Fuji X-M1 vs X-A1 (mostly re: high ISO noise)

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by lex_jenkins, Feb 17, 2014.

  1. (I can't believe I'm actually posting a "versus" thread. Usually I'm allergic to gratuitous versus threads. But at least it's a reasonably legitimate comparison.)
    It looks like the main differences between the two is the X-Trans sensor on the X-M1. Looking at dpreview comparison photos, it appears the X-M1 offers incredibly lower chroma noise, with some loss of fine resolution. The difference is apparent even in raw files compared with the X-A1, Nikon D7100 and other relatively comparable cameras.
    Has anyone here had an opportunity to try both Fujis in a variety of situations to determine whether any real world differences are apparent enough to make a difference? Both models are reasonably priced now, but the X-A1 is about $100 less. I do a lot of low light and nighttime available dark handheld candid photography, and about a third of my photography involves landscapes and static subjects in dim available light - usually late afternoon and evening, sometimes at night. So high ISO noise is a factor.
    I'm going to trade an underutilized shift lens toward one or the other. I've pondered a couple of alternatives, including a good used Nikon D90 or D7000, which would be compatible with my existing Nikkors, but to be realistic I'd get more use from a smaller, lighter mirrorless model with optical stabilization. Recently I've dragged out the F3HP and FM2N again with a tripod and realized my physical limitations make the old familiar methods impractical. A smaller, lighter mirrorless camera with tilting rear screen suits my preferences better now, even for landscapes and static subjects.
     
  2. the A1 has the Bayer sensor, right? and the M1 has the same sensor as the XE's and the xPro, right? that sensor is way better than expected at high ISO, probably the best APS-C showing to date. i believe brad evans has one of those bodies. ive not used either but the XE1 is very clean at ISO 5000 and ive seen 6400 shots that look impressive. pair it with the 27mm pancake at the sale price of $200 and you're good to go.
     
  3. Dpreview posted an interview with the guy from Fuji who indicated that the performance of these two models are very close despite the fact that only X-M1 uses the X-trans sensor. However X-A1 is cheaper mostly b/c of the cost of the sensor. They are not sure what they should eventually offer as their entry level camera which is why we now both. Either way, this is a good way to begin to collect Fuji lens to build a system. For the difference of $100, I would rather go with the X-M1 to get on the X-trans bandwagon.
     
  4. >>> Dpreview posted an interview with the guy from Fuji who indicated that the performance of these two models are
    very close despite the fact that only X-M1 uses the X-trans sensor.

    That's my experience, having rented an X-E2 kit (borrowlenses.com) for a week before purchasing the X-A1. Indeed, I
    suspect most (including myself) could not tell the difference unless pixel-peeping and knowing what to look for.
    Certainly not from web images or prints.

    >>> However X-A1 is cheaper mostly b/c of the cost of the sensor.

    I suspect they cost about the same. Same size sensor -> so many yielded sensors per semiconductor wafer -> wafers
    are the underlying cost. My guess is that Fuji was looking for a way to introduce a lower cost camera. And the sensor is
    a way to differentiate (at the expense of margin).

    >>> Either way, this is a good way to begin to collect Fuji lens to build a system.

    That's my feeling, thinking a more advanced body could be in my future. Just not yet.
     
  5. IMO the main reason to get into fuji is the lenses. the bodies are nice too, but what they've released so far leaves the impression they have a clue as to what customers actually want.
    @Brad, so how's the hi-ISO on the A1?
     
  6. Brad, thanks for the 'borrowlens.com' info. I think I'm going to try something out.
     
  7. >>> @Brad, so how's the hi-ISO on the A1?
    Eric, I've only dabbled past ISO 2000, but it seems fine and usable.
    >>> Indeed, I suspect most (including myself) could not tell the difference unless pixel-peeping and knowing what to look for.
    Here's a set of photos, some from the rented X-E2, some from my X-A1 - intentionally mixed together...
     
  8. I've only dabbled past ISO 2000, but it seems fine and usable.​
    hmm, curious how the A1 is at 3200-6400. nice shots as usual, btw.
     
