Head to Head - Fuji X-T1 and SONY A7 II

When Fuji brought out the X-Trans sensor, they were eager to claim image quality on a par with 'full-frame.' They have also on many occasions reiterated their commitment to 16MP. So time to put their money where their mouth is and let their current top of the range X-T1 go head to head with Sony's new A7 Mk II. 

BODY

If you are looking for an impressive pro type look then the Fuji wins. It's a slightly bigger body and has a flash unit included. The basic body, minus the L-Plate grips I have fitted here does lose out to the Sony though, because this second version of the A7 has a much deeper handgrip. Fuji don't seem to like these for some reason, which is why I buy an l-plate grip for all my Fuji cameras.

In terms of layout and control, both are well-endowed with knobs and dials, the Fuji putting more of the basic functions outside of the menu's. Which you prefer is down to personal taste. Personally I have no issue with either layout. I can change what I need to on both cameras with little fuss, so I see both as pretty much equal in this regard.

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING

Again, I'd see little reason to promote one cameras virtues over the other. Both have nice snappy AF and get the image 'in the can' pretty rapidly. The X-T1 does have an electronic shutter though and the A7 II clunks away. So if you want to be silent when you shoot, the Sony won't oblige. I'm not sure exactly why the Sony FE series (with the exception of the A7s) have to be quite so noisy. Maybe it's some kind of DSLR envy, who knows!

Thinking about it, I'm actually hard pressed to think of any reason why I would prefer using one camera rather than the other. I have a personal preference in general for Fuji over Sony in terms of aesthetics and design but the A7 II is different to the previous three FE cameras. It has a much nicer looking matte black body and with the improved grip it is actually a very classy looking camera. So I guess I'll have to stop being nasty about Sony's design department, because I actually like the A7 II body. Yes you read that correctly, I LIKE a Sony camera body.

IMAGE QUALITY

Here's some comparisons.  

Yet again, I have real difficulty in expressing a preference for one or the other. The Sony has a higher pixel count and that larger sensor, but the Fuji files are impressive as ever. As usual I wish the OOC jpgs. which these are, let more detail through, but they are undeniably good quality. The Sony gets a bit 'blotchy' (Sorry for getting technical!) at ISO 6400, but it's difficult to complain about the quality even at these levels. 

There is more 'zing' (Another technical term!!) about the Sony jpgs. and I probably actually do prefer them. But then I've seen what Iridient Developer and other third party software can do with Fuji raw files, so I know there is a lot more acutance there. If you don't like working on raw files then I suspect you'll prefer the Sony. But though I often complain about the time it adds to my workflow, I can get some superb results from my Fuji raw files. And it probably sounds a bit 'kings new clothes' but I do think the Fuji raw files are a bit more 'organic' and film like than the Sony's, which to me are cleaner, more glossy but a bit less interesting. But then that's probably pretentious twaddle, so make of it what you will.

VIDEO

Hands down, no contest, slam dunk for Sony. Much better video implementation, in fact some of the best out there. Fuji have promised to improve this, which wouldn't be difficult since in a supposedly 'pro-spec' camera the Fuji video offer is somewhat 'ordinary.' And that's being polite!

IBIS

Well this is a walkover for Sony, since Fuji doesn't have it. And I have to say as with the latest Olympus version of this, I'm actually becoming a convert. It works where it works and the slow shutter speeds it allows are useful in some situations, useless in others. With Sony's easy and painless method of focusing non-AF lenses it's a bonus, though I gather the full 5-axis wonder isn't available for those. However it's well implemented and better to have it than not.

LENS RANGE OPTIONS

Hands down, no contest, slam dunk for Fuji. Sony just don't have enough of the 'right' lenses for me. Those FE offerings they have are variable in quality and seem more concerned with generating column inches rather than being useful. Why they ignore the simple basic lenses we all know and love (and Fuji had out ages ago) I can't say. Plus with a few exceptions they are seriously big, seriously heavy and seriously expensive. And unfortunately that expense often isn't justified in terms of optical performance. 

Fuji have an incredibly consistent lens range. Consistently good. Sometimes really outstanding. Eventually they will surely have to release a bad lens, everybody does, so why not them? However, they show no sign of doing any such thing at the moment. Superb design and engineering, superb optics and one the major reasons for choosing Fuji. Personally, I've liked all the ones I've used, but I'm especially fond of the 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom pictured above. 

And while Sony lenses are undeniably well-made, this doesn't seem to be their forte. As I've indicated before I only use Nikon lenses via adapters on my Sonys these days and that's not a particularly satisfactory situation. But for what I do I have better solutions with non-Sony FE native lenses and that is likely to remain the case for some time. 

PRICE

The Fuji is cheaper. And there are always those Fuji lens deals if you want to invest in the system. Sony do occasionally offer good vale, their small APS-C cameras being a prime example, but often they overprice and the whole FE system is symptomatic of that. I now buy all my Sony gear via ebay and though they are grey imports I save hundreds of pounds. And with the 'drop like a stone' resale value of Sony stuff, that's an important consideration.

CONCLUSION

You may have anticipated already that this is going to be somewhat fence sitting. I see strengths and weakness in both camera and indeed systems. But then I seem to use both about equally, so there's nothing really jumping out at me that indicates I like one more than the other. As I've indicated, I think the A7 II is a vast improvement aesthetically on what has gone before with FE and I gather this is going to be the body design from now on, which is good news. The A7 II therefore is for me a hopeful sign of things to come and I'll certainly be interested in any A7r II with hopefully an electronic shutter and of course any 50MP monster they care to release.

Fuji on the other hand, got the aesthetics right from the start. The X-T1 is, I gather, their best selling camera and I can see why. It's film SLR looks fits right in with their retro / old school ethos. But under the hood there's lots of 2015 goodies and if they ever decide to do something about the battery (yes I'm on about it AGAIN!) improve the video and finally embrace 24MP, then I think they could have a best seller on their hands. An X-Pro 2? Well it would have to be something special and I voted in the Fuji Rumors poll for an X-T2, since I can take or leave (well actually just leave) any hybrid viewfinder, much as I'm a sucker for the 'lookaleica' aesthetic.

So since I'm really unable to sort out my preference, I'm unable to come down on the side of either of these cameras. This is a real 'You pays your money and makes your choice' situation. But whichever you decide to buy, or have bought already, I don't think you will be disappointed by your choice. And I have both so I'm not.