Crazy Comparison: X1D vs A9 vs PEN-F vs RX100 MKIV! Friday Fun!

Crazy Comparison: X1D vs A9 vs PEN-F vs RX100 MKIV! Friday Fun!

By Steve Huff

It’s FRIDAY! I love Friday and even though I work from home it still just sounds good “FIRDAY”. For many the weekend is a time to relax, unwind and escape from the everyday hustle. For me, it means I will be heading out of the home office for a weekend of shooting. That’s probably why I love it. While I do not go to a traditional job or office, I do sit in my office M-F, sometimes from 7Am until 8PM. Other days from 11AM to 5PM. All depends on what I need to get done.

But today I wanted to offer up an old school CRAZY COMPARISON that was fun to do. Now, as usual, with my crazy comparisons it is not about being scientific. It is for fun. When I do these I usually let the cameras do the job, the work, to see what kind of image they will put out using them as most use them. When we take a camera out on the street we do say “oh, before I do this shot, let me set it up the same way my Olympus at home would meter it or shoot it”. Nope, we use the camera at hand. So this is a comparison to show you the output of a shot taken with the Hasselblad X1D, the Olympus PEN-F, Sony A9 and the little Sony RX100 MKIV.  Each camera metered on their own, and each camera used different lenses and aperture. 

The X1D had the 45 f/3.5 lens on it, and was shot wide open. It’s the only lens I have for it. 

The Sony A9 had the 28mm f/2, as that was all I had at the moment (and this was a spur of the moment comparison, not planned)

The Olympus PEN-F had the amazing 25 f/1.2 and due to the small sensor, it was shot wide open. 

The RX100 MKIV, I just powered it on and shot though I should have zoomed in some, but this was thrown in just for fun, so take it for what it is. 

Below each shot is labeled and should be clicked on to see it correctly. If you do not, you will not see it correctly or in the right quality. The PEN-F to me looks gorgeous. But that is due to the lens. The X1D has the most polished look, the A9 for some reason blew out the highlights in the BG and this shot is after I used the highlight slider maxed out to save them. Weird. The RX100 image is right out of camera. The color for me goes to the X1D with a very close 2nd the PEN-F.

This is just to show what you get with each camera, and each lens that is on each camera ; ) I feel the best Olympus lens for M 4/3 is that 25 f/1.2 as it has a “Leica Style” to its rendering. This will show you that you can get a more shallow DOF with Micro 4/3 and f/1.2 lens than a Hasselblad MF rig with a 45 f/3.5 ; )

Here are the shots, and HAPPY FRIDAY! My Part 3 of the X1D review is coming next week.



So what do you think? Feel free to comment below!


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  1. All the shots look good. Different strokes for different folks. The Pen F is super fun to use and lightweight, the RX100 is a straight up lightweight camera with just enough differentiation to an iPhone, the X1D Blad has great skin tones and overall MF quality, and the A9 is a speed demon imaging monster. Great job Steve! You’ve succeeded in making want to have all 4 cameras. I do feel drawn to the Pen F and X1D more than the other photos though.

  2. I have nothing to comment about colors. I do not have any preference. I noticed, however, there is big differences between sensor sizes. Olympus and RX100 blends your girl friend with the wall, but a9 distinguishes her from the wall noticeably, and Hasselblad did that with such an impression that there must be big gap or space between her and wall. On other pictures taken with X1D by you, I also noticed that. That tells me X1D has the best image quality or at least a strong impression to me.

  3. In normal daylight the differences between the different sensor sizes vanishes almost.
    Most important is the lens. I own the Oly 1 MK2 with 25 1.2. It requires accurate working in terms of focusing. Yes, but then you get really great images.
    In low light conditions the bigger sensors are still ahead. Oly offers now serval fast lenses and they will continue as I recognized recently. For me the Oly is the best compromise in weight, lens performance (primes) and price. The sensor related shortcomings have to be improved by IM-Stabilization and big opening of the lenses. In my opinion the most intelligent concept actually on the market.

  4. Steeeeeeeve!!! You should do a REAL WORLD crazy comparison of the X1D with 45mm 3.5 vs. Olympus Pen-F with 25mm 1.2 for LOW LIGHT.

    Side by side, wide open shooting with the shutter speed where you think you could realistically hand hold each system, and let the ISO fall where it may. I would be very interested to see the gap after factoring in the aperture difference and the image stabilisation of the Olympus. Do you think they would be closer than most people think????? Would the dynamic range of the lower ISO Olympus make up for the dynamic range of the larger sensor at it’s max ISO? Ohhh, so many questions!

