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I’ve read are a lot of reviews1 about the Fuji 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 Fuji 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 switched between using my Nikon D5100 with the AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DX VR lens and the Fuji X-E1 with the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 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 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 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. Fuji’s design goal is working.

But I had some problems. The 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 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 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 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 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. Fuji really needs to work on the auto-focus.

The images below are images I included for comparison.

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 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 Fuji X-E1 to be easily visible and sharp. The X-E1, however, focused on the background, allowing my face to be in sharp focus but the text on the Nikon D5100 is blurred.

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

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

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Quite frankly I was a bit disappointed with the 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 Fuji 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.

  1. Reviews from Ken Rockwell, Street Photo Works, Andrei Nicoara,Tim Bray, Brian Dougher, The Phoblographer 
  2. We actually stayed in rental house in the area south of Virginia Beach. 
  3. After I posted one of my first 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

2 thoughts on “Four Days with the Fuji X-E1

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    • Khürt Williams
    • Khürt Williams