My way to switch from Nikon DSLR to Fujifilm X mirrorless
Updated: May 30, 2022
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. Personally, I, unfortunately, belong to those pixel peepers and geeks, who seeks for perfection, and have clear understanding what meets and does not meet my expectations. I am looking for the best affordable gear to enjoy my hobby, photography, and I am far to be a brand fanboy. Those ones are being brand enthusiastic might not agree with my observations and critics, 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. You might still find value in these comments.
I remember the day back in 2008 when decided I go and buy my first DSLR camera. I was already leaning to Nikon, but wanted to keep all available brands in my hands before taking the final decision. So, I walked into the local electronics store, Mediamarkt, and grabbed a Nikon, a Canon, a Sony and a Pentax. Immediately felt comfortable with the Nikon. Aesthetics, feel, camera menu, button and dial layout... I loved it all. Others just did not trigger any emotion. On that particular day my love is started with Nikon.
Well, I am to tell you I had been using Nikon since then and beyond the look and feel and ergonomics, really like the 'Nikon color look', and the overall high quality of the system. I joined the brand as an APSC (D90) user with mixed (APSC and fullframe [FF]) lenses. Once the 1st affordable FF body (D600) released I gradually upgraded to a considerably semi pro FF set. Then, I ended up with a D750 body with Nikon 16-35/4, 24-120/4, 70-200/2.8 V2 and 200-500/5.6 zooms, and the Sigma 15/2.8 fisheye and Nikon 105/2.8 macro primes. Lastly, I added a high grade APSC sports camera (D500) for wildlife photography.
At the same time, I often felt the weaknesses of my system lacking fast lenses for low light and night photography (I mean missing f/1.4 primes or f/2.8 zooms in the shorter focal lenghts, and I really lingered for a pro 85/1.4 portrait glass). Although, I was pleased by the FF image quality [IQ], I was unhappy with the autofocus [AF] performance of the D750, especially when paired with the 200-500/5.6, mainly, due to slowness. Tracking performance and speed stepped to another level when attached the D500 to the otherwise brilliant IQ long lens, but the APSC D500 IQ visibly falled below the FF one. So, none of the combos were satisfying for me.
Another pain was the weight of my system. Let me mention my favorite genre is landscape and nature photography, and both needs a short and a long lens at least. You know, after a time, I tended to seriously dislike the routine to take my (relatively) large photography backpack (Lowepro 400AW - weights 2.5 kg empty) and put in the D750 (0.84kg), the 16-35/4 (0.68kg) and the 70-200/2.8 (1.54kg) as bare minimum, (plus some accessories - 1kg) all the time, when wanted to go out for shooting. I even preferred to take the second body (D500 - 0.86kg) with me and kept connected to the 70-200/2.8 lens eliminating the need for lensexchange. When needed, just picked up the right combo for the given subject and quickly fired. Very effective when mostly photograph landscapes on a hike, but need quickly a long telephoto for taking picture of a showing up hawk or other animal. However, with these four items the backpack weights almost 6.5kg! When adding a bottle of water, a sandwitch, rain coat and a small tripod, you are carrying already 10kg! Obviously, one can change quickly the two camera-lens combos only if they are at hand: one hanging in the neck or on waist and the other one is in the hands or on a shoulder camera bracket. Unfortunately, all the joy of photography evaporates once walking in knee-high snow for long hours in the high mountains packed up as described above.
Evolution of the idea
After experienced some of these exhausting long hikes I commenced to think about setting up a second, light, relatively cheap, but good enough camera system to take with me on family vacations and ad hoc trailings and hikes.
I was always a geek guy, who is interested in novelty and evolution in the photography industry, ergo I followed what happens with different brands. Spent significant time reading or watching reviews and studying industry-related forecasts. One of the most decisive input was Jason Lanier's video: 10 Reasons Why a Professional Photographer Left Nikon and started shooting with Sony by Jason Lanier. This video opened my eyes and tuned up my interest to the fast developing mirrorless World. At that time (2015) Jason's preferred Sony ecosystem was small and very expensive, and any good Sony lens (85/1.4, 70-200/2.8, etc) did cost minimum 2k USD, but was better to calculate with even more (2.5 to 3k) per piece. Virtually, there was not existing quality 3rd party option. As calculated, a very minimal new Sony Fullframe system (only with 2-3 lenses) would cost me 2 or 3-times more than I could sell all my Nikons. Not to mention the little weight advantage of FF Sony GM MILC lenses to the FF DSLR ones. As I am a hobby photographer, no way to justify that very high cost, also no significant weight benefit, so, I looked for alternatives. Nikon and Canon MILC were nowhere in 2015, but I had the chance to try out the micro 4/3 Olympus system on a whole-day brand-sponsored workshop. A few months later I tested APSC Fujifilm X products at the Photoexpo in Budapest.
