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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Ken McMahon & Gordon Laing, June 2012
 
 

Olympus E-M5 vs Sony NEX-7 vs Nikon D3200 noise in JPEG

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  Olympus OM-D E-M5 results
1 Olympus E-M5 Quality
2 Olympus E-M5 RAW vs JPEG
3 Olympus E-M5 Noise
4 Olympus E-M5 Noise (RAW)
5 Olympus E-M5 vs Panasonic GX1 Noise
6 Olympus E-M5 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions , I shot this scene with the Olympus OM-D E-M5, the Sony NEX-7 and the Nikon D3200 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Each camera was fitted with its respective kit zoom and adjusted to deliver the same vertical field of view. The cameras were set to Aperture Priority exposure mode with the ISO senstivity set manually.

The results on this page were using in-camera JPEGs. You can see a RAW comparison with noise reduction turned off on the next page.


The above shot was taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the M.Zuiko 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 len kit lens. For these tests the camera was placed on a tripod and the EM-5's Gradation tonal control, which cannot be disabled was left on the default Normal position. The D3200's Active D-Lighting tonal enhancement was turned off, and D-Range Optimizer was disabled on the Sony NEX-7. Noise reduction for all three cameras was left on default settings. In Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f4 the E-M5 metered an exposure of 1/6 at 100 ISO. The Sony NEX-7 was adjusted by 1EV to produce an equivalent exposure.

100 ISO isn't available on the OM-D E-M5, but the base 200 ISO crop looks clean and detailed. There's a very fine texture you can just about make out, but it's not intrusive and, unless you were pixel-peeping 100 percent crops, you wouldn't know it was there. The texture increases marginally on the 400 ISO crop, but you have to compare these two crops very closely to notice any difference.

There's another incremental increase in the graininess with the step up to 800 ISO, but again it's marginal, it isn't obscuring fine detail and it's not unpleasant looking. We're still very firmly in every day use territory here. 1600 ISO is usually where it starts to get patchy, with noise affecting detail, saturation dropping and, sometimes, white balance going awry, but the E-M5 is having none of that. The edges are starting to bubble a little bit - look along the right side of the memorial plaque - and at 100 percent the pixels are now a little clumpy, but this is still easily good enough for viewing at at close to actual size.

It's at 3200 ISO that the OM-D EM-5 image quality really starts to suffer, edges are becoming indistinct and the fine detail is starting to break up. You can still read the text with a little effort, though, and I'd feel confident using this ISO sensitivity setting for web-sized display. At 6400 ISO medium sized detail is starting to go, the text is no longer readable and, viewed overall, the saturation is dropping off. This shot looks passable at screen sizes, but you probably wouldn't want to print it. The 12800 and 25600 ISO settings are great for those must-have shots, just don't expect too much in terms of detail.

Compared with the crops from the Sony NEX-7 the Olympus OM-D E-M5 actually looks better to me at the lower ISO settings and as the sensitivity increases the gap widens. The 200 ISO crop looks cleaner and less noisy than the 100 ISO crop from the NEX-7. It's generally recognised that Sony has done a superb job with noise reduction on its NEX models, but even though the NEX-7's APS-C sensor is bigger than the Four-Thirds sensor in the EM-5, with the higher pixel count, the NEX-7 can't match the noise performance of the EM-5's lower resolution sensor. By 1600 ISO there is a least a stop difference in it. One thing that's worth bearing in mind though is that in low light situations the NEX-7 has the advantage of its hand-held Twilight stacking mode.

With the same sensor, but less effective noise reduction, the Nikon D3200 fares even less well than the NEX-7 when compared to the OM-D E-M5. There's a perceptible difference in image quality even at the lower ISO senstivity settings and by 400 ISO the OM-D E-M5 has a clear advantage which only increases the higher up the ISO sensitivity scale you go. Again this could lay to rest any fears you may have about the quality of Micro Four Thirds compared to certain APS-C rivals with higher resolutions.

These comparisons were made using in-camera JPEGs, but what about noise levels in RAW? Find out in my Olympus E-M5 vs Sony NEX-7 vs Nikon D3200 RAW noise page! Equally, how does the E-M5 compare against its biggest rival in the Micro Four Thirds format? Find out in Gordon's Olympus E-M5 vs Panasonic GX1 RAW noise results page!

Alternartively, head over to my Olympus E-M5 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.


Olympus OM-D E-M5
 
Sony NEX-7
 
Nikon D3200
100 ISO Not available
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256000
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16000 ISO Not available

Olympus OM-D E-M5 results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise



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