Fuji X100S vs Canon 6D & Sigma 35mm 1.4

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3BC
3BC
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Fuji X100S vs Canon 6D & Sigma 35mm 1.4
11 months ago

Hi all,

I lusted after an x100s for several months and finally caved. 35mm is my favorite focal length and this camera seems to be fun to shoot.  It arrived in the mail yesterday and I have begun putting it through its paces.  I *could* afford to keep this, and my 6D and my arsenal of Canon lenses, but my objectives in buying this camera were:

1. See what all the fuss is about

2. See how this stacks up against my current Canon gear in terms of IQ

3. Return the Fuji if I was unhappy with it from an IQ or handling standpoint

4. Hawk my Canon gear and order an XE2 and a couple of lenses to go with my new X100S if I fell in love (secretly hoping for this)

5. Keep both the Fuji and the Canon gear *only* in the event that the IQ was somewhat close, but not totally, and from a fun factor standpoint I just couldn't bring myself to return the Fuji. (believe it or not, this was not what I was hoping for)

Now I live in Chicago and it's cold as can be outside, snowy and slick.  I haven't yet had an opportunity to test the Fuji in any artistic kind of way.  I made a makeshift "studio" scene similar to what DPReview does for their IQ testing.  Mine is much more ghetto.  But, it was an opportunity to test both sharpness and noise performance of the Fuji and compare it with my Canon/Sigma and I am a part time pixel peeper (very part time), so I thought "eh, what the hell?".

I should also note I have a guilty until proven innocent approach when I get a new piece of kit.  I do things intentionally to try to highlight what I believe the flaws of a particular of gear will be, and make the gear prove to me, if you will, that it can hold its own.

The 6D is regarded as having equal to, or perhaps just slightly better noise performance than the 5DIII.  The 5DIII is a low noise monster, obviously, so right off the bat the Fuji is in for a tough test.  The Sigma 35mm 1.4 is a resolving monster, the sharpest 35mm lens DXO has ever tested (at least as of a month ago).  Again, another tough test.  The results were pretty wild.

The Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens is tack sharp wide open, and the X100S is well, not.  Skewing things even further, I didn't test the Sigma wide open, I started at f2 to use comparable apertures.  In full stops I tested both setups from f2 through f11 (I never ever shoot stopped down more than that, particularly at 35mm focal length), and from ISO 200 through ISO 6400.  I shot raw (which I always do), and because the Fuji won't do RAW below ISO 200 I started there.

I'll summarize my thoughts a little more, and then leave some photos for your review.  The Fuji is usable at f2, but it isn't exactly sharp (at least mine isn't). There is some slight halation, similar to what you see from a Canon 50mm 1.4 lens, but not to that degree.  By f2.8 things clear up quite a bit.  The sweet spot for me is f5.6, and at that aperture it gives me 95%+ of the sharpness that the Sigma lens does at the same aperture.  It's softer in the corners still, and just a tad less in center, but you really are splitting hairs at this point with the difference being as nominal as it is.  Overall, I was impressed.

In terms of noise, I've read a lot of reviews and people saying that through ISO 200-800 are essentially the same thing, and using ISO 800 as your base ISO would be no problem.  When I read stuff like that I often think to myself, "bull $h!t".  It's not bull.  The noise/grain through ISO 800 is essentially zilch.  At 1 to 1 viewing, you can "feel" the image getting ever so slightly softer as you go from 200 to 800, but an increase in grain is all but imperceptible, and if you weren't bouncing back and forth between the two shots back to back you would never notice the difference.

ISO 1600 is still amazing.  You can start to see some grain, but it's far from offensive and a non-photographer wouldn't notice a thing.  ISO 3200 is not quite amazing, but pretty damn close.  You can definitely see a little noise creeping in, but even as a part time pixel peeper I wouldn't hesitate to shoot at 3200 all day long if I had to.  From ISO 200 all the way through 1600, the difference between the FUJI and the Canon are negligible, and almost indecipherable.  At 3200, both look good, but that Canon is cleaner.  at 6400, the Canon noticeably cleaner.  I would shoot the Canon at 6400 all day long if necessary, I would generally try to avoid 6400 on the Fuji unless there is a brilliant shot I'd otherwise miss without it.  Again I am impressed.

The final test in all of this was the print test.  With a little post processing (which in the real world I would certainly do) I made 12x18" prints on my Pixma Pro-100. To stack things against the Fuji somewhat (guilty til proven innocent thing again), I selected the shot I took with each set up at f2.8, ISO 3200.  I know my Sigma is crazy sharp at 2.8 and that the 6D is for all intents and purposes free of noise at 3200.  The difference between the two prints is amazing.  Amazing in the sense that aside from slightly different color renditioning, and slightly softer text in the far corners, the prints were (unscientifically) 98.7% identical in quality.  Very impressive, considering the deck was stacked against the Fuji print.  Also remember the fact that the 6D has enough pixels to natively print 300 pixels per inch at this size and the Fuji has enough native pixels to print 272 pixels per inch (I know at a print this size that is basically a non-factor, but I thought I'd mention it anyway).

I want to do further testing and shooting in real world scenarios to make a final determination, but at this point I am highly leaning towards hawking my Canon gear, and picking up an XE2 and a couple of lenses.  I am not completely won over yet but on my way.  Shooting with the Fuji is much slower.  The aperture and shutter speed dials are cool and tactile, but in reality I got my start on a DSLR and changing both on a DSLR is much faster.  But, that slower pace requires more deliberate shooting, which may definitely have its benefits as well.  The image playback (only zooming in so far, pretty crappy LCD screen on the back, stupid burst shooting playback review) and the battery going from 2/3 full to dead in 5 minutes are my major quibbles at the moment.  I am also a little nervous about giving up so many stops of light.  I happily shoot my sigma 35mm at f1.4.  The Fuji starts at f2 so I'm already down a stop.  The Fuji is softer than I would ideally want to shoot at f2 (usable but avoidable, if you will) so there's another stop.  ISO 6400 is no sweat for the Canon, and again, it's usable, but not excitingly so on the Fuji, so in an ideal world there's another stop.  So while the Fuji seems like it would be a very good low light camera, in that regard it's not on the same level as the Canon/Sigma.

So I think to myself, do I miss more shots overall with the Fuji because of slower performance (in terms of light and handling), or more shots with the Canon because it's heavy, obnoxious, and totally conspicuous?  I think the Fuji will help me get more shots than I miss, compared to the Canon, but that's the photography romantic in me visualizing myself stealthily shooting all over town 3 days a week.  We'll see.

Sorry for the long-windedness, how about some photos:

Canon f2, ISO 6400, pretty good

Fuji f2, ISO 6400, OK, but, eh

Canon f2, ISO 6400, center 1 to 1, Sharp!

Fuji f2, ISO 6400, center 1 to 1, not so sharp...

Canon f2, ISO 6400, edge 1 to 1, still pretty sharp!

Fuji f2, ISO 6400 edge 1 to 1, hot mess

Canon, F5.6, ISO 200, center 1 to 1, Sharp, and a more level playing field

Fuji f5.6, ISO 200, center 1 to 1, level playing field, and that is sharp!

I'll post more shots, full size jpegs to flickr at some point in the next few days.  I controlled as much as I reasonably could during this test (remote shooting, controlled lighting, tripod in the same place, manual focus each camera on the same spot, etc), but it was not particularly scientific, I already know that.  Let me know if you if there's a specific ISO/aperture setting you'd like to see.

-bc

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS 6D Fujifilm X100S Fujifilm X-E2
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