Bokeh comparison: Sony A7, Nikkor 50mm 1.4D vs Fuji X-E2, Fuji FX 35mm 1.4

Bokeh comparison: Sony A7, Nikkor 50mm 1.4D vs Fuji X-E2, Fuji FX 35mm 1.4


You guys have been asking for it and here it is, the shot above with the A7 and the Nikkor 50mm 1.4 D at f2, the rest shot wide open, full size, after the break
Update: I added the f2 samples shot with the Nikkor, to be fair :)

Just in time before the sun went down, all handheld.
The file name indicates, camera, lens and aperture setting, you can also check EXIF data, please note the circular bokeh on the Nikkor 50mm 1.4 D lens, if it were stopped down, you could see the aperture blades since they aren’t circular (only on the G series).

Pixel peep, my friends and draw your own conclusions :)
Here are my impressions: FF with a 50mm 1.4 lens shot wide open delivers delicious bokeh, although this older Nikkor lens isn’t as sharp as the latest G version, I still prefer it because of the manual aperture ring and personally I don’t mind the light “glow” when shooting at 1.4.
The Fuji XF 35mm on the other hand, is already tack sharp wide open, although it can’t blow out the background as well as the 50mm on the FF. But the question is: does it really matter? This is something
you have to decide and it will mainly depend on the type of things you shoot. As for my own work, 90% of the time I will be just as happy with the bokeh from the Fuji/35mm combo as I would from the FF/50mm set up.
The difference simply isn’t big enough to make a significant difference in how the picture reads, remember 90% of the time, for the other 10% I wouldn’t want to give up that special extra I can get from the full frame and a large aperture lens….

What does this mean applied to the Zeiss FE 55mm 1.8? we can safely assume that the slightly longer focal length will compensate for the difference between 1.8 and 1.4 and bokeh will look just as good as on the Nikkor 50mm 1.4, it might even look better, I think the difference will be negligible.

Manual focusing on the A7 is fantastic, I turned focus peaking off because at such shallow depth of field it is more of a hindrance then help, it is however very helpful on wide angle lenses to get into the focus zone quickly.
I am not too fond of the fact that we have to press a button twice to activate magnification, this really slows things down, hopefully Sony will fix this with a firmware update. On the Fuji we only have to press the rear dial once to magnify. I am really liking the A7, even though I haven’t had enough time with it yet but the more I use it the more it reminds me of a Mamiya 7 or Fuji 645 rather then a 35mm camera. This is a good thing, especially with the A7r because one will have to operate this camera like a medium format to get the most out of it. You can click through to flicker and check out the native full resolution files, everything was shot raw and processed at default settings.

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lets start with the Sony A7, everything was shot wide open at 1.4





and now the Fuji X E2 with the 35mm 1.4 shot wide open





And here are the samples shot with the Nikkor 50mm f1.4 D at f2


Note the hexagonal shape on light sources.



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43 thoughts on “Bokeh comparison: Sony A7, Nikkor 50mm 1.4D vs Fuji X-E2, Fuji FX 35mm 1.4

  1. Stevia

    Hi, Mike
    I am interested in Fuji X100s and the XE2
    I mainly take my camera out for travelling or for full body shot for my webstore (clothes)
    I love bokeh and i have NikonD5000 and I mostly use 35mm F1.8 lens. If I want to preserve those kind of bokeh for full body shot, which one should i get? I am not planning to sell my Nikon but it’s just too bulky for travelling…
    I know that with XE2 I will need to purchase the prime lens.. Is it really worth the extra cash?
    I am not a professional photographer, it’s more of a hobby, and I have no problem with no zoom option.
    What do you think?
    Thank you :)

  2. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi David, the X-T1 and 27mm should make for a killer standard set up, I love that focal length, incredible sharpness already wide open and so small. My experience with the A7 so far has been great, as a second body along my D800e for low angle portrait and full figure work and for video of course. I won’t bother shooting street with it, the shutter sound is way too loud and I don’t consider full frame an advantage for street photography, the Fuji’s are much better suited for street shooting. Low light performance is pretty amazing with the Fuji’s, I think you will like the results if you decide to go that route.

