Future with the Fujifilm X-system after 2022?
Updated: 4 days ago
The below observations and statemements reflect solely my own opinion and experience with the mentioned photography products. I am not related to any brands or affiliates. I am interested in mostly still photography and do not care much about video features. One should acknowledge other people may have different priorities, sensitivity and interpretation of a particular performance of a product. Some people are happy with the same result or output, others may not. I accept other's opinion, please, do so. Personally, I belong to those brand-independent pixel peepers and geeks, who is deeply interested in photography technology, has experience shooting with various imaging brands, and have clear understanding what meets and does not meet my comfort and expectations. I am looking for the affordable, best quality gear to enjoy my hobby, photography. I evaluate any product feature without emotion. Fanboyism falls very far from me, so those ones are being brand enthusiastic might not agree with all my observations and product critics, this is unevitable. Please, do not take any of my findings intrusive and personal. My goal is not to hurt anyone's feelings, rather to share my struggle and experiences to help others to conclude a similar hesitation. I go my way, you go your way. Hope, you’ll find value in my observations and comments.
There are a lot of theoretical, brand-favorized photography system comparisons and recommendations available over the internet. Having no brand preference, hope I can provide a practical comparison of the evaluated systems from the viewpoint of a real world, geek photographer, who analyze every aspects of the gear. As I not only try things by myself, but also read and watch many reviews with essential criticism I like to add references supporting my observations and statements as find below.
Summarizing the main moments of the Fujifilm mirrorless story by the viewpoint of a former DSLR shooter
Let me state here I do not mention all the other, rangefinder product camera lines (X-A*, X-E*), which has their special user base, rather focusing on the DSLR-look products, which can better replace a DSLR set.
Fujifilm kicked off its mirrorless camera business by launching the pocketable rangefinder style fixed lens X100 camera (2011) with its unique retro design. It was followed by the 1st flagship model, the XPro1 (2012), which was quite pricey, and also very buggy. Later, Fuji released many free firmware updates with fixes and new features so the Xpro1 transformed into a well usable camera. Fujifilm became the leader in mirrorless camera industry in the mid-2010th years by introducing an APSC sized camera system, which was light and portable comparing to FF DSLR, had considerably good image quality (claimed to the unique X-Trans filter array over the sensor) and provided a unique user experience with retro style camera button and dial layout. Fujifilm created many camera lines, actually, too many to provide continuous worthy upgrade for all. Fujifilm took care of its users, introduced continuous after sale product enhancement by ’kaizen’ updates (as mentioned in relation to Xpro1 lifeycle) and it created a massive loyalty base of the brand. The X-T1 (2014) has kind a similar product improvement story just like the Xpro1 with the many updates, then later earned to be a beloved camera of many. However, by the end of the 2010th years Fujifilm turned not to be the mirrorless tech lead anymore, rather struggled to catch up with other camera companies (Sony, then Canon), who joined the mirrorless business, as had huge R&D budget and developed and implemented extremely quickly industry changing technology in their new mirrorless products (great, fast autofocus, In Body Image Stabilization [IBIS]). While the Fujifilm X-T2 (2016) was a well rounded still camera, the even more DSLR-styled X-H1 (2018), launched 2 years later, was equipped with IBIS and targeted mostly videographers. Both two models were based on essentially the same main camera hardware components.
Then, came the next generation X-T3, a real hybrid camera, released a few months later in 2018, showed a massive improvement on such important areas like autofocus [AF], overall responsiveness and video features. Although, it did not come with noticeable IQ improvement with the new gen sensor. Photographers welcomed the improving AF system, but found its accuracy is still quite behind the performance provided by Sony and Canon cameras. Nikon was similarly quite behind of the expected standard, just like Fuji. The X-T3 caused a disappointment because of lacking IBIS, which was built into some competitor cameras. On the IBIS area Fujifilm was able to catch up and put an excellent unit into the new X-T4 flagship camera, released in 2020 February. Unfortunately, as Fujifilm recycled basically the same hardware (26MP 4th gen sensor, CPU, AF system, etc) of the X-T3 into the X-T4 two years later, the X-T4 was rather proved to be a mark II version of the X-T3 with little improvements (video, new battery, IBIS), than a real new generation product. Due to limited new functionalities, but considerably higher price to its predecessor many X-T3 shooters decided to skip to upgrade, but wait for the hoped more feature-rich X-T5.
Wonder what remarkable X-trans products were then released after the X-T4 debut, during the cca. 2 years cycle from the beginning of 2020 till the end of 2021? Well, not much. The highly expected, smaller sibling X-T40 was taken off the plans, rather, a new product line was introduced, the X-S10 (2020) for 1000 USD retail price.
The X-S10 has similar small and lightweight body as the X-T** line, but with a comfortable large grip as requested by many, also, a small (and very effective) IBIS unit, and, shocking some Fuji fans, came with PASM dials, not retro design, targeting that entry level audience, who is coming from the DSLR World, but want to change to mirrorless with similar user experience and controls. Think, the idea was excellent, which is well supported by the very good sell of that camera. One comment here: although, many people like the look and feel of the retro style cameras, much less proved to like to use it, as confirmed by the sales data. Lastly, an other APSC body was released at the end of 2021, the very slightly improved X-T30 mark II, which lacks IBIS, so not playing in the same league as the X-S10.
