The Fujifilm X-E1 & 18-55mm XF Lens
When Fujifilm announced the new X-E1 camera I couldn’t help wonder where it sat in relation to the fantastic X-Pro1 that I had now grown to know and love. The X-E1 features all the power of the X-Pro1 but in a streamlined, reduced specification package and at its current price point is going to have a lot of photographers particularly excited.
Both the X-E1 and X-Pro1 share the same software engine and stunning 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor. Both cameras offer the amazing low light quality we are used to and although they have remarkable similarities they also have some key differences that will attract different photographers depending on their specific needs and style.
Fujifilm have continued with the successful retro styling of the X range cameras it is as visually stunning as it is powerful.
I will look at the differences between the cameras later. I opted for the silver option as I love the look of the X100 and view the X-E1 firmly as a replacement to the my first experience with the Fuji’s mirrorless camera range. The X-E1 is perfect for the shooter who doesn’t quite need all the features of the X-Pro1 and who wants to break into the interchangeable lens setup.
Because the X-E1 uses the same sensor as the X-Pro1 the image quality is nothing short of amazing and it means the camera is already supported by Adobe Lightroom 4. I frequently receive emails asking how I find Lightroom for processing of X-Pro1 files and although I have read many photographers struggling with the format I still find shooting RAW and LR4 perfectly acceptable.
To be honest if I had any major issue with the RAW files I would have moved back to shooting JPG. I have no doubt Adobe will improve their support for the X-Trans sensor in upcoming updates but at least there is support, Aperture users are still, sadly lagging well behind on support for the X-Pro1.
Over the last year I have really got to the know the sensor and how Lightroom processes the files so much so I’ve created a number of Lightroom presets designed for using with the X-Trans sensor, see FlixelPix Grit and FlixelPix Mono.
The X-E1 Half Case
I think I managed to find the only X-E1 half case in the UK this week. I highly recommend the case if you own the XE-1 it added a bit of grip and protection while also keeping the controls as accessible as possible, there is even access to the battery/memory card door at the base of the camera.
In addition to the half leather case Fuji also supple a black cloth bag to keep your camera safe in your bag. The bag is a quality cloth with 4 Velcro corners and for the life of me I still haven’t worked out how it works, I will keep trying. The one negative is that I wish the strap was long enough to carry the camera over the shoulder (like a messenger bag). The strap is sadly only long enough for the around your neck tourist look. If anyone comes across any extra long replacement straps then please do let me know.
X-E1 or X-Pro1?
Probably the most frequently asked question is what is the difference between the X-E1 and X-Pro1? Well in my opinion the X-Pro1 feels a little bit ore solid in the hand but both celebrate impeccable build quality.
The X-E1 comes with a brilliant little built in flash, it is 30% smaller than the X-Pro1 feeling more like the X100. There are a more key differences between the two cameras.
The X-E1 doesn’t offer an Optical View Finder (OVF) and the LCD screen at the back is smaller. Actually the X-Pro1 offers a 3″ screen (1230K dots) where as the X-E1 has a 2.8″ LCD at just 460K dots. The X-Pro1 offers a 1.44 million pixel LCD viewfinder, while the X-E1 features a 2.36 million pixel OLED viewfinder.
Body and Features
The X-Pro1 is 100% magnesium alloy in construction whereas the back of the X-E1, like the X100 is actually made of strong, high quality plastic. It perhaps isn’t as strong but it is certainly lighter. The X-Pro1 has a locking shutter speed dial, the X-E1 doesn’t although I do think the exposure dial on the XE-1 is better and less prone to accidental adjustments.
There are also a few differences in the connectivity options on both cameras. The X-Pro1 has the bonus of a PC sync cable input for those photographers who need the option and although the X-E1 doesn’t offer a PC sync it does have a microphone input for use while video recording.
The Differences in Reality
I think it is important not to consider the X-E1 as a lesser option to the X-Pro1 as it just as powerful it is just a different beast. Perhaps Fujifilm used ’E’ to mean Enthusiast? The image quality is going to be identical it is just the build, feature list and price that differ. It comes down to what you need or what you can afford.
The X-E1 as a Second Shooter
I know many fellow X-Pro1 users are looking at the X-E1 as a second camera replacing X100s or a digital SLR. If you are such a photographer you will be glad to know that both cameras use the same battery system.
This sounds like a relatively minor point but if you have been in a two camera environment you know just how much of a benefit it is to use two cameras that use the same batteries. On the topic of power, the X-E1 with the OLED viewfinder is a capable of 350 images per charge. The X-Pro1 on the other hand can shoot 300 images using the EVF and approximately 1000 when only using OVF.
The Fujinon 18-55mm XF Lens
I went all out and my Fujifilm X-E1 came equipped with Fujifilm’s first X-Mount zoom lens the Fujinon XF18-55m F2.8-4 R lens. This rather long product code means the 18-55mm lens offers a maximum aperture of F/2.8 at the widest focal length (18mm) and f/4 at 55mm (full frame equivalent sizes). Note full frame equivalent size is 27-84mm.
