High-End Mirrorless Camera Comparison

In this follow-up article to the mirrorless camera comparison, I will be comparing high-end options available on the market today from different manufacturers. While the mirrorless market has not shown healthy growth in the US and Europe lately, it is just a matter of time before the new technology makes its way into our daily lives and starts replacing lower-end/small sensor DSLRs. High cost is still an issue for now, but considering that mirrorless cameras use far less components than DSLRs, we will soon start seeing them at very attractive prices. In fact, many mirrorless camera models already have seen significant price decreases (remember the ridiculous Nikon 1 V1 $299 price drop?) and we will be seeing a lot more of that in the next few years. In this particular article, I would like to start off by comparing the top of the line mirrorless cameras on the market, specifically designed for professionals and photo enthusiasts that look for the best image quality, features, autofocus performance and a solid lens selection. Please note that the below comparisons are only for mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Also, please keep in mind that some of the benchmarks presented in this article are very subjective, based on our prior experience using the cameras and their published specifications.

High-End Mirrorless Cameras #1Fujifilm X-T1Nikon 1 V2Olympus OM-D E-M1Panasonic Lumix GH4
* Denotes PL Subjective Rating
Lens MountFuji XNikon 1Micro 4/3Micro 4/3
Announcement DateJan 2014Oct 2012Sep 2013Feb 2014
Sensor Size (Diagonal)28.3mm15.9mm21.7mm21.7mm
Megapixels16.3 MP14.2 MP16.3 MP16.05 MP
Image StabilizationLensLensBodyLens
Autofocus SystemHybridHybridHybridContrast
Movie Recording1920×1080 @ 60p1920×1080 @ 60i1920×1080 @ 30p4096×2160 @ 24p
Native Lenses Available12111619
Third Party Lenses803330
Weight440g337g497g560g
Weather SealingYesNoYesYes
Image Quality (10)*8566
Autofocus Speed (5)*5555
Image Stabilization (5)*4454
Manual Focus (5)*5355
System Compactness (5)*4455
EVF Mil Dots / Quality (5)*2.36 / 51.44 / 42.36 / 52.36 / 5
Build Quality (5)*5555
Design and UI (5)*5454
TOTAL POINTS*41344139
Manufacturer LinkFujifilm X-T1Nikon 1 V2OM-D E-M1Lumix GH4
Price (B&H)$1,299$796$1,399$1,698
High-End Mirrorless Cameras #2Samsung Galaxy NXSony A6000Sony A7R
* Denotes PL Subjective Rating
Lens MountSamsung NXSony ESony E/FE
Announcement DateJun 2013Feb 2014Oct 2013
Sensor Size (Diagonal)28.1mm28.1mm43.0mm
Megapixels20.3 MP24.3 MP36.4 MP
Image StabilizationLensLensLens
Autofocus SystemHybridHybridHybrid
Movie Recording1920×1080 @ 30p1920×1080 @ 60p1920×1080 @ 60p
Native Lenses Available13185
Third Party Lenses18210
Weight495g344g465g
Weather SealingYesNoYes
Image Quality (10)*7710
Autofocus Speed (5)*444
Image Stabilization (5)*444
Manual Focus (5)*555
System Compactness (5)*444
EVF Mil Dots / Quality (5)*1.44 / 42.40 / 52.40 / 5
Build Quality (5)*555
Design and UI (5)*344
TOTAL POINTS*363841
Manufacturer LinkGalaxy NXSony A6000Sony A7R
Price (B&H)$1,299$648$2,298

Summary

Keep in mind that all of the above grades are purely subjective. I have not yet used the Sony A6000 and the Panasonic GH4, but know what to expect based on prior models, specifications and provided features, which is why I included them in the list (will be receiving/reviewing both when available). The total points above do not take into account lens selection, movie features, price and other variables, so please take this with a grain of salt.

