Friday, July 29, 2016

Fujifilm X-E1 & High ISO

Night Bench - Ogden, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/4, 1/30, ISO 6400.
I mentioned in my review of the Fujifilm X-E1 that it has the best high-ISO capabilities of any APS-C sensor camera that I've ever seen, and even ISO 6400 looks good. I've been asked to talk about this in more detail, so here we go.

According to DxOMark, the Nikon D3300 has the third best high-ISO capabilities out of all Bayer APS-C sensor cameras (DxOMark doesn't look at non-Bayer sensor cameras like Fuji X-Trans), only slightly below the Nikon D5500 and Sony A6300. The D3300's high-ISO capabilities are nearly identical to the full-frame Canon 5D and Sony Alpha 850. Many people may not realize that this "entry level" DSLR is actually quite good.

ISO 6400 on the Fuji X-E1 looks very similar to ISO 3200 on the Nikon D3300. That's a one-stop advantage for the X-E1 over one of the best high-ISO Bayer APS-C sensor cameras! It also puts it on par with some full-frame cameras.
Milky Way & Shooting Star - Coalville, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 18mm, f/2.8, 28 seconds, ISO 6400.
Using DPReview's Studio Comparison Tool (which doesn't have the X-E1, but does have the X-Pro1 and the X-E2, which have identical image quality), it's easy to compare the digital noise of the X-E1 against any number of full-frame cameras. At ISO 6400, the X-E1 has comparable noise to the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 1D X and the Nikon D4--amazing! I actually find the digital noise of the X-E1 to be more pleasing because it isn't saturated, so it looks more like film grain.

When you think about all of this it's actually quite incredible. I remember shooting film and common ISOs were 25, 50, 64 and 100. ISO 400 film was considered high-ISO, and you might push that to ISO 800 or 1600 by adjusting how long the film sat in the developer. There were a couple of decent ISO 800 films (such as Fuji Pro 800Z). I used Ilford Delta 3200 a couple of times.

Conventional wisdom at the time was to use the lowest ISO film that you thought you could get away with. This continued with digital, as early digital cameras were not good at high-ISO. Now digital cameras have seemingly no ISO limit. ISO 3200 on the Nikon D3300 looks good. ISO 6400 on the Fuji X-E1 looks good. Many newer full-frame cameras look good at ISO 12800.
Antique Beer - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/60, ISO 6400.
On the Fuji X-E1, I would compare ISO 6400 to using Fuji Pro 800Z film (or, at least, you can make them look similar). The best results on the X-E1 are found at ISO 800 and below, but it's good to know that higher ISOs are available when you need them. There are photographic opportunities that exist now that didn't 10-15 years ago simply because of how far digital camera technology has come.

The three photographs in this post are all out-of-camera JPEGs. No, really! ISO 6400 out-of-camera JPEGs that look good seems mythical, but it's not. The X-E1 has a very good JPEG engine built into the camera, and what seems impossible is right at your fingertips with the X-E1.

If you can't afford a full-frame camera but want full-frame high-ISO capabilities, your best bet is a Fuji X-Trans camera. It's as close you'll get without spending the big bucks that bigger sensor cameras cost.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How To Free Up Time: Use A Fuji X-Trans Camera - Or, Fuji E-X1's JPEGs Rock!

Brightness & Shadow - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Does your workflow ever get backed up? Does it seem like you'll never finish post-processing all of those photographs from your big trip? Do you ever feel like the task of editing all the pictures from that photo shoot or event is nothing short of daunting? Do you just not have enough time?

I've answered yes to every single one of those questions. In fact, I'm about seven months behind on my RAW workflow right now. I've never felt so buried in the busy work of photo editing. I wish I had a few more hours each day just so that I could have a fighting chance of catching up. And RAW editing just isn't fun for me anymore--it's become so tedious. 

