Monday, July 29, 2013

Fuji X-E1 review with Firmware 2.0

One of the reason I sold my Voigtlander 25mm F/0.95 was the cost, it is such an expensive lens for the M43 format. However, I just can't lived without the 50mm equivalent focal length. Instead of buying the Panasonic Leica 25mm F/1.4 lens, I got into another camera and lens combo; Fuji X-E1 with 35mm F/1.4 R. Since Fuji X is using APSC with 1.5x crop sensor, 35mm will become 52mm equivalent. You may ask why I don't go for the Pana Leica 25 and decided to go for another camera system, the reason is I want to bring 2 cameras, one 35mm and one 50mm together for the longer shooting section. 
The X-E1 with 35mm is around the size of the OMD so they are both compact enough to fit in my bag together.


Image quality- It is EXCELLENT! Seriously, it is a note better than OMD, period. The image quality from the 35mm f/1.4 R lens is just superb. It is very sharp at 1.4, and razor sharp from corner to corner at 2.8. Moreover, along with the Fuji signature color, it temp me to shoot more in color (you know most of my shot are B&W). The bad only bad things about the lens is the focus motor is a bit noisy and the sounds is also kind of weird(I don't mind that at all, I only care about the final output). To see the quality of the lens, check out the image below and I also provided the F stop number on top of the image.

Click the photo to enlarge. 
(most color shots are the original raw output with minor curve/ contrast / highlight adjustment, B&W are are with the VSCO film Tri-X 400 preset minus grain in Lightroom)

F/1.4, ISO200 My girlfriend, Grace

F/1.4 ISO 800
F/1.8 ISO 800



F/1.4, ISO 400
Enough of street photography.... let's have some environmental shots

F/4, ISO 200, great light

F/1.4, ISO 800, great dynamic range and vivid color!

F/2.8, IS0 800
F/1.4, ISO 800 (VSCO film preset) Firmware 2.0

F/1.4 ISO 400 focus on the plants from the top stairs.
Autofocus- OMD will trash X-E1 in any day and any time. To be honest, if OMD autofocusing speed is 10, X-E1 is 7 the most. I missed some shots from the moving object ( street portrait mostly) and I'm quite sure OMD would get the job done. Anyways, we must slow down and prepare to make the best image. Slow focusing is not too much of a issue to me, but accuracy is. X-E1 AF accuracy is not good at low contrast area or horizontal pattern area. I have a hard time to lock the focus and fire(sometimes it seems locked but it miss focused). Since Fuji will have an update regardless in the autofocus speed and focus peaking at this coming wednesday, I will test the firmware and give you an update.   

Update- the firmware V2.0 came when I was still writing the review. I installed it and the autofocus improved tremendously! the AF is pretty snappy and accurate!  The new firmware update give me confident to shoot in most lighting condition.  

P.S With the firmware upgrade, the XE-1 with 35mm F/1.4 AF is still slower than OMD with 17mm (it is lighting quick)or 45mm (close to 45mm but still a tad slower), but it is FAST enough for me to do street photography. If I fail to focus, it probably my mistake rather than the camera failed to do so
(b4 firmware V2.0).

Focus Peaking from firmware 2.0- I'm still playing around with the Focus Peaking feature and I will write another article about it in the future. From my hands on experience, the peaking highlight from the LCD is more clear than in the EVF, but it is still a neat feature for me to use the Nikkor 50mm F/1.4 AIS lens! Practice makes perfect and I still need some time to learn from this feature!

Here are the sample shots
(Edited by VSCO film Neopan 1600 preset) F/1.4 
(Original output) F/2.2
Low light (slightly contrast and hightlight adjustment) F/1.4
Low light + moving object F/2
The rest had taken before the firmware update unless I put a footnote on it.

ISO performance- It is stellar! I haven't tried anything more than 6400 yet, but 6400 or below are absolutely fine to use. 

F/2.8 ISO6400

 if you feel this is not good ISO performance, you better go for DSLR like D800 or 5Dmark III. Anyways, I don't need anything more than 6400 in real life unless it is a really ridiculously interesting scene at crazy low light environment.For regular shooting I use ISO 3200 the most, and I will use ISO6400 for my documentary stuff (Coz all I want to do is to capture the scene rather than the dynamic range).

More high ISO shots follow:

F/2.8 ISO 6400, The scene is insanely sharp with amazing color!



F/1.4 ISO 3200

F/2, ISO3200
F/2.8, ISO 3200. There are quite a lot of shoes, isn't it?
F/2, ISO 3200. They are not pointing fingers to me, the couple just asking for the direction ^^.
Handling and ergonomics- It is light and solid, even though OMD feel more solid, but X-E1 built quality is also very good at a point that I'm amazed how Fuji can fit in amazing IQ in such a -weighted package.

More images:

F/2.8, ISO 800

F/1.4 ISO 400
F/2.8, ISO 800
F/1.4, ISO 200

F/8, ISO 400, the Fuji blue!
F/2.8 ISO 6400, in extreme low light condition
F2/, ISO 3200
F2 ISO 2000
F/2.8 ISO 5000
F/5 ISO 3200
F/8 ISO 800
F/8 ISO 200
F/2 ISO 200
F/3.6 ISO 3200, I feel it is way too sharp ^^
F/2.8 ISO 3200
F/8 ISO 800
F/1.4 ISO 3200
F/1.4 ISO 2500
F/1.4 ISO 3200
F/2 ISO6400
F/2.8 ISO 800 
F/2.8 ISO 5000
Conclusion- When a camera deliver excellent image quality with such a light weighted and sexy looking package, I would only criticize its AF performance. Since its AF performance have improved quite a lot after the firmware V2.0 update, it makes the Fuji XE-1 become a well around camera and I'm greatly enjoying it.

Please feel free to comments!
If you feel my images are interesting, please feel free to go Flickr to check out my stuff.