Pros and cons of the X-E1 after a week of shooting in Thailand

Started Dec 14, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Drew O
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Pros and cons of the X-E1 after a week of shooting in Thailand
Dec 14, 2012

My girlfriend is spending a few months in Southeast Asia; we're both enthusiast photographers, so when I went to visit her in Thailand I brought her a brand new X-E1 as a Christmas present.  I also brought along my Nikon D800 DSLR, so we got to spend a week swapping back and forth between these two.  Based on this, here are my thoughts on the X-E1:

THE GOOD: Awesome hardware

-Maybe you've heard, but Fuji really nailed it on the sensor.  The detail is exceptional, and you get print-quality images up to ISO3200, no problemo.  Awesome.

-The 18-55 kit lens is great, very sharp and the OS works well.

-OVF is the nicest I've used.

-Everything is very solidly built, and still less than half the weight of an SLR.

THE BAD: The user interface is still a firmware update away from greatness.  There are several annoying aspects of the UI, listed below in roughly descending order, that really hinder this camera in my opinion.  Much of this comes down to customization and flexibility; Fuji should give users more options to assign to various buttons. This is kind of heartbreaking, as the hardware is so, so good!

-ISO adjustment:  The only way to change ISO while shooting is to hit the Fn button, which brings up a menu that completely obscures the frame.  This is really annoying, and even more so because neither the clickable thumb wheel nor 3 of the directional control buttons do anything during shooting (unless you access the menus).  It would be so easy to let users assign one of these to unobtrusively adjust ISO.

-Auto-ISO:  A way around the issue above is to turn on auto-ISO.  Unfortunately though, there is no way to customize this either, and the camera tends to choose exposure settings that yield very slow shutter speeds. This is OK for static images, but doesn't work for anything in motion.  We need a min. shutter speed option in auto-ISO setup.

-Focusing: AF is reasonably fast, but implementation of focus tracking and continuous AF is still pretty bad.  Again, taking shots of anything moving is hit-or-miss at best.  I know there are limits imposed by the contrast-detect AF and this'll never compete with an SLR, but mirrorless cameras do this better.  Furthermore, the lens has a really nice smooth focus ring, but it's "turned off" in all but manual focus mode.  Why not give us the option to fine-tune focus by grabbing the ring any time?

-Metering:  I really want the camera to tell me how it's metering in real time, i.e. have shutter speed/aperture info displayed at the bottom of the VF without shutter half-press.  Furthermore, similar to the focus ring issue above, once you half-press to lock exposure the aperture ring is "turned off" and aperture can't be changed.   In aperture priority mode, I want to be able to lock exposure and then change the aperture, and have the camera alter shutter speed to keep my exposure constant.  The combo of these features means that in aperture priority mode, you end up having to half-press, check values, release, change aperture/ISO if necessary, half-press again, etc. Annoying.

-General customizability.  As I mentioned, there are lots of buttons that don't do anything unless you access the Q-menu, and a number of others that I rarely use.  It'd be great if the functions of these during normal shooting could be set by the user.  I'm thinking of things like one-button shortcuts to activate spot metering, change ISO, shoot a bracketed burst, activate RAW capture etc.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  I can live with most of the "quirks" above, in exchange for exceptional image quality in a compact package.  But it's kind of heartbreaking to have such a beautiful, well-bult camera that's let down by minor quirks in the UI.  For now, I'll be keeping my SLR (and borrowing my girlfriend's X-E1 from time to time), but if Fuji is able to fix some of the issues I mention above, that might change.

Fujifilm X-E1 Nikon D800
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