Photography Reviews

Fujifilm XE-1 Digital Camera: A Classy, Image-Making Package for Photography Enthusiasts

Savvy professional photographers and enthusiasts didn’t overlook the new Fujifilm X series of mirrorless cameras when the company introduced the X-Pro1 during January 2012. Many were definitely attracted to how well the company adapted the classic rangefinder look, but with top-of-the-line features, such as a distinctive optical/electronic viewfinder combination, solid metal body and the advanced design of the 16-MP X-Trans CMOS sensor (more on it below).

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Fujifilm then made the same move of many of its mirrorless competitors by taking what it had learned with the X-Pro1 and creating an even more appealing camera, and at a lower price point, for a bigger audience of enthusiasts. The result is the Fujifilm X-E1, which was released during September 2012. For many photographers, it becomes a clear and serious alternative to the Sony Alpha NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D E-M5.

Fujifilm cleverly gave the X-E1 some of the capabilities that have made the X-Pro1 so popular as well as a number of new functions that should allow it to compete successfully with comparative models. For starters, the XE-1 looks very much like the X-Pro1, with the traditional rangefinder styling updated for the 21st century, but in a slightly smaller footprint.

Most of the size difference comes with using an all-electronic viewfinder in the XE-1 instead of the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder of the X-Pro1. Nonetheless, the OLED EVF sports a very impressive 2,360,000-dot LCD. The X-Pro1’s has a more typical 1,440,000 dots. Fujifilm did have to reduce the specs of the rear LCD on the XE-1 to 2.8 inches and 460,000 dots, but that keeps the LCD in the range of its competitors and helps to make the body more compact, which is what the audience for this camera wants. Even at that smaller size, Fujifilm was able to give the XE-1 virtually the same configuration of control buttons, switches, etc. and user interface.

The retention of the 16-MP X-Trans CMOS sensor in the XE-1 is very significant, as it was a bit of a revolutionary approach by Fujifilm when used in the X-Pro1. The Bayer color filter array has been the standard for virtually all digital cameras because it has proven to be an exceptional design for recording color and details. Four pixels are grouped in a square RGGB configuration: 2 are sensitive to green light, 1 to red and 1 to blue. This configuration is then repeated across the array. The major downside of the Bayer concept is that the pixel configuration becomes confused when it must read a replicating arrangement of shapes/colors, which may be present in certain textures and fabrics, for example. Color bands form that reduce the quality of the image. The typical solution to this problem is placing a low-pass, or anti-aliasing, filter in front of the sensor, but this tends to suppress the resolution of the resulting images.

Fujifilm’s X-Trans sensor technology addresses this issue with a 6x6 color filter array that places pixels sensitive to red, green and blue on each row and column. An anti-aliasing filter is, therefore, not required and the sensor, in theory, should provide greater resolution of the images captured. In all honesty, Fujifilm is still developing this technology, especially as it relates to RAW shooting, but for most enthusiasts, the upside of the X-Trans sensor is worth its inclusion in the XE-1.

New to the Fujifilm XE-1 are a pop-up flash, a 2.4mm stereo microphone jack and a firmware update to version 2, which will also significantly improve the performance of the X-Pro1. The new firmware results in twice the speed for file writing and much less time between photo capture and playback, approximately 2 seconds. In addition, Auto ISO sensitivity for JPEG shooting has been expanded to 25,600.

Enthusiasts will also like the new XF 18–55mm f/2.8–4 R OIS LM zoom lens that is available as part of a kit package with the XE-1. The 35mm equivalent focal length range of 28–80mm, uncommonly fast maximum aperture and optical image stabilization that produces sharper handheld images to as many as 4 shutter speed stops slower make this new lens an excellent companion to the XE-1.

The bottom line is that Fujifilm is not about to be outclassed by Sony, Olympus or any other competitors offering comparable mirrorless cameras, which means no enthusiasts that is attracted to this kind of camera should fail to overlook the Fujifilm XE-1 digital camera.

The Fujifilm XE-1 Digital Camera with the FUJINON 18–55mm f/2.8–4 Kit Lens is available from Amazon for $1,399.00

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 Photo © 2013 FUJIFILM Holdings America Corporation

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