Olympus vs Fuji: Which camera wins?

Recently, when I switched from a full-frame Nikon D810 to a crop-sensor Fuji XT1 (which I LOVE, by the way!), I had to make the difficult decision to choose whether I should go with the micro 4/3 Olympus cameras, or if I'd rather shoot with Fuji.

I tried out both camera systems and gave them a fair chance.  

For me the Fuji ended up being the right camera, but for others the benefits of the Olympus will be better.  

In this post on Olympus vs Fuji, I just want to share some of the similarities and differences to help you make your decision.

Olympus Camera System – What I like

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mirrorless Digital Camera

The Olympus micro 4/3 cameras have some really neat technology.  

It's incredible what they can do with such a small sensor.  

For me, the factors that nearly convinced me to choose Olympus were the fantastic lens lineup and the price of the lenses.  

But the connectivity and touch screens are also compelling.

  • Larger Lens Lineup – The biggest benefit of choosing an Olympus camera, in my opinion, is the lens lineup.
     Olympus and Panasonic have come together to create a micro 4/3 lens system that can be used on both brands of cameras.
      The competition between the two has produced excellent lenses at inexpensive prices.
  • In-Body Image Stabilization – This is a huge benefit.  In body image stabilization means you don't have to buy image stabilization on every lens.
      It's built into the camera, so all of your lenses have this technology.
  • Touch Screen – One thing that some of the Olympus cameras have is a touch screen.
      This makes changing camera settings much more intuitive and quick.
      I'd like to see this implemented in future Fuji cameras.
  • Live Exposure for Long Exposure Photography – One cool feature that Olympus pioneered is the ability to see a black image when you start taking a long exposure, and then to see that black image slowly become exposed.
      Then, the photographer can simply stop the exposure as soon as the photo is bright enough.  Awesome!
  • Very Slightly Better Battery – The battery life of the Olympus cameras is generally better than that of the Fuji cameras.
      That's not hard, though, because the battery life indicator on the Fuji XT1 is basically unusable.  Ugh!
  • Flash Sync Speed – Olympus cameras can sync a flash at a faster shutter speed than comparable Fuji cameras, which tap out at only 1/180.
      That's a bit annoying when using a flash, so the Olympus has an advantage here.

Fuji Camera System – What I like

Fujifilm X-T1 16 MP Mirrorless Digital Camera

The reason I chose to shoot Fuji is because the cameras utilize a much larger APS-C sensor, which gives significant advantages which are apparent when you shoot both camera systems.  

In general, the Fuji cameras do much better with low light and can achieve shallower depth of field than the Olympus cameras.  

Also, the dials and controls of the Fuji cameras–though an acquired taste–are absolutely fantastic.

  • Better viewfinders – The EVF in Fuji cameras is better than any other EVF on the market right now.  
     The Olympus viewfinders are actually quite good, but the Fuji cameras generally have brighter, bigger viewfinders with more customizability for showing info.  
     Having used a Fuji EVF for a few months now, I could never go back to a DSLR.
  • Better Low Light Performance – If you've actually spent time shooting both camera systems, you'd have to admit that the Fuji does significantly better in dealing with low light.
  • Shallower Depth of Field – The caveat to this benefit is “when all else is equal.”  
     The larger sensor size on the Fuji cameras produces shallower depth of field when the same f-stop of lens is in use.  
     For me, this is a huge benefit.  
     While some of the ultra-fast lenses on the Olympus system are compelling, I still just couldn't get the shallow depth of field that I can with my Fuji.
  • Controls, Controls, Controls! – The biggest surprise for me with the Fuji system is how much I love the controls!  
     It's something I wrote about in my “Why I switched to Fuji” article.  
     With separate dials for shutter, aperture, and ISO, I'm able to shoot without any regard to the camera mode.  
     It completely changed the way I expose my photos, and made exposure changes faster than ever.  
     Once you try shooting a Fuji XT1 with all its beautiful controls, it's hard to go back to a traditional setup.
  • Wider Aspect Ratio – This is huge for me.  I'm a composition fanatic, so the aspect ratio is a big deal.  
     The Fuji XT1 utilizes a standard 3/2 aspect ratio.  
     However, the Olympus uses the older 4/3 aspect ratio.  
     In a practical sense, it means the Olympus photos are more squared, and the Fuji photos are more of a rectangle.  
     I just couldn't get used to the 4/3 aspect ratio.

