A cheaper, smaller and faster version of the Fujifilm X-Pro1, with only a few compromises? It will take some intense testing to figure out where the downside is, but for now, we're trying mightily to silence the voice shouting, "sign me up!"
Based around the same excellent, anti-aliasing-filter-free sensor and image-processing subsystem as the X-Pro1, the X-E1 replaces that camera's hybrid viewfinder with a high-resolution electronic viewfinder. Fujifilm claims that the EVF is bright, with a 1:5000 contrast ratio and a dynamic range sufficient for you to see differences in its film simulation modes. Aside from that and the smaller 2.8-inch LCD, the body looks quite similar, with effectively the same control layout and attractive retro design. The company claims it's about 30 per cent smaller, overall, with magnesium alloy top and bottom panels.
The most important improvement should be the new autofocus system. There's an AF motor in the body and the new lenses incorporate a linear motor for faster physical operation, and the combination theoretically delivers much better AF performance. The AF motor, alone ,should deliver better-than-X-Pro1 performance, as well with the older lenses, and Fujifilm says that, with a firmware update, you should see improved performance in the X-Pro1 with the new lenses.
While the X-E1 provides a compelling alternative to the X-Pro1, when compared with the other cameras in this category, the Fuji's the video will likely remain a weak aspect; video artifacts are the sacrifice you make to obtain the sharp stills you get by ditching the anti-aliasing filter. And the NEX-7's photo quality is Editors' Choice-good, while offering a higher-resolution, tilting LCD. The E-M5 might not match it for photo quality, but its speed and weather-sealed build, plus access to a small but excellent selection of Olympus' Micro Four Thirds lenses, add up to an attractive package, too.
No local pricing has been announced for Australia yet, though it will be arriving in the country from October 2012.