Thoughts on E-M5.3 jpegs...

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photofan1986 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,598
Thoughts on E-M5.3 jpegs...

Disclaimer: what you are about to read is intended for jpeg shooters. If you only shoot raw and don't care about jpegs, stop reading here

So going back and forth between Olympus and Panasonic (and other brands), I realized the strengths and weaknesses of each of them (regarding jpeg processing here). And I am sorry to see Olympus doesn't seem to have learned much in the past few years...

Here I compare the EM5.3 with the Panasonic G9 (to me, probably the best Panasonic jpeg output, though only after some tweaks).

What I noticed about the Olympus:

+ in natural light, the colors seem very natural.

- noise reduction is MUCH too strong by default. (more on that later)

- Default saturation is too high for my taste...and the -2/+2 settings are much too coarse for fine tuning (the Panasonic's -5/+5 is much better).

- Default contrast is too strong, with the same limited setting issue as with saturation.

- highlights are quite easily blown

- Sharpness is too strong by default (but only with Panasonic lenses. Olympus lenses seem to be optimized individually). Again, setting -1 results in too soft images. Sigh...

- Auto white balance under artificial light seems way off, much too warm. Using "keep warm color off' results in very cold, unrealistic colors. Same as with my good ol' E-M1.1. Where is the progress?

- Sharpening is "large radius", meaning the very fine details are obliterated with sharpening artefacts. Decreasing sharpness doesn't seem to help. It reminds me of the 1080p video that looks like upscaled 720p.

- colors tend to be on the warm/yellow side (not good or bad, just a preference).

- noise reduction seems variable according to ISO (which is very annoying). See below. Those were shot with the default NR setting (I would never use, as fine details are completely "eaten" by NR. At ISO 400,800,1600 with default NR, there is no fine detail to speak of. However, once you reach ISO 3200, something happens and fine details are much better preserved. This is the optimal setting (albeit too sharpened again), and if I turn NR off (which I always do), I get much more noise at ISO3200.

- In general, the jpegs tend to look a bit "washed out" compared to Panasonic or Sony I am using. Either that (with settings at -1) or they look too overcooked (with settings at 0).

Here's what I noticed about the Panasonic G9:

- colors are very nice, but tend to be rather cold (leaning towards magenta vs Olympus leaning towards yellow).

- The various settings (portrait, landscape...) are actually useful.

- Default noise reduction is way too strong. On every Panasonic cameras I have used, it seems like I have to push the cursor down with NR on every newer generation. Now, I am using -5, the minimum setting. I am afraid of the next generation... All this to be able to claim lower noise at high ISO...

- Once NR set to -5, fine detail reproduction is EXCELLENT. Better than Olympus. The level of detail I get out of the camera is about on par with what I can get with ACR. Nice!

- Default saturation is too high, but the fine -5/+5 settings let me find the perfect amount I like.

- The G9/Gx9 retain highlight details much better than the Olympus. This was a surprise to me.

- White balance! Wow, this is something that has been improved dramatically over the last few generations! The G80/GX80 or GX7 were quite dismal in indoor artificial lighting, but the G9/GX9 are almost always spot on. And you can select three auto white balance settings which are much more useful than Olympus' "keep warm color". The newer Panasonic cameras can be used at almost all times in auto white balance, and I can't say the same about the Olympus.

If I had to pick a winner (regarding jpeg output), it would be the Panasonic. I didn't think I would say this one day (certainly not when I had my first Panasonic camera, the LX5 :D)

So there you have it: if you only used one brand, you don't realize what you are missing. But comparing several camera brands, you realize the weaknesses of each.
I am very happy to see Panasonic improving their color science with every single generation coming out. Olympus however, doesn't seem to learn from its weaknesses, as if they were resting on their laurels (because you know, Olympus has "great colors"). The EM5.3 is basically the same as the original E-M1.
Oh and finally, I just got a good ol' Fuji XT1 to play with, and it's interesting to see how completely different their color look (but I like what I see!).

Hope this was somewhat useful, maybe for people trying to decide between Oly and Pana based on their Jpeg outputs.

Have a nice day,


 photofan1986's gear list:photofan1986's gear list
Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR Sony RX100 III Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH +11 more
Fujifilm X-T1 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
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