Three very different cameras – one location.
- The cameras: The Fuji X100, the Sony RX100 and the Fuji X-Pro 1.
- The location: The Natural History Museum in Vienna
I shot those cameras on different days so light is very different but my main topic is not image quality it is shooting experience. How does it feel shooting them? Do they deliver in poor light? Which camera is most fun? Which one is the most annoying? But of course also about: How do the images compare in real life?
The cameras: X100 and RX100 have an integrated lens. The X100 has a “35mm” prime lens the RX100 a “28-100mm” zoom. On the X-Pro 1 you can change lenses. Currently I have a “27mm” and a “52mm” prime. The Sony seems most flexible because of the zoom that also features image stabilization but that is only half of the story. The lens gets very slow if zoomed in so in reality I used the zoom mostly on it’s widest setting. IS on the Sony is not very effective. I also did read in a photo magazine that the new high megapixel sensors are more sensitive to camera shake and that the old rule of 1/focal length is no longer valid. i.e.: 1/30s for a 28mm lens is no longer good enough to guarantee sharp shots. You should use 2 stops shorter exposure times to get critically sharp shots on a regular base.
1/30s should be good enough on the Sony because of IS but I found out that you still need to be very careful. The reason is simple: Shooting without a viewfinder is far less stable than shooting with the eye on the camera and the arms braced against your body. So neither the zoom nor IS are a real plus for the RX100 in poor light. The Fuji X100 has a fixed lens and no IS but in real life that’s not a problem and here is why: It’s the traditional shooting style ( eye on viewfinder ) plus the leaf shutter that creates far less vibration than the more common focal-pane shutter. That’s why the X100 is easily hand holdable at longer shutter speeds and to a certain extend also because of it’s low resolution compared to the RX100.
There is another fact that separates the X100 from the other two: The X100’s auto ISO menu allows to set a minimum shutter speed. I can not stress out how important that is and I can not understand why Sony and even more so why Fuji forget about that simple option in their X-Pro 1. It is a real handicap for both when it comes to low light shooting.
The Sony suffers from it’s very ineffective image stabilization system and the X-Pro 1 from the fact that the 1/focal length rule does not guarantee sharp images. It’s a shame that one of the best high ISO cameras build today is compromised because it stays in low ISO settings instead of pushing ISO to get a faster shutter speed. I still hope that there will be an update.
It is really annoying because there is no work around. Most of all X-Pro 1 shooters will use the camera in A-Mode most of the time. When shooting in low light you need to compensate by dialing in -1 stop or more to avoid over exposure. That’s why you can’t switch to manual to get faster shutter speed because than the exposure compensation does no longer work. A change to S-Mode is also no solution because now the camera selects the widest aperture. Not the best solution if you need some DOF or if you want to optimize the performance of the lens. The only solution is to go to full manual but that means to loose Auto-ISO and that is like going back in time.
Enough about that problem but you need to be aware of it and it is cumbersome in low light. With the X-Pro 1 you can get the zoom lens with it’s effective IS to avoid this issue.
Indoors a wider lens can be a real advantage. If room is tight there is no space to zoom with your feet. The “35mm” lens of the X100 can be a handicap there. I’m used to that focal length but you need to know that it can be limiting sometimes. The other two offer wider lenses.
Noise 1: The RX100 and the X100 are practically silent if you turn off the peeps and clicks. The X-Pro 1 is not a loud camera but the two primes rattle while focusing and there is some noise from the shutter too. The X-Pro 1 with the zoom is a lot quieter but still not silent.
Noise 2: All three are known for their very good high ISO performance but of course they are different. The Sony crams 20MP on a much smaller sensor. It would be a 150MP camera in full frame terms. The X-Pro 1 would be 32MP and the X100 a 24MP camera. Regarding high ISO usage I feel comfortable to shoot the RX100 up to 800, the X100 up to 1600 ( 3200 if needed ) and the X-Pro 1 up to ISO 3200 ( 6400 if necessary ). The RX100 is impressive for it’s size and sensor size but regarding high ISO the Fuji’s are in a different league.
Exposure and White Balance: All three cameras do an outstanding job. Their performance in this area would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago. White balance of them is clearly ahead of Canon and Nikon. Impressive. The Sony is very good indoors but has some problems outdoors where it produces rather cool shots. Shadow and snow can result in very blueish images. The Fuji’s white balance is truly impressive. I think the X100 is better than the X-Pro 1.
Dynamic Range and Highlights: It’s impressive how these cameras deal with highlights. When you consider the small sensor in the Sony it is impressive to see such results. Once again: Dynamic range and highlight quality would have been unthinkable a generation ago. I would not recommend to buy older DSLRs. The new sensors are so much better.
