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Panasonic Lumix GH3 Ken McMahon, February 2013
 
 

Panasonic Lumix GH3 vs Oympus OMD EM5 vs Sony NEX-6 Noise RAW

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  Panasonic Lumix GH3 results
1 Lumix GH3 Quality JPEG
2 Lumix GH3 Quality RAW
3 Lumix GH3 Noise JPEG
4 Lumix GH3 Noise RAW
5 Lumix GH3 Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix GH3, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-6 within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The Lumix GH3 was fited with the Lumix 12-35mm f2.8, the OM-D E-M5 with the M. Zuiko 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 and the NEX-6 with the 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 power zoom.

The lenses were all set to their maximum wide angle - an equivalent of 24mm in each case. The cameras were set to Aperture Priority exposure mode with the ISO senstivity set manually. I tested at all aperture settings and chose the sharpest results.



The above shot was taken with the Panasonic Lumix GH3 in Aperture priority mode. The camera was mounted on a tripod and stabilisation disabled. Tonal enhancement features were left on their default settings - i.Dynamic and i.Resolution were off, Long Shutter NR was on. With the ISO sensitivity set manually to 200 ISO and the aperture was set to f4 the GH3 metering set the shutter speed to 0.4s (or as the display not very helpfully puts it, 2.5 as in 1/2.5s). The original file measured 7.16Mb and, as usual, the crops are taken from the area marked by the red rectangle.

I processed both sets of 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 4500K 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 - as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you're used to seeing in many of my comparisons, but again it's an approach that's designed to show the actual detail that's being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

The default sensitivity range for the Lumix GH3 is 200-12800 ISO, but turning on Extended ISO from the Rec menu provides a top end 25600 ISO setting as well as 125 ISO at the bottom end of the range. By contrast with the JPEG, the 125 ISO crop looks a little less noisy than the 200 ISO one as well as slightly less contrasty. This could merit the use of 125 ISO to achieve the best possibly quality results from the GH3 when shooting RAW, even though I wouldn't advise it for JPEGs.

The noise increase is fairly linear on the GH3 crops all the way up to 1600 ISO, then the colour noise experiences a bit of a spike at 3200. So if shooting RAW you've got every chance of squeezing better detail from GH3 files without noise becoming a problem.The OM-D E-M5 files look a little different, but in terms of the amount of noise at each ISO sensitivity setting they match those from the GH3 pretty much every step of the way. And the same goes for the NEX-6; though the JPEGs looked a little softer, here in the RAW processed files the details is as clean and sharp as in the GH3 crops. And like the OM-D E-M5, the NEX-6 keeps pace with the GH3 right the way up to 25600 ISO - but does its larger APS-C sensor deliver lower noise? I'd say not. So a good result here for both Micro Four Thirds cameras which are delivering similar noise levels to the NEX rival.

Now head over to my Panasonic Lumix GH3 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my Verdict.


Panasonic Lumix GH3
 
Olympus OM-D E-M5
 
Sony NEX-6

125 ISO

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Panasonic Lumix GH3
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise


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