In my opinion, the best three options for mirrorless today are the Fuji X-T1, Olympus OM-D E-M1 / Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7R. If you want a beautiful camera with the best EVF on the market, superb image quality and weather sealing, the X-T1 is my #1 choice. If image stabilization and compactness are important for you, the OM-D E-M1 is an amazing camera, also my top choice. If you want to shoot the best quality videos, the GH4 is the only 4K camera in the list. If you are after image quality and need the best resolution, the Sony A7R with its amazing 36.4 MP sensor is the obvious choice. It has its flaws like limited lens selection, badly designed UI (and a few other problems) and its price point is obviously very different when compared to X-T1 or OM-D E-M1. I would say, if you already have a full-frame DSLR and you are looking at a smaller system, go either with the X-T1 or the OM-D E-M1. If you want to replace your primary camera, the A7R will give you the best image quality.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) David B
    March 11, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    Nasim, another good comparison. I want to chime in. My DSLR is D800. Last month I went on vacation in Cabo and took my (at the time) favorite Fuji XE2 and my new Sony A7r. I took these two cameras and for 5 days I shot them side by side in every possible condition, light, inside, outside, day, night, into the sun, moving objects, etc, you name it. After I came home, I sold off my Fuji gear and kept the Sony A7r. By the way, I was never a fan of Sony.

    Now I have not used XT1 yet, but my understanding from reading the users reviews, those users that owned the previous Fuji x cameras, is that, despite Fuji’s claims (remember X100s was also ‘the fastest camera ever’) the single AF acquisition time is pretty much the same as with XE2. It is the continuous AF that supposedly is better.

    In terms of Autofocus, I discovered, again after using these cameras side by side in various conditions, that Sony A7r, despite only having contrast AF, had faster and more precise autofocusing than my Fuji XE2. With Sony I was using the 55 FE 1.8. With Fuji, I took to vacation 16-50, 23/1.4 and 60/2.4 lenses. Fuji 16-50 is a very fast focusing lens, in fact I like it better than 18-55, as it is wider, the sharpness is there at every focal length, and it is much lighter and balances better on XE line than 18-55, at least for me. 16-50 was confused a few times even at daytime. 60/2.4 got confused a lot in the middle of a day with looking for focus. A very sharp lens, but ridiculous AF issues. 23/1.4 is quite decent on the other hand.

    In terms of ergonomics, I feel that Sony A7r with its pronounced and ‘fat’ grip, is the best for my hand in terms of ergonomics. In fact I would have loved it to be even more pronounced. The XE line, I needed a grip and a thumb grip, to have a somewhat comfortable feel.

    I am beyond m43 picture quality. I’ve shot over 20,000 with my EM5 and before it other m43 cameras, but as the expression in Russian goes, “Все познается в сравнение.” Once I started using the Fuji X I saw the clear difference in image quality, in dynamic range, in the noise, etc. Great Fuji colors. Very good lenses. And the 2X factor of m43 that requires really really bright lenses to create a nice DOF.

    Now A7r, we are talking about image quality on a whole different level. Couple it with 55 FE 1.8 which DXO called “THE SHARPEST AF LENS THEY HAVE EVER TESTED.” Just think about it. The sharpest AF lens they have EVER tested. You don’t hear these claims often. In fact, dpreview did a review when you can compare it to OTUS, and at some apertures, it exceeds the sharpness of OTUS. 55 FE 1.8 can be had for $800 if purchased together with A7 or A7r outfits today.

    We can take it even further. Fuji just came with an excellent 56 1.2 lens for $999. I’ve seen the first reviews and center is sharp even at F/1.2. Corners are softer but get better. It is a great lens.

