A few quick, post Thanksgiving notes. The camera you know is the camera you love. And hate.

I'm still working diligently on my comparison between the Fuji and the Panasonic cameras. Both are the most current models from each maker so there should be no question about comparing older models to newer technology. It's a slog and the addition of the 50mm f2.0 XF lens has created the need to shoot a bit more... Both the G9 and the X-T3 are very good cameras. One excels at handling and the other is a very, very competent photograph maker. I'll have more to say after this week's corporate shoot in three states...

My first note here is just an example of my meandering single-mindedness. One of the first accessories I bought for the Fuji cameras, after extra batteries and an aftermarket flash, was an inexpensive Pen FT to Fuji FX lens adapter. Yeah, you know why.... I had to see if the ancient Olympus 60mm f1.5 worked on the new cameras. I am happy to say that it does and I've been in manual focus, Acros black and white heaven since yesterday. Granted, I haven't had much time to use the combo (X-E3+60mm) but what I have done with them makes me smile. The lens is still an amazing example of just how great some of the lenses from the late 1960's and early 1970's were... It's still a great fast lens and the APS-C crop factor makes it a 90mm portrait lens equivalent.

Several readers have written to tell me that I must try the 55mm f1.2 Fuji lens and add that it's just right for me. Well, no. It's not. It's too short a focal length; by about 5mm. It may be exhilaratingly sharp and sassy but 60mm is where it all starts for a nice headshot in APS-C. Believe me, I've shot the format more than once. But while we're on the subject I'm given to understand that the 50mm XF f2.0 is sharper in the center than the 55mm f1.2 anyway. If I'm going to carry around the weight of the 55/1.2 I'd make a different choice and grab the 16-55mm f2.8 for about the same money. More choice = fewer lenses to carry.

At any rate, I've got the 60mm f1.5 on the X-E3 body and it's pretty sweet. Reminds me of the old Leica LC cameras. Lightweight and fast to use. Not the world's best ergonomics but then the CL wasn't that great to hold either... The files are nice though. As was the film that came from the CL's 40mm Summicron.

As you might know, I've been working for over a month now for a corporate client which has me photographing exterior, environmental portraits at huge infrastructure project sites across the continental United States. I've traveled a lot and have shot nearly 6,000 images. Mostly with a G9 and two great lenses. Just looking at Lightroom stats I see that the lens I seem to be grabbing most, on this job and in conjunction with the G9, is the Panasonic/Leica 12-60mm f2.8/4.0. I don't know exactly why but I'm guessing my sub-conscious brain is guiding my choice based on the idea that the camera and lens combo offer dual I.S. and that it must be something special since it's all over the camera maker's advertising.

I think I'm on to something here. Once I started using the combo on these remote location assignments I got confident enough to leave my Gitzo tripod at home and depend on my ability to handhold the camera and lens. The way I'm packing for next week goes in one of two directions; either all m4:3 gear or all Fuji. If I go with the m4:3rds stuff (which I may because of weather and the comfort of experience) I've pared the equipment down to two lenses and two camera bodies. If I go in that direction I'll take two G9s and both the Panasonic 12-60mm and the Olympus 12-100mm Pro. They both fit into the parameters I've established on my first 16 locations and they provide the perfect back up strategy for each other.

Last week, when I came home from shooting on the same project, with the Fuji X-T3 and the 18-55mm f2.8-4.0, I was happy with the results and ready to substitute the new system for the G9 system. The images looked great, the backgrounds looked great and I pretty much figured out most of the handling issues and settings. What I didn't get absolutely right was well covered by the safety net of shooting raw. So why am I suddenly leaning back toward the small sensor encampment?

It all has to do with how stuff really works rather than theoretical pondering. I've been told that the Fuji has: more dynamic range, better color, more DOF control, etc., etc. and so it should be obvious to me that it's the superior camera system. But experience shows me that the difference in ultimate quality is finer than I ever imagined. Talking about the difference between similar working files is like trying to describe the difference between kinds of fog. In a fog. The differences just aren't as substantive as we are being led to believe. Not in any meaningful way.

This became clear to me as I was working on the part of every assignment that determines a project's ultimate success: post processing and retouching.

My client put together a short list of 120 portrait images that they wanted retouched and made ready for public relations and advertising use. Now, instead of glancing at a SOOC image on a screen and making presumptuous comments I would have to get my hands dirty (metaphorically) and see how the 20 megapixel raw files actually perform when shot the way I shoot. No test chart tacked to the wall. No tripod mounted, remote triggered preciousness. No time to re-shoot and no time to wait for wind to die down or rain to stop. Just make photographs.