Analyzing and comparing image quality, system potential for the future and overall price of the two tested ones I found facing much less compromise with Fujifilm and also, significantly better IQ for less money. Consequently, dropped m4/3 quickly. Sony APSC was not a real competition by slim product offerings, but Fujifilm was already the market leader of ASPC mirrorless for a few years and had very good choice of camera and native lens selection. Also, I saw Fujifilm was developing better and better cameras year after year. How did I know that? Well, as a kickoff, I bought the extremely cheap Fujifilm XM-1 and Fujinon XC 16-50/3.5-5.6 kit for my wife, who never liked to use her Nikon APSC D5100 camera. Means, she switched to Fujifilm first. The XM1 was used for some vacations and photo tours, tested out usability and IQ. Seeing the weaknesses, but also the potential of the brand I purchased a still cheap, but much better camera, the X-T10 with basic XC lenses (16-50/3.5-5.6 and 50-230/4.5-6.7) for myself for further evaluation. When I had the chance to test the next gen X-T20 (still my most loved Fujifilm camera!) with some key XF lenses I upgraded, and set up my basic Fujifilm travel kit comprised of the T20 body, the XF 10-24/4, XF 18-55/2.8-4 and the XF 55-200/3.5-4.8 Fujinon lenses.
These all were about 2kg and easily fit into a small inner bag, which I put into a lightweight, collapsible backpack (all together weighted about 2.5kg, less than half of the Nikon gear!). When I wanted to go really light during hot summertime, I just put the camera-wide combo and the tele into a large waistbag and felt free! Easy! I must admit Fujifilm did a good job: they sold me many products (for considerably low price), while I always felt I can get a better product for a little more, so I kept updating my system... Later, invested into some fast primes, as well, like the Fujinon 16/1.4 and the 90/2, two of my favourites. I continued to use my final Nikon set and my growing Fujifilm set in parallel for about 2 years. I realized I took the Fuji much more often than the Nikon. I particularly loved using the electronic viewfinder (because of WSYWYG - what you see is what you get), the ergonomics of aperture ring and also the size and weight advantage to Nikon DSLR.
During the parallel years (2016 to 2018), verifying my Fujifilm purchase decision, I completed many exhausting comparative tests against my Nikon and Fujifilm gear. Tested lens quality, AF speed and accuracy, achievable best IQ, responsiveness, ease of use and fun factor, then ranked them. Understood and confirmed the strenghts and weaknesses of each elements and both the whole systems. Accepted the actually lower IQ of the APSC Fujifilm, but strongly believed in significant sensor development. I hoped Fuji's APSC will reach the FF D750's IQ in 3 to 4 years. I enjoyed the low light capability and shallow(er) depth of field of the 16/1.4 Fujinon compared to the huge and 3 stops slower 16-35/4 Nikon. Also, was happier with the more balanced IQ of the Fujinon 10-24/4 comparing to the wide-angle Nikon counterparty. Found the Fuji 90/2 IQ was almost in par with the nikon 70-200/2.8 with adorable rendering, but with much lower cost and size, unfortunately, it lacked image stabilization. Recognized the Fujifilm (T20) AF was far from being class leading, but the continuous improvement of the brand was very promising. That time my interest to wildlife photography decreased, so adopted the lower performance and potential of Fujifilm to that genre (not only due to limited AF, but to less noise resistance and to the very limited lens choice)... There was a period of time when I had 2-2 camera bodies, 6-6 AF lenses, and 4 + 1 TTL flashes with radio control units for Nikon and Fuji... Then felt it makes no sense to own 2 'full' camera systems for long term. Considered, its high time to decide if Nikon could go...
Then in 2018 Jason Lanier released another earth shaking video: The Sony A7iii will be the Reason Why Many Canon Shooters LEAVE Canon and Switch to Sony Mirrorless. In 2018, when the iconic and new camera-standard-creating, revolutionary, affordable Sony A7III was new on market many photographers left Canon and Nikon switching to Sony. Remember, later in 2018 Nikon and Canon released their 1st FF mirrorless cameras, the Z6/Z7 and the EOS R, respectively. As known, both were poor iterations and were far behind the A7III performance. CaNikon had a tiny native advanced MILC lens choice, but the Sony brand lens offer was already excellent. I loved Jason's videos, found him a very creative and talented photographer, also, fully agreed with this positive ascertainments on the Sony ecosystem. Meantime, not much changed. Sony was still very expensive and heavy, and even if dreamed about, hence still no target option for me, especially as I just invested into Fujifilm X-line.
