The Sony A7iii vs Fujifilm X-T3

Introduction

I caught up with a good mate over the weekend, and as a Fujifilm user, he had the latest X-T3 so we decided to swap cameras to allow us to play around and get our thoughts. He’s already penned his thoughts here so feel free to have a look at the different perspectives.

It was a great opportunity to see where the camera designs were going and I put together my thoughts on the two. This isn’t a feature comparison, just some thoughts comparing where the two cameras are in their life cycle.

Some of these photos are snapshots, the review wasn’t intended to showcase the best of these cameras, it was a casual outing with a friend and our kids in bright midday sunlight, not exactly ideal conditions, but I have thrown in some other samples as well.

My knowledge of shooting video is somewhere between zero and nothing, so please don’t expect any video related comparisons.

It’s worth remembering that these cameras aren’t completely comparable. The Sony is nearly 50% more expensive and it’s also offering a best of breed full frame sensor and IBIS. It’s an unfair comparison but it is one that will come up time and time again, and despite the price difference, I think users will be comparing these to cameras as potential options, after all, the $500 difference may not be that big issue for some buyers.

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This is my mate, Greg, one of the nicest people you will ever meet

First impressions

Firstly off, grabbing the Fujifilm after 3 weeks of Sonyland still felt familiar so in some respects it was disappointing. It may sound like a negative comment so let me be clear, it’s not intended to be this way. Ultimately the vast majority of the changes were internal and the X-T series has a good design. With switching to Sony, I was presented with a completely new camera, because obviously a Sony is different to a Fujifilm. As a result, it was always going to seem more “new”. If I was coming from the Sony A7ii to the A7iii, it is likely it would have been the same.

This skews the first impressions because I think the only honest way to get first impressions is to get someone who has used neither and unfortunately that’s not the case for me.

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The looks

From a looks perspective, you have to give it to Fujifilm, they are good-looking cameras. Taking a stock photograph of a Fujifilm is easy, as my Instagram account can attest to. The X-T3 looks retro like the X-T2, a little more timeless and I suspect if you looked at both cameras in 10 years time, the Fujifilm would still look exactly as good as it did now. The Sony on the other hand is likely to look dated. It’s the difference between a sports car that still looks as good in 20 years time (like the Porsche 911) and those that don’t. Fortunately I have no intention of keeping my A7iii longer than about 5 years so I should be okay in that regard, but for those that feel that looks are important, the Fujifilm cameras will be popular. In my case, as an ugly middle-aged old man, having good-looking cameras might make me look worse so the Sony might be a better fit.

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This is me with the X-T3, unlike the Fujifilm, I won’t be winning any awards for my looks and have accepted my career as a model stopped before it started

Size

For some odd reason, I actually thought the X-T3 (or X-T2) was smaller than it is. I did some size comparison between the X-H1 and the A7 a while back but when you put the X-T3 alongside the A7, you realise what an incredible job Sony did with the size of the A7. It is a phenomenal feat of engineering. Put the A7iii with the Zeiss 35mmF2.8 along side the X-T2 with a 23mmF2, and it size difference is almost indistinguishable.

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When you compare the size of the images at camerasize.com The Sony is longer in some areas and shorter in others. More incredibly, Sony shoved in a battery with twice the battery life and full frame sensor. Whatever your thoughts are on Sony, that is damn impressive from an engineering perspective.

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Quality/Construction

Looking across both cameras, they are both very good quality and you have to nitpick to complain about the quality in any areas. I think the construction on both is very good, however the one area where Sony has let itself down is the covers for the usb-c which are dangly and have a really low quality feel. Overall, it’s a letdown to a camera which is otherwise pretty top notch.

Fujifilm have almost nothing complain about from this perspective so they really have met the brief from a quality perspective and I have to give this to them.

