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Olympus OM-D E-M5 low light high ISO sample series

By dpreview staff on Mar 9, 2012 at 17:44 GMT
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We've just received an Olympus OM-D E-M5 that we can use to publish sample images and have shot an ISO sequence. We aim to bring you a real-world samples gallery in a few days time, but to whet your appetite we've prepared a quick series of studio-based shots showing how the camera behaves under the challenge of low-level tungsten lighting at all ISOs. Olympus describes our sample as 'initial production' and it's running firmware version 1.0, so these should give a pretty good idea of what you'll be able to expect from the camera when it hits the shops. Note that these samples are not intended to replace, or even be comparable to our standard studio tests, which we'll publish as usual when we get our hands on a production camera.

In this series we're showing out-of-camera JPEGs both at default settings, and with the noise filter turned off and sharpening set to -2 (this tends to be our preferred setup for Olympus cameras, to give the most-natural detail retention at high ISOs). As yet we have no third-party RAW support. Note also that the conditions used - low intensity, low color-temperature halogen lighting - are designed to simulate indoor artificial lighting. This should be considered close to the worst-case scenario in normal use as the image's blue channel has to be heavily amplified to achieve neutral white balance, accentuating noise. Under many conditions you'll see better results at high ISOs - for example when shooting indoors using window light.

The test scene used for these samples; focus is on the figurine lower left. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm 1:1.8.

 Click here for our Olympus OM-D E-M5 low light ISO series samples

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Comments

Total comments: 283
12
Aaron MC
By Aaron MC (Mar 9, 2012)

I am tentatively optimistic about this camera. I think that this is undoubtedly the G3 sensor, but it appears that Olympus has squeezed a lot of performance from the pipeline. It's still an old sensor, though, and I fear that it enters the market obsolete and will be made only more so with the release of the GH3.

1 upvote
oldalaskan
By oldalaskan (Mar 9, 2012)

Whether it's an old sensor or not, future sensors will be better. Isn't the bottom line whether or not this camera meets your needs? It's pretty easy to get inadvertently caught up in lusting after the latest and greatest. That can be expensive.

4 upvotes
caver3d
By caver3d (Mar 10, 2012)

First of all, that is NOT an old sensor. Second, you do NOT know whether this is the same sensor or a different one. And, third, your griping is typical of many here that just love to criticize and are not proficient at photogaphy. The technology is just fine. Hone your skills.

15 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Mar 10, 2012)

I hate this "obsolete" non-sense. You can't keep chasing the dragon forever. This image quality seems plenty good. At some point, you got to get away from pixel peeping and go out and shoot. Is the limiting issue going to be the sensor, or is it going to be your talent as a photographer? Today's sensors are delivering amazing quality, and it's so strange to hear people expressing "fear" that it's still not going to be good enough for them.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
7 upvotes
Aaron MC
By Aaron MC (Mar 10, 2012)

I am not chasing the dragon, I am demanding something that meets its competitors at the same price. Nothing that Olympus or Panasonic has made is doing that. The GH1 did it for about a month before Sony released its newest generation of sensors.

It's not that the sensor is going to be good enough "for me," it's whether it will be good enough to match the competition. Because if not, I, as any sane person would, will take my money elsewhere.

And @caver3d, and your griping is typical of people who like to insult others online with the "it's not the camera, it's the photographer" line.

Moreover, I didn't say that I knew that. I said "think." Big difference. Read someone's post before pi$$ing on them.

Comment edited 40 seconds after posting
6 upvotes
Caleido
By Caleido (Mar 10, 2012)

@ Aaron MC.
If you're demanding a m4/3 sensor to perform the same as NEX's APS-C sensors... you're demanding too much.

That said, they are not that far apart. And m4/3 has it advantages elsewhere.

10 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Mar 10, 2012)

@Aaron MC - everything has a trade-off. I don't expect the E-M5 to be competing with a FF DSLR. I have a FF DSLR for that. But in terms of an extremely compact, inconspicuous system that you can basically take everywhere with you, and still delivers superb image quality, I don't see "the competitors" doing it as well as this E-M5.