  3. David Culton

    Hi Mike, I’m jumping into the fray now that the X-T1 has been announced. I think Jesse and I are in a similar world. Had been shooting an M6 with 35 and 90mm lenses. Am ‘getting by’ with a Canon 30D, but I travel a lot for business and need something small with great IQ to do my night/street photography any time. Am angling towards the X-T1 and the pancake 27mm for a truly portable (slightly) wide angle kit, then using my 35 & 90mm M’s to round things out and take advantage of the great glass. I’m so spoiled by the M shooting experience – and my understanding that Fuji is closer to it – that it might just trump the better IQ and dynamic range of the a7. The a7 seems like a great image maker without much of a soul. I print up to about B3 size at the moment, so not so huge and even my 8.2 Mp Canon prints ok at this size. In your opinion (or readers’), for mostly night shooting (with lots of contrast) is that crazy talk, or does it sort of make sense?

  4. Damhieu

    Fuji 35@2 just too soft, cannt match Sony-Nikon combo with sharpness, and lack micro-contrast and 3d look, sorry Fuji!

  5. mike.kobal Post author

    I did have the 1.8 which is an absolute bargain, however, if you are a bekeh lover, at that price the 1.4 is absolutely worth it, much nicer blur render wide open.

  6. suraj

    Although now it has been replaced with the newer Nikon AF 50 mm f/1.4 G AF-S but one must know that this lens held its top position for over a decade and is still a more desired and cheaper alternative to the newer model which is just marginally ahead in terms of performance. If the price for even the second hand version of this lens feels like a budget spoiler to you then i would recommend the cheapest yet one of the sharpest and well performing Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D for you. And trust me it not more than a feet behind in the race for image quality.

    Making good photographs is the job of the person behind the camera-lens system and not the responsibility of the equipment, which are merely the means to the cause.But having a good equipment at your disposal is a blessing .

  7. mike.kobal Post author

    Hey Jesse, not at problem at all! This is very much a universal problem we all have at some point, I am glad to hear you find it helpful. Anytime, this is what this blog is for, sharing experiences, asking question, getting answers….

  8. Jesse Struyvelt

    Thanks Mike. I can’t other both, because I am still a student.. Unlucky :) I’ll go and test them in a shop coming weekend. I was hoping you guys would say “Get the X-E2″. But the A7 is still a choice I think.

    Thanks for the answer. I’ll keep that in mind. I used the X-Pro1 too but the EVF is “okay”. I heard the X-E2 EVF is nothing like the X-Pro1 EVF. Also they added a “Digital Split Focus”, which is just a digital rangefinder-like focus system.
    Should be doable I guess?

    I’m not concered about the DOF as I always shot with crop, APS-H (Leica M8) & APS-C (Canon 7D) other than my 220mm & 35mm film cameras.

    My biggest concern is the manual focus. X-E2 offers 3 options, A7 only 2.
    I don’t want it to be a limitation to me. Either way, any one will outrun the M8 in Image Quality. I just need to know how the camera works.

    Sorry Mike for solving my personal problem on your blog. You guys are really helpful. Many thanks

  9. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Jesse, just when you thought the decision was made :)
    Anyway, based on Gavin’s input I would keep the A7 in the running, perhaps order both, try the lens, keep the one you like, send the other back – this might be the hardest part, you might like both :)
    to answer your question, I have no problems using it as a professional tool and there are many accomplished professional photographers who have made the switch 100%, ditched their Canon’s and Nikon’s and aren’t looking back

  10. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Gavin, thank you so much for your input, I really appreciate it! It is great to have a photographer of your caliber share his experience. Interesting to hear that not much has changed @ Leica service, I had two M4-2’s (the Canadian version) the first one purchased with price money from a photo competition I won as a student. I absolutely loved it but the film winding lever/mechanism kept breaking, I ended up getting a second body just to have while #1 was in repair, same thing with the second body.

  11. Gavin

    @jesse HI Jesse and Mike. I have just recently purchased an A7r. I do a lot of travel and am always searching for a high quality lightweight camera. I had an M9, absolutely loved the output but mine was in for repairs 7 out of the 10 months, completely let down by their customer service I sold it but kept a couple of lenses as I still had an M6. I then bought the X pro1 which was problematic but absolutely fantastic and also produced beautiful results……with their own lenses. One of the main reasons for buying it was to use my Leica glass but the output was not as good as the Fuji lens and was a pain to focus. On the A7 I don’t know about smearing with the zm 50mm, from what I have read it is an excellent combination. I know with the 50mm summicron I have the output is absolutely superb, much better than I thought. I really don’t think it is just a matter of bokeh, the Fuji 35mm 1.4 has similar amounts to the Summicron F2. To me the full frame, depending on how it is used, just adds so much dimension and depth. Whilst I haven’t taken pictures of charts or zoomed in to edges I can’t see any problems with smearing…also if there is some it simply is not relevant to my work which is mostly portraits and stuff. I have just sold my Fuji kit which wasn’t an easy decision….it really is a great camera. I did find the Fuji more user friendly than the Sony but not in leaps and bounds. Viewing your work Jesse I would be leaning towards the Sony as it just produces such a beautiful look with the full frame combined with certain lenses….if you can rule out the smearing issues!!! Anyway just my 2 cents worth

  12. Jesse Struyvelt


    Thanks Mike :)

    Just another question. Can the X-E2 be used a professional photog tool? I know everything about the camera is better than my current Leica M8 (except the Leica feel).. but still doubting.

