Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Fuji X-E1 Is Exciting If and ONLY If...

Fuji announced the new X-E1 today... or yesterday depending what timezone you're in. It looks great, comes with a good lens, and sports that retro-sexiness that has been carrying Fuji quite well since the release of the X100.

I opened this with an if, and it's a big one: autofocus. I know that many people have found the autofocus speed tolerable. I did not. I found it atrocious. It was, all things considered, the thing that made me reject the possibility of buying the X Pro 1. Basically, the XP1 was an absolute marvel in low light. It's low-ISO performance was on par with other APS-C cameras, but past ISO-800, it just started to sing. It was noise performance that I'm not sure I would have ever expected out of an APS-C camera. It was in a different league.

That would make working in high-speed, low-light environments an ideal playground for the XP1. It was not to be, though. The AF speed literally crashes in low-light. Light levels that would require ISO-1600, and the places where I'd want the Fuji sensor, were no-man's land for the XP1.

Fuji is claiming an increase in AF speed, and I hope that's true. $999 for the body is much more tenable of a price and puts this camera right where it belongs: up against the NEX-7 and the E-M5. The Fuji also comes to the fight with what I'm sure will be a vastly superior kit lens that drops down to (heavenly trumpets) f/2.8!

I'd say that the NEX-7 is at the biggest risk, seeing as it is $200 more than the Fuji for the body only. Do not be surprised when the 7 magically has a $200 price drop in the next few weeks. The kit will cost $100 more than the Olympus kit, but that's immaterial at this price range. The Oly kit and the Fuji kit are essentially chasing the same people. What this does is show how ashamed the 4/3 group should be of their lenses, when Fuji can release a premium kit lens on an APS-C sensor, and the smaller 4/3-sensor zooms rarely drop below f/3.5.

This is a great time to be a camera enthusiast. We now have a whole messa'cameras around the $1,000 price point, and they all offer great things. And I'm not just talking about mirrorless, either. The upcoming Nikon D8000 will be here, as will Pentax's K5 successor. And ageing though it is, the Sony A65 is still a great camera. Move up the price spectrum and we can include the sub-$2,000 full-frame cameras that are rumored to be coming out from both Nikon and Sony.

While the $500 range will always represent the greatest number of sales, the $1000-$2000 category has essentially become the most competitive, exciting place to be. It's good to be alive.

P.S. I know that this is a small thing, but have companies just given up on having a flash-sync of 1/250th? The Olympus E-M5 has it, and for that it will always have a nod of respect, but the X-E1 doesn't. Isn't $1,000 enough for that feature? Is it something to do with the mirrorless design? I've noticed that many sub-$1,000 SLR cameras have this. WTF, people!

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