Similarities Between Olympus and Fuji

Aside from the same mirrorless camera design, you'll find many similarities between the Olympus and Fuji cameras.  

Despite using completely different lens systems and technology, they actually look like close cousins.

You'll find that both camera systems are using the same retro camera design.  

In fact, it can be quite difficult to tell the difference between a Fuji XT1 and an Olympus EM1 from a distance.

Both camera systems are quite comparable in the resolution department as well.  Both Olympus and Fuji have taken themselves.

Autofocus on both camera systems is quite good.  

A year ago, I would have said that Olympus was much quicker, but Fuji has issued a number of firmware updates to its cameras and the cameras it has released recently are just as fast (maybe even a touch faster?) than the Olympus cameras.  

Autofocus performance on both systems is now quite good, though still not as fast as DSLRs.

Olympus or Fuji? – How to decide

Choose Olympus If…

  • You have a very low budget for your camera and lenses.  Olympus cameras are about the same price as the Fuji cameras, but the lenses are generally less expensive.  
     HOWEVER, be sure to read my article on the best 10 mirrorless cameras under $1,000.  I recommend several Fuji and Olympus cameras there.
  • You want to shoot wildlife photography. Olympus has better supertelephoto lenses available right now, though their lineup is scarce as well.
  • You'll be shooting with flash very often – The Olympus cameras have a faster flash sync speed.

Choose Fuji If…

  • You like having buttons and dials for controlling everything without getting into the menu.
  • You'll do any night photography or shooting in low light.  The low light performance of the Fuji cameras is a significant improvement over the Olympus cameras from what I've seen.  
     Plus, the Fuji cameras are ISO invariant, which is pretty handy.
  • You want to capture shallower depth of field.

Both camera systems are excellent competitors to the traditional DSLR, and I would rather shoot either of these camera systems over my old Nikon, but there are similarities and differences between them.

If you'll be shooting the Fuji camera system, be sure to read my comparison between the Fuji XT1 and the Fuji XT10, and no matter which system you choose, be sure to read my recommendations of the best mirrorless cameras under $1,000.

21 thoughts on “Olympus vs Fuji: Which camera wins?”

  1. I ended up going with Olympus several years ago because the camera just felt better in my hands than the Fuji. So, in addition to your points, I’d add that people should really try to hold the cameras to see which feels best to them.

  2. I don’t think 4/3 aspect ratio is old and worse than 2/3 aspect ratio. Actually 4/3 is more suitable for digital photography. It gives you more room to can crop to protrate.

  3. Hi! I believe whe you discussed olympus vs fuji, what you had in mind was the em1, what about the newer em5 markII? Haves this camera overcome the low light shooting? Thoughts?

  4. I have both system but xt1 is what I use. Although both system have 16mp sensors, xtran sensors produce much sharper images, higher dynamic range, less notice at higher ISO. And best of all, Fuji colors like Astia, velvet, or chrome classic is made me stick to Fuji. However, Fuji AF still isn’t as snappy and accurate in low light like m43 IMO!

  5. M43 Olympus has multi aspect sensor: choosing 3/2, 4/3 , 16/9 or 1:1 is no problem at all.

    IBIS is a winning feature in the olympus and I can’t do without it. But the fuji’s have better clarity and dynamic range in more demanding situations. Now Fuji really do need to do something about their video capabilities: it will be increasingly harder to sell a camera that does mediocre video at best…

  6. I use both systems and it is hard to find a clear winner. Yes, the Fuji is clearly better above ISO 1600 but do you need it a lot? What I think is amazing about Olympus are those tiny lightweight prime lenses (12, 45mm) which deliver great results. Fuji lenses are much larger in comparison. Then again Fuji has a very good standard zoom lens (18-55 2.8/4.0) what I couldn’t say of the Olympus counterpart. There you would have to go for the 12-40 pro lens for similar results but at a much higher size, weight, price. What I miss from Olympus is a super wide angle prime like the georgeous 14/2.8 Fujinon. So Olympus may have more lenses but still not everything one wishes to use. What I think is amazing of both systems is the qualitiy of out of camera jpgs. I made comparisons with a EOS 6D and Canons jpgs are just awful, or in other words you need to shoot raw with it to come close. Color rendition from Olympus always seemed more accurate straight from the camera but then you have with both cameras plenty of settings to find the color you like.

