Comparison of Canon vs. Nikon vs. Leica

I decided to make a limited real-world comparison of my Canon 70D with the 24mm lens vs. the Nikon 1 J5 with the 10 – 30mm lens vs. the Leica X2 with its 24mm lens.  This is a comparison of the results that I got with different sensors and lenses, and how they choose settings in program mode.    I was comparing the 20MP APS sensor in the Canon to the 21MP one-inch sensor in the Nikon to the 16MP APS sensor in the Leica.  In addition, I made all the images hand-held since I rarely use a tripod.  Was it a fair comparison?  Probably not, but I needed to see how they compared so that I had a better feeling of what to use when and where; as well as whether I really need three cameras.

The following images were taken outside on an overcast day, but fairly bright with no strong shadows.  The compositions are slightly different due to the different focal lengths or changes made during vertical corrections: but they are full size, uncropped.  All of the images were taken in raw format and then processed in LR6.  I made no changes to the Adobe standard settings except that I did use the lens profiles and used the auto vertical correction on each.  All were also focused using the center focus point on the white gazebo in the center.  I will let you decide whether the advantages of the higher priced Canon and Leica with their larger sensors and greater size and prime lenses are worth it relative to the smaller Nikon 1 J5 with the kit zoom lens … at least for displays such as this on the web.

Did you figure out which was which?  150626-101407 was the Leica which chose ISO=100, f/5.6, and 1/640 sec.  150626-101345 was the Nikon which choose ISO=160, f/4.2, and 1/800 sec.  150626-101316 was the Canon which choose ISO=100, f/8, and 1/250 sec.  If you click on one of the images you will shift to gallery mode where they will be larger.  You can also pick a larger size to review them closer.

After looking at the above images, I decided that I needed to use a more demanding situation, so I switched to indoors.  I wanted to see how they performed in lower mixed lighting where they would have to crank up the ISO settings.  The following show what I got with the three systems.

As I expected, this was a tougher situation and the differences were more striking.  150626-104639 was the Nikon which used ISO=2800, f/4, and 1/60 sec.  150626-104702 was the Canon which used ISO=2500, f/3.2, and 1/125 sec.  150626-104753 was the Leica which used ISO=640, f/2.8, and 1/30 sec.  If you looked closely you saw that the Leica image was blurred due to camera motion.  I started to retake it but didn’t since it taught me a valuable lesson.  I can’t rely on the auto settings for the Leica and I need to probably shoot in manual or shutter mode to ensure that I always have a fast enough shutter speed; but that slows me down.  I also went back and checked the Canon settings and saw that I had the shutter speed set to 1/125 sec for the floor when deciding to adjust the ISO.  Maybe that wasn’t fair but I can’t make that setting with the Leica.  The Nikon lens was the only one with image stabilization.

The color balance of the Canon was probably closer to the actual colors, but if I had adjusted the WB, I would have corrected that on all three.  The differences in WB and exposures can be easily adjusted in LR6, but the camera settings, etc. can’t be changed after the fact.

There are other factors to consider such as ergonomics, ease of adjusting controls, how sturdy they are, ease of carrying, weight, etc. which are all relative to the usability of these cameras; but, I was surprised by the image quality of the Nikon 1 J5.  The small size of the camera and lenses is a big plus for it in my view, but the size also works against it in some ways.  It doesn’t have a large enough or suitable hand-grip and I occasionally find that I have accidentally changed something.

Primarily, this comparison has caused me to focus more on the usability of cameras and less on their image quality.  That means that my quest isn’t over.  I still find that the Canon 70D is the best compromise I have tried so far, even though it is too large and heavy.  My search is still on.  In addition to finding a camera that I can easily take with me and handle and shoot with one hand, I am still looking for that one camera that is the best compromise for what I need for my photography.  I still have the option of just using my Canon 70D with lighter-weight, smaller prime lenses; but I would prefer something even easier to carry and hold.  I might try the Sony A6000 next.