Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography

Did Fuji blow it with the X-Pro 1, X-E1 to the rescue?

Fujifilm X-E1

Fujifilm X-E1

Just a short 9 months after Fujifilm introduced the X-Pro 1, they announced the X-E1, a slightly detuned camera with the same sensor and image quality. The original Fuji mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, the X-Pro 1, costs a healthy $1700. The new one is rumored to be under $1000. Isn’t that quite a price drop for essentially the same camera? The X-Pro 1 has a highly polarized reputation. Some people love it because of its high quality sensor and great optics, others panned it for being quirky and not focusing well. I have to admit that I’m in the second camp. I played with the X-Pro 1 in Japan and was completely flummoxed. I could hardly get the thing to focus. And if it did, it would be so slow that whatever I was shooting would be long gone, unless I was shooting a still life.

I’ve had some passing interest in the Fujifilm X100 and the X10 but their interchangeable system holds no interest for me. Beyond the focusing issues, the camera never felt right to me. It was relatively big but felt too light. It didn’t have the right size to weight ratio. It didn’t have the density of a quality camera. All this and an expensive $1699 body only price. Add a lens and you are up to $2,300. As much as I wanted Fujifilm to succeed, I wasn’t interested at all in this system.

It’s evident to me that Fuji made a mistake with the X-Pro 1. How else would you explain the X-E1 coming so soon with a healthy price drop. They now talk about a fast focusing system and a firmware update for the X-Pro 1 that fixes its ills. But, has the damage already been done to the X-Pro 1? Can it repair its reputation and increase sales? Let’s hope so for Fuji’s sake. I’m left thinking though, why didn’t Fuji just wait to get the X-Pro right before releasing it in the first place?

The company was riding high and had a surprise hit with the X100. The X-Pro 1 was and is in a unique category without any competitors. Releasing the camera a half-year later after the quirks were fixed seems logical, at least to the outsider. Who knows, perhaps if they got the X-Pro 1 working well at introduction, it could have sustained its premium price. Now, unfortunately, Fujifilm is left in an unenviable position to do damage control. And the loyal Fuji customers that paid that $1700 for that first model, how do you think they feel now?

13 responses

  1. Well I can tell you I have a friend who got the X Pro 1 and he is simply livid about the $300 price drop aka rebate. He bought the camera as a lightweight takealong. While the focusing is not good, he’s a slow and deliberate shooter in most cases on leisure days, meaning no street shooting, concerts, stuff like that.

    And with the X Pro 1 you still can’t really work with the Raw files unless you do the Silky Pix thing. While Adobe now can at least open the files, you’ve sometimes got a color smearing issue to deal with. The raw converters that are common to our workflows sometimes can’t deal with a proper demosaicing of the raw files,

    If the XE-1 is using another X-Tran sensor (and since they are saying it’s basically the X Pro 1 in another body, then the assumption is that the sensor is X-Tran), it’s going to be the same deal.

    You can see Thom Hogan’s article where he talks about the X-Tran Raw issue here

    http://www.sansmirror.com/cameras/a-note-about-camera-reviews/fujifilm-x-pro1.html

    September 6, 2012 at 3:21 am

    • Libby, I agree with you. Mike and I have talked about the use of Silky Pix before. The fact of the matter is that a good portion of serious photographers use Lightroom and Photoshop. It just makes sense for Fuji to work with Adobe to make sure images look as good as possible. Perhaps Fuji did reach out to Adobe, who knows but the results aren’t good. And this just hurts Fuji. The X-Tran could be spectacular but we can’t unlock its full potential without good RAW conversion software. And we need software that doesn’t break the photographer’s workflow.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:13 am

  2. Couple more links of interest for you – these are the first I saw, I am sure there will be many many more

    http://www.1001noisycameras.com/2012/09/new-mirrorless-camera-fuji-x-e1-16mp-aps-c.html

    http://www.1001noisycameras.com/2012/09/fuji-x-pro1-getting-firmware-version-20-on-september-18.html

    I did write my own brief bitch post about this yesterday. Wouldn’t it have just been better if they got things right the first time?