The increasing pain with my 'old' DSLR system, the experience with the convenience and advantages of (any) mirrorless cameras together with the forecasts about the approaching failure of Nikon, as brand in the mirrorless war made me understand I must sell my Nikon DSLR equipment till it worth the money. With the emerging mirrorless flood DSLR was proned to be die soon. But, you know, this is hard to release, when someone has emotional relationship to the gear. I knew the value and felt most sorry to lose the fun-to-use fisheye, the worthy 70-200/2.8 and the 200-500/5.6, knowing can find no real equivalent replacement for them in the Fuji World. One of the last trigger to sell my Nikons was the happiness I felt when I flipped through the album printed out of the photographs taken exclusively with Fuji at a successful tour at the Lofoten islands in 2018 February.
The other one was the gratitude I received the same summer when handed over the album about my friends' wedding party with creaives, which I also run over only with my Fujis.
I got to a conclusion: Fujifilm satisfies mostly my highest priority, my travelling & landscape photography needs, found to be well usable for studio, portrait and wildlife (with some limitations and accepted as step back from Nikon). In general, I liked better and found more convenient to use comparing to Nikon thus decided to become a Fujifilm owner only. Sold all my Nikons in a few weeks.
Understanding the afforable price point of the desired fast Fujifilm lenses, beyond owning some quite small and lightweight (but not fast) zoom lenses, eventually, I turned my recycled cash into a few fast primes (f/1.2, f/1.4 and f/2) and had 2 camera bodies again. Here is the list of my final Fujifilm equipment in mid 2021: X-T3 and X-S10 bodies (90% of X-T4 for half the price), Fujinon 16/1.4, 23/1.4, 35/1.4, 56/1.2, 90/2 primes, 10-24/4, 18-55/2.8-4, 55-200/3.5-4.8 and the 100-400/4.5-5.6 zooms, and the stunning, manual focus Laowa 65/2.8 macro lens. Also had 3 TTL Godox flashes with radio trigger.
Grown up into the Fuji World on the small, very light and affordable T10 and T20 (~0.38kg) cameras and the mostly used, also reasonable 10-24/4 glass (took 75% of my images!), the 55-200/3.5-4.8 and the 16/1.4 lenses I felt Fujifilm missed its mission and the right way when announced such overpriced, heavy and bulky products like the X-T4 body (0.607kg). Many felt the X-T4 had little improvements to its predecessor, X-T3, had almost the same weight, but was bigger and more expensive than the iconic FF Sony A7III, still with uncomparable AF and IQ). The other 2 products I point out were the 8-16/2.8 wide angle lens, (came with FF size and price tag, but IQ is compromised at the sides) and the 200/2 tele (priced as a FF 300/2.8, but we all know, the plus 1 stop advantage with Fujifilm APSC IQ and AF performance was still far away to compete an equivalent FF combo. Looks, others have similar thinking, hence that lens is on massive discount in 2021, also, no signs Fujifilm would develop other, but longer fast super primes). Hence, I never considered owning any of the 3 items mentioned.
In parallel to the pricey products Fujifilm started to provide a massive 'budget of the budgets' lens choice by introducing a sub-XC grade lens lineup offering confusing and also unreasonably wide choice for some specific focal lenghts.
One might think system switch comes with huge financial penalties. I am talking about selling a complete set of camera and lens collection and buy into another brand.
Well, I have to say - it depends on. In my case - not really. Here is the reason: I managed to buy any of my brand new gear (or hardly used second hand ones) on a good, discounted price, preserved them in excellent conditions, so once sold I got good money back. The other thing that worth to mention: most of my Fuji lenses and bodies costed much less than their Nikon Full frame counterpart, thus to 2021 managed to build a hefty APSC Fuji X-system for the money I sold the Nikons. I might overrun the 'Nikon budget' with some hundred $ when bought the last lense and some filters, but not a significant amount to mention. See a few examples for the budgeting. For 1 Nikon body one can buy 2 Fujifilm midrange bodies (I saw no point to buy a high end Fujifilm camera with the same technical background, but better controls only). For the cash back for Nikon 70-200/2.8 got 2 or 3 Fujinon lenses, for 1 used (half-priced) Nikon SB-900/910 flash got 2 new Godox TT-685 flashes. Now I owned 10 quality lenses with Fujifilm, almost the double as before with Nikon, and each of them costed me much less than 1k USD with two exclusions, the 56/1.2 and the long tele, and none of them worth the price, even discounted, how I purchased.