Based on the above, think we can say the market could not find any really significant new APSC camera product from Fujifilm with groundbreaking features during the past 2 years. However, a new generation camera with a 5th generation 40MP X-Trans sensor is already announced, so sure, Fujifilm is heavily working on some big hits in the background. The price of the new flagship model: X-H2 is predicted to be 'less than' 2500 USD (might be 2499 USD?).
Fujifilm recently started to release a mark II lens lineup, which generated mixed waves. They started only with partial, cosmetic update for some lenses, like the popular 10-24/4 (and the 27/2.8 lenses), where the original optical formula was kept, but weather sealing was applied (I'd say the lenses were ’recoated’) and also OIS was updated for the zoom. The original version of these lenses were released back to 2013, so was designed for a lower res (16MP) sensor, thus, it is unfortunate Fujifilm missed to update their obsolete optical formula. Good news at the same time that Fujifilm also started to release mark II lenses for the debut of the new high resolution cameras. They come with completely new, up to date optical design, also equipped with silent, fast linear motors, which is required for proper video performance, also for accurate follow-eye autofocus [AF], (where Fujifilm mark I lenses are quite behind the competition). The new mark II Fujifilm lenses are highly appreciated by the reviews.
At the same time, there are multiple medium frame [MF] cameras (GFX lineup) and several new MF lenses were announced by Fujifilm, and landscape photographers seems to like the high res, excellent IQ they provide, when paired with the HQ Fuji GFX glasses. Looks, this particular genre ignores slower AF features of this budget MF product line. The new system is priced at premium FF level.
Based on the announcement of the new Fujifilm CEO taken in May 2021 the company is shifting its focus to healthcare and semiconductor materials in terms of main earning drivers in the future and keeps the camera business as contribution to the society (Bloomberg.com). Considering how strongly tries to reduce production cost the company e.g. by recycling the different camera elements like sensor and processor over various product lines and generations it is questionable: how high level hardware potential will be added to the new, pricy 40MP flagship camera coming in 2022?
Outlook to the photography industry outside of the Fujifilm World (2020/21)
Well, a couple of key things changed in the industry (or not changed!):
a FF camera can be bought below 2000 USD: Canon RP (1000 USD), Nikon Z5 (1300 USD), Canon R (1600 USD), Sony A7III (officially still 2000 USD, but due to continuous promotions can get for cca. 1700 USD after cashback), so prices lowered a lot during the past few years. Although, the mentioned ones are claimed to be 'entry level' FF cameras, it is proved all of them are very capable and can be used professionally. There is a wide choice of very capable fullframe cameras available up to 2500 USD.
primary brand mirrorless lenses (Nikon, Canon, Sony) got even more expensive than their DSLR predecessors (better optics for high res., faster AF, more complex electronics, better weather sealing)
Several third party lens producers stepped into higher level offering wide choice of affordable FF lenses
Sigma and Tamron now produces pro lens lineups, providing perfect affordable alternative choice for serious and/or pro photographers. The new mark II Fujifilm lenses are now sold at 800-1000 USD price range, for one can get various, quality, fast FF glass.
Therefore, overall, an affordable FF system price decreased significantly not only relative to APSC, but in absolute term, as well.
Canon and Sony are the leaders in FF camera industry, Nikon is now catching up with the Z9 technology
The only serious APSC imaging system is provided by Fujifilm, but the Fuji ecosystem lost its small size-small price advantage (see the latest cameras X-T3/T4 are about FF mirrorless size and weight, also camera price is crawling above the entry level FF cameras)
Fujifilm seems unable to catchup at the AF department with the APSC X-line with other APSC or FF camera producers, and resists to invest in building up a new FF camera-lens system, which, seeing the competition, makes a perfect sense. At the same time, by introducing a ’budget’ MF system, where overall speed including AF is not the main priority, Fujifilm found a new niche for landscape and architecture photography. At the same time, due to size, weight and price, doubt it will be a strong competition of a couple of genres, where FF or APSC wins (like travel, wildlife, street).
How the discussed things above apply to a current Fujifilm X-user in 2022?
Now, remember, the Fujifilm mark I lenses (which from I built my set up) were designed a couple of years ago for a significantly lower resolution (16 to 24MP) sensor. Fujifilm claims most of their X-line lenses will perform fine up to thirty-some-megapixel cameras, however, the next gen sensor will be 40MP, which is a huge jump up from 16/24/26MP!
During the past few years I owned and tested many Fujinon APSC lenses (exceptions are some horribly priced ones or known low performers), and I kept only the reasonably good glasses. Still, I found my premium primes: the Fujinon 16/1.4, 23/1.4, 35/1.4 and 56/1.2, performed soft wide open at 24/26MP. (The only exclusion was the really unique 90/2, which I believe one of the best performing Fujifilm lens by any means.) However, fast primes are ment to be used wide open, that’s why we pay the extra price, right?