    September 6, 2012 at 3:26 am

  3. the customers must feel same as the M8,M8.2 with faulty LCD displays. No fix. The price of digital..If as you are a pro, You MUST have digital? Film is becoming a major problem, choice,availability and processing all diminishing.Digital has always promised more than we ever had and delivered less than we ever accepted..In Asahi Magazine, a test of new Leica MM, D800, Leica M9 and a film Leica M6.The M6 and film had details the others did NOT record.

    September 6, 2012 at 7:34 am

  4. I would hardly say that Fuji blew it with the X-Pro 1 and the X-E1 is a “rescue” camera or a damage control tactic. The X-E1 fits in a different market segment. Specifically, I believe Fuji is going after the Olympus E-M5 and the Sony Nex-7. The X-Pro 1 with the hybrid viewfinder is another class altogether, fitting somewhere between top end mirrorless cameras and crop sensor DSLRs. I would say that Fuji was a bit premature in the release of the X-Pro 1, just as they were with the X100. They gradually tuned the firmware of the X100 to the point where at present it outperforms my Canon 5D in most scenarios. The X-Pro 1 should have been there out of the gate. It wasn’t. Fuji dropped the ball. They should have learned from the X100 experience. It sounds like the software has been improved now and a FW 2.0 for the X-Pro 1 has been announced along with the X-E1. I don’t like speculating without getting my own hands on something or reading a trusted review but I would venture to guess that the autofocus on both cameras will be equal. They must be or Fuji loses face in a big way. The X-Pro 1 and the X100 before it have taken lots of black eyes for autofocus. I’ve played with the X-Pro 1 in the camera store and didn’t find it to be that bad personally. The X cameras are a bit finicky and require some patience and effort to learn how to use them effectively. Once I learned the ins and outs of my X100, I was rewarded with great images and a much more consistent autofocus than I have on my 5D. With the 18mm and 35mm lenses, I didn’t note any autofocus issues with the X-Pro 1 in my very brief experience. The 60mm was a different story. I’m working on getting some in-depth hands-on time with an X-Pro 1 in real world conditions before making my mind up.

    I’ve never been an early adopter of anything. I waited a year until I bought my X100 after its release. Even then, it was quirky but the image quality made it worth the quirks. I’ve kept a watchful eye on the X-Pro 1, waiting for the bugs to be shaken out. The announcement of the X-E1 is intriguing. Honestly though, it hasn’t removed the X-Pro 1 from the running for me. The hybrid viewfinder is still a standout feature for me. I use the OVF on my X100 quite a bit and it’s hard to imagine giving up that feature. A lot of folks are quick to dismiss the OVF. It depends on on how you shoot and for a guy like me who doesn’t do the stinky diaper camera hold (credit Kirk Tuck for coining that wonderfully descriptive term), the OVF is pure bliss to work with – at least in my experience with the X100. I suppose I could learn to adapt to EVF only, especially at the substantial price difference. With the current price drop of the X-Pro 1 (only valid with lens purchase BTW), the difference in price between the cameras is about $400. That makes the hybrid viewfinder a rather expensive feature. Worth it? It may be to me. I’ll have to have hands-on time with both cameras to make that determination. I certainly expect some folks to be put out at having paid full price for the X-Pro 1. In my mind, that is simply the cost of being an early adopter. I typically buy version 1 of something shortly after version 2 is released for that reason.

    There are other differences beyond the EVF only viewfinder in the X-E1. I don’t see much on the specifics of construction but I’d expect a slightly lesser build on the X-E1. DPReview mentioned a plasticky back on the X-E1. The back LCD screen has been downsized from the X-Pro 1, coming in slightly smaller and at less than half the resolution of the X-Pro 1’s screen (probably the same screen used on the X100). On the other hand, there are some welcome additions to the X-E1. It now has a popup flash – weak, but maybe useful for fill. There is also an electronic shutter functionality – that is a welcome addition. The built-in diopter of the X100 is back on the X-E1 too – something oddly omitted from the X-Pro 1.

    Libby mentioned the RAW conversion issue and that is a bigger concern to me in moving to the X-Trans sensor based cameras. I’ve talked at length about this before on my own blog. If you want to talk about Fuji blowing it, this is the area that I can join in shaking my fist. A brand new sensor layout and apparently little to no advance coordination with Adobe at the very least? On a camera that they had the gall to call “Pro?” Did Fuji really expect pros to use Silkypix? Fuji….please!

