Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

Started Dec 8, 2012 | Discussions
AngelicBeaver Contributing Member • Posts: 802
Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

I just bought an Epl2, as the price has dropped to around 200 dollars.  I've not been pleased with the GF3 at high ISO.  Panasonic has never done high ISO well, and the GF3 is no different. It gets smudgy and nasty looking.  I've been waffling about getting the PEN for a while, but what really put me over about it (besides the price) was looking at the high ISO comparisons in DPReview's database.

Comparing the EPL2 to the EP3 and the OMD, I noticed that with NR turned off, the EPL2 looks grainy, like they actually turned the NR off, whereas the other two still look smudgy (especially the OMD) at high ISOs.  At the same time, color blotching (the ugliest noise offender, in my opinion) was very minimal, even at ISO 6400.

I suppose the smudginess on the EP3 is so that they could show some "improvement" in the noise, without having a new sensor.  I wish they'd left it alone.  I looked at the OMD and thought, they are heading in the wrong direction with this.

In order of preference, I'd like Noise free images at high ISO or Grainy images at high ISO or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, or grainy images, partially smeared to give the appearance of better high ISO performance.

I'd love to shoot RAW, so I don't have to worry about camera makers and their inexplicable handling of noise, but I don't have the time/software/hardware/energy to do it, and I doubt I ever will.  In the meantime, I'm glad Olympus made a good decision about the Epl2, and I hope they go back to that trend in the future (or make better sensors so that there's no noise in the first place).  If I want smudgy, I'll go back to Panasonic.

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CharlesB58 Veteran Member • Posts: 8,425
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?
2

To be honest with you, you are probably the only person I have seen or heard report that the EPL2 gives better high ISO performance than the EM5.

I also must clarify this: on Olympus cameras NR-Noise Reduction-has nothing to do with filtering noise at high ISOs. It's used for reducing noise on long (more than 4 seconds) exposures. I say this because if you are comparing photos with NR on and off, but the Noise Filter settings unaltered, then you are not making an accurate comparison.

Also, if you have the Shadow Gradation function set to auto, it can introduce considerable chroma noise, especially if the photo is underexposed.

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OP AngelicBeaver Contributing Member • Posts: 802
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

The High ISO performance of the OMD is better than the EPL2.  It's the way they handle the noise present that I like better (from what I saw) on the EPL2.  I was looking at the Noise and Noise reduction feature on the review page, where you can compare different cameras with different noise reduction settings.  At noise reduction set to off, the EPL2 is incredibly grainy at ISO6400, but it shows zero smearing.  At ISO6400, with NR set to off on the OMD, there is considerably less grain, but there is evidence of smearing.  The EP3 looks about the same as the EPL2, but with some smearing.

I like no smearing.  And again, I didn't really see evidence of chroma noise either.  Ultimately, if they were the same price, I'd go for the OMD, or EM5, or whatever it's called.  The noise reminds me of my Canon, which isn't too bad.  I just really like that the EPL2 really does seem to turn off the noise reduction completely, where most cameras never really turn it off and try to smooth it out just a little bit (or a lotta bit, in Panasonic's case).

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OP AngelicBeaver Contributing Member • Posts: 802
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?
1

I'm looking forward to testing the EPL2.  You may be correct that I'm getting a bad comparison from the noise comparison tool in the review, but I do know that the GF3's noise characteristics are exactly like they show on the tool, so I'm hoping that the EPL2 will be as well, because, while it is noisy, it's noise I can live with.

I have also seen examples posted from Pens from several years ago, and I have always liked the quality of the high ISO grain.  It just looks natural to me.

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CharlesB58 Veteran Member • Posts: 8,425
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

AngelicBeaver wrote:

The High ISO performance of the OMD is better than the EPL2. It's the way they handle the noise present that I like better (from what I saw) on the EPL2. I was looking at the Noise and Noise reduction feature on the review page, where you can compare different cameras with different noise reduction settings. At noise reduction set to off, the EPL2 is incredibly grainy at ISO6400, but it shows zero smearing. At ISO6400, with NR set to off on the OMD, there is considerably less grain, but there is evidence of smearing. The EP3 looks about the same as the EPL2, but with some smearing.

I like no smearing. And again, I didn't really see evidence of chroma noise either. Ultimately, if they were the same price, I'd go for the OMD, or EM5, or whatever it's called. The noise reminds me of my Canon, which isn't too bad. I just really like that the EPL2 really does seem to turn off the noise reduction completely, where most cameras never really turn it off and try to smooth it out just a little bit (or a lotta bit, in Panasonic's case).

