Actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson spent International Women’s Day hiding feminist books around NYC while she wasn’t giving a speech at the HeForShe Arts Week launch.
Dropping off books at Gertrude Stein statue in NYC✊
Actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson spent International Women’s Day hiding feminist books around NYC while she wasn’t giving a speech at the HeForShe Arts Week launch.
Dropping off books at Gertrude Stein statue in NYC✊
Canon made an unusual move in 2017 by announcing the Canon 77D as the first camera in a new line that fits between the 80D and the 800D (AKA the Rebel T7i). If you’re scratching your head about what makes the 77D different, check out the 4.5-minute video above by ZY Productions about 8 differences between the 77D and 80D.
“What on earth is the 77D? I compare it to the 80D and talk about how they’re different,” ZY writes. “I guess that makes the 800D a super spec-down of the 80D. 77D guts in an even crappier body.”
Canon says that the 77D “represents a new category of advanced amateur EOS cameras, a step above the Rebel series.” Here are the 8 main differences pointed out by ZY:
1. Viewfinder: The 77D uses a pentamirror viewfinder while the 80D uses a pentaprism one.
2. Shooting speed: 77D shoots up to 6fps, while the 80D can do 7fps.
3. Battery: 77D uses a lower capacity battery (1040mAh) than the 80D (1800mAh).
4. Shutter speed: 77D has a max shutter speed of 1/4000s while 80D can do 1/8000s.
5. Flash sync: 77D has a max flash sync speed of 1/200s versus the 80D’s 1/250s.
6. Layout: 77D uses a 4 way navigation pad instead of 8, among other minor differences
7. Bluetooth: 77D has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi while the 80D only has Wi-Fi.
8. Stabilization: 77D uses digital 5-way image stabilization, something the 80D lacks.
Other differences not mentioned by ZY but pointed out in the comments of the video include:
9. Headphone: The 77D lacks the headphone jack that the 80D has.
10. Size and weight: The 77D is both smaller and lighter than the 80D.
11. Weatherproofing: The 77D isn’t weathersealed while the 80D is.
“Picture the 77D as an 80D with cheaped out hardware,” ZY says. “In terms of pricing, the 77D is practically an economy version of the 80D.”
Since the introduction of the Fujifilm X-Series line of cameras, reviewers and consumers have struggled to compare them directly to the competition. Fujifilm’s is a tightly integrated system, wherein everything is a little bit different.
They rate ISO by a different standard, use a non-standard Color Filter Array (CFA), and their RAW files rely on proprietary metadata to correct exposure levels (which 3rd party RAW processors may ignore). One well-known lens and camera metrics company has declined to even attempt any comparison against Fujifilm X Series cameras.
The effect of all these confounding factors, intentional or not, along with Fujifilm’s hyperbolic and cryptic marketing copy, has been to lead consumers to draw incorrect conclusions when comparing Fujifilm against other brands of camera, specifically regarding noise, moiré, and detail resolution. If you compare a Fujifilm camera to another brand of camera without accounting for these various factors, you may think the Fujifilm performs better in every regard. You may even think that there’s something magical about it.
Given this confused situation, I wanted to perform a comparison which eliminates all of these factors and compares the Bayer CFA to the X-Trans CFA as directly as possible, without involving lighting, optical aberrations, lens light transmission, ISO ratings, noise reduction, optical lowpass filters, etc., and see if the X-Trans CFA really does offer any of the advantages Fujifilm claims it does when compared against Bayer — with no marketing funny-business.
As the saying goes, the devil’s in the details, and there are a lot of details involved, so grab your spectacles and wand: we’re going in search of that Fuji X Magic!
In order to remove the complicating factors of optics, base sensor technology, etc., these comparisons are performed with synthesized raw images. This is what raw data from a sensor with a Bayer and an X-Trans CFA looks like, respectively, before demosaicking:
This methodology allows for a direct comparison of the output with the input images (ground truth), and is the same technique employed by the researchers who develop demosaicking algorithms. The goal is to simulate an AA-filterless sensor, differing only in CFA (Bayer vs. X-Trans). The synthetic raw images are generated by filtering the target images through the respective CFA patterns. The resulting data is then fed into a demosaicking algorithm.
DCRaw is used for all demosaicking because it conveniently allows us to provide our own raw pixel data without having to wrap it in a container. The target images themselves have been downscaled significantly from their original size in order to eliminate any noise and false colors from the input.
Because Fujifilm’s own X-Trans demosaicking algorithm is proprietary, it could not be used for this comparison. Instead, I use Frank Markesteijn’s algorithm (in highest quality 3-pass mode). However, I’ve done tests and found that this algorithm is at least as good as (and perhaps better than) Fujifilm’s.
For the Bayer images, we use AHD, a similar high quality algorithm for demosaicking Bayer, which shares some properties with the Markesteijn algorithm. There are better algorithms available for Bayer, but this is the best DCraw supports. (I prefer AMaZE, myself.)