    September 6, 2012 at 8:40 am

    • Mike,

      On pop up flash – yes it’s dinky, but it’s there even if you only use it once to get that rare opportunity family snapshot. There were a few times where I cursed my Leica M8 for not having one. Sure I have large aperture lenses, but for family pics, those are not the kinds of images they easily understand or like. So while the flash is not a primary concern, it is a consideration.

      Back several years ago I bought a Panasonic DMC-LX2. It was one of those cameras recommended “with reservation”. Every once in awhile, I would get a problem image and SilkyPix was the only one that would perform well with it. So when I was using the camera actively, I kept it on the hard drive. It’s not that SP is bad, but it was a break in workflow and that’s what was annoying about it.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:03 am

    • Mike, I figured I would get a long and detailed response from you. Of course it is very well written and I’m glad to get your perspective. I understand that there are ways to get more out of the autofocus buy using special techniques or tricks. And you look at the spectacular images that Zack Arias has created and you know this camera is capable. Though I would suspect that Zack would create spectacular images on almost any modern camera and I’m not sure if the Fuji truly does something special. But I would also argue that having to use these special autofocus techniques are still an example of the user having to adapt to a deficient system.

      It is not unusual for a camera company to have two or more cameras at different price points that use the same sensor. Canon does this all the time, for example. But usually, as you go up the line and pay more you get definite capability increases. In my mind the difference in feature set between the two does not warrant a $700 difference though I do admit that I haven’t used the hybrid view finder day in and day out like you. And as a Fuji owner, if you think the feature set it worth it, than that’s great. I also thought Fuji was running a $300 rebate on the X-Pro 1 but that appears to be over now. So you are back to a $700 difference.

      And as for the other detuned features, like the inferior LCD, I suspect that Fuji had to do this to add differentiation to their more expensive brother. But if you compare the specs of the Fuji LCD to its competitors like the OMD-E5 or NEX-7, you can tell that it is lacking.

      I guess, ultimately, the consumer wins. Heck at $999 I might consider the X-E1. As you know I use many different brands so I’m not particularly set on one company. I look for capability and price performance. It’s just that I can’t help but think, what if Fuji launched the X-Pro 1 correctly, in the first place. Things might gave been different. As you said Fuji made some of the same mistakes with the X-Pro 1 as they did with the X100. I think Fuji lucked out on the X100, it stuck a chord that brought them success. However, people get tired of having to beta test expensive products. Fuji needs to realize this.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:05 am

  5. Andy, I would say that the Fuji autofocus system could be better, in comparison with other other mirrorless offerings. You have way more experience than I do in that segment and are more qualified to comment on the accuracy and speed of the Pen cameras in particular. Is the Fuji system deficient? I believe it could be improved, but it is a far cry from the abysmal reputation that seems to follow it. I hope you know me well enough to know that I am extremely critical and brutally honest when it somes to hardware and software and if it outright sucked, I’d say that. The Fuji system is…different. Why is it so different from other contrast based systems? I don’t know. What I can say is that once you take the time to learn this system, it is very accurate and reasonably fast – at least for the way I shoot, which tends to be in a deliberate manner. I don’t use any “tricks” with my X100. For urban landscape shots where I’m running f/5.6 or f/8, I use the OVF and fire away at will. For something like a portrait where a more critical focus with shallow DoF is called for, I switch to EVF, set to the smallest AF point size, set it over the person’s pupil and take the shot. In this manner, as I said before, the camera autofocuses way more reliably than my full frame 5D – arguably a deficient focusing system there, at least by more recent standards. The X series cameras also seem to benefit from a more deliberate shutter press, especially if you are trying to catch something in motion. Most people are accustomed to a half press, then following through. A more fluid press, pressing through the half point if you will, seems to work better for whatever reason. Deficient or different? I’m thinking that could be a long discussion. Suffice to say that for me, the autofocus system in Fuji’s X cameras is not as bad as the pundits usually make it out to be.