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What you may be interpreting as "smearing" is the result of the difference in sampling the 16MP image from the EM5 to match the 12MP image from the EPL2. Also, if you are comparing the .jpegs, it's important to know what sharpening setting they may have used for the test. DPR has been caught before using default settings on Olympus cameras that are known to result in loss of detail compared to proper set up.

In any regards, the important thing is you choosing the camera that achieves the look you prefer. I chose the E520 over the Canon XSi in part because I liked the look of the .jpegs better-for some of the same image characteristics many digital photographers criticized the E520. LOL

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OP AngelicBeaver Contributing Member • Posts: 802
Here's what I'm talking about.

These are the noise comparisons from DPReview.  I selected ISO 6400 as this shows the characteristics most clearly, but they are visible at lower ISOs as well.  The EPL2 image just gets grainy (and VERY grainy), but it is  sharp and pronounced.  The OMD looks soft and painterly (look at the eyebrows).

To me, this looks like Olympus has taken a huge step toward what a lot of the competition does, and, in my opinion, it's moving away from something that I liked very much about how they handled noise reduction.  As far as I can tell, no other company really backed off the luminance noise reduction like Oly did.  My camera will come in a few days and I'll test it out more thoroughly.



Look at what Canon does.  Slightly smudging the luminance noise, AND leaving in some chroma noise.  The EPL2 shows a reduction of chroma noise, but seems to leave the luminance noise untouched.  I like this.

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raven900sx Regular Member • Posts: 456
Re: Here's what I'm talking about.
1

e-p1 and e-p2 have the same characteristics you are describing about the grain.  personally i think it looks a lot more like film grain (and i like it) then the em-5.  so far i'm loving the em-5 for its features but not for its noise characteristics.  when it comes time to take a camera out...i go straight to the pen.  something about the e-m5 just isn't making me excited to take it out and i guess i must be the only one who feels like that by the general feeling i get from these forums

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myess Forum Member • Posts: 61
Re: Here's what I'm talking about.

OK.  Here is a question.  I know to turn the Noise reduction off but noise filter too?   Pardon the naive question but what is the difference?

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Anders W Forum Pro • Posts: 21,466
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

AngelicBeaver wrote:

The High ISO performance of the OMD is better than the EPL2. It's the way they handle the noise present that I like better (from what I saw) on the EPL2. I was looking at the Noise and Noise reduction feature on the review page, where you can compare different cameras with different noise reduction settings. At noise reduction set to off, the EPL2 is incredibly grainy at ISO6400, but it shows zero smearing. At ISO6400, with NR set to off on the OMD, there is considerably less grain, but there is evidence of smearing. The EP3 looks about the same as the EPL2, but with some smearing.

I like no smearing. And again, I didn't really see evidence of chroma noise either. Ultimately, if they were the same price, I'd go for the OMD, or EM5, or whatever it's called. The noise reminds me of my Canon, which isn't too bad. I just really like that the EPL2 really does seem to turn off the noise reduction completely, where most cameras never really turn it off and try to smooth it out just a little bit (or a lotta bit, in Panasonic's case).

I understand what you mean when talking about the E-M5 (haven't looked much at the PENs). Regrettably, there is no way to really turn NR down on the E-M5. Even if you set the "noise filter" to its minimum, there will be quite a bit of NR at higher ISOs in the out-of-camera jpegs. No solution to this at present except shooting RAW (which I do) or choosing another camera that gives you more control over the amount of NR used for the jpegs. Possibly, Panys with a better sensor than your GF3 (GX1, G3, G5, GH2, GH3) would be an alternative, but since I am generally uninterested in out-of-camera jpegs, I haven't tried to check.

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OP AngelicBeaver Contributing Member • Posts: 802
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

Panasonic just doesn't do JPEGs right, in my opinion.  I had an FZ20, and while I was very fond of the camera, there was something about the JPEGs that bothered me, and they liked the smudging.  Olympus is known for having wonderful out of camera JPEGs, which is one of the things that attracted me to them.

I think the root of all this is in the pressure to improve high ISO performance.  People were howling that the EP3 still had the old busted crappy at high ISO sensor, while Panasonic was ruling the world with their new sensors, so Oly comes out with a new camera, new sensor, and, to show how wonderful it performs, compared to their old cameras, they up the smearing a bit.