Fujifilm representatives have tossed around various figures of their own for X-Trans performance (“30% slower”) and have also hinted that one of the reasons they choose Bayer for their new medium format GFX 50S camera was because demosaicking 50 megapixel X-Trans images would be too slow.
In these tests, X-Trans demosaicking took approximately 3.27 times as long as Bayer. So perhaps what Fujifilm really meant to say is that X-Trans demosaicking is 30% as efficient as Bayer. In any case, it’s significantly slower, a fact that is uncontested.
The difference between these two patterns of red, green, and blue sensitivity is what this article is all about.
The Bayer CFA is common and very well established. Invented by Bryce Bayer of Kodak in the early 1970s, the Bayer CFA has been part of digital photography since its inception. Fujifilm introduced X-Trans promising that it offered many improvements over Bayer, most of them incredible.
Here are Fujifilm claims regarding X-Trans:
The unique random color filter array reduces moiré and false colors without an optical low-pass filter. These color filters also have the effect of increasing the resolution so, when shooting with a high-resolution Fujinon lens, the camera delivers images with a perceived resolution far greater than the actual number of pixels used.
As you can plainly see for yourself in the above figure, there’s absolutely nothing random about the X-Trans CFA. It’s just a larger pattern, 6×6 vs Bayer’s 2×2. To call it random is extremely misleading, but that seems to be the theme for the entire brochure.
Here Fujifilm elaborates on the claim that APS-C X-Trans can match the performance of full-frame (presumably higher resolution as stated above) Bayer:
The FUJIFILM X-M1 is equipped with a large APS-C X-Trans CMOS Sensor, which offers picture quality comparable to that of full-frame sensors. The sensor’s unique colour filter array minimises moiré and chromatic aberration without the need for an optical low pass filter, while dramatically boosting resolving power even at identical pixel counts to deliver sharp and texture-rich pictures.
Fujifilm seems to be conflating false color (a type of aliasing) and chromatic aberration (a property of lenses) here, but it’s the dramatically boosted resolving power that’s fantastic. All of these are rather bold claims, to say the least, which have never, to my knowledge, been backed up by any evidence. But that’s OK. We can test these claims ourselves — cast a spell of knowledge, if you will…
Let’s begin with a standard test-chart like image designed to show the limits of resolution.
Well, the moiré/false color certainly looks different. Whether it’s reduced or not appears to depend on the hue of the subject.
I think we can do better than charts though, let’s try a subject where one typically encounters moiré in the real world: fabric. (Note that the input image is completely monochrome.)
Well, so much for that… This example looks far worse with X-Trans! The fact is, some patterns and orientations will look better with Bayer and some will look better with X-Trans. This is simply because the CFA patterns are different and will therefore interfere with different subject patterns. Just different, still patterns — neither are random. I see no evidence that is one inherently more resistant to moiré than the other.
So how does Fujifilm deal with this? How have their claims of moiré reduction gone unchallenged? Well, as we discovered in the first article of this series, the in-camera processing does more than just demosaic the image, it also applies heavy chroma noise reduction and color profiles which reduce overall saturation (these are called Film Simulations by Fujifilm). Let’s simulate this effect by applying strong bilateral filtering to the chroma and reducing the saturation a bit (by about as much as STD/Provia does).
Well, that’s more like it. Now the moiré is significantly attenuated. However, there’s a problem: we could have done just the same kind of filtering with Bayer (or any other CFA)! Using X-Trans didn’t buy us anything. But that’s not the only problem with this approach. Let’s see what happens when we apply the same processing to an image with color:
Ah, there’s the rub. This spell has a catch! The butterfly wings didn’t fare too poorly (the high contrast edges make it easy for the bilateral filter), but look at the unnatural color of the fingernail in the NR’d image! This happens because the chroma NR strength required to eliminate moiré, which is, in-camera, naively applied to all images, regardless of the actual presence of moiré, is much greater than the chroma NR strength required to eliminate chroma noise.
By using a technique designed to treat color noise to treat both color noise and false color (which have similar appearance but different causes), fine and especially subtle color variations are lost, even in low noise, low ISO images. Fujifilm doesn’t mention it anywhere in their marketing copy, but this is how their X-Trans cameras suppress moiré. Not optically, not in the particular arrangement of the CFA, but purely in the digital domain, algorithmically, and in a general way that is equally applicable to AA-filterless Bayer images.
If you think the effect on a fingernail is bad, take a look at was this kind of processing does to a face:
Observe the color of the teeth and eyes, and how the skin has taken on a waxen, lifeless appearance. You can pump the saturation back up all you want, but you can never recover the fine color detail after this kind of processing has been performed.
For each example we present the ground truth, followed by the Bayer (left) and the X-Trans (right) results, below these we show the respective difference images (that is, the difference from the ground truth).
False colors are most apparent with high contrast monochrome subjects, which are instructional if not realistic. (Image courtesy WikiMedia Commons.)
PSNR is a standard measurement for quantifying image degradation. In this case it measures the difference between the ground truth and the demosaicked output. The bigger the number, the higher the fidelity.
