Olympus PEN E-PL5 Ken McMahon, November 2012

Olympus PEN E-PL5 vs Canon EOS M RAW Quality

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

The zoom on both cameras was set to its maximum wide angle, 14mm (28mm equivalent) on the PEN E-PL5 and18mm (29mm equivalent) on the EOS M, providing an approximately equivalent field of view.

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

  Olympus E-PL5 results
1 Olympus E-PL5 Quality JPEG
2 Olympus E-PL5 Quality RAW
3 Olympus E-PL5 Noise JPEG
4 Olympus E-PL5 Noise RAW
5 Olympus E-PL5 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Olympus PEN E-PL5 in Aperture Priority mode at f5.6 and 200 ISO. At these settings, the Olympus PEN E-PL5 metered an exposure of 1/1000. At its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting the Canon EOS M metered 1/800 at f5.6. To match exposures with the Canon EOS M 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.

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 reveal even more detail from the PEN E-PL5's sensor than the in-camera JPEGs. The detail in the chapel in the first crop is really very impressive. The absence of any noise reduction means that there is a very fine noise texture that's most visible in flat colour areas - the sky and sea in this case, but it's not particularly intrusive. The second crop is interesting because it shows that a sensor is only as good as the lens you put in front of it. The 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 isn't a bad kit zom, but the quality does appear to deteriorate the closer you get to the edge of the fame at the wide angle setting.

The quality of the PEN E-PL5's in-camera JPEGs is extremely good. but what these crops show is that if you shoot RAW and do your own processing you should be able to produce qualitatively different results without losing out on detail. So, if you find the in-camera JPEGs a bit too punchy for your liking it should be possible to tone down the contrast and sharpening without losing out on detail. Alternatively you might be able to squeeze even more fine detail from the E-PL5's RAW files without suffering unduly from noise.

The comparison with the RAW crops processed in the same way from the Canon EOS M makes interesting viewing. There is much less of a gap between the two in terms of sharpness and detail resolution than we saw in the JPEG crops. 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 are a little softer though. So there's much less in it between these two sensors than the JPEGs would suggest, but the EOS M's kit lens looks to be a better perfromer, at the wide angle setting at least, than the E-PL5's

Now, it's time to examine their high ISO performance, starting with a JPEG comparison in my Olympus E-PL5 Noise results.


Olympus PEN E-PL5 (RAW)
Canon EOS M (RAW)
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
f5.6, 100 ISO

Olympus PEN E-PL5
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise / RAW noise

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