My thoughts so far on the Fuji and Olympus systems

I have to admit that when I started this process for selecting a new camera system, I was already almost decided on the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system. But I did want to take a serious look at what else was out there. My criterion out of the gate were:

  1. Mirrorless system,
  2. Compact and lightweight system with a smaller than full-frame sensor, no larger than APS-C but no smaller than MFT,
  3. Good selection of quality compact lenses including wide-angle and medium telephoto,
  4. Minimum 16 and maximum 24 Megapixels (anything more than 24 is currently more of a nuisance in my opinion),
  5. Good image quality, but “good enough” in real-world scenarios as opposed to pixel-peeping,
  6. Good handling in the field,
  7. Rugged construction but not necessarily pro-grade.

My style of shooting and interests are as follows, in order of importance:

  • Street Shooting,
  • Travel Photography,
  • Macro Photography,
  • Wildlife photography.

I do not care much for sports photography or for advanced video. The capability to do casual short clips at 1080P is really all I need.

I immediately dropped the Sony A6300 because of points #2 and #3 above. The Sony has a poor selection of APS-C lenses and I do not want to buy large, heavy and expensive FF lenses. Additionally the Sony’s forte is sports and video shooting, two things I do not care much about. Finally, don’t care that much for the Sony’s ergonomics and lack of mechanical controls.

Conversely, the more I digged into the Fuji system, the more I was pleasantly surprised. So while I was almost sold on the MFT system at the start, now I’m not so sure! Here’s where my thinking is at now.

From my research, it is pretty clear that the Fuji X-Trans sensor provides better image quality than the MFT sensors both in terms of perceived detail and in terms of high-ISO noise. On the other hand, the MFT resolution appears to be plenty good for web images and for prints up to 20″ x 24″ or even 24″ x 30″ with the new 20 Mpixel MFT sensors. As for noise, the Fuji has about 2 f-stops better noise control at high ISO but on the other hand the Olympus’ best-in-the-world in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) gives you a 2 to 5 stop advantage, depending on whether or not you compare it to using a Fuji lens with optical stabilisation.

The Fuji system also has great looking cameras that are designed for photographers with lots of mechanical dials and controls including aperture rings on the lenses, but the Olympus EM-1 is faster and better handling. Fuji has an excellent selection of XF lenses now and they don’t seem to have a single bad one in the lot. However, the MFT system also has a superb lens line-up between Olympus and Panasonic/Leica.

The biggest advantage of the MFT system though is the size of the lenses which is a very important criteria for me. Olympus prime lenses are about 1/3 to 1/2 the size and weight of those for full-frame cameras while Fujis are a little larger and heavier at around 2/3 the size and weight of their FF counterparts. Same goes for the Olympus’ pro-grade f/2.8 constant aperture zooms, they are about half the size and price of their Nikon FF counterparts. You also have access to more affordable lenses in the MFT system especially in the long zooms if you are willing to give up the constant aperture.

The Fuji X-T1 has the best and biggest electronic viewfinder, but then the EM-1’s is no slouch either. However, the Olympus has some really interesting technology like the aforementioned 5-Axis IBIS, focus-bracketing mode, excellent time-lapse capabilities, super hi-res mode, higher flash-synch speed, live-view when building long-exposures or multiple-exposures, and a few others. Also, if I ever change my mind in the future and want to get more serious about video, then my MFT lenses could be used on a Panasonic MFT body that provides class-leading video capabilities.

So I guess that as a system, I find the Olympus MFT system extremely attractive for its compactness, lightness, flexibility, IBIS, speed and technology. On the other hand I find the Fuji system very attractive for its image quality, retro feel, excellent film simulations and the fact that the company really listens to photographers and keeps improving its cameras through significant firmware upgrades (not just bug fixes!)

So the decision is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. Next I will look at some potential kits from each company and how much they would cost and weight. In the end, this is probably the most important distinction between the two systems, as I think the difference in image quality is easily compensated for by the Olympus’ technical advantages.