Confessions of a Multiple Camera Systems Photographer: And the Winner Is…


The choice of a camera or even a camera system is a very personal decision. Functions, ergonomics and choice of glass are only some of the aspects that have to be considered. It’s safe to say that any camera today offers reasonable output. So does size still matter? Do today’s smaller sensor cameras match the IQ of their larger counterparts? I asked a camera aficionado who worked with the major recent releases that made waves, specifically the Nikon D800, Fujifilm X-Pro1, Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Sony RX1. He ownes them all, sold one, is tempted by the Leica M, but for him there’s only one true winner — or maybe two. Which ones?

  • Fujifilm X-Pro1: I loved the IQ and colors, but need to do a certain style of shooting to make the best of it, i.e. not little kids or anything that needs fast AF. So I got rid of mine.
  • Which one? Without actually using a camera, how can you know which one suits you best? | Culture Club
    Which one? Without actually using a camera, how can you know which one suits you best? | Culture Club
  • Olympus OM-D E-M5: I wish I loved it as it’s small and convenient — but every time I shoot it and look at the out-of-camera files they look like they were shot with an iPhone when you are used to, say, Nikon D800 files. So for my taste I needed a lot of post-processing to get the most out of the files which is not my thing. The Oly sits in my camera cabinet gathering dust.
  • Sony RX1: I love the IQ and the size — files looks great until I shoot the same subject/event with the D800. Detail is almost comparable but colors are not. I’m sure the deficit can be made up in post-processing if you are that way inclined. Amazing IQ for such a small package — enjoy it but the photographer needs to be able to control certain parameters more in order to get the best out of it.
  • Nikon D800: Just blows my mind every time I use it — particularly with the 24/1.4, 35/1.4 and 85/1.4 I didn’t know I needed until you Dan convinced me otherwise. Makes even the dullest everyday scenes extraordinary. The user needs to improve their technique to get the best out of it — but the rewards are worth the effort!
  • Leica M: Since years I’m tempted by Leica. Today? Maybe. A downtrade in sensor quality compared to the D800 (or even the RX1) just depends on how much you’re after the Leica look from those lenses. AF is important to me so the M system seems a big $ pay up for less camera — particularly when you gotta start a whole system from scratch. Of all the Leica Ms the 240 goes closest to getting me to open my wallet, but it’s still a lot of compromises in my opinion for marginal (if any) uptick in IQ compared to the D800 system.


Every camera is a trade-off like everything, but the IQ of the D800 is definitely worth the weight burden for subjects that matter the most.

Leica M? When I want a small camera, the RX1 is smaller and has a better sensor. When I want more features, the D800 system offers me much more and comparable/better IQ. So I am finding two cameras is the best option for me. I haven’t run the numbers, but am guessing it works out cheaper as well. And the second camera gives me the option to hand the RX1 off to my wife so we can both shoot the same subject which is nice.

  • keru

    The Leica M Monochrom is clearly a quality upgrade, if you like/love/breath B&W.

    I own the Leica M Mono, D800, OM-D, X-Pro 1, RX100.

    – The D800 is clearly a workhorse for everything, i use it for Macro and Tilt-Shift.
    – I keep the RX100 in my bag, we never know.
    – The OM-D is very very cool but clearly lag far behind the D800 and Leica MM in quality. I’ll sell it soon (already reserved)
    – The X-Pro 1 i’m not sure. It’s now redondant with the Leica MM. I’ll sell it, or send it to maxmax for full IR conversion.

  • Can only second the RX100 as not only a portable backup. Another Sony they can’t sell enough of. While other manufacturers have to offer serious discounts within a few months after a camera launch the price of the RS100 remains pretty stable, not to mention the RX1’s… Says something about the quality and value.

  • Daryl

    Haven’t tested the Leica M yet but the M9 is my go-to-camera. The camera produces spectacular results, combined with unique optics like the 50/0.95 Noctilux it is without compare. My D800 is a great camera, superb resolution, but I can take an M9, three lenses and tripod in a small pack and shoot all day long while the Nikon tests my resolve to carry a camera almost as large as medium format. All the P&S cameras leave me cold, the menus are frustrating as the lighting changes quickly, give me a camera with a shutter dial, aperture ring, iso imput and good histogram. I miss shots with my M9, otoh I miss many more with other cameras as the menus/buttons and dials are unique to each and every brand/camera. Just want to give a different point of view and share a bit to encourage those who haven’t tried the Leica to do so, and take a few pictures, put them on a computer and see how it matches medium format quality.

  • Bengt Nyman

    For me it’s a matter of focal length. When shooting 14 to 85 mm I grab my Nikon D800E and one of Nikon’s best fixed focal length lenses. For focal lengths 70 to 400 mm I grab my Canon 5DIII and one of Canon’s best zoom lenses.

  • Thanks for this Daryl. Many reasons speak for the M approach: simplicity, straightforwardness, reductionism, mojo, feel, glass… But strictly IQ speaking, less pricy cameras with good glass don’t render a much lower quality. The M for me is first and foremost about the most “natural” photographic tool. Regarding resolution and sharpness even the pocketable Merrill DPs win hands down, but paired with the right glass there’s no more satisfying experience than holding, seeing and shooting with a Leica.

  • Daryl

    Hi Dan,

    Yes, satisfying is very apt for Leica M. One further point: the Leica M9 has reached a point in quality that is not far surpassed by anything else today except medium format digital. As an old (by digital standards) camera/sensor the M9 is not the standard it once was but the camera can produce images with great clarity and the pixels are very amenable to the latest offerings in Photoshop, Lightroom and Capture One. These wonderful programs may be more contributory to manipulation than the camera itself, and as such the M9 shines more than ever.