Sony Alpha A6000 Gordon Laing, April 2014
 
 

Sony Alpha A6000 vs Olympus OMD EM5 Noise JPEG

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  Sony Alpha A6000 results
1 Sony A6000 Quality JPEG
2 Sony A6000 Quality RAW
3 Sony A6000 Noise JPEG
4 Sony A6000 Noise RAW
5 Sony A6000 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Sony Alpha A6000 and Olympus OMD EM5 within a few moments of each other at each of their ISO sensitivities. My A6000 RAW noise results are on the next page.

The A6000 was fitted with the 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 kit zoom and the EM5 fitted with the 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 kit zoom, both set to f5.6 in Aperture Priority mode and adjusted to deliver the same field of view.

Note: I wanted to compare the A6000 against the newer EM10, but Olympus couldn't supply one in time. I intend to update these pages when I get hold of the EM10, and also include some results with prime lenses. In the meantime I've found the image quality across all Micro Four Thirds bodies to date has been quite similar, so I'm happy for the EM5 to represent them here.


In my comparison below I chose to use variable aperture kit zooms to illustrate the kind of quality difference you can expect from each system in practice - most buyers of these bodies will start with the kit zooms. I'll add some results with prime lenses when I compare the A6000 against the EM10. Both zooms here were adjusted to deliver the same field of view, close to 40mm in full-frame terms, and set to f5.6 in Aperture Priority mode.

Note: I’ll be reshooting this comparison against the EM10 in the near future, and also taking the chance to shoot with prime lenses; I’ll update this page at that point, but in the meantime the crops below still tell us a lot about the noise characteristics of both cameras.

Below you’re comparing the A6000 with its 24 Megapixel APSC sensor against the EM5 with its 16 Megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor. Both cameras were also using exactly the same exposures at each ISO, so the crops are directly comparable. When both cameras are at 200 ISO, I’d say there’s not a great deal between them. The EM5 is slightly over-sharpened by default and that allows the Sony to enjoy a slightly more natural-looking image, and I’d say there’s a tiny amount of extra detail in the veins of the leafs, but nothing to make me choose one over the other in terms of image quality at this point.

At 400 ISO there’s a minor increase in the noise on the EM5 and fractional loss of ultimate detail, both giving the Sony a small edge in quality, but in terms of real life detail and what you could eek out of a RAW file, they’re still fairly similar.

At 800 ISO, both cameras suffer from minor increases in noise and reduction of detail, but again the Sony enjoys a small lead. At 1600 ISO the EM5 takes quite a big hit with visibly increased noise and loss of detail. It’s still a usable image, but this is usually about as far as you’d want to take Micro Four Thirds if you want to view closely. The A6000 is also suffering and there’s evidence of smoothing through noise reduction, reducing the finest details, but it remains preferable to the Olympus.

When you get to 3200 ISO it pays to scroll back up again to the lowest sensitivities to see what’s lost not just in detail but also saturation. Both the fine details and the colour is decreasing significantly at this point, although the Sony is still holding onto a little more. Interestingly at 6400 ISO, the Olympus processing manages to retain some finer details, but both cameras are looking pretty nasty. And while the Sony avoids the clumpiness of the Olympus at 12800 ISO, it’s hardly delivering a great looking image at this point. The less said about 25600 ISO the better.

So if you’re shooting at 100-400 ISO, both cameras will deliver similar levels of real-life detail when fitted with their respective kit lenses. The Sony does a tad better, and I’d hope that would become more obvious with better lenses (I’ll test that soon), but with the kit zooms, there’s not as much in it as the sensor specifications would suggest. From 800 ISO upwards though, the larger surface area of the Sony sensor gives it a lower noise advantage over the Olympus and other Micro Four Thirds bodies. Look at the real life detail and the gap may not be huge, but it’s there if you’re really looking, and it becomes more obvious as the sensitivity gets higher.

What's going on behind the scenes? Find out in my Sony A6000 RAW noise results, or if you've seen enough, head over to my Sony A6000 sample images to see more results across the entire sensitivity range, or to my verdict.


Sony Alpha A6000 JPEG
Using Sony 16-50mm at 27mm f5.6
 
Olympus OMD EM5 JPEG
Using ZD 12-50mm at 20mm f5.6
f5.6 100 ISO
100 ISO not tested
f5.6 200 ISO
f5.6 200 ISO
f5.6 400 ISO
f5.6 400 ISO
f5.6 800 ISO
f5.6 800 ISO
     
f5.6 1600 ISO
f5.6 1600 ISO
     
f5.6 3200 ISO
f5.6 3200 ISO
     
f5.6 6400 ISO
f5.6 6400 ISO
     
f5.6 12800 ISO
f5.6 12800 ISO
     
f5.6 25600 ISO
f5.6 25600 ISO


Sony Alpha A6000 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise


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