GH2 studio samples, a closer look

Started Mar 2, 2011 | Discussions
thinkfat Senior Member • Posts: 1,185
GH2 studio samples, a closer look

I've collected a variety of screenshots from the studio samples, at various ISOs. I'm posting them here with some commentary and explanations. The cameras compared are GF2, E-PL2, NEX5 and GH2.

Let's start with some low ISO shots, lowest ISO available for all cameras in the comparometer. The first one is a classic, the coin on the label of the Vermouth bottle. I think it's clear that all the cameras provide very low noise and high detail here. the E-PL2 is probably the best of the bunch regarding clarity, the GH2 is very good though and it seems that the added resolution works in its favor here. The GF2 is probably the weakest here

The second one is one of my favorites because it reveals a lot about how the JPEG engines deal with contrast and allows an evaluation of the amount of sharpening that is applied. It's also a good resolution test. What I see is that the E-PL2 looks very sharp, but the JPEG engine shows a strong preference for diagonal lines. The GF2 looks a bit soft here. The NEX5 is not bad, but again the additional resolution of the GH2 swings the result in its favor.

The third is a good sample of how the JPEG engine deals with irregular structures. I think there can be no doubt that the GH2 is the best of the bunch here, followed by the GF2. The E-PL2 and the NEX5 get rid of detail too aggressively. For no good reason, at base ISO.

The fourth is a resolution test. Have a look how moire appears on GF2 and E-PL2 shots, and the sharpening artifacts. NEX5 and GH2 look best here.

The fifth, another test for irregular structures. GH2 trumps with superior resolution. The NEX5 looks amazingly bad here. I'm sure the outcome would be better with a good raw converter, or there is something wrong about the lens the NEX5 was shot with. For the ranking is GH2, then GH2, then E-PL2, then NEX.

Let's look at the same shot at ISO1600. GH2 still renders the most details of the bunch, however you can see the noise creeping in. Not disturbingly, though, it manifests mainly in a fine grain pattern.

Next are the feathers at ISO1600, easily the GH2 is the best here. NEX looked good at ISO200, but has lost most of the detail now. GF2 and E-PL2 may look a bit better than the NEX, but not really significantly.

Another favorite of mine at ISO1600, again the GH2 retains the most details. It's quite interesting to see how the noise creeps in, you can see it in the red background of the text sample, but looking at and around the colored cotton balls you can see a lot of details the other cameras don't show. The pencil strokes of the faces' cheek are reproduced well by the GH2 while the NEX has done away with detail here. The GF2 is the noisiest, the E-PL2 again demonstrates its preference for diagonal lines.

Let's look for shadow noise at ISO1600 now. E-PL2 clearly better here, we know already that it aces every test for noise on smooth surfaces and gradients. GH2 has significantly more noise, but also much more detail. NEX5 easily better than the rest, probably a result of the very low read noise from the sensor.

I have another two ISO6400 samples that are quite interesting and show how the rendering strategy of the GH2 changed completely for its maximum ISO. There is an extreme amount of sharpening that doesn't lead to very favorable results. The result is complete rubbish, which is amazing given that the RAW data is not much behind the NEX regarding noise and detail retention. However the aggressive noise reduction and sharpening really ruin the result. The GF2 is clearly at its end here while the E-PL2 retains a very good balance. The NEX aces this category, no doubt about that.

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jim stirling
jim stirling Veteran Member • Posts: 7,356
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

Try comparing the RAW samples

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OP thinkfat Senior Member • Posts: 1,185
I compared the RAW images, but it was boring

The outcome of the RAW comparison can be summed up as follows:

1. NEX5
2. GH2
3. E-PL2
4. GF2

The NEX5 and GH2 are at the same level up to ISO1600, from then on the NEX5 takes the lead, but not as clearly as one would probably expect. But let's look at one example at ISO6400. I see that the GH2 has more chroma noise (and this trend will continue going to ISO128000), but there is about the same level of detail left. Definitely the shadows of the NEX5 are cleaner, but not by much. There seems to be a tiny little bit of banding in the GH2 sample here, but it's not really noticeable, IMHO.

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Mike Ronesia
Mike Ronesia Veteran Member • Posts: 3,043
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

I agree, the first thing I looked at was if they were raw or jpg and then didn't even read it. I don't shoot jpg so not of much use to me.

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Jerodequin
Jerodequin Senior Member • Posts: 1,288
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

Thank you for the interesting analysis, it would be great if DPR had the time to do something like this in their reviews but I guess that would delay things even further.

Although I don't shoot JPEG, it is still interesting to see the different approaches and results from each camera.

I would argue that a similar look at the RAW results would be interesting though and people would appreciate it if someone had the time.

I had a quick look earlier, comparing GH2, Nikon D7000, Canon 60D and Nex3 and was surprised to see how little there was in it between the four cameras up to iso1600. (and also surprised to see that the Nikon, Canon and Sony JPEGs had so much NR at the expense of details).

