Olympus OMD EM1 Gordon Laing, January 2014
 
 

Olympus OMD EM1 vs OMD EM5 vs Panasonic Lumix GX7 Noise RAW

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  Olympus OMD EM1 results
1 Olympus OMD EM1 Quality JPEG
2 Olympus OMD EM1 Quality RAW
3 Olympus OMD EM1 Noise JPEG
4 Olympus OMD EM1 Noise RAW
5 Olympus OMD EM1 diffraction compensation
6 Olympus OMD EM1 Lumix 7-14mm flare
7 Olympus OMD EM1 long exposure noise
8 Olympus OMD EM1 Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Olympus OMD EM1, OMD EM5 and Panasonic Lumix GX7 within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

I fitted each camera in turn with the same Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 lens to eliminate the optics from the comparison, and set the aperture to f4 as pre-determined to deliver the sharpest results.


In my comparison below you can see how the OMD EM1, OMD EM5 and Lumix GX7 compare when their RAW files are processed using exactly the same settings. I processed all files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 50 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, the White Balance set to 3800K and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. I also enabled Chromatic Aberration reduction.

These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what's really going on behind the scenes - as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you're used to seeing in many comparisons, but again it's an approach that's designed to show the actual detail that's being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

Once again the Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Olympus OMD EM1 kick-off the comparison at their Low sensitivities of 125 and 100 ISO respectively, and the most striking thing here is how similar they both look. They may have different sensors and different low pass filter strategies, but from the results below they look almost identical.

At 200 ISO the Olympus OMD EM5 joins-in, and guess what? Yep, it looks almost identical too. With the same processing settings, all three share similar levels of sharpness, contrast and ultimately detail. I'd like you to really pixel-peep these three crops for me. Look at the subtle veins in the petals, the fine lines in the leafs, the tiny stalks on the buds. Can you see any difference between the three cameras? There's a tiny difference in colour balance and maybe a faint sprinkling of noise to separate them, but in all honesty I'd say they're essentially delivering the same result here.

This is slightly disappointing as both the GX7 and EM1 are a year newer than the OMD EM5, and the EM1 of course also dispenses with its optical low pass filter. Like many I hoped to see crisper results from the EM1 compared to rivals and predecessors because of this, but I just can't see it here. Don't get me wrong, the quality isn't bad. On the contrary the quality is great, but it's just not really any different from what we've seen before, at least from these tests.

Moving on through the ISO range you'll see steadily increasing noise levels from all three models, but again the amount of noise remains pretty consistent across all three.

Maybe a different RAW processor would reveal greater differences. Maybe a different subject would too. But from this test I'd say under the hood, the Panasonic Lumix GX7, Olympus OMD EM5 and EM1 all share pretty much the same degree of real-life detail and noise levels. The only visible difference in my tests concerns their out-of-camera JPEGs using the default settings.

Once again I'm really hoping the lack of optical low pass filter on the OMD EM1 will deliver crisper results in some circumstances, so I'll be performing more tests and comparisons and will report back if or when I find any. But at this point I'm happy to say that based on the results below, all three cameras share essentially the same potential image quality.

For more examples in a variety of situations and with different lenses, check out my Olympus OMD EM1 sample images page, or if you're hungry for more tests, how about my EM1 diffraction compensation, EM1 long exposure noise or EM1 with Lumix 7-14mm flare?! Or if you've seen enough, skip straight to my verdict!


Olympus OMD EM1 RAW
using Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at f4
 
Olympus OMD EM5 RAW
using Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at f4
 
Panasonic Lumix GX7 RAW
using Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at f4

100 ISO

100 ISO not available
125 ISO
         
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
25600 ISO
25600 ISO
25600 ISO

Olympus OMD EM1 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise / 7-14mm flare / diffraction / long exposure


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