Image quality: Fuji Finepix X-E1 vs Olympus E-PM2 OM-D E-PL5

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by michaelmiller, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. At the time of this writing I owned an Olympus E-PM2 with several lenses, and I wondered if the Fuji X-E1 would be a better camera for me. This is not an Olympus advertisement; it just so happens that I had this camera to compare it with.
    Look and feel
    The Fuji X-E1 with 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens comes in a simple, but nice looking black printed thin walled cardboard box. Everything is neatly wrapped in plastic bags. Several layers of cardboard separate the camera and accessories. There’s a silver seal on the bag that contains the camera. If it’s broken, you know the bag has been opened before. Overall the packaging is adequate, but nothing special.
    The lens has a nice weight to it and the metal feels reassuringly solid and durable. I wish the ribs on the zooming ring where like the ones on the aperture ring. A little further apart, so the grip would have been better. The outer barrel is made of metal, but the inner tube is plastic. The lens mount is made of metal and so is the filter ring. There were a couple of tiny specs on the rear element.
    The camera is surprisingly lightweight and I’m not sure if I like that. When a camera is very light, but not particularly small, it feels like it’s hollow (i.e. the Olympus E-PM2 feels more solid, because it’s smaller). The buttons feel nice except for the small thumb wheel. Its ribs are rather sharp and pointy and it doesn’t feel very solid. I’m afraid something (my thumb, clothing, a camera bag) might get stuck on it and damage it or rip it of completely.
    The back of the camera is made of plastic and to be honest it feels a little cheap. When you put some light pressure on it (below the thumb wheel), you can actually bend the plastic. The small rubber grip on the front is made of the right material and helpful in holding the camera. To me the AF light seems to be too close to my fingers. Why not place it in the metal top plate, somewhat closer to the lens mount or on the other side?
    On the bottom there’s a standard tripod mount. Unfortunately it’s not centred and it’s right next to the battery and memory card compartment. This not only makes it weak, but it’s also impossible to remove or insert a battery or a memory card while the camera is mounted on a tripod. Is it me, or are the hinges of the battery compartment cover places a on the ‘wrong’ side? I find inserting and removing a memory card a little difficult, because the hinges of the cover are right next to the card slot. I have to rotate the camera to get to the card.
    I’ve tested the black version of the body and I’ve seen some pretty battered samples in online reviews. I’m afraid the black paint will come of quickly. Of course I can’t be sure about that, but I think it is fragile. So, unlike the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens the camera feels a little cheap. I think that for the money, it could have been build better. An all-metal body and maybe a metal chassis would have been nice. Add an optical viewfinder to that and you probably have an X Pro 1.
    Accessories
    The camera comes with all the stuff you get with most new cameras: papers, manual, software, shoulder strap, charger, video cable, USB cable etc. The lens comes with both caps and a plastic lens hood. I’ve heard some people complain about the Fuji pinch type lens caps, but I don’t see any problem with this one. It fits nicely and it’s easy to attach and remove. Maybe all the fuzz is about a lens cap from a different lens. I seldom use lens caps, just UV filters, so it’s no problem for me.
    Responsiveness and controls
    The X-E1 is not a very responsive camera. Many things seem a tad slower then the latest micro 4/3 and DSLR cameras. This includes the autofocus. It’s rather snappy in good light, but as it gets darker, the autofocus starts to get noticeably slower and sometimes it can’t lock on at all. The X-E1 isn’t a particularly slow camera, but if you have tried a camera like Olympus the OM-D or even the diminutive Olympus E-PM2, you know what I mean. The write times are longer and there’s a lag here and there (like in the EVF in low light). It’s no speed demon.
    The controls on the Fuji X-E1 are quite good. Apart from the thumb wheel the buttons and dials feel nice. There are dials for setting the shutter speed and exposure compensation and you can use a ring on the lens for setting the aperture. Of course there are no markings on the aperture ring of the 18-55mm, because it has a variable aperture. Fuji lenses with a fixed maximum aperture do have markings. The buttons on the camera feel good too. I like the 4 way controller buttons better then the fiddly wheel on the X100. The quick Menu is very handy and the display and EVF are detailed and contrasty enough for me.
    I find the Fuji X-E1 a nice camera to hold. The camera is not too small and the thumb grip on the back, together with rubber grip on the front really help. The nice size 18-55mm zoom lens provides even more grip. Unfortunately the camera body (not the lens) as a whole feels cheap and not very sturdy.
    A simple test
    I tried the Fuji X-E1 because I expected the image quality (compared to my rather simple entry level Olympus E-PM2 with the not so entry level Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens) to blow me away. The Fuji sensor and processor are praised for the overall image quality and especially for low light performance. The Fuji 18-55mm zoom lens is no slouch either. I thought this should be an easy win for the Fuji.
    The test is nothing fancy or scientific and I only looked for noise and detail. I set up a simple test scene consisting of some coloured items (notebook, USB stick, boxes) and some items with very fine textures and print on it (banknote, scarf, cloth, soap dispenser). Both cameras where on a sturdy tripod and I used the same settings on both.
    I made test photos at 28mm, 50mm and 70mm (35mm equivalent), and at ISO200, ISO800, ISO1600 and ISO3200. The light came from the not so bright energy-saving light bulb that was on the ceiling of the room. Not he best light, so an good test of the low light performance. I processed all the images in Adobe Lightroom and some in Capture One and Silkypix (just to make sure).
    The image quality
    So, was I blown away by the image quality of the Fuji? No, I was not.
    In all the photos made with the Olympus E-PM2/12-35mm f/2.8 combo, the fine detail straight out of the camera was noticeably better. I really had to sharpen the Fuji images a lot to make them look like the ones from the E-PM2 (and thus introducing some ‘noise like textures’). The Olympus photos did show more noise though, but after applying noise reduction, I managed to get rid of a large portion of it.
    It was not very hard to make photos from both systems look almost the same. The Fuji photos needed some sharpening and the Olympus photos needed some noise reduction. To me the difference is too small to really matter. I think there’s some clever processing going on in the Fuji, which removes noise effectively, but destroys some detail. When you later try to recover the detail, some noise shows up.
    Conclusion
    The Fuji was sent back to the store the very quickly. It is not the image quality wonder I had hoped and thought it would be. I know it’s partially personal, but I think even the entry level Olympus E-PM2 handles better, is noticeably more responsive and delivers almost the same image quality. It does all of this, in a smaller and cheaper package too.
    I think Sony really hit the jackpot with this 16-megapixel micro 4/3’s sensor (the E-PL5 and the E-M5 use the same sensor) and Olympus built some very smart and competent cameras around it. Okay, now I sound like an Olympus sales person.
    This doesn’t mean the Fuji X-E1 is a bad camera, far from it. I just think it’s not the right tool for me. It might very well be someone else’s dream camera. Also remember that all of this is just my testing and my personal opinion, it's not science. Your findings might be different.
     
