Fuji X-E1, the first real digital LEICA for all of us

Fuji X-E1, the first real digital LEICA for all of us

Slated to take second place behind Fuji’s flagship X Pro1-some of you might remember my short yet passionate fling with that camera-and appeal to a much broader audience. However, in the real world, I consider the X-E1 Fuji’s #1.

more after the break

falling leaf
Fuji X E1 with 35mm f1.4, s1/4000, f1.4 ISO 200
s1/50, f1.4, ISO 1000


Fuji X Pro1 with 35mm f1.4 s1/500 f1.8 ISO 500

The X-E1 does pretty much what the X Pro-1 does in a smaller, lighter package, featuring the same superb X Trans image sensor and a better, higher resolution EVF. It doesn’t pretend to be a rangefinder. The no nonsense form follows function design approach pays off and we get a clean, sleek looking camera body. Personally, I think the X-E1 is one of the best looking digital cameras out there.


The X-E1 is almost identical in button/dial layout to the X Pro 1. In addition there is a pop up flash, a 2.5mm stereo mic socket and an electronic shutter release option. A full metal body with a solid tripod socket. So, what do we loose and what do we gain?
We get a slightly smaller, lesser quality rear LCD and we loose the unique hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder.

With this latest release Fuji improves auto focus speed and makes significant manual focus enhancements, now a joy to use with their own and 3rd party lenses. Hurray! X Pro 1 owners can download the latest firmware and enjoy the same improvements we get in the X-E1 right out of the box.

Moon Light Sonata with the X E1 and the 35mm f1.4, wide open

Here is a quick summary of all things improved:

Auto focus speed is much improved under most shooting conditions, even in the dark (however, it still misses more shots then my other cameras, and can’t compete with the best when using the 18mm f2 and 35mm 1.4, things will look different with the 18-55mm zoom lens, which has a much faster linear AF motor=even faster AF speed).
Major manual focus performance improvements, choice of 3x or 10x magnification,
open aperture during manual focusing, requires significantly fewer rotations to get from the closest focusing distance to infinity with Fujinon lenses.
Focuses closer without switching to macro mode
Option to choose the turning direction of the focusing ring in MF mode for Fujinon lenses. (Nothing new, just worth mentioning again)
Improved writing and processing speed, I still highly recommend shooting with the fasted card you can afford,
I am using a SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC I, a 95MB/s read, 90MB/s write capable card and it makes a huge difference.
Auto ISO up to 6400

Alphabet City, Wall#1, Fuji X E1 with 35mm s1/250, f2.0, ISO 200

Fuji X E1 with 35mm 1.4 s1/4000, f2/0, ISO 200

and here is my wishlist for future improvements:
focus peaking in MF mode
allow 3x/10x magnification while camera writes data to the card
Choice of lowest and highest ISO setting for Auto ISO
Auto ISO in manual mode AND the option to use +- compensation.
allow correct under/over exposure display in full manual mode
Manual selection of slowest shutter speed in P/A modes.

First impressions:
I love shooting with the X-E1. It is just the right size, smaller then the X Pro1 and slightly larger then the X100. I am a big fan of manual aperture and shutter speed dials, being able to see those settings instantly, even when the camera is turned off, is a huge plus. The discreet shutter sound makes candid shooting easy. Autofocus is extremely accurate, especially when shooting wide open with the 35mm 1.4, but the real quantum leap occurs when in manual focus, with native Fuji and 3rd party lenses. Fuji gets it right this time and kudos for listening and updating the firmware. Update: I planned to compare it to the Sony Nex 6, unfortunately the package arrived in such bad shape I had to decline delivery :( – will update this post once the replacement arrives.

Products mentioned in this article:
Fuji X E1 (silver)
Fuji X E1 (black)
Fuji X Pro1
Fuji 35mm f1.4
Rokinon 85mm f1/4 (Nikon mount)
Sony Nex 6

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19 thoughts on “Fuji X-E1, the first real digital LEICA for all of us

  1. mike.kobal Post author

    You are right, as long as you limit the comparison to the Brownie and Leica. I use auto ISO in manual mode since 2008 on my Nikon cameras, allows +_ correction, incredibly useful if you need to shoot fast and want to set shutter speed and aperture. It’s all relative.

