Canon EOS M Ken McMahon, Nov 2012

Canon EOS M RAW Quality

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To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Canon EOS M and Olympus PEN E-PL5 within a few moments of each other using their RAW mode.

The zoom on both cameras was set to its maximum wide angle, 18mm (29mm equivalent) on the EOS M and 14mm (28mm equivalent) on the PEN E-PL5, providing approximately equivalent fields of view.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

  Canon EOS M results
1 Canon EOS M Quality JPEG
2 Canon EOS M Quality RAW
3 Canon EOS M Noise JPEG
4 Canon EOS M Noise RAW
5 Canon EOS M Multi Shot NR
6 Canon EOS M Sample images

The image above was taken with the Canon EOS M in Aperture Priority exposure mode set to f5.6 and the ISO set to 100. At these settings, the EOS M selected a shutter speed of 1/800. At the same aperture setting and at its base ISO sensitivity of 200 ISO the Olympus PEN E-PL5 metered an exposure of 1/1000, so to match exposures and produce similar results for comparison I applied -2/3EV exposure compensation on the E-PL5 resulting in an exposure of 1/1600 at f5.6. The RAW file size was 24.5MB.

I processed both files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To further reduce any distracting visual differences between the crops I also set custom white balance to 5500K and tint to 0. 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.

These crops from the RAW files processed in exactly the same manner are quite revealing. The Canon EOS M crops show more detail and are sharper with cleaner edges than those from the in-camera JPEGs. You might find it helpful to open the JPEG results page in another browser window so you can compare them side-by-side. In the first crop you can clearly see more detail in the chapel stonework and the doors and windows are sharper. The same goes for all the other crops, though the RAW processing also reveals noisiness which is most evident in the sea and sky areas of the lighthouse crop. In the final crop there's considerably more detail in the balconies, the tiled roofs in the foreground and the hill and buildings in the background. All this is very encouraging for anyone who chooses to shoot RAW with the EOS M as it shows there are very good prospects of achieving better quality results than when shooting JPEGs.

The comparison with the RAW crops processed in the same way from the Olympus E-PL5 also makes interesting viewing. Now there is much less of a gap between the two in terms of sharpness and detail resolution. In crops one and four, from closer to the middle of the frame, there's really very little to tell them apart, though the PEN E-PL5 crops look to be a little bit noisier. The E-PL5 crops from closer to the edge of the frame look to be a little softer though.

Now, it's time to examine their high ISO performance, starting with a JPEG comparison in my Canon EOS M Noise results.


Canon EOS M
Olympus PEN E-PL5
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO

Canon EOS M
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise / RAW Noise / Multi Shot NR

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