Fujifilm X-E1 camera and Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4R – 2015 Review

This camera and lens combo is no longer in my possession so I thought today would be a nice day to share thoughts about it. As always this is an independent review, I’m not related to Fujifilm and the camera and lens were purchased with my Peruvian soles (our currency is the Sun)

The purchase

Someday I was walking the streets of Juliaca and I saw this camera among others, people that buys a camera here usually simply buy Canon or Nikon because they are seen in hands of professionals on TV, I don’t think we have a lot of sport photographers to require the autofocus speed of a DSLR… so this Fujifilm was alone and unnoticed. I simulated ignorance and asked if that was a film camera (hehe) and the seller seeing that he could sell that camera that nobody wanted was quickly to show me it was a digital camera with interchangeable lenses, I said “oh, what a pity, I just want a little plastic one with super zoom” (huehuehue) so he gave up and told me a great price for both. I went for a bit of money and we made the challaqui to finish the purchase. Challaqui is when we celebrate a happy business or event, we drink something like beer, wine or our local chicha and before to drink a glass we spill first a bit in the ground to say thanks to the Pachamama (mother Earth) For that the picture with the beer ;-)

Technical Data

Fujifilm X-E1 with three axis bubble level, and wep auto telon 135mm FD mount lens mounted in Sony VCT-R100 tripod.

The camera is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera made in 2012 with an APS-C sensor and the fujinon XF 35mm F1.4R is a lens in term of what is called today a full frame camera equivalent approximately to a 50mm lens. It has the shape of an old rangefinder camera, usually people thinks it’s a film camera. It has a solid construction and perhaps the only detail is the paint of the exposed metal in the corners tend to wear out a bit. It’s a small grip that is enough if you have lenses of moderate size. The fujinon XF 35mm F1.4r is perfect match IMHO. The shape to me is elegant and modern.

In my experience the only downsides where the abundance of buttons but not for the basic functions, an ISO and a white balance button would be very welcome instead of several of them. Also I love to change the focus button with a joystick so I hadn’t much love to the X-E1 way to select a menu and after that move the directional buttons, a joystick would be a giant pleasure. Despite the related shape of the camera with a film one the necessity to go to menus made it a bit digital in the sense to be a bit slow to operate in comparison to other cameras. I understand with newer models the experience is better. But… Is it enough to don’t buy it? My answer: absolutely no! it’s a great tool capable to render amazing image quality to your images, if you don’t get good photographs is because you need to give you a bit of time to understand a machine that has only the necessary and nothing of “smile mode” “sport mode” or others presets in compact cameras. The screen is fixed what is a shame because it makes harder to get shots of flowers, children, or in places where only your hand can reach, a way to get a solution is buying a FlipBac angle viewfinder, basically a mirror attached to the screen, and problem solved!

The software and hardware, save the omission of ISO and WB button, is centered to work setting the aperture of the lens and the shutter in the dial, you can set one or both in “A” mode so you can get any combination between totally manual and totally automatic. With those conditions this camera is going to shine if you know at least a bit about the function of a camera and lens. With the fujinon XF 35mm F1.4R you have an aperture of 1.4 with which you can get a great amount of bokeh if that is your preference, I preferred instead the use at night so I wouldn’t need to raise the ISO and get cleaner image in relation to noise. The lens is a metal beauty. The manual ring was the only thing I wasn’t totally convinced in comparison to a real manual (not by wire) ring of lenses of yore the feedback was a bit strange but enough to work.

Well that’s a resume about the multiple characteristics. Let’s see some pics :P!!!

Characteristics

Colors

The camera tends to convert the reds in oranges and the blues in cyan; this because in part it can’t cope with those highlights in artificial lights and in part because it seems that the color scheme change a bit the hue of the blue color. A way to mitigate it (if you prefer a more realistic rendering) is to shot in RAW+JPEG and set the JPEG file in the list of film simulations to “Pro Neg. Hi” as a reference and change in your RAW file the blue color to avoid the cyan rendering and reduce a bit the luminosity of the red color. The photographs here were edited using PhotoNinja software so aren’t direct from the camera, I rarely use the straight image but if you just shot JPEG you can trust that programming to your taste the camera is going to give you great photographs too. I use RAW more fore a personal way to work my images.

Black and White

The camera has presets to shot directly into black and white. I think is easier to shot in color and modify after it, but if you shot in RAW+jpeg the raw image is going to be always in color. With this camera it was easier to me get nice black and whites what is a lot to say because I’m not so much experienced in it. The lens is quite sharp and the camera resolve quite well the details.

Street photography

Cameras with interchangeable lenses have this thing about the shutter sound, they’re noisy guys that yells to the others you are taking pictures. Despite that the X-E1 has a shutter sound barely audible in crowded places, probably you are going to be the only one to hear it. The resolving power of the lens also helps you to crop with a comfortable freedom so you can take from a certain distance. In those situations a tiltable screen is very welcome so why I bought the FlicBac angle viewfinder. I like to show the life of the city, not to invade the privacy of individuals, for that reason also I post photos of myself.

Landscape

I read in some places that for landscape this camera cannot render well, specially vegetation, I cannot notice it neither OCC JPEGs nor in my RAWs processed with Photo Ninja. The detail is great thanks to a super lens that doesn’t need digital corrections and the files can be manipulated without problems, that’s a great characteristic in these times when even companies like Leica rely in digital corrections. As always you have to remember that my point of view is amateur, I’m not a professional, I don’t print for galleries.

