I switched from Nikon DSLR to Fuji Mirrorless. Here's why.
19th April, 2018
So, yes. It happened.
I switched to Fuji Medium Format Mirrorless after using Nikon for over seven years. it was not easy. No. When you are heavily invested in one system, it is difficult and expensive to switch to a completely new system. Not to mention there is a learning curve to adjust to. But sometimes it is necessary.
I am an avid photographer. It is my passion and I very rarely do commercial work. Some aspects of images are important to me, and I try to get them as best as possible. I am not a professional photographer, so I am just trying to share my experience of switching from one camera setup to another.
There are reasons behind why I switched, and I am going to try and explain them here. I should mention that Fujifilm is not sponsoring me or influencing me in any way to write this article.
Before I do that, these are the Nikon gears I had before I switched to Fuji, which as you can see, quite an extensive and expensive setup.
Nikon D810 | Nikon 105mm F/1.4 E ED | Nikon 200mm F/2G ED VR II | Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Macro VC | Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 VC USD | Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC USD | Sigma 50mm F/1.4 Art
I have been using Nikon since 2011, and Nikon D810 since 2014 when it was released. It never disappointed me and delivered what I needed: High resolution and detailed images. I was waiting for Nikon D850 since the rumor started and when it was announced, it seemed like a perfect upgrade.
My first impression with Nikon D850 was good. Images were detailed, and they looked great. But when I enlarged the images, it didn't seem very sharp. In fact, Nikon D810 was giving me sharper images with the same lenses. I have tried my prime lenses with D850, and they were all front focusing. So I decided to fine tune the lenses and found them to be sharp at +8.
But on my first shoot with D850, I noticed that the camera focuses very well at close distance, but as the distance grows between camera and the subject, it started front focusing. If I turn off fine tune, it can focus on full body shots fine, but then front focuses on close portraits.
I started digging into this issue and found that dpreview had the same issue when they reviewed the Nikon D850. AF precision is a significant issue as it is not possible to fine tune the camera and the lens for different distances, at least not for the users. Keep changing fine tune values in the middle of a shoot is not very practical either. I have also found a Nikon Article 000006352 where it says how the high resolution affecting the image contrast and they may not appear sharp or I might need to stop down to get sharper images. Let me quote from the article:
"As digital camera pixel counts increase, higher resolution images can be captured. The higher the pixel count is the smaller the pixel size becomes, making blur more noticeable when images are enlarged on a computer monitor. With high pixel counts fine details can be reproduced and depending on the characteristics of the lens used contrast is reduced."
"When images captured with a high pixel count camera are enlarged for viewing purposes, focus may not appear sharp because of decreased contrast in detailed portions, depending on the characteristics of the lens used. Stopping down the aperture increases depth of field for easier focusing, and reduces lens aberrations, improving contrast."
So I was getting sharp images from D810, but not from D850? Not even with some of the best Nikon lenses like the Nikon 105mm F/1.4 E ED and Nikon 200mm F/2G VR II?
So It looks like Full-frame DSLRs have reached their resolution limit, despite the advances in sensor technology. I need a high-resolution camera with larger pixels than what I have with D810/D850.
Need a larger sensor: checked.
Different sensor sizes and their aspect ratios. The larger sensor of Fuji GFX 50S can accommodate larger high quality pixels than Full Frame sensors.
Resolution and Image Quality:
When I post-processed the D850 images the same way I post-process my D810 images, I can see noise starts to creep up sooner than it does with D810 images. Yes, the D850 image noises have finer grain than D810, but nonetheless, they are noise and they show up quicker.
So I started looking at the pixel sizes on a sensor as it plays the biggest role when it comes to noise and dynamic range. I looked at some cameras specifically for comparison. Here they are:
Nikon D810 (36.2MP) - 4.88 micron/pixel
Sony A7r III (42.4MP) - 4.52 micron/pixel
Nikon D850 (45.7MP) - 4.35 micron/pixel
Pentax K1 II (36.4MP) - 4.88 micron/pixel
Canon 5DS R (50.6MP) - 4.14 micron/pixel
Fuji GFX 50S (51.4MP) - 5.33 micron/pixel
Hasselblad H6D-100c (100MP) - 4.60 micron/pixel
And I realized something. If I truly want a significant upgrade, I need to go for a larger sensor camera where I can have not only high resolution but also gain on actual image quality. Right then I know what my next upgrade is going to be: Fuji GFX 50S. This camera with its larger sensor can easily accommodate a higher resolution than D810 and D850, and at the same time, have bigger pixels thanks to the Medium Format sensor.