The thing that kept my keeper rate high (technically) is that we decided (client+Kirk) that I'd shoot the exterior portraits with an off camera flash and a small soft box or umbrella. The flash does such a great job of freezing small amounts of motion and allows one to actually zoom in on a monitor and look at the fine detail a lens and sensor together are capable of producing. Many of the images were taken in full sun so I had to put up a diffusion panel to prevent direct sun from hitting my subjects, although I did use some direct sun (from time to time) as backlight.

But since there were strong contrasts between deep shadow and daylight exposure that pushed highlights to the brink of burnout a lot of my post production was aimed at making the most of the dynamic range in the raw files. Many times I'd have the shadow slider in Photoshop cranked up as well as the highlight slider. Trying to pull useful detail from a wooded area in shadow while at the same time pulling down highlights on heavy equipment and even water.

All the files have been shot at ISO 200. All the same for the Panasonics and all the Fujis.

I have now spent twelve hours working on the client selected Panasonic files; stopping to compare them to files taken with a Nikon D810, a Sony A7Rii and the X-T3. Shot correctly (meaning: no blown highlights, keeping the shadows as open as possible, and, most importantly, getting the WB correct in camera) the differences at the same magnification are mostly things like differences in depth of field and differences in sharpness of lenses. Key things like noise, resolution, color integrity and dynamic range are all pretty much the same if you are viewing the photographs on a nice monitor. I also find that each camera's look, if the file was originally shot in raw (meaning I was re-working raw files) could be nearly identically mimicked by any of the other cameras using the same raw processor.

If all cameras in my test are compared at ISO 200 and at a maximum size of 20 megapixels it's entirely possible for me to get files that are close enough to each other to be visually nearly identical.

While I've shot with the G9s for a good long while this was the first assignment that really pushed the photographer (me) to do things consistently and for a long period of time. I was like a dilettante in the early days of appraising the camera. I shot a street scene here or there, or a sexy shot of a cup of coffee and that was my test. Now I'm down dirt roads, carrying a 50 pound lighting case, setting up in mud and light rain, putting plastic bags over my flashes, and really working to get the best flesh tones, the best textural detail and the best overall look to my files, and I'm doing it over and over again.

The raw G9 files are superb. I use Lightroom and Photoshop interchangeably and I've learned so much more about getting faces right. I know I need to consistently change the red hue in the raw conversion. My G9s are both subject to having a bit too much magenta in the red channel. Once I zero that out faces look much more natural. The Adobe processing seems to fear green and so is heavy handed about not letting the green channel loose. When using their canned profiles I constantly find myself adding just a tiny bit more green to face colors in order to obtain numeric (and visual) neutrality.

While I might find the Fujis to be superior the more I use them I have to say that the G9s handle really, really well. Much better and much more fluidly than other cameras. If you can't get really good photographs in conditions that call for ISO 200 with the G9s and the two lenses I described above as being in my camera bag I think you might want to consider that something other than the gear is at fault.

The camera makers understand something that I think is also becoming obvious to many photographers. The truth is that we've hit the point where 95% of all the work we do; especially for money, can be well done with just about any interchangeable lens camera out on the market today. Most of the difference between cameras are gingerbread, or specific features aimed strictly at sports photographers. Super fast shutter rates are meaningless to a corporate advertising photographer out getting portraits made with flashes in remote locations. The battery powered flashes can't keep up with 20 or 30 frames per second while being cycled at full power (remember, we're competing with the sun!!!). Ultra fast continuous focus is likewise mostly useless for the kind of work I do. Even super long and fast telephotos have very little (to no) relevance for most of the image making that is most profitable.

The Panasonics and Fujis both have very good face detect AF. I use it a lot. But for critical work I like to stay with manual focusing and punch in magnification for critical focus fine tuning.

At the end of the project I'm currently working on our client will have hundreds of good photographs to use for marketing. The majority of the marketing will be aimed at web-based channels and websites. Some will be used in traditional print. A few images might be selected for display. But the vast majority of the audiences will see the work on the screen of an iPhone or a big Android phone. The step up will be viewing on a laptop screen. If you seriously think there is an ounce of difference between well shot and processed camera files, even from different formats,  when filtered through a 6 bit or 8 bit phone screen at a coffee shop; well I have either a bridge, or a full frame, 50 megapixel camera to sell you. Just keep believing you know what's right until I get your check cashed.

