Olympus PEN EPL9 review - Quality

Quality

To test real-life performance, I shot this scene with the Olympus PEN E-PL9 and the Fujifilm X-A5 using their best quality JPEG modes. The PEN E-PL9 was fitted with the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ powered kit lens and the Fujifilm X-A5 with the XC 15-45mm f3.5-5.6 OIS PZ. Both cameras were mounted on a tripod and stabilisation was disabled, the sensitivity was manually set to the 200 ISO base sensitivity setting. I set both models to Aperture priority mode and selected f5.6 and they both metered an exposure of 1/500. As usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked in red below.

The Pen E-PL9 has a 16 Megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor which produces an image size of 4608 x 3456 pixels compared with the physically larger 24 Megapixel APS C sensor in the Fujifilm X-A5 which produces images measuring 6000 x 4000 pixels. Consequently the 100 percent crops from the PEN E-PL9 show a larger area with smaller detail.

Overall, the quality of the PEN E-PL9 crops is excellent. The E-PL9 crops in the left column are easily recognisable from their warm colours. The level of detail is fairly consistent across the frame though the first and last crops, from close to the frame edges, do show some slight distortion and softer detail than those from the centre of the frame at this 28mm equivalent wide angle setting. That said, I think the Olympus lens outperforms the Fujinon at the edges. Lenses aside though, the bigger sensor in the Fujifilm X-A5 clearly produces slightly sharper JPEGs with a little more detail than the E-PL9.

 

 

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Olympus PEN E-PL9 vs Fujifilm X-A5 (100% crops)

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at f5.6. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at f5.6.

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at f5.6. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at f5.6.

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at f5.6. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at f5.6.

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at f5.6. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at f5.6.

 

Fujifilm X-A5 Noise

To evaluate the low-light performance of their sensors, I photographed this still-life scene with the Olympus PEN E-PL9 and the Fujifilm X-A5 fitted with their respective kit lenses and set to their best quality JPEG image settings. Both cameras were mounted on a tripod and stabilisation was disabled. I set them both to Aperture priority exposure mode and selected f5.6. I applied -1/3EV exposure compensation on the X-A5 to give an exposure of 0.5s – compared with 0.4s on PEN E-PL9 . The crops are taken from the area marked in red below.

As you cast your eye down the two rows of crops below, there are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly, as for the quality comparison above, the differing sensor resolution between these models (16 Megapixels on the PEN E-PL9 compared with 24 Megapixels on the X-A5) means the PEN E-PL9 crops show a larger area with smaller detail.

Another thing to consider is that for both of these models the base ISO sensitivity is 200 ISO – the 100 ISO settings is only available if you select the extended ISO range from the X-A5’s menu as are the 25600 and 51200 settings – and these are only available in JPEG shooting modes. And although the ‘Low’ 100 ISO setting on the PEN E-PL9 is always available and can be used for RAW shooting as well as JPEG, it is, effectively an extended setting. For everyday shooting it’s the 200 ISO setting which you should regard as the base. So let’s jump in and take a look at the crops.

The PEN E-PL9’s sensor performs quite impressively at the lower ISO sensitivities. I can’t spot any noise textures at 200 ISO and at 400 ISO you have to look very closely at these 100 percent crops to spot any evidence of noise. What you do see is not the noise itself, but evidence of its suppression – if you compare the clock face on the 200 and 400 ISO crops you’ll notice that the second division marks are slightly less distinct on the latter. Like I said, though, you really do need to be pixel peeping to spot this very marginal difference.

The E-PL9 does a great job of minimising noise and maintaining a high level of image detail up to 1600 ISO, from there on up, the level of detail is still good, but there are visible noise textures at 100 percent and loss of some of the finer image detail.

By comparison, I’d say the crops from the Olympus PEN E-PL9 are ever so slightly noisier from around 800 ISO up, though in the lower 100 to 400 ISO range it’s difficult to see much of a difference. The fact that the X-A5 has more detail to begin with makes it difficult to isolate the noise from other factors, but there’s little doubt that from 3200 ISO upwards the Fujifilm X-A5’s sensor outperforms the Olympus PEN E-PL9’s for noise.

 

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Olympus PEN E-PL9 vs Fujifilm X-A5 Jpeg noise

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at 100 ISO. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at 100 ISO.

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at 200 ISO. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at 200 ISO

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at 400 ISO. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at 400 ISO

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at 800 ISO. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at 800 ISO

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at 1600 ISO. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at 1600 ISO

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at 3200 ISO. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at 3200 ISO

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at 6400 ISO. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at 6400 ISO

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at 12800 ISO. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at 12800 ISO

 

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Above left: Olympus PEN E-PL9 at 25600 ISO. Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at 25600 ISO

 

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Above right: Fujifilm X-A5 at 51200 ISO.

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