Thankfully I have found a solution to my problem: the Fuji X-E1. This might sound absurd, but this camera has changed photography for me. It's not that my images look all that much different, but my attitude about creating images has changed considerably since this camera arrived last week. Why? Because the camera makes fantastic JPEGs that look a heck-of-a-lot like post-processed RAW files.
Happy Butterfly - South Weber, Utah
I have post-processed some RAW files from this camera, and found that they don't look much different than the out-of-camera JPEGs (not different enough to justify the time spent working on them). A little care to make sure that the JPEG settings are correct, and I've saved myself a ton of time sitting in front of a computer later. 

I'm incredibly impressed with the JPEGs from the X-E1, but I still shoot RAW+JPEG. Why? Because if I goofed and didn't get everything set just right, I can quickly reprocess the RAW file on the camera to correct my mistake. This only takes a few seconds, and makes RAW editing on my computer unnecessary.

JPEG shooting is not new to me. Many cameras do a good job of creating JPEGs if you take the time to set everything up. But Fuji's X-Trans cameras take it to a whole new level. The images look "finished" when they come out of the camera. I don't feel the need to post-process them. This frees me up considerably, and lifts a heavy weight off of my shoulders.

I've enjoyed "just shooting" since the Fuji X-E1 arrived in the mail. I'm not buried in post. I'm not months behind on editing the images. They look great straight out of the camera. In fact, all of the images in this post are in-camera JPEGs. I select the "look" that I want (through the film simulations), customized to my liking, and the camera does the rest. Brilliant!
Super Stud - South Weber, Utah
Sun Shades - Ogden Canyon, Utah 
Mother & Son Cuddle - South Weber, Utah
Wood - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Hanging - Ogden Canyon, Utah
The Joy of S'mores - South Weber, Utah
S'mores Are Great - South Weber, Utah
Canyon Layers - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Hills In Ogden Canyon - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Monochrome Plant - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Blossom By The River - Ogden Canyon, Utah

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Astrophotography With The Fuji X-E1 - Part 1

Milky Way Over Coalville & Echo Lake - Coalville, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 18mm, f/2.8, 28 seconds, ISO 2000, in-camera JPEG.
I've been photographing for nearly two decades, but I'm new to astrophotography (which can be defined as "astronomy photography" or "photographing celestial objects"). I'm trying to capture the stars in the night sky.

One factor in my recent purchase of the Fujifilm X-E1 was it's high-ISO capabilities, which make this type of photography possible. ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 are very common in astrophotography, and the X-E1 handles those quite well, especially for its APS-C sensor size.

Having a lot of experience as a photographer I knew the basic principals of astrophotography, even if I had very little real-world experience in the genre. I know that wide-angle lenses are almost always better than telephoto. I know that a large aperture of at least f/2.8 is mandatory. I know to manually set focus at infinity. I know that you want to avoid exposures over 30 seconds if you don't want star trails. I know that it needs to be very dark outside.

With anything new, it takes some practice and trial-and-error to become good at it. This last weekend I was able to go out twice and attempt astrophotography with the X-E1. I learned several lessons. Let me tell you about it--perhaps it might be helpful to you.
The City Glow Behind The Hill - Huntsville, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 18mm, f/2.8, 12 seconds, ISO 3200, processed from RAW.
Two nights ago I went to a dark location in the Wasatch Mountains near Huntsville, Utah. This is about 20 minutes east of Ogden. While it looked dark to the eye and I could spot the Milky Way (the cloudy-looking cluster of stars), I soon discovered that there was a significant amount of light pollution that made this place less-than-ideal for astrophotography. I wasn't quite far enough away from the city to avoid the glow. 

I still made several photographic attempts, since I made the trek out there. I set the camera on the tripod and set the aperture to f/2.8, the shutter to bulb, ISO to 3200 and the focus to infinity. I had the camera capture RAW+JPEG, but didn't worry much about the JPEG settings because I planned to edit the RAW files.

