Ok, now this is a blogpost that I never planned on writing till I got a question about it.
Let me start off by saying that I love the Fujifilm cameras A LOT, I own a X-E1 and in my opinion it is/was one of the best cameras for street Photography, and the X-trans sensor is just awesome. Now there is a price difference between the Fujifilm X-E1 and the Sony A7r I’m now testing but I thought let’s just look at the X-E1 vs the A7r and see what happens. In this blogpost you will read my personal opinion.

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When doing camera comparisons it’s of course always important to look at price, and let’s be honest the Sony is a lot more expensive, but….. is it worth it?

Full frame vs Crop
I can be short on this issue, the full frame sensor has it’s advantages, but a crop sensor is not by definition wrong or less interesting, if you for example don’t want to play with shallow DOF a crop sensor actually has an advantage because you will get a wider DOF on the same aperture as with a Full Frame sensor, of course the image is different and the lens will be different but overall you will gain benefit here.  However if you want to play with very shallow DOF the Full Frame sensor is much more flexible. So it’s a bit of horses for courses. For me during street photography I really like a crop sensor, I can shoot on F2.8 and still get a bit more DOF than on a Full Frame sensor but still shoot on a lower ISO, especially in situations where I want more DOF but the light is not too good this is an advantage.

However I use my camera for much more than streetphotography and I have to add that for almost everything else I like the Full Frame sensor more, so here for me the points go to the Sony.

Looks
Not that important for some, very important for others.
I love the FujiFilm X-E1, I own the silver top with the leather case, using this combination is pure fun for me and compared to the more basic looking black Sony…. well I prefer the FujiFilm here.

Handling
I can be short here, both have their own way of setting everything up.
I LOVE the way the FujiFilm has a very “old fashion” but working way of operation, set the aperture on the lens (except on some zooms where it’s digital, but still operated via the lens), set the shutterspeed and there you go, choose A for shutterspeed for AV mode and choose A for shutterspeed for TV modes, brilliant.

The Sony is a bit of a different camera, here you have to really set AV or TV mode, it’s more like a DSLR, it’s a personal preference which one you like, the FujiFilm version is faster for me but I don’t want to give points here, it’s a really personal matter of taste and I can work with both and it depends on the situation which one I like.

Image quality
Yeah comparing 36MP to 16Mp is a bit of a “stupid” thing, with detail the A7r kicks the FujiFilm with ease, but that’s not the whole story.
The A7r doesn’t have a AA filter which means there is a chance of Moire, with the X-trans (FujiFilm) sensor there is no chance (or very very little) on Moire. The X-trans sensor also shows a LOT of detail and this is were a lot of people go wrong, I always say that if you look at print size that a 22MP camera and the X-trans both show a LOT of detail on a A2 print so both will give you more than enough detail. When you look at the difference between a camera with AA filter and the X-trans there is actually a lot more detail in the X-trans file. However as you know the A7r doesn’t have an AA filter so here the detail is just great, so here all points have to go to the A7r, I can’t judge for the A7 by the way but seeing the performance of the sensor on the A99 I think also there the Sony will win. But don’t just look at MPs please, it’s all about the real detail and the X-trans is incredible there but it just can’t compete with the raw 36MP power without AA from Sony.

Noise at high ISO
The FujiFilm is amazing at high ISO but is bettered by the A7r, taking into consideration that the A7r is a 36MP camera so you can downscale (which means less noise) it’s a considerable difference, I’ve shot ISO10.000 with the A7r which resulted in publication worthy images. So here the points go to the A7r, but I have to say that the X-E1 is great in noise performance.

AutoFocus performance
This is where in the past FujiFilm went wrong, but over the time they did something that I always call amazing, each firmware upgrade they bettered the performance of their AF speed, this is pretty unique, normally you have to buy a new lens to get more speed, with FujiFilm you just get software (way too go, more should do this).

The A7r with it’s normal FE lenses can’t keep up with the FujiFilm, don’t get me wrong, everything is snappy and fast enough but the X-E1 locks in like crazy and is much more speedy. Now when we couple the A7r with the A mount convertor with SLT mirror and use A mount glass the speed is considerably faster when focussing, and I think the difference is much smaller than, let’s me put it this way both systems are speedy enough at that time. Where the Sony does win is focus tracking and things like eye focus, face registration etc.

If you’re only using FE glass the points (and ALL of them) will go to FujiFilms X-E1, if you use A mount converters and need focus tracking etc. I have to say Sony.