    But I can switch my Sony A7r into a crop mode, and my 55/1.8 becomes a 85/1.8 on the same 16MP sensor. Except it is now a full frame 16MP sensor picture quality and low noise. The DOF on Fuji 56/1.2 equals to DOF of 85/1.8 on a full frame so we are equal there. But I got myself the sharpest Autofocus lens DXO has ever tested and i am only using the center portion of that insanely sharp lens! I am sure it is sharp side-to-side, unlike the Fuji 56/1.2, which is softer at corners. So my 55/1.8 can play a double duty at 55 and 85 for less money than Fuji 35/1.4+Fuji 56/1.2. Oh and Fuji 35/1.4 has DOF of F/2.0 in Full Frame equivalent.

    One thing I have to say is that Sony colors out of the camera (I only shoot A7r in RAW because I dont like its JPEGS, but these RAW files, although lossy, are only 35MB each, which is incidentally the same size as my RAW files from Fuji XE2) are not as bright and punchy as Fuji. Fuji you can just do nothing and the picture is already amazing, with Sony, if you want the colors to be less ‘realistic’ you need to work with the files in PP.

    I am seriously thinking about selling my D800 and instead get a LA-EA4 adapter and one of the two fabulous Zeiss for A mount: 135/1.8 which is an insanely sharp lens and the brightest 135mm lens out there. or a Zeiss 85/1.4 which is another known great lens. The only thing that stops me is that I have a 21-month-old who is very active, and I am not sure whether AF, even if used with LA-EA4 is adequate for catching him. But A7r is so light and comfortable, you pick up a D800 with 85 1.4D after that, and you feel the heft!!!!

    • 7
      ) Kyle
      March 11, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      You realize the Sony A7r is over one thousand dollars more than the Fuji you’re comparing it to right?

      • 10
        ) David B
        March 11, 2014 at 9:16 pm

        Are you comparing Full retail price? Because for example today you could buy a A7r for $1437 from an authorized Sony dealer Popflash (an established photography store in California) http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/no-joke-sony-a7r-for-1437-00/
        There are multiple sellers selling brand new A7r for $1800+ at any given point over the Fred Miranda for sale forum.

        But if you comparing original retail price nobody is paying for A7r, then yes, the price difference is a $1000.

        • 19
          ) Neil
          March 12, 2014 at 6:44 am

          A problem with the Sony’s is that you can’t get true raw, only their lossy raw. Each of these cameras, though, is more than capable of producing a great image. It just comes down to what each of us values most. For me, the A7R offers nothing I care about that I can’t get with my Fuji.

  2. March 11, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    not only will mirrorless cameras eventually replace the low end DSLRs, they will be taking on the high end market as well. for all personal stuff I pretty much leave the 5D3 home 100% of the time and take the GH3 instead. on paid projects it’s a more even split. there are just so many features, especially video features, that are only possible with an EVF.

    • 12
      ) Patrick O'Connor
      March 11, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      I’m not trying to start a debate but why do people say mirrorless cameras will replace dSLRs? Does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t they both continue in much the same way that Nikon and Canon both still manufacture 35mm film SLRs? (NOT that I’m thinking the ratio would be similar!)
      I see no point to making such predictions and know too many people who are clinging to their dSLRs (and SLRs), along with their guns and Bibles. ;-)
      I, for one, will give up photography when the last dSLR breaks and all that’s left are mirrorless cameras.

      • 14
        ) David Ahn
        March 11, 2014 at 10:16 pm

        I agree, Patrick, most people have fantasies of inevitable eventual monopolies, but despite thousands of predictions of the death of Mac, Macs are still a healthy minority, as is a dynamic majority/minority balance between Android and iOS phones/tablets, Explorer, Firefox and Chrome, etc. Diverse options exist because the market is diverse.

      • March 11, 2014 at 10:25 pm

        I said mirrorless “will be taking on the high end market”. they may not ever replace DSLRs entirely, just like some people still prefer horses to cars, but electronics will eventually become better than mirrors. I don’t have physical or emotional attachments to mirror or electronics, and will gladly use the superior system. give up photography when the mirror breaks? never :)

  3. 3
    ) Brian
    March 11, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I’d like to see a similar rating for a DSLR, e.g. D7100 or D800, for comparison.