  7. I use both as well and the truth is, the Fuji is really only better in one area.

    With the Fuji, the amount of highlight detail you can pull back is simply better than both my Nikon D600 and my E-M5. Also, zooming in on the images as much as 400% showed an impressive ability to resolve beyond that of even the D600. So the one advantage is the Fuji Sensor but how big is that advantage.

    With the Olympus, the tone curve and metering work better so the camera doesn’t require you to pull back highlights anywhere near as often as the Fuji bodies do. I’ve tested this with a Sekonic Meter and metered for highlights where both cameras were set to exactly the same aperture, shutter time, and ISO but the Fuji consistently clipped highlights that the Olympus didn’t (This required the data to be pulled back via Raw on the Fuji which I was able to do).

    With the Olympus, I could run the Raw files through Nik DFine and automatic scaled back to 50% was enough to match the low noise levels of the Fuji without sacrificing sharpness. The IBIS also allowed me to hand hold the camera all the way back to 1/6th of a second at times and that allowed me to shoot at least a stop below the Fuji if I wanted sharp results. Basically, the Noise issue isn’t a huge advantage at all.

    AF, again this favored the Olympus because it could focus in lower light than the Fuji.

    MF, the higher resolution articulating screen of the Olympus again made this much easier than the lower resolution rear screen on the Fuji.

    Also, the Olympus can have 99% of its settings changed with just the right hand and the Fuji clearly requires two here.

    I still have both bodies and I still use both but even the better resolving X-Trans sensor isn’t enough for me to give up the IBIS, better Metering, smaller body, and better high end lenses of the M43 system.

    Oh and pocket wizards can make either camera sync as high as their max shutter speeds so it’s not really as if the either body has a huge flash advantage.

  8. brett crawford

    This is all great commentary – thank you all, as I am in the dilemma of selecting between these two systems (just put my Nikon D7000 on consignment – bye-bye). Given the lens selection – especially the pro line series by M. Zuiko – I am inclined to lean toward the Olympus E-1. My question is, would everyones impressions change given the notion that the proposed new release E-1 Mark II will have the recently release Sony 20MP Exmor sensor with 27fps. Your thoughts.

  9. I am just going through this dilemma now.
    MY Nikon D810 is just too big and heavy for me. So it will be Fuji XT2 or OLYMPUS EM1 MkII. I have to wait to see how the EM1 MkII compares but size is my number one priority.
    The Olympus is where my heart is for its size and features but it’s so scary to drop to from FF to mft without being able to try – I print a lot of 8×10 an a few 20×30″

  10. John…I am going through the exact same dilemma. Considering leaving my Canon 5D3 and “L” lenses for either the new XT2 or EM1 Mk2. I, too, am very fearful of losing the image quality of FF for a Micro 4/3’s system with it’s small sensor. I primarily shoot landscapes and nature, printing regularly to 16×24.

  11. So I have just purchased an OM-D Em 10 mk 2 – and also have a D610, and D3300. I borrowed a Fuji before deciding on the Oly – and both cameras are fantastic! The kit lens of the Fuji is indeed better, but if you buy a proper MFT lens for the Oly, there is no difference in image quality (even for you pixel peepers). One misconception that I even fell for is … Calling MFT a ‘small’ sensor compared to Crop sensors …. Most don’t realize – and I didn’t either until I researched why the images appeared equal quality – the 4/3 aspect ratio only lost ‘size’ in width – something you need to crop anyway in a different format when printing to standard sizes (actually in effect making MFT higher res since you don’t need to crop like that). The high difference is actually inconsequential between crop and MFT …. So don’t let ‘sensor size’ skew your decision. It is a non issue.

    So …. Real world …. Bodies and sensors of equal quality – and mark 2 versions getting all EVF on quality ground – manual control dials also equal (both have full manual dial ability) – I chose the Oly for Lens selection (they have 0.9 f stop lens now! Wow) – and for less money. I think Fuji has far better JPEG but I shoot RAW and use light room / photoshop – if you want out of cam greatness in JPG, go Fuji, hands down!!! In RAW – it’s really no difference .

    So …. Pick what feels better In Your hands !!! With all else equal – fun to shoot it should be your deal breaker ! Go to a shop and hold each one. Ignore the sales person (who will invariably push Fuji for the sweet lens commissions later). Just pick what feels better.