One other note, since Michael Johnston (TheOnlinePhotographer.com) keeps bringing up cars....
I was perfectly happy with my nicely aging Honda CR-V until my wife decided to replace her sixteen year old car and began the process of researching her purchase. She finally decided to get the premium model of the Subaru Impreza hatchback; not because she needed the nicest alloy wheels or the handling extras, and she certainly doesn't need the seat warmers (this is central Texas, after all). She bought the upgrade model because she wanted every single safety feature offered and that was the cheapest and most efficient way to get them.

I saw the car in the driveway when I got home from Iceland and thought it looked pretty cool. Then we drove down to San Antonio a week ago to visit my dad. Belinda drove down and I drove back to Austin. I was amazed. I don't know if it's the all wheel drive or just the relentless improvement of cars but I was in love with the handling of the car by the time I got home. 80 mph was solid and flawless. The interior was much more comfortable than my six year old car. Now the damage is done and I want one of my own. It makes no sense at all as I only have 60,000 miles on my car and it's perfect for hauling around all the photo-crap I sometimes take on assignments. I can even fit a nine foot long roll of seamless paper, in the box, in the CR-V and still close the hatchback. But the lure of a lower, grippier car is like a siren's song.... I'm sure I'll figure out some way to rationalize the purchase before too long... quick, someone tie me to the mast...

If MJ is serious about NOT wanting an SUV but wanting a car that feels perfect he ought to be looking at the little Impreza. But then I also think he should be shooting with a Panasonic G9 and the 12/60mm. But everyone has to come to these things on their own.

Finally, what have I bought to flesh out my Fuji "system"??? Well, we're sitting here with an X-T3, X-E3 (the back up camera/art camera), the 18-55mm, the 55-200mm, the 50mm f2.0, the 35mm f2.0, a funky Kamlan 50mm f1.1, and a Fotasy Pen FT to FX adapter, which opens up the door to a bunch of fun, fast lenses.... Oh, and a Godox dedicated flash. A few more additions and I'll have a real system here. But for now I have all my favorite focal lengths well covered. We'll see what happens in the great smack down. For now? I've veering back and forth like a texting millenial in a hubcap-less Toyota Corolla bouncing around the lanes on the freeway, desperately trying to stay connected.

Crazy travels start Monday at 5:30 am. Hope you stay in touch! Kirk


John said...

It’s funny. I started reading your blog when you just had - and said you were happy with - Panasonic cameras. Since then, you’ve bought new Panasonics, added a bunch of Nikon gear and are playing around with Fuji. You’ve got me worried that you’re not a cure to my own wandering behavior when it comes to camera gear.

Anonymous said...

"The differences just aren't as substantive as we are being led to believe. Not in any meaningful way"

I've got bored of saying this to people who want to be told different. I don't know if it's to do with buying stuff online but there's a reluctance to go in a camera shop (we have 4 locally) and pick up the cameras and see how they feel, and pick the one that suits your hand. They'll all take great photos.

There's also something around getting lenses which suit. I love a couple of the primes for the olympus. I use them for over 90% of my work.

If people could concentrate on picking a camera which felt good and has a lens which matches their needs and stopped fretting about spec sheets and sensor sizes, the world would be a happier place.

(i think my view has been shaped to a large extent by your blog - you turn out great work on everything, and the magic rendering of some of the old lenses you use puts most of the spec sheet arguments to bed)

Thanks for blogging. You write really well.


ODL Designs said...

A fair assessment. The g9 does really punch above is weight and has the advantage of being a part of a very broadly supported system in both video and stills.

But boy, you jumped right into the Fuji system :) I am looking forward to read more on your thoughts as you adjust!

Keep well

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I'm really interested in your comparison of the two camera systems. I haven't quite got a grip on the X-T3 stabilization situation. It DOESN'T have IBIS but the lenses do have stabilization, is the correct?

-- John Camp

David said...

What we all secretly suspect? That the image quality now of most cameras is good enough in the hands of someone who knows how to work them?
And that choice of a camera comes down to other factors. Like familiarity, how it fits in the hand, lenses or status.
Lovely to be able to try out other brands. My X-T2 more than does the job I bought it for, but if someone put a G9 and some lenses in my hand, I'd be quite happy to take it for a spin.
I wanted to hire a cheap car in France a few years ago. They were short on automatics (driving on the other side of the road with a manual didn't look a good option) and they upgraded me to a BMW with 5km on the clock. Fantastic car to borrow but a stupid one to own. You just know that the computer systems would expensively give up the ghost just after the warranty expired. I've notched up a quarter of a million kilometres in my Subaru without major expense and expect to get another quarter of a million before either I or it dies.

Dano said...

