Sony Versus Fuji Lenses: Which Are Sharper?

The debate will rage on for as long as there are cameras, but who's currently winning?

This is a timely video post by the Northrupians as 2019 has been a war in my mind between Sony and Fujifilm. It was the first full working year I had been fully Sony, using the a7 III and I've loved it, truly. The change to mirrorless was perfect for me and as my DSLR was a little on the old side anyway, the transition was nothing but positives. I didn't write on article on the change simply because it wasn't a fair comparison and it's a noisy enough space as it is!

Then Fuji threw me back into turmoil when they sent me to Fujikina with their GFX 100 and the GFX 50R and I fell in love. The problem for me was justifying the price point, but if I were to have compared like for like — that is, mirrorless full frame for mirrorless full frame — I do wonder where I would have ended up. Fuji has been making tremendous strides with its cameras for over a decade now and it's great to see them in the conversation with the "big 3" manufacturers, as they deserve to be.

I'm not much of a pixel peeper personally, but for some of my commercial work, particularly where I'm macro stacking intricate items, the sharpness of a body and lens is paramount. Fortunately for me, the Northrups don't compare macro lenses or I could find myself with a problem!

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Interesting video. But Tony ignores two Sony APS-C lenses that are both exceptional - the 18-135 mm and the 70-350.


Tony posts here, maybe he can explain the omission.

shouldn't be the full frame 55 sony be better, since here we use only part, actually the center, of the image circle? typically lenses perform best in the center.

That was conventional wisdom for a long time. It is true that you crop away the softer edges when you use a FF lens on an APS-C camera. You end up with more uniform sharpness across the frame. But you also have to account for the fact that you are magnifying the part of the image circle that isn't cropped away. This is non-intuitive (and like so many things in photography, you can look at it from different perspectives) but think of it this way: If you print an 8x12 using the entire image circle compared to an 8x12 using just a crop of the image circle, the print of the crop will necessarily be zoomed in. The more you zoom in, the softer the image becomes. This is why m43 lenses have to be designed to a higher standard than FF lenses. This also tells us that Sony's 70-200 should resolve more detail on a FF camera than the Fuji 50-140 on an APS-C since it can match the Fuji using only part of the image circle.

FWIW, I shoot Fuji and it frustrates me that, at least when it comes to zooms, Fuji seems incapable of designing lenses that are in the same league as the best of Canon, Sony and Nikon. Yes, Capture One does a visibly better job than Lr but the sharpness falloff from center-to-corner cannot be blamed on Lr nor does it disappear in C1.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Made absolutely no sense to use the Sony 55 f1.8 FE instead of the 50 f1.8 OSS ($348). He's always advising to avoid using FF lenses on APS-C bodies. A fair comparison would have been crop [body + lens] vs crop [body + lens].

Not interested. This is Tony Northrup who defamed photographer Steve McCurry with a video based on false claims.

Dan Seefeldt's picture

I see you don't take apologies and retractions to heart.

Oh yes I do ... *except* that there was no apology or retraction. The problem: the defamatory video is still UP. It is still defaming Steve McCurry right NOW. It's still garnering views and clicks and cheers for this gear muppet and his sponsor. And the followup video made just one correction, ignoring all of the other errors. However, that one error was huge: there was NO burka. She wasn't wearing one. She wasn't required to wear one. There was no penalty for not wearing one. Anybody could have seen that or researched that. Oops! And yet the invented forced removal of a non-existent burka (and thus a violation of her "personal boundaries") was THE core premise of the video. Also, there was no apology for the sneaky cutting of Sharbat Gula's TV interview -- just before she talks positively about the photo. There was no apology for inventing "fear" of the photographer -- not supported by any source. There was no apology for the posting of "sources" that did not support the claims of the video; some alleged "sources" turned out to be just sheer speculation (or "original thinking" as Tony paints it) -- not in any actual source. I read the so-called sources that he posted. Did you? There was no apology for outright making things up, such as the obviously non-existent "negative space" in the famous photo (it's not there!). There was no apology for the false title of the video (that it was the "True Story"). There was no apology for failing to do any of the due diligence of a journalist, such as interviewing people with first-hand knowledge of facts (the subject, the photographer, the writer, the editors, etc.). There was no apology for exploiting the reputation of a great photographer for the sake of YouTube views ... still happening.

Dan Seefeldt's picture

1. given how youtube rolls with reaction and response videos its fine to keep up.

