Olympus PEN E-PL5 review

Quality

Olympus PEN E-PL5 vs Canon EOS M JPEG quality

 
To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and Canon EOS M within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

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

The lenses on both cameras were set to their maximum wide angle, 14mm (28mm equivalent) on the PEN E-PL5 and18mm (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.

  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

The image above was taken with the Olympus PEN E-PL5 in Aperture Priority mode set to f5.6 and 200 ISO. At these settings, the Olympus PEN E-PL5 metered an exposure of 1/1000. At its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting the Canon EOS M metered 1/800 at f5.6. To match exposures with the Canon EOS M and produce similar results for comparison I applied -2/3EV exposure compensation on the E-PL5 resulting in an exposure of 1/1600 at f5.6.

This is a contrasty scene with a wide brightness range including bright highlights and deep shadows. The E-PL5’s original metering didn’t over-expose the image, but exposure compensation was applied to produce visually similar results for comparison. The E-PL5 image overall is punchy with good saturation and the warm colour balance typical of the PEN range.

The level of detail in the crops is also very good. Taking the top one first, the small details in the chapel, the doors and windows as well as the stonework are very well resolved. The grassy hill in the foreground with its rocky outcrops is a difficult area for sensors to hold onto detail, but the E-PL5 has managed it, you can make out detail in the rocks as well as the clumpy texture of the grass.

In the next crop the lighthouse is a distinct white column and you can make out the separate detail in the lamphouse. There’s also some detail in the cliffs beyond. The roofs and houses in the foreground of this crop are looking a little blurry and indistinct though. And the detail in the third crop from closer to the edge of the frame also looks a little bit soft. This area was in shadow and there’s also a little bit of noise texture creeping in. Another issue is chromatic abberation, with quite visible red fringing on high contrast vertical edges. The fourth crop from the close to the centre centre of the frame shows a return to the form shown in the first one, with nice, sharp, clearly resolved, well-defined detail right down to the individual roof tiles.

Though the Olympus PEN E-PL5 shares the same sensor as the Olympus OM-D E-M5, I think these reults look quite different to those from the E-M5. These crops have a punchier, sharper look to them much more in tune with what consumers would want from a straight out of camera JPEG. The sensor is doing an excellent job, let down slightly by the quality of the 14-42mm kit lens at the edge of the frame, at least at the wide angle setting.

The PEN E-PL5 crops are also crisper, more detailed and punchier than those from the EOS M. First, take a look at the chapel on the first crop, the doors and windows look sharper in the E-PL5 crop and there appears to be more detail on the stonework. In the second crop, as with the EOS M, the windows in the foreground are a little indistict, but there’s more detail in the roof at the bottom of the crop. There’s not much to separate the two in the third crop, but though the EOS M also suffers from chromatic aberration, unlike the PEN E-PL5, it has built-in correction (which for these tests was in the default Off setting). In the final crop, as with the first, the PEN E-PL5 crop looks to be sharper with a little more detail. Note the E-PL5 crops also show little evidence of noise in the sea and sky areas at its base sensitivity of 200 ISO

The question is are these differences merely down to processing, or is the Olympus E-PL5 Micro Four Thirds sensor recording more detail than the APS-C sensor in the Canon EOS M? To discover more check out my Olympus E-PL5 RAW results on the next page or see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Olympus E-PL5 Noise results.

 
Oympus PEN E-PL5
 
Canon EOS M
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO


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

Olympus PEN E-PL5 vs Canon EOS M RAW Quality

 
To compare real-life RAW performance 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.

The zoom on both cameras was set to its maximum wide angle, 14mm (28mm equivalent) on the PEN E-PL5 and18mm (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.

  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

The image above was taken with the Olympus PEN E-PL5 in Aperture Priority mode at f5.6 and 200 ISO. At these settings, the Olympus PEN E-PL5 metered an exposure of 1/1000. At its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting the Canon EOS M metered 1/800 at f5.6. To match exposures with the Canon EOS M and produce similar results for comparison I applied -2/3EV exposure compensation on the E-PL5 resulting in an exposure of 1/1600 at f5.6.

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.

These crops reveal even more detail from the PEN E-PL5’s sensor than the in-camera JPEGs. The detail in the chapel in the first crop is really very impressive. The absence of any noise reduction means that there is a very fine noise texture that’s most visible in flat colour areas – the sky and sea in this case, but it’s not particularly intrusive. The second crop is interesting because it shows that a sensor is only as good as the lens you put in front of it. The 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 isn’t a bad kit zom, but the quality does appear to deteriorate the closer you get to the edge of the fame at the wide angle setting.

The quality of the PEN E-PL5’s in-camera JPEGs is extremely good. but what these crops show is that if you shoot RAW and do your own processing you should be able to produce qualitatively different results without losing out on detail. So, if you find the in-camera JPEGs a bit too punchy for your liking it should be possible to tone down the contrast and sharpening without losing out on detail. Alternatively you might be able to squeeze even more fine detail from the E-PL5’s RAW files without suffering unduly from noise.

The comparison with the RAW crops processed in the same way from the Canon EOS M makes interesting viewing. There is much less of a gap between the two in terms of sharpness and detail resolution than we saw in the JPEG crops. In crops one and four, from closer to the middle of the frame, there’s really very little to tell them apart, though the PEN E-PL5 crops look to be a little bit noisier. The E-PL5 crops from closer to the edge of the frame are a little softer though. So there’s much less in it between these two sensors than the JPEGs would suggest, but the EOS M’s kit lens looks to be a better perfromer, at the wide angle setting at least, than the E-PL5’s

Now, it’s time to examine their high ISO performance, starting with a JPEG comparison in my Olympus E-PL5 Noise results.

 
Olympus PEN E-PL5 (RAW)
 
Canon EOS M (RAW)
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO


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

Olympus PEN E-PL5 vs Canon EOS M Noise RAW

 
  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 RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and 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 was set 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.

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.

These files processed in Adobe Camera RAW using the same settings reveal far more about the noise performance of these two sensors than the JPEG results alone. What they show is that the PEN E-PL5’s sensor has a pretty good noise reponse which increases linearly as you travel up the sensitivity range. There definitely is visible noise in the 200 ISO crop, but at these lower ISO sensitivity settings the E-PL5’s Truepic VI processor does a very good job of removing it while maintaining image detail. At 1600 ISO the noise level reaches a critical level, though, and the processing can no longer supress it, though in these mid-rage crops it does a good job getting the balance right.

Comparing the two, in the absence of the EOS M’s in -camera JPEG processing the results from the two cameras look much closer at the lower ISO sensitivity settings. The PEN E-PL5 crops look a tiny bit sharper, but there’s really very little to choose between them up to and including the 400 ISO crop.

In the JPEG results, 800 ISO was where the EOS M took a definite downward turn and the crop from the RAW file gives a clue to the possible cause, there’s a lot more colour noise in this crop than the previous one and indeed from here on up the sensitivity scale colour noise appears to be more of a problem for the sensor in the EOS M than the PEN E-PL5.

Now head over to my Olympus E-PL5 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Olympus E-PL5 (RAW)
 
Canon EOS M (RAW)
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

Olympus PEN E-PL5 vs Canon EOS M Noise JPEG

 
  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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