I was also surprised in the original studio thread comparison to see how bad the A55 was for detail on the vermouth coin in RAW at iso 1600.

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OP thinkfat Senior Member • Posts: 1,185
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

I think these samples should put anyone worried about the quality of the Gh2 images at ease. While I definitely acknowledge that the eg. GF2 achieves top results only from raw, I think that the GH2 can safely be shot in JPEG mode up to at least ISO 1600.

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armanius
armanius Contributing Member • Posts: 869
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

Nice and fair analysis Thinkfat.

I own the GH2, Sony A55 and NEX3. Although I shoot RAW only, I agree with your analysis. Base ISO to 800, the GH2 is right there with the Sony's. It begins to lag at 1600 and the difference is noticeable at 6400. There's more yellow blotching for sure with the GH2. But that can be controlled in LR3.3 fairly easily.

After seeing the samples from Imaging Resource, I was expecting my Sony's to beat the pants off the GH2 in terms of noise control. That wasn't the case.

thinkfat wrote:

I think these samples should put anyone worried about the quality of the Gh2 images at ease. While I definitely acknowledge that the eg. GF2 achieves top results only from raw, I think that the GH2 can safely be shot in JPEG mode up to at least ISO 1600.

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DjarumBlack Senior Member • Posts: 1,452
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

jim stirling wrote:

Try comparing the RAW samples

Not all of us shoot RAW.

unsubscribe Regular Member • Posts: 316
Re: I compared the RAW images, but it was boring

really????

how does the GH2 fare here:

larsbc Forum Pro • Posts: 15,976
dynamic range also varies with the ISO

Jerodequin wrote:
[snip]

I had a quick look earlier, comparing GH2, Nikon D7000, Canon 60D and Nex3 and was surprised to see how little there was in it between the four cameras up to iso1600. (and also surprised to see that the Nikon, Canon and Sony JPEGs had so much NR at the expense of details).

Also bear in mind that there will be difference in dynamic range. Not just in the tonal range, but also in highlight vs shadow detail capture.

I agree that the noise performance is pretty decent on the GH2. Not as good as my D300 but close enough for a lot of uses. But for contrasty scenes, the D300 offers me more insurance against bad exposures.

larsbc

OP thinkfat Senior Member • Posts: 1,185
Re: I compared the RAW images, but it was boring

You realize that the advantage you see in favor of the nex and pen are because their processing specializes on keeping evenly colored areas free of noise and does substantial sharpening to make lines look contrasty. The strategy falls over as soon as there's texture to be reproduced. It's quite obvious from the samples.

But it makes these cameras ace every noise test. In a sense they're optimized to suit the reviewers testing methods.

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jim stirling
jim stirling Veteran Member • Posts: 7,356
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

DjarumBlack wrote:

jim stirling wrote:

Try comparing the RAW samples

Not all of us shoot RAW.

No of course not but if you are actually interested in comparing the absolute best image quality available from a range of cameras it gives a truer representation of what the cameras are actually capable of rather than just a comparison of in camera processing. If you are really interested in squeezing the best out of your camera with regards to maximising DR etc. then RAW is the obvious choice. Though Olympus for example offers a very good jpeg engine and for most subjects it will be good enough.
Jim

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John Carson Veteran Member • Posts: 4,258
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

You're right, of course.

It is really important in any of these tests to do a comparison over the full range of subject types. Cameras with aggressive noise reduction strategies, of which there are many, can look great with high contrast, low detal subjects, but fall apart when the subjects involve low contrast fine detail.

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Jogger
Jogger Veteran Member • Posts: 8,441
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

Why buy the GH2 to shoot jpg.

thinkfat wrote:

I've collected a variety of screenshots from the studio samples, at various ISOs. I'm posting them here with some commentary and explanations. The cameras compared are GF2, E-PL2, NEX5 and GH2.

Let's start with some low ISO shots, lowest ISO available for all cameras in the comparometer. The first one is a classic, the coin on the label of the Vermouth bottle. I think it's clear that all the cameras provide very low noise and high detail here. the E-PL2 is probably the best of the bunch regarding clarity, the GH2 is very good though and it seems that the added resolution works in its favor here. The GF2 is probably the weakest here

The second one is one of my favorites because it reveals a lot about how the JPEG engines deal with contrast and allows an evaluation of the amount of sharpening that is applied. It's also a good resolution test. What I see is that the E-PL2 looks very sharp, but the JPEG engine shows a strong preference for diagonal lines. The GF2 looks a bit soft here. The NEX5 is not bad, but again the additional resolution of the GH2 swings the result in its favor.

The third is a good sample of how the JPEG engine deals with irregular structures. I think there can be no doubt that the GH2 is the best of the bunch here, followed by the GF2. The E-PL2 and the NEX5 get rid of detail too aggressively. For no good reason, at base ISO.

The fourth is a resolution test. Have a look how moire appears on GF2 and E-PL2 shots, and the sharpening artifacts. NEX5 and GH2 look best here.