  13. Chad

    One last point, to beat a dead horse, the optical quality I am stressing is not shallow DOF (that can be nearly matched with a faster lens on the smaller format). Perspective is the key that gets overlooked in these conversations. A 100mm lens renders subject and background different than a 50mm lens – it is not simply the DOF difference that makes the rendering unique and a crop sensor does not magically change the optical formulation of the lens.

    I’ll step off my high horse now and ask forgiveness if I sound like a large format snob. I am not. There is a place for all the formats and they each have their merits.

    Love the site and your commentary. I’ll be back ;)

  14. Chad

    Hey Mike.

    Close. I think we are saying the same thing in different ways. Yes, a crop sensor effectively crops a wider FOV lens to a longer (more narrow) FOV, but it can’t change the optical qualities of a wider lens compared to a longer one. Specifically the way a longer lens flattens perspective. So in the end, you get a facsimile of the converted FOV, but not the real thing.

    Thanks for the kudos. Right back at you!

    Grip arrives this week. Looking forward to it, especially with my adapted Alpha lenses.

  15. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Chad, thank you! Actually you do capture a smaller FOV with the smaller sensor, the reason we have the 1.5x, 1.6x magnification factor for APSC and 2x for M43, 2.7x for 1″ etc because it effectively reduces the field of view of a wider lens, which then ACTS LIKE a longer lens on FF. What we cannot change however is the inherent optical characteristic of the wider lens, i.e deeper depth of field. I think that’s what you meant, right? And I agree, we should all go out and take pictures instead. This is just one of those things that always comes up, can I get away with apsc vs full frame and companies are taking advantage of it with confusing marketing slogans. I love your work by the way, really great stuff!
    Did you have a chance to try the grip with the A7? Mine is in the mail, I think without the grip the body = 85% only, the grip completes it, I tried it at the expo and instantly had that eureka experience, I don’t even want to shoot without it.

  16. Chad

    Thanks Mike. A worthwhile comparison.

    You can always try and “overcome” lack of shallow DOF on smaller formats with a faster aperture but the laws of physics are against you – you can’t make a 35mm lens on a Fuji shoot with the same FOV as a 50mm lens on the Sony. The way a longer FOV lens shortens perspective, cannot be achieved by simply making the lens faster.

    This is true for the whole spectrum of formats – Large Format all the way down to a cell phone sensor. It doesn’t mean “Full Frame” is better than APS-C or m4/3, it just means it produces a look unique to its own format.

    I’m tiring of hearing fanboys argue that there is no difference just to justify their format selection. Don’t we all have better things to do?

  17. DTB

    In response to Dec question regarding the EVF in the X-E2 above, Fuji is apparently releasing a SLR-like X-Series camera (MILC) at the CES show (I think that is what it is called)in early January, which is rumoured to have a bigger, brighter viewfinder than the current X-series cameras. So, if you are interested in X-Series cameras, you may want to wait a month to see if that camera will be a better choice for you. I am sure it will have other improvements over the X-E2 as well, as it is rumoured to be placed between the X-E series and the X-Pro series in Fuji’s lineup.

  18. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Jesse,
    I don’t know about smearing of the zm 50mm since I don’t have one, if reliable sources report on that, then I would seriously stay away from the A7.
    The X-E2 definitely feels more like a Leica and I am really liking the EVF, I can’t remember if it is just like the one on the X-Pro1, I am assuming it is better, I find it quite impressive and I think for your type of work it would be beneficial over the traditional rangefinder from the Leica. The Leica M finder was popular with photojournalists because they could see what was going on outside the frame lines as they were shooting and recompose quickly. For portraits you will be much better off with the EVF, you see exactly what you get including the effect of the aperture you chose. You basically see the final picture.
    I love the split focus, it is never sluggish or slow, for portraits i much prefer it over focus peaking, more accurate, but like with everything else,it will take some time to get used to it or you might hate it from the very beginning. However, with that lens wide open, it will snap right into focus, you don’t even need focus aid. The EVF is very good.
    The 50mm Sonnar should kick ass on the X-E2, you get a 75mm 1.5! I would go for it.