    There is a bit of a price break on the X-Pro 1, at least on a package deal. Until November, there is $300 taken off the price of the 18mm or 35mm lens when purchased with the X-Pro 1. So, yes, the X-Pro 1 is $700 more than the X-E1. If one buys a lens, then you’re paying $300 less, making for a $400 difference between a comparable X-E1 package purchase. If I go with either of these cameras, the 35mm is a must-have for me and I’m not above sliding the lens discount over to the X-Pro 1 body for peace of mind. ;-) Still, the price difference is a hard pill to swallow. I have to agree with you that the feature set between the two offerings is extremely close for there to be such a big price differential. The hybrid viewfinder is huge though. Hard to fathom if you haven’t gotten accustomed to one, I suppose. Honestly, I’d have expected Fuji to use the X100 sensor in the X-E1 to have a relatively low price interchangeable lens camera. I’m admittedly more than a bit surprised that they put the X-Trans sensor in a “lesser” model. I figured they would have reserved that sensor for the “Pro” line from a marketing standpoint. While I don’t agree with your assesment that the X-E1 is an attempt to save face on the X-Pro 1, it may very well be a rather zealous, if not desperate attempt to take down the E-M5 and Nex-7. Not sure what the thought process was or if there was one. You know what I think of marketing people too by now. Fuji dropped a big bomb here and it will take a while for the dust to settle. I’m not making any hasty decisions and I’m waiting to see if anything else exciting gets announced at Photokina in a couple weeks before planning my next camera purchase. Fuji does have something special, perhaps intangible, that at the present time catches my eye. I’m more pleased in general with the X100’s images than those out of my 5D. I’ve done the m4/3 thing and wasn’t happy there. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and for all of the ugliness that gets attributed to their cameras, I think there is a swan in Fuji’s offerings.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:21 am

    • Mike, I seem to remember a comment by you that said using the rear focus works a lot better on the X100 than using just the regular focus off the shutter. That maybe old news and the newest firmware update might have changed this behavior. Either way, you have done an excellent job with your X100. Ultimately, a good photographer can do their magic on any reasonable camera.

      It’s just for me, if I’m paying $1700+ for a camera, it better work damn good. But nice to know that the $300 discount for the kit with lens.

      Just to make it clear, I’m not saying the X-E1 is Fuji’s attempt to save face. Rather, I’m saying the the value and success of X-Pro 1 is a bit dubious. For me the X-E1 make the whole Fuji thing a bit more interesting, at least worth a second look.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:32 am

      • Andy, early on, autofocus was snappier with back button. That is no longer the case in my experience. I haven’t used back button focus in quite some time. I’m reading where some people still prefer it but lately I haven’t had a need. It does become a good thing when using manual focus to get in the ball park.

        Apologies if it came across that I was putting words in your mouth (or more precisely on your blog). When you said, “Can it repair its reputation and increase sales?”, I thought “saving face” was an appropriate paraphrase. I can understand and agree with the viewpoint that the difference between the two cameras is surprisingly small for the price difference. IMO, the hybrid viewfinder is still an important differentiator – probably not worth $700, might be worth $400 in the perceived body discount of the current package deal (perhaps I’m trying to convince myself!) I don’t think Fuji is in any way trying to replace or satisfy any disappointments with the X-Pro 1. I think it’s a different market segment altogether, aimed at their competition and not to placate disgruntled X-Pro 1 users. If I can make an EVF only camera a workable solution, I may very well be swayed toward the X-E1. I can’t say without getting my hands on one and I hate speculating so I’m gonna shut up now.

        September 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm

  6. No problem, Mike. NIce to have a discussion even though it’s online. Speculation is fun for a while but yes I too would like to use the X-E1 to see it feels. Nothing beats actually playing with the camera.

    September 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm

  7. Companies are so hot to get stuff to market, they assume customers will be their Beta testers. Microsoft gets away with it, but I think camera manufacturers will find it’s a fatal misjudgment. A camera is not an operating system. You have a lot more choices. Once burned, twice shy applies: I have permanent spites against companies that sold me bad products. Though I know in my head they’ve fixed the problems, my gut remembers and it’s a lot less forgiving than my brain.

    September 9, 2012 at 10:18 am

    • “Companies are so hot to get stuff to market, they assume customers will be their Beta testers.”

      An absolute +1

      September 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

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