The next morning I began to edit the exposures. I soon discovered that the RAW post-processing didn't yield significantly better results than the JPEGs that the camera made. I also realized that I should have paid a little closer attention to the JPEGs because I could have achieved better results if I had made a few minor changes. So I gave up the RAW editing and gave the JPEGs a little tweak to improve them.
Wasatch Mountains Under The Stars - Huntsville, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 18mm, f/2.8, 10 seconds, ISO 3200, in-camera JPEG w/post-editing.
Night Over Huntsville - Huntsville, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 18mm, f/2.8, 20 seconds, ISO 3200, in-camera JPEG w/post-editing.
I went out again last night, this time to a spot a little further away from the city--to Echo Lake near Coalville, Utah, to be exact. This is about 30 minutes east of Ogden, but significantly more miles away than the previous location. There was still some light pollution, but way less than the night before.

This time I paid much closer attention to the JPEG settings. I used Astia film simulation with dynamic range set at 100, highlight set to normal, shadow set to hard, sharpness set to normal, saturation set to high, and auto-white-balance. For the images captured at ISO 6400 I used normal noise reduction and for the ones captured at lower ISOs I used medium-weak noise reduction. I also had the long exposure noise reduction turned on.

The out-of-camera JPEGs looked very good, and just as good as I could have manipulated the RAW files to. I think, if anything, a larger aperture could have helped, but that's not going to happen until I can afford the Fujinon 16mm f/1.4, which runs a $1,000. That's not in my budget anytime soon.

While the results were better on the second try--and I love that I got them straight out of the camera without any post-processing--I think a little tweaking with the settings might achieve even better images. I'll have to play around with that some more.

I hope to visit some locations that offer better foregrounds and less light pollution. I also want to play around with lighting, maybe do some light painting. There's a lot of fun I could have with this whole astrophotography thing. Stay tuned!
Milky Way Over Echo Lake - Coalville, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 18mm, f/2.8, 28 seconds, ISO 2500, in-camera JPEG.
Milky Way & Shooting Star - Coalville, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 18mm, f/2.8, 28 seconds, ISO 6400, in-camera JPEG.
Milky Way Over Ridge - Coalville, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 18mm, f/2.8, 28 seconds, ISO 6400, in-camera JPEG.

Monday, July 25, 2016

DIY: Easy Photo Studio For Products -- Make It For Less Than $5

Fujifilm X-E1 on weathered boards.
You want to photograph some products for yourself or a client, but you don't have a studio. Maybe you don't have the money or available space for a studio. Perhaps you don't even know where to begin. What can you do?

A do-it-yourself homemade studio for product photography is actually much simpler and cheaper than you may have realized. It doesn't take any special skills to make. Mine cost less than $5.

Here's what it looks like:
My Homemade Studio
The two wood boards are not actually wood boards. They are ceramic floor tiles from Home Depot. They look like weathered wood, but they're not. There are a bunch of different verities (color, shape, size, style, etc.) to choose from, and I recommend picking two different ones that go good together. I chose a slightly darker and more brown tile for the base and a slightly lighter more white tile for the back. I used a screw box and a nail box to keep the back tile from falling--use whatever is handy.

You don't have to choose wood-looking tiles if that's not what you want. There are stone-looking tiles that might work well. Simple glossy white or black can look good, too. Ceramic tiles are pretty cheap, so you can experiment without breaking the bank.

The lighting is simple: shade. I set up the tiles on the back patio where the awning provided plenty of shade. There are some shadows, but they're extraordinarily minor. It's nearly perfect even lighting. And you don't have to worry about the color cast of artificial light.

Here are some more examples:
Fuji Film
Film Rangefinder & Digital Rangefinder
Ilford SFX 200

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Putting The X-Trans JPEG To The Test - Taking A Midday Hike With An X-E1

Pineview Art - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5.6, 1/170, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, high saturation.
In my review of the Fujifilm X-E1, I said, "This camera makes a strong case for shooting JPEGs." One area where RAW really makes sense is high-contrast situations where the highlights are bright and the shadows are dark--you need to squeeze every bit of dynamic range out of the camera. Not too many people like blown highlights and blocked up shadows in their photographs (including me). Typically, out-of-camera JPEGs aren't a good way to achieve maximum dynamic range.