  19. Jesse Struyvelt


    Thanks for the answer.

    I only have the Carl Zeiss Sonnar ZM 50/1.5 T* for my Leica M8 right now. As it’s the only lens I use for portraits and everything. It covers fullframe but I read about smearing issues with this lens on the A7. It’s the only lens I want to use for my portraits too. I might buy a wideangle Contax G or Leica R lens as an extra for an all arounder.

    I was hoping you said, get the X-E2. It feels more natural to mee too, as I come from a Leica.

    How is the accuracy of the split focus? Is it sometimes obstructive, sluggish or slow, unpredictable? Sorry for asking all these questions bus you are the only person that I found that can share this information.

    Is the X-E2 EVF bigger than the X-Pro1? As I find the X-Pro1 EVF is larger than my Leica OVF (not exactly true, it’s bigger but I can’t see everything, have to move my eye to see everything in the OVF, it looks more focussed on the subject in the EVF, which leaves out all the other stuff that I see with my Leica OVF. Don’t know if it makes any sense.)

    Again, thanks, quick response! Hope you can answer my final questions!

  20. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Jesse, I just checked out your site, very nice work, indeed!
    I do much prefer the split image aid over focus peaking, it is not perfect but once you get used to it I find it more accurate and assuring to use.
    The X-E2 is the snappier camera in terms of handling, although I am very much used to it, the A7, not sure exactly what it is, just doesn’t feel as natural, the shutter button is a little odd and the shutter sound is like from a medium format camera.
    On the A7/r I just focus without focus peaking and zoom in if necessary , the EVF is noticeably bigger and a little better. But not “oh wow” better.
    I would say it depends on the lenses you already have, if you have high speed portrait lenses covering full frame, go with the A7, if you have shorter lenses that would benefit by a 1.5x multiplication factor, go with the Fuji. Hope this helps.

  21. Jesse Struyvelt


    Thanks for the article. Still doubting between them but not about FF or 1.5 crop.

    How is the EVF on the X-E2. Worse than the A7? Much worse?
    How is the new digital split focussing on the X-E2?

    I’m only going to use MF lenses (selling my Leica M8). I want to use my Leica glass for the X-E2 or the A7. Just wondering what the best solution would be for my kind of work. (

    I’m used to MF. I think the rangefinder system is quick and easy. But the M8 is getting outdated. An M9 is way over my budget. Also a reason why I tend to buy the X-E2 over the A7.

    So would the split focus be easy and quick for modelling work? I’m not snapping around much, I try to think much before I take my shot so it’s not that I need “speed” but it shouldn’t delay my workflow.

  22. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Dec, you are welcome!:) I couldn’t live with mf only, just imagine shooting a collection 25 outfits a day, with variations, you have to shoot very fast, can’t exhaust the models and fuss around too long with technicalities. I love manual focus and there is a place for it but as the only option for my photography, impossible. You really need to think about what you are going to shoot and if mf gives you an advantage.
    I like the viewfinder of the X-E2, great resolution and refresh rate but I agree, looking through the D800E OVF is a totally difference experience, I really like EVF and there is nothing that bothers me with the Fuji, I would like an articulated screen, but that’s a different story..Anyway, the EVF on the Sony is noticeably bigger and better, I think it is exactly the same EVF as on the A99, if you have a change go to a store and look through one, the only way to tell if you actually like it, I think.

  23. Dec

    That was quick! Thanks for the comparison Mike!

    Like many others here, I’m planning to move down from a 6D to either an A7 or an X-E2.

    I’m itching to challenge myself and go MF- only with the a7, but do you think it’s worth it?

    My qualm with going fuji is that I’m too used to the size of my FF viewfinder that when I go back to the EVF of the fuji, I’ll have to squint. Do you feel that way moving from your FF cameras to the fuji?

    How much better is the a7’s EVF to the fuji?

    Thank you so much for your time!

  24. Dirk

    @ Mike, well indeed, if you look at the opening picture and the X-E2’s F.14 equivalent, there is a lot less difference. So no reason to conclude the A7 will deliver you better pictures than the X-E2, it all depends on the glass you’re using and ever since I bought my X-Pro1 I questioned the following: do I really need FF + do I really need a resolution that is > 16MP. Difficult to say, without the excellent Fujinon glass it would have been a completely different equation. Sony has always been a company basing its business on fatter specs than competition, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. I like Fuji for many more reasons than just the bare resolution and am not going to wait to years to see appear some half decent glass in the range. Beyond the comment I wrote to Plextor, Sony is a consumer electronics company, in any sense.

