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Panasonic Lumix GH3 Ken McMahon, February 2013
 
 

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

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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 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 best quality JPEG settings 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 1/6. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 selected 1/5 and the Sony NEX-6, which has a tendency to underexpose in low light, was set to +1EV to give an exposure of half a second at 100 ISO and f5.6. Just to note that the variation in the NEX-6 crops is not due to any changes in the lighting or exposure settings. All the crops were shot at the same aperture and the shutter speeds progressed as you'd expect with the increasing sensitivity settings i.e the exposure for the 400 ISO shot was 1/8 and for the 800 ISO shot 1/15. The GH3 JPEG file measured 6.73Mb and, as usual, the crops are taken from the area marked by the red rectangle.

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. The 125 ISO crop doesn't look all that different from the 200 ISO one below though it does look slightly less contrasty. While it might be useful if you want to use a slow shutter speed to show subject movement, or to use the maximum aperture on the lens to reduce depth of field, for general use I'd stick with the 200 ISO setting.

The 200 ISO crop itself is clear, crisp, contrasty and noise free, there's not much more to say really, it's a great result form the GH3's sensor. At 400 ISO there's some slight texture creeping in, but the difference between 200 and 400 ISO is actually quite small and only noticeable if you're pixel peeping at 100 percent. At 800 ISO there's another incremental increase in texture, but you'd still need to be looking quite closely to spot it. The text on the memorial panel is still very legible and fine detail is holding up well.

The 1600 ISO crop shows a bit of a quality change from the preceding ones. It looks like the noise processing has stepped up a gear here, but the result is balanced and not too soft and you can still read the text. Even at 3200 ISO where the noise is getting the upper hand and there's a general softness accompanied by a little bit of smearing, parts of the text remain legible and the overall result is good. You wouldn't get away with a full sized print at 3200 ISO, but on screen at less than 100 percent it looks very good. 6400 ISO up is nice to have but as usual some very substantial quality compromises are being made in order for you to be able to get the shot.

Overall this is a very impressive result from the Lumix GH3. It provides great quality relatively noiseless images at the base ISO setting with only very marginal noise increase in the mid-sensitivity range. At the higher settings it keeps the noise manageable beyond 1600 ISO with a very useable 3200 ISO setitng. Compared with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 perhaps not surprisingly the results are quite similar, but it's not just the different white balance that differentiates them. The default JPEG processing from the OM-D E-M5 produces a slightly harder-edged more contrasty result. At the lower ISO settings this doesn't make so much difference (though the GH3 ones look preferable to me). But in the 800 -3200 ISO range I think the slightly softer Panasonic approach yields better results.

By comparison the Sony NEX-6 results look a tiny bit softer than the GH3 ones, which could be either the lens or the processing, but is unlikely to be the sensor - the RAW crops on the next page will reveal if that is the case. In terms of noise though, the NEX-6's 16 Megapixel sensor, which is larger that the 16 Megapixel Four Thirds sensor of the Lumix GH3 and O-M-D E-M5 keeps pace with the GH3 though the range. But is it better? I'd say it may enjoy a minor edge at the highest ISOs, but this may be down to processing as opposed to actually superior sensor performance and we can confirm this using RAW files on the next page.

To find out how much of a role processing plays in keeping noise at bay in these crops take a look at my Panasonic Lumix GH3 RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my Panasonic Lumix GH3 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.


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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