Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the mirrorless championship fight. Under the bright lights in the exposure triangle we have three new contenders.
In the red corner, Canon’s new full-frame sensor camera — the 30.3 Megapixel Canon EOS R. In the green corner, Nikon’s new full-frame sensor camera — the 45.7 Megapixel Nikon Z7; and in the blue corner, fighting slightly out of its weight class, Fujifilm’s new APSC sensor camera — the 26 Megapixel Fujifilm X-T3.
This challenge has come about because of the recent spate of new releases in this category and the winner of the contest will earn the right to challenge Sony as the leader in the mirrorless weight class.
All three are similar in size, compact but big enough to feel comfortable to hold. Canon and Nikon have released new lenses for the new cameras but their full range of lenses are fully compatible with new adapters. Canon’s new RF lenses are beautiful pieces of glass but look quite big on the compact EOS R. Nikon’s new Z lenses are more in keeping with the size of their new cameras (Nikon have also released the Nikon Z6, a little brother to the Z7)
It would be unfair to compare the three cameras directly but I will give my impressions of the pros and cons of each when I used them over a weekend.
Styling and ease of use
The Nikon and the Canon have similar modern styling with excellent ergonomics whereas Fujifilm has stuck with its retro look with big easy-to-use and understand dials for ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation. For me, the Fujifilm is not as easy on the eye as the other two but it is the easiest camera to understand and use when you unpack it.
The Nikon and Canon have slick modern dials and buttons that can be customised to suit your individual preference so they take a bit longer to set up and familiarise yourself with, but once that is done they are a pleasure to use. Their design is unmistakably Canon and Nikon so if you are familiar with some of their other products it will be an easy transition. The Canon wins the beauty contest with its refined, curvy looks.
Viewfinder and LCD screen
The electronic viewfinders in the three cameras all have 3.69 million dot resolutions but somehow the EVFs in the Nikon and the Fuji were noticeable brighter than the Canon’s.
The Canon has the better LCD monitor, its fully variable angle screen can point in any direction (including forward for selfies) The Fujifilm’s screen tilts in three directions whereas the Nikon’s screen only tilts up and down.
Shooting modes, FPS and Autofocus
All the usual shooting modes are on tap in all three. The Canon has the fastest autofocus and has added a new FV variable mode that combined with a new control ring on the RF lenses allows you quickly and easily to take control of either ISO, shutter speed or aperture. The Fujifilm has the fastest frame rate (up to 30fps black-out free continuous shooting) and an excellent autofocus system. All three have more in their menus than the average photographer will ever need.
ISO range and low-light performance
I was surprised to find how well the Fujifilm with the smaller APSC sensor performed compared with the full-frame sensors in the Nikon and the Canon. Bigger is usually better, particularly when it comes to low-light performance, but I had to be very picky to notice any significant difference.
I used the cameras in different lighting conditions ranging from full sun to cloudy to low light indoors and outdoors and the Fujifilm’s JPEG algorithm was outstanding in all these situations. The Canon’s on the other hand was a bit disappointing. I’m a Canon shooter who shoots most of my pictures in RAW and I have to admit to being somewhat surprised by the Canon JPEGs compared with the Nikon and Fujifilm, which seem to have a more vibrant look.
All three brands have a huge range of lenses and accessories. Though the range of new lenses available for the Canon and the Nikon are limited at the moment, their adaptors means all their existing lenses are fully compatible. The Fujifilm wins the card battle, it is the only one with dual card slots. The Nikon uses the XQD system which is better than the SD system used by the Canon.
Standard video, these days, is 4K video so it’s no surprise they can all shoot it. Nikon and Canon can shoot 4K at 30p but Fujifilm shoots 4K at 60p, so a win for Fujifilm.
The Fujifilm X-T3 body only is $2299 and the Fujifilm FX 18-55 f/2.8-4 lens $599. At the moment there is a $150 cashback offer on it.
The Canon EOS R kit with the RF 24-105 f/4 lens is $4855.
The Nikon Z7 kit with the Nikkor Z 24-70 f/4 lens is $6199
And the winner is ...
I can’t go past the Fujifilm as the best all-rounder, even though the X-T3 has the smallest sensor it punches way above its weight class in quality and value. The ease of use and the excellent JPEGs the camera produces makes it a great travel camera. It is very versatile with excellent autofocus and super-fast frame rates which makes it good for sports photography as well. The Fuji lenses are superb and the APSC sensor will satisfy most users.
If you want the absolute best resolution, the Nikon Z7 is the camera for you. The 45.7-megapixel files deliver excellent quality, perfect for the serious landscape photographer but I think it is fair to say that the big file size is a bit excessive for the average traveller. Perhaps its little brother, the 24.5-megapixel Nikon Z6, will be more suited as a travel camera.
The Canon is a very nice camera, it is clear that they are taking the mirrorless class seriously now. Of the three cameras it is my favourite with regards to ergonomics and looks. The build quality is very high and the EOS R performs well in all areas, it has excellent autofocus and the 30-megapixel size is about right for a full-frame camera in my opinion. It is hard to fault, but I found moving the autofocus point on the touch screen a little tricky to get used to, I think they would have been better served with a mini joystick like the other two. The new RF lenses are excellent but perhaps a little big compared with the compact EOS R body.
Canon is rumoured to be working on a Canon EOS R Pro, a high-spec 1D-style camera with more megapixels to compete directly with the Nikon Z7.