Bayer wins overall. From looking at the difference image, it seems likely that if AHD were doing a better job interpolating the near-diagonal lines in Example 2, it would have won across the board. Notably, X-Trans performed poorly on Example 1, which contained a lot of red. This is because there are fewer red and blue sites in the X-Trans pattern compared to Bayer.
The poor performance of X-Trans on Example 4 is more interesting. With a monochrome subject, the extra green in the X-Trans pattern is supposed to produce a perceived higher fidelity result than Bayer. The reality is that the false colors wash out this supposed advantage and it actually performs worse. There is no evidence of “dramatically boosted resolving power.”
The preceding tests were conducted with images containing essentially no noise. It has been stated by reviewers that the X-Trans CFA offers a noise advantage over Bayer, producing lower color noise and having a more “film like” grain. Let’s see if that’s true. In order to test this, we generate a noise image and apply the very same noise image to the raw Bayer and X-Trans data before demosaicking, which simulates how noise occurs in a sensor. This direct comparison is also completely free of the complication of Fujifilm’s different standard of ISO rating, something which often thwarts camera to camera comparisons.
There can be no more direct a comparison than this. No false color suppression or noise reduction is employed. Bring on the magic!
Huh. I wonder what happened to the magic. Can you see the difference? I can’t. They all look crusty as a Leprechaun’s corduroys on St. Patrick’s Day. (Leprechauns are magical right?) Do any of these examples look “film like?” Let’s see what happens when we apply a little noise reduction to one of these. Let’s use a Bayer image, with its supposedly un-film-like characteristics…
Ah, there we go. Well, I wouldn’t call this film-like either, but at least the color noise is gone. This is the same thing that happens in Fujifilm’s in-camera processing and in 3rd party RAW processors which don’t allow the user to completely disable noise reduction for X-Trans files.
Surprisingly, X-Trans does have the win here — albeit a rather marginal one. You can see for yourself in the images how much of a visual difference these few decimal points of PSNR correspond to. Even if we don’t call this a tie, differences of this order would be completely swamped by 8-bit quantization, JPEG compression, optics and other real-world factors. Poof.
AA-filterless sensors (or sensors with negated AA-filters) have become popular in part because their output appears sharper straight off the sensor, without digital sharpening. As we’ve seen, this comes with the cost introducing false color and moiré artifacts.
A sensor with an AA filter requires digital sharpening, but with it can appear almost as sharp (more on this below) as an image from an AA-filterless sensor while displaying fewer artifacts. AA-filterless sensors require little or no digital sharpening, but are subject to false color and moiré effects (which as we’ve seen require digital noise reduction filtering to suppress).
An AA filter, however, does nothing to help with noise, which happens in the sensor, so false colors introduced by high ISOs (as in the noise examples above) are unaffected.
Where AA-filterless sensors may have an advantage is when the final image is to be converted to monochrome, and especially when the subject itself is monochrome (i.e. documents). And to a lesser extent when photographing subjects which contain no patterning and no high contrast fine detail (i.e. some types of nature/landscape images). Also, there exists computational diffraction reduction technology (which may be what Fujifilm is using in their so called Lens Modulation Optimizer) which actually relies on aliasing to function.
In order to simulate an AA filter, we apply a blur filter to the high resolution target image, downscale it to the testing resolution, perform the RAW conversion and demosaicking, and then apply an unsharp mask filter to the output. No noise reduction or desaturation is required.
Here’s the image from Example 4, with a simulated AA filter Bayer sensor:
The AA-filterless example looks like it has more detail, but does it really? And at what cost? Is it real detail or just aliasing and false color? That superfine “detail” (which is really just aliasing) isn’t going to be visible when you zoom out, but the false color may, especially with examples of moiré.
And let’s take a look at that moiré target with a simulated AA filter:
Now let’s compare our simulated AA-filter Bayer output to X-Trans. This was the original case for X-Trans, touted as a superior alternative to AA Bayer…
The Markesteijn algorithm does a better job of interpolating near-diagonal lines than does the AHD alogrithm, but this isn’t directly attributable to anything about X-Trans or Bayer; other Bayer demosaickers perform better in this regard, and other X-Trans demosaickers perform worse. (Add to this that AHD hasn’t been tuned for unantialiased input, while Markesteijn is doing extensive 3-pass luminance interpolation.)
However, even with the algorithmic lead, X-Trans appears to offer no advantage over AA-filterless Bayer, and in fact produced a lower fidelity result than Bayer in all but one test case. Predictably, AA-filterless Bayer and X-Trans suffer from similar levels of false color, X-Trans being slightly worse/chunkier due to the courser pattern. X-Trans tends to produce line-like artifacts, appearing smeared in aggregate, whereas Bayer produces more speckle-like artifacts. The X-Trans pattern changes the character of moiré, but does not appreciably reduce it, and certainly doesn’t eliminate it.
