Fujifilm X-A1 vs Samsung NX300 vs Panasonic G6

January 2, 2014

Golden Gate bridge

In this article I will compare the Fujifilm X-A1 vs Samsung NX300 and Panasonic Lumix G6. All three cameras are aimed to the enthusiast market, people like you who are interested in an advanced mirrorless camera that can produce high quality images. If you are reading this article, I assume that you are about to purchase a new camera, and you are breaking your head against the wall. Both the X-A1, Panasonic G6 and NX300 are very attractive cameras for their features, image quality and performance. All three have gotten high ratings and many positive opinions from customers who bought it. However, there will be only one camera you’ll be carrying around — which one will it be?

Before we jump into comparing the two, let’s first take a glimpse at each camera key features. A short introduction that will give you an overview what each camera is all about.

Fujifilm X-A1

Fujifilm X-A1

Fujifilm X-A1

The Fujifilm X-A1 was announced on September 17 ,2013.  It’s one of Fuji’s latest mirrorless interchangeable lens camera at the time of writing (announced before the X-E2 and after the X-M1).  We all remember the sad day that Fujifilm has dropped from the DSLR business, but came back years after with its X-series of mirrorless cameras.

Let’s take a look at what other mirrorless cameras Fujifilm has in its X Series lineup:

  • X-Pro1 – ~$1080 (body only)
  • X-E2-  ~$1000 (body only)
  • X-E1 – ~$730 (body only)
  • X-M1 – ~$650 (with 16-50mm)
  • X-A1- ~ $525 (with 16-50mm)

Approx. Prices via Amazon 1/2/2014. X-A1 sells for Kit only.

As you can see, the X-A1 is positioned at the bottom of the X Series lineup price wise. This will certainly attract many photographers who want to buy an interchangeable lens camera other than the Micro Four Thirds, Sonys, Nikon or Canon offering.  I’ve read that one of the main reasons that people buy the Fuji is for its superb Fujinon lenses and unique X-Trans sensor design (model dependent). This of course leads to high quality images, and as we’ll soon see, the X-A1 does not disappoint in that section.

With the X-A1 cheap doesn’t mean inferior.  The main difference between the X-A1 and X-M1 is that the X-M1 utilizes the X-Trans sensor, Fujifilms home backed unique filter array that boost ISO performance, dynamic range and resolution depends on the mode used. The XA1 priced $200 below the X-M1 at the time of launch, and it’s a Fujifilm’s entry-level mirrorless camera.

There is a debate about the effectiveness of the X-Trans sensor in improving image quality. Some say that the X-Trans sensor is very close to the Bayer sensor output, and almost indistinguishable in real world use, but it does well in battling  moiré and produces cleaner high ISO images (less chrome noise). I recommend reading this article on fujirumors.com and the comments in order to learn more about the differences between X-Trans and Bayer.

The good news is that all Fujifilm’s X Series cameras proven to be excellent in the image quality department on both daylight and low-light. I personally not totally convinces by the X-Trans sensor, but it doesn’t take away from the excellent image quality results that I’ve seen coming from camera’s that use this type of sensor. So the sensor is good (Bayer or X-Trans), lens optics are excellent, great bodies — not too much to complain about.

(Video from Digital Camera World)

One of the great features that I love about Fujifilm X cameras is that they use a large APS-C Bayer sensor (not X-Trans). The X-A1 is a relatively small camera, and I love the large sensor – small camera combination. The X-A1 is much smaller than a DSLR camera, and smaller than the X-E2, the X Series mid-range offering.

Fujifilm X-A1 vs Nikon D3200 / D7100 size comparison

Fujifilm X-A1 vs Nikon D3200 / D7100 size comparison (via camerasize.com)

As you can see from the image above, the X-A1 is much smaller than the Nikon D3200 and D7100. You can view this comparison on camerasize.com and view the cameras from the top, you’ll be amazed how slim the X-A1 is.

Worth mentioning that the X-A1 has the same sensor size used in Sony’s Alpha NEX cameras. I personally prefer large sensors for more prominent shallow depth of field and better high ISO performance. However, we’ve seen that  Micro Four Thirds sensors don’t fall behind, and in some cases precede some APC-S based camera. Still, APS-C has the potential to deliver superior high ISO performance, but it depends on the sensor technology and image processing. We’ll talk about the high ISO performance and analyze the X-A1 image quality later on.

