The new battle horse from Fuji.
Maybe it is because I have just met her, but the X-E1 seems more interesting than the X-Pro 1. They are very similar, no doubt, but the X-E1 seems to have all the nice qualities of her predecessor, and then some more. An identical 16.3MP X-Trans sensor is the brain behind this gorgeous camera as well, and let me get straight to the point—this APS-C sensor is special. It is special because when one sees the photographs made by the Fujifilm cameras, one does not even realise that the camera is not full frame. Both in terms of noise performance and dynamic range, the X mirrorless cameras are fantastic.
There is no AA filter, but unlike regular sensors, the Fuji has rearranged the pixels to ensure that the removal of the filter does not cause moiré. Simply put, this is something that dramatically improves sharpness and helps do complete justice to the fantastic lenses of the X system.One of these lenses is new, and is included as a part of the camera’s kit. It is the 18–55mm f/2.8-4 OIS lens, and for good reasons and bad, it was an important factor in terms of the way I perceived the X-E1. It is surely admirable how Fujifilm managed to design this lens. It has the same field of view as a DSLR kit lens, has a faster aperture, but is the same size! But it made the X-E1 seem like a different person, and that was something that I didn’t quite enjoy.
Though it is small, the lens came in the way of the flash! Even without using the lens hood, the flash causes a shadow when shooting at the wide end of the lens. I think this was inexcusable, especially considering that this is a lens that is bundled with the kit. Of course, the fact that there is a flash is a welcome change. A lot of people feel that the inclusion of a flash makes a camera ‘less professional’, but it just makes it versatile. She can add a spark when one’s required, and help you see the light in situations that might be dark and dreary otherwise. The X-Pro 1 was vintage in design. The X-E1 is someone who combines her traditional values with a bit of modernity. The retro, analogue controls are there and you can use an old-school threaded cable release, but the X-E1 also allows you to use an electronic release. The emphasis is still on pure photography—video features are kept to a minimum, but the X-E1 shows off her new thinking by adding a 2.5mm stereo microphone socket.
Being in love is a lot about the experiences that one shares, and the way we see the world when we are with the other person.In that regard, the X-E1 is quite different.The X-Pro 1 has a fantastic Hybrid Viewfinder, which can switch between optical and electronic at will, but the X-E1 isa little different. She has only one line of thinking, but there is more clarity in her vision. So gone is the optical viewfinder option… but the EVF is a lot sharper than the one seen in the older camera. In fact, the 2.36 million dot OLED finder is as good as the best in the world.The LCD resolution though, sadly, has dropped to 4,60,000 dots. The Quick Menu gains the ability to save as many as seven Custom profiles. Every single camera setting within each profile can be customised, so while I set C1 to Standard photos, C2 gave me vibrant, slide film-like results with Velvia Film Simulation, Cloudy WB and contrast further bumped up. I made both C3 and C4 into B&W profiles. By playing with Film Simulation, Shadow Tone and Highlight Tone, I could simulate low and high contrast film. I also set the highest ISO allowed in Auto ISO differently, to vary the amount of grain. The Auto ISO functionality itself, though, continues to remain poor. There is no way of setting the minimum shutterspeed, and considering that the old X100 allows this, Fujifilm should address the issue with a firmware update.
Besides her stunning good looks, the X-E1 has a heart of gold—a sensor that produces fantastic looking images. More importantly, her modern-day outlook means that she acts a lot faster than the X-Pro 1. The AF speed is much improved, as is the shot-to-shot time and write speed. Vibrant and energetic, the battery life is also far better. MF is still not perfect— focus peaking is missing—but at least, it does not take the entire day trying to activate the fly-by-wire focusing. Third-party RAW support for the X-E1 is there, but does not give you the best possible results. In fact, I will urge you to process RAW files within the camera or even shoot JPEG, since the loss in quality is minimal. The quality of the kit zoom lens is quite good, but I will advise you to buy the body-only option. A camera like this is best appreciated with a fixed lens… not only is the form factor more intuitive, the discipline enforced by a prime is invaluable.
Unless you are shooting moving subjects (and no mirrorless camera apart from the Nikon 1s are great at that), the X-E1 is the queen of the mirrorless world. In fact, I cannot think of any other camera that costs Rs. 70,000 or less, and even come close to this Fuji’s image quality. In a day and age when even entry-level DSLRs produce excellent images, what makes a camera truly special is the way she feels. Even if you skip the romance and talk about pure functionality, it is important that a camera gets out of the way and allows you to connect with the world.
The X-E1, like the X-Pro 1 is not perfect, but every time I held her, I felt inspired to go out there and make the picture of my life. The flash, improved EVF, Custom profiles and improved autofocus are all significant reasons to buy the X-E1 over the X-Pro 1, apart from the fact that you save a lot of money. Progress is natural, but what I appreciate most is that Fujifilm stuck to absolutely everything that made the X-Pro 1 so good, and improved many aspects that were lacking. The charm is intact, but the X-E1 adds a sense of spunk and allure that just makes you want to call it the sexy one.