2. In the video description he links to the second video.

1. "Fine to keep up"? Is that a joke? It's not fine at all. Keeping the first video up means there was no genuine apology, let alone a retraction. Retraction means you take it DOWN. Keeping it up for more views, despite its horrible reputation-damaging errors and lies, is exactly what a sleazoid does.

2. Saying "he links to the second video" isn't saying anything good. The second video is a huge failure in that it mostly reaffirms the horrid first video. It essentially says we made just this "one" little mistake, but you can trust the rest. That is a big ugly lie making the second video as bad as the first. Most people — like yourself apparently — don't have time to to examine the facts, so they fell for it, garnering Tony Northrup more views and cheers. The sleazoid fooled people once in the first video, and in the second video doubled-down on it, fooling people again. By pretending to "correct" the first video in one detail, the sleazoid distracts you from noticing how egregious the first video was.

Now tell me again about those "apologies and retractions".

Stuart Carver's picture

These are the kind of YouTube channels I’m avoiding like the plague now... funny how a lot of them seem to be American whilst a lot of the British channels focus on photography.

Indeed, I just ignore to so called influencers who make money starting bullshit statements just to get the clicks. But not all that comes from America is clickbait, for example Joe Edelman learnt my a lot about portret photography.

Stuart Carver's picture

Yeah it’s a fair comment, i shoot Landscape and enjoy watching Street videos too, so Nick Page, Omar Gonzales, Michael Shainblum and a few others are definitely good channels. The water is muddied by the likes of Angry Fuji man, Afro, Northrups and even the notorious Ken Rockwell has started a channel.

barry cash's picture

One can easily believe this site because you can not only see for your own eyes but you can see the definition of detail in the testing.. I find the UTubers reaching sometimes for content. PS I could care less which is better I don't shoot Fuji glass on Sony and don't shoot Sony glass on Fuji. I do however try to buy good glass period. Also anyone comparing zooms that knows anything about zooms knows they are only sharp between the ends. Baring all the other factors that make sharp give me micro pop, OOF, and contrast over sharpness any day. PS for the op that questioned Macro the Fuji macro 80mm might just be the best macro lens ever made if you can use the focal length.

OFF Topic the reviewers say capture one pro is sharper than Lightroom with fuji files?

Question LR has an issue with older MacBooks when in Develop mode the files are soft compared to Library mode does anyone have information of a review pointing this out. Because this little know fact might skew the results.
My experience with Lightroom moving the files to PS is they are plenty sharp with no artifacts. Plus the color science that I get out of PS is amazing with the Fuji files.

I just upgraded my 2013 15” MBP to a 16” MBP, and an issue I had with the old one is that quite often the Lightroom image would render in a lower resolution ‘preview” and get stuck in that resolution until closing and re-opening. I haven’t seen this happen with the new MBP.

This is only interesting if you start from scratch. If you have invested in lenses and flashes,it is pretty expensive to switch. That is the same for pros as for amateurs.

I have long found Tony Northrup to present a reasonable and unbiased assessment of gear performance. This video upholds the same attributes, no doubt, but it has to be said is just plain stupid, because it enables no decision-making in the real world.

1. Why compare the 56 f/1.2 against the Zeiss 55 instead of the Sony E 50 f/1.8? The Zeiss is FF and having used both the Zeiss and the Fuji, the Zeiss is significantly sharper even at f/1.8 if used on the body it is recommended for, like an A7iii. The Fuji doesn't give a shallower dof at f/1.2 either as dof is affected by crop factor, ofcourse it lets in more light. This is a stupid comparison.

2. He completely ignores that there are 2 excellent telephoto lenses for Sony, the 70-200 f/4 and the 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 even though I personally think no one buying an apsc camera will even consider those, let alone the GM glass. How is this a practical comparison that enables decision making. If at all use the new apsc telephoto 70-350 for the comparison, mate.

3. Why not process Fuji with Capture One or something else when it has known issues with LR? I can bet the 16-55 Fuji looks a lot better processed with Capture One, even the 18-55. Or show the darned JPEGs, even that makes for a fairer comparison.
He has managed to make the Sony kit lens look good when even most first time buyers avoid it because of corner softness.

4. The $5700 vs $3700 comparison. Sigh! Which kind of photographers' selection of lenses looks like either of those?

Really poorly thought out video. I mean, full marks for the unbiased-ness, appreciate the Northrups for that. But nobody needed this exact video, nor has it helped anyone make any decisions.

I agree with you on the "just plain stupid" part.