In 40 years of travel I had three goals 1) return safe, 2) take at least one image, 3) find a good place to have at least one meal I would remember. In Durham there is a gourmet bar b que place called “The Pit”. My nephew is the pit boss. It is not the standard eastern Carolina pork but still decent. Try it.

Anonymous said...

SHORT Prediction: G9 is better (technically), but Fuji X-t3 is an absolute beauty to handle and operate.

Dano said...

Kirt, can’t wait for the results of the smack down. I trust you assessment more than the other so-called experts. I have 4/3, Fuji, and full frame Sony. It seems that I gravitate to 4/3 when a crucial assignment is on the table, my stuff just seems to turn out better. Shooting Fuji is just plain fun and I feel like I did went I use to shot Nikkomat. I just don’t get either the same feel or results I like with full frame. So I am due for an upgrade on my OMD Mark 2 or my Fuji x-t20, thus your assessment may break my ties between Fuji and 4/3.

Kirk Tuck said...

The blog is NOT advertised as a cure for insatiable gear desire. Sorry.

Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks Mark, My high school English teachers, Ms. Lakich and Mr. Worrell, would be happy to hear it. It's just a continuing look at life from my point of view.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi ODL, can't make a real system assessment from one lens and one camera, right?

Kirk Tuck said...

No in body image stabilization in any Fuji body but the X-H1. It's hit and miss in the lenses. The most coveted, like the 55mm f1.2 and the 16-55mm f2.8 don't have stabilization either.... Tripod or Panasonic?

Kirk Tuck said...

Or it could be just the opposite.....

Anonymous said...

In 5 years of m43 I've learned that there is a lot of info in the m43 raw files (with careful/thoughtful processing).
You don't necessarily need much better sensors. But I wish Olympus would do a bit more software R&D in order to make getting the best out of the files a bit easier.
Their in-camera processing (and Olympus Viewer 3) produce beautiful colours, but a high quality shadow/highlight recovery (a la Lightroom) would go a long way :)

And as to Panasonic Vs Fuji - my guess (I own neither) is that the Panasonic is a great tool to get a job done and that the Fuji is a great camera to have fun with. :)


jtsmall said...

The observations, so well stated, about the state of the equipment available today is consistent with my experience too. Much more importantly, as I but wish I were an accomplished photog, is consistent with Thom Hogan's findings as expressed this same month in his post 'Are DSLRs Still The Best Choice?', November 3, 2018. Most succinctly in the first paragraph of his Final Words.

After all, the professional never blames his tools. That luxury is reserved for the dilettante, like myself.

ODL Designs said...

So true, and it seems on some level I won't truely know m43rds until I have all the f1.2 lenses

Jerry said...

Wait on an electric car, Kurt. We (the human race) are burning this planet to the ground. Twenty pounds of carbon dioxide is produced for every gallon of gas burned. Do what you can to mitigate. Plus, no more gas stations, oil changes, radiator flushes, or even brake shoes (regenerative braking does 95% of the duty). I'll never buy a gas vehicle again after 7 months with a Tesla Model 3.

EdPledger said...

Stick that 40mm f1.4 Pen Ft on the X-E3, and put the 25 Pen in the coat pocket. Think you are gonna like ‘em for walk around. Use my X-E2 with those, and the electronic shutter that just goes snitch. Fun combos.

Jack said...

But, but but, there must be a significant difference in image quality because the sensors, bodies & lenses are bigger and more expensive, which is always BETTER, right?

I jest, surely.

Thanks as always for your detailed report on real-life shooting experiences. While they may be different from mine, it's still about getting the best image you can.

I try to shoot with what works best for me and gets in the way the least.

EdPledger said...

Overlooked your Impreza experience. Couple observations. The wife has had one for a couple years, and I have had Subies since ‘98. While she loves the leather seats and the seat warmers (in Houston), the chief advantage in Texas, I think, with the AWD system, is a slightly reduced tendency to lose control on wet streets. And that is not an insignificant consideration. They never get the advertised gas mileage, and you had better check oil levels periodically as the boxer tends to use a bit more oil than you might expect. Just normal for the flat four. They have always freely revved and the darting acceleration works in traffic. You might well prefer the Forester. Same engine, comfy seats and interior, but more headroom and storage, But be aware, none are off road vehicles, despite the fact that I have slowly waddled right through muddy stretches in my old Forester where 4X4 pickups were getting stuck. And that might be handy on shoots with those environmental portraits. Ciao.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk, apologies if I’m repeating something already discussed before- this goes to Ming’s point about sufficiency. Mainly in terms of resolution of sensors and the medium for viewing images.
Not THAT Ross Cameron

atmtx said...