Among the other unique features that the X-A1 has are: design optimization for one-handed operation, high resolution tilting display (not touch screen),  advanced automatic functions for beginners, P/A/S/M shooting modes, scene modes,  super fast (0.5 Sec.) start–up time and 0.05 Sec. Shutter time lag, 5.6 fps burst (max 30 frames), two command dials for easy setting adjustments, Built-in WiFi with a dedicated WiFi button which make is easy to transfer photos to your mobile phone to share online (must install FUJIFILM Camera app), Fn (function) button, Super Intelligent Flash, Art filters and Full HD video recording.

The Fujifilm X-A1 gives you full control over the noise reduction, by allowing you to choose from 5 different noise reduction levels. You can play with that setting and see what works best for you. I personally choose the lowest setting when shooting in daylight. At the top of the camera you have the exposure compensation control dial, which allows you to set the exposure compensation within a range of ±2EV.

The X-A1 has 49-point AF system which provide fast and accurate focusing mechanism, including a focus peak highlight function to aid manual focusing. The XA1 has plenty of bracketing functions, including Film Simulation, Dynamic range, ISO and AE bracketing function.

The X-A1 is an entry-level X Series mirrorless camera, but as you can see from its features, it’s not cheap in features. The X-A1 is sold in Kit offering with the Fujinon XC16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS lens. This is a very sharp lens, offering fast AF speed and effective image stabilization. It has superb optical performance as you can see on ephotozine.com review. Just keep in mind that the lens effective focal length is 24-75 mm (1.5x crop factor). This is true to all Fujinon X-mount lenses that you mount on your X-A1 due to the sensor 1.5x crop factor.

No doubt that Fuji came up with an excellent camera that put itself in a very competitive position against the Micro Four Thirds and DSLR cameras, at least when it comes to value.

Samsung NX300

Samsung NX300 camera

Samsung NX300

The Samsung NX300 was announced on January 3, 2013.  This camera already received wide coverage and many positive reviews all across the web, including EISA Award Best Product 2013-2014, CNet Editor’s Choice Award (April 2013), ePhotoZine High Recommended (4.5 stars), TIPA Awards 2013 , 4.5 stars from PhotographyBlog and many others.

The NX300 is in no doubt Samsung’s best ILC camera that comes with a wide range of multimedia features that makes it unique in the ILC landscape. This includes among others: a 20.3MP APS-C Sensor, 8.6 fps burst speed, built-in Dual Band (faster and with better stabilize to wireless network) Wi-Fi, Hybrid AF system (on-sensor phase detection + contrast-based AF), 1/6000 Sec shutter speed, 3.31″ AMOLED tilting wide touchscreen with optimized UI for touch functionality, DRIMe IV new image processor and 3D movie and stills recording (using 35mm 2D/3D lens only).

I must admit that after the Smart Camera NX300, I was starting to see Samsung in a different perspective, and when you hold it in your hand and start using it, you can see why so many reviewers are so excited about it. There are many photographers who have a tough time deciding between the X-A1 and the NX300. The NX300 is a direct competitor to the Fuji X-A1, as you can buy it for ~$500 on Amazon.com (as of the time of writing) with the 20-50mm lens — a bargain price for such a camera  if you ask me. This is a fantastic little camera which is aimed to both advanced and novice photographers alike.

The camera has a very stylish retro design which I really like. I think that Samsung, unlike other companies in the consumer digital camera business, didn’t build itself a strong reputation. On the other hand, companies like Nikon and Canon that has a high reputation in the consumer and the professional camera market were failed to impress in the Compact System Camera market. Samsung on the other hand has a very strong reputation in the mobile phone industry, and I think that this can help the company in its consumer camera sales.

(Video by Bing Lee)

Not everybody who buys a digital camera cares about the accessories and lens selection. Some photographers just want to know that they are getting a camera that can fit their shooting style and equip it with one or maybe two lenses and that’s it.  The NX300 is aimed towards advanced and novice photographers alike, those who don’t want to spend a fortune on a Compact System Camera, but want a camera with built-in Wi-Fi for photo sharing, multimedia features, fast performance, high image quality and the ability to mount interchangeable lenses — that’s  what the NX300 is all about.

The wireless capability and mobile device binding allows you to control the camera from your mobile phone, wirelessly transfer images from your camera to your mobile phone, or wirelessly upload your images to your home computer on a Wi-Fi network. More than that, the camera itself can upload your photos directly to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube (for videos) and SkyDrive. Once you setup your account with one or more of those services, from that point of uploading is seamless operation, no need to set your username and password all over again.