  2. Andy

    Considering that my first photo was on a Box Brownie and that for most of my life, ISO has been a limited and fixed factor, I find complaints about Auto ISO spurious. There is a manual option, you know? I absolutely love the X-E1 and with the 35mm Fujinon, it might as well be a Leica. Gorgeous camera, gorgeous photographs, end of.

  3. Alain

    Hi Mike,
    I’d like to know what is the x-mount adapter you use for the Rokinon lens (you have a Nikon mount on the Rokinon I guess?).

  4. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Matt, I totally agree, that would be awesome and those exact thoughts also crossed my mind. The reason I suggest basic +- in manual exposure with auto Iso is simply because it works like a charm with my Nikon D800E.
    Yup, as of now, no option to set minimum shutter speed, I sure hope Fuji will bring this on in their next firmware. So far I am really pleased with Fuji and their attention to our needs, the reason I got the X-E1 and will most likely get a second one for the classic two body/two lens set up.

  5. Matt

    Hi Mike, this is a carry on from a reply you left on Fujirumors.com:

    I understand what you are asking for but it to me at least seems a bit of a kludge. I don’t own the camera, but do have a X100 and maybe foolishly assume they operate largely the same.

    Maybe something that would work a lot nicer rather than having exp comp on the auto ISO feature that is essentially controlling your exposure as you are ‘locking down’ the shutter and aperture, might be to have the exp comp automatically change to ISO when in manual mode? They could set it so that at the ‘0’ point would correspond to ISO 800, -1 = 400, -2 = 200, +1 = 1600 and +2 = 3200 with 1/3 stops in between. That way it would be a constant and consistent. If you want to lock down the aperture and shutter but be able to ‘ride’ the ISO wouldn’t this be far far easier than using the in camera metering and then having to compensate the ISO?

    Also doesn’t the Fuji allow you to set a minimum shutter for the auto ISO range like the X100 that basically becomes the cutoff for ramping up the ISO? If so, isn’t that sort of like having a manually set aperture/shutter, but with auto ISO and exp comp or am I missing something here?

    Edit: Seems like the X-E1 doesn’t allow you to set minimum shutter as is the case for the X100

  6. Pingback: X-E1 and 18-55mm lens: some reviews | Fuji Rumors

  7. mike.kobal Post author

    thanks my friend! I got a crazy good deal on the silver one, first time ever to own a silver camera lol who would have thought….
    yes, I definitely prefer black cameras, so far no problems, looks harmless enough, the small size helps

  8. Markus Arike

    I remember reading that you prefer discrete black cameras, yet here you are with a silver X-E1. Any reason you chose the silver over black? Looks? No black availability? Interesting.

    By the way, I really like the “Model of the Day” image you have on Flickr. Superb image. Maybe Fuji should hire you.

    Anyway, thanks very much. I’ll make sure I order from B&H by clicking through here.

  9. mike.kobal Post author

    Yes, I have. I love the smaller form factor and since I ended up using the EVF all the time on the XP1, it was a logical move. I am seriously considering a second body since I love shooting with primes and having one with the soon available 14mm and the other with the 35mm or a 50mm would make a kick ass outfit :)
    and thanks for swinging by Markus!

  10. Markus Arike

    So the big question is have you changed from the X-Pro1 to the X-E1? I’m considering such a move, and would be interested to know what you think. You seem to prefer the smaller X-E1. The X-Pro1 is so lightweight, I’ve never really thought of it as big, but you seem to like the small size of the X-E1. I prefer OVFs, but I don’t like the framing errors of the XP1. Thanks Mike. Great stuff.

  11. Julio de la Nuez

    Thanks for your review. I have a question.
    I have the same rokinon 85mm, but for canon mount. Is there any adapter to use canon mount lenses in fuji x e1? If it exists, I’m willing to buy it only to use this rokinon in my fuji camera. Thanks in advance.

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