The real moiré and false color reduction of Fujifilm’s cameras comes not from the choice of sensor CFA, but from noise reduction occurring in the image processing pipeline. As shown here and in my previous articles, this level of post-processing, which is applied globally and indiscriminately, has the side-effect of significantly reducing fine color resolution. X-Trans is more sensitive to subject color, performing its worst on subjects with predominant red or blue hues. X-Trans provided a marginally higher PSNR than Bayer in the presence of noise (the results are so close that things like a different choice of Bayer algorithm, JPEG compression, and certainly any application of NR would wipe out the differences). Any apparent larger noise advantage found in other comparisons must be due the confounding factors of underlying sensor technology (Sony makes the sensors, FYI), ISO rating, electronic/thermal noise, and noise reduction baked in to the X-Trans demosaicking algorithm in use.
Even though X-Trans lost the battle, the results were very close. An AA-filterless Bayer sensor and an X-Trans sensor of the same resolution are fairly evenly matched. A sensor with an AA filter, however, will beat them both hands down when it comes to eliminating moiré and false color — and without reducing color resolution in the process (but one must apply the appropriate amount of sharpening for the best results). This leaves us in a bizarre situation because Fujifilm insists on continuing to use X-Trans in their midrange/high-end cameras (except for the medium format GFX 50S), while using Bayer (with AA-filter of course) in their low-end X-A range. That means you can get better IQ by buying a low-end camera (X-A3) that costs a third what the high-end model (X-T2) does — from the same manufacturer (although you won’t necessarily get better JPEGs if the level of chroma NR being applied in-camera is the same in the X-A line).
True AA-filterless sensors (where the AA filter isn’t simply negated) might have a slight physical sensitivity advantage due to receiving light which would have otherwise been absorbed or scattered by the AA filter. However, given the amount of noise reduction required to treat the false colors introduced by the omission of the AA filter, it seems unlikely that there is much, if any, net benefit.
Finally, and probably most practically, X-Trans requires significantly more processing time/power and, at the time of writing, all but one of the commercial RAW processing programs on the market produce lower quality output than the free-software Markesteijn algorithm used in preparing the examples for this article.
So there you have it: We disenchanted the marketing copy, saw through the legerdemain, traced the rainbow back to its very source, and found the truth about X-Trans. And that truth is: all the “magic” is nothing but smoke (sans mirrors). But, I have to admit, it’s a clever trick.
About the author: Jonathan Moore Liles is a photographer, writer, musician, and software architect living in Portland, Oregon. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find his work on his website, Instagram, and Bandcamp. This article was also published here.
Same setting, same model, three different lighting scenarios. In this demo, Toronto wedding photographer Derrel Ho-Shing shows you the difference between shooting with natural light, regular strobe, and high speed sync.
Ho-Shing didn’t put the video together to make any sort of judgement, although his preference is obvious. He’s shooting with the Canon 5D Mark IV and new Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens, and having to stop that beautiful lens down to f/5.6 in order to use the strobe without HSS is just… tragic. The lighting looks fine, but the background is simply too in-focus and distracting.
By comparison, just natural light creates more separation and, thus, a more pleasing portrait:
And, of course, things get even better when you turn on High Speed Sync. Using the flash’s power to keep your subject properly exposed, HSS lets you create even more separation by both shooting wide-open and darkening the background.
In this example, at least, HSS wins hands down:
(via ISO 1200)
Sigma is undoubtedly, tantalizingly on fire. Their Art series lenses consistently undercut and outperform the competition, as they proved yet again by manufacturing an 85mm f/1.4 lens that is not only $600 cheaper than Sony’s top-of-the-line 85mm GM, but according to DPReview, it’s better ‘across the board.’
This news should come as no surprise. Even before DPReview got their mitts on the new lens, the Sigma 85mm Art earned the highest score DxOMark has ever given to a lens, beating even the famous Zeiss Otus.
But DxOMark didn’t pit the lens directly against Sony’s new 85mm GM. DPReview calls that lens “arguably the best modern 85mm F1.4 on the market (behind the manual focus Zeiss Otus, of course)” and so they wanted to see how the new king of sharpness held up against the impressive Sony. They slapped both lenses on a Sony a7R II, and even using a Metabones smart lens adapter to get the Sigma onto a Sony E-Mount camera, Sigma still outperformed the Sony lens in almost every single category.
Here’s how DPR put it in their conclusion:
…the Sigma beat out the Sony in nearly every category. Sharpness, vignetting, distortion and the handling of lateral chromatic aberration (though not LoCA, in harsh lighting situations, wide open) all went to the Sigma. It simply outperformed the Sony across the board.
Read that again, and then consider that the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 art costs $1,200, while the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM costs $1,800. At that price difference, you could buy the Metabones adapter and still have change left over.
To read DPReview‘s very comprehensive review, click here, and then try your best not to go order this lens ASAP.
I am one of the lucky few to have grown up with Leica. It is weird to critically think about the irrational purchase of such an expensive camera as new digital models are released, but if you grew up with a Leica in your life it is very hard to let go of the brand.