  4. 4
    ) David Ahn
    March 11, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Thanks, Nasim! A 3-way tie in your scoring system; any one of those is a winner… for different needs.

    There are numerous options with different tradeoffs because people (manufacturers and photographers) have different tastes. For David B, it sounds like the A7r might be the perfect D800 replacement. But for David A (me), I too have a D800(E), but I want a much bigger step down in size/weight than the A7r and its FF lenses offer, and I’m willing to sacrifice more megapixels. Fortunately with Fujifilm (X-E2), I don’t have to give up my favorite things about my D800E: wide dynamic range and great low light performance, AND I gain a LOT more direct control dials (I’m constantly changing exposure bias).

    For me, I think the X-E2 is the perfect travel camera; I haven’t even gotten it yet (just ordered), but I’m done lugging my D800E around on vacation. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I’m still keeping my D800E, for when I really want the absolute best IQ and brute force megapixels.

    • 13
      ) Gerry C
      March 11, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      David, I’m with you — I’m looking to reduce my load after years of shooting with Nikon film & digital cameras. Sony’s full frame system was very interesting. At first… David B, please don’t take this as directed to you and your decision to go with the Sony. If it fits *your* needs, then it’s the perfect camera for you. Can’t argue with that one bit.

      But just thinking/writing out loud… here are some things I thought about as I seriously considered the A7/A7r: First, while the A7/A7r bodies are slimmer than their DSLR counterparts, the lenses are still roughly the same size as those for full frame DSLRs. Overall size of an A7/A7r is much smaller compared to a D4; compared to a D600 — not so much. And not enough (for me) to switch in the full frame realm. And then there’s the A7/A7r vertical/battery grip. Again, this is only my take on this (I’m trying to reduce my load)… But my gosh, once the grip is attached to the cameral — you could bludgeon a few soldiers in battle with that thing.

      Then we get to the Sony SEL55F18Z Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Alpha.

      $1000.00. For an f/1.8 lens.

      I can understand the price if it was an f/1.2 lens but it’s f/1.8. I can appreciate that DXO says it’s the sharpest lens they’ve ever tested (who wants a soft lens?) — but then again, I have yet to hear someone say that a photograph brought them to tears ***because it was so… unbelievably… SHARP.*** :-P Once one stops pixel-peeping and just prints to 8×10 or 16×20 or so… or even displays a photo to fill a 4K screen — it’s hard to tell the difference in “sharpness.”

      I’m sure the Sony is a nice lens, but is it 5x better than a $200.00 Nikon 50mm f/1.8G lens? I can’t see how it that can be the case (no pun intended). I wrote elsewhere here on PL that I would sell my D600 once it come back from it’s wonderful “Service Advisory” repair… But maybe I’ll just keep it for now for when I want to really go “full frame.” While I’m waiting for the D600 to return, I’m happily shooting away with a new X-T1 and a few Fujinon primes…

    • 20
      ) Neil
      March 12, 2014 at 6:50 am

      I know what you mean. Last August I wrote here that I was selling my D800 in favor of a Fuji X-E1. A lot of people called me crazy for that choice. Thing is, I finally accepted that just about every camera out there can take a great picture and that I valued things differently now. I so appreciate a lighter bag. I took my D800, 70-400 f4, 24-120 f4, and 85 f1.8 on my honeymoon to London last year. Big heavy bag. Great photos but unwieldy.

      Now I’d go with my Fuji X-E2, 18-55 and 55-200 and get great pictures with much less tiredness. I like simplicity. :)

  5. 5
    ) Chris
    March 11, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Great comparison! I recently sold my D3S and bought a X-T1 for my personal shooting. It was a big jump and a little difficult to get used too but so far I’m very happy with the Fuji. For me the X-T1 is what I was hoping the Df would have been. No doubt I’ll own another DSLR and most likely another Nikon but for now this is the best camera I could have for my travels and family time.

