Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sony RX-1 vs. Fuji XE-1 - My take.

I've been playing with both these cameras for the past few weeks with the intent of choosing one as an alternate to my DSLR rigs and main travel camera. I've never been happy with the compromise in image quality you would have to make with compact cameras, so up to this point I've been 'that guy' toting around my 5DmkIII on family outings. I even bought the (amazingly sharp) 40mm pancake lens to make my rig more compact but it's still far from being as small as either of these two cameras.

Build Quality
While both these cameras have a very high end build quality rarely seen these days, the Sony is clearly a step above the with Fuji with its metal lens cap and overall solid construction that makes it feel as if it was machined from a single piece of metal.
RX-1:holds amazing detail in shadows

Here's where I give the Fuji the edge as it most closely captures the feel of my beloved Contax G2. I prefer Fuji's choice of  separate aperture and shutter speed selection dials with the 'A' setting verses Sony's PASM. Call me old school but I really like looking down and seeing the shutter speed with a glance of a dial instead looking at the LCD screen. But one of the biggest nods in the Fuji's favor is the inclusion of a viewfinder - while I'm still not thrilled with the performance of the EVF, it's worlds better than no EVF at all. I really think Sony should have put a viewfinder on the RX-1, I understand they were pushing the envelope on just how small you can make a full frame camera - but I think the slight increase in size to put a viewfinder on the camera would have still resulted in compact design but  it would have made such a big improvement in the way you interact with the camera. I also think it would have resulted in a body size that would be much more proportionally balanced with the lens. I personally don't like the

Much has been said on the web on how slow these cameras are in AF in low light, I found neither one unacceptable and much better than I could have done manually. I found AF tracking of moving subjects poor on both cameras that may be disappointing to those who enjoy shooting active subjects.
With well lit subjects, I found both cameras equally snappy in their ability lock focus. General menu navigation and image review and zooming did appear to be slightly better with the Sony but overall, I'd call this one a tie.
RX-1 Beautiful color and Bokeh

 Image Quality
It all comes down to this right? What good is all the handling, ergonomics and compact size advantages if you don't end up with images that make you happy. Neither camera disappoints in this area, both produce beautiful and have low light capabilities that until now was unseen in the compact segment. But the adv pantage goes to Sony with it's extra Megapixels and that beautiful Zeiss lens that can really resolve some amazing detail and can go along way in making up for its fixed 35mm lens with some post processing cropping.
My comparisons may be a bit unfair since the Fuji had a zoom lens vs. a prime but the Sony was giving my 5DmkIII a run for its money so I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb to say that swapping out the zoom would have reversed my opinion.
FUJI XE-1 ISO 6400 Holds detail and color well,  Noise has a very film like grain quality

While +Steve Huff did the same comparison and chose the RX-1 as his personal choice. I came to the opposite conclusion, for me, the Fuji's controls, design of operation and VIEWFINDER won me over. It may be totally superficial but I felt as though I was more 'in touch' with the photographic process with the Fuji. It felt more like a tool in my hand for me to craft my art instead of the latest wiz-bang gadget - and that was significant enough for me to overlook the IQ advantage of the Sony. Some may find the price difference alone enough reason to choose the Fuji but I find that the hurt in the wallet is only temporary, but the sting of dealing with a camera you don't enjoy is much longer lasting. In fact, if Sony would have released the RX-1 with a viewfinder and better controls, I would have no hesitation in paying the asking price. But for now, the Fuji XE-1 will be at my side...
FUJI XE-1: 18-55mm kit lens is no slouch and capable of some sharp images.