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Unlike Fujifilm that has limited lens options, Sony has a wide variety of third party vendors that offer great lenses like the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8

Controls/Ergonomics

The controls/ergonomics side is an interesting one. I suspect long-term DSLR users will probably prefer Sony for the simple reason the default handling will be in line with what they are comfortable with. It’s not to say that it can’t be replicated to the Fujifilm, but that people won’t try because they revert to the dials and are probably not aware of the customisation on the X-T3. So where are my thoughts on this? I’m still undecided. I do like having controls on the body, but in the same respect, it comes with both positives and negatives. For example, the option of having dials as opposed to physical controls with values on them is that you can pre-define multiple custom modes not available on the X-T2 Q Menu. I’ve never been a big fan of the Fujifilm Q menu, and most people I know don’t actually use it so I think it’s something Fujifilm needs to rethink or dump completely. With Sony, you could create a custom mode for landscapes with maximum aperture, minimum ISO and a default shutter, or one for sports with specific focus settings. The Q Menu fails in this regard. As a result, on the ergonomics, I think that splits it, half and half, the ergonomics are good on both cameras and will appeal for different things, they both have pros and cons.

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Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8, not your usual birding lens

Menus and functionality

Menu usability falls to Fujifilm, but I think Sony has better features and functionality available that Fujifilm doesn’t have. As an example, Fujifilm doesn’t allow you to customise minimum shutter to anything other than focal length, which is important for some of my friends who have had issues with shaky hands. That’s just one example, there are plenty of other features on Sony that simply don’t exist on Fujifilm but Fujifilm does have Kaizen that will add many features through future iterations. I would love to say this results in more stable cameras at release but some recent releases from Fujifilm have been more shakey than Sony so I don’t think this is the case.

From a features perspective, Sony definitely wins, but Fujifilm gets the nod from a menu usability perspective.

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Autofocus

There has been a bit of talk about the improvements with AF and I’ll say the X-T3 is substantially better than the X-T2 and X-H1 in this regard. Does it match the A7iii? Some have said they think it’s as good, but I don’t know how qualified those opinions are, as I don’t think it does.

There seems to be some lag when the subject moves. It could still be keeping it in focus, but there is a delayed response on the movement of the eye focus which seems to indicate not. I also find that Fujifilm seems to need more to get the eye-AF, like it needs a whole head. It doesn’t just find a single eye and go with it so it seems like Fujifilm is lacking slightly there. The AF options on the Sony are a little more advanced, more options to go with, but I like Fujifilm’s ability to scroll between them by pushing in the joystick which I think Sony need to add to theirs. There are other options I prefer on Sony, like the ability to select whose eye it focus on, the ability to make it start “zone style” focusing on something specific along. It just seems there are more option to cater for every user on the Sony.

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The Sigma 135 ART has AF that is fast enough for sports

Aside from these, where I still see noticeable problems with Fujifilm is the lack of usability of eye and face detect. With Sony, you hold your AF point over a face and that’s where your face and eye priority will be given. With Fujifilm, well, lets just say that sometimes not even God knows why Fujifilm has picked a face and you can’t change it if you disagree with it. Even with face detect, you can’t pick the faces you want. Sony has also built-in face priority so if you have kids, or you are shooting a wedding where you want to focus on the bride, you can ask it to give priority to trained faces.

In short, I think Fujifilm as given flexibility where users probably don’t want it, like the autofocus customisation. Users don’t want to touch this, or have to set it up. On the converse, they have taken away the flexibility where they do need it, like more autofocus options (force it to start focusing on the object you select) or selecting which face you want to focus on.

Overall, I’d give the edge to Sony, but I think Fujifilm has caught up a bit which will keep Fujifilm users happy.

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IBIS

Yeah, we know, the X-T3 doesn’t have IBIS but my question is why not? It’s as large as the Sony, with an APS-C sensor, and the Sony still has a bigger battery and a full frame sensor. It’s something I think Fujifilm needs to take a hard look at. Obviously Sony gets the nod here, but it shouldn’t, Fujifilm should have this, it can be done as Sony have shown.

EVF

The X-T3 EVF kills the A7iii, not much more we can say about it than that. It’s newer higher res, better refresh rate like comparing the A7Riii to the A7iii. I think this is one of areas where Sony kept their costs down to deliver such a good camera at a low cost. I’d honestly prefer to pay an extra $200 for this camera and have a better EVF, but obviously I’m not Sony’s sole customer. In some respects I am disappointed that there isn’t a better 24MP EVF option without going to the A9, but I think this will change in time as the EVF cost comes down.