Lens choices
When looking at the Sony system there is something that Sony has going for them (big time), there is a HUGE amount of lenses that will fit this camera. For the FujiFilm there are also converters (like M42/Leica etc) but seeing the fact that on the Sony you can mount all A mount glass means you have a huge choice in AF glass and also very fast glass, for example the 50mm 1.4 AF minolta lens is a great lens for the A7r and performs great. Now the camera is of course bigger with the A mount converter, but the FujiFilm also gets a lot bigger with the converters so here it’s a bit of a mixed bag of which lens you choose vs how big the camera will get.

For me all points go to the A7r in this case.
The options of mounting Leica Glass and using a 36MP AA less filter is something that will make Leica glass probably even more expensive but it’s something that has a great appeal to a lot of people, for me it’s the option of mounting everything I have in my safe from A to M42 and even Canon/Mamiya glass on the full frame 36MP sensor that really gets me excited.

EVF
Both cameras operate via an EVF, Electronic Viewfinder. Personally I think the EVF in the Sony is the better one. The What You See Is What You Get effect is better in the Sony and the quality is also faster/better. The X-E1 doesn’t have a bad EVF, it’s great, but the A7r just wins here.

Image Quality
This is actually where it all boils down to isn’t it ?
Well the dynamic range of the Sony sensors is well known by now and also the A7r is no exception, it’s awesome you can pull back detail from highlights and shadows to a point that shots look like HDR, the FujiFilm is no slough either but it simply doesn’t have the range of the Sony.

In 3D pop the FujiFilm looks very good (of course depending on the glass) but also here the Sony just has a bit more depth and sense of “realness”.
Color wise both cameras look very pleasing for me, but I like the skintones of the Sony a bit better.

Video
Some people will never use it,  some use it a lot.
The X-E1 is not aimed/build for video. The A7r performs great with video, I prefer the handling of the 5DMKIII or A99 compared to the small A7r but the image quality from video is much better on the Sony(s) than on the FujiFilm. So if video is important you are better off with the Sony.

Small flash
Fuji has some strobes but you can’t really call it a serious system, with the A7r and the Phottix Odin system you have a full working E-TTL or manual system and the Sony strobes are very suitable for working on location, although I do find the overheating setting way too aggressive.

The rest and conclusion
So which camera should you buy.
Well it’s not that easy to say.
For the price the X-E1 is AWESOME, it is SUPER sexy, has great AF performance, it’s light, it has some great glass and the image quality is very very good also on high-ISO.

The A7r…. well what can I say…… I’m in love with the camera.
One of the things that’s very important for me is shooting tethered and the X-E1 we never got working the way I wanted, the A7r just shoots into lightroom (thanks to the plugin from DNA software) and does exactly what I want. Now this last remark makes all the difference for me.

Up until now I always traveled with 2 bodies.
The A99 for the workshops and the locations where I don’t mind a bigger/heavier camera and the X-E1 for street stuff, walking around etc. With the A7r this has all changed. Now I will use the A7r with grip and A mount converter for the workshops and “big jobs”, when I want to go stealth I remove the grip and A mount converter and walk around with EF glass and the camera is not much bigger than the X-E1 combi. Now when travelling every pound you can save is a big plus, so now I only have to bring one body (and a spare for backup), one charger (and you can even choose to charge via USB) and some EF glass and some A mount glass I could even bring my big Lowepro bag back to a smaller version…. well ok I won’t because I will always jam more stuff in it anyway.

So is the A7r THE camera to get.
It depends.
The pricing is much higher than the FujiFilm X-E1, the fact that it does great video, works with small flash, replaces a full blown DSLR and has amazing image quality would warrant the price difference for many people (including me) however it really depends on what you’re shooting. If you’re a 100% street shooter and need that fast response and a small camera the FujiFilm X-E1 still shines. If you’re an allrounder and travelling a lot I think the A7r is an amazing travelling companion and if you’re willing to spend the money I think the A7r will be the choice.

Again comparing products with this much price difference is actually a bit ridiculous but I hope it did shed some light on how I look at it.

So the A7r will replace my A99?
Let me put it this way…. I’m tempted, I still have to try the grip on the A7r, if that works fine I might consider it.
The A7r is slower than  the A99 but I don’t shoot a lot of sports so for me that’s not a big deal, it boots much faster than the A99 which is a big deal and for the rest…. well there’s actually not much that I can think off why I would prefer the A99…. except that I expect something stellar from the replacement of the A99 so I’m very anxious to see that, but if I was shopping for a new camera NOW and I had to choose…. well it would be the A7r and not just for the 36MP :D