Fuji X-T1 compared to Sony A7 and Panasonic GH3

These days if you bring out a new mirrorless camera it seems it has to look like a small 35mm film SLR. Nothing wrong with that, you might say and yes so would I. Since I have these three currently I thought that I would make a subjective personal assessment of them. If you want a more objective assessment then I would suggest that you look elsewhere, but good luck with finding a genuinely objective one.

IMAGE QUALITY

Let's deal with the questions of image quality and ISO performance first. If you are looking for good comparisons between the three then I suggest your first port of call should be the Imaging Resource Comparometer. This is an excellent way of comparing camera results with a consistent test regime and sound methodology. There is DxO of course but they don't seem to have tested any Fuji camera other than the X100. The X-Trans sensor seems to be beyond them.

I have some posts of my own with some of my own tests and the links are here. N.B. Some of these feature the A7r as opposed to the A7, but the image quality and ISO performance is very similar. Likewise, the Fuji X-E2 and X-T1 and the Panasonic GH3 and GX7 are very close in terms of results. Anyway here are a few links. Make of them what you will.


In summary, I don't think I'm being too contentious in suggesting the following. Though thinking about that, I'm sure there are many who would 'beg to differ!!' So lets say that this is my personal assessment.

Image quality at low ISO's. Sharpness etc.
1. Sony A7
2= Panasonic GH3 and Fuji X-T1

Image quality at high ISO's. Noise etc.
1. Fuji X-T1
2. Sony A7
3. Panasonic GH3

Video quality
1. Panasonic GH3
2. Sony A7
3. Fuji X-T1

All of the above can of course be affected by lens choice, choosing raw or jpg. and individual operating and processing practice. 

I would also be cautious about being definitive about this. The only things I would say with certainty is that the X-T1 and indeed Fuji X cameras in general are top class for high ISO performance. And if I want to use that then I choose a Fuji camera every time. If I want the best resolution and definition I can get then the 35mm / 'Full-Frame' A7 would be my choice. But at any given time I like the different image rendering that each camera gives. I like the default 'glossy' look of m4/3 always have and I also like how my Fuji files can offer a slightly 'grittier' film scan look. To be honest, for my core landscape / outdoors / location work I would be happy with all of them if I could only use one camera. And when you look at my daily posting and the way I 'flit' between formats and cameras you will know that for the fact.

If I shot stills and video half and half then I would choose the GH3 without a moment's hesitation. It is a superb video camera in terms of both the quality of the footage and the options available. Plus it's a fine stills camera as well.

So, I'm pretty much going to leave it there. I know what I want and I know what camera to select to achieve that. I'm sure that you are in much the same position. Those of you that shoot predominantly in low light are unlikely to choose a m4/3 camera and those of you to whom video is very important are unlikely to choose a Fuji. I hesitate to say it, but we can probably take that as read.

And if you think I'm putting forward the view that these three cameras offer a 'swings and roundabouts' alternatives situation in terms of image quality then you would be right. And to a certain extent all three can be considered 'all round' cameras. Certainly there have been high ISO improvements in m4/3 sensors to allow them to be considered as such. And the Sony FE, while producing very good images indeed is hampered by the fact that there aren't that many lenses currently available to take advantage of it.

So moving on. How else do they compare.

BUILD QUALITY.

My order for this is-
1. Fuji X-T1
2. Sony A7
3. Panasonic GH3

While this has no bearing on the durability and robustness of each camera the Fuji does feel extremely solid and well built when I pick it up. Whereas the Panasonic and to a certain extent the Sony are the opposite. Now I've seen no data or even a lot of user experiences to make any comment about the actual long-term capabilities of any of the cameras. I've seen no tests where any of the cameras have been 'tested to destruction' so it's a situation that has to remain unknown. Certainly, despite my feelings about how they are built I've never had a problem with a Panasonic and indeed my experiences of dropping cameras has demonstrated the somewhat unexpected result that a Panasonic GH2 is more resilient than a Leica M8. However that is thankfully only one experience of both and I have no intention of repeating the exercise!! Again I've seen no data to suggest whether any of these three cameras is more or less immune to damage than a DSLR. Roger Cicala over at Lens Rentals may have some info. on that, but I'm certainly in no position to comment. 