Further, I found the detail, sharpness and corner IQ of the small zooms (10-24/4, 18-55/2.8-4, 55-200/3.5-4.8) were fine for my eyes only when converted and presharpened the RAW image with the excellent Iridient X-Transformer [IRXT], then postprocessed with Adobe Lightroom [LR]. Sure, I am aware LR demosaicing is not optimized for Fujifilm X-Trans RAW files, so that's why I used IRXT for RAW preprocessing. Unfortunately, when tried the recommended
Capture One software got even less pleasing results, so sticked to the more complicated workflow. Finally, when I was sure I am mining out the 100% quality out of the Fujifilm files I had the impression the majority of the Fujinon mark I lenses are already reaching their resolution limit at 26MP. Well, ok, so, then what if the Fujinon lenses are not the sharpest ones on the market? As stated in the disclaimer some people are fully happy with the same product and performance and especially when use for some photography genres (street, life, abstract art), but, others are not. Further, some genres, like portrait, nature and wildlife requires high detail rendering, in general..
Think, the fact of the accelerated development and release of the quality mark II version lenses (18/1.4, 23/1.4, 33/1.4) for the new 40MP sensor is a good evidence of supposedly poor performance of the old lenses on the future bodies. Let me share my similar finding from the Nikon DSLR World: while the Nikon 18-105/3.5-5.6 kit lens performed fine on the 12MP D90 body, I found the images kind of blurry and lacked detail and sharpness by the same lens on a 20MP or 24MP APSC Nikon camera later. Simply, that lens was designed for a 12MP APSC sensor, thus performed poorly on a sensor with double resolution.
However, as mentioned earlier, the mark I optics are forecasted to perform subpar not only optically on the future bodies, but in the AF tracking area, as well, due to the lack of modern, fast, linear AF motor. Easy to figure out the future impact. Once one decides to upgrade to the new gen body, the old, already owned lenses also need to be replaced by the new mark II versions. And that will be a quite pricy full-gear-replacement within the Fujifilm brand. If you are one, who continuously upgrade your camera within the same brand, then should consider a same magnitude of gear upgrade like a full system change between brands.
Now, understanding the industry tendencies and what is coming to the Fuji APSC World the following questions are raised:
Is it still worth to stick to APSC Fujifilm system, which now looks not so attractive anymore for various reasons (size, weight, cost, lower performance and system potential) or change to a proven, industry leader brand?
Would be my pain points with Fuji evaporate by using another camera system?
Should I return to FF?
What are the pros and contras of the APSC (hoped) future X-system versus the new FF set I would buy?
Which less extended, but even competitive FF set I can afford comparing to my huge Fujifilm set?
What is the cost of the gear update within the Fujifilm brand vs changing to a leader FF ecosystem?
Pain and growing hesitation
Actually, I was the happiest Fujifilm user at the mid third of my Fuji journey, when had a relatively small set, accepting its limits to the price. But, later, when I had a lot of experience with the brand and had an expensive, extensive and a theoretically highly capable gear collection I felt more and more pain and barriers using the Fujifilm APSC system. I can sort out them here under six bulletpoints:
Ergonomics. Recently, Fujifilm cameras are getting larger, heavier and very pricy, and cost/performance ratio is getting worse, so losing its many former benefits when comparing to a FF system. My ideal choice was the X-T20 (900 USD), the small buddy of the X-T2 (1600 USD) but, today that’s obsolete. The new X-S10 (1000 USD) is also a good price/performance option, however, the customization of the camera is restricted by a stupid way. Currently, one cannot find a recent, high grade, modern look and control Fuji X camera (as successor of the X-H1), but only in the MF GFX line. As mentioned, the retro camera design is fancy, and everyone loves to hold such a beautiful camera in the hands, and I am not an exception, but, technically, I never really liked to use it. Here is why: the ISO and shutter dials turn by a full stop and one third adjustments need to be applied by the sub-command dials, which is just slow and inconvenient for me. So I customized my X-T3 as a DSLR to speed up handling for wildlife shooting. When I went for a capable, lighter, cheaper backup body with IBIS (X-S10) I had muscle memory issues to use them in parallel due to the dramatic ergonomics differencies of the 2 cameras.
Image Quality & Noise at high ISO. I strongly hoped Fujifilm APSC IQ will follow FF IQ with 3-5 years delay. As known, Fujifilm reuses the same sensor for many cameras over the years. In 2020/2021 one can see the IQ of XPro3/T3/T4/T30 mark I and II/S10 is still far from the IQ of the already obsolete FF Nikon D750, launched in 2014. When looking back, we can say there was a big jump between the X-T1/T10 and X-T2/T20 IQ, but the difference is barely noticable between the X-T2/T20 and the X-T3/T4/T30/S10 generations, so the improvement is drastically slowing down. Explaining the noise issue: as known, FF has 1 or 1.5 stops advantage at base(!) ISO level to APSC. However, when raising the ISO to a few thousand value the difference is dramatically increasing! Recently watched some of the videos of bird photographer Jan Wegener reporting 'now with the latest FF Canon Cameras he has no issue to take photographs at ISO 25600'. What?
