It's certainly no speed demon, but it's nice that the X-E1 can rattle off six frames per second if you want to capture action. The burst isn't completely consistent though, often starting slow and speeding up after the first two or three shots. A three-frame-per-second mode is also available if you don't want to capture quite so many images. Be aware though that when shooting at either of the X-E1's continuous shooting settings, you don't get live view - instead, you'll see a rapid 'slideshow' of the shots you just took. This makes accurate panning very difficult indeed, if you're shooting a moving subject.
When shooting several bursts, the buffer can fill up quickly and take a long time to clear, particularly when shooting raw+JPEG, so investing in a fast card is a must. Using a Class 6 SDHC card made waiting between bursts a chore, but moving to a SanDisk Extreme Class 10 UHS-1 improved matters. Even so, it takes 40 seconds to clear a single burst of 11 frames.
Focus is set at the first frame, so you have to position yourself roughly perpendicular to the action and set aperture between F5.6 and 8 to increase your depth of field to cover most subjects if sharp focus is critical.
|Frame 1||Frame 2||Frame 3||Frame 4||Frame 5||Frame 6|
Looking at your files on the computer can be a bit disorienting, because all the images you make in continuous mode have a different name than all other images. Instead of starting with a D, filenames start with an S, which sorts them to the bottom of the list.
In playback mode, the first image comes up full-frame, with a small animation of the rest of the sequence playing in the lower right corner. Pressing the down arrow lets you cycle through each image full-screen one at a time.
According to Fujifilm, the X-E1 offers significant focus improvements compared to the versions of the X-Pro 1, in both automatic and manual focus modes. Firmware version 2 for the X-Pro 1 brings the same refinements to the older camera - specifically, low-light AF should be improved, and focus speed should be noticeably better with the XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro lens.
In practice, the X-E1's autofocus system is capable most of the time, but it isn't always the fastest. Though you can quickly select the AF point and even adjust its size, the system frequently just freezes up in poor light, which is a shame because as far as image quality is concerned, the X-E1's performance in bad light at high ISOs is superb. It's a shame the AF system can't always keep up.
In good light though, the X-E1's AF system is reasonably swift and responsive, depending on the lens in use, and compares well to that of competitive mirrorless cameras in everyday shooting.
|When handing the X-E1 to friends, we usually turned on multi-point AF, but for our own shooting it was easier to use the arrow keys to select from among the 49 AF points on the screen. In Single autofocus mode the AF point's size is adjustable, with five sizes available with a turn of the rear dial.|
The latest 18-55mm lens seems fastest to focus, while my favorite 35mm lens is the slowest. The 60mm focuses fairly quickly when the camera guesses correctly, but its long throw introduces quite a delay when it has to re-acquire focus.
As for Fujifilm's boast that the X-E1 is competitive with the Olympus E-M5's autofocus system, from our testing, that seems like an optimistic claim. Using the cameras side-by-side, when the X-E1 performs its best, particularly with the 18-55mm lens attached, it does very well, but we're still left impressed all over again with the speed of the E-M5 by comparison. The X-E1 is fast, but the E-M5 is faster, and more accurate, too, with fewer mis-focused shots. Overall, though, paired with the 18-55mm kit zoom, the X-E1's performance is pretty good. Focus speed isn't quite as hot with the primes attached, but all-round, we're pretty confident that the X-E1 outperforms the X-Pro 1 with original firmware. With current firmware installed, the X-E1 and X-Pro 1 are effectively on a par.
Macro focus mode
Since the X-E1 lacks an optical viewfinder, its Macro button does less than that of the X-Pro1, simply allowing the lens to focus closer; whereas the X-Pro1 needed this button to switch to the electronic viewfinder to avoid the significant parallax error created by the optical viewfinder. It's worth noting that the X-E1's macro mode only works with the original XF primes. With the new 18-55mm kit zoom, and the 14mm prime (both of which can focus very close without modification) it has no effect on minimum focusing distance.
|The Macro button on the back of the X-E1 is used for close-focus work with the original three XF primes. It looks as you then have to press the Right Key + OK to change mode, but in fact a second press of the Macro button itself does the job.
This means you can easily switch over to Macro mode with a quick double-press of the button.
Focusing in macro mode is, as we'd expect, considerably slower than it is when shooting subjects at longer distances, and you're more likely to experience some focus hunting, especially when shooting with the 60mm macro prime. That said, focus is generally very accurate, assuming the subject is of high enough contrast for the camera's AF system to 'bite' onto.
Flipping the front switch to Manual focus mode lets you set focus via the electronic ring on the lenses. Depending on the lens it can take a long time and a lot of turning to get from one end of the available focus range to the other, but a press of the AF-Lock button activates the AF system to help you get closer to the ballpark. Pressing the rear dial inward activates the Focus check option, which zooms you in on the selected AF point. It all works very quickly once you're used to it.
|In manual focus mode, you can select the area on which you want to establish sharpness...||...and a handy magnified view allows you to see exactly what you're doing. The focus distance scale is nice, but not terribly useful for closeups.|
Manual focusing is definitely improved over the first firmware version-era X-Pro 1, and X100, but fly-by-wire focusing is always a little tough to master. Since the camera now defaults to focusing at its maximum aperture, you can be more confident about focus than in the past, and the magnified view gives you a pretty accurate representation of what will be in focus and what won't. The movement of the focusing element when you turn the focus ring is nice and fluid, rather than dry and jumpy - this is good, and not always the case in focus-by-wire systems. The magnified view function helps.