The point being that there's more to a camera than pixel-level comparisons. There are other things to consider...like the actual handling, size, weight of the camera and its available lenses. For me, I'm fine with making a slight trade-off in ultimate image quality in favor of having a very compact, inconspicuous camera system for times when I don't want to lug around a larger camera rig. People have to realize that there's more to choosing a camera than pixel peeping.

4 upvotes
Aaron MC
By Aaron MC (Mar 10, 2012)

I do not, nor will I ever, expect the sensors to match APS-C as regards ISO performance. Physics demands them to not; they simply receive less light.

The 2+ EV differences in DR has nothing to do with sensor size, though.

I also agree that m4/3 has great advantages. It's why I own a large system built around a GF1.

2 upvotes
Aaron MC
By Aaron MC (Mar 10, 2012)

@T3: All I can say is that I disagree. I think that both the NEX-5n and the NEX-7 either match or beat m4/3 on everything except lens selection, and that will be rectified in the future.

2 upvotes
OneGuy
By OneGuy (Mar 10, 2012)

Yes, Aaron, there are newer sensors. No need to be tentative about fuji x10. Some great round stuff you'll be getting right out of the pipeline. You'll be in the company of some of the best apologists -- just go for it.

0 upvotes
Michael_13
By Michael_13 (Mar 10, 2012)

Sensors are not everything. Sony may make excellent sensors, but 24 MP are useless for me. Even if their lens collection grows, their lenses will always be bulkier.
Quality of all current systems is so high that switching between them does not make much sense if you already own some lenses.

And who knows: Maybe some day Olympus will buy sensors from Sony, again?

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Mar 10, 2012)

@Aaron MC- I think we've all looked at the NEX system, and sure we're hopeful that they'll have a great lens selection in the future, but that doesn't do anything for us in the present. Plus, the NEX lenses are still a lot bigger than the m4/3 system lenses. And I'm not too keen on spending $1000 for a Zeiss NEX 24mm f/1.8 prime.

0 upvotes
Aaron MC
By Aaron MC (Mar 10, 2012)

@OneGuy: What?

@Michael_13: I certainly hope that Olympus does just that.

@T3: That is true, but I want a system in which I can grow. I feel that Micro 4/3 has become stagnant.

Moreover, I am willing and ready to spend that much. I plunked down similar amounts for the Oly 12-60mm and even more for the 50-200mm. I WANT to spend more, but I won't further invest in a system that is being helmed by two companies that have shown little interest in innovating.

0 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Mar 10, 2012)

@Aaron MC -- many of us already have full blown DSLR systems. I have both APS-C and a FF DSLR, with a full complement of lenses. Now, the only way for me to "grow" my camera collection is to go smaller, with a smaller body and smaller lens system. And so far, the m4/3 system is pretty much giving me *everything* I need for this purpose. As for claiming that they "have shown little interest in innovating", I'd say that Oly's E-M5 wth OLED EVF, 5-axis IBIS, wireless flash, full weather sealing, add-on grips, full set of physical controls, high level of customization, etc. is plenty of *practical* and *real world* innovation and features to satisfy me.

And as for your claims that Oly and Panny have "shown little interest in innovating", I'd say the greater sin is that Sony have "shown little interest" in providing fast, compact primes for their system. Where are their equivalents to the Oly 12/2.0, Panny 20/1.7 pancake, Oly 45/1.8, and Oly 75/1.8?

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Aaron MC
By Aaron MC (Mar 11, 2012)

@ T3: If you already have that equipment, then essentially, you already own the competition. You have no choice but to buy m4/3. If I were you, I would be even more annoyed than I am, now, since I would feel trapped, forced to accept whatever they gave me.

Everything that Olympus has provided with this camera should have been provided a year or more ago. It is not innovation, it is standard equipment for serious enthusiasts and long overdue.