According to my many years experience I barely can use my Fuji X system over ISO 2000 (up to the very maximum of ISO 3200) for wildlife photography due to noticably degraded IQ and many AF misses, and he uses same age FF camera easily at 3-4 stops lower light conditions with nice IQ and reliable AF? I got shocked… So I tested the difference myself: while I had to massively denoise Fujifilm ISO 2000 images by Topaz DeNoise AI, I was happy with almost no noise reduction of the same generation loaned FF camera’s photos taken at ISO 5000! Also, I found ISO 6400 to 12800 FF images look better with same AI denoising as the ISO 2000 Fuji files (I show images side by side down below). Seeing the tendency on Fujifilm sensor noise tolarance improvement I felt sorry to lose my hopes Fujifilm low light IQ will ever reach the 2014 FF DSLR standard.
Raising the APSC resolution to 40MP guaranties the noise level of the sensor won't improve significantly or at any level. The predicted ~2.5k USD for the new APSC X-H2 is just unacceptable for anything I can imagine it can bring to us.
Fujifilm is struggling to keep up with the expected AF performance. Facts, that Canon and Sony AF performance is the industry standard in 2021, and finally, Nikon got very close. At the same time comparative tests demonstrate the Fujifilm AF improvement is incrementally getting better and better, but still not playing in the same leage as the mentioned top ones. Let me share my own experiences with Fujifilm’s top technology: the X-T3 or X-S10 camera/Fujinon 100-400/4.5-5.6 lens combo (the T3, T4 and X-S10 has the same hardware and equivalent AF capabilities). I had very disappointing experiences when photographing still standing deers (single spot AF area, bushes in the background) during sunset time (used ISO 640-3200). I lost about the half of the whole series, as often the camera focused on the bush in the background instead of the animal, while I put the focus point on the eye, obviously. Also, found for standstill subject it is a must to change to AF-S mode, as AF-C just continuously 'hunting' on the subject and it results many missed focus photos. Another example: was shooting flying/feeding common terns with the same Fuji set, and while my hit rate was acceptable (about 70%) in the evening direct sunlight, also, IQ was brilliant when was shooting at ISO 1250 or 1600, the Fuji could not catch them at all, while the clouds intermittently covered the sun. Then almost always missed the focus, and the IQ suffered a lot, which means the photo was getting to "fall apart" above ISO 2000 and losed detail. FYI. I am sufficiently experienced with the X-T3 different AF settings (focus area – zone/wide tracking, AF-C tracking sensitivity), so I know how to set it up properly, still got 4 out of focus shots from a 18-shot AF-C series of slow-flying swan.
Need to mention, the strong need for fine tuning of the AF system for every use case is just not handy, expect more intelligence from the AF system. Unfortunately, Fujifilm is just at the beginning of its journey using Artifical Intelligence in its cameras, while Sony and Canon are years ahead.
Then I got my friend’s comparable Sony A7III camera/Sony 200-600 f5.6-6.3 lens kit to try it out. I was almost crying. Without any fine tuning the Sony just did its job properly, locked on immediately and followed the extremely fast-flying birds and caught the critical moment in AF-C mode and the sharpness and noise level was way better at 2-4 times higher ISO than with Fuji. While my my keeper rate for wildlife with Fuji was disappointingly low in dim light (<30%), much worse than with my former Nikon DSLR, it jumped up (>90%) with the loaned Sony. I am showing same scenario side by side photos in section Conclusion comparing Fuji to Sony ISO and AF performance.
Another X-trans sensor, even more pain with post-processing. According to the announcement, the 40MP Fujifilm X-H2 will come with a new, 5th gen X-trans sensor, which made one group of Fuji users happy, but another one unhappy. The unhappy said at that high resolution the X-trans pattern just makes no practical advantage on IQ, rather costs extra money, needs extra computer processing power and non-industry leader software for post-processing to achieve best IQ. I had to agree with them, completely. Like or dislike, Adobe products are the industry leaders for image post-processing and many photographers are not willing to give up their proven image editor and workflow by switching to alternative programs like Capture One, which is recommended software by Fujifilm. While my aging Intel i7 PC had no issue processing the 24MP Nikon RAW files it slows down significantly with the 24 or 26MP Fuji X-trans images. And that is a pain.
Further pain I had to add IRXT RAW conversion to my workflow to raise the sharpness and detail of the Fuji files to similar level I could get from a Bayer easily. That’s even more storage, effort and time.
Now, I decided to refuse any further struggle I did with Fuji RAW processing so far. Let me mention: smartly, the Fujifilm MF GFX line uses the industry standard Bayer pattern and the colours and overall IQ is considered to be awesome! Think one of the reason the GFX sells well, as images could be very well processed by Adobe products without X-trans postprocessing artifacts. So, then Fujifilms's pleasing colour science is not really based in some sensor pattern, right? Well, evidently, this is rather sensor programming, that's why the same Sony sensor gives such different color and overall look and feel in a Sony or in a Nikon body. Actually, many people prefer the Nikon camera image look and quality over the Sony camera one, means, Nikon is just better on the digital image data processing than the sensor producer and camera maker Sony.
