Panasonic G6 14-140mm kit - Part 3 - Some comparisons with the Fuji X-E1

These two cameras are somewhat different, both in design and in approach to picture taking. The Panasonic is an all-singing, all-dancing modern camera that isn't ashamed to be polycarbonate and is designed to look like a miniature DSLR and manufactured by an electronics company who have come to making cameras only recently. The Fuji is firmly rooted in the past in terms of design, which is based on rangefinder cameras and approach. Fuji have a long history in photography and of course were mainly responsible, together with Kodak, for recording the world on film for many years in the late 20th. Century. 

The cameras feel different in the hand and different when I'm photographing with them. The Panasonic is quicker, the Fuji more measured. The Panasonic certainly offers more in terms of features, the Fuji concentrates on what is important to 'old-school' photographers. Both of course take a pretty decent snap. 

In terms of what works for me, I think more of what they have in common. Both have OLED viewfinders, both now have focus peaking, both produce 16MP (or thereabouts) files and both are smallish, lightish and have high-quality lens ranges. Though Panasonic have been doing this for a lot longer so their range is a lot more extensive and does of course include Olympus choices as well.

My history with m4/3 goes back to the original G1, and I've owned, used and enjoyed many of the cameras from both Panasonic and Olympus. I've been working with the Fuji X series for a year and a few months now and despite some initial frustrations like using the X-E1 very much and enjoy the quality of the images. There are unfortunately camera brand fan clubs all over the photographic internet, but for myself and from what I read by many of the contributors to the Google+ group, there are many of us who have more catholic tastes. Since there is no 'perfect' camera, those of us who shoot a variety of subjects in a variety of situations choose between several cameras depending on what we wish to do. Between these two, the Fuji has the advantage at higher ISO's, the Panasonic will get the shot quicker. The Fuji will produce noiseless smooth images at lower ISO's, the Panasonic will produce images with more 'pop' straight out of the camera but with more luminance noise. The Fuji will allow more shallow depth of field but require stopping down to get what I usually require in terms of depth of focus, the Panasonic allows wider apertures to be used which to a certain extent negates the advantage of the Fuji's better higher ISO performance. 

So in many ways its difficult to compare. Certainly I would find it impossible to come up with something that measured which of the cameras was 'better'. In terms of the combinations above, the 14-140mm lens is something special that Fuji don't have. But then the 18-55mm zoom on the X-E1 is a fine lens as well. I'm always writing about how camera / sensor / lens combinations are much closer in terms of image quality than many would like to argue. I did some initial tests, but after checking the results decided to abandon the rest of what I was planning. Firstly because I've used m4/3 for so long, there aren't really any surprises in what it produces. And secondly because comparing the two is affected by other factors. To illustrate what I mean, I produced these comparisons below.

My initial impression was that the G6 versions were slightly sharper, the X-E1 versions smoother and less noisy. But when you take into account the sizes of the sensors, the focal lengths of the lenses, their different widest apertures and the cameras base ISO's, just exactly what does it prove? I concluded not a lot and abandoned the rest of the tests I was planning. Both of the outfits at the top of the page cost about the same and if you have the budget for only one then factors such as high ISO noise, for which the Fuji wins hands down, video implementation for which the Panasonic is superior plus every other box you need ticking comes into play. I'm certainly not going to come to any conclusion as to which is the 'better' all-round camera, because both have strengths and weaknesses. There is certainly enough information out there to help you make a choice. Some of it unfortunately involves some value judgements and there is a lot of personal prejudice masquerading as objective testing, but there is enough good stuff to come to an informed decision. However if you want a recommendation from me, then it would be along the lines of give up drinking and going out for a while and buy both!

I see both camera lens combinations as complementary for what I do. The Panasonic + 14-140mm is certainly going to come into its own for me when I have a long distance to walk and want a light outfit with a range of focal lengths. I can't think of anything better. The Fuji works for me when I'm working in less than optimum light and when I want very clean results at higher ISO settings. I always find that using different gear helps to avoid the problems that shooting every day can cause. I can't imagine what 365 days a year of using the same camera and lenses would do to my photographic psyche. Send it to sleep I imagine! I like the stimulation of a new approach, a new combination and in recent times I've been moving around from 35mm sized sensors, to APS-C, m4/3 and the 1" sensor in the Nikon 1's. There are times when I will choose one for a specific purpose, but in the main its a case of "I think I'll try this today.' I remember reading an interview with David Bailey who talked about much the same. He wouldn't decide what format, camera or lens he was going to use until he arrived at the studio to start work. Snowden, the portrait photographer once said that he liked taking a piece of gear he hadn't used before on every job.

So its pretty much that the Fuji X-E1 is a fine camera and so is the Panasonic G6. Unless you have rigid highly defined needs then either will give pleasure and quality results to any photographic 'free spirit' prepared to break the brand shackles and explore the dark side!! I'm just glad I can afford both.

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