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The Mount

It’s been interest to go to Sony after an extended period of Fujifilm where your options were essential Fujifilm, Fujifilm or Fujifilm…and maybe Samyang and Laowa if you were okay with a manual focus lens. The Fujifilm glass is very good, with some downright spectacular options but, you have no alternatives because there aren’t any non-Fujifilm options. If you are’t happy with the slow focus speed of the 56mmf/1.2…unlucky for you.

With Sony, you have the native mount which is fairly extensive with the collaboration with Zeiss. Whilst there are mediocre lenses, there are also some very good lenses that match Fujifilm on both quality and price. You have the likes of the Sigma ART available that is optically superb (although damn heavy), along with lightweight beasts like the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 that is lighter than the Fujifilm 16-55 and offers a full frame f/2.8 mid range zoom.

And then there is Zeiss, the Batis range, an incredible high quality range of lenses if the standard lenses aren’t good enough.

If that still isn’t enough for you, Sony offer adapters to Canon mount that allow you to use lenses like the 50mm f/1.2.

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What it highlights is that Fujifilm can’t do it on their own. Fujifilm needs to open up their mount with AF options because Sony is winning here by a fair margin. You can find virtually any option you want and the only thing really missing is some of the f2.8 primes to compete with Fujifilm’s compact Fujicron range if someone wants to maintain a small set of gear. With Sony I’d also like to see a really nice compact pancake, with about half the length of the 35mmf/2.8.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying Fujifilm has bad glass, I think they have the most complete APSC glass offering and lenses like the 90 and 80 are on par with the best, but they aren’t alone. Sony, Nikon and Canon all produce good glass and I think in today’s world, producing good glass isn’t enough. I think they would benefit from a bigger selection because some of the third party manufacturers are offering some really nice alternatives that Fujifilm doesn’t offer at a fraction of the cost. I also think they would benefit from some AF based adapters which would allow people the ability to migrate to Fujifilm at a lower cost.

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Image quality and colours

Someone made me aware that I missed the colours side so I thought it was worth addressing as it is a valid point.

From an out of camera JPG perspective, I think Fujifilm is simply unmatched in the market and for those looking to avoid post processing, I don’t think there is a better camera to use. If you ask me what I will miss, it’s that because there were days I was producing photos where I could take plenty of photos as is. Film Simulations like Classic Chrome are amazing and realistically, if I take Fujifilm simulations and put them in my Sony tomorrow, I would. Sony produces adequate image quality, but the colour accuracy just simply isn’t on the same level. To get the best, you really have to do some post processing, mould it to fit what you want, but their out of camera rendering is frankly dismal by Fujifilm standards. For a lot of photographers shooting raw, that won’t be a problem, but I actually went out of my way to find ways to replicate some of the Fujifilm simulations for those times I don’t feel like doing heavy processing.

Fujifilm isn’t without it’s own set of problems. I haven’t tried the latest Capture One raw engine with Fujifilm, but prior to that, there were a lot of complaints about Fujifilm’s raw processing in applications like Lightroom. I’m not a pixel peeper so it was never an issue for me, but for those that pixel peep, the difference between Sony and Fujifilm is noticeable, with Sony producing slightly sharper images. Hopefully the collaboration with Capture One fixes some of those issues.

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As far as noise and DR are concerned, Sony is supposed to be one or two stops better. Unless you are actively taking photos of Hussain Bolt in a stadium at dusk, I think even the baseline Fujifilm will be more than enough. I still believe that if people spent half the time focusing on composition as they do on pixel peeping ISO25600 photos of their kids or cat in terrible conditions where even clean photos at ISO1 million probably wouldn’t make a difference. Technical Sony wins this, but if you need the difference between these two, you probably should be asking yourself whether you actually need it, or you’re pixel peeping.

Battery Life

I left this area for last, but this is my biggest issue with the X-T3. Some people would say that Fujifilm has maintained the same form to try to keep their cameras small or try maintain consistency with the cameras, but the Sony is proof that you can put a battery that is twice the size, a full frame body and stabilisation in a body the size of the X-T3 and that alone means Fujifilm has room for improvement, because Sony is shoving a whole lot more in.

Fujifilm has this approach of not swaying the apple cart from a battery form perspective but I think it’s a lazy out. As an easy example, there are AAA to AA battery adapters and there is absolutely no reason why Fujifilm couldn’t put in a larger capacity battery with an adapter to allow cross compatibility for W126S users.

