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