Steve Huff Compares Sony vs Olympus vs Fuji
Steve Huff is a noted photography blogger with a rabid following of fans and haters. His most recent article pitting the Sony vs Olympus vs Fuji mirrorless systems against each other is bound to make some people incredibly happy, and cause some people to do a facepalm.
I’ll refrain from too much judgement on this piece, it’s posted for you to review and to make up your mind about the testing and the results. (I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments.) Generally speaking, pitting one camera system against another is a poor use of time—different people like different things from different cameras. My own arsenal has the Sony a7R, some pro Nikon bodies, a Canon SLR and some point-and-shoot cameras. (Of course, I’m a professional product tester…) It is nice, however, to see a piece with sample images from each camera.
As a product tester, there are a few questionable things here to keep in mind. Huff tested the systems by letting the camera determine the exposure. He said that’s because most of us shoot that way, so this is a better test of how the systems perform. Unfortunately that’s now how testing works, at least not when you’re doing it for a living. (And Huff is not, so I give him a pass on this.) Certainly it’s important to also see how a camera functions when selecting the exposure settings, but when you’re trying to do a fair head-to-head comparison, you need to evaluate the same functionality across multiple systems.
What Huff created is more a test of individual metering characteristics than of the camera. A better test would have been to use a handheld light meter to evaluate the scene and set the cameras to that, checking each shot to see how the exposure ranked versus a light meter.
That is to say that different cameras will meter scenes differently based on their evaluative metering. Point two systems at the same scene and one might set it at 1/100 at f/8 while the other is at 1/60th at f/8. Evaluating the results of different shutter and aperture settings is comparing apples to oranges. (It’s a fair test when evaluating metering, but not when evaluating image results.)
In other words, if you’re comparing cars, you put them both on a racetrack and see how fast they go from 0-60. You measure their horsepower. You don’t drive them both to the grocery store and see how fast the got up to 60 while stoping and random lights.
Huff also stated that the “a7s is the Sony Flagship in the A7 line, and is closest in MP to the Olympus and Fuji.” This is incorrect, as the A7II would likely considered the flagship for general photography and the a7R for studio photography. Personally I think this is the camera Huff had on hand, and it was inconvenient to test with the newest Sony.
Since the Fuji and Olympus have different size sensors, comparing a sensor with a greater surface area and the same pixel count will have a different depth of field result than one with a smaller surface area, all else being equal. In other words, a 12-megapixel full frame sensor and a 12-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor create a different looking image at the same aperture setting.
Finally, many of the tests in this article are based on post processing—he evaluates black and white conversions and other looks after RAW conversion. That’s one of the reasons that testers always evaluate a camera system at both the highest JPEG setting and RAW, we use the JPEG to determine what the camera’s “ideal” look is for an image, and how far off the RAW software deviates from that look. If you were to take the same RAW file and push it through Aperture, Lightroom and DxO Optics Pro, you’d get three different looks.
Still, having a way to compare three camera systems directly is a huge benefit to the photographer. It shows first how great of an image it’s possible to create with any of today’s mirrorless platforms, and how different cameras excel in different conditions.
There really is no point in debates of which camera systems are best. The answer is “all of them” as there isn’t a poor-quality system on the market these days. The question is “which system helps you express your photographic style?” This article is a great example that the tools of photography are less important than the photographer wielding those tools.