Sony 10-18mm F4 e-mount Lens compared to Fujifilm Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS Lens

Two wide-angle constant f/4 aperture APS-C zooms with built in image stabilisation and good reputations. So how do they compare to each other?  Well that's what I set out to discover. As ever this is a test for myself and me finding out just how these lenses perform, in order that I can make decisions as to what to use. If you are considering one or other of these then my advice is to read a number of reviews and tests etc. and make your mind up after seeing a variety of opinions.

First off, this is not just a comparison between lenses, this is a comparison between systems and what the respective cameras do to the files. It's about AA filters, software corrections, jpg. rendering and sensor size as well as optical performance. You can't use either lens on the others cameras, so you're stuck with what Sony or Fuji decide is the best way to optimise their lenses characteristics. They are also different in range, the Fuji going to 24mm, the Sony to 18mm. The Fuji is bigger as well. And has a (faux) aperture ring.

I would just put in here the fact that I suspect that many would imagine the Fuji to be better constructed and 'feel' more like a photographic tool. However, you'd be wrong. The Sony, like many of the other e-mount lenses in fact, is beautifully made. It's sleek, it's got a lovely metallic sheen (whatever it's made of) and it is a delight to pick up and use. The Fuji is a decent lens in this respect too, but the Sony lens is a thing of beauty.

You also can't get away from the fact that the Sony focuses on a bigger sensor, 24MP compared to 16MP. A not insignificant difference. So in terms of image quality assessment I'm going to be downsizing the Sony and / or upsizing the Fuji ones. So already you have factors that may affect a choice between the lenses i.e. focal length range and sensor size. 

So, for my tests I used the a6000 for the Sony and the X-T1 for the Fuji. Set-up was as below.

I looked at the lenses at 10mm and 18mm, ISO 200 for both. Three apertures, f/4, f6.3 (or 6.4 for the Fuji) and f/10. Jpgs. set to standard on both and everything else as close as I could make it.

First off there was a surprise.

The Fuji OOC jpgs. are noticeably darker. In fact they are darker despite having a slower shutter speed. As you can see from the exif data both are at the same aperture and ISO and yet the Fuji creates a darker image at 1/180th. sec. than the Sony at 1/250th. sec. This was consistent at all apertures. So what that says about aperture accuracy, ISO accuracy and / or the light transmission of both lenses I cannot say. But as you can see it isn't marginal. About 1 stop. Contrast etc, was set at default for the STANDARD setting on both cameras and I haven't applied any post-processing. Strange.

I've checked this again with a different setup and the same thing happened.

I double checked everything to make sure everything was equal. Both shots used same lighting, centre weighted metering, focus point was the same, jpgs. set to standard, shadows, highlights etc. set to zero. The top image from the Sony was 1/6 sec. f/4 ISO 200. The bottom image from the Fuji was 1/5 sec. f/4 sec. ISO 200. So once more the Fuji has produced a darker image with a slower shutter speed. Or the Sony has produced a lighter image with a faster shutter speed. Either way one or both cameras or lenses is 'out'. The Sony lens could transmit more light or the Fuji sensor could require more light, I cannot say. It could of course just be restricted to one part of my gear. Or there is a possibiity that Fuji do this deliberately to protect the highlights. Who knows. I certainly don't. But between the two camera/lens combinations the Sony + 10-18mm  gives me brighter images with a slightly faster shutter speed.

Looking at the centre and edges on these f/4 jpgs. I got this.

On my monitor the Sony centre looks marginally sharper, the Fuji edge slightly the better, but it's very close and I certainly won't lose any sleep over it. 

At f/6.3 and f/10. I can't discern any difference. Both lenses are excellent both at the centre and in the corners. And even more encouraging is that both lenses are consistently good at all apertures. 

Processing from raw some of those other 'system' factors start making a difference. Both were 'developed' in Photoshop ACR and the Sony is sharper. And that's all to do with how Adobe render Fuji raw files. While it's true that I can get sharper results from other raw converters for the Fuji files with 'better' demosiacing etc. e.g. Photo Ninja and Iridient Developer, the same also applies to the Sony files. However I should make the point very firmly that we are talking about small differences here. Though in the sample below to which I've added an amount of sharpening that would normally be applied to files I send for print reproduction, the Sony gets even sharper compared to the Fuji. 

