Panasonic Lumix G5 Ken McMahon, January 2013

Panasonic Lumix G5 vs Sony NEX-6 RAW quality

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To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix G5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-6, within a few moments of each other using their best quality settings.

The Lumix G5 was fitted with the Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 and the NEX-6 with the E PZ 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens. To produce an equivalent field of view to the lens on the G5 I zoomed the NEX-6 in to 19mm.

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

  Panasonic Lumix G5 results
1 Lumix G5 Quality JPEG
2 Lumix G5 Quality RAW
3 Lumix G5 Noise JPEG
4 Lumix G5 Noise RAW
5 Lumix G5 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix G5. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f5.6 and the sensitivity to 160 ISO. The camera metered an exposure of 1/400. The Sony NEX-6 metered an exposure of 1/500 at f5.6 at its base 100 ISO sensitivity.

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.

And what's going on behind the scenes is that, as I suspected the Lumix G5's sensor is capturing more detail than the in-camera processed JPEGs would lead you to believe. Once again the Lumix G5 crops don't look quite so punchy as the Sony NEX-6 ones but that's mostly if not all due to the exposure difference. Look closely at the first crop and you can see a lot more detail in the chapel stonework and the grassy hill than is visible in the JPEG crop on the previous page.

As always, these processed RAW files are very revealing in what they tell us about the NEX-6's in-camera JPEG processing as well as how much detail the sensor and lens combination is recording. In terms of the detail, the first and last crops are the most instructive. Though this image has had a much higher degree of sharpening applied than you'd routinely use, it does reveal that the NEX-6 sensor is recording a greater level of detail than you can see in the JPEGs. You can see detail in the stonework of the chapel and its surrounding wall much more clearly here as you can in the rocks and grass in the foreground.

There's more compelling evidence for this in the second and third crops. The lighthouse is a clean-edged cylinder with a distinct lamphouse, window frames are crisp and roof tiles are individually distinct. There's a little more evidence of noise in these crops, which is to be expected, but ordinarily you wouldn't be using such a high degree of sharpening with no noise suppression. The point is that there is more detail and better quality to be had from the G5's sensor if you shoot RAW and are prepared to coax the best results from it. One other thing worthy of note is that there's no evidence of finging where you might expect to see it on the third crop from the edge of the frame, further comfirming the PZ 14-42's excellent edge-to-edge performance.

The fourth crop from the centre of the frame again shows a high level of detail being resolved. As before, the central area is blown out, but on the RAW file you'd have no difficulty recovering these highlights.

Now see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Panasonic Lumix G5 Noise results.

Panasonic Lumix G5
Sony NEX-6
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO

Panasonic Lumix G5 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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