  2. An image.
    00bLhY-519835684.jpg
     
  3. Interesting, but you ought to change the title of the post. It's more than just image quality. Oh, which is which in pic link?
     
  4. The crop with slightly more noise in is from the Olympus E-PM2. You're right about the title, but I don't think I can change
    it anymore.
     
  5. I wouldn't expect any modern lens to "blow" any other modern lens "out of the water". Quality and in-camera post-processing being what it is.
     
  6. I wouldn't expect any modern lens to "blow" any other modern lens "out of the water". Quality and in-camera post-processing being what it is.
     
  7. The sensor and processor play an important role too. I certainly don't think it's just the lens. That's the whole reason I tested it in the first place.
     
  8. Good review but needs more sample photos.
     
  9. An ISO3200 sample. There's a difference in white balance with the ISO1600 samples, but that shouldn't spoil the fun. Again, more noise reduction needed in the Olympus E-PM2 photo and a little more sharpening in the Fuji photo. I think it shows, that when you carefully expose your photo with the Olympus, you can get very pleasing results. We are looking at only a small portion of a photo on a monitor here. Any noise or other defects might not even be visible in prints.
    00bLtB-519967584.jpg
     
  10. Seriously, what may be obvious when making these samples is not obvious when viewing them on the web. Try X on the right, Y on the left.
    Also are you working from RAWs or JPGs? Without knowing how the pictures were shot and exactly how they were processed, samples are meaningless, because there is no way to determine what they are samples of.
     
  11. I think that says enough. For more scientific reviews you can always search the internet.
     
  12. Really Right Stuff now makes a custom plate for the X-E1. It covers the entire bottom of the camera, with a rectangular hole cut out where the battery/card access door is. When extracting the memory card, it helps to have thin fingers, but it can be done with the plate attached.
     
  13. Which sample image is which? You never said. You also never said whether you shot raw or jpg, how you lit the scene and how you processed it. You can't see much from just one shot of something that's not a real scene. Did you try it in the field? And why are you comparing a kit zoom to a 2.8 zoom that costs $1100 and feeling disappointed when the kit zoom doesn't seem to be running circles around the 2.8 zoom? (Granted, it's a step up from most kit zooms, but still, I'd be sorely disappointed if I had paid for the Panasonic 2.8 zoom and it didn't outperform the Fuji kit zoom.) When you say the write speed is not good, what type of memory card are you using? Mine is much faster when loaded with a Sandisk 45MB/s card than with an Amazon Basics Class 10 card.
     
