Hm. A cheaper, smaller, and faster version of the Fujifilm X-Pro1 with only a few compromises? I expect it will take some intense testing to figure out where the downside is, but for now I'm trying mightily to silence the voice in the back of my head shouting, "Sign me up!"
Based around the same excellent, antialiasing-filter-free sensor and image-processing subsystem as the X-Pro1, the X-E1 replaces that camera's hybrid viewfinder with a high-resolution electronic viewfinder. (See the X-Pro1 review linked above for an explanation of the sensor.) Fujifilm claims that the EVF is bright, with a 1:5,000 contrast ratio and a dynamic range sufficient for you to see differences in its film simulation modes. Aside from that and the smaller, 2.8-inch LCD, the body looks quite similar, with effectively the same control layout and attractive retro design. The company claims it's about 30 percent smaller overall, with magnesium alloy top and bottom panels.
The most important improvement should be the new autofocus system. There's an AF motor in the body and the new lenses incorporate a linear motor for faster physical operation, and the combination theoretically delivers much better AF performance. The AF motor alone should deliver better-than-X-Pro1 performance as well with the older lenses, and Fujifilm says that with a firmware update you should see improved performance in the X-Pro1 with the new lenses.
What new lenses, you ask? Fujifilm's delivering the ones promised in the lens road map it roughed out at the X-Pro1's announcement in January, including the XF14mm f2.8 for $899.95.
The X-E1 will also be available in a kit with the new XF 18-55mm f2.8-4. At $699.95 the lens is more expensive than the typical 18-55mm kit version, but it's also a lot faster than the usual consumer model. And if the quality is anything like the other XF lenses, it's also a lot sharper. Both lenses use seven-bladed apertures, which is a bit of a letdown. If you're wondering why the X-E1 has a "traditional" EVF rather than the hybrid viewfinder, the new zoom lens partly takes the blame: you can't really use a reverse Galilean optical viewfinder -- the kind that used to be widely found in point-and-shoots -- with a zoom lens and keep it usable. You'll be able to buy them in November along with the camera.
Here's how it compares with some currently available advanced interchangeable-lens cameras:
|Fujifilm X-E1||Fujifilm X-Pro1||Olympus OM-D E-M5||Sony Alpha NEX-7|
|Sensor (effective resolution)||16.3-megapixel X-Trans CMOS
|16.3-megapixel X-Trans CMOS
|16.1-megapixel Live MOS
|24.3-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS |
|23.6mm x 15.6mm||23.6mm x 15.6mm||17.3mm x 13mm||23.5mm x 15.6mm|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/25600 (expanded)||ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/25600 (expanded)||ISO 200 - ISO 25600||ISO 100 - ISO 16000|
17 JPEG/11 raw
unlimited JPEG/6 raw
(10fps with fixed exposure)
magnification/ effective magnification
2.36 million dots
1.44 million dots variable
1.44 million dots
2.4 million dots
|35-area contrast AF||25-area contrast AF|
|Shutter speed||30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync||30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync||60-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (flash-dependent)||30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync|
|Metering||256 zones||256 zones||324 area||1,200 zones|
|Image stabilization||Optical||Optical||Sensor shift||Optical|
|Video||1080/24p H.264||1080/24p H.264||1080/60i QuickTime MOV @ 20, 17Mbps||AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/30p @ 12Mbps|
|Audio||Stereo; mic input||Stereo||Stereo; mic input||Stereo; mic input|
|LCD size||2.8-inch fixed
|3-inch tilting touch-screen OLED
|Battery life (CIPA rating)||350 shots||300 shots||n/a||350 shots|
|Dimensions (inches, WHD)||5.1 x 2.9 x 1.5||5.5 x 3.2 x 1.7||4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7||4.8 x 2.8 x 1.7|
|Body operating weight (ounces)||12.4 (est.)||15.9||15 (est.)||12.4|
|Mfr. price||$999.95 (body only)||$1,699.95 (body only)||$999.99 (body only)||$1,199.99 (body only)|
|$1,399.95 (with 18-55mm lens)||n/a||$1,299.99 (with 12-50mm lens)||$1,349 (with 18-55mm lens)|
|n/a||n/a||$1,099.99 (with 14-42mm lens)||n/a|
|Ship date||November 2012||February 2012||April 2012||November 2011|
While the X-E1 provides a compelling alternative to the X-Pro1, compared with the others the video will likely remain a weak aspect of the camera; video artifacts are the sacrifice you make to obtain the sharp stills you get by ditching the antialiasing filter. And the NEX-7's photo quality is Editors' Choice-good while offering a higher-resolution, tilting LCD. The E-M5 might not match it for photo quality, but its speed and weather-sealed build, plus access to a small but excellent selection of Olympus' Micro Four Thirds lenses, add up to an attractive package, too.