For some, Leica is a status symbol like a Ferrari or Rolex, only to be admired from afar, but it is my belief that this is the result of very misguided marketing. The only way a Leica is like a Ferrari is that most owners won’t learn to fully utilize them and the only Leicas that can claim to be Rolex-like are older Leicas like the M3 because, beyond the rangefinder and dials, modern Ms are not very mechanical.
So, how does the Fujifilm X-Pro2 fit? If you saw the pictures I published, you can clearly see how similar, almost identical, the cameras are in design. The Fujifilm has a lot more bells and whistles for a fraction of the price, and a photographer can choose to limit their use if they like to have a very Leica M-like shooting experience. They only feel ever so slightly different due to the materials used to build them.
Beyond 35mm Fujifilm film I never paid much attention to Fujifilm as a company, until the original Fujifilm X-Pro1; which I quickly preordered along with the launch line-up of lenses, because it reminded me of my Leica M. It was an excellent, but flawed, camera at the time and it made me yearn for a better digital M.
Today the M is somewhat unique. Leica never had any competition that succeeded, until the X-Pro1 came along. It was the first great rangefinder-style camera with great glass and a good modern sensor that provided a unique look, which is something people love about Leica.
Many loved the X-Pro1, but abandoned it for Fujifilm’s rapidly developing X camera line-up, which included a lot of great rangefinder-like cameras before the X-Pro2’s release. Yet, along the way, Fujifilm continued to support all of their cameras with firmware updates that drastically improved performance in some cases; even though many X-Pro1 owners never got to see the improvements, which Fujifilm is now notorious for. The X-Pro1 certainly attracted a lot of Leica fans like me, and built a loyal following for Fujifilm, but many lapsed fans wonder how the X-Pro2 compares to the M.
The Fujifilm X-Pro2 launch went much smoother than the X-Pro1 launch. The camera was fast and RAW support was very good on day one, but some experienced a minor reset bug that Fujifilm addressed relatively quickly via a firmware update. The X-Pro2 was many orders of magnitude better than the X-Pro1 it replaced, and additional manual controls were added like the ISO dial that completed the retro Leica-like feel of the camera. Yet, unlike retro cameras, the X-Pro2 does not have any functional limitations. The still unique hybrid viewfinder makes the X-Pro2 a jack of all trades and puts it in a class of its own.
The Leica rangefinder window is widely regarded for its clarity and brightness compared to other optical finders, but the new X-Pro2 viewfinder is equally as good, and even surpasses it, because it allows the photographer to adjust the finder’s magnification. The X-Pro2 can switch between 0.36x/0.6x OVF magnification by holding the viewfinder lever on the front of the camera and Fujifilm can even improve the accuracy of their frame lines with firmware updates, which they have done in the past. When switching to EVF the magnification is fixed at 0.59x with a frame rate of 85fps that does not drop in low light with only 0.012 seconds of lag and 2.36 million dots, but the focal point can be magnified by 6x.
On the other hand, the Leica M240 is limited to 0.68x, which can be improved with a screw on magnifier. I currently use a Leica 1.25x magnifier on mine that improves my magnification to 0.85x. For reference, the gold standard is often considered the Leica M3 which had 0.91x magnification. There are also 0.7x, 1.4x, and 1.5x magnifiers widely available along with some off brand adjustable ones. On the M240 these magnifiers give photographers 0.48x, 0.95x, and 1.02x. I did not purchase the 1.4x or 1.5x magnifiers because I felt they limited the lenses I could attach to my M240 too much. I generally shoot 50mm, but I like shooting 35mm and 28mm, which cannot be done well with strong magnifiers because the frame lines become obscured.
When manually focusing a lens with a focal length of 10-75mm, the Leica viewfinder probably has an edge over other methods, but beyond 75mm, the Fujifilm EVF gains the advantage over the Leica because the EVF can be zoomed 6x. Leica also has an optional EVF that can be purchased and zoomed like live view on the back screen, but most users will never opt for it because of its low resolution and price, but it zooms to 10x.
Thanks to the ability to autofocus, photographer have the ability to have an expanded rangefinder-type experience when setting the X-Pro2’s magnification to 0.36x. This allows them too see more of the world around them, or they can choose to use a more traditional 0.60x magnification with tighter frame lines. It is a very unique rangefinder-style experience that allows photographers to be uniquely creative. Some have even used the OVF with the 100-400mm, even though it is way beyond the limitations of the frame lines that the OVF can produce. They simply point the lens and get center point focus confirmation to shoot.
X-mount will be 5 years old soon, and Fujifilm has had some luck getting other manufactures to produce lenses for them but, beyond a few Zeiss AF lenses, most are manual focus. There are also a lot of adapters on the market that let photographers use glass from almost any manufacturer, but AF adapters for X-mount have not really materialized yet.