Fuji X-Trans cameras, however, are a bit different. Fuji has given photographers good tools to get great-looking out-of-camera JPEGs, even in difficult situations. One such tool is their dynamic range settings.

The way the dynamic range settings on Fuji X-Trans cameras work is that the camera actually underexposes a scene (to ensure that highlights are not blown), and then increases the shadows and mid-tones to the appropriate brightness. You have three choices: 100 (which is standard and always on), 200 (which requires a minimum ISO of 400) and 400 (which requires a minimum ISO of 800).

All of this is made possible because of how Sony's newer generation of sensors work (Sony is who manufacturers Fuji's X-Trans sensors). Instead of adding additional power to the sensor during exposure to increase ISO sensitivity, Sony sensors simply need to be brightened after exposure. In other words, ISO 100 and ISO 3200 are actually the same (at the moment of exposure) on a Sony-made sensor, and the difference is how much the image is brightened after the exposure.
Fallen Tree Over Wheeler Creek - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/1300, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+G Film Simulation. Soft Highlights, Medium-Soft Shadows.
This is why Sony sensors have a leg-up on dynamic range. Fuji's X-Trans sensors have a further advantage because they have more green light-sensitive sensor elements (55% vs. 50%), and, since green is where luminosity information comes from, there is a better ability to see in the dark.

Fuji (very cleverly) allows the photographer to take full advantage of this with their out-of-camera JPEG processing. You don't have to rely on RAW to achieve a large dynamic range. All you have to do is allow the camera to underexpose the image to prevent clipped highlights, and let the camera automatically increase the shadows and mid-tones to where they should be.

There are many other great tools included on Fuji cameras to help create good-looking out-of-camera JPEGs. One is Film Simulation, which allows you to select the look that you are trying to get. They're not necessarily accurate replications of the films for which they're named, but they look quite good nonetheless. Another is auto-white-balance, which is very good. One reason many photographers shoot RAW is because they don't want to "risk" getting white-balance wrong in the field (and they don't have the time to be constantly adjusting it), but you don't have to worry much about that with Fuji cameras. Another tool is RAW processing in-camera. If a JPEG doesn't come out just right, as long as you shot RAW+JPEG, you have an opportunity to fine-tune a new JPEG that is to your liking. 

I put all of this to the test yesterday. I took a midday hike in Ogden Canyon, Utah. The harsh summer sun was creating extreme highlights and very dark shadows in the forested scene--very difficult to effectively capture, and something that I would normally shy away from attempting. Afterwards I had lunch at the nearby The Oaks Restaurant, which also offered challenging light. The first image was captured at 12:54 PM and the last was at 2:53 PM--the time of day when most photographers have put their cameras away. All of these photographs are out-of-camera JPEGs.
Summer Vegetation In Ogden Canyon - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/4, 1/1900, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Velvia Film Simulation, Saturation Medium-High.
Red Bicycle Rider - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Siulation, High Saturation.
Tree, Creekside - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/125, ISO 5000.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Lily By The River - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 31mm, f/5.6, 1/3000, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Brush & Rocky Cliff Wall - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/850, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Velvia Film Simulation, Saturation Medium-High.
Peace, 'Kay? - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 8-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Hank - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5.6, 1/680, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Velvia Film Simulation, Saturation Medium-High.
Antique Beer - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/60, ISO 6400.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Mint Chocolate Chip - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/125, ISO 3200.
Dynamic Range 400, Velvia Film Simuation, Saturation Medium-High.
The Fragile Kitchen - South Ogden, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/125, ISO 3200.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Waiting In The Shade - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/500, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Big Leaves - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/1240, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Big Leaf - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/850, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Wheeler Creek Trail - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+G Film Simulation, Soft Highlights, Normal Shadows.
Cliffs In Ogden Canyon - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/640, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+R Film Simulation, Soft Highlights, Medium-Hard Shadows.
Wasatch Mountains In Ogden Canyon - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+R, Normal Highlights, Medium-Hard Shadows.
The Oaks - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+R Film Simulation, Medium-Soft Highlights, Medium-Hard Shadows.
Umbrella Abstract - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/1000, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+R Film Simulation, Soft Highlights, Medium-Hard Shadows.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Review: Fujifilm X-E1 - Is It A Relevant Camera In 2016?

