My trip to Banff and Jasper was one of the most enjoyable trips I have taken in a long time. It is hard not to thoroughly enjoy a visit there, as the Canadian Rockies are a mecca to a landscape photographer like me. It was also a new challenge for me, as I planned to abandon my beloved Nikon DSLRs and lenses for the Sony A7 and Fuji XT-1. For a detailed explanation of my move away from Nikon, read this post. Full disclosure, I did bring my Nikon D700 with me, but only used it when shooting wildlife, which represented only about 5% of my photos. The rest were shot with the Sony and the Fuji (ended up being about a 60/40 split).
Before I get into comparisons, let me first say that both of these cameras are top notch. You can't go wrong with either one. Before I proceed, let me throw out some caveats.
- This is not a technical review of either camera as I am not qualified to give one. Nor am I an expert in how to use either camera. In fact, if I state something that you know is wrong, please leave a comment so that I can learn. It is only the second time that I have used the Sony and the first time for the Fuji, so I am still getting used to the controls and options for both cameras.
- This comparison is from the perspective of a landscape photographer only. I know that the mirrorless cameras have not totally caught up to speed with the focusing abilities of DSLRs. That is the reason that I shot wildlife with my Nikon D700.
- Shooting with Nikons for almost 15 years, I could change settings unconsciously, as I knew every button and menu setting. Going into this trip, this was not true of either camera for me. Not only that, I underestimated having to learn two different sets of menu options and controls at the same time. That being said, I became pretty proficient in both after a couple of days of shooting.
- Lenses - I brought with me three Fuji lenses (10-24; 18-55 and 55-200) and two lenses for the Sony (28-70 and 18-200). The Fuji has a big advantage here with respect to available lenses. The Sony only has two full frame lenses available for the A7. That is one of the reasons I went out and purchased the Fuji system. Perhaps when Sony ultimately releases all of its planned lenses, the gap will narrow. As far as image quality, I'd give the Fuji a slight edge but not enough to be a major factor.
- Battery Life - This is where I simply don't get what Sony was thinking. The battery life for the A7 sucks. No other way to say it. I knew it when I bought the Sony, but I didn't realize how bad it was. If I shot exclusively on the Sony on this trip, I would have gone through four batteries on a typical shooting day. Totally unacceptable. The Fuji's battery life, in comparison, was terrific and while not on par with the Nikon's battery, it wasn't that far off.
- Exposure Bracketing - I bracket whenever I shoot. I initially started bracketing when I was getting into HDR. While I don't process as many HDRs these days, I like being able to choose from one of the brackets as my starting points for editing. The Sony has the many options for bracketing from + to - 3 stops. The Fuji inexplicably only allows a maximum of + or - 1 stop. Hard to understand Fuji's thinking on this. I was hoping that they fixed this on their recent firmware update, but it is not there.
- Exposure - One thing I noticed when going through my photos taken with the Fuji was that the normal exposure seemed a little off. By that I mean that when picking the best one of the three bracketed exposures, I almost never picked the one that was the "normal" exposure. Most of the time it was the -1 stop that was the best. A few times it was the +1 stop. I don't know if this was because the scenes I was shooting were of a high dynamic range or just my personal taste. I didn't have the same issue with the Sony.
- Color Rendition - As you might expect, the colors from each of these cameras vary from one another. The Sony's colors seem a bit more saturated and natural looking on the LCD screen. The difference is even more pronounced when looking at the images in Lightroom, but I think this is an issue of Lightroom not rendering the Fuji RAW files as well as Sony's. Hopefully, Adobe will tweak this going forward.
- Panoramic Mode - I shoot a lot of panoramas with the built-in mode of each camera. The Sony works quite well with really good results. The Fuji panoramic mode is quite wide (even with the Medium Angle selected), and I found that it was way too wide for most scenes. If you stop moving the Fuji before it is finished, it won't store the photo. With the Sony, when the A7 stops moving, it records the image even if it hasn't reached its programmed width.
- Self-Timer - One of the more annoying things about either camera was Fuji's self-timer. I shoot on a tripod and use the self-timer instead of a remote. I set the self-timer for 2 seconds. The Fuji has an automatic sleep mode if it is idle for a period of time (pressing the shutter reactivates in from sleep mode). When reactivated, the self-timer is reset to off. I can't tell you how many times I had to turn it back on. The self-timer should stay set until the camera is manually turned off by the photographer.
Conclusion - The Funy
These are some quick observations on both cameras. They are not all inclusive, but what I noticed the most. The first day of shooting, my buddy Jeff Clow got a report every half-hour on what I liked and didn't like about each camera. Near the end of the day, he asked me which one I liked better. My answer was (and still is) that I like them both and I wished that I could merge the features together. He laughed and said that I needed to get a Funy that I thought was quite clever. At this point, I plan to keep shooting with both. One thing is for sure--I didn't miss the weight of the Nikon camera and lenses on this trip, and I think that the Nikon will not make my August trip to Glacier National Park.
Mount Norquay - Banff National Park
Almost forgot to mention the photo. We were coming back after shooting Two Jack Lake at sunrise and we passed this meadow that had a large puddle as a result of the previous week's rainfall. Being suckers for reflections, we just had to stop and shoot the scene. I believe this is the back of Mount Norquay reflected in the puddle. This was shot with the Fuji for anyone who is interested.