I'm all for new sensor tech, but give me options on how I want noise handled in JPEGs.

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fdi_bcn
fdi_bcn Regular Member • Posts: 120
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

Anders W wrote:

AngelicBeaver wrote:

The High ISO performance of the OMD is better than the EPL2. It's the way they handle the noise present that I like better (from what I saw) on the EPL2. I was looking at the Noise and Noise reduction feature on the review page, where you can compare different cameras with different noise reduction settings. At noise reduction set to off, the EPL2 is incredibly grainy at ISO6400, but it shows zero smearing. At ISO6400, with NR set to off on the OMD, there is considerably less grain, but there is evidence of smearing. The EP3 looks about the same as the EPL2, but with some smearing.

I like no smearing. And again, I didn't really see evidence of chroma noise either. Ultimately, if they were the same price, I'd go for the OMD, or EM5, or whatever it's called. The noise reminds me of my Canon, which isn't too bad. I just really like that the EPL2 really does seem to turn off the noise reduction completely, where most cameras never really turn it off and try to smooth it out just a little bit (or a lotta bit, in Panasonic's case).

I understand what you mean when talking about the E-M5 (haven't looked much at the PENs). Regrettably, there is no way to really turn NR down on the E-M5. Even if you set the "noise filter" to its minimum, there will be quite a bit of NR at higher ISOs in the out-of-camera jpegs. No solution to this at present except shooting RAW (which I do) or choosing another camera that gives you more control over the amount of NR used for the jpegs. Possibly, Panys with a better sensor than your GF3 (GX1, G3, G5, GH2, GH3) would be an alternative, but since I am generally uninterested in out-of-camera jpegs, I haven't tried to check.

It is for sure that the smearing is happening within the JPG engine?

Or it is happening after the sensor, before writing the RAW file?

In case it is only fault of the JPG engine, did someone tried with older (pre E-M5) versions of the Olympus software ("Olympus Viewer 2" for instance) to see how E-M5 files look when developed as E-P3 files for instance?

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Anders W Forum Pro • Posts: 21,466
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

fdi_bcn wrote:

Anders W wrote:

AngelicBeaver wrote:

The High ISO performance of the OMD is better than the EPL2. It's the way they handle the noise present that I like better (from what I saw) on the EPL2. I was looking at the Noise and Noise reduction feature on the review page, where you can compare different cameras with different noise reduction settings. At noise reduction set to off, the EPL2 is incredibly grainy at ISO6400, but it shows zero smearing. At ISO6400, with NR set to off on the OMD, there is considerably less grain, but there is evidence of smearing. The EP3 looks about the same as the EPL2, but with some smearing.

I like no smearing. And again, I didn't really see evidence of chroma noise either. Ultimately, if they were the same price, I'd go for the OMD, or EM5, or whatever it's called. The noise reminds me of my Canon, which isn't too bad. I just really like that the EPL2 really does seem to turn off the noise reduction completely, where most cameras never really turn it off and try to smooth it out just a little bit (or a lotta bit, in Panasonic's case).

I understand what you mean when talking about the E-M5 (haven't looked much at the PENs). Regrettably, there is no way to really turn NR down on the E-M5. Even if you set the "noise filter" to its minimum, there will be quite a bit of NR at higher ISOs in the out-of-camera jpegs. No solution to this at present except shooting RAW (which I do) or choosing another camera that gives you more control over the amount of NR used for the jpegs. Possibly, Panys with a better sensor than your GF3 (GX1, G3, G5, GH2, GH3) would be an alternative, but since I am generally uninterested in out-of-camera jpegs, I haven't tried to check.

It is for sure that the smearing is happening within the JPG engine?

Yes.

Or it is happening after the sensor, before writing the RAW file?

No. Fortunately the E-M5 doesn't do any NR in RAW. Nor does any other Oly body as far as I am aware.

In case it is only fault of the JPG engine, did someone tried with older (pre E-M5) versions of the Olympus software ("Olympus Viewer 2" for instance) to see how E-M5 files look when developed as E-P3 files for instance?

I haven't even installed the Oly Viewer. But reportedly, it emulates the jpeg engine of each specific body very closely. So if you process an E-M5 in the Viewer, it is likely to come out pretty much the same way as the OOC jpeg.

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fdi_bcn
fdi_bcn Regular Member • Posts: 120
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

>But reportedly, it emulates the jpeg engine of each specific body

I guess it reads in the file's metadata in which camera was the picture taken, don't know. Or from the file's header... And files should have less pixels to cheat the software and try that. And sure some other details I ignore.