I hoped I can use well Fujifilm's fast primes for low light and also for bokehlicious photography at low ISO with low noise, considering my APSC f/1.4 lenses were 2 and 3 stops faster than my previous Nikon FF f/2.8 and f/4 lenses. However, I found I just do not like the softness of the Fuji fast primes wide open. As an example, the Fuji 16/1.4 has fantastic creamy bokeh wide open (I definitely will miss in the future), but the subject in focus is soft. When stopped down to f/2-f/2.8 for acceptable sharpness then nice bokeh and soft background blur was gone.
Also, in low light the AF was even less satisfying and image noise was higher than presumed. I hoped for consistently great results with the highly valued Fuji 56/1.2 lens in portrait photography. But, due to the outdated lens design (in vain having nice bokeh, being very soft wide open, eye AF is poor by slow motor, and once stopped down a bit it has unpleasant bokeh due to the 7 edgy aperture blades) I got disappointed when used this lens in the portrait genre.
Obviously, there are known, pro Fujifilm photographers (e.g Andy Mumford - landscape, Michal Krause - wildlife or Zack Arias - editorial), who proved one can shoot at very high artistic level with Fujifilm. Regrettable, my preferences, style and needs were not well satisfied with this gear, so see no sense to strict to something works suboptimal for me.
Frustrating lens choice. Although, Fujifilm provides the most comprehensive lens choice for APSC shooters, one may find frustrating to see so many overlapping options for similar focal range (example: 15-45, 16-50, 16-55, 18-55, 16-80, 18-135...), or primes at so similar focal length (14,16,18mm). Still, Fujifilm is not going to provide such kind of lenses its fans are asking for years: a very wide fast prime, such as 9/2 or 10/2, fast long tele like 300/2.8 or 400/4 and a quality fisheye. (The only one, and pricy 200/2 tele lens is undoubtedly a gem, but just short for pro wildlife and sport shooting, also limited by the camera platform). The X-platform is now open for 3rd party lens makers, but in one way it comes too late, in another way they neither build the lenses Fuji users miss. This is a serious restriction for night/astro, indoor fun and wildlife photography, I never felt on the Nikon platform before.
After those happy first years mainly with landscape and travel shooting with Fujifilm, discernibly, my knowledge, gear park and expectations grew (I made success on many photography contests and gained AFIAP distinction), furthermore, my shooting interest changed and I found myself always looking for Fujifilm news about new gear releases, which might satisfy my rising technical needs. I could not deny I am not happy with the limitations of APSC anymore. As revealed, after 4-5 years heavy use of the Fujifilm APSC system I got disappointed in various areas, like the slowing camera technology improvement and the actual lens lineup choice and performance. It also seemed Fujifilm focus has been moving out from the APSC camera business and tries to make more profit from the new niche MF imaging segment instead. At the summer of 2021 I got to my own conclusion: I do not believe Fujifilm is able and actually willing to produce a similarly highly capable camera-lens system, which I can get from Sony or Canon. Funny enough, Tony Northrup got to similar interpretation a few months later.
Consequently, then I tended thinking seriously to replace my Fujifilm gear by one of the above proven brand. The key question was only if I can get a much smaller, but overall better performing FF system by a reasonable spend. My calculations were based on the rumors about the ~2500 USD price of the future Fuji X-H2 camera and cca. 800-1000 USD per each Fuji mark II lens. During the past years I have been following the evolution of the other three brands, Sony, Canon and Nikon. Knowing its consistently mindblowing innovations and the really wide and balanced lens choice, performance, portability vs. price the FF Sony E-mount platform seemed to be the optimal choice for me.
As I said before I completed parallel, comparative tests with my Fuji and my friend's FF Sony set, and I found the 3.5 year old, best seller Sony A7III (24MP) is a night and day better camera for my needs than the same gen Fuji T3/T4/S10 and even the future X-H2, as foreseen by the announced specs. Once, the decision made I wanted the Sony immediately. Thus, I put on sale my Fujifilm gear (2 cameras and 10 lenses) and I sold the majority of them within 2 weeks in 2021 summer and bought the Sony A7III for less than 1700 USD after cashback (by Sony Welcome to Alpha promo), which equals to the current price of the Fuji X-T4. Was skipping the A7RIII and A7RIV cameras due to their too high res for my needs, also by lower high ISO, dynamic range and AF performance. The A7IV (33MP) was only rumored at that time and the leaked specs gave me mixed feelings, which did not hold me back to get the predecessor camera. Regarding the A7III noise level I found it tolerates high ISO significantly better than the reference D750, so, happy to use the Sony up to ISO 25600 for wildlife, while I limited the Nikon to ISO 8000 max, and just incomparable with Fuji X (tolerable maximum is ISO 2000, very maximum is 3200).
When comparing the AF of the D750 to the A7III it is again, night and day for the Sony for accuracy. The Fuji X, again, is not in the same league. When ISO 12800 set for the Fuji for low light, it heavily struggles to focus, and the resulting image is not usable. Due to its technical limitations there is no life above ISO 12800 with Fuji, but, essentially, its usability barriers are already built up 1-2 stops earlier, so, well usable only at high light situations. Practically, AF and ISO usability of the A7III are levels higher, I am showing here well-focused, good noise level images up to ISO 25600, also, see evidence the camera is able to focus on a partially covered subject in shade at dark evening when auto ISO jumped to 204800! The IQ is trash, but reports well the camera AF capability.
