Apropos Ctein's post above, I want to tell you my conclusions of trying the 8-year-old (Sept. 2008) Sony A900 (24 MP, full frame) and Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 Art against the current (Jan. 2014) Fuji X-T1 (16 MP, APS-C reduced frame) and Fuji XF 23mm (35mm angle of view equivalent) ƒ/1.4.
Why just the conclusions? Because the proof is tedious, and...well, isn't proof. I'll give examples of what I mean by that below.
What I did was to wander around inside and out and make about 40 matching shots with both cameras. I matched ISOs, apertures, and focus points, and let the cameras choose their shutter speeds. I then opened a number of the matching shots in Photoshop so that I could toggle back and forth between the two images and examine them at either 100% or size-matched. (The latter put the Sony images at about 85%.)
There are some distinctions. At ISO 400 outdoors, the Sony is just a little more crisp—you see it especially with complex subjects like bramble at a distance or evergreen trees against the sky. Both camera/lens combinations are very sharp and clear and both hold highlights and shadows equally well. Here's one comparison at ƒ/8:
(Sorry about the guidelines in two of those.) Those are both from the same frames, which look like this:
Is the Sony a little better? Is the Fuji a little better? Overall, and after looking at twenty such comparisons, I'm not sure. I could give the edge to one or the other here or there. But in all cases, the distinctions are minor—much more so than I expected.
The reason these don't prove anything is that it's just with one raw developer and with neither output optimized. For instance, I bet where the Sony seems to have a little better detail, I could get the Fuji's detail closer with Iridient Developer rather than ACR. I'm just testing with my own stuff and doing things my own way, to see for myself.
Here are a few more comparisons, from indoors at ISO 1600 and ƒ/5.6. Tell me which looks better to you, Camera 1 (the labels are consistent) or Camera 2.
Some ninjas can get exifs from screen grabs, but c'mon, play the game, just eyeball these. Just feeling the gestalt, does one camera have an edge over the other, you think? Which one do you prefer? Which one do you think is the Sony and which one the Fuji? (I'll add the reveal tomorrow.)
[UPDATE Sat. Dec. 26: 1 is the Sony A900/Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 Art, 2 is the Fuji X-T1/XF 35mm ƒ/1.4.]
My overall conclusion: there's truly not a lot of difference between them. Not a lot of reason to choose one over the other.
So what I think this shows is the pace of sensor development over the past three-fourths of a decade. It took seven or eight years, but right now, I think we're getting more or less the same image quality from a half-frame 16-MP Fuji as we were getting from a class-leading full-frame 24-MP resolution-champ Sony back then. Yeah, I can see distinctions, but, mostly, they're not enough to matter to me. I could live with one or the other, forget IQ, and just shoot.
More importantly, I'll bet I could show different pictures made from one or the other of these cameras and most people wouldn't be able to tell which ones were shot with the bigger camera and which ones with the newer one. You'd need to be told.
Of course, Sony has much better FF sensors now. I'm not looking at that comparison. But what I am looking at really underscores what Ctein is talking about in his X-mas post above: sensor development is proceeding, and we're not at the end point of technical development yet. What it says is that "the best" is only the best for now. If the market continues to support technological improvement, today's best will mostly likely be overtaken by lesser devices in a handful of years. That's long been known, of course, but here I found myself looking at an actual example that handily demonstrates it.
Progress...quite a gift!
(Thanks to LensRentals for the loan of the Sigma 35mm)
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