Yet another "help me choose a camera" post.
May 25, 2021 7:47 AM   Subscribe

However, in this case, I have already narrowed it down to two cameras! I would like to hear from experienced photographers or owners of these cameras to get real-world advice. I am moving up from higher end point and shoot cameras to a large sensor, and I just cannot make up my mind. For your consideration, the Fujifilm X-T4 and the Nikon Z6.

Currently, I can get either camera with a good zoom lens for about the same price. So, here is my rambling treatise on what I am looking for and what concerns me.

The Fuji is newer, but expensive for a cropped frame sensor. I love the manual controls and would love to use menus less. I like its smaller size, too. I love the built-in filters for jpegs. I have heard that the raw files it produces are more difficult to open and process with Adobe Camera Raw. Is this true? Based on its form factor and look, I think the Fuji X-T4 is the camera I would definitely purchase if it were full-frame. However, I'm worried that the cropped frame reduces its low-light performance.

The Nikon is older. I can't afford the Mark II version, so I would need to stick with the original. Does this make it less desirable compared to the Fuji? However, if the Mark II version is a must-have, let me know and I will save longer. I wish it had dials for ISO and shutter speed, but I could live without them if the Nikon interface is easy to use. Is it? I also like to shoot in low light, like inside cathedrals. This camera has much better low light sensitivity than the Fuji, but will the Fuji be good enough for this use? I've heard some complaints about the Z6's auto-exposure on backlit subjects and sometimes strange color balance. However, reviews find nitpicky things to complain about for all cameras and I don't know if the Fuji does better at these things.

Which camera has better autofocus? Which camera is less likely to become obsolete (whatever that might mean to you)? Given any negatives that you have found yourself in real-world use, does either camera have a deal-killer issue?

In the end, I do think that either camera will be wonderful for me, but I still want to make the best choice, so thank you for any advice you can give!
posted by Don_K to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
OK consider that the best camera is the one you have with you. A full frame camera and lenses to support it weigh at least 2x and take up at least 2x as much space as a crop sensor camera. In addition, full frame lenses are absolutely more expensive than crop frame lenses of the same quality. So the crop-frame camera will fit in a smaller bag and have a smaller life-time cost considering the addition of more lenses, etc.

Also the user interface for the XT-4 is very nice with the knurled knobs and so on. I still love using my Leica M9 even though its sensor is a decade out of date (though for fuck's sake, still good enough for 99.9% of all still photography, god damn pixel peepers), because it's just such a pleasure to use. Though if I want autofocus I'll reach for the Sony crop-frame which is somewhat clunkier but certainly more versatile in extremis.

I suggest you physically handle the cameras you are considering before you buy them. These are tactile machines and if they don't feel good in the hand you won't enjoy using them as much.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:09 AM on May 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

Modern APS-C sized sensors (like the Fuji) cameras do just fine in low light. Hell, any modern sensor of any size will perform better in low light than older cameras. If your main concern is low light performance, then I don't think either of those bodies will make much of a difference. (I took this on my X-S10 which has the same sensor as the X-T4 if you want to see what a high ISO image in our dark office looks like.) I used a micro 4/3 camera for a decade and its low light performance was also great.

Based on what I've read, I personally think full frame (35mm equivalent) is on its way out, likely to be filled in by APS-C and medium format. APS-C equipment is smaller, lighter, and cheaper, and if you really need to produce large prints than you're going to go for medium format digital which is getting surprisingly affordable.

As far as handling the Fuji (again, I have the X-S10 but it's all very similar), I find the user experience to be very good. I have no issues getting images in to Lightroom (which I think uses some form of Camera Raw internally?). After shooting RAW exclusively for two decades, I actually really like the straight-out-of-the-camera performance of the JPEGs, and the film simulations are really neat. One downside is that there are almost no third-party X-mount lenses, so there will be a premium for Fuji-branded glass.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

You're dealing with the tyranny of choice plus the tyranny of "prosumerism", and you're hardly alone in that. In terms of obsolescence, Sony's still selling the a6000 (first made in 2014) which tells you a little about how this kind of camera sticks around.

From admittedly limited experience, I'd be inclined to go with Fuji because it has devoted the bulk of its efforts to this section of the market and arguably produces the best camera-like objects in terms of ergonomics. The JPEG engine is really impressive, and the film simulations really changed my experience of taking photos: sometimes digital photography has you thinking more about how you'll tweak the RAW files once you get home, but the X series lets you dial in most of what you want on-camera and stay in the moment.

You do need to handle them first. Renting each for a week or so would be best, though that bites a chunk out of your budget. (*cough* generous return policy *cough*)
posted by holgate at 8:45 AM on May 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Nthing that I'd go to a camera store and at least hold both. I find some bodies feel off (smaller Fujis cramp my hands) and some feel perfect (Canon R for me). I would prioritize tools that feel good to use over pixel-peeping in this case, as both cameras will take perfectly good photos and it sounds like both will be a big step up in quality from your existing kit.
posted by matrixclown at 8:58 AM on May 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Get an XT3 and save yourself some money! It's the same sensor. At the very least check out some XT3 vs XT4 comparisons and see how many of the added features apply to your use case. A great many of them are video-centric.
posted by Lorin at 9:48 AM on May 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Shortest answer: they're both great. Buy whichever one you like holding and using more.

