With the same "spectacular" image quality and "dazzling" rangefinder style as the pricey Fujifilm X-Pro1 (*Est. $1,400 body only) -- in a smaller, less exorbitantly priced package -- the Fujifilm X-E1 impresses experts and owners. However, with sluggish autofocus and flawed video quality, it's not for everyone. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 (*Est. $1,100 with kit lens) strikes reviewers as a more well-rounded compact interchangeable-lens camera, and reviewers recommend it far more often.
Small, light and rangefinder-like. A viewfinder switcheroo shaves hundreds off of the Fujifilm X-E1's price. Instead of the X-Pro1's costly optical/electronic hybrid eyepiece, the X-E1 gets a straight electronic one. Reviewers don't mind. "We really didn't miss the hybrid viewfinder," says Phil Hall at TrustedReviews.com. Other experts agree that the OLED eyepiece is one of the best electronic viewfinders around, although a few Amazon.com users say theirs flicker or are slow to refresh. It does have a diopter adjustment for eyeglass wearers, which the X-Pro1 lacks.
Cutting out the hybrid viewfinder saves size, too. Where the X-Pro1 is chunkier than most compact system rivals, the X-E1 is smaller and lighter -- about the size of an index card and just 1.5 inches thick, and about 12 ounces. The LCD screen shrinks from 3 inches to 2.8 inches and loses some resolution compared with the X-Pro1. It's still "perfectly usable," Hall says, but not razor-sharp like rivals.
Otherwise, the two Fujifilms share the same "stunning retro design that draws admiring glances from everyone that sees it," says Mark Goldstein at PhotographyBlog.com. Experts especially enjoy using the old-fashioned, rangefinder-style metal dials and rotating rings to control the camera.
Same breathtaking photos as X-Pro1 -- but same mediocre video and autofocus, too. The Fujifilm X-Pro1 astounded experts with its image quality. The X-E1's is identical in every way. "As with the X-Pro1 before it, the sharpness and level of detail delivered by the X-E1 is nothing short of spectacular," says Hall at TrustedReviews.com. It really can compete with some full-frame digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras, PhotographyBlog.com's Goldstein says.
The secret is Fujifilm's unique 16.3-megapixel sensor setup, which staggers colored pixels and omits the usual blurring low-pass filter. The result? More lifelike colors, cleaner detail and less grainy image noise than compact-sensor DSLRs in tests.
Unfortunately, autofocus isn't really quick. It's not sluggish and buggy like the X-Pro1's was at first (before a firmware update fixed it), but it's still not blisteringly fast focus like the Olympus OM-D E-M5. The Fujifilm X-E1 is "certainly responsive enough to capture most candid moments," Goldstein says, but "we'd probably stop short at out-and-out sports photography."
Video disappointed experts on the X-Pro1, with its jiggly rolling shutter, distracting artifacts and shakiness. Video mode hasn't changed on the X-E1. "The X-series has always been unashamedly focused on stills photography, with movies essentially an extra, and this continues with the X-E1," says Andy Westlake at DPReview.com.
Battery life is rated at 350 shots per charge, about the same as the Olympus.
More plastic than the X-Pro1. Reviewers downgraded the X-Pro1 for its somewhat cut-rate feel -- loose rings, jiggly buttons, flaky paint. Interestingly, they don't complain about the X-E1.
The X-E1 is actually a step down in quality, too. "The top and front plates are made from magnesium alloy, and the top dials machined from metal, but a slight step-down in construction sees the back plate made from plastic," says Westlake at DPReview.com.
Some of the X-E1's buttons are plastic, as are the covers for the HDMI jack and memory/battery door, "both of which wouldn't look or feel out of place on a cheap compact," says Goldstein at PhotographyBlog.com. "But other than that the X-E1 offers excellent build quality."
The X-E1 is not weather-sealed. By contrast, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is dustproof and splashproof, with an all-metal body.
More features than X-Pro1. The cheaper Fujifilm X-E1 actually beats the expensive X-Pro1 here. It keeps all of the X-Pro1's features and adds the three main things that are missing from that camera: a pop-up flash, external microphone jack and -- here's the important part -- an 18 mm to 55 mm kit zoom lens that costs $840 by itself. The X-Pro1 doesn't include a lens at all.
Otherwise, the X-E1's feature set is an exact copy of the X-Pro1's -- and that's a good thing, reviews say. Both cameras are geared toward professional photographers. They skip consumer-oriented features (you won't be able to make your photo look like comic-book art) in favor of more sophisticated effects, like shooting monochrome with various color filters.
The X-series cameras also allow you to adjust dynamic range, saturation, sharpness and gradation. A sweep panorama function works well, letting you sweep the camera across the scene to create a panoramic shot.
You can use the X-series' compatible lenses (just five, so far) or buy a $200 adapter to use M-mount lenses from Leica, Carl Zeiss and more.
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Review Credibility: Excellent After extensively testing a production-level Fujifilm X-E1, Andy Westlake concludes that it packs the pricier Fujifilm X-Pro1's fantastic image quality and intuitive controls into a smaller, less expensive package. Fujifilm has fixed the focus problems on both cameras (although it's still not a fast focuser), and Westlake doesn't mind the X-E1's switch from hybrid optical to electronic viewfinder.
Review: Fujifilm X-E1 Hands-on Preview, Andy Westlake, September 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good "The X-E1 delivers exactly the same excellent image quality as its big brother," the Fujifilm X-Pro1, in a smaller, less expensive body, Mark Goldstein concludes after a thorough test. Like other experts, he has no problem with the X-E1's switch from hybrid optical to electronic viewfinder.
Review: Fujifilm X-E1 Review, Mark Goldstein, Nov. 12, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good With images that are "nothing short of spectacular," the Fujifilm X-E1 is one of TrustedReviews.com's most highly recommended cameras. After a full test, Phil Hall doesn't miss the bits that the X-E1 deletes from its costlier sibling, the Fujifilm X-Pro1.
Review: Fujifilm X-E1 Review, Phil Hall, Dec. 4, 2012
Review Credibility: Fair Since it never suffered from the early focus problems that plagued the similar Fujifilm X-Pro1, the X-E1 gets better owner reviews at Amazon.com -- 4.4 out of 5 stars, with almost 50 reviews posted. Most are in love with its incredible image quality, but for a few, the autofocus is still too slow to recommend.
Review: Fujifilm X-E1 16.3MP Compact System Digital Camera with 2.8-Inch LCD - Kit with 18-55mm Lens (Silver), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2013