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Customer Review

260 of 280 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Move over, Leica, November 29, 2012
This review is from: Fujifilm X-E1 16.3 MP Compact System Digital Camera with 2.8-Inch LCD and 18-55mm Lens (Silver) (OLD MODEL) (Electronics)
I have been a fan of Leica M7 with 50 mm Summilux for a decade. I have used a few digital cameras but nothing could replace my M7. My biggest discontent with digital cameras have been white balance and contrast -- no matter which camera I tried, I could never quite get the same perfect white balance and the natural and yet strong and beautiful contrast of film camera photography, especially those of M7 with Summilux. Digital photos almost always had the washed-out colors and weired color bias. I hesitated to invest in M9 because I did not believe, for right or wrong, it could quite deliver what M7 had delivered. Leica had never been known to be a pioneer in digital photography. I also tried the first digital Leica called Digilux some 9 years ago, which was a joke. Convenience means little if the quality is lacking; I would rather have 10 photos that I like than 100 photos that I do not like. So despite the efforts and costs of processing needed for a film camera, I kept on using my Leica M7.

Enter Fuji X-e1. After taking some photos, I blew them on my 60-inch PDP. Perfect. Perfect at ISO 4000. And what a contrast. Wow. As far as I know, this is as close to a film photo feel as a digital photo could get: white balance is impeccable, skin tones perfect, strong contrast, colors that sing, and no grains at ISO 4000! Hallelujah.

Another thing about this camera: JPG files are excellent. I hate keeping RAW files. They are big files taking up so much space and post processing is such a pain to me. With this camera, you can simply forget about shooting in RAW. JPGs are just as nice. Even after reducing the file size to a mere 40 KB for emailing purposes, your photo retains the color and beauty.

The EVF is awesome. OLED screen is so bright and beautiful that you may never want to go back to the LCD on the back to focus, although there is some lag in dark because of low refresh rate. The lag would matter more in manual focus but also in auto focus, because you cannot capture the moment properly. Auto sensor option will turn off the LCD if the EVF senses your eye is nearby, and vice versa saving the battery. This camera is also packed with nice features that you actually use such as horizontal line indicator on the EVF -- it tells you whether your composition is perfectly horizontal. Another useful feature is something called "color-mode bracketing" along with the usual other bracketing options. First, you can use a few very nice color modes with this camera, and, second, with a single click, you can produce multiple photos captured in different color modes. My favorite is the Velvia mode -- for those who remember the ISO 50 film with thick colors to be used with a projector, yes, this resembles its colors quite a bit. Mind you, they are not for some special effects -- they are still passable as "regular" photos because the difference is well within the boundaries of mainstream photos and the skin tones do not appear weird even in this mode; they are just a bit more vibrant and strong, that's all.

There is much to like about digital photography in general but also much to dislike. I like its compact size, convenience, ability to transfer files and view across different media, immediacy in viewing the result and ease of use. But I dislike the lens barrel that comes out with noise each time you turn it on. I dislike the menu buttons with labyrinthine structures. I dislike the touch buttons. Most of all, I don't like the color renditions and tricky white balance. This Fuji X-e1 has cured all or at least most such woes, while retaining the traditional forte of digital cameras and keeping its size well below that of a DSLR. Bravo. Now I am afraid my M7 may end up being a thing of the past, finally, although I will never part with it. A Leica is a Leica after all, but perhaps I will never buy a M9 as I feel I have found a worthy substitute at a fraction of the price.

As for me, I considered this one among the following contenders: Sony RX1 and RX100. I crossed out Lumix lines because somehow I could never be satisfied with its white balance. RX100 is very nice for its price and I consider it an ultimate P&S, but I do not like the lens barrel that comes out each time I turn it on. Also its sensor size is a bit too small for my liking. However, it is a great little camera to get and I may well get it someday for its extreme portability and HD video capability alone. As for RX1, although I love its full-frame sensor, having a fixed, not-that-fast (2.0), non-changeable 35 mm lens is the deal killer for me, along with having no internal EVF or OVF. For that kind of price, Sony should really have done better. If you are considering RX100, RX1 or even NEX 7, do yourself a favor and make sure you test X-e1 before making up your mind. Just demoing it through the LCD at the back of the camera is not enough. If your dealer allows it, bring your own SD card, take shots on it with all the aforementioned cameras, blow the pictures on your own computer at home while paying particular attention to the color qualities.

[UPDATE] As for the lens, so far I have only used the kit lens (18-55mm). I have not used manual focusing yet, so I cannot comment on it. This lens is quite light-weight and simply superb. Auto-focus is not the fastest but fast enough and accurate. You can make a shallow depth of field at 2.8 and the resulting bokeh is quite nice. This may not be the fastest lens (ie lowest F stop is 2.8) but certainly fast enough and since you can make perfect photos at ISO 4000, I think this lens is a lot more useful than the well-rated 35 mm 1.4, which I have never used but may buy some day.

