So here’s my painstakingly compiled shoot-out comparison between the Fuji X-T1, Olympus OMD-EM1 and the Canon 70D. Remember a lot of this is just my opinion/conclusion based on all the reviews/videos that I have looked at online. But it helped me immensely in my decision-making process so if it can help someone else as well then thats great! The tables are colour-coded to give an idea of what I think are the major differentiating features that could possibly influence your decision one way or other. The green highlights are for the camera that I think wins in that particular section (your views may vary), and the orange highlights are for the features that I think need to be differentiated based on personal preference because different people will have different needs and shooting styles. These are screen shots of my excel tables but hopefully the resolution should be good enough.
*sensor quality comparisons are based on the excellent Image Quality Comparison section of reviews on the DPreview website that allow you to compare the same image from up to 4 different cameras at various RAW/JPEG and ISO settings.
So what’s the verdict?
Well it is a very personal choice, but the way I see it is that there are two layers to the question. First of all you have to decide Mirrorless or DSLR. If size is not a problem for you and you don’t mind carrying the bulky gear, or if having super-fast and super-accurate autofocus is essential to you, or indeed if video shooting is your priority, then stop here because the 70D is your tool. Especially given that its the cheapest option of the three. Of course if you want to go full frame then thats a different discussion altogether and I won’t go into that here.
On the other hand if portability is key to you, and you would rather have a high quality instrument that gives you all the manual versatility you could want, in a form factor that you will actually enjoy carrying with you everywhere on your travels without ever feeling like a burden, then one of the mirrorless cameras is the way to go. Award-winning shots of cheetahs in full flight and peregrine falcons swooping for the kill may not be forthcoming, but if thats what toots your horn then a 5D MkIII and a £1000 L-series lens (plus the inevitable ensuing poverty and delinquency) are what you should be aiming for. Of course if your first name is ‘Sheikh’ then knock yourself out and go the whole hog with a 1DX or a Nikon D4S!
Back to the matter at hand - if mirrorless has wooed you then which one to go for?The X-T1 or the EM1? For me it boiled down to one thing at the end of the day - image quality. I went through dozens of sample images from the EM1 and the X-T1 on various sites and by various photographers, and I was consistently blown away by the images from the XT-1. There was one particular image taken in the Harry Potter studio, of Diagon Alley with the purple and orange-hued lights and lots of shadow details - I’ve been there myself and know exactly how difficult it is to capture a usable shot in those conditions hand-held. But at ISO 1600 the X-T1 delivered an out of camera JPEG that had my jaw on the floor. It was perfect. The colour rendition was spot-on, the shadow detail was excellent, and there was not a speck of noise that stood out at 100% that I could see. That one image tilted the balance massively in favour of the XT-1 for me. The APS-C size sensor gives you those extra pixels that means you can print larger without losing quality, and again I have to say the rendition of colour by the XTRANS sensor is simply magnificent, both in landscapes and portraits. For the last 3 years I have only shot RAW, but that means having to post-process every single image I shoot and that takes time. A lot of time. But now I could actually see myself shooting JPEGs again and counting on the camera output to be spot on. It was an exciting thought because it meant I would have to trust myself in the field much more. In fact there were a lot of things that excited me about the X-T1 - the styling, the stunning EVF with dual-screen focus assist, the optical and build quality of the Fujinon XF lenses, and of course Fuji’s reputedly awesome customer service and engagement with real photographers. There are some gripes, and no camera is without them - most reviews consistently complain about the 4-way pad on the back because the buttons are too flush with the body and slightly mushy; the front and rear control wheel are similarly fiddly especially if you have chubby fingers or are wearing gloves; you can’t shoot RAW at ISO 100; the menus are not especially inspiring to look at, and the currently available lenses are not weather resistant to match the body.
Some of these points are countered by the Olympus OMD-EM1. Indeed there are a number of respected photographers who have wholly committed to the micro four-thirds system and the EM-1 in particular, perhaps most notable Gordon Laing of cameralabs.com whose opinions I regularly seek on his website when it comes to camera reviews. But at the end of the day the Fuji was the one for me. I went to a store, tried out both cameras and the Fuji just felt right in my hands. It felt like a tool I would enjoy using for many years to come and one that I would look forward to taking out in any conditions anywhere in the world. So much so that I have shelved my plans of getting a full-frame camera, at least for the time being.
I got my X-T1 two weeks ago so I’ll put up some images as I go along to see if I can back up all my lofty claims!
So I hope this has been useful to someone in some small way and helped you make your decision on what to upgrade to next. Whatever you decide on just remember that all that matters at the end of the day is that helps you express your creativity to the maximum. Happy image-making!