Please note that the camera comparisons are only based on image quality, based on RAW files. Also, note that all images are down-sampled to the size of the Fuji X-E1 sensor.
Fuji X-E1 vs Canon 5D Mark III ISO Comparison at low ISOs
Let’s see how the Fuji X-E1 compares to the new Canon 5D Mark III. Below you will find image samples normalized to 12 MP by down-sampling. Take a look at the below crops at 200, 400 and 800 (Left: Fuji X-E1, Right: Canon 5D Mark III):
As expected, ISO 200 on both cameras looks very clean. However, if you look close enough you will see that the Fuji X-E1 RAW image looks cleaner in comparison – and that’s with a down-sampled Canon 5D Mark III image. Considering that the Fuji X-E1 is an APS-C sensor (more than twice smaller in size than full-frame), normally there should be a similar amount of noise at low ISOs, especially in the shadows. This difference we are seeing either has to do with Fuji’s new color filter array, or Fuji is “cooking” the RAW files (meaning it is applying some noise reduction on RAW level). Note that both RAW files had exactly the same Lightroom settings – no additional sharpening or noise reduction was applied to the image (all default settings).
A similar thing happens at ISO 400 – the Fuji RAW looks a tad cleaner overall.
And we see it again at ISO 800. The Canon 5D Mark III crop has very fine grain in the shadows, while the Fuji X-E1 crop has a smoother feel to it.
Fuji X-E1 vs Canon 5D Mark III High ISO Comparison
ISO 1600 still looks better on the Fuji X-E1.
At ISO 3200 both look somewhat comparable, but the look of the grain is very different. The Fuji X-E1 has bigger and smoother grain, while the Canon 5D Mark III has finer and more detailed grain.
Some strange things are starting to happen to the Fuji X-E1 at ISO 6400 – the grain pattern looks rather erratic, which at this point I am pretty sure is happening due to noise reduction. Noise levels on both cameras are very comparable…
Fuji X-E1 vs Canon 5D Mark III Summary
It is hard to understand whether Fuji is applying some kind of noise reduction to its RAW files at all ISO levels, or perhaps the new color filter array is the reason why the RAW files look less grainy. Despite the fact that I down-sampled the Canon 5D Mark III images from 22.3 MP to 16.3 MP and there is a significant difference in sensor size between the two cameras, the Fuji X-E1 seems to be producing very impressive images at both JPEG and RAW level. Overall, I find the Fuji X-E1 to be superior at low ISOs and about the same above ISO 3200.
Fuji X-E1 vs Nikon D800 ISO Comparison at low ISOs
The Nikon D800 has a much higher resolution 36.3 MP sensor, so heavy down-sampling was applied to the Nikon D800 image. As a result, the Nikon D800 image looks very crisp and practically noise-free compared to the Fuji X-E1 at ISO 200. Still, the RAW image from the Fuji X-E1 looks a tad cleaner.
ISO 400 looks very similar to ISO 200.
At ISO 800 we see a little finer grain on the D800, but both are still very comparable in terms of noise, even in the shadows.
Fuji X-E1 vs Nikon D800 High ISO Comparison
At ISO 1600 we see a similar thing as with the 5D Mark III – the Fuji X-E1 crops looks a little more “washed”, with very little noise throughout the image.
At ISO 3200 the Fuji X-E1 starts to lose plenty of data as can be seen from the shadows. The Nikon D800 retains a lot more detail overall and the grain looks more natural.
And finally, increasing ISO to 6400 again results in larger and smoother grain on the Fuji X-E1, while the Nikon D800 is still retaining a lot of shadow details with finer grain. The down-sampling process is clearly advantageous for the D800 in this case.
Fuji X-E1 vs Nikon D800 Summary
Comparing RAW files between the Fuji X-E1 and the Nikon D800 yields very similar results as with the Canon 5D Mark III. Despite having a sensor more than twice smaller in size, the RAW output from the Fuji X-E1 looks very clean in comparison to the D800. I prefer the look of the images from the Fuji X-E1 at lower ISO levels below ISO 1600, but not above. At higher ISO levels, I find the Nikon D800 images to be better, because they have finer and more natural-looking grain. I am not sure if this kind of output is the result of noise reduction applied to RAW files by Fuji, or if it is the magic of the new color filter array. Whatever it is, it looks great for a small sensor! It is no secret that many RAW files from cameras are “cooked” nowadays – take a look at the Nikon 1 V1, for example. Nikon clearly applies noise reduction at higher ISO levels. As long as manufacturers can do this without losing image detail, who cares if RAW files are treated? The Fuji X-E1 engineers clearly developed a great algorithm that can do magic to the RAW files and we can see it from the above comparison. If Fuji released a full-frame sensor with the same noise characteristics as the sensor on the Fuji X-E1, it would be a serious challenge for both Nikon and Canon DSLRs in my opinion.
Fuji X-E1 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 ISO Comparison at low ISOs
Let’s take a look at how the Fuji X-E1 fares against the Olympus OM-D E-M5 micro four-thirds camera (see my review). Since both cameras have very comparable 16 MP resolution, the below image samples are 100% crops, without any down-sampling applied. Images were converted from Fuji’s RAW “RAF” to JPEG format using Lightroom 5.2.
Both start out very clean at ISO 200.
At ISO 400, however, we can already start seeing slight differences in ISO performance. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 shows a slight hint of noise in some areas, while the X-E1 is very clean (see the blue disk on the bottom of the screen).
As ISO is increased to 800, we can now see even more differences between the two cameras – the X-E1 is clearly cleaner.
Fuji X-E1 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 High ISO Comparison
Pushing ISO to 1600 results in some noise in both cameras, but the X-E1 still renders a cleaner image throughout the frame. The grain looks a little washed, but it is not distracting.
We see a very similar situation at ISO 3200 – the X-E1 clearly looks better, especially in the shadow areas.
Finally, while ISO 6400 is pretty grainy on both, the X-E1 certainly retains more data and colors. The OM-D E-M5 loses details and has much more visible grain, as evidenced from the above crops.
Fuji X-E1 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Summary
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 has an impressive sensor that is capable of producing very good images at high ISOs. However, as you can see from the above image crops, the X-E1 renders images with more details, colors and less noise when the two are compared. Performance differences are already visible at ISO 400 and they become more apparent as ISO is increased. Keep in mind that the above comparison is between RAW files from both cameras. If I compared the JPEG performance of the X-E1 against the OM-D E-M5, the performance difference would have been even greater, since Fuji knows how to handle JPEG images very well.
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