M-mount became a pretty standard mount after screw mount, so a lot of quality glass is available with rangefinder coupling; but prices can be very high. There are even adapters for old screw mount lenses to use on a modern rangefinder cameras, so there is a ton of quality glass for M-mount. Plus, 3rd party lenses can now be adapted for M-mount just like on X-mount, but you have to use the rear screen in live view mode or the optional low resolution EVF to focus and frame.
There is a lot of quality glass for everyone at every price point but, if you can afford a Leica, chances are that money does not matter very much. M glass is highly adaptable so it is a great investment if you are not sure which mirrorless system you are going to stick with going forward.
Leica glass is widely regarded as second to none. It is the kind of statement that no one ever challenges because it is just about always true and, even when it is not, the glass is good enough and no one would question the remark without having two completely identical shots with different lenses to compare.
Leica has a few lenses that I consider to be less desirable, but they are still better than 95% of the lenses available, even though they are less desirable to me. They do manage to offer other benefits, like being significantly smaller in design than similar glass, but I generally do not care about lens size unless it is obnoxiously big. So, the 5% of glass that photographers could make a solid argument for being better will almost always weigh significantly more and be significantly bigger. I am not going to name lens names because it will detract from the larger point, but note that I have only kept Leica glass that I consider to be second to none, because photography equipment selling at Leica prices should be second to none.
Leica’s 50mm Summilux f1.4 ASPH is an all-around amazing lens and it has been since its introduction. Basically, if it is 50mm and it is a Leica, photographers are probably not going to be disappointed unless someone sold them a knock off or damaged lens. In my opinion, the Leica Look has always been best represented by the 50mm Summilux, and it is why I spent over a year trying to get a new one when they were hard to find after the M9‘s introduction. It is simply sublime. I also really loved the Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH for a while, along with the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 (V1/2) (I owned both) and Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZM. There is a lot of superb glass for the M, but I highly recommend that photographers new to Leica limit their selection so they can develop their ability to frame a picture in their head before putting camera to eye. Getting quick with the M is generally closely tied to seeing the world through a fixed focal length.
You can buy a professional Fujifilm setup for the price of one high-end Leica lens. Let that sink in… At this time, I own almost all of Fujifilm’s glass. Even their Japanese toy lenses are a joy to shoot with. I regularly shoot with most of my lenses, but carrying around the big zooms like the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR can be a bit difficult when most of your camera bags are meant for M cameras. Fujifilm has great glass that has lots of character. They are also introducing a lot of weather resistant lenses and more small primes that are easy to carry around. Many of their lenses are the best or very close to the best at their focal length, and they are cheaper than the competition. Lenses like the Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR, XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR, XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS, XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR are all phenomenal. Even the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 XF R from the launch of the X system has great character, but it really needs to be updated to focus more like the XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR.
Fujifilm has a lot of great glass and all they really need now is long telephoto glass to round out their system, which is not really what the X-Pro2 is for, but it can do it because it is a Jack of all trades. Some of their older glass could also use revision, because AF speed is very much limited by the lens attached to your Fujifilm body and it will only get worse as newer glass is released. Fujifilm aggressively releases firmware updates for their cameras and lenses for speed and accuracy, but now it is time to start updating lenses.
Considering the quality of Leica glass, most would think they should win this section, but since everything that works on an M can be adapted to an X-Pro2, and the X-Pro2 has a lot of its own great glass that cannot be adapted to the M, the X-Pro2 is the better system for glass. There is just so much to choose from at every price point and beyond the few stinkers like the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R, which some people still like, Fujifilm has a very solid line-up.
This is not a fair comparison because the M240 was introduced at the end of 2012, while the X-Pro2 came out at the beginning of 2016. They both have a base ISO of 200, but the Fujifilm is very usable up to 12,800, while the M240 falls apart around 3200 ISO.
The M240 does MJPEG for video at 1080p24, which is decent quality, and has the Leica look, but the Fujifilm X-Pro2 uses mp4 to capture up to 1080p60 with film simulation applied. The ability to apply film simulation really propels the X-Pro2 out in front because it gives the video a very unique look that would be hard for most users to match in post.
The Leica M240 does retain the Leica look at times, but not as often as the M9 did, which made the M240 a controversial camera. The transition to a CMOS sensor in the M disappointed a lot of M fans, but there is no going back because CCD development has stalled outside of medium format cameras. Many photographers believe they can look at a photo and tell if it was taken with a Leica, or even an M9/M240, but they generally fail when tested. There is a quality to a Leica photo that is hard to describe beyond it being something about the micro contrast that pops out, but images on the M240 are just not like they used to be on film Leicas or M9s, and when images do pop on the M240 it is not as often as it used to be on an M9.
Similarly, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 has Fuji colors through and through, which people seem to love or hate. I like them quite a bit and the x-trans color profile is pleasant to me, especially with the ability to emulate Fujifilm films color profile in Lightroom with RAW files. So, Fujifilm wins the sensor battle easily because it produces a consistent image quality that the photographer is looking for.