Usually a classic lens (in equivalence the fujinon is in the practice a 50mm lens) isn’t considered a landscape lens, when I needed a wide angle of view I simply stitch. You can see my ICE review here

Low light

The photograph above was shot when the twilight was almost finishing, the fujinon at F1.4 allow you to shot without rise so much the ISO, and the big sensor of the camera allow you to shot beyond the base ISO without introduce disgusting noise. There is noise but it’s not disturbing nor obtrusive. This combo gets you opportunities to shot at night and even get stars. To me that’s important because when you live at 3800 meters above sea level (13 000 ft. aprox.) you want a camera that can see the stars as you see with your eyes.

Bokeh

I’m not very fond in the photographs with excessive bokeh, but I find quite pleasant the one in the XF 35mm, and at 1.4 it can get you enough defocus to play.

By the way, I tried to adapt a telephoto lens, but in the end much better was to use the XF 35mm and crop the image.

CONCLUSIONS
Pros
  • Extraordinary quality at a relatively low price thanks to the newer models (but the lens still holds its value)
  • Multiple options to program the camera so you are going to obtain your ideal output.
  • Compact combo. It’s very comfortable to carry.
  • Discrete shutter sound in street.
  • People don’t feel intimidated by this camera because it has a familiar look.
  • It looks like a camera, it seems strange but I loved the design so to me it’s a pro.
  • The lens doesn’t rely in digital corrections, but it’s optically corrected, so you can use any RAW converter without the need of built-in profiles.
  • Flexible RAW files, you can edit with freedom and the files still look natural.
  • Versatile camera, it works well in several types of photography.
  • Excellent high ISO rendering and the noise looks natural.
  • Nice black and whites.
  • Did I already say excellent image quality?
Cons
  • Sometimes slow autofocus, mostly at low light, in that case rely in manual focus.
  • The screen is not tiltable, you can correct with a FlicBac angle viewfinder.
  • The white balance tend to be a bit in the cold side, but could be that my screen is not totally calibrated.
  • Electric reds tend to orange and blue skies can look cyan.
  • So much buttons doing nothing important (lack of WB and ISO buttons)
  • The tripod socket is not centered with the lens axis.
  • The lens is a bit noisy when it’s getting focus.
  • It’s not to photograph running kids.
  • The digital level is slow, better mount a three axis bubble level in the hot shoe ;-)

Verdict

Fabulous camera and a lens that IMHO could be a classic. I haven’t studied photography and if I could get the photographs you see in this publication then you can as well. I think it gave me photographs I couldn’t have done with my current equipment, not so easily anyway. Of course there are some compromises, specially referent to shot quicker, but the photographs you can make with this camera and lens are wonderful and considering the price you can find in places with ebay (always verify the reputation of the sellers there) it’s quite a nice camera. The lens is more expensive but it’s a marvelous lens.

Highly recommended!

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17 thoughts on “Fujifilm X-E1 camera and Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4R – 2015 Review

  1. great review, many similarities to the XT-1, great photo’s. (It’s such a shame you gave it away to little bro who then lost it!!) I am going to try and use my 35mm lens more, as I’ve been using the kit lens mostly.

    1. Thanks wonderful lady :-) As our elders in our culture say (or it was in the Lion King XD?) “Hakuna Matata.”
      My brother is safe and well; the camera and lens surely is going to be purchased by a guy who is going to make marvels; and the photographs I took with it exists and are not vanished. There is nothing lost and things are as they are supposed to be. I’m fine with that.
      If your kit lens is the XF I read reports that it’s a fantastic lens, in a part even I read with more sharpness and not so different in bokeh, so fantastic that several people forgets their 35mm!

      1. haha, we have comedians that doubles voices in interviews and to ladies speaking in Quechua language they once made it simulated that, among other jokes, they were saying “hakuna matata!” it was so freaking funny x’D!
        Hmmm, I’d love to see what that lens and you can get together ;-)

  2. I love the story of the purchase with the celebration afterwards. I’ve seen some of these photos before, but I enjoyed them just as much the second time. I like my Canon because it’s compact and lightweight, but I’d love to get a lens for it that allowed for a little “bokeh” ;) All the best!

    1. Hello sweet lady ^_^ It’s important to caress the earth in our culture. And I forgot to do it in the top of the hill in the National Park we walked. I should spilled a bit of the water to the ground as a way of thanks, and add a rock to the apacheta I saw (stones one over the other to mark the road to walkers) Tomorrow I’m going to pour a bit of the special pisco…
      I only had the camera in just a few occasions, so I couldn’t take many pictures with it -_-‘ for that reason although I don’t like to repeat for the limited number of photographs with that camera it was inevitable to repeat a big number of them. But I’m happy you enjoyed them!
      Actually your camera has a nice bokeh, in the picture of the queso helado in the foreground the lady preparing it in the background has a kind bokeh.
      All the best, Melissa, thanks for coming, I know your time is quite limited these weeks so that makes your visits more important to me :-)

      1. Thank you for your detailed response. You know I love learning about different cultures :)
        It’s true that my camera can offer some “bokeh” when the macro function is on, but I’d like to be able to create the same effect with an object or person that’s standing several paces away from me. I think you either have to use the zoom function…..or get a different lens.
        No thanks necessary! I am pretty busy, but I always have time for you my friend :) Besides, I know that you’re busy too.
        Besitos!

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