Fujifilm vs Leica

Let’s generalize. Olympus has great image stabilization, Panasonic excellent video, Sony fast autofocus, Fujifilm have great colors and retro controls, Canon and Nikon are the workhorse DSLR stalwarts, only now really committing to mirrorless. And Leica are expensive. Really expensive.

I’ve been using Fujifilm cameras for about 7 years. I’ve owned the X-E1, X-T10, X-T1, X100F and X-T3, as well as briefly an X-Pro2 and X100V. The only failure I’ve had was the playback button on the X-T10, and that was after years of use.

I remember Fuji being compared to Leica as if they followed a similar philosophy. Not really, except for ignoring the trend of the PASM dial. Switching between an X-T3 and Leica M240, as I am at the moment, highlights the differences more than the similarities. Here’s what stands out to me.

The Leica feels so solid, even clunky sometimes, in a good way (to me).

With the Leica you learn the camera rather that tweak it. There isn’t much to customize.

The Leica RAW files seem less ‘neutral’, with more contrast. I like them though, and especially that they’re DNG.

Rangefinder focusing is fast and accurate with a manual lens, even in my unpracticed hands. Focus peaking on the Fuji is good but I find it distracting whereas I enjoy the rangefinder. I’m not sure why. So even with a nice manual lens on the Fuji, I prefer the Leica to manually focus.

The simplicity of the Leica is great. The top of the Fuji has 5 dials and 3 buttons. The Leica has a shutter speed dial, the on/off switch (which frustratingly includes the single/continuous selector) and one function button. That’s it.

The Fuji is fast. It has the latest firmware so in theory it’s as quick to autofocus as the X-T4. But the eye-tracking still isn’t fully reliable in my experience. It does more than I need in a camera though, and the video quality and weather-sealing seem excellent - I’ve used it in heavy rain and snow without issues.

I think that, for me, is the crux. The philosophy. Do I want the camera to do as much as possible for me, or do I want it to encourage me to do the work myself. Obviously I can photograph manually with the X-T3, and use auto exposure on the M240. But they’re not designed primarily to work that way.

There’s a balance. Ultimately the two ends of the camera industry spectrum at the moment are mobile phones with AI and HDR, and a fully mechanical film camera. Let’s say a large format film camera for the biggest contrast in size and speed. Some people will swear by one or the other and use them exclusively. For most of us, something in between works better most of the time. Then it’s a case of finding a sweet spot on the spectrum, of technical capability and efficiency and automation, versus manual and mechanical interaction in the process.

I’m not sure yet whether I take better pictures with the Leica or Fuji. I probably miss a few shots with either. With the Leica because I’m still learning it, and my manual focusing isn’t fast enough, yet. With the Fuji because I might tend to move on too quickly rather than pausing to consider the image for longer. My daughter often says things like ‘pizza or holidays, pick one, you can only choose one’. Right now, it would be the Leica.


Headshot, portrait, street and documentary photographer in NYC and Jersey City


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