Instead, both Panasonic and Olympus gave us iteration after iteration of the same camera, and six different versions of the 14-4xmm lens.

And Sony has shown immediate and forceful interest in expanding their lens selection. The success of the NEX-7/5n caused them to completely alter and expand their future lens line-up. Equivalents to all of your listed lenses will come soon enough.

0 upvotes
zephyrus
By zephyrus (Mar 11, 2012)

From what I have read here, it is going to be a couple of years before the NEX lens lineup is where m4/3 is right now. And the lens seem to be larger and more expensive. We will see where it all goes, but right now, in my opinion, the m4/3 system looks like it has the right balance of performance and size for a compact camera system. Not bashing NEX at all (we own a 5N), just looking at the big picture.

0 upvotes
oldalaskan
By oldalaskan (Mar 9, 2012)

Almost no color shifting through iso 3200 or even 6400. At iso 12800 though, many areas suddenly show a lack of blue in the blue channel resulting in an ugly, strong, saturated color cast. But at iso 25600 there is, again, almost no color shifting! Lots of noise, true, but only a small drop in color saturation in some of the colors and the blacks are no longer as black as they should be.

0 upvotes
Caleido
By Caleido (Mar 9, 2012)

I agree. Colors remain intact.

Color accuracy is a lot more important than noise.

3 upvotes
M Jesper
By M Jesper (Mar 9, 2012)

Indeed. Just awesome up to ISO1600, very well usable up to 6400, but just shat after that (no surprise there). :)

0 upvotes
rallyfan
By rallyfan (Mar 9, 2012)

Great images, very promising!

1 upvote
svillav
By svillav (Mar 9, 2012)

As a camera it seems to be an extremely capable one. Images at high ISO are remarkable. A pity that, esthetically, rather than based in the OM 1 or Om2 it looks as being based in the OM 2000 (A Cosina made mechanical budget camera)

0 upvotes
mister_roboto
By mister_roboto (Mar 9, 2012)

I think it looks more OM-4.

0 upvotes
M Jesper
By M Jesper (Mar 9, 2012)

Even more like the OM2 SP / Spot Program.
olympus-global.com/en/corc/history/camera/om/#06

Comment edited 16 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Don Wiss
By Don Wiss (Mar 9, 2012)

This has image stabilization in the body. Panasonic has it in the lens. How well do the Panasonic lenses work on this? I would presume you can't have two IMs at the same time, and you turn off the one in the lens?

0 upvotes
Macx
By Macx (Mar 9, 2012)

That is correct, prevailing wisdom is that you turn off the IS either in the lens or in the body when using a Panasonic optically stabilised lens with a Olympus body. According to the previews, the new OM-D stabilization seems to work extremely well and since it now offers a stabilised viewfinder, I suspect most will simply choose to keep the lens stabilisation turned off and use the in-body stabilisation only.

Comment edited 12 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
msusic
By msusic (Mar 9, 2012)

Hmmm.. samples look pretty great.

What I don't get is why exposure is so different compared to your 5Dmk3 test?

For example:

5D3 ISO200
6s
f/11

E-M5 ISO200
5/8s (so bit over half a second)
f/6.3 (so 1 2/3 EV more light than Canon)

However, the exposure on the canon is about 10x as long, yet if one was to stop the E-M5 down to f11, they would only require 2s exposure).

Canon shots are clearly more exposed which helps with the noise levels.

Hmmmm....

2 upvotes
odl
By odl (Mar 9, 2012)

I think this is some sort of portable setup where they do the best they can to try and get comparative samples out as fast as they can.

Probably nothing more to it.

0 upvotes
DarkShift
By DarkShift (Mar 9, 2012)

I was wondering the same thing.

Was the lighting measured with an incident meter to match each shooting, or is the light source at different position?

1 upvote
Andy Westlake
By Andy Westlake (Mar 9, 2012)

The exposures are different compared to the 5D Mark III because the light levels are different. It's not rocket science.

