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Compared to...

Studio scene comparison (higher sensitivities)

As usual the differences between the JPEG output of these cameras at higher ISO settings is primarily a difference in the type and amount of noise reduction in use. Both Olympus and Sony (especially) are applying higher levels of luminance NR, which results in softer, less detailed results, but even at ISO 1600 the differences are only going to be significant at higher enlargements.

There's no doubt that the E-3's sensor has more trouble with noise at anything over ISO 400 (check out our studio tests with the noise filter turned down here), but to give Olympus credit the JPEG output at ISO 1600 could be a lot, lot worse, and is perfectly usable as long as you expose carefully and don't expect miracles.If you shoot raw you'll find the E-3 has the highest noise levels in this class, and if you are a regular user of high ISO this probably won't be your first choice of camera. Once again it's worth pointing out that the gap in 'real world' high ISO performance between Four Thirds and APS-C cameras is nowhere near as wide as some people would have you think, especially with the E-3.

At ISO 3200 the E-3 gives you a stark choice; leave the noise filter on (and lose virtually all low contrast detail) or turn it off and get lots, and lots of noise.

ISO 400

Olympus E-3 Canon EOS 40D
Nikon D300 Sony A700

ISO 800

Olympus E-3 Canon EOS 40D
Nikon D300 Sony A700

ISO 1600

Olympus E-3 Canon EOS 40D
Nikon D300 Sony A700

ISO 3200

Olympus E-3 Canon EOS 40D
Nikon D300 Sony DSLR-A700

ISO 6400

Sony DSLR-A700 Nikon D300
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