  9. Thanks, folks. I finally found comparisons on dpreview between the X-M1 and X-A1 - took a little digging. Most of the other websites with image comparisons were biased in some ways, but dpreview's are usually pretty objective and consistent.
    I didn't realize the dpreview JPEG/raw comparisons didn't all access the same database for every review. For example, it wasn't possible to directly compare the X-M1 against all 12-16mp dSLRs they'd tested over the years - only a few were available for comparison. They haven't done a complete review of the XA-1, presumably because it's so similar to the X-M1. But the photo comparisons, including high ISO, were accessible via the X-M1 review.
    The X-M1 appears to have incredibly low chroma and luminance noise, even in raw files at high ISOs. But even without the anti-aliasing filter it doesn't appear to have a clear advantage across the board over the X-A1. Each seems to excel within certain limits but there's not a big difference between the two. At high ISOs the X-M1 images appeared to have much less shadow noise but were also noticeably softer. The X-A1 high ISO images were noticeably sharper with a little more shadow noise, the sort of thing that would be visible in shadows around jaw lines, necks, eye sockets, etc., in photos of people.
    Both Fujis appeared to be at least as good as any Canikon APS dSLR or any brand mirrorless model, and better than most. Overall Fuji seems to have found a solution to providing maximum sharpness and low noise to minimize the usual hassles of post processing.
    I can see some potential advantage to the X-M1 for higher ISO photos that include lots of sky, especially the late afternoon and evening photos I often take. Even the raw files show incredibly low noise in darker continuous tone areas - no chroma noise, very little luminance noise. That *might* offer a significant advantage if I did all or mostly that type of photography. Looking at my EXIF data, many of my evening landscapes and sky photos have been shot at or near ISO 3200. But I'm not sure it's worth an extra $100 when the X-A1 is already incredibly good.
     
  10. Ugh, I just made the mistake of spending a few hours reading dpreview forums and other Fuji user sites. Got a crash course in the Fuji equivalent to hair-splitting and angels dancing on heads of pins.
    Amazing angst over X-Trans vs. Bayer sensor. After looking at dozens of photos ranging from low to high ISO, raw and JPEG, I don't see enough difference to justify the near-religious fervor. In-camera JPEGs from both look great. Raw files from both look comparable to any 16mp APS sensor dSLR or mirrorless camera.
    And with raw files most differences appear to be due to differences in raw converters. I downloaded a few sample raw files for the X-M1 and X-A1 and was surprised to discover Lightroom 4.4 won't handle them. I had to convert to DNG. And Fujinistas passionately debate and dispute raw converters from Silkypix to Iridient (the latter appears really good, but is available only for Mac OS right now).
    Best of all, for my purposes, skies from both models appear virtually noiseless at ISO 1600-6400. I couldn't find many high ISO photos of people but the few I did see looked really good, and not enough difference between the X-A1 and X-M1 to fret over.
     
  11. All this aside, how to the controls on the two cameras compare? I just briefly played with the X-M1 and thought that the controls were more rationally arranged than those on my X-Pro1. Taking first impressions with a grain of salt, I'd like to know how the cameras discussed here handle.
     
  12. Looks like the X-M1 and X-A1 have identical controls - same body, different sensors. The top dial for exposure comp looks handy. That's a big deal to me. I use autoexposure most of the time and prefer one-finger exposure comp adjustments easily accessible to the forefinger or thumb, without having to look. Ricoh does that right. Nikon's V1 is inconvenient - exposure comp is a two-stage process, via the fiddly twiddly thumb wheel.
     
  13. I'm not sure the M is worth the extra $150 over the A. Unless you want the brown M. The brown is pretty sweet. But an extra $150 to have the sensor be an X-Trans, when the A's regular sensor is almost as good, doesn't make much sense to me.
     
  14. I have an XA-1 with an interchangeable sensor.
    00cPAE-545718984.jpg
     
  15. But an extra $150 to have the sensor be an X-Trans, when the A's regular sensor is almost as good​
    the difference may indeed come down to high-ISO capabilities. the M's sensor is the same as in the high-end Fuji's, which are best in class at high-ISO. just looked at the DPReview comparison; the M clearly has less noise at 3200 and really pulls away at 6400.
     