File quality is not important to everyone, but it is something Leica has always gotten right. DNG is the way to go for RAW files. It ensures that files can be opened easily, and that there is no wait for RAW support. I cannot remember the last time Leica launched a camera without full RAW support from the major editors, which probably is in part because, unlike Fujifilm, they use an easy to work with RAW format.
Fujifilm’s RAF format has never been well supported and it is only recently that they have managed to gain day one support from major RAW editing companies like Adobe. Their format has matured quite a bit, but the algorithm that companies like Adobe use to interpret the X-trans files can be flaky at times, which is why many photographers pick RAW developers like Iridient Developer, which will soon release an app that turns RAF files into more compatible/higher quality DNG files for Lightroom.
Both create compressed RAW files about the same size, 23-30MB, but the M240 can only recover around 2-3 stops at best, while the X-Pro2 can recover 4-5 stops. The amazing ability to push and pull XPro2 files that far comes from the sensor being ISO invariant. There is a lot of discussion about ISO invariant sensors you can read and debate about, but the XPro2 files are a lot more flexible than the M240 files, especially as the ISO goes up and the M240 starts to show banding.
The Leica M is famous for being made from brass (weighing 680g), but now there are some aluminum variants being released that are trying to reduce its weight a little. Generally speaking, I like that they are putting the M on a diet, but I think they could have picked a better metal for the price, like titanium. Aluminum is cheaper, but stronger than brass, and the Ms made with aluminum are not cheaper.
Starting with the M240, Leica began advertising weather sealing, but it was vague at best, and Leica has not released any weather sealed glass for the M or confirmed that any of their current glass is sealed. The M has never had dual card slots, which is an issue for many. The SD card/battery is not very easy to get to because the bottom needs to be unscrewed to access them, which can be difficult to grasp; but this is not a problem if you trust a large SD card with the battery, which can last all day. This is just part of the Leica charm and your trust that your camera will work, but SD cards can and do fail.
If you have seen pictures of my camera before, I have a lot of accessories on it. I like having a thumbs up on my M to help with stability at low shutter speeds, and I only use the handgrip for GPS because I like geotagging my photos. I really do not like the plastic grip, but the finger loop is nice. I also use a magnifier to get critical focus faster and more accurately at f1.4, f1.2 and f0.95. I like the feel of the M240, but the M9 was superior, and now older film M cameras feel a little too small for me. I have been shooting digital Ms back to back since the M8, so I am done with film. There is no simpler camera and, even though the M240 has added video and more over the M9, it still comes down to aperture/ISO/shutter speed.
The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is a classic looking camera with a modern build. It is made of four pieces of magnesium alloy (weighing 495g) that are sealed at 61 points on each section. This makes it “dust-proof, splash-proof and capable of operating in temperatures as low as -10°C.” Outside of the original marketing materials, they call it weather resistant, not weather proof, so photographers just have to trust Fujifilm about how reliable their seals are; but I have read stories of people having problems with rain and Fujifilm covering the damage under warranty, so if you purchase an X-Pro2 make sure to purchase a camera with a warranty and test the seals at some point. The X-Pro2 even has dual card slots, but the battery will not last all day. Photographers will get between 200-400 shots per charge depending on the quality of their battery and shooting style. I generally recommend carrying 2-3 batteries.
The X-Pro2 does not need any accessories, but on camera GPS would be nice even as an add-on device, because the phone app does not work very well for geotagging. The camera feels great out of the box, and the only thing I used on mine for a little while was a soft release button. Once the X-Pro2 is setup how a photographer likes to shoot, it can be operated entirely without going into menus, which is impressive for such a capable camera.
The Leica M feels luxurious and unnecessarily heavy, while the Fujifilm X-Pro2 feels light and solid, yet both are well-balanced. Strangely enough, when removing everything from the body of each but the battery, the bodies feel very similar in weight and size. Part of the Leica bulk definitely comes from the mounted lens. Honestly, I feel like this is a tie because I like both bodies quite a bit; and the X-Pro2 body is more high-tech, while the M240 body seems to be going in the wrong direction.
Video is one of those things that I greatly enjoy doing from time to time, but if I take on a project I almost always regret it because I do not have a good work flow. Fujifilm has eased this burden a little with their film simulation modes that let me get usable raw footage right out of the camera, while Leica files take some work. Their motion JPEG format saves them licensing fees, but costs photographers/cinematographers a lot of space and time to work with the files involved. I have seen great footage out of the M240, but I’ve never managed to capture any video worth sharing with mine.
