To compare the quality of the Fujifilm XT10, Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II and Sony Alpha A6000, I shot this scene with all three cameras, moments apart. While each model supports interchangeable lenses, I think it’s very important to test them with their respective kit zooms, as these will be what most buyers at this price point will be using them with – at least to start with. Fujifilm supplied the XT10 with the higher-end of its two kit zoom options, the XF 18-55mm f2.8-4. Olympus supplies the OMD EM10 II kit with the collapsing EZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6, while Sony supplies the A6000 kit with the collapsing E 16-50mm f3.5-5.6. Each lens was adjusted to deliver the same vertical field of view and closed to f5.6 for the best results.
Above is the full view captured by the Fujifilm XT10, with the red rectangles indicating the areas I’ve cropped for presentation below at 100%. I shot the scene in RAW and JPEG and will add the RAW results once the EM10 Mark II is supported by Adobe Camera RAW. So for now here are the results from the out-of-camera JPEG images, using the default settings and standard photo profiles.
With the same 16 Megapixel sensor resolution, albeit distributed in a slightly different aspect ratio, the Fujifilm XT10 and Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II crops show a similar area. With a higher 24 Megapixel resolution, the Sony A6000 crops show a smaller area, although as you’ll see it doesn’t always mean the ability to resolve finer details.
The first row of crops clearly demonstrates the importance of a quality lens when it comes to resolution, especially towards the edges of the frame. Fujifilm has two kit zooms and supplied the XT10 with the higher quality option here and it shows. In the crops made towards the edges of the frame, it visibly out-performs the collapsing kit zooms of the Olympus and especially the Sony. The flip-side though is this lens is more expensive, not to mention considerably larger, while also lacking a motorised zoom which can be useful when filming movies.
The second row of crops are taken from closer to the middle of the composition which is more forgiving on the lens. Here you’ll see the Fuji and Olympus crops look very similar with essentially the same degree of real-life detail, while the Sony manages to slightly out-resolve both in the grills.
In the third row of crops, the Fuji and Olympus are again performing similarly, but again the Sony kit zoom is letting the system down. Meanwhile in the fourth row of crops, taken from closer to the edge, it’s a repeat of the first row where the Fuji is visibly crisper than the collapsing zooms of the Olympus and especially the Sony.
While there are minor stylistic differences between each camera’s default image processing and sensor technologies, the biggest difference in this comparison is down to the lenses. Fujifilm’s XT10 unsurprisingly delivers the crispest results across the frame here as it was equipped with the best lens, albeit again the largest and most expensive.
The collapsing zooms of the Olympus and Sony certainly allow them to be much smaller and more portable overall, while also benefitting from motorised zooms, but they do involve optical compromises. To be fair, the Olympus EZ 14-42mm isn’t bad. It softens a little towards the edges, but nowhere near as much as the Sony and still manages to deliver fairly respectable results especially when viewed in isolation; indeed across much of the frame it matches the Fuji detail.
But the disappointment here is Sony’s E 16-50mm kit zoom, which in my tests with multiple copies consistently fails to deliver sharp results much beyond the centre of the frame. As you approach the edges, let alone push-up against them, the quality becomes very soft and any benefit of the high resolution sensor behind it are lost. It is possible to enjoy high resolution images from the A6000 which out-perform the Fuji and Olympus bodies on detail, but you’ll simply need to equip it with a larger, heavier and more expensive lens.
In terms of style, I remain a big fan of both the Fuji and Olympus processing. I think both deliver great-looking and natural images straight out-of-camera with little or no effort. The OMD EM10 II, like earlier Olympus bodies, tends to apply slightly higher than average levels of sharpening and contrast by default, but these in turn result in punchy-looking and striking images. Meanwhile Fuji opts for a more natural-looking approach, but one that’s still satisfyingly crisp thanks to the unique sensor and processing. You can of course adjust the settings and styles on all these cameras, but if you just want to get going out-of-the-box, you’ll enjoy great results with the XT10 and OMD EM10 II.
Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II noise
To compare noise levels in low light I photographed this scene with each camera using their full range of ISO sensitivities. Each camera was fitted with its respective kit zoom, adjusted to deliver the same vertical field of view and set to an aperture for optimal sharpness. Each camera was using its default processing style with the only modification being a disabling of tonal optimisation as these can accentuate noise. All four cameras metered the same exposures, so what you’re looking at below is directly comparable. The full view is shown below with the red rectangle indicating the cropped area, presented below at 100%.
In the first table I’ve compared JPEGs out-of-camera without modification. In the second table I’ve compared RAW files, all processed in Adobe Camera RAW using the same sharpening settings (50 / 0.5 / 36 / 10) and with all noise reduction disabled; note the RAW results from the Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II are missing until it’s supported by Adobe Camera RAW.
