Sony vs Fujifilm – Let’s get real about it

I’ve had quite a few people email me in response to the article I wrote on the A7iii vs X-T3 because of my recent switch from Fujifilm to Sony. The types of questions coming through were akin to:

  1. Should they switch to Sony if it’s better?
  2. How could I have been happy with Fujifilm and now say Sony is better?
  3. If I knew what I know today would I have gone to Sony earlier?
  4. What would I buy today?

Let’s answer those in simple terms:

Should they switch to Sony if it’s better?

Simply put, no!  My reasons for switching to Sony would be different to yours. Changing system is a major event, so unless you are intrinsically unhappy about something on Fujifilm, why would you? The cost of switching systems is high.

The switch is also a completely different to a situation to someone is looking to move from Nikon or Canon and deciding which system to go for, because, even then, the natural choice isn’t necessarily Sony. It depends on what you as an individual is looking for, what your glass compatibility is like, whether size is important, do you value out of camera JPG quality over DOF, etc.

Right now, the A9 is better than the A7, and the D5 is better than the D850, on paper that is. It doesn’t mean every person buying a Nikon is going to get a D5. The X-T3 is better than the X-T20, on paper at least, but if your budget is $1000, the X-T3 isn’t an option. The choice of camera however is not necessarily “what is best” because your choice will come down to some form of compromise, whether it’s budget, size, or intended purpose. If all you intend doing is street, buying an Nikon D5 isn’t honestly going to make a difference and something like an X100 is the logical choice. Is the D5 better than the X100? In specs, yes, but for street, no.

So what does it take to switch?

  1. A unique offering that cannot be provided by your current camera manufacturer. If I was a Sony user and I wanted to go medium format, I’d have to change systems. if I was a Fujifilm user and a 400mm f/2.8 was critical to the way I worked, I’d need to change systems.
  2. Dissatisfaction with the service offering of a local distributor – As an example, lets say you take your Canon gear to Canon because the back has fallen off the camera. They won’t replace it because they say there is water damage,  and you know there isn’t? That is where you become unhappy about the local distributor or importer, and you move on.
  3. Quality of gear – Lets say you’ve bought 7 Nikon’s and all of them have broken in some similar way – That’s where you lose confidence in a manufacturer and may decide to switch. Sometimes this is bad luck, sometimes it’s a particular brand that isn’t suited to conditions. Some people complain about weather sealing on the Sony’s, not an issue for me, but if I was walking through jungles in the pouring rain, it might be.

How could I have been happy with Fujifilm and now say Sony is better?

No matter what you are doing, there will always be something that is better. There will be better cars, better houses, better cameras, better cars. The question you need to ask yourself “When is it good enough for what I need?”. If you’re taking photos of your own families birthday parties, buying a Nikon D5 and a 105 f/1.4 is a massive overkill. If you’re doing billboards, medium format might be the go, the point is “better” depends on multiple things, including price, functionality and genre.

I’ve previously said the APSC vs full frame argument is exaggerated and I maintain that view. I didn’t move to Sony to get full frame, I moved to get away from Fujifilm and Sony’s APSC offering is pretty dismal. Most people don’t have the skills for APSC to be a limitation, the idea that they need full frame is largely an ego thing for most users. Most people’s perception of where their skill is and the impact of the gear is far different to the reality, as shown in the graph below. Many of the people who think they need full frame are still on the downward curve, thinking they are better than they are. If you want confirmation of that, have a look at the new camera photos that appear on any of the camera forums. It’s not uncommon to see people buying Nikon D850’s and D5’s for personal use when their photos are terrible by amateur standards, never mind professional standards. Users compensate for their lack of skills by buying equipment, like some of the lycra brigade who buy $20,000 tour de france quality bicycles for taking a ride to the local coffee shop.

Source: William Poundstone

What I was essentially saying with my comparison between the A7 and the X-T3 is that if you had no investment in glass and wanted to compare the two with an unlimited budget, the A7 is technically a better camera, but from what I understand, if video is a part of your workflow, that could all change, but I don’t shoot video. Everything changes depending on the circumstances.

Both cameras are good enough for 99% of users. The A7iii is more expensive and as a result, it’s not unexpected that the camera is better, because in the realm of technology, more often than not pricing does actually translate to more and better, unless you’re buying Apple of course.

If I knew what I knew today would I still have gone to Sony?

It’s actually a difficult question to answer. At the time of moving to Fujifilm, my circumstances were different to now and I was happy with what I was getting.

What I can say is if I was looking at a system right now, Sony is in a stronger position from a system perspective but that could change tomorrow. Fujifilm could release an organic sensor that blows away the market and everything could change. We’re living in a fast-moving market where today Sony is the leader and tomorrow they could be going out of business.

Why does this make a difference? Like supporting a sports side, you’ll go through some good years and some bad years so switching to the this year’s market leader could mean moving away from next year’s leader. I saw a lot of people spend a considerable amount switching to Sony because of the autofocus, from the perspective that Fujifilm would never catch up and they did catch up. Sony was ahead for roughly 6 months, what do they have to say now? They could have bought more glass for their Fujifilm system for the cost of moving and been in a better position.

At the end of the day, all you can do is make a educated decision based on the “now”, the future is uncertain.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to ask you one simple question.

Are you happy with what you have and does it impede your ability to take good photos?

It’s easy to get trapped in the specs race, but if what you have does what you need, why would you care what else is out there?

If you aren’t happy, then I would look at why you aren’t happy? If it’s performance, it’s highly likely it will change in the next generation. As we saw with Fujifilm, one generation had a substantial impact, and it’s a competitive camera industry so I would expect the same.

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