  16. btw, if you do get a fuji, i highly recommend the hotshoe-mounted thumb grip for added stabilization. about $15 on amazon.
     
  17. "I have an XA-1 with an interchangeable sensor."​
    Wait'll the Olympus XA3 comes out. Next year it will have been here 30 years ago. The sensor goes to ISO 1600 and includes backlighting exposure compensation.

    Seriously, those were terrific little film cameras. The autoexposure seems to choose the right compromise between shutter speed and aperture for most situations. Wish I'd kept my XA4 too - it had the 28mm lens, although I usually prefer the 35mm and equivalent focal length in smaller sensor digicams. My XA3 is loaded with HP5+ right now.
     
  18. "...just looked at the DPReview comparison; the M clearly has less noise at 3200 and really pulls away at 6400."​
    Yeah, that's what made me consider the extra bucks for the X-M1. The high ISO noise performance was really impressive in the dpreview tests.

    But...
    Take a peek at the PhotographyBLOG test pix comparing the X-A1 and X-M1. Exactly the opposite results. The X-A1 high ISO noise performance is slightly, but visibly, better. Nothing that would show in web sized JPEGs or even most prints. But it can be seen in pixel peeping.

    The completely reversed differences between dpreview and PhotographyBLOG test photos make me wonder whether light color temperature and other factors may affect high ISO noise performances in comparing the X-Trans and other sensors. It's pretty clear that PhotographyBLOG tests are not as methodical as dpreview. But perhaps that's more useful for evaluating real world performance.

    For what it's worth - and a bit of a digression - I've noticed somewhat similar differences between my Nikon D2H and V1 in identical conditions. While the V1 image quality is clearly superior in almost every way, I have noticed some peculiarities under typical industrial fluorescent lighting. The D2H seems to handle poor quality fluorescent lighting slightly better - while skin colors are off a bit, the shadows around jaw lines, noses, etc., look fairly normal. With the V1 in identical lighting, the shadows are desaturated - it looks like someone used a brush tool to desaturate shadows in faces. Really odd. So while the V1 has better high ISO noise performance, it's also vulnerable to certain types of lighting deficiencies. Perhaps there are some comparable differences between the X-Trans and other sensors.
     
  19. Lex, have you tried asking this question on the Fuji X-Forum? not having ever used an A1, i cant comment specifically on its high-ISO ability, but i have seen a lot of impressive 3200 and even 6400 real-world shots with the E1, which is the same sensor as the M1.
     
  20. Nah, I'm too lazy to join other forums. But I did read a bunch of related threads on that forum. Seems less contentious than dpreview, with fewer axes to grind in the X-Trans versus whatever debate. Most of the personal anecdotes confirmed what I've read elsewhere - any significant differences seem to be due more to raw converters than to the sensors.
     
  21. Hi Lex, did you eventually decided on either of the cameras? I'm buying a spare camera for myself and have the same doubts. It's gona be used for shooting kid, mostly by wife.
     
  22. I got the X-A1 with 16-50 kit zoom last year when it was heavily discounted on Amazon. Very good value. I don't use it as often as my Nikon V1 for candid snapshots, but I do use the Fuji for the excellent image quality when I don't need the quickest camera in the bag.
    If I had either the 27/2.8 pancake I might use the X-A1 more often for candid snaps. Ideally I'd rather have a pancake or small, lightweight 23mm f/2.8, which would better suit my preference for a moderate wide angle for candid snaps of people. The Fuji X-system 23mm f/1.4 is too large and heavy for the lightweight X-A1. I often use one hand for candid snaps, especially with cameras that lack an eye level finder. The 27mm is a bit too long for my preferences. And the 18mm lenses on the comparable Ricoh GR and Nikon Coolpix A are wider than I'd like.
    Overall I'm happy enough with the X-A1 to be impressed with Fuji's thinking. I'm hoping they'll update the X-Pro to improve the few shortcomings that deterred me from the X-Pro 1. I'd really like a compact snapshooter with an optical finder.
     

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