Fuji X-E1 or Nikon D7100? Is mirrorless a real alternative to DSLRs for professionals or is it just style over content?

Nikon D7100 Sigma 12-24mm

 Fuji X-E1 18-55mm

There is no doubt that of the two cameras I enjoy using my Fuji X-E1 mirrorless camera more than my Nikon D7100 DSLR. Despite writing previously that at this current time the D7100 is way out in front in the race for the coveted (?) Soundimageplus camera of the year for 2013 award, the combination of retro styling, size, weight, the whole metal / chrome rangefinderness lookaleica feel and the 'this is a real camera and not just another anonymous Nikon black box' sensibility, makes me want to pick up the X-E1 or Leica X vario or even one of my Nikon 1 V1's rather than the D7100 whenever I go out shooting. However there is no doubt that the D7100 is a formidable picture taking (creating) machine. In my view the best APS-C sensor camera ever. It also produces great images.

Back in a previous post I compared the high ISO performance of the two cameras. The Nikon was pretty close to the Fuji which is regarded as producing some of the best high ISO images ever. I've compared the two for sharpness as well and they are close there to. However now I have Iridient Developer I thought it would interesting to see if that software could 'unlock' the potential of the Nikons lack of an AA filter. Below are the results.

Using exactly the same processing in Iridient, you can see just how impressive the D7100 files are. I thought the results I got from this software for the X-E1 were good, but the Nikon tops these at base ISO, which is what I used for these (ISO 200 for the Fuji, ISO 100 for the Nikon) The Fuji conversions look almost 'course' by comparison. Incidentally I think this shows yet again how manufacturers and Adobe contrive to 'neuter' the image quality of cameras. Photoshop ACR certainly can't produce this level of sharpness for the D7100.

So if look at these things objectively, the D7100 is probably the 'better' camera, taking everything into consideration. After these tests I took the camera out into the 30 degree heat and once again walked around very slowly shooting some pictures.

As you can see great colour and real punchy images. Again the D7100 has an advantage, since as I wrote in my previous post, the Nikon jpgs. in this camera and the D800E are the best I've seen. The four pictures above are all from jpgs.

So this is just a no-brainer surely? The Nikon D7100 is the superior camera in almost every way, so thats the one I should use, right? Well, that may be true on Planet Sensible, or on Planet 'I should choose the best camera for the job because its my living and no matter how much I like fidding about with silver and black Leica copies in leather cases I have to make the right decision based on my test results and experience.' as well. Well I'm sure that would be the case if I lived on Planet Sensible, and if I made my decisions as to what to use objectively. The fact is that much as I respect and admire what Nikon have achieved here, I don't particularly like using the D7100, and I just love using the X-E1. Now others might feel differently. They like nothing more than walking around with a big Nikon with a big lens. That may give them everything they want. And there are occasions when that has worked for me to. But yesterday, on a scorching hot day when it was actually a real effort to put one foot in front of the other, I spent the whole time thinking 'Why didn't I bring a Nikon 1 V1?'

And that essentially is the dilemma that I, and many other photographers face (and one I've written about constantly). Do we use the camera we think we should, or the camera we like the best? 

Now if I was a studio based photographer, or one who didn't walk as far as I do, then the Nikon D7100 or indeed my D800E would be the obvious choices. But due to this long period of fine weather I've been out shooting every day for weeks. I've actually lost track of how long it is and I must admit I'm pretty tired. Last night I was convinced that I was going to dump everything and just use my Leica X Vario and Nikon 1 cameras for everything. But then, as ever, the Kryponite from Planet Sensible starts drifting across the universe and weakens my resolve. So can I use the Fuji X system as a 'pro' alternative? Its got some serious big fast metal lenses right? I could stick a 55-200mm on the front of an X-Pro 1 and nobody would doubt my credentials, but then the thought of having to carry lots of batteries pops into my mind, in the unlikely event that I will be hired to shoot the next royal wedding. I am currently involved in discussions about joining a photographic endeavour that would involve me in shooting well-heeled members of the public in upmarket locations and I think to myself, they are not going to take me seriously if I turn up with a V1 or even an X-E1. Like it or not the public equate photographic prowess with the size of our cameras and lenses, and while that has nothing to do with reality, its a real consideration for those of us that make our living this way.

So what will I do? Well if previous experience is anything to go by, nothing. I'll just carry on rotating my cameras, taking out the Nikons when I feel I really should use them, looking at the images and thinking, wow these are great and then 'sneaking out' the next day with a Fuji, or a V1 and having a great time. The best compromise I think I've come up with is what I used a lot on my South Coast trip. My Leica X Vario with a V1 + Telephoto zoom. Its a light, small outfit with great quality from the Leica (Now if they had made this an interchangeable lens camera all my hopes and desires would be fulfilled) and adequate quality from the V1. Incidentally on that, I'm constantly experimenting to see how I can get high quality upsized files from the V1. I'm succeeding to a degree, but then when I see results like the ones above from the D7100, its back to square one. I guess I know that its almost an impossible task to get my V1 files to look like my Nikons, but just as alchemists kept trying to make gold from lead, I'll probably stick with it!

So this is not the first post on this, and I doubt it will be the last, and its back to the mix and match camera usage I've been living with for some time now. However looking on the positive side, todays a 'sneak out with a Nikon 1' day and the smile is already starting to form on my face!!