To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Olympus OMD EM5, within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes.
I fitted each camera in turn with the same Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 lens to eliminate the optics from the comparison, and set the aperture to f4 as pre-determined to deliver the sharpest results. Both cameras were set to their base sensitivities of 200 ISO and shared the same exposure.
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 Panasonic Lumix GX7 fitted with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8; I selected this lens as it delivers excellent results, allowing us to look beyond kit lens issues and instead concentrate on comparing the actual sensor and processing quality. The lens aperture was set to f4 in Aperture Priority mode and the sensitivity to the base of 200 ISO. The Olympus OMD EM5 was fitted with the same lens moments later, where it metered exactly the same exposure.
I shot the scene in RAW mode and processed the files from both cameras in Adobe Camera RAW 8.2 using identical settings: Sharpening at 50 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, the White Balance set to 5000K and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile; I also enabled CA lens correction. 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.
When comparing JPEGs on the previous page you could really see the different approaches employed by Panasonic and Olympus, the former going for a more subdued style while the latter opts for a punchier appearance with higher contrast and sharpening by default. Take their respective RAW files and process them using the same settings though and both become much more similar – almost identical in fact.
The slightly over-cooked Olympus JPEG has been calmed down, while the slightly under-cooked Panasonic JPEG has been boosted, and I’d say both benefit as a result. They’ve also met roughly in the middle with essentially the same degree of real-life detail.
Pixel peepers will notice some very minor variations: the colour of the sky despite both sharing the same white balance, and arguably fractionally higher contrast from the Olympus, but most of this can be adjusted, matched or altered during the RAW processing stage.
It was interesting on the previous page to see the Lumix GX7 correct the Chromatic Aberration from the Olympus lens, while the EM5 did not, but once you’re working with a RAW file it’s easy to tick CA correction and remove most unwanted fringing – so here there’s no evidence of any CA.
There may be some who’ll find a preference between one camera or the other based on the results below, but for me it’s a draw – and once again I’d say both models benefit from shooting in RAW and in the case of the GX7, giving it a boost and in the case of the EM5, calming it down.
So at their base sensitivities I’d say both models are evenly matched, but what about at higher sensitivities? Find out in my Panasonic Lumix GX7 noise results page.