The Mobile Link features allows you to bind your camera with your Smartphone or tablet using the Samsung app. Once the binding is done, you can set the camera to automatically transfer the shot to the mobile device without any further steps. This is the easiest way to quickly share special moments with friends and family, and not just photos, but high-quality ones too!

The NX300 however doesn’t have a built-in flash and it’s compatible with all Samsung’s NX lenses, including those with thei-Function that allows you to control the camera settings from the lens. The NX300 won’t fit in your jeans pocket, but Samsung has the 20mm f2. 8 and 30mm f2.0 pancake prime lenses that you can use (if you need it) and it will make the camera profile much slimmer.

I think that the combination of a high resolution / large sensor, touch user interface, great eye-catching and Wireless capabilities will appeal to both experienced photographers and new comers from Point-and-shoot.

Panasonic G6

Panasonic Lumix G6

Panasonic Lumix G6

Last but not least is the Panasonic Lumix G6. The G6 replaced the G5. It’s a mid-range Micro Four Thirds compact system camera that sits below the Panasonic Lumix GH3 flagship model. The G6  sells for around $650 (last checked on 1/2/2014 on B&H Photo Video website) with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II lens — so it’s more expensive than the X-A1 and more than the NX300 if you buy it with the 20-50mm lens (~$550).

Let’s leave the words “mid-range” and “entry-level” aside, as those in no way represent the advantages that one camera has over another from another manufacturer.  The Panasonic G6 belongs to the Micro Four Thirds standard, which means that photographers can’t mount any Micro Four Thirds lens, including those from Olympus, Sigma and Tamron. That also means that you have a very large selection of lenses available for you, if this is something that have a priority in your buying decision.

The G6 unlike the X-A1 and NX300 more resembles the design of an entry-level DSLR, with a bulge at the top and a large grip. Unlike the X-A1 and the NX300, the G6 features an electronic viewfinder. This is a feature that many photographers are looking for when buying a new camera and without an EVF, this might be a deal-breaker for some.  I personally learned to live without a viewfinder, but an eye-level viewfinder better connects you with the subject and give you better visibility when shooting in bright daylight.

The G6 like many other Panasonic MFT cameras, comes with tons of built-in features to play with. Among those features are: Built-in Wi-Fi + NFC (makes it much easier to connect the camera to a mobile device), Light Speed AF, 1036K-dot Touch monitor, 7 fps burst shooting, OLED 1440K-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, Full HD video recording, including 108p60 (progressive frame rates for high quality smooth playback). The G6 was designed to bring you the best in connectivity, stills and video functionality, image quality, functionality (e.g. Creative Panorama, Creative controls, stop motion animation), Versatility and ease-of-use.

Panasonic did its best to be progressive and updated in all those fields, and I have to say that it did an incredible job with the G6.  This is certainly a camera that will attract DSLR shooters that are searching to switch from DSLR to mirrorless — and believe me, it’s not an easy decision from experience.

(Video from Digital Camera World)

I personally like the Touch AF and Touch AE functionality, that allows you to set each one with a single tap on the touchscreen. Among the AF functions you can find Pinpoint AF, 1-area AF, Multi-area AF (23-area), AF tracking and Face detection AF, Focus peacking and AFF mode (locks the focus when shutter button is half-pressed, but when subject moves, reset the focus) — all were designed to give advanced photographers the tool they need to get the job done and capture gorgeous photos.

Like the NX300, the G6 allows remote shooting and instant transfer of photos to your Smartphone or tablet when the shutter is pressed. You also have the ability to easily share photos from your camera to Facebook, Flickr and Picases, Wirelessly print images, Wirelessly display your photos on your HDTV (Wi-Fi Direct), as well as geotag your images using your Smartphone’s GPS. In order to enjoy the remote shooter and image transfer functionality, you’ll have to install Panasonic’s “Image App” (available for iOS and Android).

So there we have it. Three superb budget-friendly compact system cameras that come with lots of multimedia features and are recommended by many popular camera review websites. However you’ll buy only one camera, and I am sure that you want to fully understand the cons and pros, as well as the differences of each one. This is where camera debate comes to your help.

NX300 vs G6 vs X-A1

In this section we’ll compare the Fujifilm X-A1 versus the Samsung NX300 Smart Camera and Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6.  Here you’ll get the chance to see the differences between those three cameras, starting from the external design, down to their core hardware components. I recommend using the specs / feature comparison below to eliminate the camera that doesn’t have the features that you need. Later one we’ll compare the image quality, which is, for some, not less if not the most important feature that photographers are looking for in their next camera — so let’s begin.