Fujifilm X-E1
This might be one of the most unconventional reviews that you'll find of the Fujifilm X-E1. I'm writing this several years after the camera was replaced by the nearly identical X-E2. The X-E2 has now been replaced by the nearly identical X-E2s. In an age of quickly advancing digital technology, and when photographers often only use a camera for one or two years before purchasing something new, is the four-year-old X-E1 a relevant camera?

To recap, the X-E1 (sometimes called "Sexy One") is a 16-megapixel APS-C X-Trans mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera that looks like a classic film rangefinder. It was introduced in 2012 and was initially a hot item--camera stores had trouble keeping it in stock--but the camera had a number of issues that soon gave it a (somewhat) bad rap. Fuji replaced it with the next model after just one year of production. However, Fuji is good about fixing camera issues with firmware updates, and they fixed the problems that the X-E1 became known for (in fact, the most recent firmware update for this camera was earlier this year, which is a testament to how dedicated Fuji is at fixing issues with their products). So the X-E1 of today is better than the X-E1 of 2012.

The differences between the X-E1 and the X-E2 and X-E2s are small and have nothing to do with image quality (which is identical between the three cameras). The newer cameras have improved autofocus and higher resolution viewfinders and stuff like that. The X-E1 is 97% the same camera as the X-E2 and 95% the same camera as the X-E2s.
Yashica Minister-D & Fujifilm X-E1 With Industar Lens
The biggest difference between the three cameras is how much it will cost you to get your hands on one. The X-E2s will run you (with the 18-55mm lens) $1,000 brand new. The X-E2 will run you (with the lens) $800-$900 brand new. The X-E1 will run you (with the lens) $700-$800 brand new (if you can find one).

When the X-E1 was first released it had an MSRP of $1,400, and when it was hard to stock some retailers were charging even more for it. Now four years later it can be found for a fraction of that. I paid $575 for a used X-E1 that was as close to new as you can possibly get without actually being new. Like many, I'm on a tight budget and I couldn't justify spending more than I did.

When Fujifilm introduced the world to the 16-megapixel APS-C X-Trans sensor, cameras didn't have the mega-resolution that you see today. Is 16-megapixels still enough? Or should one buy a higher-resolution camera? After all, a lot of APS-C cameras have 24-megapixels now, including Fuji's most recent X-Trans cameras.
Fuji Film - South Weber, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/4, 1/140, ISO 400, Velvia Simulation, O.O.C. JPEG.
Because X-Trans sensors don't need (and don't have) an anti-aliasing filter (also called optical low-pass filter), which robs the camera of sharpness in order to prevent moire pattern distortion (which traditional Bayer sensors are subject to), 16-megapixels on an X-Trans camera has an equivalent resolution of about 20-megapixels on a Bayer camera that has an anti-aliasing filter. There's a little more resolution than what the megapixel count would make it seem.

Even so, cameras with traditional Bayer sensors don't need (and often don't have) an anti-aliasing filter once they're higher in resolution (such as 24-megapixels on an APS-C sensor). These cameras would appear to have a 30%-ish resolution advantage over the X-E1. However, a limiting factor for those cameras is the resolving power of the lens. Many lenses aren't sharp enough for a 24-megapixel APS-C camera to reach it's full resolution potential. In fact, some have theorized that this is why higher-resolution Bayer sensors don't need an anti-aliasing filter--the limited resolving power of the lens acts as an anti-aliasing filter. So the actual resolution difference between a 16-megapixel X-Trans sensor and a 24-megapixel sensor isn't quite as large as what one might initially think.