  14. "The crop with slightly more noise in is from the Olympus E-PM2". Although I admit, it's hard to tell ha, ha. I used only RAW images of course. "The light came from the not so bright energy-saving light bulb that was on the ceiling of the room". I used a Lexar Professional Class 10 8GB 400x speed U 1 SDHC card, should be fast enough for most uses I think. Maybe the rendered detail would have been slightly better with a different lens, but Fuji has no better zooms available for the X series. Also, the Fuji lens is not cheap. Apart from that, the cameras responsiveness and noise performance disappointed me and as far as I know, that has little or nothing to do with the lens.
    As I said, there are some differences of course, but in the end they are not very significant. I doubt that it will be visible in a print. The Fuji has less noise at higher ISO's, but with mild noise reduction in post processing, the Olympus photos can be made to look almost the same. This will be my last comment here. Have fun reading and when in doubt, do test and compare the cameras and some prints for yourself.

    To make Fuji X series owners sleep better (or not) I attached two unedited crops at ISO3200. Again, the one with more noise is from the Olympus camera.
    00bMJZ-520323584.jpg
     
  15. So the Olympus is on the right? Just say "on the right".
    Why are you shooting comparisons using crappy low lighting of scenes that don't look like anything you'd ever shoot in the real world? Did you seriously buy a $1400 kit and return it for a refund after its sharpness shooting the crap on your desk under terrible lighting didn't beat the snot out of a $1500 kit in the same conditions? That doesn't make sense.
     
  16. It's not the image quality that jumps out at me in this review but the relative lack of quality of the Fuji camera itself. For my $1000 I would expect absolutely NO manufacturing shortcuts or defects, whether it be the OMD cracked bezel issue or the Fuji cheap plastic flexible back.
     
  17. Please stop whining about X, Y, left or right. Use your freakin' eyes. If you can't tell the difference in the last unedited samples, then you obviously haven't studied the subject enough or something is really wrong with your eyesight or monitor. In that case you shouldn't comment here at all. If a camera can't perform in "shooting the crap on my desk under terrible lighting" it will not perform in similar conditions outside, it's that simple. Dude, this is not rocket science. Believe me, I've used many different digital camera's and the first impression I get with a simple test like this, always tells me the most important things I need to know about a camera and it's image quality. I don't need lab tests to confirm what my hands feel and what my eyes see. The Fuji is build cheaply, is less responsive then I would like it to be (just like all the other X series camera's) and the detail/noise performance isn't much better then a simple Olympus E-PM2. Again, if you feel that this can't be true, test it for yourself.
     
  18. Your posted image samples are among the worst that I've seen for comparing quality. Beyond that, Andy's comments reflect my own thoughts about this review in general.
     
  19. Please stop whining about X, Y, left or right. Use your freakin' eyes. If you can't tell the difference in the last unedited samples, then you obviously haven't studied the subject enough or something is really wrong with your eyesight or monitor.​
    No one is 'whining'. I'm a photographer. I look at these sample crops and say, "What noise?" Because for real-world purposes, there isn't any. And yes, the silly 'Eye-Cue' nonsense is mostly invalid with low-contrast subjects. I'm seeing exactly what I would expect from these two cameras--bloody well close.
     
  20. You rejected a perfectly good camera because it didn't beat the snot out of another perfectly good camera when used to shoot jpgs in the dim light of a single compact fluorescent, without even trying the camera in the field, and without realizing that the Adobe raw processor you used is a nonfinal version that produces the weird splotchy areas because they don't have the algorithm for the new Fuji sensors worked out yet? And because it's not, what, milled from a single brick of stainless steel? And you're accusing me of whining? The one who should be whining is the owner of the store you used, who ends up taking a loss on this nonsense.
     
  21. The Fuji X-E1 is slow; and compared to mid-level DSLRs like Nikon D7000 it feels very slow when you first use it. But the 18-55 lens is no slouch.
    Once you accept the slow operation of the Fuji it produces great images.
    Anyways here is a processed image.

    geese
     
  22. The test is nothing fancy or scientific and I only looked for noise and detail
    (...)
    Also remember that all of this is just my testing and my personal opinion, it's not science. Your findings might be different.​
    Strange basis to judge and return a camera, nevertheless I wonder which apertures did you use in order to evaluate detail.
    Were you comparing cameras, lenses or the couple camera+lens?
    Being the max apertures different, did you use each one at its best aperture value?
    As your conclusions are just about the cameras, why didn't you test both with the same lens (via adaptor)?
    Looking at the subject you used and looking only "for noise and detail" did you use AF or manual focus? Did you use spot, center weighted or some kind of "matrix"?
    As you used RAW files how did you performed the conversion to refer to the Oly's image saying that "the fine detail straight out of the camera was noticeably better"?
     