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The specs comparison table above highlights the differences between the three mirrorless cameras and gives you a good indication of the cons and pros of each one compared to its peers. The G6 is in no doubt the better camera for video enthusiast who demand more control over the video output and better flexibility.

Now that you are familiar with the differences between the NX300, G6 and X-A1, let’s move on to the image quality section, where I will share with you my observation conclusions.

Image Quality Comparison (High ISO Performance)

magnifying glass on imageThere are some photographers that will not buy a specific camera, no matter how good it is, until they verify that it can take high quality photos, especially in good light. The lens selection also plays a significant role for some photographers, and no doubt that the Micro Four Thirds leads the pack. For other photographers, the lens selection doesn’t play a significant role, but the lens quality does.

There are many photographers who will swear for Fujinon quality, although there Leica lenses for the Micro Four Thirds as well, but those are very expensive and might be out of the budget for many people.  Fuji has the smallest selection of lenses, and some of them like the quite expensive too.

Make it worse, most of Fujifilm XF lenses are prime lenses, only five lenses are zoom lenses. For some of you this will be more than enough, and some people might actually like the fact that Fuji is focusing on high quality prime lenses. There are even three Zeiss lenses available, including the Tuit 32mm f/1.8, Tuit 12mm f/2.8 and the Makro-Planar T* 50mm f/2.8. Fujinon lenses are well known for their remarkable optical performance, and many photographers will buy the Fujifilm X-A1 just to be given an option to enjoy those extraordinary lenses.

In this section I will share with you my image quality observation conclusion based on sample images that I compared using imaging resource comparometer online tool.

First, let’s compare the Fujifilm X-A1 versus the Samsung NX300, as both are using APS-C size sensors, and see which one performs better at different ISO speeds.

X-A1 vs NX300 High ISO Performance

  • ISO 100 — Both images are clean as expected and the colors coming from those two cameras are very similar. The X-A1 however have deeper blacks and white looks whiter, and that certainly gives the X-A1 more depth and it looks a bit more visually appealing in my opinion. The NX300 enjoys a resolution advantage over the X-A1, but the difference is relatively small. Nothing to complain about, image quality is excellent on both cameras, with the X-A1 being a tiny bit softer but with more convincing color reproduction.
  • ISO 200 — This is true to ISO100, the X-A1 does seem to resolve the details in the reds better, the NX300 has better resolution because of its higher pixel count – close results to what I’ve seen at ISO 100, nothing new to report.
  • ISO 400 — this sensitivity doesn’t bother either camera, maybe slight noise entry on the NX300, but insignificant at this point.
  • ISO 800 — I am expecting to find something new at ISO 800… But the X-A1 ISO 800 looks like ISO 100 WOW!
    The NX300 is a tiny bit noisier, but I had to view it in 100% scale to see it, but overall excellent performance from both cameras, with a slight advantage for the X-A1
  • ISO 1600 — if ISO 800 doesn’t tickle those cameras, maybe ISO 1600 will.  The X-A1 does lose some of its dynamic range and we can see that in the red napkin texture, noise starts to appear but the image is remarkably clean,  I am really impressed. The noise is much more visible on the NX300 image and that’s something that your eyes can’t miss when you view them images at 100% scale. That’s already around 1.5 to 2 EV advantage in favor of the X-A1. Already eager to see how ISO 3200 will look like – visible advantage for the X-A1 in ISO 1600.
  • ISO 3200  — this is usually when things turn for the worst for many cameras.  The X-A1 just don’t care about it and refuses to surrender to image noise. We are at ISO 3200 and the image is very clean. There is a little amount of noise, but I had to look very close to spot it. This is one of the best high ISO performance I’ve seen in years for a consumer digital camera, Bravo Fuji!
    And what about the NX300, much much worse, the NX300 just start losing detail, the gray square at the bottom doesn’t look like a square anymore, more like a smudged one. The image is still usable, but this sensitivity hurts the NX300 image badly, that can’t be denied.
  • ISO 6400  — Let’s see the Fuji at ISO6400, can’t it still perform well? — This is where you can see the X-A1 start collapsing, but it does that gracefully. If you want the cleanest image, shoot below ISO 6400, but ISO 6400 still looks very good, especially when shooting in good lighting conditions. The NX300 image looks like crap, very noisy, and no doubt that its smaller pixels are the one to blame. Let’s not forget that the X-A1 ISO6400 is its upper native ISO limit, but at ISO 12800, you’ll be amazed with the IQ compare to the NX300
No doubt, the Fujifilm X-A1 has one of the best high ISO performances I’ve seen in years for an APS-C Sensor. If you hate seeing noise in images, the X-A1 will allow you to shoot in very low-light and still get home with great looking photos. Just put a fast prime lens on it, and this baby will shoot at (almost) any lighting conditions. The NX300 just can’t cope with the X-A1 high ISO performance, but it still has a slight resolution advantage at daylight. Bravo Fujifilm, you made a superb low-light shooter, very impressed!

