In this post I will not get into looking at photos and how they compare, I handled this subject in my previous posts. Here I am going to present an overall comparison with mostly subjective opinions about the two systems as a whole and the philosophy behind them.
To start let me state that in my opinion both are great systems and both have their particular drawbacks. Of course, they are also alive and developing, so for and example the in body image stabilisation will come to Fuji, wereas better autofocus is just aroud the corner for Sony (already great in their expensive A9 and A7RIII series).
Then of course with Fuji you can be certain that when your camera becomes outdated, you will soon get a software update that will make your gear ‚new‘ again, and that Fujifilm will ocntinue with the updates until new genaration of sensors is developed. With Sony you will have to buy a new camera. Additionally Sony seems to be adding products to their lineup without rhyme or reason, , they jsut simply throw onto the market the latest tech they managed to create, without looking at such small facts like making their customers feel like idiots (Imagine you bought a6300 6 months after release, and then a month later the a6500 comes out).
Sony’s approach is probably better if you just want the latest and greatest with unlimited budget, the reality of 99% of photographers is however different and Fujifilm chose to take this reality into account, while Sony tries to create their own, a very expensive one.
Image quality – although many Fujifilm shooters claim that there is no difference between the X-Trans III APS-C sensors and their full frame cometitors, but of course the difference is there and cannot be brushed off. Sony simply wins in this department. Some people might claim that out of camera jpegs and colors are better in Fuji and this might be true, but when you go to RAW, the things you can do to Sony files without losing too much quality are simply amazing. Fuji really is not even close. This is especially pronounced in backlit, sunset or general landscape situations where there is bright sky and dark shadows on the ground. With Fuji you have to result to HDR or simply make do with silhouettes, on Sony you jsut shoot away and bring up shadows with very little noise and much detail.
Built quality – Fujifilm wins. That’s it. I do not know about any of the Sony proponents who would stand by Sony’s built quality The wheel and all buttons are wobbly, front is made out of cheap plastic, SD card door cannot be closed properly. This of course changes with A9 and A7RIII, where the buttons and dials are much more sturdy, but those are also much more expensive so it is like comparing a mercedes and a fiat and still concluding that the quality is the same. This wouldn’t boad well for the mercedes.
Handling – here the popular opinion ist hat Fujilim’s ergonomics are better and more fun to use. While I can agree with the second part (it indeed is a more fun, tactile experience), when it comes to ergonomics, with Sony you have a) large grip to stadily hold the camera and b) both aperture and shutter speed controls accessible with one hand. With Fuji you always need two hands , as the aperture ring is on the lens. On the other hand Fujifilm cameras have a joystick, with Sony you need to pay €3,5K for this pleasure. It is possible that Sony A7 III will have it, but it is also possible that Sony will tell the A7 users to go buy A7R II, so we simply do not know.
Autofocus – here the Fuji system is simply a generation or two ahead. This of course relates the the second generation of Sony bodies. Once Sony A7 mark 3 comes out, it will surely have much more improved focus, the camera however is not out and nobody knows when or whether it will be released. The possible date is march 2018, but then a year ago we spoke about march 2017 and here we are. Of course we have Sony A9, the AF of which is much better, but for 4 times the price of the X-E3 it better be. Same goes for A7R III – it is simply a camera in a completely different price range and no meaningful comparison coulr really be made between the two without taking a huge price difference into account. Then you need to add a ridiculous way Sony cameras focus. If your camera is set to F18, it will also autofocus on F18, it will not open. This makes it practically unusable dark studio conditions, the solution would be to use external light source just for focusing. It also creates a really crazy situation. Let’s say you are buing a Sony 70-200 F2.8 lens for €3k. You pay the extra €1500 just to have the „speed“ of the F2.8 as opposed to F4. But then in practice on a full frame you will hardly ever shoot at F2.8, so let’s say that you shoot at F5.6. The problem ist hat with Sony’s AF algorhythm the lens actually becomes a F5.6 lens. It cannot focus as fast o ras accurate as a F2.8 lens would because it does not open to F2.8. So you are only using your heavy expensive F2.8 lens if you are actually shooting at F2.8, which is only usable if you want the whole body on a blurred background shot or you are going for an artistic effect.
This brings me to another issue I have with Sony system. It is completely chaotic, I personally do not believe that anyone at Sony knows where it is all going. Fuji went from film cameras to DSLRs and then quickly to the mirrorless X system and stayed there.
Sony on the other hand started with new SLT technology, then left it to rot to make the NEX series which were abandoned for the a6x series, essentailly the same camera but with worse ergonomics….It made a huge campaign for the a6000 series, after which it stopped developing lenses for the system. Then it started focusing on the compact full frame system. Once it became popular it went back to SLT A-mount (seems Sony waited until almost everyone abandons the system first) and then came back with E-Mount full frame. By then of course everybody forgot that the system was supposed to be compact, and all the 1200g an more lenses started to pop up.
In the meantime it released new a6x00 bodies, aimed at sports and action photographers. They only forgot that they did not produce even one decent telephoto lens for the system (No Sony, a 1kg 18cm long SEL70200G is NOT a telephoto lens for APS-C system)
All of this makes me wonder wheteher the A7 III will come out at all. Sony does not seem to have any respect for ist customers wallets, they just swamp you with strange preposistions, like if you want a drive dial, you need to pay 5k for the body. They were able to say that APS-C users should be satisfied with €1500 full frame telephoto lenses , they may just as well say that the old A7R II is a new A7II substitute.
Given all that, I would say that Fujifilm is alot safer to invest in. The pro lenses are also cheaper than Sony’s, but to be honest when you look for alternatives long enough, you will find more value options than Fuji, simply because there’s so many 3rd party native lenses out there.
If you are going for the ultimate image quality, go for Sony. Just do not buy stuff based on what Sony is rumored to release in the future, especially on release dates prognosed on sonyalpharumors. The guys over there „revise“ their predictions and you only know about the last hit, the 10 previous misses get lost somewhere.
If however you need a system that is lighter (not always smaller) and cheaper (mostly in case of telephoto and zoom lenses), while still producing amazing quality photos, plus if you want stability and do not want your gear to be worthless in 2 years time, buy Fujifilm.