New Camera: Fuji X-E1

January 06, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

This seems like a good way to inaugurate my blog!

 

 

A couple years ago my wife and I went to India for sight seeing and to visit family. We had a spectacular trip and saw lots of interesting attractions. I was planning on doing lots of photography so we went armed with a Canon 40D, three lenses, associated filters, extra batteries, and a small travel tripod. Unfortunately, I realized lugging around all that camera gear wasn’t comfortable or sometimes even feasible when traveling internationally. I managed to carry the camera everywhere on a week long trip in Uttarakhand. I was glad to have the camera with but considering we were on foot most of the time carrying all that gear didn't do my back any favors.  We spent the bulk of our time in Mumbai where the camera was truly a pain to carry around amidst all of the hustle and bustle of what must be the worlds most congested city. The majority of the time we were out in Mumbai I left the camera  behind.

 

 

peopleGateway of India

People, they are everywhere in India. This was from our trip two years ago and I think the only time I took the camera out in South Bombay (Mumbai was formerly known as Bombay).

 

We'll be going to India again in a few days and this time the DSLR will stay at home. As a replacement I picked up the new Fuji X-E1 to serve as our "travel to India" camera. Why the Fuji X-E1?  There are lots of mirror-less cameras on the market these days and I felt like the Fuji had a feature set best-suited my needs. In particular it has an electronic viewfinder, excellent image quality, and a manual focus feature that I find very usable. I'd rather not write a long diatribe here comparing the various mirror-less cameras features and nit picky details about image quality. So I'll just mention that I also looked at the Sony NEX 6 and NEX 7. I preferred the control layout and the image quality on the Fuji. To me, the Fuji felt like a much more usable camera.  I don't have much interest in micro 4/3rds cameras and they were never really under consideration. I also looked at the FUJI X-PRO1. This is a camera that really captured my interest. I was excited about the new X-Trans sensor and the simply stunning image quality that had been reported in the reviews. The main things that kept me from going out and buying one immediately was the price. Some operational quirks had been reported in many of the reviews in particular poor auto-focus performance. This honestly seemed like less of an issue to me and the type of landscape photography I like to do. I was mainly interested in the X-PRO1 as a camera that could deliver excellent image quality in a small package.  When the Fuji X-E1 was released with an even smaller size, lower price tag, and a very appealing 18-55mm zoom lens with image stabilization, it seemed like a no brainer. I had to have one! So I picked up the X-E1 with 18-55mm f/2.8-4 zoom lens and the 35mm f/1.4 prime for shooting in available light.

 

I really like the control layout on the X-E1. Its a very intuitive camera to use and all the controls are at your fingertips. I like having an exposure compensation dial and dedicated dial for shutter speed.  One feature I really like is the quick menu accessible by pressing the "Q" button. It gives you instant access to all the commonly changed setting. The cool ladybug soft release button is made by Match Technical. They are available here.

 

 

 

This is one nice looking camera. I love the retro styling. The 18-55 f/2.8-4 zoom lens is spectacular. It is very sharp and the autofocus is quick and silent in comparison to the 35mm f/1.4 lens.

 

 

I have had the X-E1 for about 3 weeks now and have carried it with me all over San Diego. This was a 90 second exposure at ISO 200 I took on New Years Eve. We went to Sunset cliffs to go for a walk. On the drive home we were greeted by a spectacular view of San Diego. the city lights looked vibrant on this crisp and clear evening so we stopped by Harbor island and take some skyline photos of San Diego. Normally I would never have bothered to bring a camera with but the small size of the X-E1 makes it no trouble to carry everywhere.

 

 

A 30 second exposure @ ISO 200, f/5.  The camera does really well on long exposures.

 

 

I have been absolutely stunned by the High ISO performance of this camera. This was taken at ISO 5000. Noise is very well controlled. I have found the images are usable all the way up to ISO 6400. Well controlled noise, good contrast and detail, this camera is really great in low light. Two areas of frustration I have experienced are the auto-focus and how the auto ISO function. For walking around and taking photos like the one above I find it a lot easier to put the camera in auto ISO rather than constantly fidgeting to adjust ISO when I want to get a shot. Unfortunately, the camera sets the minimum shutter speed at 1/30 of a second. I would prefer to be able to choose the minimum shutter speed to better reflect shooting conditions. Hopefully this is something Fuji will address in a firmware update. Another area the camera struggles is auto-focus. I have found that auto-focus with the 18-55mm is much snappier and quieter than with the 35mm f/1.4 due to the new auto-focus motor. Either way I find the auto-focus speed totally acceptable for both lenses when shooting in daylight.  However, with low light or fast moving subjects the camera really struggles.

 

 

We met our friends for a Christmas festival in Balboa park. I spent lots of time running around and taking photos of their two rambunctious kids. The X-E1 auto-focus was very frustrating here. The combined challenges of low light and fast moving kids meant I had a hard time getting the auto-focus to lock. I had just received the camera at this point and since then I have learned a trick to help the camera focus in low light: use the continuous focus mode. When I first received the camera I thought continuous focus was completely useless. In fact, I was concerned that it might be defective. Whenever I put the camera into continuous it seemed to just hunt for focus aimlessly and drain the battery. Whereas in single focus mode a box is displayed that turns green when focus locks, in continuous focus mode a cross hair is displayed that flashes green when focus locks. The camera continues to hunt aimlessly for focus until you half press the shutter button at which point the cross-hair turns green and the camera locks focus. For some reason the camera seems to lock focus much faster and more frequently in low light when in continuous mode. The major downside is that leaving the camera in continuous focus drains the battery. However, if your trying to get the camera to focus in a low light setting continuous focus just might be a life saver. Truthfully, if your photographic interests involve taking photos of fast moving kids, pets, sports, etc, there are probably better mirror-less cameras out there for you. For me and the type of photography I like to do, the auto-focus performance doesn't present much of an issue.

 

An example at ISO 3200

 

 

This camera really excels at portraits. Skin tones appear very natural.

 

 

So far I am exceptionally happy with this camera! I can't wait to take it to India. I'll continue to update this blog with photos from our trip and observations about the camera as I continue to gain some hands-on experience with it.

 

 

 


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