Before the Fujifilm X-Pro2 I’d never recommend a camera over the Leica M for the pure joy of shooting. The M is love when in use by a photographer… if you want the bliss of shooting get an M… If you want to know what it’s like to miss shooting like you miss the love of your life, get an M… Fujifilm was so close with the X-Pro1 but, when I would look at the photos after a day of shooting, I had focus issues on award-winning shots that made me want to throw my monitor at my X-Pro1… That changed with the X-Pro2, now I get all the shots and the feelings…
The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is an amazing camera. The hybrid-viewfinder created a completely new category of camera that, very unfortunately, no one else has joined yet. The X-Trans sensor is brilliant, and the glass you can put in front of it is world-class and not over-priced, which allows you to capture some truly amazing photographs. Fujifilm even fixed their video issues and made one hell of a video camera. I love my Fujifilm X-Pro2…
Yet… here’s where you throw your hands up in the air… I find myself selling my X-Pro2… it’s love and it’s not rational, and this is mine and Leica’s problem in our dysfunctional relationship. I shouldn’t love my Leica M. The Fujifilm X-Pro 2 is the better camera for me and everyone else. Even now I’m trying to rationalize it as all the time/money/energy I have put into the Leica M, but… I just can’t. It’s a feeling. At least I’ll still have my Fujifilm X-T2 around to comfort me when I am missing my Fujifilm X-Pro2.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
About the author: Louis Ferriera is a second-generation Leica photographer that learned analog photography on a first production year Leica M3 that he inherited from his uncle. Photography has been an avocation of his for 25 years and he became involved in professional photography when the transition to digital photography began in the 90s. You can find more by Louis on Fuji Addict, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, 500px, and Twitter. This article was also published here.
The smartphone camera landscape is getting crowded with high quality cameras these days, but the Google Pixel and Apple iPhone 7 Plus are two of the front runners when it comes to popularity and publicity. We did a simple shootout to pixel-peep at how the cameras in these two smartphones stack up against each other.
We shot the same photos with roughly the same framing in various places and in various lighting environments. HDR mode was set to “Auto” in both native camera apps.
For any of the following photos, click it to see the original resolution version (they can be found in this Flickr album).
Let’s start off with an outdoors scene showing trees and grass under sunlight.
Here’s a cropped section from the two photos:
We see that the Pixel has a noticeable advantage over the iPhone when it comes to resolution and sharpness (compare the blades of grass).
In this next playground scene, the Pixel photo has more detail, but the iPhone photo is more vibrant in its colors:
Here’s a cropped section from the two photos:
A photo of a flower with the background thrown out of focus:
The Pixel may produce sharper photos than the iPhone, but it’s not without flaws. In October 2016, Pixel owners began complaining of lens flare issues in their photos. As this next outdoor comparison shows, we experienced the same thing — a circular flare under certain conditions that isn’t present in the iPhone’s shots:
As you can see, the iPhone does have a spot of lens flare at the bottom of the frame, but it’s nothing compared to what shows up in the Pixel photo. And we didn’t intentionally try to capture the flare issue with the pixel — it showed up in casual snapshots due to the sun’s angle in relation to the Pixel.
Let’s move on to performance in low-light situations. Here’s a comparison of a baby nursery lit only by dim snowflake lights:
The Pixel seems to be able to capture more detail in the darkest areas of the frame, as this crop comparison shows:
Here’s another low-light indoor scene:
Here’s a bookshelf of children’s books in the same low-light environment, with flash turned off on both cameras:
As this crop comparison shows, the iPhone seems to have produced a cleaner and sharper result — we were shooting multiple photos handheld and selected the best shot for each:
Here’s the same scene, except with the rear flash enabled for both phones:
And the crop comparison:
Both the Google Pixel and the Apple iPhone 7 Plus are solid options if you’d like to make your smartphone your everyday camera.
The iPhone 7 Plus offers a dual camera with 2x zoom and a special Portrait mode with faux depth of field. In low-light environments, the iPhone seems to stack up well against (or even beat) the Pixel in terms of details, colors, and flash power.
But in daylight and other well-lit situations, the Google Pixel does seem to offer sharper photos and better image quality… as long as you can avoid the dreaded sun flares.
An iPhone cannot compare to a $30,000 100MP Hasselblad camera. It’s like comparing a Chevy Nova to a Bugatti Veyron. But there is a way to make this comparison “fair,” and that’s what Usman, the lead photographer at Sonder Creative, did in this intriguing comparison video.
The comparison is made “fair” by using the iPhone 7 Plus’ telephoto lens to take hundreds of close-up pictures of a scene, which are then merged and stitched together to form an image that is (almost) equivalent in resolution to the single 100MP Hasselblad shot. In this way, Usman is able to pit hundreds of individual ‘Chevy Nova’ photos against our Hasselblad Veyron.
Here are the resulting images. The top photo, taken with the Hasselblad, weighs in at 100.9MP. The bottom, taken with the iPhone 7 Plus over and over and over again, comes out to 96.9MP.
Obviously, looking at the images embedded in this post on your browser isn’t going to do the comparison justice, so check out the video at the top to dive into every piece of the photos at 100% crop.
It turns out that, if you’re willing and able to do the work of creating a 100MP photo from a ton of individual shots, you’ll be rewarded with a much higher quality image than you might expect. Is it better than snapping one photo with a $30K medium format camera? I don’t know… would your rather drive a Bugatti? Can you afford one?
Image credits: Photographs by Usman Dawood/Sonder Creative and used with permission.