Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Was Tempted By The Fuji X100S, Sony RX1, and Leica X2 - I Think I'll Pass For Now

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I have been traveling for the past week or so with my Leica M9, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 compact camera, and my Skeletons From The Closet camera for March, the Zeiss Ikonta folder.
I have been sorely tempted by the three fixed lens cameras mentioned in the title of my post. All three, the Fujifilm X100S, Sony RX1, and Leica X2 offer a lot of excellent features. However, I'm pretty convinced that if I were to buy a fixed lens camera, I would want a 50mm equivalent field of view, as opposed to the 35mm field of view of each of these cameras.
On this trip, I brought my Summilux 35mm f1.4 lens for the M9. That lens is my Whole Lotta Leica pick for March. While it's an amazing lens, I have felt throughout the trip that I'd have been happier overall with a 50mm lens. Of course, the M9 lets me change lenses, which I am not shy about doing. But, if I bought one of these new fixed lens cameras, I would not have that option. So, I am staying out of that market for now.
If I were going to go for it, it would be between the Fuji and Leica. I've now handled both, and they are extremely nice cameras. I've also handled the Sony, and like it. Just not to the tune of the price difference.
I wrote a couple of days ago about how I essentially traded in my year-old Lumix DMC-G3 kit for a new DMC-GX1 through Amazon (the GX1 is $275 brand new right now!). The new GX1 is waiting for me in its box until I get home. I'm thinking that the GX1 with the Lumix 20mm f1.7 pancake lens should give any of these cameras a run for their money, and for much less of it (money, that is). If I considered the combination of a flexible compact camera and a fixed lens higher image quality camera combination for travel, I would have thought about the Lumix DMC-LX7 (which I continue to explore and enjoy immensely) and either a Fuji X100S or Leica X2. Now, I'm thinking the GX1 with 20mm f1.7 will be the higher end choice. The GX1 is very compact, and yields great image quality. I know this from my experience with the DMC-G3, which shares the same sensor as the GX1. With the 20mm f1.7 lens, it's a very nice little package. And, I have the awesome 25mm Pana-Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4 if I really want the 50mm equivalent field of view.
Kirk Tuck recently wrote a post about comparing the high iso performance of the Fujifilm X100S with his Sony NEX, using the excellent comparison tool at His conclusion is that the hysteria over the X100S may be warranted by the features of the camera, but not by high iso performance alone.
(Click Here) to read Kirk's post, entitled "New "Holy Grail" of Cameras Spanked by the Real Deal." How controversial that title sounds!
I decided to do the same comparison between the X100S and the GX1. Here's a screenshot of the raw images at iso 800:
DPreview iso 800 Raw Comparison of Fuji X100S, Fuji X100, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1,and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
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You can easily switch iso level for all of the cameras in the comparison using the dpreview tool. I decided that iso 800 is important for me, as I need that level fairly often on travel, especially in cloudy weather. However, the f1.7 lens on the GX1 will need it less often than the f2 on the Fuji or f2.8 on the Leica.
My conclusion from this comparison is that, as expected, the LX7 really lags the other, larger sensor cameras in performance at iso 800. But, surprisingly, I like the GX1 result more than the Fuji cameras. While the Fujis certainly have a smoother image rendition, it is at the cost of detail. When considering raw files (before noise reduction is applied), I prefer to retain as much detail as possible. So, I think my GX1 will perform very well in comparison to the X100S at iso 800. The same trend applies at iso 1600 and up. Plus, I can change lenses when I want.
How about those LX7 results? Well, it's a compromise. The LX7 has so many features, including a nice zoom range, in such a tiny package, I'm willing to keep the iso level low to preserve image quality.
So, if you've followed my musings thus far, I won't be buying one of the new fixed lens wonders from Fuji, Sony, or Leica any time soon. I'd be more inclined if any of them came with a 50mm equivalent lens.
Now, I will admit that I'm still very attracted to the Fujifilm X20 for the flexible end, as competition for my LX7. I handled an X20 in Tokyo, and it's very impressive. The optical viewfinder is very nice, and it feels like a real camera. But, for now, I'm sticking with Panasonic for both cameras.