Fuji has been on fire with its mirrorless cameras. Starting with the ground-breaking X100, and carrying through to the unique X-Pro1, Fuji has been pushing the bar in compact, rangefinder-style devices. Now, with the release of the X-E1, the company is aiming to bring their line to a broader, more main-stream audience. I recently had a chance to spend a couple of days with a production-level sample. Much The Same But So Very Different. On its face, the X-E1 is the X-Pro1 without the hybrid viewfinder. But the reality is more complicated than that. The X-Pro1 is the recent pinnacle of ‘look ma – no hands!’ technological achievement. In it, Fuji managed to integrate multi-point autofocus and a variable magnification optical viewfinder into a rangefinder-style camera with interchangeable lenses. To cap it off, they slipped in the best APS-C sensor in the business. All was goodness and light, right? Well, mostly. As I noted in my comprehensive review here in March, the X-Pro1 is an amazing camera, but at a not-insubstantial price and at a size pushing the limits of “rangefinder style”. For some users it is the ultimate solution. But for the masses interested in a more economical solution, with more flexibility of use, the X-Pro1 might have been more camera than they needed or wanted. So enter the X-E1. The X-E1 is basically the same camera as the X-Pro1, but with only an EVF. The optical window is gone. With it too is gone a surprisingly amount of bulk. The X-E1 is much closer in size and girth to the X100. While on paper, and even to the eye, the differences are not that large, the effect in the hand is noticeable. To me, the X-E1 is just the right size. Anyone who tried the X-Pro1 and found it a bit too big will be very happy now. So that’s it, right? Same functions, same controls, same sensor, just smaller and cheaper. Yes…but….. While that might capture the physical differences, conceptually, the X-E1 seems like something much different than its close relatives. Despite its undeniably range-finder style form-factor, this is in truth a mirrorless system camera. And that’s not a bad thing. But it is a seminal difference….
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