When was checking out for suitable lenses I understood I can get fast Sigma Art ones for about 800-1200 USD, which are known as mostly equivalent with the original Sony GMs or the Sony-Zeiss 35/1.4, as an example. Comparing to the Fuji offer, I do not want f/1.4 APSC lenses if can have f/1.4 Pro FF glass for about the same money. Think no need to explain why.
Further, Tamron is not the same low-end optics producer as was 15+ years ago in the DSLR World, rather, today is an expert producer of affordable, relatively small and light niche zooms in the same price segment as those Sigmas above. Interestingly, Tamron currently released some of its great-value-great-price zooms for Sony E-mount exclusively, so not an option for Canon or Nikon shooters. Initially, I was hesitating about getting the Sony GM 16-35/2.8 Pro glass for my main interest, landscape photography, but just could not justify the extremely high price, size and weight. Alternatively, I went for the Tamron 17-28/2.8 lens, which size, weight and price is like the Fujinon 10-24/4 glass with some compromises on focus range. At the same time the Tamron came with three huge benefits: opposed to the Fuji, it is a close focusing, very-sharp-at-wide-open, f/2.8 lens, which actually works quite well for my shallow depth of field [DOF] semi-macro plant photography I liked to do so much with the Fujinon 16/1.4 lens (which creamy bokeh is just amazing). Consequently, one Tamron lens can be used instead of two Fujinon ones. Over the ultra wide I needed a standard and tele zoom. I got great hands-on experience with the budget, but exceptionally good Tamron 28-200/2.8-5.6 zoom lens, what is supported by the very positive review of Mads Peter Iversen, highly appreciated landscape photographer. Happy to conclude, this lens is an even better, 2-in-1 replacement of my Fujinon 18-55/2.8-5.6 and 55-200/3.5-4.8 douplet.
The overall fun with this setup, that I replaced my 3-lens APSC travel kit with a 4-in-2 lens FF kit with less volume and weight (~2kg) for less money and got more convenience by much less frequent lens exchange and great IQ.
One may argue the build quality of the metal Fujis are much better and they keeps longer. True, but as said, from one side they will be obsolete at 40MP very soon, so no real value of the more sturdiness. From other side, pretty sure the modern Tamrons will work fine for many years (there is a reason for a 5 year warranty).
I also purchased a used Sigma Canon to Sony MC-11 adapter and a hardly used AF DSLR fisheye lens, the Canon 15/2.8 from the '80-s, one of the optically best fisheye lens ever produced. I also plan to use the Sigma adapter with some further Canon optics later.
As mentioned earlier I accepted to give up some advanced wildlife photography possibilities with Fujifilm once left Nikon DSLR, but I found I am leaning back to the wildlife genre again. I struggled so much with the Fuji T3 or S10/Fuji 100-400/4.5-5.6 combo I decided to go for the best long wildlife zoom lens for Sony. Based on the serious, trusted reviewers, it is the Sony 200-600/5.6-6.3, sharp, accurately fast focusing G lens, got for the same price as the camera after cashback (by Sony 2021 Summer promo), for less than the pricepoint of the Fujifilm 100-400/4.5-5.6. Think the premium features and reliability worths the extra investment comparing to the cheaper third party options.
Back to my DSLR years I always wanted a pro 85/1.4 prime for shallow DOF and bokehlicious portraits. The Sony version is way too expensive, but I got the amazing Sigma DG DN 85/1.4 Art for about 1k USD by summer promotion of Sigma.hu. What a difference in eye-AF compared to the Fuji ones, also, I am happy to use this very sharp lens wide open! Now have one proper lens instead of the 2 Fuji ones I had for portrait (Fuji 56/1.2 & 90/2), again, for less. I have to say I was really lucky to save so much with the 3 promos over the summer!
Why not went to Sony from Nikon DSRL already 3-4 years ago, when chosed Fuji?
First reason was high price of the Sony ecosystem at that time, second was short lens choice, which allowed only similar overall weight as had with DSLR, what I wanted to avoid. At that time there were no such compact, lightweight, but still quality lenses by Tamron (17-28/2.8, 28-75/2.8, 28-200/2.8-5.6, etc) or the great Sigma fast primes (24/1.4, 35/1.4, 50/1.4, 85/1.4 etc) for the half or two-third of the price of an original Sony G or GM lens.
Did I regret I switched to Fujifilm in 2018 from Nikon DSLR?
Not at all! I have to say I really liked the Fuji for most of the time. Stepping out of my comfort zone by shooting with a system not used before gave unique experience and confidence, also improved my creativity. Further, in case I’d kept the Nikon until now I would have realized a significant financial loss due to more loss of value of the aging gear, also would have missed so much fun and learnings with mirrorless!
Looks, due to the still significant performance level, but decreasing price difference between APSC and FF it is yet a valid reason for some to switch to FF.
One might ask: is not it stupid to trade off those same brand primary lenses (the Fujis) to plastic third party ones (Tamron zooms, Sigma) only for that ‘little’ advantage a bigger sensor provide? Lose more on optics?
