Monday, July 14, 2014

The search for a new camera - deciding between the Fuji XT-1 and Sony Alpha A7

This camera had to go to justify purchasing my new toy. Which one did I get? Read on

The desire to purchase a new camera usually boils down to one or a combination of the following: GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), status symbol, the need for better image quality and/or to fill the hole in a lens system. As for me, image quality is further down the list of reasons why I wanted to "invest" in a new camera. In fact, there isn't a camera out there that will make me want to sell my OMD E-M1. So why the heck am I in the market for a new system. Simply put, I just want it. 

So here's my oversimplified criteria for a new camera:
  • You can adjust the exposure triangle (ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture) without taking your eyes away from the EVF. 
  • A huge plus if you can change the focus points without taking your eyes away from the EVF
  • APSC or larger sensor
  • Must be mirrorless interchangeable lens system - so it boils down to Sony or Fuji (sorry Leica, you're out of my league)
  • The available glass must fill a hole in my current system
Countless days of research, consultation with friends and physically holding cameras at brick and mortar shops led to two cameras that seem to fit my needs: the Sony A7 and the Fuji X-T1. In Fuji's favor is their lens line up. In my opinion, Fuji rivals the micro four thirds system in the prime glass department, but not so much in the zoom department largely due to the variable aperture aspect. Sony's existing line up of primes and the newly released 70-200mm constant f/4 G lens had me drooling. Not only are the sample pictures found online incredibly impressive, it's also white like Canon's =). All jokes aside, the 70-200mm lens will fill 90% of my photographic needs and WILL be an immediate purchase if I go the Alpha route. 

As far as the body goes, the XT-1 feels most like the E-M1, which to me is an ergonomic dream. My biggest gripe is the dial placement and button feel. For my taste, I would have switched the ISO dial with the exposure compensation dial and made the directional pad more tactile and less squishy. Changing the aperture on the lens is neat and all, but not my preferred method. Overall, good, but not OMD good. With the Sony A7, I was initially taken aback at how unconventional the grip and feel was especially with the vertical battery pack. My finger placement for the shutter release was a lot more forward with other cameras, while the A7 was pushed back towards the top of the body. Holding the camera in front of you to compose with the rear screen contorted my wrist in a strange way, but as soon as you bring the camera to your eye, it felt right. It seemed the engineers designed the camera to be held this way. If I could design the A7, I would have raised the Custom 1 button as I found it difficult to feel for, place the front dial flush with the front grip and made the control wheel have more resistance. Other than that, the A7 strangely felt very familiar. It's so easy to nitpick at the smallest things, but at the end of the day both cameras are functionally/ergonomically sound and I could easily learn to adapt to each body with enough practice.

The tipping point that eventually made me purchase the A7, besides meeting the above criteria, was price. Believe or not, B&H's trade in promotional deal specifically for Sony was too appealing [trade in your camera and receive 15% off of the A7(r/s) and accessories/lenses, plus the value of your camera]. At the sacrifice of my Pen E-P5, I was able to purchase the A7 & vertical grip for well under $900. I couldn't believe I essentially purchased a full frame camera for a price point lower than my E-M1. I look forward to spending some quality time with my new toy and reporting my findings to you all.  


Who do I run excitedly to with my new camera...of course my fellow photographer
and brother. This was taken with the 70-200mm f/4 g lens @100mm. BOKEHLICIOUS
So say we all,
Dino