In the tables below from left to right you’ll see the Fujifilm XT10, Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II, Panasonic Lumix GX8 and Sony Alpha A6000; these offer resolutions of 16, 16, 20 and 24 Megapixels respectively, so as the resolution increases, the cropped area reduces in coverage. The sensor in the XT10 is the same as the XT1, so its results are effectively interchangeable. Likewise for the OMD EM10 Mark II and the OMD EM5 Mark II. So if you’re comparing the Lumix GX8 against these higher-end models, the results here are applicable.
Starting with the JPEG comparison, the first thing you’ll notice is how the Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II crops looks punchier than the others. This is down to the default image processing on the Olympus cameras which applies above average sharpening and contrast for a more vivid appearance – remember this is just a default style and it’s possible to tone it down, or indeed make the others punchier if desired. But equally if you like the vibrant style and want the minimum effort, the Olympus cameras give it you by default.
Between 100 and 400 ISO, all four cameras are delivering clean and detailed results that can stand-up to a high degree of sharpening if desired. At 800 ISO, the Lumix GX8 and Sony A6000 begin to show the faintest smattering of noise textures, an effect that becomes more obvious at 1600 ISO. At this point the Panasonic GX8 takes a more hands-off approach to noise reduction, allowing the detail to remain at the cost of increased noise textures. In contrast the Sony is quite noise-averse, attempting to iron-out any speckles with increased smearing and loss of fine detail.
Meanwhile the Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II is managing to tackle noise without too much smearing, while the larger sensor of the Fuji XT10 coupled with its low resolution means noise doesn’t become an issue until higher sensitivities.
At 3200 ISO, all four cameras are having to deal with ever-higher noise levels, with the Sony A6000 trying the hardest to eliminate them, but at the cost of ever-aggressive smudging. I’d say for image quality out-the-box, it’s the least good-looking of the foursome, proving that having the highest resolution isn’t necessarily the best choice. Meanwhile the Lumix GX8, with the second highest resolution here (and a smaller sensor than the Sony or Fuji) unsurprisingly suffers from noise sooner than those with bigger sensors or lower resolutions.
I’d say the Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II and Fujifilm XT10 are delivering the best overall images here, the Fuji thanks to its APS-C sized sensor and relatively low resolution, and the Olympus for its processing making the most of its sensor real estate.
But this is when they’re judged on out-of-camera JPEGs using the default settings. In the second table you can see how the RAW data compares. Scroll down to see this.
Fujifilm XT10 vs OMD EM10 II vs Lumix GX8 vs Sony A6000 RAW noise
In the table below you can see RAW output from the Fujifilm XT10, Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II, Panasonic Lumix GX8 and Sony Alpha A6000; these offer resolutions of 16, 16, 20 and 24 Megapixels respectively, so as the resolution increases, the cropped area reduces in coverage. The sensor in the XT10 is the same as the XT1, so its results are effectively interchangeable. Likewise for the OMD EM10 Mark II and the OMD EM5 Mark II. So if you’re comparing the Lumix GX8 against these higher-end models, the results here are applicable. Note at the time of writing, the Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II’s RAW files were not supported by Adobe Camera RAW; once supported I’ll add its results to the table.
All the RAW files were processed in Adobe Camera RAW using the same settings: a high degree of sharpening (50 / 0.5 / 36 / 10) and zero noise reduction. 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 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. All four cameras metered the same exposures, so what you’re looking at below is directly comparable in every respect.
The Fujifilm XT10, Lumix GX8 and Sony A6000 start off their ISO ranges with similarly clean results, but before long differences emerge. As you’d expect, the Lumix GX8 and Sony A6000 start to exhibit noise speckles sooner rather than later thanks to packing the most pixels into their sensor areas. The Sony sensor is a little larger, but then it has 4 more Megapixels too, so they’re both pushing it. That said, I’d say the Lumix GX8 enjoys slightly lower noise levels than the Sony A6000 towards the upper-end of their sensitivities.
Meanwhile, again as you’d expect, the Fujifilm XT10 with its APS-C sized sensor and relatively low resolution, manages to keep noise under control much better – just compare it with the other cameras at 1600 to 6400 ISO and you’ll see while there is obviously some noise, it’s much lower than the others.
Revealingly, I’d say the Fuji also matches the recorded detail of the higher resolution models as the sensitivity increases, proving again that more Megapixels isn’t always the way to superior image quality. High resolutions only really deliver superior results at the lowest sensitivities and when coupled with a high quality lens. Fit kit zooms or shoot at high ISOs and any potential benefit is lost.
While Panasonic has just about got away with its boost to 20 Megapixels, I’d have preferred them to stay at 16 and concentrate on either making the sensor technology more efficient or integrating some kind of phase-detect AF system. Certainly while there is a minor boost in resolving power at low sensitivities, I don’t think it’s hugely compelling. I hope Fuji isn’t tempted to increase resolutions just to compete in a numbers game.
Next check out my sample images or skip straight to my verdict.