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Olympus PEN E-PL5 Ken McMahon, November 2012
 
 

Olympus PEN E-PL5 vs Canon EOS M Noise JPEG

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  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

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions , 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 at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The PEN E-PL5 was fitted with the M.Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit zoom and the EOS M with the EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM kit zoom.

The zoom on both cameras was set to its maximum wide angle, 14mm (28mm equivalent) on the PEN E-PL5, and 18mm (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.


The image above was taken with the Olympus PEN E-PL5. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f4 and the sensitivity to 200 ISO. The E-PL5 metered an exposure of 0.8 seconds at f4 and the Canon EOS M selected 2 seconds at its base ISO sensitivity setting of 100. The file size was 7.71MB and, as always, the red square in the image above shows the cropped area, which is shown below at 1:1.

The PEN E-PL5's base 200 ISO crop is pretty impressive. The detail, as in the outdoor test crops, is pin sharp and there's no evidence of noise either in the light coloured wall or the darker areas in the memorial panel. The 400 ISO crop does show the beginning of noisiness in the wall though. If you compare the left side of this crop with the 200 ISO one you'll notice it's just a little bit mottled.

By 800 ISO the mottling is also apparent in the dark tones - take a look at the left side of the memorial panel compared with the 400 ISO one before. You can also see that the noise texture is beginning to affect the finer detail of the text panel. Even so, the 800 ISO crop is a good one in terms of noise and you'd need to be pixel peeping at 100 percent to spot it.

At 1600 ISO the noise becomes more apparent, as you'd expect, but even at 100 percent you'd get a decent quality print from this with plenty of detail. It's not until you reach 3200 ISO that things really begin to look patchy and as well as clumpiness obscuring medium-sized detail, the E-PL5 has lost the trademark PEN warm colour balance.

Beyond 3200 ISO it's devil may care territory where getting a result at any kind of quality is what matters. 25,600 ISO is a more of a marketing department numbers game and, in the absence of anything like the Canon EOS M's low-light stacking modes you'd probably be better off under-exposing by a stop at 12800.

Compared with the crops from the Olympus PEN E-PL5, the Canon EOS M crops look softer, but in terms of noise, there's little to choose between them. The PEN E-PL5 doesn't have a 100 ISO setting, but its 200 ISO crop compares favourably with the EOS M's base 100 ISO crop as well as the equivalent 200 ISO one. At 400 ISO there's arguably a more textured look to the E-PL5 crop, but I prefer that to the softness of the EOS M one.

At 800 ISO the PEN has a clear edge, with cleaner detail and less noise, at 1600 ISO the detail is still there, but there's a harshness to it and the edges are beginning to look a little clumpy. From there on up, to the 25,600 ISO setting neither looks particularly great. To sum up, the PEN-E-PL5 looks better in the low to mid ISO range, largely as a result of its more punchy JPEG processing and more successful noise reduction.

But the EOS M also offers multi Shot Noise Reduction to produce better quality shots in the mid to high ISO range and this is where it really scores over the PENs which lack any kind of composite mode. It's also possible that, once you remove Canon's in-camera JPEG processing from the equation, things could look different. To find out how much of a role processing plays in the noise quality of these crops take a look at my Olympus EPL5 RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my Olympus EPL5 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.


Olympus E-PL5
 
Canon EOS M
100 ISO Not available
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO
25600 ISO


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


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