The X-E1 uses the same 256-zone metering system as the X-Pro1, providing Multi, Spot and Average metering modes. With Multi metering selected, the X-E1 delivers well-exposed shots in almost every situation. Occasionally a dab of positive exposure compensation is required, however given that the EV exposure dial falls within easy reach it’s pretty easy to apply.
The X-E1 benefits from two expanded dynamic range settings, which are referred to as DR200 and DR400. The aim of these two settings is to retain highlight information, which can be an issue when shooting high-contrast scenes. Working with both JPEGs and Raw files, shooting in DR200 does see the X-E1's base ISO increase to ISO 400, while ISO 800 will be your base ISO if shooting in DR400, however the results are impressive, with considerable highlight detail retained.
Automatic white balance is consistent in both natural and artificial light, producing neutral, pleasingly saturated results throughout the ISO range. With a nod to Fuijfilm’s 35mm film stock heritage, the X-E1 offer a range of Film Simulation modes that can be called upon to provide a slightly different look to your images, with Velvia, Provia, Astia, Pro Neg.Std, Pro Neg.Hi. With the aid of the bracketing tool it’s also possible to bracket three different Film Simulation effects for each image so that you can choose which you prefer afterwards.
As with the X-Pro1 before it, the sharpness and level of detail delivered by the X-E1 is nothing short of spectacular. The unique colour pattern array of the X-E1’s proprietary X-Trans CMOS sensor has allowed Fuji to remove the anti-aliasing filter which, in turn, allows the X-E1 to capture a level of detail that surpasses other APS-C based cameras with a similar resolution.
Comparing Raw files side-by-side with JPEG images we were surprised to find that they're both fairly evenly matched when it comes to detail at base ISOs, although the Raw file still has the edge here. As sensitivity is increased, Raw files appear to have more 'bite', with JPEG files becoming progressively smoother due to the in-camera noise reduction. Overall though, the X-E1's JPEG processing is very pleasing.
While it might be tempting to think of the X-E1 as a stripped back X-Pro1, that does it something of a disservice in that the X-E1 is a great camera in its own right. Gifted with the same premium grade construction and finish, the X-E1 feels more refined and balanced than it’s more expensive sibling. While some may lament the removal of the hybrid viewfinder found in the X-Pro1, the truth is that the X-E1’s sharper, crisper EVF more than makes up for this, though the rear screen remains, at 2.8in and 460k-dots, somewhat underpowered for a camera of this price. Our only other issue is the autofocus performance and while this has certainly been improved from the X-Pro1, it’s still not as fast or as responsive as what’s offered by other CSCs. These issues aside, and the X-E1 is a joy to shoot with. By far the biggest selling point of the X-E1, however, is its sensor. The quality of the results and the detail rendered is excellent, delivering images that are some of, if not the best we’ve seen from an APS-C sized sensor.