  6. 6
    ) Brian
    March 11, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    I’m surprised the Galaxy NX is the representative Samsung camera and not the NX30. The GNX is more of an exercise and experiment than an actual part of the model line (which explains why it isn’t on the pyramid chart Samsung put out a while ago for their body roadmap). NX300 to NX30 to eventual NX1.

    The A6000 was rated as a 4 out of 5 for autofocus speed? Seems strange considering all reports so far that it is extremely fast.

    I do agree with David B, m4/3 images just didn’t do for me what I hoped they would, although I found shooting with the EM5 actually much more enjoyable than the XE1.

  7. 8
    ) Irene
    March 11, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    Hi Guys,
    Wow, you sure know how to make a girl’s head spin. Okay, I have a Nikon D7000, A Nikon D5300, and an Olympus EM-1. I shoot CD covers (now over 600). Lately, I have been shooting all three cameras and found the EM-1 to give me a more editorial look (I like) with little post production. The most recent CD project, I found myself not even picking up either Nikon. I do realize that my Nikon’s are not top of the line, because after 40 years of shooting, (and 37 lymph nodes removed) I needed to reduce the weight. I want to get another m4/3 body, and I am mixed about what to get. I want my lenses to work without an adapter. I have the Olympus 12-40/2.8, the 45/1.8, and the 25/1.8. I am not a gear-head, and there are so many choices these days with too many new products coming out too rapidly, that I need the advice of equipment gods, like you. Many thanks.

    • 16
      ) Gerry C
      March 11, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      You mentioned that you want to get another m4/3 body. Do you want to replace your EM-1? If yes, do you need something the EM-1 can’t do for you? Or do you need a backup camera to your EM-1? Just curious…

      • 17
        ) Irene
        March 11, 2014 at 10:35 pm

        Thanks, Gerry C. I like having a second body as a backup, especially since the m4/3 cameras only have one card slot. I could get another EM-1 body, or I could mix it up a bit.

  8. 9
    ) Antonio Mario
    March 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Nasim,

    Thanks for the nice comparison.

    The Nikon 1 V2, via the FT-1 adapter, can take a large number or Nikkor lenses. This should probably be conveyed by your table I believe (‘Manufacturer & 3rd party lens’?). As you hint in your text, lens selection is a big factor in selecting your camera.

    Perhaps the Sony A7R has an adapter as well?…

    Thanks for the post.

  9. 11
    ) Andrei Aleskovskii
    March 11, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Nasim,

    Olympus and Panasonic have the same lens mount, so why there is difference in number of Third Party Lenses?

    • 18
      ) AM
      March 12, 2014 at 2:18 am

      Olympus lenses are 3rd-party for Panasonic, whereas Panasonic lenses are 3rd-party for Olympus, thus the difference.
      At the end, both can use the same amount of different lenses (native + 3rd-party) = 49.

  10. March 12, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Interesting comparison…..

    Just to point out…the XT1 EVF is “magnified” to appear larger but it’s about the same as the OM-D E-M1. The E-M1 is better built, faster with better button layout and feel. The Olympus also has a better jpeg engine and the RAW files are more versatile and better supported. OLY lens catalog is larger at the moment and far better suited to video work (MSC). Finally the image quality between them is not as great as you would think given the sensor size differences.

    Sony has always made good cameras but build quality and all the different lens mounts makes it an expensive option. If you do need resolution in a small package it’s a good choice.

    I’ve used all of these cameras and now own a combination of Fuji/Olympus.

    • 22
      ) Neil
      March 12, 2014 at 8:41 am

      I’d say most viewfinders are magnified, usually by decreasing the magnification of the image. The thing I think is more important is whether the information shown in the viewfinder is useful and well thought out. A secondary, but also important thing for me, is whether the viewfinder was designed to be friendly to people who wear glasses. I find a lot of them aren’t.

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