  12. Caveat for my post …. Largely in reply to John’s post …. Since my purchase of the Oly – I very very rarely use my full frame anymore. That is – day to day ‘fun’ shooting. I also shoot a LOT more, it is fun again. I keep the FF for the occasional paid assignment – but outside of that, I find myself not using it. And I could even say – quality wise – the MFT (or Fuji if you go that way) – will do fine even for pro stuff, the down side is that people paying you expect your rig to be giant – like pointing a cannon at people – flip side is people get nervous with a cannon pointed at them and you actually get much much better candid shots with the smaller rig.

    My 2 cents.

  13. Thank you for your comparison between oly and fuji, m43 and larger sensors. I considered to switch over to fuji tx2 . I have a Panasonic gm1 for in my pocket with not so expensive and great PANA 20mm f1.7 and an oly om10 with pan14-140mm or oly 45.mm f1.8 or Mikaton 25mm f0.9 lens4s for traveling, work evf and controlbuttons instead of the menucontrols of the gm1. Shoot only in RAW and with editing in Lightroom leads to much more picture quality and sharpness than the jpeg output. Use Nik def software to reduce noise . Considering to update to oly om1 mark 2 just for the better AF and OIS ( I prefer making photo’s hand hold) and video quality. See my flickr albums for results https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums

  14. Hi, I’m currently a fuji Xpro 2 user but seriously thinking of swapping to Oly M4/3 mainly cos there prime lens are more in my budget, well the ones I want to get and theres more selection. Keep looking at the Pen F or Em 5 M2. The question I keep asking myself is would I be down grading or would it be an equal swap?

  15. You will be supervised how little difference their is in image quality. I had the D800 and switched to Olympus em5 now have pen-f waiting for em1 mk2. The advantages far out weigh and disadvantages.

  16. Hi Brett
    It would be difficult to make a comparison until the OMD 1 mk2 is released and we read the reviews. It would seem the new Olympus is going to be awesome with a big improvement in ISO performance, but still only 20mp m4/3 sensor, with its small sensor limitations, but I would imagine that Olympus has studied this quite closely and it may still be enough for a significant upgrade in image quality. Olympus has said that they do not want to get caught up in the mp race confirming that you dont need high mp to capture great images. Not sure whether I agree especially when you look at Sony A7Rii. As I am currently commited to Olympus cause I got all the lenses, I would go for EM1mk2, but not at release. Indications are that the price is going to be US $2000 which I think is too much and by that figure more expensive than the Fuji. So I am going to box on with my EM5 mk2 and revisit EM1 mk2 next Xmas where the price will have dropped a bit and the added incentive of a cashback may make it even more attractive. We can get caught up in camera specs, but today if you really want mirrorless I think all the maufacturers are producing a great product particularly with their latest offerings with only subtleties separating them. That said price may dictate, if you want the absolute best image quality then Sony A7Rmkii is the best. Its still more about getting out there, taking great pictures and processing them correctly at home
    Cheers Niel

  17. Speaking with older photographers at camera shops & honestly all the supposed technical points people make means nothing. Fujifilm is far more superior, go on most resale markets for a older generation or used models of either product & you’ll find that the Fuji holds a much better resell value then the Olympus. There is a reason for that, Olympus users seem to never acknowledge the fact that it’s also substantially cheaper then it’s competitors. Why not just admit you went with a system that fit your budget instead of trying to nitpick things to make yourself feel better about the cheaper product in your hand?

    1. Olympus cheaper than Fuji? You just ignore all the complaints of Fuji users who have problems with their retro dials. Oh and it’s very funny to see fuji users become so excited to have a “new” feature on their camera that exists since 2011 on Olympus like a touchscreen lcd.

  18. “The reason I chose to shoot Fuji is because the cameras utilize a much larger APS-C sensor”

    Derisory journalism. “Much larger”? Why don’t you use 8×10? Then you ignore the factor of image stabilization.

  19. Not sure how old this article is. I’ve shot Canon, Olympus, Nikon and Fuji. All are fantastic cameras. I’m probably more of a gear nut than a photographer. I pixel peak and don’t really embrace the art of photography. The D800e is an absolute fantastic camera that allows you the advantage of a near perfect portrait every single shot. My 70d 400mm combo was a near perfect wildlife camera until the D500. And then the fuji was perfect carry along with a prime. During all of these platforms-I had my omd em5. Not sure why. I just could not part from it. I have 2 children with various activities and found it the perfect size for carrying along. I recently went totally MFT – OMD EM1 II and several panny and oly lenses. I love it but I still pixel peak and long for a full frame. I have resolved to stick with only the oly for 1 year. Not sure I will make it. I really wish Oly would invest in APS and have lenses that would fit both platforms.

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