I’d like to thank all the readers of this series: “Leica on a Budget”. I’ve received a lot of feedback, and it seems, many of you out there are interested in a camera that will allow you to use Legacy M mount lenses, as well as a camera with a portable form factor, with the Image Quality that will be comparable with the Leica M8, M9, or full frame DSLR. But cost a whole lot less! With the economy the way it is, and photography being such an equipment centric hobby/profession, you may find it challenging to stretch your funds to buy the equipment that you need, and that will aid in your growth as a photographer. By no means does this mean if you buy more equipment, you’ll be a better photographer. Actually, sometimes, I feel it hinders you as a photographer because you start worrying too much about the equipment, and not making great images. This being said, I know that, photographers especially, love to do their “due diligence” in research, so that the “tools” that they do buy, give them the desired results. We want to give them the best info we possibly can to make an informed decision.
For those of you that are jumping in mid series, here are the links to other articles and test results from various M mount lenses.
Coming from the traditional 35mm rangefinder cameras such as Leica, Zeiss Ikon, Contax G2, etc. I found a clear sense of familiarity with the Fuji X-Pro1. The button layouts and form of the camera most closely resembles the traditional Range Finder cameras, this made me want to just pick up the camera, and go shooting. The camera fits very well in my hand and with the addition of a soft release button, I feel right at home!
The Sony NEX-7 on the other hand is a little different animal. As far as grip and comfort in your hand, I feel the Sony NEX-7 wins hands down. It’s more ergonomic and has a great grip with a rubber coating that just “sticks” to my hand. What is somewhat odd about the camera is that it’s mostly lens. The lens protrudes from the camera body so much that it took a while for me to get used to. The addition of the tilt screen and tri-navi control knobs give a “why don’t all cameras have this” kinda feeling. The tilt screen really gives you flexibility with different shooting angles and comes in very handy when you want to shoot very low or over the top of your head. The Sony NEX-7 is very light and even with the addition of heavy lenses such as the Zeiss 18mm F4.0, the grip compensates for the top heaviness well, and the camera is easily carried for a full day of shooting.
Manual Focus Comparison:
With the Fuji X-Pro1 the only thing that took some getting used to was the optical/electronic view finder, but this didn’t take long to master. What I found was when using the hyperfocal focusing technique or zone focusing, I would use the optical viewfinder. This works very well now that Fujifilm updated the firmware so you get frame lines within the optical viewfinder. Images are taken instantly and this technique is faster than autofocus. When shooting portraits, landscapes, or subjects that are not moving around so much, I use the electronic viewfinder and with the help of the zooming “manual focus assist” you can be very accurate with your manual focusing. Sometimes I don’t even use the zoom, and the electronic viewfinder is good enough that you can still have very accurate focusing.
For the Sony NEX-7 the manual focus is done very well. You have focus peaking, which highlights the areas of the image that are in focus, and the manual focusing assist which allows you to zoom in to specific areas of the image to assist in manual focusing. Both of these features work well in assisting with manual focusing. Sony got it right when developing these features. The Sony has the advantage of 2 zoom levels 0f 5.9x and 11.7x, where as the Fuji X-Pro1 only zooms in at one level. Sometimes the Fuji X-Pro1 zoom level is too much and switching back and forth can be somewhat disconcerting.
Did the Sony NEX-7 or the Fuji X-Pro1 come close to gaining the title “Leica on a Budget”? In my opinion one camera did come close, but is a couple of steps away from claiming the Crown! The Fuji X-Pro1, in my opinion, comes the closest to giving me the image quality, handling, and form factor that I need, in a compact package. Leica Image quality in a full frame sensor is hard to replicate. The Sony NEX-7 boasts a 24 megapixel sensor and has great image quality, but personally, with the use of wide-angle lenses, the color shifts are too much for me to deal with. Don’t get me wrong, most everything else on this camera I love, but the color shift on the wide-angle lenses, such as the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 and the Zeiss 18mm f4.0, cause me to put this camera in a different category. The Fuji X-Pro1 on the other hand has a great color rendition, ease of use, form factor, build quality, and image quality that comes close to fulfilling my expectations of a “Leica on a budget” camera. I’ve written about the nostalgic feeling I get when holding and using the camera, and when all things are said and done, the images I produce most closely match what is in my mind.
The Fuji X-Pro1 has the balance of looks, performance, and features, that edge out the Sony NEX-7 to be the closest “Leica on a budget” camera. This is my opinion, and honestly, much of this conclusion comes purely from a subjective point of view. Some people have told me that they like the color rendition of the Fuji X-Pro1, but prefer the flexibility and features of the Sony NEX-7. Others prefer the form factor and handling of the Sony NEX-7, but like the OVF/EVF of the Fuji X-Pro1. I guess it’s safe to say that we still don’t have the holy grail of a true “apples to apples” competition to the Leica M9. Now if Fuji releases a full frame sensor in the form factor of the Fuji X-Pro1, that doesn’t smudge the edges of the image when using legacy lenses, then you may have a winner. For now we’ll have to choose from these very capable cameras that just miss the mark to be placed a top the Mirrorless Camera List with the Leica M9. The decision of which camera to buy comes down to the age-old saying, “it depends on what you’re going to use if for”. There are no easy answers. Hopefully, these test and this review will give you a better insight into each camera and you can decide for yourself what features you need the most, and what level of Image Quality you prefer.
For those of you that are disappointed with this series, I’m right there with you. When starting this series of articles and tests, I thought that there would be a clear winner, considering the early results I was getting. After weighing all the pros and cons, I had to be honest with myself, and conclude that at the core, it’s a toss-up. Based purely on the user. The Sony NEX-7 has color shifts with wide-angle lenses, but the Fuji X-Pro1 smudges the edges of the image with every lens I tested. Each camera has its own idiosyncrasies. As I stated, for me, I pick the Fuji X-Pro1. I like the OVF/EVF combo and am used to the rangefinder style of shooting. I use hyperfocal focusing a lot and this allows me to just frame the image and shoot. A couple of my friends pick the Sony NEX-7. They are a more deliberate shooters and take care with their framing and composition. They love the flexibility of the Sony NEX-7 in everyday shooting. So for those of you that are considering these cameras, you are welcome to contact me for an opinion of which camera would be best for you. I’d love to help and tailor all my recommendations to the user. Lets hope that Fuji comes out with that full frame sensor mirror less camera! Happy Image Making!!
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