1 is by far the most convincingly vintage-looking camera in the market. But how does it fare as a professional compact?

I really love the way Fujifilm gives its X-range cameras a dash of retro! When we had the XF1 over for a review, I was of the opinion that it was one of the most beautiful looking point-and-shoot cameras around. And now that I have been playing around with the X-E1, I think this is the best looking interchangeable lens, compact camera system in the market. But does it shoot as good? Smartbuy’s been finding out just that for over a week now.

Design and build

The Fujifilm X-E1 comes in two colour tones, black faux-leather with either silver or black metal parts. As I said, it’s as retro as a modern compact camera system can get. And by retro, I don’t just mean the styling – the functionality of the camera also has a very vintage feel about it.

All the dials that you can or want to use manually are present on the body and lens for your control. The shutter control is a separate dial itself, as opposed to only a scroll wheel on some of the other cameras that I’ve played with. Aperture control is a separate ring on the lens, at least on the 18-55mm kit lens that we got for review. And wait, if you think that’s not vintage enough, there’s even an exposure bias dial! When was the last time you saw that one, eh?

And every button that you can possibly think of on a DSLR’s body is on the X-E1. The focus control is on the front of the body, and has three selectable modes – S (Single AF), C (Continuous AF) and M (MF Distance Indicator). The aperture and shutter control have the Auto option as well, for those who wish to let the camera decide what’s best for itself.

The 2.8-inch TFT panel is a bright one, and quite rich in colour too. The same can be said for the electronic viewfinder too. But what I did not like was the absence of exposure simulation on half-press of the shutter release button.

Specs and performance

The X-E1 has a 16.3 million pixels APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor. I was told that this is the same highly acclaimed sensor from the X Pro 1, which is on par with some of the best prosumer DSLR sensors. I never really got to play much with the X Pro 1, so I had to see for myself if the sensor was really as good.

And after a thorough usage, I’m glad to say that it really is as good as a big camera’s sensor. For the low-light test, I turned off the in-camera noise reduction, and shot in both RAW and JPEG, at ISO 1600, 3200 and 6400. The RAW images had hardly any grains up to ISO 6400. The JPEGs became a little noisy after ISO 3200, but the grains were so fine, it gave the picture a good film treatment, than making it unusable.

For colour profiles, the X-E1 has film simulation. For instance, if you need a vivid colour profile, you get Velvia, soft is Astia and so on. Monochrome is offered in four levels, with one normal and one each with a red, yellow and green filter. You also get one sepia and two Pro Negative modes.

The standard (Provia) image mode reproduced extremely accurate colours and highlights, and daylight shooting was quite fun on it. The fact that it has a manual aperture control ring made playing with shadows all the more fun with the monochrome filter. The Velvia (vivid) filter exaggerated the reds, blues and the greens, but not to jarring levels.

Although the AF modes were quite quick to respond, the manual focus ring on the lens was very slow. I had to turn it over and over to get the desired focus point. The optical image stabilisation, however, was simply fabulous. I could take handheld shots of even up to 1-second-long exposures.

The videos taken were quite good in quality, and the microphone does a good job too. But what I couldn’t understand was why Fujifilm did not offer a direct record button, and have us reach the video recording option after multiple clicks.

Verdict

The Fujifilm X-E1 definitely gives you extreme manual control. The display isn’t touch-enabled , but a quick AF-zone selector compensates for it. The vintage treatment to the X-E1 not just makes it a really good looking camera, but also very functional and practical. But it is nearly Rs 20,000 more expensive than the Canon EOS M and Sony NEX-6, both of which have APS-C sensors, and have a wider range of lenses available. However, the image quality of the X-E1 is just too good to ignore.

Rs, 69,999 (body only)

Love – Overall image quality, full manual control

Hate – Slow manual focus, small lens range

sabyasachi.b@thehindu.co.in

Published on May 03, 2013

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