Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS

I've read are a lot of reviews1 about the Fujifilm X-E1. After reading these reviews, I had planned to buy one, but I wanted to try it for myself. I wanted to see how the camera would perform before spending my money. Fortunately, it's easy enough to rent camera equipment. I chose an upcoming extended family vacation to the Virginia Beach2 area as the best opportunity for me to test the camera. I would have access to a range of subjects and situations. This trip included adults and kids ranging in age from seven months to 14 years. The house has a pool, and we were just a few houses from the beach. We had beach and pool activities planned, and I could expect action shots of toddlers jumping and splashing. We also expected a few overcast and rainy days so I would also have the opportunity to test the indoor low light ability of the Fujifilm X-E1.

I had the rental package shipped to the vacation house. I spent about 10-15 minutes reviewing the manual to familiarise myself with the controls and set up the camera. During the week I alternated between using my Nikon D5100 with the AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DX VR lens and the Fujifilm X-E1 with the Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS lens. Both cameras have APS-C sensors, so using these lenses would allow me to compare easily between the two cameras. Both lenses have optical image stabilisation which I disabled while I was shooting using the tripod.

The Fujifilm X-E1, even with a lens attached, felt lighter compared to my Nikon D5100 which itself is light compared to a Nikon D800. Having that Fujifilm X-E1 on a BlackRapid RS-7 strap on my shoulder all day long was a refreshingly pleasant experience.

The camera has a nice retro look to it that I like. One of my wife's cousins mentioned that it reminded them of one of those classic film cameras from the 1970s. Fujifilm's design goal is working.

But I had some problems. The Fujifilm X-E1 aperture ring controls are on the XF lens just before the zoom ring. I found myself often accidentally changing the aperture when I meant to zoom. This isn't a fault of the Fujifilm X-E1; just something I had to get used to after many years of using a Nikon. The same issue came up with other controls as well. The exposure compensation dial is where I would expect to find the aperture controls on my Nikon. I found that I was accidentally adjusting the exposure a few stops every so often. It took a few days to adjust to the controls.

Many reviews have written about the poorly performing auto-focus on the Fujifilm X-E1. Despite having the latest firmware3, I found the auto-focus lacking compared to my D5100. With the D5100, I could quickly compose an action shot of a child running across the beach and feel confident that the auto-focus would keep up not so with the Fujifilm X-E1. I found the auto-focus lagging and sometimes a bit jarring, especially when using the electronic viewfinder. I missed many shots. Sometimes the Fujifilm X-E1 focused on the wrong thing. I attempted to use manual focus, but I had little success with it. After a while, I found myself "spray-and-pray" method to capture action shots. It was frustrating. Fujifilm really needs to work on the auto-focus.

Compare the sample images captured on my Nikon D5100 and the Fujifilm X-E1.

Each of these images was shot in aperture priority mode4 allowing the camera to choose shutter speed. The Nikon D5100 images were shot at ISO 100. The Fujifilm X-E1 has a minimum ISO of 200. I shot outdoors on a tripod, being careful not to move the tripod as I mounted and unmounted each camera. I kept the composition as consistent as possible. The images were imported to Lightroom 5 and exported as JPGs without any edits.

You will notice that the Nikon chose to focus on the foreground allowing the text on the Fujifilm X-E1 to be easily visible and sharp. The Fujifilm X-E1, however, focused on the background, allowing my face to be in sharp focus but the text on the Nikon D5100 is blurred.

2 August, 2013 | Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 35.8mm 175 s at ƒ/8 | ISO 200
2 August, 2013 – Nikon D5100 + AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G @ 35mm | 180 s at ƒ/8 | ISO 100

For this landscape shot5, the image from the Fujifilm X-E1 appears to be slightly darker and more colorful. I have to admit that in general, the images from the Fujifilm were more vibrant. I'm not really sure, but it's possible the exposure compensation dial was moved from zero. I didn't check.

2 August, 2013 | Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 18mm | 125 s at ƒ/22 | ISO 200
2 August, 2013 – Nikon D5100 + AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR G @ 18mm | 115 s at ƒ/22 | ISO 100

The whites in the sky and the railing for the Fujifilm image appears to have a tinge of blue.

2 August, 2013 | Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 18mm | 1350 s at ƒ/5.6 | ISO 200
2 August, 2013 – Nikon D5100 + AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR G @ 18mm | 1125 s at ƒ/5.6 | ISO 100

Quite frankly, I was a bit disappointed with the Fujifilm X-E1. I had high hopes for this camera. Despite the many reviews mentioning the poor auto-focus performance, I had hoped that it would be tolerable. For me, it isn't. I'm sure with time and patience, I compensate for the lag, but why would I want to. I thought the Fujifilm X-E1 would be my compact family vacation/travel camera. I just don't see it. Perhaps X100S might be a better camera for that purpose.

Check out a set of images from my vacation that was captured on the Fujifilm X-E1.

  1. Reviews from Ken Rockwell, Street Photo Works, Andrei Nicoara,Tim Bray, Brian Dougher, The Phoblographer ?
  2. We stayed in a rental house at 3625 Sandpiper Road in the Sandbridge area south of Virginia Beach. ?
  3. After I posted one of my first Fujifilm X-E1 images to Facebook, my friend and fellow photographer Jay Bryant helped me check that I had the latest firmware. ?
  4. I chose f/8 and f/22 and shot at either 18mm or 35mm. ?
  5. The images were shot from the 3rd floor deck of the rental house. The "buildings" in the foreground are part of a recreational vehicle (RV) resort?
Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States of America

Author: Khürt Williams

a human, an application security architect, avid photographer, nature lover, and formula 1 fan who drinks beer.