GH1 - G1 ISO Comparison, RAW + JPEG Night Scene

Started Aug 25, 2009 | Discussions
viztyger
viztyger Veteran Member • Posts: 3,280
GH1 - G1 ISO Comparison, RAW + JPEG Night Scene

I think it might be interesting to come to some sort of an answer to the question of whether Panasonic’s newest mFT sensor found in the GH1 is improved in any way over the sensor found in the G1.

Panasonic marketing materials state: “A new noise reduction circuit and a technique that implants the photodiodes in the deep portion of the silicon also suppress noise when shooting in low-light conditions, for even higher quality images.”

So I chose a low-light night scene of some illuminated harbour cranes in Rotterdam. So that lens variation isn’t a factor in these comparison photos, I shot both the GH1 and the G1 with the same Lumix G 7-14 lens. First the ISO series with the GH1 mounted on the tripod, then the same series with the G1. All exposure settings as well as “film mode” for the JPEGs were identical.

The ISO 100 – 800 photos from both cameras were all taken with NR set to its lowest setting of -2.

Original JPEGs of the night scene plus some daytime ISO 100 comparisons can be found here:
http://www.pbase.com/viztyger/gh1g1_test

The ISO 1600 and 3200 images were each taken with 3 noise reduction settings, -2, 0 and +2.
These original JPEGs can be found here:
http://www.pbase.com/viztyger/high_iso_nr_tests

Each file name in the gallery contains the relevant exposure and noise reduction settings.

Opening an image in either gallery will display a link to the corresponding RAW file.

From my experience so far, both cameras meter identically and are both about 1 stop more sensitive than my K-7.

The comparison crops below are from converted RAWs. RAW files were converted with RAW Therapee with sharpening and noise reduction turned off. The resulting images were then run through the Dfine plug-in for de-banding, followed by some color noise reduction.

I’m not the most experienced at extracting the best possible image from a high ISO RAW file, so any attempts at achieving better results than I did will be appreciated.

The 100% crops below are the RAW conversions at ISO 100, 1600 and 3200. The ISO 3200 image has two versions, one taken at the lowest NR setting of -2, the other at the highest of +2.

I don’t see any differences between the GH1’s 2 NR settings, at least not in this crop.

The GH1’s files leave you with less noise to contend with at higher ISOs. In low contrast situations, this additional noise can obliterate some fine detail on the G1 images:

I’ve made all the RAW files available; anyone is welcome to try to convert and post process the scenes themselves. If you post the results anywhere other than in this thread, please link back to my gallery.

JPEG comparison crops follow in the next post.

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viztyger
OP viztyger Veteran Member • Posts: 3,280
Re: GH1 - G1 ISO Comparison, JPEG Crops

The GH1's ISO 1600 and even 3200 are remarkably good:

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viztyger
OP viztyger Veteran Member • Posts: 3,280
Re: GH1 Changes to Multi-Controller Buttons

A little off topic for this thread; this is about the issue of the text rubbing off of the G1’s multi-controller buttons. I’ve noticed that the GH1’s multi-controller buttons have a coarser texture and are not smooth and glossy like those on the G1. Perhaps this will make the text less resistant to rubbing off. Interestingly, all the other buttons on the GH1 are the same glossy type as those on the G1.

You can also see the rubber-like covering starting to come off on left side of the G1’s circular plateau around the multi-controller:

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TEBnewyork
TEBnewyork Forum Pro • Posts: 11,337
Re: GH1 - G1 ISO Comparison, RAW + JPEG Night Scene

Hi Bjorn -

Thanks for the test. I know setting these up and doing the test shots (or worse dealing with all of the files) can be a complete PITA.

I wanted the 14-140 lens so I got a GH1 kit in the US instead of just the lens from Asia. Now I need to decided what to do with the extra body. This is very helpful and definitely leads me in the direction of keeping the GH1. Not sure if I will sell the G1 body or perhaps convert it to a dedicated IR camera.

I'm not making any sell decisions until I get my hands on the new GF1. My statements above were made assuming the GF1 has a removable EVF and it will become a second m4/3 body. Thought the Pen might be it but now thing the GF with consistent buttons and menus as the G1/GH1 is a better choice.
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viztyger
OP viztyger Veteran Member • Posts: 3,280
Re: GH1 - G1 ISO Comparison, RAW + JPEG Night Scene

TEBnewyork wrote:

Hi Bjorn -

Thanks for the test. I know setting these up and doing the test shots (or worse dealing with all of the files) can be a complete PITA.

Terry, you certainly hit the nail on the head there.

I wanted the 14-140 lens so I got a GH1 kit in the US instead of just the lens from Asia. Now I need to decided what to do with the extra body. This is very helpful and definitely leads me in the direction of keeping the GH1. Not sure if I will sell the G1 body or perhaps convert it to a dedicated IR camera.