[UPDATE 2] The flash did not work. Since it was the first time I tried, I guess it did not work from the beginning. I was thinking of returning the unit, but when I called Fuji service center, the person suggested me to "RESET" the unit from the menu button. I did, and it worked. I asked him if this was a well-known issue, and the person told that it was and Fuji was working on it. I asked again if this was something I have to do from time to time (ie resetting), and the person told me that so far it seemed to work fine with the first reset but they were not sure. So if you buy a unit, make sure you test the flash. If it does not work, reset the unit. Fuji is working on the fix. I was thinking of reducing a star from my rating, but since it is working fine for now after reset, I am leaving as is. But if Fuji does not come with a permanent fix or if this happens again, I will reduce a star.

[UPDATE 3] I found out why the flash did not work. It had nothing to do with bugs or defects. Manner mode was on and that was why. When the manner mode is on, not only all sounds are muted but also flash and focus light are all disabled. Perfect for taking photos at classical concerts. (If you just want the sound off without disabling the flash or light, there is a sound option menu as well including complete off.) That explains why it worked when I reset the camera -- the manner mode is turned off at reset. Funny, even the experienced Fuji service man did not know this -- he told me they were "working on it." It shows this is such a new model -- so new that even the front field folks have not figured out all about it, I guess.

[UPDATE 4] Manual focusing a moving object through EVF in low light even when magnified is tricky. It does not give you a focus confirmation. I comparison-tested manual and auto, and there was always a discrepancy which makes me not to trust my eyes. Also the kit-lens' manual focusing feel is not superb, although certainly much better than that of X100. So I think this should be mostly used as an auto-focus camera when you use the kit lens. Make sure you push the "enlarge" button to help focus manually -- a big difference. By the way, you can always push AE-L/AF-L button to bring the object into immediate auto focus even when the camera is in manual focus mode, which I find very useful. You can also set this button's function AE fix only or AF fix only or both AE fix and AF fix in the menu settings.

[UPDATE 5] I think one firmware upgrade feature this camera desperately needs is Minimum Shutter Speed setting. Without this, Auto ISO is only half effective, along with aperture priority mode. Currently when set at auto-ISO and in the aperture priority mode, this camera is giving me a shutter speed close to the focal length, which, in the case of the kit lens, is 30 mm and hence 1/30th. This is obviously no good when shooting a moving object, which makes me adjust the ISO value up manually, rendering the auto-ISO not that useful. Fuji, please update and implement this firmware feature in a near future. Otherwise, people would simply have to shoot in speed priority mode mostly.

[UPDATE 6] I ordered Fuji M-mount adapter to use the body with my 50 mm Summilux. Now there are a few cheaper choices you have such as Kipon but the reason I ordered an official Fuji was because I read that it is the only one that shows all the information as Fuji lenses do. There are three things you need to be aware of. First, certain Leica lenses do not work with this adapter so you need to read about which ones work and which ones do not. Second, it does not show the F-stop information anywhere on the viewfinder (even though it takes photos with the F-stop you set on the lens) -- it shows "F0 (zero)" all the time. Less of a problem in the aperture priority mode since you know it anyway (since you are setting the aperture), but in the speed priority mode, there is no way of knowing the aperture. Third, the results are OK but certainly not any better than the kit lens. There is no Leica magic -- well-focused pictures look almost identical to those produced by the kit lens. So two conclusions: (i) I am not so sure about the advantage of buying a much more expensive official Fuji adapter; and (ii) your chief reason for buying the adapter must be to expand your photographic options and not to improve IQ. IQ will be largely the same even with the supposedly superior and certainly more expensive Leica glass.

[Update 7] I ordered Kipon adapter for Contax G2 lenses. For those who are not familiar, Contax long ago sold a film rangefinder called G2 with three Carl Zeiss lenses in the bundle: Biogon 2.8/28mm, Planar 2/45mm, Sonnar 2.8/90mm. Those lenses were beautifully crafted, sharp as a tack, and represented supreme value then (you may still find them at eBay). I once used and loved this Contax G2 extensively along with my Leica M7, but it has been sleeping in my closet in recent years. To get to the point, those Carl Zeiss lenses worked like charm on the X-e1 body. Sharp, sharp all they way. Particularly amazing was 90mm Sonnar's portrait performance under low light (with the crop factor of this body, it becomes a 135mm mild zoom). Wow! I could see my son's peach fuzz on face in a shot taken from quite some distance. On the X-e1 body (I cannot stress this qualification enough), I actually prefer Carl Zeiss glasses to the Leica glass. It is a match made in heaven, and you owe it to yourself to get an adapter to try those lenses if you happen to have them like me. I never thought I would be resurrecting those almost antique lenses from the film era in this digital age, not out of curiosity but for real field usage! One caveat: the Biogon 2.8/28mm could not be attached to this camera with the Kipon adapter -- it could not be locked and would not focus. I am not sure if there is any adapter you could use for Biogon 2.8/28mm available in the market.