Well, I would say till I am happier with the new, very much mixed set, which allows me to take those photographs my previous system did not allowed me to do, yes, it worthed to change! Otherwise, I found not only the FF Sony camera sensor gives me better images, but the lenses I purchased are also sharper and more capable in terms of focusing accuracy than those nicely built Fuji ones. Not to mention, the Canon, the Sigma and the Sony have metal tube and are actually better built than the Fujis. Regarding the Tamrons, I am fine with high quality plastic for small lenses if I spare weight.
Am I fully happy with the new configuration and will stick to it forever?
For sure, not! I never sticked to an initial configuration, always upgraded those parts I felt need to. Valid to Nikon and Fuji, and applies to Sony, as well. Every systems comes with its pros and contras, so no perfect solution. My goal is to find a more win, less lose solution. For example, the Tamron 17-28/2.8 came with many wins as detailed earlier, but a compromised lens on corner image quality and focus range. So, a little step back to the optically more balanced Fuji 10-24/4, which, obviously, has its own contras, also. I might replace the wide Tamron, once a new, wider and better lens comes to the market. Further, I'd be happier with the 28-200/2.8-5.6 if had OIS, otherwise, I have no similar mixed experiences with the other glasses, so, overall, I am quite good with the lens exchange, as well! Now I am at 24MP, these lenses are proved to be well performers on the latest high res Sony A7R bodies, so, most likely they are not going to be obsolete for many years, especially, as I plan to stay at lower resolution, and Sony is wise enough to produce different camera lines with various sensor resolution.
I know I probably mentioned too many times the financial aspects of the gear acquisition, but, think, this is quite a key question for most people. Very few can allow to spend many thousands of dollars on their hobby, that’s why it is imperative to do the investent effectively. Let's see then how my second system-change came out financially.
As I said earlier I bought the Fuji set for a considerably discounted price and sold them in a reasonably excellent condition for nice price, so my absolute financial 'loss' by this system switch is quite negligible especially if span the cost for 5-6 years. Further, I calculated I bought my 5-lens E-mount kit for significantly less than I sold my 10-lens Fuji collection, so I was able to buy a brand new 4 meter kayak with accessories for the remaining 'Fujifilm set budget' to satisfy my sport and adventure needs!
What is the key message to current Fujifilm X users?
Undoubtedly, a kind of not so appealing change is coming.
Firstly, as Fujifilm is focusing on other sources of revenue than the camera business, expect the development pace of the X systems is slowing down, similarly as happened with Olympus. However, the incremental upgrades will surely satisfy many brand loyal users, since Fujifilm X is an overall amazing system!
Secondly, recommend to be prepared to the financial and technical implications of the new, high res Fujifilm X-World coming from 2022. Clearly, the current mark I lineup (and the ’recoated’ new mark II lenses: 10-24/4 and 27/2.8) will underperform on the new 40MP sensor.
So, those serious photographers who decide to stick to Fujifilm and buy the new X-H2 and any high res successors need to consider to sell all their lenses and buy the new, well performing mark II versions. No doubt, the new camera with the new lenses will step to the next level, the question is its relative position to the industry leaders. Further, the issue here, beyond the extra cost to replace all owned lenses, that the foreseen initial mark II lens choice will be very limited to a few fast wide angle and standard primes in 2022 and there is even no public roadmap about the essential zoom replacements. Thus, those 'new platform users' probably need to wait for years to get all the new mark II lenses they want.
For many exisiting Fujifilm users would be happy if Fujifilm has introduce a lower, ~26MP new, 5th gen sensor parallel to the announced 40MP one. The 26MP resolution is more than enough for many users, so those want the latest camera still could use their older lenses with nice results. Let’s hope for it!
Those Fujifilms users, like myself, who is not satisfied with the current performance of the platform in some demanding situations it is a justified opportunity now to switch brand. As mentiened couple of time already, if you upgrade regularly your camera most likely you’ll need to upgrade your current lenses, as well, when enter the 40MP platform. So, technically, you will ’switch system’ within the Fujifilm brand when buy the new 40MP camera and the mark II lenses. Wise to look aroud therefore whether you can get a new kit from another brand, which probably better satisfies your needs, immediately. Depending on your main interest and shooting style any of the 3 main brands, Nikon, Canon, Sony could be a better platform for you with the same investement as had spent on the new Fuji X platform.
Second-hand price of the mark I lenses will be significantly dropped once it will become public their performance is weak on the new bodies, also, when the mark II versions step into the market. Consequently, if you are going to change brand in the future, best to do it sooner than later.
If you are stepping into the same shoe as myself, hope you found the concepts I shared are worthy to consider.
Thirdly, in that case you are not a tech person, who wants the latest innovatons of the imaging World, and now is happy with your existing Fujifilm X system, you cannot go wrong by simply continue to use your kit and ignore any gear updates! I definitely know happy Fujifilm users who chose to stick to their current gear and refuse to upgrade in the future. The same true for many DSLR users, who are happy with their gear, and feels no need for the mirrorless technology.