I drove the Subaru Impreza for a year and now my son in San Antonio is using it at school. I liked the car and he loves it.

Len Metcalf said...

I love photography in mist. Fog is at the delightfully delicious end of a spectrum that might finish in rain or sunshine. After spending the last twenty five years in it I can assure you it’s nuanced.

Recently I have been thinking of picking up a G9, mainly to drive the 200mm f2.8, but to experience for myself some of this magic.

I keep threatening to sell my fuji gfx. I just don’t enjoy using it. But the files are just delightful after years of micro four thirds.

I definitely don’t need a new camera and I know the differences are small, yet I can’t wait to read your comparison.

Great reading, as always. Thank you

Bruce Bodine said...


I would be interested in knowing if you think the Fuji lenses you have are in the same class and performance characteristics as the Olympus glass? Always enjoy your analysis as it is truly real world with no brick walls!

Take care,
Bruce Bodine

John said...

I couldn't agree more with this post. In the age of digital it is easy to get caught up in the discussion of which cameras have the most dynamic range or the best performance at ISO unobtanium. While these are not technically incorrect they miss the point that good, or even what might have been considered totally unusable, light even a few years ago will allow the user to make technically excellent photographs. If you don't have enough of that light a little bit of flash can go a long way as well.

David said...

With current resources electric cars are a pipe dream at best and a scam at worst.
They still use oil to produce, and taken over their total production cycle including disposal they are little better than their petrol equivalents, and vehicles like the Mitsubishi Mirage actually come out better.
There are not enough accessible resources like copper and lithium left on the earth to effect a mass change over to electric.
Car tyre abrasion remains the single biggest source of primary microplastic pollution in the environment.
A mass change to electric might be possible, however, on two wheels. My electric bike has just about paid for itself in terms of savings in fuel and wear and tear.

Richard N. said...

Hey Kirk,

If you find the Impreza doesn't have the space you need, be sure to try the Forester (or even the Crosstrek). The handling of all Subaru cars is just special, particularly at Interstate speeds. I have a 2014 Forester XL (the 2.0 turbo)and it is about the best handling car I have ever owned (I'm 76).

I traded in a Mazda-3 zoom-zoom hatchback for the Forester because my wife had difficulties getting out of it because of a bad hip. As much fun as the Mazda was, I really like the feel of the Forester much better (not to mention I feel much safer on the Atlanta Interstates!) Your instincts are correct...get a Subaru!


PacNW said...

I doubt it's the all wheel drive. That only makes a difference when: 1) you are trying to accelerate; and 2) one or more tires is on a slippery surface and one or more others aren't (it can add traction, not grip). In other words, it makes no difference for most people around 99.99% of the time -- other than adding weight, friction, expense, and complexity. It is a very nice car though.

Do test drive a Mazda3 5-door against it. Mazda's handling magic really shines.

Anonymous said...


I have been a Micro 4/3 shooter for years, and in the quest for improved image quality, sold nearly all my Micro 4/3 gear earlier this spring and jumped on the Fuji band wagon. I bought a X-E3 and four lens for the Fuji. Less than a month in the wifi feature stopped working correctly and would not shut-off, even when turning the camera off (the only fix was to remove the battery and reinsert it).

Fuji did end up replacing the camera with a new X-E3 which worked just fine, but I had little faith in the camera after that. While I do think the image quality was better than Micro 4/3 (my camera immediately before it wasI an Olympus Pen-F) it was not by leaps and bounds until you got to high ISO shots, where the Fuji was superior. So I reverted back to Micro 4/3. Unbeknownst to me I must have an inkling this was going to happen because while I sold all the other Micro 4/3 gear I kept the little Panasonic/Leica 15mm, f1.7 lens, which is a gem of a lens. In reality I rarely shot high ISO very much anyhow, so that negated that advantage of the Fuji.

So all the Fuji gear is now gone and I bought a Panasonic GX-9 and I am quite happy with it. Image quality is pretty darn good and everything just seems to work as it should.

Happiness restored, that is until I went to Photo Plus show I happened to try the Nikon Z6 - and I must say i rather liked it. Is there ever a cure for gear lust? One tries to be logical and rational regarding these things, but too often that is of little consequence. If you know of a cure please enlighten us.


PS I just finished your book yesterday and enjoyed it very much. May Henry White live on in more adventures.

Unknown said...

Though you touched on features, characteristics, and capabilities of the Panasonic and Fuji cameras here, I am still eagerly awaiting your more extensive "comparison between the Fuji and the Panasonic cameras." Thanks in advance.