As detailed above, practically, I realized no financial loss when switched camera system.
On the contrary, the initial build up and the continuous upgrade costed me a significant amount of money.
Any time one buys the same brand new generation and more expensive camera body or lens and sells the old one its time to realize financial loss.
Very same story from the past, when many photographers repetedly sold their actual gear and switched from Canon to Nikon, then back from Nikon to Canon, when one of the 2 main competitors released a new, 'groundbreaking' camera or lens to the 'old' DSLR World.
As there are still many DSLR users in 2021 I feel still the question actual and might be interesting for many people to share my final conclusion whether the experienced pain points of a FF Nikon DSLR system are resolved by the replacing, more extended APSC Fujifilm set? See the summary below.
My pain with Nikon
possible improvement by Fujifilm
was it fulfilled by Fujifilm?
weighty and bulky
APSC lenses and bodies are generally much lighter than FF (exclusion: Fujifilm X-T4)
expectations met (T10/T20/T3/S10)
Disliked optical viewfinder [VF] and sluggish Liveview
MILC has electronic VF [EVF] (preferred by me), Liveview is fast
expectations exceeded (WYSWYG for color, white balance [WB], exposure, focus checking, etc)
Low efficiency of getting the right photo (due to optical VF)
MILC WYSWYG EVF allows not only to set the right exposure, colors and WB BEFORE(!) taking the picture, but also allows exclusive VF-use including image review, which speeds up the image taking process, also helps not to miss a moment. Further, WYSWYG allows faster learning curve than with DSLR
expectation highly exceeded (great for people wearing glasses)
D750 follow-AF for wildlife is slow
Fuji AF improved a lot with new cameras and kaizen updates, required to introduce serious artifical intelligence (like competitors), but still far from market leader performance as only was tuning its obsolete algorithm
had no high expectations, T20 was slowish, T3 was quite fast, but missed often, overall promise failed in 5 years term
Fujifilm eye-AF was poor in T20, with later products it improved a lot, especially with T3, T4 and S10, but still uneffective for stills, falls below the current competitor performance
hopes to have well performing portrait system failed for 5 years term (both by inproper camera AF algorithm and old lens lineup equipped with obsolete focus motor)
Nikon AF points distributed in the middle of the sensor
Any MILC has PDAF points over 90 percent of the frame, creative image composition highly supported
Nikon video AF technically did not work
MILC has much better (continuous) video AF function
Fujifilm video AF was not satisfying in the earlier models, now with X-T3/4 and S10 it is well usable (with some selected lenses, but still featuring disturbing AF pumping)
Nikon D750 had slow continuous drive speed (6.5/s)
Fujifilm T20 has 8/s, T3 11/s with mechanical shutter, T3 and S10 has 20 shots/second in silent mode
expectations exceeded. Tried the 20 and 30/s, but found no benefits with more than 11
missed silent shooting option
as all MILC, silent shooting works very well on Fujifilm, even have very high speed settings up to 1/32000s
Yes, loved it a lot (if not considering rolling shutter for earlier models)
as bokeh lover and low light shooter missed very fast primes (f/1.4) in my Nikon set for their unjustified high price also for size and weight
Fujifilm fast primes are (were!) more affordable (half the price of Nikon) and hoped the 3 stops advantage will compensate the generally noisier APSC IQ
Fujifilm camera-lens system failed on unsatisfying IQ when fast lenses used wide open and also found severe IQ degradation when ISO raised over 800-1250. Technically I (could) not use Fujifilm for wildlife over ISO 2000, and that even required Topaz AI denoising to receive just acceptable IQ photos.
I had no pain with FF Nikon IQ, but disliked the compromise with D500 above base ISO!!