1 upvote
msusic
By msusic (Mar 9, 2012)

But how these samples and test hold any weight then?
Canon shots are more exposed too which is good for hiding noise.

4 upvotes
Andy Westlake
By Andy Westlake (Mar 9, 2012)

This isn't intended to be a controlled test for direct comparison between cameras. That's what our studio comparison tool is for. This gives you some idea of how the E-M5's IQ holds up as you increase the ISO. No more, no less.

8 upvotes
OptimaMoving
By OptimaMoving (Mar 14, 2012)

The samples are good. I like the IQ till Iso 800.

0 upvotes
Scales USA
By Scales USA (Mar 9, 2012)

I'm very happy to see DPR publish actual low light images at High ISO's that reasonably simulate real world performance, and can be compared from camera to camera.

Many reviews I've seen just use bright studio lighting, or even outdoor lighting for their high ISO test images. They get high scores, but I preferlow light test images.

5 upvotes
diforbes
By diforbes (Mar 9, 2012)

Anyone care to opine how these compare to high-ISO images from the Fuji X100 or the X1 Pro?

0 upvotes
doctorbza
By doctorbza (Mar 9, 2012)

usability looks about on par with my X100 (meaning i'd be comfortable shooting to 3200), although it's hard to know for sure without using the camera in the real world and getting your hands on the raw files. no idea about the X1...

1 upvote
thejohnnerparty
By thejohnnerparty (Mar 9, 2012)

I saw an outdoor samples of the X Pro1 shot on a narrow street at mid-day with shadows on the steet. They shots went through the entire ISO range. They really looked quite good. I was impressed. ... This sample of the E-M5 also looks very impressive.

0 upvotes
D1N0
By D1N0 (Mar 10, 2012)

The point being? Totally different conditions. Nothing to compare.

0 upvotes
ssoronsay
By ssoronsay (Mar 10, 2012)

D1N0. The proof being, what does it matter? Do you stop shooting if a bell goes off and says "not in your light band today"?

0 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (Mar 9, 2012)

Suddenly I started to hate my E-P1...

1 upvote
IcyVeins
By IcyVeins (Mar 9, 2012)

THIS IS THE FINAL CAMERA...THE ULTIMATE CAMERA...THE CAMERA THAT WILL REACH THE HALLOWED STATUS OF GREATEST OF ALL TIME!!!

0 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Mar 9, 2012)

Please stop shouting.

23 upvotes
diforbes
By diforbes (Mar 9, 2012)

Curb your enthusiam :-)

3 upvotes
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Mar 9, 2012)

Worth only three exclamation marks? Why not five?

2 upvotes
Optimal Prime
By Optimal Prime (Mar 10, 2012)

And you call yourself 'IcyVeins'...?

3 upvotes
nicolaiecostel
By nicolaiecostel (Mar 9, 2012)

As I've been saying, this is not a valid test for low light. 2 years ago, when the guys from DPR were taking low-light shots in museums and pubs the low-light photos were much more eloquent in judging low-light capability.

And if the argument is that there has to be reproductibility, well, just use the same locations when testing other cameras.

0 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Mar 9, 2012)

What makes you say this isn't a valid test? It's shot using low colour temperature lighting and low light levels, which is what the museum and pub shots offered (and those will continue to be included in sample galleries).

11 upvotes
David Bourke
By David Bourke (Mar 9, 2012)

I don't mean to be critical, only constructive. The scene is so well lit that it is hard to believe that it is low light. More areas of the scene that are in shadow, i.e. underexposed, would create more of a sense of a typical low-light capture. I think that a bar scene typically has those qualities.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Absolutic
By Absolutic (Mar 9, 2012)

Well they can't go to the same pub, because they used to be in London and now they are in Seattle. You want them to fly to London to visit that favorite pub for every camera?

1 upvote
jkrumm
By jkrumm (Mar 9, 2012)

I think DPR should build a pub for shooting in, and give free beer to any DPR member who visits Seattle.