The fifth, another test for irregular structures. GH2 trumps with superior resolution. The NEX5 looks amazingly bad here. I'm sure the outcome would be better with a good raw converter, or there is something wrong about the lens the NEX5 was shot with. For the ranking is GH2, then GH2, then E-PL2, then NEX.

Let's look at the same shot at ISO1600. GH2 still renders the most details of the bunch, however you can see the noise creeping in. Not disturbingly, though, it manifests mainly in a fine grain pattern.

Next are the feathers at ISO1600, easily the GH2 is the best here. NEX looked good at ISO200, but has lost most of the detail now. GF2 and E-PL2 may look a bit better than the NEX, but not really significantly.

Another favorite of mine at ISO1600, again the GH2 retains the most details. It's quite interesting to see how the noise creeps in, you can see it in the red background of the text sample, but looking at and around the colored cotton balls you can see a lot of details the other cameras don't show. The pencil strokes of the faces' cheek are reproduced well by the GH2 while the NEX has done away with detail here. The GF2 is the noisiest, the E-PL2 again demonstrates its preference for diagonal lines.

Let's look for shadow noise at ISO1600 now. E-PL2 clearly better here, we know already that it aces every test for noise on smooth surfaces and gradients. GH2 has significantly more noise, but also much more detail. NEX5 easily better than the rest, probably a result of the very low read noise from the sensor.

I have another two ISO6400 samples that are quite interesting and show how the rendering strategy of the GH2 changed completely for its maximum ISO. There is an extreme amount of sharpening that doesn't lead to very favorable results. The result is complete rubbish, which is amazing given that the RAW data is not much behind the NEX regarding noise and detail retention. However the aggressive noise reduction and sharpening really ruin the result. The GF2 is clearly at its end here while the E-PL2 retains a very good balance. The NEX aces this category, no doubt about that.

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Just Having Fun Veteran Member • Posts: 3,869
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

Jogger wrote:

Why buy the GH2 to shoot jpg.

Wasn't there a study recently that said 70-80% of DSLR users shoot jpeg? I know that percentage is much, much lower here, but the average user does not hang out here.

Most people I know with DSLRs use jpegs and something like Picasa or maybe Elements to PP.

LTZ470
LTZ470 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,926
Re: I compared the RAW images, but it was boring

Exactly and you lose details I.E. Hair, Feathers, & Fur...the GH2 will smoke the other cameras for details on Hair, Feathers, & Fur....and the GH2 shoots at 840mm easily with "Mex" setting...

thinkfat wrote:

You realize that the advantage you see in favor of the nex and pen are because their processing specializes on keeping evenly colored areas free of noise and does substantial sharpening to make lines look contrasty. The strategy falls over as soon as there's texture to be reproduced. It's quite obvious from the samples.

But it makes these cameras ace every noise test. In a sense they're optimized to suit the reviewers testing methods.

Gavril Margittai Regular Member • Posts: 339
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

I also looked at the comparator, it is very addictive. Since I am shooting mostly at ISO 200 sometimes 400 I limited my testing to low ISO. I also discarded JPEG and looked at RAW only.

I was surprised, surprised when I picked Nikon D3 as one camera to compare with (leaving GF2 GH2 and the forth one some Olympus).

Man, you can not see any difference. GF2 GH2 Oly, D3 all look the same. In my mind the GF2 looked the best but I am not sure D3 was also not bad. GH2 was good, basically all were the same. If I would have seen the 4 of them without knowing which is which I would not be able to tell which is the $400 camera and which is the $4000 camera.

For sure at high ISO there is a big diff also in dynamic range. I read a blog of a pro saying that he is using the D3 instead of a cheaper one because if he exposes incorrectly he can still save the picture in post processing. He is probably right.

But it was a surprise how insignifficant the differences are at low ISO.

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NorthwestF Senior Member • Posts: 1,039
Re: I compared the RAW images, but it was boring

thinkfat wrote:

You realize that the advantage you see in favor of the nex and pen are because their processing specializes on keeping evenly colored areas free of noise and does substantial sharpening to make lines look contrasty.

that's not the reason. Nex is slightly back-focused and the hair scene is not even the same. Nex was taken in London. The other three after they moved it to Seattle.

Sphinx_man Regular Member • Posts: 440
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

So for a P&S user who is looking to graduate to larger sensor DSLR-like camera, primarily aiming to shoot in JPEG, what would be a better option?. Good JPEGs from smaller and relatively cheaper NEX-5 or the flashy, brimming with features, but expensive GH2?. And I am a Panasonic fanboy but the results from the DP review comparometer are not so convincing vis-à-vis the JPEGs off the GH2?.
Thanks
Sphinx

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Gakuranman
Gakuranman Senior Member • Posts: 1,194
Re: GH2 studio samples, a closer look

If you want the best Jpegs (especially at lower ISOs) then you should consider the Olympus models. If you are willing to get into post-processing RAW files, it would seem that the GH-2 or NEX models might be a better call.

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