Friday, March 22, 2013

Fujifilm X-E1–Compared to X-Pro1, X100s, Sony RX100, & More (Part 2 of 2)

In my first article entitled Fujifilm X-E1–A Step in the Right Direction (Part 1 of 2), I covered the basics of this camera and included a bunch of example photos. In this article I’ll compare some bookshelf images to some popular cameras and wrap up with some miscellaneous feature areas.

Fujifilm X-E1 f/4 @ 55 mm, 1/110,ISO 800, No Flash
f/4 @ 55 mm, 1/110,ISO 800, No Flash, AWB, Velvia
The Easter Bunny Rocks with this camera!

Bookshelf Test

As expected, the X-E1 did very well with the bookshelf test. Its improved firmware over the X-Pro1 that I tested proved to be helpful, and the 18-55mm lens performed very well. This really isn’t an apples to apples comparison because I don’t have both cameras at the same time nor do I have the same lens and latest firmware installed. As a result, all you can take away from this is how the X-E1 performed at the time I tested it versus the other cameras at the time I tested them. All were shot under identical light conditions on the same tripod, but different lenses do make a big difference.


X-E1, f/5.6 @ 55 mm, 3.7s, ISO 200, No Flash, OIS Off, AWB, DR100, Provia, 10 sec Timer

Overall I felt like it was comparable to DSLR performance in terms of dynamic range and image sharpness. The noise level was quite a bit higher when getting beyond ISO 800 (more like DSLR’s were back in the 2006 time frame) which is problematic when you use this camera body for the evening dinner date with your significant other.

100% Crops

The following 100% crops are all generated in Lightroom 4.3 from the RAW files so that the default raw processing would be identical for each.

X-E1 100% Crop f/5.6 @ 55 mm, 3.7s, ISO 200
X-E1 100% Crop f/5.6 @ 55 mm, 3.7s, ISO 200

The X-E1 looks a bit sharper in my eyes, but that could be the shooting angle and other factors. Overall it’s very comparable to the X-Pro1, as expected.

Compared to the X-Pro1

X-Pro1, f/5.6 @ 35 mm, 8s, ISO 200
X-Pro1, f/5.6 @ 35 mm, 8s, ISO 200

Compared to the Sony RX100

DSC-RX100, f/8 @ 10.4 mm, 5s, ISO 200
DSC-RX100, f/8 @ 10.4 mm, 5s, ISO 200

The Sony seems to have a bit better dynamic range, but it also seems quite a bit softer when doing a raw comparison. One thing is for certain is that the Sony in-camera meter seems to be a lot more accurate whereas the Fuji’s tend to over expose a tad (in the default multi metering mode.

X-E1 at ISO 6400

Mouse over to see ISO 200 and mouse out to see ISO 6400
X-E1, f/5.6 @ 55 mm, 1/8,ISO 6400 (Full Size)
Mouse over to see ISO 200 and mouse out to see ISO 6400

At ISO 6400 the noise is pretty strong, but the image quality is still pretty good. The noise cleans up okay with Noiseware (or the in-camera JPEG processing) so it’s a usable image – but very noisy by today’s standards. The ISO’s greater than 6400 don’t support RAW so you end up with a nasty JPEG that you can’t fix. I do not recommend these modes unless you are desperate the get the shot.

Film Simulation Modes

This camera supports bracketing of Film Simulation modes (called picture styles on other cameras), so for fun I did it here using the 55mm ISO 200 setting. These are all in-camera JPEG’s (click for full-size originals):


X-E1 Provia (Standard) Film Simulation Mode


X-E1 Astia (Soft) Film Simulation ModeX-E1 Velvia (Vivid) Film Simulation Mode

While there are many times that I prefer Velvia, for this image it’s a little too oversaturated – especially when you get it on the web at sRGB. As a result, I find myself using Astia quite a bit (and no, it doesn’t seem to soften my images – it’s colors are just more muted that Vivid).

You can see more samples and full-size originals at http://www.ronmartinsen.com/fujifilm/x-e1. All images are Copyright Ron Martinsen – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may view, but you may not save, edit, crop, print or otherwise use any images without permission.

Compared to other popular cameras in this class

Subjectively speaking I felt it did a better job at higher ISO’s and with in-camera noise reduction than the Olympus OM-D E-M5. I also felt like it was close enough in quality to the Sony RX100 that it’d definitely consider this a better buy than the Sony.

The Canon EOS M disappointed me, but if you pixel peep you’ll see that it compares very favorably in terms of overall image quality against the X-E1. With that said, the improvements in focus performance make the X-E1 my winner in this comparison.

I would say it’s worthwhile for X100 owners to upgrade to the X100s as there’s so many improvements that you’ll enjoy it quite a bit. However, if you want an interchangeable lens solution that is affordable than the X-E1 (and its replacement) make more sense.

