The Fuji X-Pro1 was a hit. But at $1700 for the body alone, it was (and still is) bonkers expensive. The new X-E1 is Fuji's reaction to that. With a pared down body and new kit lens, Fuji could maintain its enthusiast appeal—and attract a broader market.

What Is It?

Another Leica-lookalike mirrorless cam from Fuji. Basically, it's the X-Pro1 minus an optical viewfinder, plus a pop-up flash, and for a lot less money—$1000, body-only.

Who's It For?

Purist photographers who want high image quality over versatility.

Design

Fuji might mimic retro rangefinders, but the results looks damn good, so it's hard to complain. The body feels light, plasticky, and cheap, but once you pop a lens on there, it's pretty beefy. It's smaller than the X-Pro1, but still larger than most mirrorless cams.

Fuji X-E1 Review: Wonderful for Stills, But It's No Jack of All Trades

Using It

Once you settle in to the control scheme, it's intuitive and wonderful to use. You rarely have to scroll through menus to hunt for functions. The auto-focus is quick, sometimes, but it doesn't always meet the high standard set by the lightning-fast Olympus mirrorless cameras. The X-E1's incredibly clear electronic viewfinder lags when in motion, but the clarity and lack of colorful noise in low light makes up for it.

Overall image quality, as seen in these full size shots, is as ravishing as with the X-Pro1, a camera that shares this one's 16.3-megapixel APS-C sensor. Fuji's new 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens is sharp, with an easy-to-grip cap, a wonderful aperture ring, and a wider aperture than most kit lenses. One gripe—the lens barrel doesn't have aperture values etched on, so you have to look at the LCD for your f-stop.

Fuji X-E1 Review: Wonderful for Stills, But It's No Jack of All Trades

The Best Part

The control scheme is simply the best ouf of any camera in recent memory. There is a physical switch for every major function, and everything is clearly labeled and well placed.

Tragic Flaw

RAW files out of the X-E1 are a bit off. The noise pattern at high ISOs is splotchy when compared with the even, tight, grain-like noise of many other cameras. It is almost as if Fuji is applying some noise reduction to the RAW files, which would be very peculiar. It's a nit-picky complaint—but this kind of thing can affect detail at high ISOs. (UPDATE: Apparently this is due to a fault in how Adobe Camera RAW handles Fuji's files, and it was an issue with the X-Pro1 as well. A fix is supposedly in the works.)

This Is Weird...

You can't adjust ANY settings while recording video. Cool, guys.

Test Notes

  • We love the plentiful bracketing options. You can bracket exposure, ISO, dynamic range, and even Fuji's film simulations (essentially color profile presets).
  • The shutter-speed wheel is a bit tough to rotate. You usually need two fingers to turn it, where it would be great to just use your thumb.
  • Fuji's lens lineup is limited. Only a 18mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4, and 60mm f/2.4 are available, with another 6 or so lenses arriving in the next year, according to this lens roadmap. 'Til now, at least, all of Fuji's lenses have been of great quality at moderate prices.

Should You Buy It?

Fuji X-E1 Review: Wonderful for Stills, But It's No Jack of All Trades

Absolutely, for stellar images. But not if you want bells and whistles. This isn't a camera for video, for in-camera effects, wi-fi, or scene modes. It's for unadulterated photography, with fantastic image quality and control.

The caveats include mediocre autofocus, crappy video mode, and weird RAW noise patterns. But this is a good low-cost alternative to the X-Pro1. Aside from that model's better build quality, are nearly zero qualities that we miss on this lower-priced camera.

If you're in the market for this, consider a few alternatives—there's the Sony NEX-7, which is due for a refresh in 2013, and could be a bargain. The Sony NEX-6 is definitely more versatile, but it's slightly behind in control scheme. Then, the Olympus OMD-EM5 rules the world of auto-focus—but it can't match the sheer image quality of the X-E1.

View our gallery of full size images on Flickr


Fuji X-E1
• Sensor: 16.3 MP X-Trans CMOS
• ISO Range: 200-6400 (100-25,600 expanded)
• Lens Mount: Fuji X-Mount
• Display: 2.8" 460,000 dot
• Video: 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720 @ 24 fps only
• Price: $999 body-only, $1399 with 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens
Gizrank: 3.5