7 upvotes
Nathebeach
By Nathebeach (Mar 10, 2012)

A better low light test in my book would be night time pier (the ocean kind) shots. Plenty of bad light, lots of haze from the waves, and far more likely to create problems even at iso 3200 than a studio shot at 6400 or 12500. Best of all, piers like Santa Monica, Coney Island, etc., are well lit so it is not entirely unreasonable to use this scene for reproducable shots.

0 upvotes
Nathebeach
By Nathebeach (Mar 10, 2012)

Or better yet, here is a reproducable shot that the Seattle staff can use, and it is far less forgiving than studio shot, especially at night, and while outdoors, it is "reasonably reproducable." If you are leary of clicking on links, it is pier 54. Just imagine this same shot, but at night.
http://www.google.com/imgres?q=seattle+pier&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=MTt&sa=X&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1600&bih=748&tbm=isch&prmd=imvns&tbnid=qmzIzDQ5r5T4DM:&imgrefurl=http://gonw.about.com/od/photoswa/ig/Seattle-Waterfront-Photos/Pier-54-in-Seattle.htm&docid=fT0WLACVHpF0FM&imgurl=http://0.tqn.com/d/gonw/1/0/_/o/-/-/waterivars.jpg&w=640&h=480&ei=58paT6WdDIXaiQLfjamFCw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=206&vpy=140&dur=661&hovh=161&hovw=215&tx=132&ty=143&sig=107850462978230005622&page=2&tbnh=161&tbnw=215&start=18&ndsp=25&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:18

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
doctorbza
By doctorbza (Mar 9, 2012)

i must say, i'm impressed. not blown away, but very satisfied. imagine where this system is going to be in two years. makes you want to put the brakes on purchasing any more bulky DSLR equipment.

4 upvotes
coroander
By coroander (Mar 9, 2012)

Have just sold all my bulky, heavy DSLR equipment to buy this camera. APS-C doesn't provide enough of a size reduction for the lenses to make a significant difference (especially for weather-sealed IS lenses). And with a weather sealed body, and the availability of fast (f/1.4 and f/0.95) standard lenses, this camera ticks all the boxes, plus i can actually take it with me instead of leaving it behind because it's too heavy and bulky.

7 upvotes
D1N0
By D1N0 (Mar 10, 2012)

Me likes bulky dslr

0 upvotes
bgshutter
By bgshutter (Mar 9, 2012)

WOW! 6400 iso, very nice! just wish the MF assist is as well implemented as sony NEX-7, but that's a user adaptability issue more than anything.

0 upvotes
Ryan_Valiente
By Ryan_Valiente (Mar 10, 2012)

Peaking should be implemented on ALL cameras.

But we can't have such nice things. :D

0 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Mar 9, 2012)

I would so love to have that 45/1.8 in black. It would look so much better on the black body. Come on, Oly!

5 upvotes
jeff_006
By jeff_006 (Mar 9, 2012)

I finally resign myself and bought the silver. After first shots, I forgot the color !

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
12 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Mar 9, 2012)

The silver body looks great, especially the texture pattern of the grip rubber, but I need (prefer) the stealth of an all black body. At the end of the day, it probably doesn't make a whole lot of difference, but all black on the compact E-M5 just seems like it would make a fairly inconspicuous camera even less conspicuous.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
draschan
By draschan (Mar 9, 2012)

got myself the silver one. it's WOW WOW WOW. considering the price and the weight (almost zero :-) it's an amazing little thing.

5 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (Mar 9, 2012)

I have the 45 that I use on my GH2 and GX1 and it's great. The silver lens on the GH2 looks fine. The color doesn't matter, but I do sometimes wish Olympus had made it with metal barrel like the 12 f2. But for the price, it's amazing.

2 upvotes
aardvark7
By aardvark7 (Mar 9, 2012)

What mysterious shop is already selling this camera before it is officially available???