Longer answer: I shoot with two Micro Four Thirds cameras from about 2013 (so, both older and smaller than what you're talking about). I always try to know enough about the market that if I had to buy a new camera in a hurry I wouldn't be unhappy with it. I've taken a bunch of pictures inside cathedrals (and even in the Paris catacombs) using only available light, and the XT4 (or even the XT3) would absolutely be good enough for that use, which I know because my m43 cameras also absolutely are good enough for it.

For me the one (1) use case where I regularly wish I had a larger sensor is doing night sky work. The Z6 was my "if I were buying a full frame" choice before the Z6ii came out, and it should still be a fine camera. If you like the handling better than the Fujifilm, or if you anticipate needing to shoot in light so bad you can't see anything with your eyes, get the Nikon. Personally I might appreciate a little more color depth in some of my hiking photos, but I wouldn't appreciate it enough to offset the extra bulk and weight of a full frame camera. My m43 kit is smaaaaaallll as long as I commit to my lens choices.

But really, don't pay too much attention to the specs. Rent, borrow, or at least handle them for a while in your local camera shop and buy whichever one you like more. The ergonomics and shooting style matter more than the pixels.
posted by fedward at 10:30 AM on May 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, I have to say that I didn't expect the majority of comments to come down on the Fuji side! Since I was leaning towards the Z6 (almost entirely due to its low-light level performance), this makes it a bit more difficult to choose. Lorin mentions the XT3, but I believe it doesn't have image stabilization, which I would want. Thanks for the great comments so far!
posted by Don_K at 10:40 AM on May 25, 2021

Best answer: You might be seeing more Fujifilm endorsements simply because Nikon didn't have a strong mirrorless game until relatively recently.

I have an earlier generation of your Fujifilm option — the X-T2 — and I still love it. It’s the first camera I reach for even when I have access to a full-frame alternative. I love how it feels, I love the ergonomics, and I love the jpegs Fujifilm makes. Low light performance has been very good in my opinion, even for astrophotography, and I imagine it’s even better in the X-T4. Fujifilm glass is excellent, if a bit pricey, and I don’t feel constrained by their lens range. As someone who also has experience shooting full-frame on other systems (but not the Z6), I can heartily recommend the Fujifilm X-T line.

Despite my Fujifilm endorsement, I agree there aren’t clear cut cases to be made for one system over another because everyone is making really good cameras these days and the differences between full-frame and APS-C aren't significant for a lot of people in most circumstances. Weight-wise, the Z6 with the 24-70 lens is not that much heavier than the X-T4 with the 18-55, though you’d notice a bigger weight and size difference with primes and longer lenses. I do occasionally miss having a shallower DOF when I'm using my XT-2 and I know I could get even better night sky shots with a full-frame when I’m out in wilderness, but really APS-C is still a great format. Your decision should come down to how the cameras feel in your hands and what your own opinions are of the images, so really try to take both the X-T4 and Z6 for a test drive if you can.

Btw, the issue with Adobe Camera Raw’s processing of X-Trans images has been fixed to most people’s satisfaction since Adobe introduced the ‘Enhance Details’ function in Lightroom a few years ago, but it’s not a straightforward story and many would argue it wasn’t really a big deal in the first place. I find Adobe does pretty well with X-Trans raw processing now even without using ‘Enhance Details’. My own workflow with Fujifilm is to process raws with Iridient X-Transformer before bringing them into Lightroom and I get great results (if rather large-ish files).
posted by theory at 11:56 AM on May 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

(I think a lot of enthusiasts consider mirrorless / APS-C / Micro Four Thirds to be modern-day equivalent of rangefinders or small vintage SLRs because that's the shape they've taken from the outset. The X-Series is more rangefinder-y, though the X-Pros are obviously more so than the X-Ts. The Nikon Z-series is more "mirrorless DSLR.")
posted by holgate at 12:26 PM on May 25, 2021

Best answer: Z6 owner here. You can assign things like shutter speed, iso and aperture to the control dials. You probably won't assign iso because the auto-iso function is very good. I almost always shoot in aperture priority and let the camera decide shutter speed and iso. I use the second dial for exposure compensation. I agree with the previous posters that the physical feel should be a main criteria because the two cameras are so similar. Both Nikon and Fuji are known for having great feel of controls, grips and well-designed menus. The quality of the electronic viewfinder is important. The Nikon probably has an edge for using vintage lenses because of its large lens mount. There is more old Nikon glass than old Fuji lenses.
posted by conrad53 at 11:46 AM on May 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: UPDATE: I checked them both out and chose the Nikon Z6. I've only had it for a few days now, but I am figuring the system out pretty well. In the end, I valued the low-light performance, the larger grip, and a few other features over the Fuji. The lenses are somewhat bigger than the Fuji's, but the body is nearly identical in size and weight. Thanks for all of your responses and have a great summer!
posted by Don_K at 11:20 AM on July 2, 2021

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