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On top of that, the exorbitant pricing of Fujifilm’s batteries is a big problem for them. In Australia you can pay AUD$132 for an original Fujifilm W126S battery or AUD$119 for a original Sony NP-FZ100 which has twice the CIPA ratings in the A7. I’ve seen them cheaper in other countries, but the reality is Fujifilm aren’t big enough rockstars in the battery game to be pricing their gear at the same cost as the Sony battery. Simply put, their batteries are mediocre at best, not good. Yes you can get third party batteries for cheaper, but that also works the same for Sony. It will cost you more twice as much from a battery perspective to fulfill the same target photo count. If I was a wedding or event photographer needing 5 extra batteries instead of 10, that almost makes up for the difference in the A7iii cost and they get IBIS and a full frame sensor. It doesn’t make sense.

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As long as Fujifilm have sub standard battery life compared to their competition, I would seriously consider discounting battery costs to consumers. We know their cost is less than a 5th of the battery price, so selling batteries at half the Sony cost would at least match Sony’s output indirectly.

Final thoughts

The A7iii is a better camera, and for about US$500 more that’s not completely unexpected given how much camera you can buy for $500. The X-T3 has improved some of the key areas that users were unhappy with. It’s finally offering better autofocus with eye AF that is usable, but the battery life is still the bear in the woods and that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Companies like Sony are improving and battery life will continue to be an issue for users.

That said, aside from the battery and potentially the IBIS, there is nothing wrong with the X-T3 and most users will feel it’s a worthy upgrade if they have an existing investment in Fujifilm. From a personal perspective, I’d be happy with either.

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What it comes down ultimately is whether the X-T3 will stop some of the bleeding from Fujifilm to Sony and I think it will. Unless someone has a requirement to move to full frame, the X-T3 is more than enough camera for most people, but I think Fujifilm will need to release an X-H2 as quickly as possible or the X-H range will die based on the X-T3 and A7iii, both of which are substantially better cameras.

And the Sony A7iii? It’s not hard to understand why this camera has been sold out for 6 months. Even with the Nikon and Canon releases, the Sony is still the better camera and that says something about how good it actually is. It’s a full frame camera, that is the same size as an APSC camera, that combines IBIS, best in class full frame sensor, and best in class AF, and does so at a price point that has to have the competition scratching their heads and asking “how did they do that?”.

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2 Comments

  1. Hello Athos,

    I have been following you sometime now, and really enjoy your papers. I also agree with you on the Fuji strategy with the XT3 vs H1 and the absence of ibis and tilting screen (for me).
    I also followed the same path as your: sold all my Fuji gear and bought sony: an A7RII, a sony zeiss 35mm 2.8 and a 85mm f1.8, all with with a double cashback from sony EU (offer for a few days only). i preferred the A7RII to the A7III, because I am more interested in the image quality and the cropping possibilities than in speed performances.
    It’s only a few days I got that equipment, with not much time to play with so far, but camera and lenses seems to hold what most reviews claim. Also struggling with the menus and the lack of sound information from Sony on these menus.

    As for the lenses, I could be interested by a standard range zoom. From what I read and hear in the reviews and videos, the zeiss f4 is not of a very high quality and with a low benefit/cost ratio. The sony G’s are better and faster, but much more expensive. Then there is the Tamron, which sells about the same price as the Zeiss, but is faster (2.8 instead of 4) and not much more bulkier nor heavier . But the reviews I have seen have mixed opinions relative to the image quality it delivers.
    Thus I hope you will soon share your experience and opinion on the Tamron.

    best regards

    francis

    Like

    1. I have heard the same as your, very mixed responses on the 24-70 f4 and the general consensus amongst reviewers is that the 24-70 f/4 isn’t great. The Tamron on the other hand, oddly enough, I haven’t seen too many bad reviews and my initial perceptions of it are pretty good. They all say the same thing, pretty close to the gmaster with a little more corner softness and without the price tag. Most of that disappears by f4 and it’s the size of an f4 lens so for me personally, it’s a reasonable compromise.

      I haven’t done extension testing of the 28-75, it’s a recent addition to my set but my initial impressions are good. I’ll try get some good samples in the coming week.

      Like

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