[Update 8] I tried a "duel" among the three lenses again: Summilux 50/1.4, Sonnar 90/2.8, and the Fujinon Kit. I shot my bookshelf full of books on a tripod position (around 50 shots each) and tried to see differences. Because of the differences in magnification, Sonnar actually shot from a further distance. Again, the differences were minor but there was a clear winner to my eyes: Sonnar. Color renditions were very similar. But the Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH, although sharp in the center at every aperture, was softer and blurrier on the sides at the same F stop with Sonnar. Sonnar was tack sharp around all edges. I did not notice this when I mounted Summilux on my M7 body. That is why I said I do not particularly prefer Summilux at least on X-e1 body. Fujinon was not as sharp as Sonnar, but entirely acceptable and consistently good.

But since the results were so similar, I urge people to buy different lenses only to obtain different F stops or angles and not to obtain better IQ. I see it this way: if you already have a Summilux, you may want to buy a cheap adapter ring, but if you do not have one, forget it. At over $4,000, it is not worth the price at least on this body.

It is great to hear Zeiss is coming out with auto-focus for X-mount (see the comment by Midnight Coyote below), but I fear the price! Manual focusing with Sonnar is actually quite fun, and there is one great advantage with manual focusing: once focused, you can shoot subsequent shots actually faster than an auto-focus and this is a great advantage in extreme low-light conditions in which the auto-focus hesitates and struggles for each shot.
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Comments

Tracked by 10 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 29, 2012 7:18:26 AM PST
A. Jeng says:
Thanks for the review. What lenses have you tried on this new camera?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 7:56:14 AM PST
Sky Blue says:
Thanks for the comment. Please see my update above. I used the kit lens (18-55).

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 9:38:43 AM PST
A. Jeng says:
Thanks for the update. Where did you get this camera? Is it with the chrome finish?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 10:11:30 AM PST
Nice review. It would be great to read about how well your Leica lenses work with this body. Fuji sells a slightly expensive M adaptor for te X series but cheaper ones can be found, but unlike the Fuji adaptor, may or may not transfer the lebs data to the fie info.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 10:16:55 AM PST
Sky Blue says:
I bought it in Korea where the selling price is about $1,700 with the kit lens. Yes, I got the chrome finish -- the chrome is a bit brighter than X100's chrome and I personally like the brighter chrome look. It looks gorgeous.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 10:26:03 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2012 10:31:33 AM PST
Sky Blue says:
Thanks for the comment. Since I have both Summilux and Summicron, I considered very seriously about mounting them on this one (there are a number of third party adapters as well), but decided not to for a few reasons: (i) the kit lens is already nothing short of awesome, giving all kinds of electronic information which Leica lenses may or may not even with the adapter, able to auto focus which Leica lenses cannot even with the adapter, and (ii) a few commentators in the web advise not to since you gain nothing in quality at the cost of inconvenience.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 10:36:25 AM PST
Regarding using Leica glass, i understand the advantages of the fuji glass, especially AF and stailization. However, you are confined to those focal and speed of the current lenses. So a fast 50mm prime might make for a wonderful portrait lens, and a wider or longer focal length might be better for certain situations. I shoot mostly landscape so i use 10-300mm depending on the shot so 18-55 is good for only about 65% of what i do

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 7:05:19 PM PST
Sky Blue says:
You are entirely right about expanding options by using adapters. I am now tempted to use one if I could find one at the right price. Thanks for the info. Also from the Fuji website, I saw that Fuji will launch quite a lineup for 2013: 55-200 mm telephoto (3.5-4.8 OIS), 56 mm (1.4), 27 mm (2.8 pancake), 23 mm (1.4), 10-24 mm superwide (4 OIS). I will certainly get the telephoto since I enjoy going to concerts and I have never been able to get satisfying results with a small camera. Imagine what I could do with 200 mm zoom with relatively clean ISO up to 6400!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2012 8:54:41 AM PST
Sky Blue says:
Per your suggestion, I tried both Leica lens and Carl Zeiss lenses on the body. I am very very glad I did. Please see the results on my updates. Thanks a bunch for your very helpful suggestion.

Posted on Dec 14, 2012 11:31:23 AM PST
Your review has been helpful to me on many levels! I have been torn between purchasing the kit zoom lens ($300 savings when coupled with body) or individual primes. I know now that I will buy the kit and await the pancake (35mm equivalent soft-wide) when it comes out in 2013. This should provide the best of both worlds for travel composition and street/landscape compactness.

Also, I too have the full Contax G2 system and have wondered about the Kipon adapter for my 3 lenses.

Yours is one of the best reviews I've read and the first response I have made since 1999, when I started buying from Amazon!
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