Fuji X-E2 - Review and User Experience - Part 6 - How does it compare to the Panasonic GH3?


They are roughly the same size (with the X-E1 grip attached), the GH3 is about 200g heavier, but has a lighter lens range to access, both are 16MP and the Panasonic is slightly more expensive. I've got both, so how do I rate them?

Well lets get the obvious stuff out of the way. The X-E2 is obviously rangefinder styled, the GH3 is a 'mini' DSLR. Both have their core strengths, the X-E2 with its wonderful high ISO performance, together with the Nikon D4 (and I guess the Df) pretty much the best out there. The GH3's signature feature is of course its video implementation. Like the X-E2 and its low light abilities, right up there at the top of the class. Some have argued that it is in fact the best DSLR / Mirrorless Video Hybrid you can buy.

So accepting those, what else does each have that might get people to spend their hard-earned (or not!) cash on either of them. As ever this is my personal take on the differences.

HANDLING & BODY

I find both to be comfortable and well-laid out. I have no problems with either. The X-E2 for me does need a grip however and I certainly appreciate the ergonomic changes that Fuji have applied from the X-E1. Both now have a number of customisable function buttons, both have menus that make sense. We could all come up with improvements to menus we use and neither of these are perfect for me, but they work and I have no real issue with either anymore. The more I use them the more comfortable I am with them

Speaking personally I prefer the X-E2 in terms of looks and for shooting with. I do prefer the offset viewfinder to the 'plonked in the middle' unit of the GH3. Noses and view screens don't really complement each other. I can adjust most of what I want with the camera to my eye, something I suspect is going to be pretty difficult with the Nikon Df. 

However if I'm going to pick one over the other it would be the Fuji. It is a very classy looking and handling camera.

LENS OPTIONS

I've argued that these days, this is as important as the camera itself and this is an area where the GH3 wins hands down. Panasonic have been at this longer than Fuji and have therefore had the opportunity to bring out many more options. Fuji are building up slowly, perhaps a little too slowly for some of us, but there is no denying that they make quality stuff. They took the unusual step of starting with three fast primes and have progressed to zooms. The system is still missing a wide-angle zoom (where is it Fuji??) and telephoto primes. Its all very well copying the Leica classics, but there is more to a lens range than primes in the same old focal lengths. 

This catergory goes to the Panasonic.

EVF AND SCREEN

The EVF comparison goes to the Fuji and by some distance. The Fuji EVF is both sharper, clearer and better in low light than the Panasonic, which does actually have a quite disappointing viewfinder. It is OLED, which suits me (but then so is the Fuji) but it has this strange look, which I can only describe as occasionally looking like one of those 'zoom burst' images. The screens are around the same. The Panasonic has an OLED screen too whereas the Fuji's is LCD. That means it turns black when the cameras in portrait orientation and I'm wearing polarised sunglasses, however it is VERY good in sunlight which makes it useful for shooting video. With my carry speed viewfinder fitted its very nice to use.

The Panasonic of course has the fully articulating screen. Again very useful for video and for low-angle shots. The Fuji screen doesn't move at all. 

This catergory for me is pretty much a draw. Both have advantages, both have disadvantages. The Fuji is better for low light and the EVF is the best I've ever used, which has surprised me, but the Panasonic Screen / EVF system is more versatile.

AUTO AND MANUAL FOCUSING

You'd have thought that the Panasonic had this sewn up, and so did I. However, the improvements now available for the X-E1 in terms of speed and accuracy in conjunction with the clearer EVF changes things. The Panasonic may well be still slightly faster (though it is marginal) but the Fuji has its trump card with Focus Peaking and the new Split-Screen rangefinder copy system. The GH3 has neither and if you want to use manual focus lenses then its the same old magnify and focus system, with the old serious disadvantage that to get 100% accuracy you have to open the lens up, focus then close the lens down again to your preferred aperture.

As someone who uses manual focus lenses almost as much as autofocus lenses I have to give this catergory to the Fuji, somewhat surprisingly.

