Fuji X-E1

Fuji announced the baby brother of the expensive and desirable X-Pro 1.  It's called the X-E1, it will be cheaper (999$),  and I'll be straight to the point, I think it's a better camera that the X-Pro 1.

An other great looking camera from Fuji !

Why is it a better camera than the X-Pro 1? 
The answer comes from the purpose: you would own such a camera to travel. That's the reason why such models exist, they are an compact alternative to DSLRs, for serious enthousiasts would don't want to carry 1 cubic meter of gear. The X-Pro 1 is a good camera, but it has a weakness, it is not compact enough. Actually it has a second huge weakness: it is considerably overpriced. So if you are on the market for a portable system for travel and documentary-type photography...wait for the D600. It'll be full frame, superior in all ways to a X-Pro 1, about the same price and mostly, about the same size !!!

The X E1 however comes with the same things that make the X-Pro 1 good: large sensor, quality lenses (although still overpriced compared to prime Nikon lenses), improvements in digital management of dynamic range. It has all of that, but it is smaller, cheaper, and even has a faster AF.

UPDATE: it is not much smaller, i've seen them next to one another...how disapointing. Still prefer it to the X pro 1 for the price difference (same lenses + sensor= same images).

AAAh let's talk about the AF of the Fuji X product line. They are crap. Sorry, spent a day with a X100, lens is awesome, but AF was slow as hell. With me as a product manager, this never makes it to the market. X Pro 1? Sames story. I shoot manual on my FE, but no way I pay 2 grand not to get fast autofocus in 2012.  Apparently it's faster on the E X1 by 0.1 sec (Fuji claim), but if it's 0.1 sec faster than a X100, it is still too slow !

Also, you loose the optical viewfinder but the size gain is worth it in my opinion.

Should you buy one?
- If you have a medium format film camera and you want a premium compact to travel, if you expect top notch quality, I'd wait a bit. Within a year I'd be surprise if Canon and Nikon don't come up with a compact full frame mirror-less system compatible with SLR lenses. This Fuji is good, but not that good.

- You have a DSLR and you want a portable backup for you next trip, and you don't want to wait one or two year for full frame mirror-less: if you have a Canon SLR, get the EOS M. Lenses are compatible via an adaptor, that's be retarded to get this one. If you don't have a Canon system, well this is a seriously good choice. However I am afraid you will pay the price of the X line (design & marketing...). Also consider:
  • Canon EOS M: faster AF, very small ! Quite cheaper. I'd still go for that.
  • Olympus OM-D: weather sealed (don't underestimate that if you travel hard), great and cheaper lenses. Sensor is a bit smaller but it's a great camera.
- You are looking for a main camera, and you hesitate between this and an entry level DSLR or an other compact. Well for the same reasons as above I might prefer one of the two previously mentioned systems. Don't get me wrong, if it's a gift or if you love the design so much, get it ! It's very good no matter what. I simply think that Fuji is taking us a little too much for idiots with its pricing. Making it look expensive and deserving a price tag are two different things. AF is too slow on the X line, and lenses are too expensive to justify that price. What about a DSLR? It's a matter of use. Will you travel a lot? Do you want a discrete system? You don't care about shooting sports and wildlife? Then get a compact mirror-less system like this. If you need to shoot fast moving things, and carrying stuff doesn't matter, I'd invest in an SLR system. Nikon or Canon lenses will always have a future, not sure those APS-C sensor lenses will be worth anything in 5 years...

UPDATE: the 21mm equivalent lens 14mm F2.8 costs 899$... This is clearly an attempt that "Leica-ising" the marketing strategy, that is to say make believe it is superior because it costs more. For this only I would reject it. It is unacceptable to pay the price of very premium Nikon or Zeiss lenses, for a APS-C system lens. They claim that bokeh effect are amazing, but as much as Fuji can indeed produce superb lenses, the small size of the sensor is preventing the system from really premium bokeh. This is bokeh (on 35mm film with a 600$ Nikon f1.2 lens).

Here are some sample images. I find it about equal to most non full frame DSLR, dynamic range is good, lenses are a bit soft. Bokeh is nice but can't compete with premium Nikon lenses. I sometimes find it a little underexposed too.

Dynamic range (rendering of both bright and dark zones) is pretty good. 

Bokeh is nice, but not wow. A 50mm 1.2 AIS Nikon lense is much much superior and cost much less that the X lenses...However, at 1.4 iso 200, the cat's eye remain very sharp.

At f1.4 and ISO 250 on this lens, it is soft, not good enough in my opinion for ISO 250.

Here the bokeh comes up nice, but it's on a far away section of the image. Still a convincing picture that equals most entry level DLSRs.

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