It is said the APSC IQ has 1 to 1.5 stop disadvantage to FF IQ in general. As mentioned above, believed in the light collection advantage of fast primes
With Nikon FF I had nice IQ with AI denoising taken at ISO 8000. That are 2 stops, which is huge in practice. I just do not mention the recent or even 3-4 years old FF cameras, which work brilliantly at 25400 ISO! 3.5 stops! I found the stated 1-1.5 stop IQ difference is valid only for lower ISO, at higher sensibility the difference grows to double or triple. Fuji failed in medium (800-1600) and high ISO (above ISO 2000)
Nikon RAW provided not so great color, intensive post-processing was required for pleasing JPG colors
Fujifilm promised advanced JPG color profiles built in camera, so had best hopes to be able to learn to set the camera properly to provide straight out of camera high IQ JPG images (ergo, most of the time no need for time consuming post-processing)
promise failed in two aspects: Fuji in camera images are not sharp and not detailed enough for my eyes (by strong noise reduction). As Adobe Lightroom [LR] does not pull out the full potential of the X-trans RAW files I added Iridient X-Transformer to my workflow as RAW converter for maximum details (plus ~15%). Further, colors of standard Fujifilm picture profiles required adjustment/tweak on color channels every time. LR stayed with me, had to put even more time, effort and disk storage into post-processing workflow
Nikon LCD stopped working below minus 8-10 degree Celsius
Fujifilm T20 worked perfectly even at 13 Celsius below zero, just as the T3
The Nikon 105/2.8 macro lens has optical flaws (Chromatic aberration and sharpness issues at the edges), also, 1:1 macro is often not sufficient, the glass is also very large and heavy, hard to use
The Laowa 85/2.8 lens is small, light, superior in every term, goes 2:1 magnification
Now, over the above mixed results, positives and failures let's see what else I missed or regretted when switched from Nikon FF to APSC Fujifilm?
High IQ of D750 including:
Nikon colors (Fujifilm is famous for its color science and its many film simulations, where I found no real natural/faithful ones. Still prefer the Nikon colors once processed, I found them more natural. If I want shifted/creative colors, like 'color chrome profile', I can easily set with the color channels, so any built in profiles are only starting points for my editing)
Low noise level, smooth images at lower ISO, as well (found Fujifilm files are 'rough' or grainy even at base ISO)
High details and nice rendering achieved with the tele lenses for portrait and wildlife
Dynamic range (rarely bracketed exposure with the D750, but needed more often with the Fujifilm cameras then merged the photos to keep highlight and shadow details)
Base ISO 100 standard (ISO 100 is just an obvious demand. Practically it is useful at group studio shooting)
Ergonomics and use:
Much better battery life of DSLR (3 to 4 times?)
Faster camera response (wake up and handling. T10/T20 were tardy, T3 and S10 much better, but still behind the DSLR)
shooting wildlife with remote shutter trigger (DSLR comes back from sleep very fast, Fujifilm does not wake up for remote trigger. Practically, MILC is unusable for remote shooting - without plugged in to mains)
The flashing capacity performance of the Nikon shotguns. The Godox one can produce about the half number of consecutive flashes in series
missed the fun to use a quality AF fisheye lens (the manual focus Samyang 8/2.8 is considered to be the best option, but I had to return my copy due to being decentered)
Missed the chance to purchase a really fast ultra wide angle lens (14 to 16mm FF equivalent) for Fujifilm. Still no option
Was it then worth to change from Nikon FF to another, APSC camera system in 2018, which have its own weaknesses and compromises over the anticipated strenghts?
Preserved the value of my aging worthy equipment by converting it to a modern, fast developing MILC platform (for today my former Nikon gear lost at least 40-50% of its value back in 2018)
I gained new skills with Fujifilm MILC: was forced to think differently with the new camera system, increased my creativity to find the way how to bypass its weaknesses
The size and weight benefits of Fujifilm ecosystem increased my opportunities to photograph the World more conveniently
The price benefits of the system allowed me to take such bokehlicious photographs I had never done as Nikon FF DSLR user
Helped me to understand and realize better what photography equipment features are really important for me to enjoy photography the most, also to produce the highest value artistic photographs
Drove me to act highly self-conscious when deciding on new gear acquisition
Achieved AFIAP (Artist Fédération Internationale de l'Art Photographique) photography artist distinction of FIAP, also progressing with the next level
Closing remarks and predictions
As recently announced in 2022 Fujifilm plans to introduce a 40MP resolution new APSC pro level camera (X-H2) at a 2.5k USD price range and I bet it will shake the Fujifilm X-market.
I share my thoughts and predictions in the next post.
Future with the Fujifilm X system after 2022? (zsoltvarankaphotography.com)
Pro & Contra: a practical comparison of a Fujifilm X set to Sony E-mount FE gear for the same budget (zsoltvarankaphotography.com)