IMAGE QUALITY AND PROCESSING

Again its a swings and roundabouts situation. The X-E2 is great in low light, the GH3 isn't. Yes, m4/3 is getting better, but the Fuji X sensor is something special in terms of high ISO performance. Easily the best APS-C sensor for those high ISO settings and better than the majority of 35mm sized sensor cameras as well. However, there is no denying the 'pop' from the Panasonic at low ISO settings. And if anything my GH3 images upsize better than the X-E2 as well and in terms of how easy and quick it is to process the raw files then there is an additional advantage. The Adobe processing of Fuji raw files is still not sorted and I'm using Iridient Developer most of the time. 

There is of course the Fuji's jpg. advantage, and a clear one obviously. Well.......probably. Yes the Fuji produces very decent OOC jpgs. but Panasonic have made some very real improvements in this area. At the default settings there can still be highlight blow out but this can be adjusted to produce very decent jpg, files. The Fuji still takes the jpg. comparison though.

This is a difficult one for me to judge. At base ISO 125 I prefer the Panasonic files, but I use ISO 400 as my base ISO for the Fuji which is better than most cameras at ISO 100. This means that I can use higher shutter speeds and narrower apertures. But this is counterbalanced by the fact that the smaller sensor of the GH3 means I don't need to stop down as much. 

If I shot a lot of high ISO images then I would give this catergory to the X-E2, bit I don't. The majority of my work is at the lower end and there is no doubt that the GH3 produces more commercial looking files for my purposes. Plus they are much easier and quicker to process and therefore saves me time. Its close but I'm giving this catergory to the GH3.

VIDEO

Not really much of a competition here. The X-E2 is much improved over the X-E1 and is now something I would consider using, but the video output from the GH3 is something special. Its no wonder that they are apparently coming up with a camera called the G4k. which shoots 4k video (see what they did there!) and is designed to prioritise video over stills at a very competitive price point. However the GH3 is a great hybrid camera and if you a professional who these days finds themselves required to shoot video as well as stills, then the GH3 is a no-brainer. And while the Fuji + OIS lens has amazing image stabilisation, then so does the Panasonic with lenses like the new 14-140mm.

This catergory therefore goes to the Panasonic.

If you are keeping score, and if it actually mattered, it would be 3½ - 2½ to the Panasonic. But then I have different priorities at different times. What it does show is that firstly the Fuji system is maturing nicely and what were perceived as weakness have turned to strengths, the focusing and EVF in the X-E2 being prime examples. Secondly it shows the advance of mirrorless systems in general. They can now do things that DSLR's, with their need to have those mirrors, can only dream about. The fastest AF is now in mirrorless hands, the best live view, the easiest manual focusing as well. To me its a nonsense that the Nikon Df is being touted as the place to use your old Nikon lenses. However, where is the focus peaking? Where is the clear bright viewfinder to make this easier? The Nikon Df is old school, and it seems that we have to put up with old-school manual focusing as well. Anyone who has used manual film cameras will appreciate just how hard that was. Why else did we all use the hyperfocal distance scales?

So I'd rather use a Fuji X-E2 for my MF Nikon lenses anyday. Seems crazy not to use a Nikon for that, but the Fuji is just better at it. Until that is Nikon bite the bullet and finally accept that they have to get rid of those mirrors and pentaprisms to compete with a photographic market that is running away from them slowly yet inevitably. Strikes me a bit like all those photographers who thought digital was a passing fad. It may be strange to say that the X-E2 with its retro looks is the future of cameras, but I believe it is. We can still have those sexy old style analogue aesthetics, but I'll take the new EVF in the X-E2 over an OVF any day. I'll also take focus peaking and fast dual AF systems and yes I'll take electronic control over ISO as well. 

Its the fashion these days for well-know pro photographers to talk up mirrorless systems, but you'll often see somewhere that they still admit to having a DSLR around somewhere. As far as I'm concerned they are wimps. Chicken would also be a good word. If you have faith in your abilities and you if you like using mirrorless cameras as much as you claim, then why are you still keeping that DSLR? Afraid your clients will think you're not a real man? (sorry - photographer) I of course have no such doubts about my masculinity (sorry - photographic prowess) and I think the Df has finally weaned me off the 'Big Boys.' I did mention that I would be selling off the X-Pro 1 pretty quickly, but yesterday I ordered a grip for it, so it seems it might be staying for while. 

I like Fuji. I like the X-E2. I like the GH3 as well. I'm just glad I have that kind of choice.


For all my posts on the X-E2 CLICK HERE

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