But none of this really matters, because very few people really need 16-megapixels of resolution, anyway. Resolution only makes a difference when viewing files or prints up close. Pixel-peepers study 100% crops, but nobody else does that--viewers don't look at files anywhere near that closely. Prints are only looked at up close if they're small or if the viewer is forced to closely view them--otherwise they naturally will move further away as the print gets larger. The larger you print, the further away people will stand from the photograph to view it, and they won't notice that the fine details are a bit fuzzy.
Early Autumn - South Weber, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/1200, ISO 400, Velvia Simulation, O.O.C. JPEG.
Megapixel count is a marketing ploy to get pixel-peeping photographers to part with their hard-earned cash. You don't need 100-megapixels, 50-megapixels, 36-megapixels or even 24-megapixels unless you are printing large and are forcing the viewers to see the print up close. Otherwise 16-megapixels are more than enough.

The X-Trans sensor is a bit different than other sensors. A traditional Bayer sensor has 50% green light-sensitive sensor elements (or "pixels"), and 25% of both red and blue light-sensitive sensor elements, which are laid out in a specific pattern. An X-Trans sensor has 55% green light-sensitive sensor elements, and 22.5% of both red and blue light-sensitive sensor elements, which are laid out in a semi-random pattern.

The most publicized advantage of the X-Trans sensor is that it doesn't require an anti-aliasing filter, but that's not the only benefit. Because there are more green light-sensitive sensor elements (55% vs. 50%), and green is where the majority of luminance information comes from, X-Trans sensors have a one-stop high-ISO advantage over equivalent Bayer sensors (plus more shadow information). The semi-randomness of the sensor pattern seems to give the digital noise a more random (film-grain-like) pattern--and, like film grain, the digital noise is desaturated (although I'm not quite sure if this is clever programming or a byproduct of the sensor itself).
Village Inn At Dusk - South Ogden, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 46mm, f/4.5, 1/1400, ISO 400, Velvia Simulation, O.O.C. JPEG.
Using the X-E1 is a great experience--I can honestly say that this is the camera I've been waiting for! It's designed how digital cameras should have been from the beginning. There's no PASM dial. Coming from a film background, the dials are set up logically (and simply) for fully-manual or semi-manual operation, similar to classic SLRs and rangefinders. Fujifilm might be the only company that gets this right.

The camera can fit into a large pocket (such as a jacket), but just barely. It's pretty small and lightweight for an APS-C camera, but not what I'd call compact. I wouldn't want it to be any larger as I like my gear to be as small as practical. The X-E1 is a little too large for what I prefer, but not by much. It feels well built.

Autofocus is just a hair slow, but that's not unusual for a mirrorless camera (or any camera that uses contrast detection). On a positive note, manual focus is a more pleasant experience compared with most other digital cameras.
Jars of Colors - South Weber, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/4, 1/125, ISO 2500, Astia Simulation, O.O.C. JPEG.
RAW files can be manipulated any which way you want. Fujifilm's included RAW editor Silkypix is pretty good albeit clumsy. There are a half-dozen or so RAW developers that can edit RAW files from the X-E1. You can even edit the RAW files in-camera (which is a more useful feature than I would have thought).

One thing I will say about the RAW files is that there's a surprisingly large amount of details that can be extrapolated from the shadows (thanks to those extra green "pixels"). If you plan to shoot RAW, I would consider purposefully underexposing by 2/3 or even one stop to ensure that the highlights aren't clipped. The dynamic range on this camera is large (especially for an APS-C sensor), but highlights clip rather sharply.

