My wife, Cecilia, and I conduct adventure based photography workshops every week on Phillip Island, Australia as Photo Rangers. If you’re thinking a tropical paradise with palm trees, tropical fish and golf carts – that’s not our island. We are about as far south on the mainland Australia as you can get. We are separated only by water from Antarctica and while we have some of the most excellent surfing beaches in the world, we also have bitterly cold water, ferocious storms and gale force winds, rocky cliffs, orca whales and even a world famous colony of little penguins.
We punish our camera gear … alot. We conduct workshops in almost any conditions and battle sand, salt, salt water and hard knocks to our gear on a regular basis. Our gear must be robust and weather sealed at the least. We are a divided family. Cecilia is a die hard Nikon user and I have always shot Canon. We love our cameras and know them like the back of our hand. We are often asked via social media or during workshops to give recommendations about cameras and gear. We had our set answers to these queries, referring back to the appropriate Nikon or Canon depending on the question asked. We never considered mirrorless cameras partly because our need for robust weather sealed equipment but also because we had tried various mirrorless models and didn’t like the feel of watching a TV when looking through the view finder.
This year I decided that the mirrorless camera offerings were getting better and better and making technological advances much quicker than our beloved Nikon and Canon. We just could not ignore or turn up our nose at the mirrorless world any longer. After testing cameras from several manufacturers and reading heaps of online reviews. We jumped into the Fuji boat with a couple of weather sealed XT-1 mirrorless cameras.
I’ve pitted the Fuji XT-1 against the Canon 6D, the Canon 600D and an iPhone6 across a range of photography situations. Here’s the specs on each.
I love the look of this camera. It’s what drew me to it in the first place. It has a nice clean retro style with plenty of buttons and dials and who doesn’t love buttons and dials. The controls are all easy to get to and adjust. Fuji have done away with settings like aperture priority and shutter priority instead, opting for users to determine by way of dials what is manually set and what is determined by the camera. For example, instead of using aperture priority, a user would dial in the aperture setting on the lens and dial the shutter speed to auto. For a shutter priority mode, the user dials in the desired shutter speed and puts the aperture on the auto setting. For fully automatic controls, setting aperture, shutter and ISO to auto would mean the camera makes all the decisions. This takes a little getting used to but once the concept sticks, it’s simple and easy to set and control.
The camera is small, very small and light compared to the Canon 6d. I love the lighter load but I wish it had more for my right hand to hang on to. The right grip is pronounced and there’s more to hang on to than the XT-1’s little brother the XT-10 but not the fistful of the full frame Canon. The selector pad is also a little on the small size and I often fumble across a couple of pads before I get the right one.
This has been my workhorse and I know this camera like the back of my hand. I could manipulate all the settings on this camera in total darkness if required. It’s robust and heavy. Compared to the Fuji it feels more like a tank especially with a big L series lens attached. I like the way the body fits snuggly into the hand and feels substantial. I could use this thing as a weapon if required. The main dial and buttons are big and easy to hit making working in low light situations easy once you have good muscle memory on the functions and placements of the various buttons.
But this camera is heavy and when you lug a spare body with a few lenses around the weight of the backpack is substantial.
The 600d is very much like the 6d just smaller and lighter. The buttons are not quiet in the same place as the 6d and they are squeezed closer together but are relatively easy to access and use. The selector pad is quite a bit smaller than the 6d and roughly the same size as the Fuji’s. It does have a big right grip that feels stable in the hand.
It seems much lighter than the 6d and just a little heavier than the Fuji but it’s body is considerably wider than the Fuji’s.
Fits in the pocket and can be used one handed. It’s a phone, it’s a camera, it’s a computer.
View Finder and LCD Displays
The Fuji has a tilt screen that makes taking low shots (and sneaky street shots) really easy. I have found the tilt screen especially useful when angling for a low or ground level perspective on a landscape or wildlife shot. The menu system seems more complex and detailed compared to the Canon but it may be due to the number of additional features packed into this little machine. It has a big screen taking up most of the real estate on the back but it’s actually the same size as the other two cameras.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is where this camera really excels. On other mirrorless cameras I have used, the EVF felt like looking into a tiny computer monitor. By comparison, the Fuji feels like a massive wall screen TV. It’s huge in there! Inside the EVF there also a ton of data packed around the image such as shooting mode, focus mode, aperture, ISO, shutter speed exposure meter, histogram, level, rule of thirds grid, film simulation mode, noise reduction and any other custom camera settings that has been activated. The camera’s menu system can be accessed and navigated without removing the eye from the viewfinder. It also has a distance meter that moves as you manually adjust the focus. This means setting the lens to infinity focus is simple and easy to do at night. For my Canon gear, even though many of the lenses have an infinity marks on them they are never accurate and I usually set the infinity focus during the day before a night out and tape the focus down so I don’t accidentally move it. This is no longer an issue with the Fuji.
I also like the EVF reflecting the actual image that’ll be captured rather than what is visible to the eye. This means no chimping or peeking at the back screen immediately after a shot to check exposure and final image outcome. When shooting landscapes, I’ll set the EVF to quickly display the captured image for a second so I can review the shot without removing my eye from the EVF. I can actually see the final image in the viewfinder rather than assuming various yoga positions as I try to cover the back screen to reduce glare just to see the image. I am shooting quicker and more accurately with the EVF as a result.