DOF control: Of course there is a big difference in between the Sony and the two Fuji’s. The Sony RX100 is handicapped by both: small sensor and slow lens. No way to really blur the background or separate your subject. The X100 comes next. It allows some subject isolation but of course the focal length is rather short and f2.0 isn’t very fast either. The X-Pro 1 is a different story. The 1.4/35 allows impressive subject isolation and the upcoming 1.4/56 will be even better for that. But also the 1.4/23 will make a real difference compared to the 2.0/23 of the X100. DOF control and flexibility are a real plus of the X-Pro 1. FUJIFILM X-Pro1 (35mm, f/1.4, 1/80 sec, ISO200)
FUJIFILM FinePix X100 (23mm, f/2, 1/60 sec, ISO2000)
FUJIFILM X-Pro1 (18mm, f/2.5, 1/30 sec, ISO320)
Last but not Least: How do they feel in your hands? The Sony RX100 is by far the smallest camera here and I think that is a real disadvantage when it comes to handling. It’s small and slippery. I can’t even hold it properly without the dedicated case. That’s why I think that this overpriced, fake leather device is really needed to handle the camera. The controls on the Sony are nice and built quality is very good but the shooting is not involving. Biggest fault is that the ring on the lens rotates freely. It would be great if it would click. I think that would make a big difference.
The X100 fits perfectly. The viewfinder, the aperture ring on the lens or the easy rotating exposure dial compensation: This is perfection. I’m not talking about the back of the camera but for shooting you don’t need the controls on the back. Shooting the X100 is as good as it gets.
The X-Pro 1 is bigger but for me that means better. I’m not talking about convenience or putting it into a pocket I talk about how the camera feels in my hands. The controls are perfect too except for the aperture ring. I’m not a big fan of half or one third stops and I would prefer to have an aperture ring with full stops only. But that’s just me. Otherwise I have no complaints, ok the viewfinder lever feels cheaper than the one on the X100.
I did not talk a lot about image quality a lot. The reason is simple: For normal use all three cameras are very, very good. Even the small Sony. I would not worry to mix images in a slide show. The little Sony is that good. Of course the Fuji’s are better when you pixel peep but there is little to complain about on the Sony images. The difference in between the Fuji’s is much, much smaller. It is there but I would not worry about it. If you choose the X-Pro 1 or the X-E 1 over the X100 just because of the image quality I would recommend to rethink. If you can live with a fixed “35mm” lens the X100 is a fantastic camera. It is 1 stop behind the X-Trans sensor cameras but it is an excellent performer. I think it has the edge regarding white balance and it operates completely silent. Flash can be used outdoors at fast shutter speeds thanks to it’s leaf shutter and best of all:
You can still put it in a large winter coat pocket.
Three cameras and three winners: Depending on your preferences.
Sony RX100: I personally see the Sony RX100 as my every time with me camera that takes the shots that were covered by my iPhone in the past. Sounds negative? No. It is a clear step up to every other compact camera on the market. Image quality is impressive and challenges older DSLRs. To me it has only 2 weak points: shooting experience is compromised because of the lack of a viewfinder and the “no click” ring on the lens. And because there is no chance to play with selective sharpness as depth of field is compact camera style.
Fuji X100: This can be a real substitute for a DSLR depending on your shooting style. The fixed prime can be limiting but if 35mm is your favorite focal length you should consider the X100 or the upcoming X100s. If money is tight the X100 is the better deal because image quality is very close to the X-Pro 1 and white balance is even better.
Fuji X-Pro 1: This can substitute a full DSLR outfit in the future. “Can” because at the moment there is a lack of lenses but looking at the roadmap Fuji seems to be dedicated to the X-Series and they have to. They left DSLR long time ago and they are concentrating their efforts on the X-Series now. What really separates the Fuji’s from the rest is not image quality, high ISO or white balance it is shooting experience. In this regard they are miles ahead of competition.
Where is the Sony RX1? I don’t have this camera and therefore I can not write about it. Ok sometimes I do. ;-). You don’t need to be a clairvoyant to tell that regarding image quality and high ISO it would come out on top. Regarding shooting experience it will be clearly behind the Fuji’s as long as you don’t get one of the additional viewfinders. But the RX1 is not just a RX100 with a full frame sensor. It’s closer to the X100 because of the high quality fixed prime lens and the leaf shutter. Combine it with the overpriced optical viewfinder and you will get a really great camera.
Why does the last picture show a DSLR err I meant a Dodo?