Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fuji X-T1 shootout against Nikon D810 -- round 2

It was the first lifestyle shooting we had planned since the Nikon D810 returned from Nikon Service where it was being repaired for the thermal dot recall. The success of using the Fuji X-T1 on lifestyle shoots while the D810 was away, made me pull it out last minute and put it on the equipment cart along with the Nikon system. I decided to shoot almost every scene with both cameras and compare the results later.

Keep in mind that this shooting is intended for traditional stock, and which requires a fixed file size of 50MB. That means down-sizing the 36mp D810 files and slightly up-sizing the 16mp X-T1 files. I do all resizing of the RAW files when saving them from Adobe Camera Raw. Having to down-size the D810 files is something of an equalizer to keep in mind when analyzing the results.

The models were really good, able to change expressions in a nanosecond.  It took a speedy and accurate AF system to keep up with their rapidly changing expressions and positions, particularly because I like working with mostly wide open aperture settings and try for a pin point focus on the eyes.

I put some of the side-by-side comparisons below. There are links below them to download the larger files. These photos are not retouched other than some tweaking in ACR while converting from RAW. After seeing some of the comparisons I included another image from the scene to see if you can guess which camera took the photo in a blind test. The results are posted at the bottom of this blog.

Have fun.

See how much of a difference you can see between these two images.  Click here to download the D810 file.  Click here to download the X-T1 file.  And then see if you can tell which camera was used for the photo below. (Answer at the end of this post)

Click here to download this file.   Can you tell which camera took this photo? Answer is at the end of this blog post.

For this scene the Fuji X-T1 was my only choice -- first because the tilt screen makes down angles from overhead a piece of cake, and second because its super-wide lenses (in this case the 10-24mm zoom) are sensational. 

Here's an indoor scene lit by daylight. Click here for the X-T1 photo.  Click here for the D810 photo.  Then try to determine which camera took the two file versions below.  Answer is at the end of this post. 

Click here to download photo A.  See if you can guess which camera was used for "A" and which for "B" below.

Click here to download this photo B

This scene and the one below are severely back lit with daylight from a window and no fill. This photo was taken with the X-T1.  Click here to download the high res version.  

Click here to download the high res version of this D810 photo.

In this situation the Nikon camera with its easily maneuverable AF points was a clear winner. I had to put the X-T1 aside because it really couldn't keep up with the fast changing action. The models were moving very fast, darting in and out, and changing positions. I was constantly having to change the focus points from one model to the other in a very fluid situation. Frankly, the X-T1 could not handle this, primarily because changing its focus points is a much slower process than it is on a Nikon where you have a very responsive thumb wheel. 

In this situation I naturally went for the X-T1 because its tilting screen that enables me to quickly and easily switch my vantage point from below to above the scene -- an advantage that may be equalized with the advent of a tilt screen on the new Nikon D750.
As far as I'm concerned, the results are so close for the type image I am aiming to produce that my choice of camera boils done to the particular ease of use characteristics in individual circumstances. There doesn't appear to by much advantage to the full frame and high MP sensor of the D810 when the file is limited to 50MB. The X-T1 APS-C 16MP sensor gets the job done with no apologies needed. 

The X-T1 tilt screen makes it very convenient to quickly grab an overhead view of the scene -- an advantage equalized by the new Nikon D750.  Another Fuji advantage is the super-wide angle lenses. Fuji's line up -- the 14mm, 12mm Zeiss Touit, and Fuji 10-24mm zoom -- is far superior to any other manufacturers lenses in this category. 

The ease and speed of AF of the Nikon is hard to beat, especially by a mirrorless system. If speed of focus is an issue, then Nikon is far and away the best choice, not only against the X-T1, but against any other camera out there. 

Fuji X-cameras still do not have the convenient flash systems that are available for most Pro-level DSLR's. 

Bottom line is that I find I have no doubts about using the X-T1 as my main shooting camera, and, in fact, enjoy the smaller size, optical quality of the superb lenses, ease of RAW processing, Nonetheless, I still like keeping a DSLR near by for those occasions when there are focusing issues, and extra speed is needed. At the rate at which the mirrorless cameras, and especially the Fuji X-system, are improving, it is only a matter of time when it will be able to keep up with the big boys. 

If you haven't seen my post on the new Fuji X lenses already available for pre-order, you can check it out here.  A new pro-type lens like the Fuji 75-210mm f/2.8 zoom is exactly the kind of support that is going to make the Fuji X-cameras a very real alternative to a full DSLR. 

Answers: Photo of couple against wall taken with X-T1. Couple on couch: Photo A is D810, Photo B is X-T1. 


  1. nice review, I always marvel at how great/effortless your photos always look!

  2. It's amazing how close these cameras are. Fuji has done a great a job with this system. I'm curious as to what role the image resizing engine inside Photoshop plays in this comparison. Adobe rebuilt the upsize engine with fractals a few versions back so this may be leveling out the final output.

  3. Hi Tom
    Another great series of images. Can you share info re: Fuji lens choices for the above images?


  4. For the couple dining on the grass I used the Fuji 10-24mm zoom. For all the other photos I had the Fuji 35mm f/1.4. During this session, in photos not included here, I also used the 50mm f/1.4 and 23mm f/1.4.

  5. Care to share what settings for AF you find best for moving lifestyle shoots like this on both X-T1 and D810? I shoot with both of them as well, but feel I have more to get from the AF on the X-T1 than I do know.


  6. In a situation like this, where all the scenes are bright with plenty of contrast, neither camera is going to have any trouble with focus. I always use the continuous setting and put the focus point on the model's eye. In dimmer, more back lit situations with little contrast, I sometimes have to play with the size of the focus point on the Fuji. On the Nikon it is easier because you can simply switch to the new 5-point group focus which is amazing in almost any situation.

    1. Thanks Tom! The D810 focus system is amazing, especially the new group af, and this camera has got the best AF I've ever used.

      On my X-T1 I have set "focus" as priority for both AF-S and AF-C in the menus. Is that your setup too? I play around with "face detection" on/off, and sometimes it works, others not. I've also tried going to manual and use the AF-L button to simulate back-button AF, but haven't quite managed to get good results with that on moving subjects.

      I often use continous AF and CL as shoot speed, and shoot shorter sequences of 12-15 shots when I have models walking towards me and I walk backwards from them. Works ok, and if I can time our walking speed with the CL speed, I get two nice-looking-crossed-walking-legs, and one inbetweener. So two shots out of three are ok as far as legs, and then it's only abut nailing that focus on the eyes.... More training I guess.... :)