I’m still adjusting to the electronic ‘look’ of the EVF image because it’s just not what you see with the eye. There’s a slight lag of a second or so from the time I put the EVF up to my eye and the camera adjusting for the correct exposure. This can be frustrating when I expect the image to be instantly in view and look the same as my eye sees it. The LCD viewfinder and back screen also consume a lot of power so carrying extra batteries is advisable.
Canon 6d and 600d
The Canon’s both have an optical DSLR viewfinder and sees exactly what the camera sees. The benefits of the optical viewfinder is the image is immediately viewable with no lag time, it consumes no additional power from the battery and is in the same resolution as the human eye.
Of course, the DSLR viewfinder is missing all the great things I liked in the Fuji’s EVF.
It has no viewfinder but a whooping big Retina screen.
I’ve taken the same or similar shots with all four cameras. A word of caution, I have shot all four images freehand without a tripod. I’m sure I could have been more scientific in my approach to taking the shots but I wanted to give the best comparison in a real shooting environment rather than try to simulate a photo lab. I have used the same aperture, shutter speed and as close to the same focal length as possible (with the iPhone6 being an obvious exception). The top left images are from the Fuji XT-1, top right the Canon 6d, bottom left the Canon 600d and the bottom right from the iPhone6. Let’s see how they stack up.
- Fuji XT-1 – ISO400, 230mm, f/6.7
- Canon 6d -ISO400, 300mm, f/5.6
- Canon 600d – ISO400, 300mm, f/5.6
- iPhone6 – held close to subject to similar proportion as other shots – no zoom
These all look pretty good. I’d say the Fuji captured the most detail however the Canon 6d looks nice too. The Canon 600d seems to be less sharp, I’m not sure if that’s a lens, camera or handshake issue. The iPhone6 shot came out very nice but you can clearly see the difference in background blur between the iPhone and the other cameras.
- Fuji XT-1 – ISO400, 135mm, f/6
- Canon 6d – ISO400, 300mm, f/5.6
- Canon 600d -ISO400, 300mm, f/5.6
This was the same set-up as the first shot, I just stepped back a little further to get more dino into the shot. All photos could use a little more dino! In this shot, it’s hard to pick them apart with the exception of the minimal background blur of the iPhone6 shot.
- Fuji XT-1 – ISO6400, 50mm, f/4.5
- Canon 6d – ISO6400, 75mm, f/4
- Canon 600d – ISO6400, 75mm, f/5.6
- iPhone6 – standard shot, no flash
The first three images all had the same treatment in LightroomCC, the iPhone6 shot is unedited. The Canon 6d is the clear winner in the low noise stakes. While the Fuji does show noise, it hides it better than the Canon 600d. The iPhone6 looks great too but it was taken at close range and has no edit applied. I have been out at night multiple times with both the Fuji XT-1 and the Canon 6d (I don’t take the 600d because it’s low light capabilities is really pretty poor in comparison). I enjoy using the Fuji more for astro-photography because of the infinite focus mark in the EVF and the images look much better straight out of the camera than the 6d. Here’s a couple of shots done on the same night.
I only shot about 6 photos with the Canon 6d this night because I liked what I was seeing on the back of the Fuji XT-1 much better. I did a fair amount of work in Lightroom on the 6d image and you can see where Lightroom gave up on the noise reduction in the sky. For the Fuji XT-1, I did minimal editing and got a much clearer overall image.
- Fuji XT-1 – ISO400, 230mm, f/6.7
- Canon 6d – ISO400, 300mm, f5.6
- Canon 600d – ISO400, 300mm, f5.6
- iPhone6 – pinch zoom as much as possible
The tele shot award goes to the Canon 600d based on these images. The Fuji and 6d images are slightly blurry so there may have been an issue with camera shake on those two shots. The iPhone6 can’t compete here.
- Fuji XT-1 – ISO640, 18mm, f/9
- Canon 6d – ISO500, 19mm, f/9
- Canon 600d – ISO1000, 18mm, f/9
These all look pretty good at this perspective. If you look closely, the Canon6d seems to have the best capture of detail with the Fuji XT-1 a close second. But, when I zoom in and really check out the detail captured …
Same Landscape shot magnified to show detail with each camera.
I have magnified these images to show how much detail each captured. Both the 6d and the Fuji look pretty good. If you look at the images full size, the 6d’s extra pixels makes a fraction of a difference. The 600d falls behind the top two and the iPhone6 really loses at this magnification.
What Does This All Mean?
Like many photographers, I am a techno geek. I like talking megapixels, frame rates, image stabilisation and all those cool things. I always want the latest equipment with the most up to date technology. Does that make me a better photographer? Well, no. I realise that a good photographer can take amazing photos with any camera – just have a look at an episode of DigitalRev TV’s Cheap Camera Challenge and you’ll see what I mean. Any of these cameras would make a fine camera, even the iPhone6, as long as you know the camera’s limitations and play upon it’s strengths when composing and developing your shot.
I think it’s more important that you are comfortable with the camera and like using it. That it feels good in the hand and you enjoy composing your shot with it. For me, I have decided that the Fuji XT-1 is the better camera. I love the way it feels, it’s compact size and weight, I love turning the dials to control my settings, the massive EVF packed with info and it just looks cool. I like using this camera. I carry it everywhere. I take more pictures with it as a result and I think it encourages me to continue improving as a photographer.
Next time, I’ll tell you about some of the cool features that are packed into the Fuji XT-1