Monday, August 18, 2014

Fuji X-T1 and Nikon D810 -- how do they compare?

On the face of it comparing these two superb cameras with each other is absurd. The Fuji X-T1 with its 16.3mp APS-C sensor is just not going to be a match a full-frame, 36.3mp sensor in the Nikon D810 -- unless you decide to compare them on equal ground.

I recently began using the D810 instead of the D4 I normally use for all of my lifestyle photography, but for a long time now I have been using the Fuji X-T1 also. I usually do not use the X-T1 for the bulk of the shooting, but have it around to take advantage of its specific features. As I am editing the shoots I am not always paying attention to the camera used for the shot. Every now and then, a shot will jump out at me as being a cut above what I had been working with that day, and invariably it turns out to be an image from the Fuji. In a recent shoot I went back and compared the X-T1 images with the D810 images where there was an overlap of the same subject matter, and was surprised to find that I generally like the X-T1 shots the best. They showed more contrast in deep shadows with a full, pleasing tonal range. I am often pushing the limits of these cameras by doing away with reflector fills in very harsh, back lit situations.

The D810 produces a final 103.4MB file measuring 7360 x 4912, where as the X-T1 delivers a 45.7MB file at 4896 x 3264. This would be about 16" x 25" vs 11" x 16" print size, and at full print size is where the quality difference can be seen. Without some talented massaging of the image it would be difficult to take an X-T1 image up to the 16" x 25" size of the D810 and have them look exactly equal. However, for most of what I do professionally, I don't need the larger file size. Much of my professional work is done for traditional stock where the maximum image requirement is 50MB. That means when I have a D810 image I have to severely down-size it from its original 103MB size, but only have to bump my X-T1 45.7 images up a bit to hit the 50MB mark. So bottom line in these circumstances is how do the images compare at the 50MB size.

Sounds like I'm using a little slight-of-hand in this comparison, but, truth is, we often forget to compare cameras based on the ultimate use of the final images.

All of the images below were brought in from the RAW to the same 50MB size (17.5MP) because that is the size I need to submit. Other than some dodging/burning here and there, no retouching has been done on them. Take a look and see if you can tell the difference between the Nikon D810 and Fuji X-T1 files, and which, if any, you prefer. There are two links below each photos and a key to let you know the results is supplied at the bottom of this post. No fair peeking!

All were shot of the same scene back lit with available daylight. It was a sunny day but occasionally the sun went behind a thin cloud and could cause a slight color shift. The Fuji X-T1 had the Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 macro on it. The Nikon D810 had the 85mm f/1.4 lens.

Click here to download image A1.              Click here to download image A2

Click here to download image B1.              Click here to download image B2

Click here to download image C1.              Click here to download image C2

One reason I keep the X-T1 handy is because of its tilt screen. I use it to quickly grab shots like this from above on the fly -- no ladder needed.  This time the camera had the new 18-135mm zoom.  I also keep the X-T1 around now because its super-wide lenses, both the 14mm and the 10-24mm zoom are exceptional.  The Fuji X-T1 also has the best WiFi control of any camera I have used -- perfect for tucking the camera into situations where I cannot go myself.  
A1=XT1; A2=D810
B1=D810; B2=XT1


  1. Love to see the X-T1 with the 56mm f1.2 instead as the DOF would be more comparable.

  2. This is a very interesting article for me, as I have an X-T1 with 6 Fuji XF lenses including the 56/1.2, as well as the D4 and the 85/1.4 (amongst others). I was thinking of changing the D4 for a D810, so this article is really useful to me!


    1. Stay away from the Fuji shit

    2. Obviously spoken by someone with little or no first hand experience in cameras or polite conversation.

    3. No I agree completely and work at a camera store. I deal with cameras everyday. Trust us stay away from the fuji shit

    4. Well, I'm not an expert like any of you but I've noticed that the same "Fuji Shit" has been kicking fanny in the digital photography world lately. After all, apart from the lifesaving and much needed D500, It's been more of the same from Nikon and Canon. Besides, in Asia where I grew up, Fujifilm was never considered shit and I have a feeling that North America and Europe are starting to take them more seriously.

    5. Additionally, as a user experience designer, Fujifilm has been better at addressing usability thus churning out more user friendly cameras in my opinion. As a photo enthusiast and nerd, I own several cameras including Nikon (nee-kon), Fujifilm, and Leica (no I'm not a dentist) and they each have their strengths and weaknesses. Moving forward, it may be interesting to see a comparo between a D810 and a GFX-50S...or maybe, we're better off enjoying photography.

  3. Thanks Tom. I'm glad to see someone is considering an end-result, practical and realistic approach to image quality. It seems overlooked much of the time.

    I'd really like to see print quality be used by the major review sites as part of their routine IQ evaluation rather than just focus on the pixel-peeping approach. It would be useful to look at large prints, the various re-sizing methods (re-sample vs non-resample) use of Photoshop, vs Perfect Resize vs Lightroom and the like. Why not?

    I saw one reviewer comment that he could print a beautiful 20"x30" print with the new Sony 7s. Awesome. Let's see it. How does it compare with the X-T1 or E-M1. That could be a bit more interesting....


  4. Hi Tom

    Fun and informative bit, thanks. I was able to ID each set correctly, but to be honest it was mostly due to the shallow DoF that gave away the Nikon shots. Incidentally, I preferred the rendering in the A series of the Nikon, but the B&C I thought the Fuji was more pleasing. The fringing or CA in B1 was a bit alarming... Normally I wouldn't mention it, but is huge on her sweater at the shoulder. I second your position on the end result should determine fit for use, not hype.

    Well done, again :)


  5. Differences are pretty obvious at 100%, looks like you struggled to lock focus with the X-T1, especially B2. To me that says more of the differences between them.

    At normal non-measurbator distance they are both wonderful, and I think Fuji has the edge on overall appeal, to me anyway.

  6. I did it exsakly like you wanted me to do, and not looking for the answer before I disade what pics I liked best, and I all time come up With D810, but the true is this pics is very like, and the Fuji X-T1 suprise me alots. And I love the way you test it, becouse if you know the answer first as you normal do in all type of testing, then its easy to say the camra you have deside you for first time in Your head :) I us Nikon D800 but I want a nr 2 camra as are more easy to travel With, and ther is nothing as tell me that it not will be Fujifilm X-T1

  7. So, if YOU were told you could keep only one camera (X-t1 or d810) for your professional shooting, _forever_, which one would you keep and why? If end result is all that matters, what keeps the pros using these large dslrs? Lens options? ISO?

    1. No question it would be the Nikon. The Nikon DSLRs focus faster and more accurately and produce a higher number of keepers. I actually have a D750 not the D810, which is my preferred choice,

      Having said that, I now own more Fujifilm XF lenses than the Nikon lenses. So I do love both, and use the Fuji more often. But if I have a paid assignment, then it is Nikon with the CLS flash system, for me. There are exceptions, of course, like if I needed total silent mode, or non-intrusive low key situations. But the question was to choose ONE system only. (I choose both! Bit like having and SUV and a sports car)

      Hope this helps.

  8. Wow I never thought they are even comparable. And what a surprise when I found the pictures from Fuji are more appeal in all 3 series. I didn't, and didn't try to identify the camera and was so surprised when saw the result.

  9. i own a nikon d810 with 5 lenses and own a fuji xt1 s well ,the only advantages appeal to me is the size of it,when you compare the photo at 100 percent .the 810 full frame is a a 2nd gear i like fuji,but somehow i wont swap my 810 with top prime lenses with anything else not even Leica ...