  23. I judged the RAW files by opening them in the three RAW converters with default settings. To me this is a simple and valid way to judge detail and noise. Any difference is easily visible at 100% magnification on a high resolution calibrated computer monitor. I used manual focus, manual metering (there was no difference in shutter speed, aperture or lighting) and both lenses were set to f/4. Any decent f/2.8 lens should do fine in the centre with the aperture closed one stop from maximum. I don’t have an adaptor for any of the cameras. If you want scientific tests; search the internet, because this is not one. You can come up with an endless list of variables I should have taken in account, I’m sure. However, I’m no scientist, I don’t have a laboratory and this test is not scientific.
     
  24. @ Michael
    I didn't judge you, otherwise I wouldn't recall your statement about testing and personal opinion, and you are absolutely free to keep or return a camera based on this or any other subjective aspect.
    Not my business, but it can't prevent me for considering a "strange basis" because this would apply to what I'd do to evaluate the camera and not to what you did. Therefore I see no reason to react as if I was attacking you.
    I just asked the question about aperture because the Pana lens will be one stop away from Max no matter the focal distance but this doesn't apply to the Fuji that will probably be at its maximum aperture by 70 mm equivalent.
    On RAW conversion, I guess that when you open a file at default settings you'll get the ones the author of the software apply to all files and this can give an advantage to a file that is closer to their algorithms. Even if you indicate the camera and lens model everything will depend on the way the program implemented the camera manufacturer's file specifications, and it is known that there are still problems on this respect to convert the files from Fuji's new sensor.
    By the way, this conversion problem and AF (knowing that Fuji will bring phase and contrast AF in a non distant future) prevented me from considering buying the X-E1 till now. And the same RAW aspect makes me to stay with the X100 until these problems are solved.
     
  25. While Michael is within his rights, in a purely legal sense, to return an item for any reason allowed in the seller's return policy, what he's done here seems to me to be wrong in a "not doing the right thing" sense. He bought a rather expensive item, just to feel it and give it a quick test that was no more than what he could have done in a store using the demo unit at the counter. By then returning the camera, he turned a new camera in the store's inventory into a camera that must be sold as returned, open box or refurbished. The merchant and/or Fuji lost money, having done nothing wrong, just because they had the misfortune of having Michael as a customer.
    If you're going to do that, you have to at least have the decency to give the camera a serious chance. Field test it, set up some reasonable test scenes, do a bit of research on why the raw converters are producing strange results.
     
  26. Andy, could not agree more, why not bring your camera to the store, take photos with your camera, then ask if you can put your memory card in the demonstration fuji and take some more, then go home and compare. That way you don't screw the store. I speak as someone who had a camera store for ten years and got fed up with this sort of abuse. It's hard enough to make a living as it is since digital came along and margins plummeted, which is why I got out of the business.
     
  27. Obviously there are a number of determining factors when one chooses a camera kit. Purchasing criteria will vary from the experience level of the user, the performance benchmarks necessary for the main subject matter and of course handling and general ergonomics. I have extensively tested the XE1 and OMD and "for me" there really was no contest, I got rid of the XE1. Since I shoot professionally, and since I was seeking a compact yet competent system to replace heavy DSLR kit on many outings, my purchasing criteria needed to lean fairly heavily towards the performance end of the spectrum and this is where the OMD really excels.
    In terms of image quality my preference is for the OMD files, that is partly subjective of course and notwithstanding mainstream RAW support is lacking for X Trans (even with the latest LR 4.4 release, still not quite up to scratch depending on final output). I have little appreciation for the rendering of X Trans images, and I find that my OMD files are packed with detail and are very malleable. In addition I strongly favour the excellent lineup of Micro 4/3 lenses, which cover what I do admirably. Though there are exceptions I feel that the Fuji X cameras are best suited to hobbyists who do not have any particular pressures associated with their photography and who do not need high levels of speed or performance. With that in mind I use my X-100 extensively for personal projects, and I do love it. But the OMD is a game changer.
     
  28. the Fuji X cameras are best suited to hobbyists who do not have any particular pressures associated with their photography and who do not need high levels of speed or performance. With that in mind I use my X-100 extensively for personal projects, and I do love it. But the OMD is a game changer.​
    thanks, that's exactly the kind of real-world review i was looking for. so, what about lenses? is the 12-35 worth $1100? or is it better to stick to primes with the OMD?
     
  29. Eric, there are some really fantastic Micro 4/3 lenses. I don't have the 12-35 but if it's anything like the 35-100 (my workhorse) it should be fantastic. Prime wise I love the 45 f1.8 and the PL25 f1.4.
     
  30. I think the author need to get more in touch with photography in general!
    If you said the AF was a bit disappointing it would be one thing.
    Do understand most every review of this camera raves about it's image quality
    Think you need to review your overall understanding of image quality and get back to us. My early impressions of this cameras image quality is a wow.
     
  31. I think the author need to get more in touch with photography in general.
    While i agee with most posts a few snaps in lowlight.....
    But do we need to be so aggressive towards the poster.
     

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