X-A1 vs G6

OK, now it’s time to see how the G6 can stand against the X-A1 excellent performance, I am skeptic, what about you?

  •  ISO 100 /  160 (G6) — Looking at the color napkins, the G6 resolved much more texture detail, especially visible in the reds.  This is quite significant when viewed at 100% scale, the G6 is sharper and texture details are much better than the X-A1. I love the X-A1 blacks and whites, both are very clean.
  • ISO 200 — pretty close results to ISO 100, but there is a slight amount of noise in the G6 image of the shadow areas, nothing to be concerned about, the X-A1 image looks super duper clean!
  • ISO 400  — I don’t need to tell you about the X-A1 at this ISO. The G6 noise is certainly more apparent in the shadow area, and even in mid-tones. There is also chrome noise in the shadow area, which is very disappointing considering the fact that we are only at ISO 400. Even at ISO 400, the G6 is not match for the X-A1
  • ISO 800 — G6 has more more noise but image is still very usable and you won’t notice the noise in a scaled down image
  • ISO 1600 — A relatively big step in noise in the G6 image compare with ISO 800. This Micro Four Thirds sensor just can’t compete against the APS-C, especially the X-A1 APS-C sensor — which is a big difference!
    ISO 3200  — the end of the road for the G6, maybe it was already in ISO 1600.  Compare to the X-A1 it looks like a tornado in a cold snowy day compared to a lovely summer day. What a HUGE difference, the X-A1 eats the G6 for breakfast..
I will do the G6 a favor and won’t review it over ISO 3200 🙂
The Fujifilm X-A1 high ISO performance is mind blowing.  Fujifilm has chosen wisely to go with 16MP, and this sensor certainly shows the strength of the X-A1. The other cameras just don’t come even close to the X-A1 performance. This makes the X-A1 the obvious choice for low-light shooter and anyone who just don’t like noisy images. You can shoot with the Fujifilm at ISO 3200 without even removing noise in post processing, this is just ridiculously how clean the image is.

Let’s take a look at some sample videos and head one to the conclusion section..

Fujifilm X-A1 sample video

Samsung NX300 sample video

Panasonic Lumix G6 sample video



As you can see from the above comparison, the Fujifilm X-A1 is in no doubt the best camera for low-light photography, and its high ISO performance opens up new possibilities for photographers who don’t want or like to shoot with an external flash or the built-in flash. The X-A1 just put the NX300 and G6 to shame in the low-light category, but in daylight, you will get more details from the NX300 and the G6 proven to render texture better. This also depends on the lens used, and this is something that will change based on the lens that you buy.

The NX300 has the highest maximum ISO limit, but it disappoints in real-life tests. I did like its Hybrid AF, 1/6000 sec shutter speed, OLED display and NFC feature. It is designed well and look very stylish on the outside. The problem is that the lens selection is quite limited, there is no built-in flash but overall it’s an amazing camera to shoot with. The image quality is excellent, just remember it’s high ISO limits. The NX300 is small, elegant and will certainly be the preferred choice for beginners, amateurs and those who intend to share their NX300 photos from their mobile phone. The NX300 battery will only charge in the camera.

The G6 is the best camera for those who demand more advanced video capabilities. The G6 also enjoys a much bigger selection of lenses, has the best AF low-light performance and lots of multimedia built-in software features to play with. I was disappointed with the high ISO performance, and I would probably be using a fast lens in order to compensate for its high ISO performance, which is not great. The G6 is also larger than the other cameras, but the extra grip can help photographers to keep the camera steady when shooting videos or/and when mounting a long and heavy telephoto zoom lens.

If I had to choose a winner, I would give my top score to the Fujifilm X-A1. This is just a marvelous camera, and I recommended my friend to buy this camera when he travels to the US. He shot with this camera a few days now and just love it. He is still amazed with the low light image quality, and didn’t find any negative things to say about it. I personally don’t shoot lots of videos, only from time to time. I care about stills image performance the most, and I really love Fujinon lenses and see this as an advantage compare to other brands.

What’s your opinion, which camera you prefer and why? — Share your opinion in the comment section below.

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Buy Fujifilm X-A1 from B&H Photo store

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