I was in a similar position, and have now decided to keep the GH1 for its higher resolution 3:2 and 16:9 files, its somewhat better high ISO performance and of course the ability to shoot video. Video is a whole other ballgame; lots to learn.

I'm not making any sell decisions until I get my hands on the new GF1. My statements above were made assuming the GF1 has a removable EVF and it will become a second m4/3 body. Thought the Pen might be it but now thing the GF with consistent buttons and menus as the G1/GH1 is a better choice.

We'll know more about the GF1 soon. In any case, I will sell the G1 and its kit lens. For me there is no point in having a zoom of similar brightness whose range falls within that of the 14-140. If I need a compact kit, I'll opt for the 20/1.7 - depending on how good that lens turns out to be of course.

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Diane B Forum Pro • Posts: 20,700
Re: GH1 - G1 ISO Comparison, RAW + JPEG Night Scene

That sounds like a plan. I have no second body/camera so don't have to make that decision yet. I lean toward a GH1 but will wait to see what happens.

Diane
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Brian Mosley Forum Pro • Posts: 20,715
Thanks Björn, good demo...

I had expected the GH1 to have a better sensor to the G1 - do you have any feel for the banding issue on the GH1? is it any worse than the G1?

I'm also really interested in dynamic range - have you done any tests or do you have any feel for how the GH1 compares with the G1? Again, I would expect the GH1 to have more dynamic range, in that the shadow detail should be cleaner.

I'd really like a GH1 with the Lumix 7-14.

Kind Regards

Brian
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greerd Contributing Member • Posts: 763
Re: GH1 - G1 ISO Comparison, JPEG Crops

Thanks for spending the time and effort Björn, looks like progress is moving along nicely with the GH1.

How bad is the banding issue? To bad you didn't post a comparison without the banding plug-in.

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viztyger
OP viztyger Veteran Member • Posts: 3,280
Re: Thanks Björn, good demo...

Brian Mosley wrote:

I had expected the GH1 to have a better sensor to the G1 - do you have any feel for the banding issue on the GH1? is it any worse than the G1?

My first impressions are that banding is about the same. However, I've posted all the RAW files so that others can verify my impressions.

I'm also really interested in dynamic range - have you done any tests or do you have any feel for how the GH1 compares with the G1? Again, I would expect the GH1 to have more dynamic range, in that the shadow detail should be cleaner.

The shadows are a little cleaner, so you could expose to retain more highlight detail and boost the shadows in post processing. The difference in dynamic range at low ISOs seems minimal though. I've got to try the i-exposure (d-lighting) feature to see if that works better on the GH1.

I'd really like a GH1 with the Lumix 7-14.

...and I'd like your E-P1

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Brian Mosley Forum Pro • Posts: 20,715
Cool tripod...

Hi Björn,

that looks like a perfect tripod for the G1/GH1... do you have a supplier/part no/web link?

Cheers

Brian
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John_Reed Forum Pro • Posts: 17,140
Question, Björn?

In your side X side comparison shots, it seems to me that, at all ISOs, the G1 exposure is hotter than the GH1's. So I wondered if the GH1's ISO markings are more accurate than the G1's, and if you'd lowered the G1 ISO to normalize exposure, if that would shrink the apparent differences between the two cameras?

Thanks for posting these test results, good work!
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GregGory Veteran Member • Posts: 4,252
Björn, you're the man!

I cannot thank you enough, this is exactly the DCraw/RT based test I've been waiting for.

At base iso, the DR difference seems marginal, but still the edge goes to the GH1 imo. At higher ISOs the GH1 clearly has more DR. The remaining question is the effect of Dfine.

viztyger
OP viztyger Veteran Member • Posts: 3,280
Re: Question, Björn?

John_Reed wrote:

In your side X side comparison shots, it seems to me that, at all ISOs, the G1 exposure is hotter than the GH1's. So I wondered if the GH1's ISO markings are more accurate than the G1's, and if you'd lowered the G1 ISO to normalize exposure, if that would shrink the apparent differences between the two cameras?

I noticed a discrepancy as well. The interesting thing is that both cameras meter a scene exactly the same. Also, the highlights and mid-tones appear the same in the files from both cameras. Just the shadows are a little darker on some of the GH1's images (both converted RAWs and JPEGs). Perhaps a method to make noise less visible.

Thanks for posting these test results, good work!