Overall though, in this class of cameras I’d say the Sony NEX-7 is still my overall favorite for a combination of performance, features, and price. I think the X-E1 and X-Pro1 have better image quality but that doesn’t really matter if you don’t get the shot.

Dynamic Range Modes


This feature really helps in tough situations like this so you can see the skyscraper outside
Click the image to view the original in-camera image

Like other Fujifilm cameras, the X-E1 has multiple Dynamic Range modes. In fact, it even features bracketing of these modes, so I used that feature on the bookshelf to do a quick sample of three at DR100, DR200, and DR400. Just click here to view the DR100 version and use the right arrow key to see the others. Wait, what’s that – you didn’t any difference? Yeah, me either. If you look carefully there are some subtle differences, so it seems more optimized for brighter conditions (which I couldn’t test tonight) based on what I’m seeing in real world use. Personally I use DRAuto or DR100 most of the time, but I tried various modes when testing.

It should be noted that this is a JPEG only feature as the RAW file doesn’t have the notion of this post-processing concept.

Menu System

Much fuss is made about the menu system of the Fujifilm X series cameras, but honestly I’ve gotten used to it so it doesn’t bother me. I find what I need quickly and it works. There’s lots of  hard button controls on the camera too so I only need to use the menus when something is missing from the hard buttons. Most notably you can switch flash modes, but there’s no quick access to flash exposure compensation which is very annoying. The Q menu is pretty awesome at providing most features available very quickly and easily – I loved the densely populated design – I wish others would do that.

Video

As usual, I’m not video guy so I didn’t do much testing here. It’s about like an average point and shoot but it doesn’t focus on moving subjects very well. The image quality is above average though – in good light with the Provia film simulation.

Panoramic Mode


Panoramic Mode - M


Panoramic Mode – L

If you saw my X10 review you know that I love this feature in Fujifilm cameras. As usual, the JPEG it creates is stitched very well (when the subject you are shooting isn’t moving), but it seems a little slower on the X-Pro1 & X-E1 compared to the X10.

The two examples above were take with Velvia film simulation.

Conclusion

This is a good camera that will certainly please Fujifilm enthusiasts. After a fail with the X100 (in my opinion) and some bugs with the very expensive XPro-1, Fujifilm seems to have finally hit the mark. It’s still expensive in my book, but definitely a lot cheaper than a Leica.

This camera has that German build quality feeling and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to use. If I had the spare change I’d probably pick one up, but I wouldn’t consider it a replacement for a DSLR nor my point and shoot (currently a X10). To me, this is more of a serious hobbyist camera that is charming to use and creates very satisfying in-camera JPEG’s that some might find suitable enough to avoid spending much time in post-processing.

I’d call it an ideal street photography camera, and it’s great for food photography too. The live view helps a lot with manual focusing and the removal of the low pass filter also make it a great choice for landscape photography as well. It’s also great for hiking or situations where you just don’t want a big bulky camera.

I’d also say that the focus problems are solved if you use the largest two AF sizes in Single Shot mode. Smaller than that will require very good light.

Overall, I give this camera a guarded recommendation to those who can afford to pay for the wonderful quality body and very good sensor that it offers. It’s sure to please as long as you keep yourself in good light and stay out of situations that require ISO > 800.

Where to order

Click here to see the full selection of X-E1’s at B&H web site. My friends at Adorama have it available here, and you can find it here at Amazon.

If you think you might buy this camera, NOW is the time. B&H has this screaming deal that literally had me load my cart and almost pull the trigger:

Fujifilm X-E1 Bundle Special - Save 913.85!!!

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:

Need more info, check out this great Q&A about the X-E1

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this. B&H also loaned me the X-E1 and lens used for this review.

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1 comment:

Dan said...

Funny how you say this is a hobbyist camera, but it outdoes a lot of DSLR's in image quality and is much faster to use without digging through lots of menus. The professional photographer, Zack Arias, who is also a very funny blogger just returned from a Range Rover shoot and his only camera was same X Trans processor Fujifilm 100s. So, apparently, this family of Fuji's is good enough for a commercial account, like Range Rover.
It also is not this huge chunk of plastic that you have to stick in people's face, so it's much better for trying to take discrete photos. I'm selling my Nikon D7000 and all of my lenses. After retuning from a trip to the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Jasper, etc.) the landscape photos are outstanding in every way. I've found that the ISO works great up to about 3200 and beyond that you can use Nik Software's excellent noise reduction software, "Define" to clean up noise.

Comparing the X-E1 to the Sony NEX-7 isn't even close. Unless, you like little plastic cameras with deep menus to access many functions, I'll take the Fuji X-E1 on image quality, handling etc. because it feels like a real camera and not a plastic computer. The price with the excellent 18-55 mm f 2.8 lens at about $1,200. is a steal. Plus the latest software update on July 23, 2013 has only made the X-E1 a better deal.