Panasonic GX7 compared to Fuji X-E2 - The faux rangefinder discussed - Part 2 Design, Handling and Options.

 In order to be contemporary about this I took both cameras out yesterday. I put my Olympus 17mm on the GX7 and my 60mm macro on the X-E2. 




Four images above - Panasonic GX7 Olympus 17mm lens




Four images above - Fuji X-E2 60mm f/2.4 macro lens

Interesting combination. Visually kind of like a 1940's photojournalist walking around with a Leica and a Contax hanging around their neck. However that is about as far as I go with my Robert Capa impression.

I'll begin this with a plea. A plea to stop comparing cameras like this and mirrorless cameras in general with DSLR's. It was pretty obvious that walking around with these two cameras yesterday that it is a different kind of experience. And just as I dislike the idea of treating a 35mm film camera sized sensor as 'full-frame' I'm fed up with how everything these cameras can accomplish has to be compared to a DSLR. It's actually pretty pointless when you think about it. We've had these alternatives around for a while now and in some situations they work better than DSLR's and in others they don't. But surely by now they don't have justify their existence by how they compare with another type of camera. 

SPEED

I make the above point because both cameras performed very well yesterday. The GX7 is lightning quick in virtually every situation. The train picture above was a grab shot. It arrived very quickly and I was wasn't expecting it. It was travelling at around 50-60 mph and I just spun round and grabbed the shot. As you can see it's pin sharp. The X-E2 isn't quite so quick, especially with the 60mm in macro mode, but with the recent firmware updates it's now a pretty fast camera. And I'm not going to qualify that with any comparison with anything else. It's just a fast camera and if you know what you're doing, you really won't have a problem with it. So in terms of handling speed both of these cameras are pretty quick. The GX7 being slightly faster to focus and take the shot.

BUILD QUALITY

This is the second area where I think the GX7 is slightly better. Unlike many Panasonic cameras it's both a pleasure to look at and a pleasure to hold and use. For me it's the nicest Panasonic camera ever. (Though the brick like L1 did have it's charms) It's really classy to hold and use. And yes it is very 'Leica like'. The built in grip is also a useful addition. I don't usually small cameras that are below a certain size and I would normally consider the GX7 to be just that, but I actually like it a lot. It is smaller that the X-E2 but for me it's feels very comfortable. In fact I prefer it over the X-E2 without a grip. Whether it is robust or not, I can't say, since I'd have to use it for a much longer time to come to a judgement on that, but it certainly feels it.

The Fuji is also well put together as well. With the PhotoMadd grip I have permanently attached it again feels very classy and solid. Now these cameras use much less metal in their construction than actual Leica rangefinders, but I've never had a problem with either brand in terms of their construction. All the Panasonic and Fuji cameras I've used have all worked perfectly and reliably. And that's more than I can say for the (D)SLR's I've owned, including some of the top of the range, so-called 'pro-spec' models. 

HANDLING

This is a very personal thing, but I like both. Yesterday switching between the two, often very quickly, I really didn't have a preference. Both performed as I wanted them too and I encountered nothing that slowed me down. It was in fact a very nice way to work. No need to change lenses and the whole experience was quick and easy. I may well give it a go again. I have to admit that one thing I do like about both is the offset viewfinder. Leica M's have this and I much prefer it to a centred viewfinder. And yes I do use my left eye almost as much as my right. 

DIFFERENCES

In terms of what I prefer the GX7 has two things I really like. The tilting screen, though only horizontally up and down unfortunately. And the electronic shutter. As you will know, I love these. They are fast, responsive and silent. The one on the GX7 is so much better than the usual 'wimpy' m4/3 shutter.

The Fuji has an OLED viewfinder and better sized manual controls. When I first saw the GX7 announced I got very interested as it seemed to have everything I wanted in a small package. However as details emerged I was disappointed that it didn't have the OLED EVF from the G6 and GH3. Now for some it doesn't matter, but I have a need to wear sunglasses outdoors and my preference is for polaroid versions of these. However, yesterday I wore a non-polaroid pair and it just wasn't as comfortable. Now this is something personal again and to many people this will be irrelevant. However I really can't see why all cameras don't have OLED electronic viewfinders.

OPTIONS

The X-E2 does have less options. However for me it has all the right ones and what it leaves out I don't miss. I really hate touch screens. If you leave them turned on the camera has a life of it's own as it's really difficult not to touch the screen by mistake. Plus all that poking around with my fingers has never filled me with enthusiasm. I have to put up with it on my phone and iPad but I try to avoid it altogether with my cameras. It is on the GX7 but then you can turn it off.

Likewise Wi-Fi. I have no desire to share my every moment with the world and I'm sure the world is grateful for that!! Plus I've never seen the point of transferring images to a phone and then uploading them. For the bulk of the worlds population isn't that taken care of by the phone camera? Sure you get better quality images but have you ever tried uploading a full-sized image to Facebook? 

The GX7 also has pinpoint AF which I like. Very useful for getting the point of focus spot on. I would like to say that there is a difference in the view screens but both are pretty useless in bright sunlight. I tried to take some shots on both cameras yesterday over a wall by holding the camera up in the air. I just gave up as I couldn't see the image at all. And yes I did take my sunglasses off!!

CONCLUSIONS

These are both great cameras as far as I'm concerned. Using both yesterday I was in fact struck by how similar they are rather than their differences. The idea of the excursion was to find out if I preferred one over the other, but ended up with me thinking 'Hey this is a really great combination.' So good in fact that I can award both my highest complement. I forgot completely about both cameras and concentrated on taking the pictures. One thing I should mention of course is that I was shooting with the GX7 on ISO 125 and on the X-E2 I was using ISO 400. So all the things I went through yesterday in Part 1 dealing with the image quality differences apply here. 

The GX7 is a difficult one for me. I really struggle with the non-OLED EVF but I absolutely love the electronic shutter. There is also the issue that there are more lenses available for it and they are lighter and smaller than the Fuji alternatives. And also, it has to be said, in many cases more expensive. The 42.5mm f/1.2 is VERY tempting, but then so is the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 and no I'm not going to buy both and run some comparisons for you.

With all the provisos about personal taste and choice if I was forced to choose one or the other, I would choose the X-E2. For me the OLED viewfinder, the ability to use higher ISO's and still get clean files, the exceptional lens range that suits me well, the prices of said lens range and the look and feel of the camera all contribute to that choice. Plus perhaps more importantly I've written enough times about how I'm a can't help myself Fuji fanboy. I pick up the X-E2, attach one of those beautiful lenses and I just go weak at the knees. And I see no reason to fight this infatuation. 

But and it's a huge BUT, the GX7 is an extremely seductive camera as well. In fact the experience of bringing it up to my eye, seeing the AF lock on in the blink of an eye and capturing the moment almost instantly with the electronic shutter is one of the nicest I've had with a camera. It's beautifully made, works great, looks good and in most situations I find myself in gives me great results, so I do like it very much. The fact I like the X-E2 more says more about me than the actual cameras themselves. I'm just glad I can afford to own both of them. 


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