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ISO Sensitivity / Noise levels (contd.)

Noise graphs

Note that we normally show both gray and black results on the same graph, comparing four cameras this became too difficult to read hence we have two separate graphs, one for the gray patch (middle gray) and one for the black patch (shadows).

Luminance noise graph (gray patch)

As you can see the E-30's measured noise is only slightly higher than the competition across almost all sensitivity settings but as the crops on the previous page show the price of keeping noise down to the levels expected in this class is that detail is blurred away at higher sensitivities. However, despite the E-30's rather aggressive default noise reduction (and the loss of detail that comes with it) it still can't quite keep up with the competition at high sensitivities in terms of measured noise.

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of luminosity on the vertical axis.

Luminance noise graph (black patch)

In the shadows the picture is very similar to the grey patch. Once again the E-30's noise levels are higher than the competition at almost all ISO settings and above ISO 800 go uphill in a terrifyingly steep way. It's obvious that at high sensitivities the other cameras in this test (especially the D300) give you a clear advantage in terms of shadow noise.

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of luminosity on the vertical axis.

Chroma (color) noise graph

The graph confirms what we saw on the crops on the previous page. The E-30 controls chroma noise fairly well and keeps it roughly at the same level as the competition.

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of color on the vertical axis.

High ISO noise: compared to Olympus E-3, Panasonic G1

The following crops show a comparison between the E-30 and two further cameras that are using a sensor in the 4/3 format - the Olympus flagship E-3 and the new Panasonic G1 'Hybrid' camera. Although unsurprisingly the image characteristics of the E-30 and E-3 are very similar, the E-30 appears to be using slightly more luminance noise reduction which results in the loss of more image detail at higher sensitivities. The difference is marginal though, and you can always turn the noise reduction down.

Although using a similar sensor as the E-30's Panasonic is taking a different noise reduction approach on the G1 on which the luminance noise reduction is much less heavy-handed. The result is a fairly large amount of 'grain' in the G1 output. However, many photographers prefer grain (due to its more film-like appearance) to the blurry 'blobs' that are generated by a more aggressive noise reduction such as the E-30's.

Olympus E-30, ISO 400
JPEG, NR Std
Olympus E-30, ISO 800
JPEG, NR Std
Olympus E-30, ISO 1600
JPEG, NR Std
Olympus E-30, ISO 3200
JPEG, NR Std

Olympus E-3, ISO 400
JPEG, NR Std
Olympus E-3, ISO 800
JPEG, NR Std
Olympus E-3, ISO 1600
JPEG, NR Std
Olympus E-3, ISO 3200
JPEG, NR Std

Panasonic G1, ISO 400
JPEG, NR Std
Panasonic G1, ISO 800
JPEG, NR Std
Panasonic G1, ISO 1600
JPEG, NR Std
Panasonic G1, ISO 3200
JPEG, NR Std

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