Great low light cameras at low ISO's - Sony A7s, Nikon Df, Fuji X-T1

I've currently got three cameras - Sony A7s, Nikon Df and Fuji X-T1 that all work very well at high ISO's. But they all produce great images at their base ISO's as well. 

Sony A7s Zeiss 55mm lens

For the above images I went out with the specific purpose of using my Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens to create some panoramic multi-stitch images, which is something I used to do with low MP cameras, but haven't done for a while. For these I used Photomerge in Photoshop CS6. This has always been a way of creating larger images from cameras that don't produce big files and I was able to get some very high resolution images by stitching 4 or 5 images together. 

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I don't usually aim to create very wide and thin 'letter box' type panoramas, but keep them to around a 16:9 ratio. Though compared to reality I am distorting the perspective the finished images usually end up looking 'possible', though in actual fact they aren't. 

I sell a lot of this kind of image and as I said I've done a lot of this in the past. In fact at one time a few years ago, I was shooting little else. This has always let me use cameras I like rather than worry too much about file size. The A7s is a 12MP camera and that's the size I used to create a lot of my 'panoramas' with all the early m4/3 cameras I used as well as DSLR's like my Nikon D3 and D700. It's a useful technique for landscape / location / architecture shots and considering that is the bulk of what I shoot, it's proved very useful over the years.

Nikon Df Nikon 28-200mm Zoom lens

I have to say I was blown away by what I got from my Nikon Df and Nikon 28-200mm zoom at the weekend. The colour and dynamic range from this camera is spectacular. I have to confess, that like many others, I couldn't really see past the retro design and all those knobs when the Df was first announced. 

It should however be considered for what it actually is, a superbly put together complete camera for still photography, with an incredibly good sensor that allows picture taking anywhere, anytime. I've yet to finish my A7s / Df comparison tests, but before completing them I know that I prefer the look of the Df files. They have more punch than the Sony and the colour depth and the richn files the camera creates are a pleasure to edit.

According to tests I've seen, the A7s probably just has the edge at high ISO's but the Df produces magnificent low ISO files. That sensor, made by Nikon themselves, delivers files that can be upsized quite dramatically and show none of the tell tale signs of interpolation. It's a misunderstood camera (and I have to admit by me as well when it was first revealed) but if you read comments by people who own one, they do usually rave about how the camera performs and the pictures it produces.

DSLR's get a bad press these days on certain sections of the photographic internet, but the Df is one of the finest examples of that type of camera. It makes a nonsense of the idea that cameras with that SLR design and the moving mirror are obsolete. Because in terms of the finished product, i.e. the image file, a lot of mirrorless cameras still have some catching up to do compared to the Df. 

And I have to admit, that with my long history with (D)SLR's I do love using it. I'm resigned to the fact that I'm never going to get the same pleasure from using Sony cameras, no matter how amazing they are. While I appreciate what the A7s can do, if I had to choose between that and the Df there would be no contest, it would be the Df that stayed. Fortunately I don't have to make that decision and the old-school feel of the Df and the slap of the mirror and the clunky but positive shutter sound are music to the ears of this unapologetic 'retro head'. And yes I like silent shutters very much, but if I'm going have a shutter with sound then I prefer the DF sound to those wimpy, weedy noises that many mirrorless cameras make. Great camera.

Fuji X-T1 18-135mm zoom lens

Talking of great cameras I really like the Fuji X-T1 as well. It also has great handling and can produce files with wonderful colour.

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Those who follow my Fuji posts will notice the new grip. This is the PhotoMadd shop L-Plate grip for the X-T1. I will at some point do a post about Blogger and Photographer Matthew Maddock's wonderful online shop of Fuji accessories, but for now I'll say that this grip produces wonderful handling for the X-T1. There are lots of times when I don't want to use the Fuji battery grip but could use something more substantial than the cameras grip which isn't that pronounced. This all metal L-Plate is just the job and improves the handling significantly for me.

Again a mention for the superb 18-135mm zoom. This is my favourite of all the Fuji lenses I;ve owned and I've sold my 18-55mm and 55-200mm zooms because I just don't use them anymore after buying the 18-135mm. It's just so much easier to have the one lens on the camera.

So three cameras often written about in terms of their low light capability also produce lovely files at their base ISO's. I do shoot at base ISO on my cameras far more than anything else, so this is how I will use these cameras most of the time. Nice choices to have.

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There is an interesting article on the BBC website HERE, which deals with many of the issues above.

Many Thanks

David Taylor-Hughes