Now it's important to be careful with this. Because this difference is there for a reason. The a6000 isn't bad at high ISO's and it gains some advantage in reproduction terms from the larger sensor, but the X-T1 is undeniably better at those higher settings. It produces less noisy results and like all Fuji X cameras is one of the best out there for low light work. So again summing up so far, the Sony offers marginally sharper and brighter results, the Fuji offers a wider focal length range and better high ISO performance. How important those are to others is obviously personal preference, but speaking personally I can see the benefits of both for what I do. (Cue sounds of groaning bank manager and accountant!! 'Oh no, he's keeping both!')

Distortion / Correction.

Now here's something that surprised me.

Firstly the Sony, both uncorrected via Rawker and then via Photoshop ACR with the lens profile applied.

So some 'straightening' applied. 

Below is the Fuji. Again uncorrected via Rawker and then via Photoshop ACR with the lens profile applied.

As you can see there's quite a bit more distortion with the Fuji and therefore more correction applied. Now if you'd asked me before I did this then I would have said and I suspect so would many others, that Fuji would have produced a lens that needed less correction. But it seems that's not the case. So one for Sony in terms of 'bragging rights' there. This may of course have to do with the fact that the Fuji is a more complicated lens with the extra mm's, but both of the above were shot at the 10mm which is where I would think these lenses are going to get used a lot, so kudos to Sony here. I knew this was a good lens.

So an interesting comparison and with a couple of things that surprised me. Certainly I wasn't expecting the Sony 10-18mm to need less correction. But then since it is usable at between 12-16mm on the 35mm/'full-frame' sensors of the A7 and A7r FE cameras I guess that means that Sony have optimised performance here. On the darker Fuji jpgs. I'm really nonplussed. Maybe it's the lenses. There are differences between how lenses transmit light but this is quite marked. What it means however is that you loose a stop of the Fuji's high ISO advantage. I have to say that I find the a6000 to produce quite bright results anyway, both for raw and jpgs. so maybe the difference is with that camera. However it's certainly worth bearing in mind when I decide on which of these to take out with me.

My conclusion would be that both lenses are excellent optically and I suspect the differences are more to do with how the cameras process the images. When you add in the seriously good Panasonic 7-14mm then mirrorless / csc users have a pretty impressive choice when it comes to wide-angle zooms. And dare I say it better (certainly cheaper, lighter and smaller) options to DSLR alternatives. Plus there is that Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 on the horizon.

Obviously comparing the 10-18mm and the 10-24mm doesn't mean a lot if you are locked into either the Fuji or Sony systems and you have the one option and I wouldn't have thought that there is any reason to change. However I am compelled to say that the quality of the Sony has really impressed me. Plus of course the fact that I can use it as a 'full-frame' wide-angle zoom obviously gives it that extra usefulness to me. It does show that Sony can make really impressive optics when they put their mind to it and this lens plus the 35mm and 55mm Zeiss FE lenses make the APS-C e-mount system (whatever Sony choose to call it) one that makes no compromises in terms of image quality, though obviously more lenses of this standard are needed. And when you consider that all of this optical excellence can be captured by a rather fine 24MP sensor then the NEX (sorry Alpha) APS-C format system certainly has the potential to be a very high-quality picture making option for those who want smaller, lighter and cheaper but don't want to compromise on image quality. 

I have no wish to to assert superiority here and as a fully paid up Fuji fanboy that is far from my intention. My Fuji X cameras still give me lots of things the Sony's never will. That permanent smile on my face is one of them. And the fact that Fuji X cameras are really go anywhere, shoot anything cameras, particularly the X-T1, means that yes I will probably be keeping my seriously overloaded shelf full of cameras and lenses. Eight cameras currently and I haven't counted the lenses (I daren't!!) 

So if you're a wide-angle fan then whether you use Sony or Fuji (or both) then you have a seriously good option to indulge your passion. Coming from my film days I always regard lenses like this with a sense of wonder anyway, since back in the day we didn't have options like this. Problem with buying the great lens however is that then I'm compelled to go out and try to make the great pictures to go with it. And that's when the really difficult choices turn up.  

N.B. I would point out that the next rainy day I'm going to be comparing the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 on my a6000 to the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 on one of my Fuji X cameras. Following that it's Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 on a6000 compared to Fuji X100s + teleconverter and Fuji 23mm f/1.4 compared to Olympus 17mm. As you tell, the weather forecast is not great!!!

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