  25. Dirk

    @Plextor: that’s exactly how Sony works. Even more, over two years, they won’t remember the A7 anymore. I’ve gone through this kind of experience with them a few times, reason why I still want invest in Fuji, not Sony. Not to mention the non-existing after sales service, if you got a problem on anything older than a year, it’s old stuff for them.

  26. Plextor

    Mike, thanks for the answers… Funny detail… I live in Belgium and already went to a Sony centre in a big shopping mall here… They didn’t knew what the A7 was… Honestly… they said I was mistaking with the nex-7… can you imagine :-)

  27. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Paul, you are welcome! What I meant was I would shoot 90% with the Fuji, the other 10% with the A7. As Dirk pointed out in the previous comment, advantage Fuji system, when looking at ergonomics and non existing lenses for their latest A7/r bodies.

  28. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Dirk, yes of course, that would have been the correct way to compare, as far as I could tell from the emails I received, photographers were more interested in seeing a comparison as to what each system is capable of at the maximum aperture, esp 1.4 on lenses with almost identical VOF.
    p.s and I did throw in one f2 sample to have as reference (opening shot)

  29. Dirk

    This is an obvious result, as it is FF versus APS/C To come to a comparable result, you should have put the A7 to a F2.2 (or 2.0), or have mounted a F0.95 lens in front of the X-E2. No, the Fuji system isn’t harsh or bad, it’s just you’re comparing apples to pears and coming to the conclusion they’re not the same. There is a whole machine put in working to promote the A7, but exactly the same test with ANY FF camera and lens would have delivered the same conclusion. But that doesn’t mean the X-E2 is a bad camera, no. Not at all. I some areas it will even beat the A7, like f.i. the clear ‘old school’ ergonomics and the truly excellent Fujinon’s versus the ‘not yet-existing’ lens range of the Sony’s (it will take you at least two years to get this, by then there is a FF Fuji as well).

  30. Paul Van Gaans

    Hi Mike, thanks very much for doing the comparison! So just so I have it clear … if you owned both the X-E2 and the A7 you would shoot the Fuji 90% of the time and the A7 for the other 10%? Or would the Sony cover 100% of what you shoot and the Fuji 90%?

    I currently shoot a Pentax K-5 and am looking to move to Fuji or a full frame camera. I love the look of the Fuji X series cameras and the files they produce and was ready to pull the trigger on X-Pro1 and the 14mm, 23mm, 35mm, 55-200mm lenses, but then the A7 was announced. Before switching to a new system I really want to do my homework as I’m not in a position to chop and change.

    Thanks heaps Mike,

  31. mike.kobal Post author

    :) sorry, posted before I was finished, to early to comment on the A7 since I haven’t had enough time with it yet and am mainly using it with mf lenses, something about the shutter release button and shutter sound, it feels more like a medium format camera, definitely not as snappy as the X-E2, however, the kit lens focuses very fast. It all depends, if you have the chance, go to a Sony store and play around with it, you will see right away what I mean.

  32. Plextor

    Thanks for the feedback Mike, do you have anything to say about the A7 in that regard? (I hope more responsive)

  33. mike.kobal Post author

    Thanks Plextor! I know exactly what you are talking about, I stopped using the X-E1 and ended up with the X100s. The X-E2 definitely beats the X-E1 and with the latest firmware af speed has been vastly improved for all lenses. Every time i put on the 35mm 1.4 I notice how fast it focuses compared to back in the days, even in low light, although it still misses from time to time. Too early to comment on the A7 since I haven’t had enough time with it yet and am mainly using it with mf lenses, something about the shutter release button and shutter sound, it feels more like a medium format camera, definitely not as snappy as the X-E2.

  34. Plextor

    Hi Mike, how about reaction time of the camera’s… I owned a X-E1 and sold it because of the bas AF in low light.. I also found it to be very slow…
    How is the A7r compared on this area with the x-e1?

    Thanks in advance, and VERY nice photo’s… (loving that A7 bokeh)

  35. mike.kobal Post author

    Lol. Not fair. That would depend on the genre of photography I would be interested in. As a traveling photographer, documenting city life, shooting landscapes, people, portraits, night shots, architecture, you get the idea, I would go with the Fuji. As someone mainly interested in landscape and architecture at the highest quality, the A7 or even better, the A7r. Or if I had lots of FF legacy glass, the A7/r, and lastly, if I would also be interested in shooting video, the A7/r :) I am glad I can keep them both, they are quite different.

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