Fujifilm X-E1 review - Quality

Quality

Fujifilm X-E1 vs Canon EOS M Quality JPEG

 

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Fujifilm X-E1 and the Canon EOS M within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The Fujifilm X-E1 was fitted with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 kit lens and the Canon EOS M with the 22mm f2 pancake prime. To match the Canon 22mm lens’ field of view the Fujinon lens was zoomed in to 23mm. Unfortunately we didn’t have access to the Canon zoom for a direct comparison of kits.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

  Fujifilm X-E1 results
1 Fujifilm X-E1 Quality JPEG
2 Fujifilm X-E1 Quality RAW
3 Fujifilm X-E1 Noise JPEG
4 Fujifilm X-E1 Noise RAW
5 Fujifilm X-E1 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Fujifilm X-E1. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and the aperture set to f5.6. The unextended ISO sensitivity range of the X-E1 is 200-6400 so the camera was set to its unextended base sensitivity of 200 ISO at which it metered a shutter speed of 1/950. The EOS M metered 1/500 at f5.6 at 100 ISO. As usual for this test both cameras were otherwise left on their default settings.

Conditions on the day were fairly demanding, both for myself and the cameras, with partial cloud coverage and strong winds resulting in rapidly changing lighting conditions. With parts of the scene illuminated by bright sunlight and other areas in shadow it was a challenge to achieve similar exposures with both cameras. Despite the conditions however, the Fujifilm X-E1 has made a good job of the exposure here with a histogram right in the middle of the chart.

The first crop shows an excellent level of detail in the chapel with the crosses at either end of the roof crisply defined. Even though this part of the scene is in shade the perimeter stone wall and rocky foreground show a high level of detail too.

The second crop is also very impressive with the lighhouse a clearly defined cylinder with the detail of the lamphouse easy to make out. The window frames of the foreground buildings are crisply defined and you’d probably see more detail in the roofs were it not for the flat and subdued lighting here. The detail from the edge of the frame in the third crop is also looking good. It might be a little softer here, but if it is the difference is marginal. There’s also little evidence of chromatic abberation; all-in-all, the 18-55mm zoom performs very well with consistence from the centre ot the edge at this slightly zoomed in focal length.

The final crop from the centre of the frame holds no surprises given what we’ve already seen. Edge detail is crisp and clear with good resolution of the finer detail. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen results from this sensor which is the same as in the X-Pro 1, which I tested with the 18mm f2 lens against the Canon EOS 7D and Sony NEX 7. The only difference here is the new kit lens and quality looks to be very respectable indeed – it’s far from a poor cousin of the primes as you might have expected.

In my earlier tests I found the X-trans CMOS sensor used in the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 outperformed the conventional CMOS sensor and Bayer filter setup used in the 7D and NEX-7 and to that I’ll now add the Canon EOS M. The EOS M shares the same sensor as the T4i / 650D and in terms of processing the crops look typical of those from a Canon consumer model, which is to say that they’ve been processed for a ‘consumer-friendly’ look, nice and contrasty with crisp edge detail. But I don’t see quite the same level of detail in the EOS M crops as in those from the X-E1.

My Fujifilm X-E1 RAW quality results on the next page will provide evidence of how much, if any, of the difference is due to processing. Alternatively, see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Fujifilm X-E1 Noise results.

 

Fujifilm X-E1
 
Canon EOS M
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO


Fujifilm X-E1
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Fujifilm X-E1 Quality RAW vs JPEG

 

To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Fujifilm X-E1 with the camera on its RAW plus Fine JPEG setting.

For this test the X-E1 was fitted with the Fujinon XF18mm f2 R wide angle prime lens.

The camera was mounted on a tripod and, as for the JPEG test on the previous page, the X-E1 was left on the default settings.

  Fujifilm X-E1 results
1 Fujifilm X-E1 Quality JPEG
2 Fujifilm X-E1 Quality RAW
3 Fujifilm X-E1 Noise JPEG
4 Fujifilm X-E1 Noise RAW
5 Fujifilm X-E1 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Fujifilm X-E1. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and the aperture set to f5.6. The sensitivity was set to 200 ISO at which the X-E1 metered a shutter speed of 1/450.

For this test I’ve compared the X-E1’s in-camera JPEG with the the RAW file processed in Adobe Camera RAW, first using the default settings, then a second time with the following settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. These settings were chosen to reveal the sensor quality characteristics and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Because of the novel construction of the X-trans CMOS sensor in the X-E1, RAW processing varies from that required for the majority of digital sensors which use a Bayer colour filter array. For some time after the X-Pro 1 was launched the only RAW processing application that would handle the files was the the Silkypix-powered RAW File Converter EX application supplied with the camera. Adobe was one of the first to provide support for X-trans sensors and others, like Capture One have followed suite, so owners of models with X-trans sensors now have a wider degree of choice.

As for the crops, the default processing in ACR produces a somewhat softer result than the in-camera JPEG which reveals less of the fine detail. The ACR processing looks also to have provided a slighly more saturated result. One other thing that’s clear is that the 18mm lens suffers from a degree of chromatic aberration that has been automatically corrected on the in-camera JPEGs.

The third column of crops with exaggerated sharpening and no noise reduction show that there is a good deal more detail recorded by the sensor that could probably be coaxed out, particularly given the very low levels of noise in these crops despite the absence of noise reduction.

One other thing worth noting is that I produced these crops in ACR 7.3; Adobe Photoshop Camera RAW 7.4 release candidate includes improved demosaic algorithms for Fujifilm cameras with the X-Trans sensor and also adds support for the X100S and X20.

Now see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Fujifilm X-E1 Noise results.