Larger sensor also helps with dynamic range as well as improved noise performance, both features are important factor when considering an upgrade. Comparing dynamic ranges at different ISOs from Photonstophotos shows the following:
GFX 50S holds its own in the dynamic range chart, specially after ISO 1600 where it truly shines. Not to mention, it is above reproach with any other Full Frame camera at the moment at any ISO.
Higher resolution: checked. | Larger pixels: checked. | Improved noise handling: checked. | Higher dynamic range: checked.
DSLR cameras uses Phase Detection AF. While it is fast, it has a good degree of inaccuracy. Light coming through the lens to the AF sensor, then to the image sensor, lens tuning, AF motors everything needs to work perfectly in sync for a DSLR to achieve focus. There is always a margin of error within which the PDAF works. Most of the time this is not noticeable because of what aperture we use, but if you use a wide aperture lens such as a F/1.4 or similar, you will start to see that focus is not very accurate on many occasions.This is why Full Frame DSLRs offer AF fine tuning so you can tune the sensor. But it is difficult to mess with and you will never be sure and it will always in your head at the background.
Mirrorless cameras do not have mirrors, so they uses their sensor directly to do the focusing, namely Contrast Detect AF. The camera looks at where it needs to focus, adjusts the lens for maximum contrast and locks focus. Contrast Detection AF is extremely accurate. And if we want something from a high-resolution camera, it is the extremely accurate focusing, not within a margin of error. Nikon reasoned in that Article 000006352 why DSLR camera images appear not sharp and with reduced contrast when viewing at 100%. Well I see my Fuji images at 100%, and I am impressed every time with the focus accuracy and the sharpness and the details. Mirrorless cameras seems to have overcome the limitations DSLRs have in terms of focus accuracy. Where Nikon is having issues, Fuji / Sony and other manufacturers seems to be doing fine with their mirrorless cameras.
Extremely accurate focus: checked.
Not only the CDAF, mirrorless brings many other features not available in DSLRs. Sony A9 and A7r III have many great features including Eye-AF, which is a great feature that any portrait photographers would love. Fuji GFX 50S also have Face Detection AF and Eye AF, though not as good / refined as Sony. Still a great feature to have.
I have been using Nikon 105mm F/1.4 E ED and Nikon 200mm F/2 G ED VR II with my D810. So I know how significant a difference a great lens can make to the image. My initial decision to go for Sony A7r III was short lived because of two reasons: Still a Full Frame sensor with smaller pixels than D810, and that the Sony 85mm F/1.4 GM lens didn't deliver the expected performance when I tried it out (Update: 85mm GM was not performing as expected because the lens had an older firmware installed, which I came to know later. With the latest firmware, it works great with A9 / A7r III / A7 III. A7r III is a great camera, but I need something better as my main camera.
Fuji has done a tremendous job with the GFX lenses. Each of the GF lenses they made are real gems. I purchased the Fuji GF 110mm F2 LM WR lens with the GFX, and this lens is nothing short of amazing. Extremely sharp, great micro contrast, great bokeh, amazing depth of field fall-off and not to mention it's weather resistant. They are expensive, but you get what you pay for.
GF 110mm F2 LM WR: Worth in Gold.
So, yes. I switched to Fuji Medium Format Mirrorless from Nikon Full Frame DSLR. Was it easy? No. It took me some time as I had to let go many of my Nikon gears. And it was pretty expensive to switch from one camera setup to another. Not to mention the uncertainty of how a new system would be. But unlike with the last Nikon purchase, I do not have a buyer's remorse with Fuji GFX 50S. I absolutely love it.
I believe the time of mirrorless has come. DSLRs have come a long way, and they are still dominating majority of the professional market. But the mirrorless system is here to stay and with all the features and benefits it is bringing to the photographers, I believe it won't be very long now. Even at the CP+ 2018, where almost all the camera company representatives thinks the same: The Reign of DSLR is almost over.
Go take some photos :)