  5. Most missed your Pan/Leica 1.4 comment. SIZE, WEIGHT, PRICE AND DXO RATING say better than 1.2 Oly. It’s a great lens on micro 43 bodies.

    On my phone blown up I like the Pen F and I own EM1 MK1.

    • I have owned both, the 25 1.2 has a MUCH more pleasing rendering IMO, for my tastes, very Leica like. Owned it since release and would never sell it. I once owned TWO! The Panasonic is different. They have different styles. Price, weight, size yep, Panasonic. Also, I go by results not DXO ratings as ratings like that show nothing about how a photo feels or looks. The Panasonic puts out a “harder” looking image. The Olympus is simply gorgeous, fluid, smooth and the bokeh is also beautiful. Color performance of the Olympus is different as well. It’s a gorgeous lens and still quite small when used on a PEN as a whole.

  6. Thanks Steve for this comparison. Not scientific but great fun.
    I bought the PEN-F and 25mm f/1.2 for less than €1900 by the way. I am also curious how it (or the E-M1 II) would perform against the X1D’s high ISO using a low ISO value combined with the Olympus stabilization. The Hasselblad is better of course and I am very happy to see that this company is back on the track. A great achievement!
    It looks like if you want to make a real visible improvement you have to double, or in this case even double twice your investments. Any idea what an Alpa with a Phase One back and a Schneider Kreuznach or Rodenstock will cost?

    (Not for publication: Please remove the stupid and insulting comment by Hasselbad. It is in Dutch. I could translate it for you, but that a waste of energy).

    • You know, you have me thinking. But, the only issue relying on the 5 AXIS with slower shutter speeds is if your subject moves at all, the images is blurred. But I love my PEN, EM1 MKII and 25 1.2, 7-14 and even 8mm f/1.8. Love them.

  7. Steve,
    I’ve been following your site for some time now and just wanted to say thank you. Your real world usage is informative and inspiring. There will always be the bickering back and forth on which one “is better” which I personally enjoy, but more importantly, you bring people together that share the same passion. Keep up the great work.

    • Thank you, and things like this post, all in fun really. All systems are good in their own right. What we go with personally is just that, a personal choice and we are all different. I am nuts for buying the X1D, I am well aware of it, but I have always been a little nuts ; ) Thank you!

  8. Domme kloot, wanneer ga jij eens stoppen met dit soort vergelijkende testen te publiceren? Omhoog gevallen fotograaf van m’n voeten….

    Google it…

  9. Steve, I’m enjoying your X1D adventure.

    In this non-scientific comparison (which is why I like your site), I think the X1D edges out the others. Better color and contrast at first glance and a more overall balance. I don’t see the three dimensional quality I have seen from your previous SL posts.

    I look forward to more of your wonderful real life images with the X1D. Maybe a sprinkling of street images , and city architecture. Landscapes would be nice too.

  10. Those 4 images have to be seen on a large screen. On my 27″ 5k iMac screen, the X1D picture is clearly the best.
    A9 comes second, pen third and the RX100 last.

    Just my honest opinion


  11. I see that X1D’s color is the most pleasing of them all. A9’s background appears lot brighter compared to the other shots, which may be due to several different factors. However, not sure X1D’s cost is justified based on the photos shown above. Even Pen and RX100 shots look pretty good! I am not sure if I would have been able to tell which photo was from which camera if they were not labeled.

  12. I own 2 of the cameras you’ve tested here and your fun exercise proves my own thoughts – the Pen F gives truly excellent results. The sensor, the colour profiles, the wonderful Pro lenses…the results speak for themselves. Unfairly underrated by some.

  13. Steve, nice comparison. I love my PenF but use the 25/1.8 because the 1.2 is just too big for the camera. To me, that is. It is a great lens but for the size!

  14. The images out of the Hassy and PEN-F are warmer and richer than either of the Sonys. I’d be curious to see a comparison of the ease and amount of time needed in post processing to get all the pics exactly where you want them to be.

  15. A9 is very good. Hassy is better, but but only slightly, not enough to justify the added cost, lack of lens choice and slow performance. One may be wiser using the extra $10,000 to travel the world and create amazing photos with a Sony set up rather than enjoying an $11,000 rig in their own backyard.