0 upvotes
The Silver Fox
By The Silver Fox (Mar 9, 2012)

Aardvark7, they're talking about using the currently-available Olympus 45mm/1.8 portrait lens on other mirrorless cameras they already own. They're not talking about using the EM-5.

0 upvotes
kchen88
By kchen88 (Mar 9, 2012)

they are talking about the 45mm f1.8 lens in silver or black, not the EM-5

0 upvotes
D1N0
By D1N0 (Mar 9, 2012)

Very decent performance for a m43 sensor. Could work very well with a F0.95 lens.

0 upvotes
Dan4321
By Dan4321 (Mar 9, 2012)

Thanks but maybe the test scene can include a person next time?
I always want to see the effects of processing on fine aspects like human hair, eyes, and other features, or how the camera renders different human skin tones.

0 upvotes
Ashley Pomeroy
By Ashley Pomeroy (Mar 9, 2012)

I'm sure you're lovely, but if you read that message in a Peter Lorre tone of voice it sounds... sinister.

4 upvotes
Andy Westlake
By Andy Westlake (Mar 9, 2012)

Sadly, I'm pretty sure I don't know anyone who's small enough to fit. Let alone patient enough to sit absolutely still long enough...

6 upvotes
Midnighter
By Midnighter (Mar 9, 2012)

Head of a fresh cadaver would do Andy, someone in the office who did a monumental cock-up on the day.

4 upvotes
ingram98ab
By ingram98ab (Mar 9, 2012)

I would feel confident using ISO3200, as long as I wont photograph furry things... in the dark... wich would be a bigger problem than the noise itself.

1 upvote
Melvinphoto
By Melvinphoto (Mar 9, 2012)

Thanks for posting them.
Sample images look pretty good to me.
Much better high iso IQ than E-5. A huge step beyond anything Olympus has achieved on IQ.
Would be interesting to see how the RAW files look like.

Look forward to the reviews of the OM-D, D800 and 5D mkIII. Interesting times for photographers. Lot of work to do for dpreview!

9 upvotes
svillav
By svillav (Mar 9, 2012)

Remember that Olympus jpg engine is the best one available. You have to be really good to get more detail out of the raw information.

3 upvotes
Melvinphoto
By Melvinphoto (Mar 10, 2012)

Olympus jpg engine is the best. I think it is possible to improve IQ when you carefully develop raw files. I shoot RAW only

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Mar 9, 2012)

Not going to beat the latest batch of APS-C cameras in a pixel peep-off, but certainly well into the "good enough" camp. I'd feel comfortable using this camera in all kinds of light.

Comment edited 18 seconds after posting
13 upvotes
Photomonkey
By Photomonkey (Mar 9, 2012)

I agree. As pixel peeping is a niche hobbyist preoccupation, I think the vast majority of people who like taking pictures will not mind.

1 upvote
BJN
By BJN (Mar 9, 2012)

Hardly a "digital monster" whatever that means. Reasonable performance for the sensor size and resolution. I guess it makes sense to test this with warm halogen lighting since nobody would use extreme ISOs if they were working with a better light source.

0 upvotes
rusticus
By rusticus (Mar 9, 2012)

I see it all for a bit of pressed -
such as mp3 music, not free, and not with the breath of nature
digital unit food . . . ;))

the images of the X100 or X10 provide life here
The MFT OM-D is a digital monster

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Photomonkey
By Photomonkey (Mar 9, 2012)

Huh?
This insight from a still life of tchotchkes on a table?
Must be a little difficult experiencing life through a video screen then.

4 upvotes
lsrmz
By lsrmz (Mar 9, 2012)

Worked for me. Try it again.

0 upvotes
increments
By increments (Mar 9, 2012)

Yeah working now, must have been too quick

0 upvotes
increments
By increments (Mar 9, 2012)

The link's not working. (BTW why do we always have to go through an extra page to actually get to whatever is listed on the front page?) ;)

2 upvotes
increments
By increments (Mar 9, 2012)

Feel free to ignore now, sorry.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 283
12