Something that Fuji does better than anyone is in-camera JPEG processing. If you take care to ensure the settings are as you want them (customized to your tastes), the out-of-camera JPEGs look excellent, and probably pretty darn close to what your edited RAW images look like. I've included a bunch of out-of-camera JPEGs in this review so that you can see for yourself just how good they are. This camera makes a strong case for shooting JPEGs (or RAW+JPEG). There are a few different things that the X-E1 does that make the excellent out-of-camera JPEGs possible.
Golden Light On The Mountside - South Weber, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5, 1/640, ISO 400, Velvia Simulation, O.O.C. JPEG.
First is auto-white-balance, which is almost always spot-on. It took some crazy mixed artificial light situations to throw it off. In real life use the camera has been right every time.

Next is Fuji's film simulation. These are named after actual film (such as Velvia and Provia) but they aren't necessarily accurate replications of the respective films. However, they look very good and produce pleasing results when used in the appropriate situations. You just have to figure out which ones to use when, and that comes with practice. They can be customized to fit your tastes.

Then there are the dynamic range settings. The way this works is the camera will underexpose the image to prevent clipped highlights, then increase the shadows and mid-tones to the correct level. This is always on, and this is the reason why base ISO is 200. The camera isn't actually at ISO 200 (I believe it is actually ISO 140-ish), but once the data is pushed it is equivalent to using ISO 200. This is why some people have said Fuji cheats at ISO, but really it's just clever programming. There are three different dynamic range levels, and, when used smartly, you can achieve the right balance of contrast and highlight/shadow details in almost any situation.
Basketball - South Weber, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 46mm, f/4.5, 1/250, ISO 400, Monochrome+Red, O.O.C. JPEG.
Speaking of ISO, the X-E1 has better high-ISO capabilities than I have ever seen on an APS-C camera. ISO 200 through ISO 800 look very good (and nearly identical), even when closely studying 100% crops. There are increases in digital noise at ISO 1600, ISO 3200 and ISO 6400, but all of these are perfectly usable ISOs, even for out-of-camera JPEGs. ISO 12800, only available when shooting JPEGs, is usable for very grainy-looking black-and-white photographs, but is best avoided otherwise.

Battery life on the X-E1 is pretty mediocre, although there are a few things you can change in the settings to help with this. If you think you will be making 300 or more exposures between charges, you will want to pick up a spare battery. Thankfully, spare batteries for this camera are really cheap.

The 18mm-55mm (28mm-85mm full-frame equivalent) f/2.8-4 zoom lens sold with this camera is nothing short of fantastic. It's as sharp as a prime lens! It has very little distortion. The built-in optical image stabilization works very well. You'll want to use it regularly--it's not a typical kit lens whatsoever. Fuji's lens lineup is well known to be excellent.
Outdoor Chair - South Weber, Utah
Fuji X-E1, Industar 55mm lens, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO 400, Monochrome+Red, O.O.C. JPEG.
The Fujifilm X-E1 is a fantastic camera that's smartly designed inside and out. There is very little negative to say about it, even four years after its release. If you can find it (with the kit lens) for under $700 then it's an exceptional value.

If the price tag is still too steep for you, consider the Nikon D3300 (or even the D3200) instead of the X-E1. It's not nearly as well designed and is a bit larger (and won't turn any heads), but image quality isn't all that much different (especially the RAW files) and you can find it for significantly less money. The overall experience won't be as good, but nobody will be able to tell that the photographs were captured with an entry-level DSLR and not something more expensive.

But if your budget allows for it, the Fujifilm X-E1 is a great camera. The experience of using it is something special, reminiscent of the days of film. Even in 2016, the X-E1 is a relevant camera.

See also:
Putting The X-Trans JPEG To The Test - A Midday Hike With The X-E1
Astrophotography With The Fuji X-E1
How To Free Up Time: Use A Fuji X-Trans Camera - Or, Fuji X-E1's JPEGs Rock!
Fujifilm X-E1 & High ISO