Finally, weather sealing. All supposedly have it, though it seems the Sony has somewhat of a question mark over this. If this is vital then maybe you should look somewhere else for definitive information. I'm really no help here since I don't take pictures in the rain and I don't have the slightest intention of letting water get anywhere near any of these cameras.

DESIGN and LAYOUT.

Again I'm very reluctant to come to any definitive judgement about this. The problem in doing that is that by now I'm very familiar with how Sony, Fuji and Panasonic cameras work. I've used an awful lot of all of them. Each has a different balance of external physical and controls and the only thing I am prepared to say is that I dislike the Panasonic touch screen control option with a passion bordering on hatred (though of course I can turn it off, which is what I do shortly after unpacking any camera that has it) and conversely I like the option to change all my most used settings manually on the X-T1. But then that is very much my way of working. All three cameras offer knob and dial options and the X-T1 has the most. If that is important to you then that's obviously the one to choose. The weather sealing does however make the four way selector dial difficult to use. 

For me and my way of working, the X-T1 is the camera I enjoy using the most, but I am aware that others may want something else. As I indicated I have no place for touch screen operation, but I am aware that others can see the benefits of it. And of course if that's what you want the GH3 is your only option.

Ultimately though I can pretty much get used to anything. I was a dedicated mouse user for my computers but after getting a laptop taught myself to be comfortable with a trackpad. I use touch screen for my iPad and Blackberry, though I do have the keyboard equipped model for the latter, so I can use it if I need to and of course in time I'm sure I could become manually fluent. But since I don't have to the Fuji is pretty much my favoured option currently. 

HANDLING and 'FEEL'

There will be no prevarication as before on this issue. For me the Fuji wins hand down. I've never worked out exactly why but I pick up any Fuji X-Trans sensor camera (apart from the X-M1, now gone to a new home) and I'm instantly raring to go and shoot some pictures. There really isn't that much difference if you look at the cameras but in my hand it's chalk and cheese. I've always struggled to feel comfortable with Panasonic cameras and while the GX7 is somewhat better I'm still not convinced. With Sony I have a slightly better track record. I did like the NEX-7 for example and the A7 is OK. But my Fuji's are just right for me. True, I do use the X-T1 battery grip all the time but then I do the same with the other two cameras as well. I was initially worried that I wouldn't like the X-T1 as much as my X-E2 but I needn't have worried.

Now it's essential that you see this for the subjective opinion that it is. I can imagine some people hating the Fuji. But I would suggest that if you have the opportunity to handle an X-T1 then do take that. If you don't like it at least you are making an informed decision.

LENS RANGE.

Well it's no surprise that Sony comes bottom of the list here. Yes the 55mm f/1.8 is absolutely superb but there really isn't much else as yet. As to the others I would put them in equal first place. The GH3 because of the extensive amount of m4/3 options available with, on the whole, quality alternatives and the X-T1 because of the incredible consistency of it's admittedly smaller selection. I've written before that I don't think the Fuji lens range has anything resembling an ordinary lens in it. All of the ones I've used are beautifully crafted and range in optical quality from very good to excellent. I would especially mention the zooms which are a real pleasure to use. But then m4/3 has some terrific lenses too. The Olympus 75mm f1.8 being especially wonderful. I would also mention my personal favourites the Panasonic 14-140mm(Mark II) and 7-14mm zooms.

CONCLUSION.

And the winner is..... Well you won't get that from me. Quite simply because I don't think there is one. And if you're considering any of these cameras and / or deciding which one to go for then in many ways I'm not going to be much help. Other than, of course, suggesting that you may well be happy with any of the three. Unfortunately there is no likelihood of a perfect camera ever appearing. A sensor / camera combination with the image quality of an A7r, the high ISO performance of the Fuji X series and the video quality of the GH3 would be something to behold, but we will have to dream on for that. 

I would say that I currently have the GH3 and A7 on sale at ebay. But then I'm keeping the A7r and GX7 so it's not as though I'm leaving the format. So it's fair to say that of the three cameras my default preference because it's the only one I'm keeping is the X-T1. But thinking this through and writing it down makes me realise just how good our options currently are. And I would add that I see all of these as cameras first and mirrorless cameras second. All of them are capable of doing a job for me. And if you are a regular reader with an insight into the way that I write, you will have realised long before now that that is the real point of this post. 



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