 

Fujifilm X-E1 in-camera JPEG
 
Fujifilm X-E1 Processed RAW ACR defaults
 
Fujifilm X-E1 Processed RAW ACR
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO


Fujifilm X-E1
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Fujifilm X-E1 vs Canon EOS M Noise RAW

 
 
  Fujifilm X-E1 results
1 Fujifilm X-E1 Quality JPEG
2 Fujifilm X-E1 Quality RAW
3 Fujifilm X-E1 Noise JPEG
4 Fujifilm X-E1 Noise RAW
5 Fujifilm X-E1 Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Fujifilm X-E1 and the Canon EOS M, within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The Fujifilm X-E1 was fitted with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 kit lens and the Canon EOS M with the 22mm f2 pancake prime. To match the Canon 22mm lens’ field of view the Fujinon lens was zoomed in to 23mm

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Fujifilm X-E1 fitted with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 zoom lens. The extended ISO sensitivity range of the X-E1 is 100-25,600 ISO, so for the shot above, the first in the sequence I set the sensitivity to 100 ISO and the Aperture to f4 in Aperture priority mode. The X-E1 metered a shutter speed of 0.7s and the Caon EOS M, also set to f4 at 100 ISO metered 0.6s.

I processed both sets of files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To reduce the white balance differences between the crops I also reduced the tint on the Fujifilm X-E1 files. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes – as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you’re used to seeing in many of my comparisons, but again it’s an approach that’s designed to show the actual detail that’s being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

These RAW crops mostly confirm what we saw from the JPEGs. Note there are no crops available for the extended 100, 12800 and 25600 ISO settings as these aren’t available when shooting RAW. Throughout the ISO sensitivity range the X-E1’s sensor really does generate low levels of noise with marginal linear increases each 1EV step up the sensitivity scale.

The Canon EOS M crops start noisier and the noise increases by a bigger margin, and in fact looking at these RAW crops, the difference is greater at an earlier stage than with the JPEGs. Canon’s noise reduction is working harder right through the sensitivity range; at the lower end it succeeds in closing the gap between the two models, but the further up the sensitivity range you go, the wider the gap gets. This is a fairly emphatic win for the X-E1 over the EOS M.

Now head over to my Fujifilm X-E1 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my Verdict.

Fujifilm X-E1
 
Canon EOS M
100 ISO Not available in RAW
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO Not available in RAW
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO Not available in RAW
25600 ISO

Fujifilm X-E1 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Fujifilm X-E1 vs Canon EOS M Noise JPEG

 
 
  Fujifilm X-E1 results
1 Fujifilm X-E1 Quality JPEG
2 Fujifilm X-E1 Quality RAW
3 Fujifilm X-E1 Noise JPEG
4 Fujifilm X-E1 Noise RAW
5 Fujifilm X-E1 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Fujifilm X-E1 and the Canon EOS M, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The Fujifilm X-E1 was fitted with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 kit lens and the Canon EOS M with the 22mm f2 pancake prime. To match the Canon 22mm lens’ field of view the Fujinon lens was zoomed in to 23mm

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Fujifilm X-E1 fitted with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 zoom lens. The extended ISO sensitivity range of the X-E1 is 100-25,600 ISO, so for the shot above, the first in the sequence I set the sensitivity to 100 ISO and the Aperture to f4 in Aperture priority mode. The X-E1 metered a shutter speed of 0.7s and the Canon EOS M, also set to f4 at 100 ISO metered 0.6s.

The 100 ISO crop from the Fujifilm X-E1 looks ever so slightly less textured than the 200 ISO crop, so, for subjects where the absolute minimum of noise is required, or you want to use the slowest possible shutter speed it’s worth using. Just remember you can’t shoot RAW at this extended ISO sensitivity setting and you’ll experience slightly lower contrast and reduced dynamic range.

At 200 ISO though the results are still very good, as I said, there’s a slight texture to this crop, but you have to look closely at 100 percent to spot it and it’s not intrusive. The same goes for the 400 and 800 ISO crops; there are very small increases in the noise at each step up, but you have to look very closely to spot the difference. At 1600 ISO there’s a more visible increase in noise, but this is the first crop where you don’t have to take a good look back and forth before realising there’s a difference.

3200 ISO takes another hike up the noise ladder, but the incremental changes up to this point have been so small that the overall effect isn’t too damaging and 3200 ISO on the X-E1 is just about good enough to set as the upper Auto ISO limit for everyday shooting. And on many cameras you’d resort to 6400 ISO only in emergencies but here the text is stil clearly legible. At the extended 12,800 and 25,600 settings, things are looking very furry, but overall this is an excellent performance from the X-E1’s X-Trans sensor throughout the ISO sensitivity range, but particularly up to 1600 ISO.

With the lenses on both cameras zoomed in to a 35mm equivalent focal length of 35mm, the 18 Megapixel sensor in the EOS M produces a slightly smaller crop area with larger image detail. Don’t forget the 100 ISO setting for the first crop is the base sensitivity setting for the EOS M, whereas its 200 ISO on the X-E1; the 100 ISO setting being part of the extended range only available in JPEG shooting modes.

At the 100 and 200 ISO settings there’s not a lot to choose between the two sensors, but at 400 ISO it appears that the EOS M’s sensor is already generating slightly more noise than the X-E1’s. The difference is clearer by 800 ISO with more texture and colour noise in the EOS M crop both in the text panel and the flat colour of the wall. In fact at each step the ISO range the noise increase is greater for the EOS M so that there’s about a stop difference by 1600 ISO. The X-E1’s 3200 ISO crop looks fairly similar in terms of noise to the EOS M’s 1600 ISO crop.

To find out how much of a role processing plays in keeping noise at bay in these crops take a look at my Fujifilm X-E1 RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my Fujifilm X-E1 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Fujifilm X-E1
 
Canon EOS M
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO
25600 ISO

Fujifilm X-E1 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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