Many photographers will know the range of 18-55 but I have demonstrated the advantage of a zoom lens in the images below. I placed the X-E1 on a tripod and shot the first image at 18mm.
I think zoomed to the maximum 55mm and took a shot from the exact same point. I used auto Aperture for both images.
As I have already said the aperture is f/2.8 at the widest point (18mm/27mm) and F/4.0 at the telephoto end (55mm/84mm) if you just want to concentrate on framing the shot with the zoom lens there is a switch on the side of the lens to set it to auto-aperture. The auto aperture mode makes it ideal as a walk around lens and for long exposure and landscape work you can turn off auto and use the lens wheel to adjust the aperture right down to f/22.
Even at f/5.6 (above) the lens produces rich consistent bokeh, I have been really impressed at the bokeh from the Fujinon lenses. A number of months ago I tested the XF lenses against a Canon f/1.4 and a (borrowed) flagship f/1.2 50mm lens you can see the results here.
- 27-84mm equivalent F/2.8 to f/4 lens
- Contrast Detection brings subject into sharp focus in approximately 0.1 seconds
- Highly responsive linear motor
- Quality all-glass lens structure consists of 14 elements in 10 groups, including 3 aspherical lenses and 1 extra low dispersion element, seven-blade rounded diaphragm
- Image Stabilisation equivalent to 4 stops
For a zoom lens the 18-55mm is still remarkably sharp. I know this isn’t the most scientific test ever but I shot a coin with the 18-55 (locked at 35mm) and one with the 35mm XF Prime lens. I then superimposed the two shots for a side by side comparison. The image below is at zoomed at 200% so you can see the detail. The full size version of this JPG is on flickr.
If you check the full size version you will get a better indication of just how similar the lenses actually are. The 18-55mm although the same size as some “kit” lenses it is in a completely different league. This is is no kit lens and X-Pro1 users should seriously consider the XF18-55mm, it even comes with Image Stabilisation equivalent to 4 stops.
I really think zoom lenses have come on leaps and bounds in the last decade, I might end up being criticised for thinking they now compete with the quality of a prime lens but genuinely I am seeing fewer differences and I not just talking about the Fuji lenses when I say that.
As the mirrorless camera market continues to grow and the technology continues to improves many dSLR users are putting their weighty investments to the side to focus on a more versatile set up. There is no doubt Fujifilm are leading the way in mirrorless innovation since they released the X100 in 2011.
For me Fujifilm are about bettering the brilliant, it is their dedication to offering photographers the best from their gear that makes each new firmware release something to get excited about.
The Fujifilm X-E1 is a stunning little camera that packs the power of a high end digital SLR in beautiful compact camera package. Does this quality in a compact camera flag the end of the DSLR? For the me the X-E1 is the perfect camera for all of those photographers out there looking at or upgrading an entry level DSLR. The X-E1 offers the same level of photographic quality but the package and user experience is just so much more enjoyable.
The X-E1 may also be the perfect camera for the current host of X100 users who are looking to make the jump to an interchangeable lens system but who were put off by the price of the Pro level X-Pro1. Regardless of the motivation the X-E1 is sure to impress.
As for the new zoom lens, the 18-55mm combines versatility with image quality. With the lens hood attached it is only a little bigger lens to the 35mm XF prime lens and thus I was more aware of it on the camera as I walked around Belfast. It certainly isn’t DLSR size or weight but it is a little longer on the front of the camera which takes a little getting used to but again this isn’t big and heavy by any means! Even with the hood attached it fits comfortably into my Think Tank 5 back with plenty of room for additional lenses and accessories.
The additional size is a very small cost to having the full spectrum of focal lengths with a simple twist of the lens ring. The 18mm-55mm scope means you have a quality lens capable of landscapes and vistas at the wide end right through to razor sharp portraits at the 84mm (full frame equivalent) telephoto end of the scale. If budget is a constraint the zoom lens covers the range of the Fuji’s three primes but at a more affordable price tag.
Although I love shooting at a fixed focal length with the 35mm XF being my favourite lens I foresee the 18-55mm will see a large amount of use for general day to day shooting. The 18mm-55mm zoom lens offers my favourite 23mm and 35mm focal lengths at the twist of a lens barrel and with the added four stop Image Stablisation I am not sure you could ask for more. If you are currently an X-Pro1 owner and are looking at the X-E1 as a second body then the kit deal that includes 18-55mm lens might be worth considering.
As for the X-E1 it is everything you would expect from Fujifilm, a variation on a theme it offers an affordable version on the brilliant X-Pro1 with a slightly different specification perfect. Photographers looking for a good value, high quality replacement to their DSLR should look no further. Did I mention the photo output is stunning? Check the flickr set for larger versions of the photos in this post. You can read about my long exposure experiences with this lens here.