Glad to do it. Maybe these comparison shots will help define optimized shooting and RAW conversion settings.
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oluv Senior Member • Posts: 1,973
strange noise depending on NR setting.

björn, you finally have proven that there is indeed an influence on noise dpending on the chosen NR setting.

unfortunately you have only done this series for iso1600, i am sure it will also be visible at iso800.

here a crop where you can see that at NR -2 the noise gets somehow blurred, whereas at NR 0 it gets more natural.

this is indeed consistent with the issue that gabor brought up some time ago in this thread: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1041&message=32676299

it reminds me also a bit of the LX2 shadow-smearing. i wonder if this is a kind of software bug...

here is the crop from your GH1 RAW file:

and here you can see how the noise changed compared to the G1.

from scratch the G1 has a much lower black-point, i had to rise it quite a bit to match it the GH1, but the GH1 has still a lower noise leve, especially chroma noise is much better under control nowl:

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viztyger
OP viztyger Veteran Member • Posts: 3,280
Re: Björn, you're the man!

Thanks!

Do you use DCraw or RT?

I tend to use Silkypix for most of my work; generally I find it the best at handling all the aspects of a conversion. RT does bring out more fine detail, which is why I used it for these tests.

GregGory wrote:

I cannot thank you enough, this is exactly the DCraw/RT based test I've been waiting for.

At base iso, the DR difference seems marginal, but still the edge goes to the GH1 imo. At higher ISOs the GH1 clearly has more DR. The remaining question is the effect of Dfine.

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oluv Senior Member • Posts: 1,973
another example

here another crop where it is clear that there is some smearing even in the details.

i would like to see the same test for a brighter scene if you had time to do it as i think that it would be even more noticeable then.

i think this banding has a huge (negative) impact on final output. this issue should be reported to panasonic further as it seems to be mainly dependent on the NR-setting only. i doubt if it was really intended as it is now.

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viztyger
OP viztyger Veteran Member • Posts: 3,280
Re: strange noise depending on NR setting.

oluv wrote:

björn, you finally have proven that there is indeed an influence on noise dpending on the chosen NR setting.

I did not prove anything; you did
I just took the photos.

unfortunately you have only done this series for iso1600, i am sure it will also be visible at iso800.

I didn't think to shoot an NR sequence at ISO 800, supposing that the differences would be negligible. But there is an NR -2, 0 and +2 sequence at ISO 3200.

here a crop where you can see that at NR -2 the noise gets somehow blurred, whereas at NR 0 it gets more natural.

That really is strange and completely contrary to what you'd expect. Can you tell if the NR+2 is even more natural?

this is indeed consistent with the issue that gabor brought up some time ago in this thread: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1041&message=32676299

it reminds me also a bit of the LX2 shadow-smearing. i wonder if this is a kind of software bug...

I saw that thread; I thought I'd try to duplicate those observations with the kind of scene you'd be more likely to use high ISOs for.

here is the crop from your GH1 RAW file:

and here you can see how the noise changed compared to the G1.

from scratch the G1 has a much lower black-point, i had to rise it quite a bit to match it the GH1, but the GH1 has still a lower noise level, especially chroma noise is much better under control now:

Yes, the GH1's higher ISO files are less problematic to post process than those from the G1. Especially at night under artificial light.

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viztyger
OP viztyger Veteran Member • Posts: 3,280
Re: another example

oluv wrote:

here another crop where it is clear that there is some smearing even in the details.

i would like to see the same test for a brighter scene if you had time to do it as i think that it would be even more noticeable then.

i think this banding has a huge (negative) impact on final output. this issue should be reported to panasonic further as it seems to be mainly dependent on the NR-setting only. i doubt if it was really intended as it is now.

So am I correct in assuming that banding is only really an issue at NR-2 and that it all but disappears at NR+2? The same with regards to the smearing of fine, low contrast details?

If that's the case, one of the 3 custom settings could be for high ISO shots, where NR is set to +2.
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plevyadophy Veteran Member • Posts: 4,258
Excellent Re: GH1 - G1 ISO Comparison, RAW + JPEG Night Scene

Ths is an excellent post and an excellent thread.

Your test shots are the kind I like to see when discussing high ISO shots as it is in the kind of circumstances in which you took the shots that one would ordinarily, or more likely, use an high ISO setting.

And looking at the test sequence, I am no longer on the fence as to which cam is the MUCH better performer for clearly it is the GH1, and by a significant margin. I am EXTREMELY impressed at how the GH1 renders blacks black (i.e. without noise speckles and blotches) and holds on to detail.

The only concern seems to be that when set to NR -2, the image appears smudged as if it was set to a very high NR setting. That seems a bit odd.

Thanks for posting the test.

Regards,

John_Reed Forum Pro • Posts: 17,140
Well, that's the question, isn't it?

In other words, if you down-adjusted the ISO of the G1 to get the same exposure level on the resulting image as the GH1, would you not be directly comparing, say, ISO 1000 for the G1 with ISO 1600 for the GH1? It seems to me that would be a more objective comparison.
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