For sure, Fujifilm X-system is an excellent platform for those users who are not going for extreme usage, which otherwise requires more advanced hardware and software algorithms. The system is very well usable for such genres like travelling, landscape, street, city, lifestyle, macro, art, etc.
Due to the advancing technology and concurrency of high quality alternatives photography is getting more affordable for today, even if some gear elements are getting crazy expensive. Photographers today are in a much advantageous situation than even a decade ago in terms of the available gear options and performance.
I already mentioned a few paragraphs above that the system/brand switch came with mixed results. I am pretty sure, those followed this extended ’essay’ want to read more about the practical comparison and grading of the Fujifilm X and Sony E system. Therefore, I think those will like my already planned, very detailed comparative analysis touching the camera ergonomics and customization, AF capability, ISO performance and lens ergonomics, AF quality, rendering, generic and corner sharpness and resolution etc. in my next gear article based on real World use, not test charts.
Update, 9th of December, 2021
Just leaked by Fujirumors the new Fujifilm X-H2 will be released in two versions, one with the new 40MP stacked BSI sensor (which requires the new high IQ and fast AF mark II lenses) and another variant, I call X-H20, which comes with a 26MP sensor, but with the same electronics as the 'full' (40MP) version. This is very good news for many Fujifilm users, who want (and can pay) only for an incremental upgrade from the X-T3/4 models keeping their old lens lineup. Considering the success of the 26MP IVth gen sensor, Fujifilm's economics to reuse the same hardware in consecutive product lineups and the fact that further IQ improvement can be achieved by a better processor and algorithm with the same sensor, especially, when add some computational magic, I strongly believe Fujifilm will reuse the known 26MP sensor in the second version of the X-H2 to keep the R&D cost lower. This way Fujifilm can release the budget version of the flagsip model with minor restricitons, like did with the X-T30 vs the X-T3. I can imagine the official product announcement will sound like this: Fujifilm release the photography centric version of the new flagship X-H2 camera with 3-way tilting screen and with the further upgraded version of the highly popular, proven 26MP X-trans sensor, which was used in the X-T4 model to satisfy those Fujifilm users, who do not need a high resolution body. And it sounds good, also, would be a valid statement!
Important to understand the Fujifilm user population is ~99% brand loyal enthusiastic amateurs, who own limited number of Fujifilm gear, but continuously seek for new products and willing to do incremental upgrades if that do not require too much investment. Think, that is the stable base of the sell of the so many little different Fujifilm lens versions. Also, most Fujifilm users do not need (or even do not understand) the current industry edge performance, otherwise would change to Canon or Sony, which user population includes a mass of maximalist pro photographers, who are ready to pay any price for the best performance.
So, then, with the announcement of the hefty price tag ("less than 2500 USD") the new 40MP X-H2, Fujifilm must have realized that most Fujifilm users would not pay that high price for an APSC camera knowing one can get the proven FF Sony A7IV with killing human and animal eye AF and much better noise tolerance, also, more capable E-mount lenses for the same (or less) money. Consequently, Fujifilm must release an affordable successor of the X-T4 in a 1600-1900 USD price range, which will be the 26MP 'X-H20'. With the new processor and algorithms and the 'tuned up' old 26MP sensor the 'X-H20' must be a considerable step up in terms of AF and a little IQ improvement comparing to the predecessor model. Probably, the 40MP version will be that kind of 'demo' product, like the Fujinon 200/2 lens, which with its highest quality demonstrates the maximum performance Fujifilm can produce, but not selling well due to its non-reasonable pricetag comparing to the more capable FF alternatives.
Update, 24th of May, 2022
Fujirumors.com leaked some details about the new gen Fujifilm X-trans 40 MP X-H2, and the 26 MP X-H2s body. The last one is the cheaper option, it has new gen stacked sensor with fast readout, so 40 fps burst shooting is possible with e-shutter. They also claim the AF is improved with extended subject detection, can record 6K video, also 4K with 120p, but it overheats, so Fujifilm offers an external cooling unit to be attached to the back of the camera. The hardcore community responded mostly negatively to the PASM dial, the already known overheating issue, and also to the flippy screen. Fujifilm also plans to release a new telephoto lens, the XF 150-600/5.6-8 with internal zoom to support sport and wildlife photographers. This is again, made a vast amount of commenters angry, as instead of such a slow zoom (especially, on APSC) people expected f/2.8, f/4 and f/5.6 quality primes (300/400/500 mm) for this purpose, as a longer version of the exceptional 200/2 glass. Many commenters stated to quit the X-system now or if the news about the 40 MP X-H2 are not promising. Looks, anything Fujifilm tries to satisfy its user base is just not going to meet the expectations :(. As a former Fujifilm user I feel sad to see this tendency, and hope, Fujifilm is not going to follow Pentax and Olympus on sliding down.
The next Fujifilm X Summit (big announcements) is planned for 31th of May, until then I definitely publish a new article about the gear-comparing practical conclusion of my system switch to Sony E-mount, based on 10 month use. Will provide detailed pros and cons compare for each X and E-mount lenses, the Fuji and Sony bodies I use(d). As before, expect brand independent, objective evaluation.