    • Not sure where you can get an A9 nd lens setup for $1000, please tell me. Once those vacations are over you are out $10k and have nothing to show for it. This was not in “my backyard” but if you meant in my state, yes. I have travelled the world, and it’s overrated. There is often much more in your own “backyard” to shoot if you go looking for it. BTW, there is a large difference between the Sony in DR and Color performance. Huge. I love my A9, I own it and am keeping it, but the X1D is superior in all ways for IQ, low light, high ISO , DR, color, etc.

      But the difference between an A9 and great lens vs the X1d is about $4800, not $10k. The A9 and a 24-70 G Master will set you back $6700.

      The Olympus PEN-F beat the Sony here IMO. For color, depth and overall look. You can get that combo for $2400 total. That would be a better choice to take on and blow $10k on a vacation that will be over in a week. ; )

      But in all honesty, I am judging the Hasselblad on HOW I SHOOT, what I shoot, when I shoot and WHERE. For that there has been nothing that can beat it in the 35mm world. But as I said in my two parts of the review so far, no one “needs’ anything like Medium Format unless you are a paid pro and rely on it. But there are countless other reasons one may purchase one. That are just as valid, maybe more so.

      • The A7rii would be closer in quality to the hassy and cheaper in price than the A9. Difference in image resolution would be almost unnoticeable. The cost and variety of lens options makes the Sony a superior system all around. Only pixel peepers will know or even care that the Hassy shows a slight improvement.

    • Funny I see. the RX100 as dead last. Colors were WAY off, way off. Olympus I have as #2 as well. A9 as 3rd. If one goes by color accuracy, X1D wins for color, then Olympus. The RX100 adds a grayish hue to the image here.

          • Nope, no kidding, Rx100 is also the best for me. In music, you can spend an insane amount of money on a compressor, or a reverb, or else, and finally get a result that suits you the most with a free plug-in. It’s because money has nothing to do with taste …

            Now, it doesn’t mean that the sony rx100 is a better camera, it just means that in this case, we do prefer the rx100 image over the other ones.

            life is unfair 🙂

      • Steve, up until recently I as a part time lecturer on a degree course here in the UK – I devised a lecture on colour perception, but it was a lot for the students to get their heads around, so I simplified it.
        I got hold of all Pantone colour patches and mounted them on a large wall; I would then point to an object (a car in the car park below) and ask the students to go back to the wall and pick the colour that matched the car – never did two people choose the same reference number for the specific object.
        As unscientific as could be, but proof positive that we all ‘see/perceive’ differently.
        That’s the beauty of what we love doing; we are getting a unique experience and should rejoice in its ability to surprise and delight us.

    • I believe Steve’s mission to be to find a camera he feels is an extension of his self/vision – I use Sony A7 and Oly PEN and wouldn’t swap them for the Hassy thing…well, maybe I would, but then I’d sell it and buy more Sony and Oly gear!
      So the ‘reason’ I guess, is whatever reason is good for buyer.

      • I hear ya. I have cameras I just can’t sell. My Olympus cameras have not been used much lately but for the price, I can’t sell them. Id want them back. My A9, is staying. I use it for video and photo, love it. The X1D is different for me, and I love the pace I am shooting it. Slower, more deliberate. More motivated. BUT, will that eventually wear of? Probably as it seems it often does, but with some cameras, it never does. That’s what I am hoping for here. It works for all I do, my only hangup is the cost, and realizing I do not earn a living from photography. So makes me tad insane looking, lol.

    • No can do, no SL on hand. But you can see my SL 50 Lux review posted last week which also gives off a medium format look, but is quite a bit larger and heavier. I love both, and will always love that SL. Probably my fave camera of all time.

  16. I don’t like the RX100 personally. The rest have all taken a perfectly good photo. Pen-F is Perfectly good. A9 is noticeably sharper and I actually think nicer colours than the Pen-F. However the X1D is , I have to admit, the nicer look. More 3 D, best skin tones, great detail – very nice indeed. I always like to see the underdog win, but in this case you pay your money and you get ….

  17. Of course the Hassy and A9 are taking in more info, but I like what the Pen F is doing. I could be happy within my means 🙂

  18. I just looked at these on my iPhone, and even on this tiny screen I can see the amazing depth and roundness the Hasselblad portrays. Even the A9 is no match for it. Good purchase, Steve. You will be using this camera a lot.

  19. The X1D is best by a mile. Much more natural, and I see much better skin tones & colours.

    The A9 is with a Sony 28/2? If it were a Summicron 28 that might be fairer… 🙂

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