Would like to know if it's all there or not. Love the color and the detail of older Pens (I use the E-P2) just would like to get rid of the chroma noise in low light and some noise up to, say, ISO 1600 in good light, not much more! But keeping all the rest of the magic. So I can use my Jupiter 11 or Industar 22 at faster speeds for instance but preserving all aspects of their signature color, texture, detail, etc. To have the weakest possible AA filter (but going back to the detail level of the E-PL1 would be already great) so we can fully enjoy the many great lenses the system have.

Just would like to know if that "microdetail" that some find missing is lost -only- when generating the JPG (which may be corrected through firmware if they may) or somewhere else, before the RAW file... I keep wondering, since for me it started after reviewing many E-M5 photographs and missing that "something"* and I guess not all were direct from camera! (or Oly software) So detail may be lost somewhere else in addition to JPG denoising...

(*) a certain degree of detail when using lenses like the Panasonic/Leica 25mm/1.4 or Pan. 20mm/1.7 and in general a certain kind of perceived volume that I see in files from the cameras using the older sensor (pre E-M5 Olympuses)

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Anders W Forum Pro • Posts: 21,466
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

fdi_bcn wrote:

>But reportedly, it emulates the jpeg engine of each specific body

I guess it reads in the file's metadata in which camera was the picture taken, don't know. Or from the file's header... And files should have less pixels to cheat the software and try that. And sure some other details I ignore.

Would like to know if it's all there or not. Love the color and the detail of older Pens (I use the E-P2) just would like to get rid of the chroma noise in low light and some noise up to, say, ISO 1600 in good light, not much more! But keeping all the rest of the magic. So I can use my Jupiter 11 or Industar 22 at faster speeds for instance but preserving all aspects of their signature color, texture, detail, etc. To have the weakest possible AA filter (but going back to the detail level of the E-PL1 would be already great) so we can fully enjoy the many great lenses the system have.

Just would like to know if that "microdetail" that some find missing is lost -only- when generating the JPG (which may be corrected through firmware if they may) or somewhere else, before the RAW file... I keep wondering, since for me it started after reviewing many E-M5 photographs and missing that "something"* and I guess not all were direct from camera! (or Oly software) So detail may be lost somewhere else in addition to JPG denoising...

(*) a certain degree of detail when using lenses like the Panasonic/Leica 25mm/1.4 or Pan. 20mm/1.7 and in general a certain kind of perceived volume that I see in files from the cameras using the older sensor (pre E-M5 Olympuses)

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Fernando

No problem at all with this if you are RAW shooter and use a RAW converter other than the Olympus Viewer. The problem is only with the in-camera jpeg engine and the Oly Viewer (which emulates it). I use LR 4.x and have no difficulties at all.

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Guy Parsons
Guy Parsons Forum Pro • Posts: 27,736
Finally, an answer....
1

myess wrote: OK. Here is a question. I know to turn the Noise reduction off but noise filter too? Pardon the naive question but what is the difference?

In the Oly world Noise Reduction is really dark frame subtraction and is best left on Auto so it will cut in at 4 seconds or longer exposures to help reduce noise build-up that happens in those longer exposures.

The Noise Filter item is the one that tries to lessen apparent noise but at the expense of detail smearing.

My approach is always Noise Reduction = Auto and Noise Filter = Off for jpegs, and also set Sharpness to -1 or -2 to lessen noise and nasty edge halos. Be aware that Olympus jpegs even at -2 Sharpness always have a little bit of sharpening added. Best to use RAW and sort it all out afterwards if needing a very large print or savage crops of an image.

All noise reduction and sharpening is best handled in post process be it jpeg or RAW.

In most cases noise does not matter at all for normal screen viewing or most print sizes, and sharpening is always best done as the last thing in post process to suit the display size or print size.

I always use auto ISO but set the high limit to what I can bear at the time, for average out and about I set it to 1000 or 1250 on my E-PL1 and maybe to 1600 if wandering in a really dark situation.

For just about all camera makers the top two ISO settings are a bad joke, just there for marketing reasons and not for actual photography.

Regards...... Guy

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tedolf
tedolf Forum Pro • Posts: 23,969
Bookmarked....
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Guy Parsons wrote:

myess wrote: OK. Here is a question. I know to turn the Noise reduction off but noise filter too? Pardon the naive question but what is the difference?

In the Oly world Noise Reduction is really dark frame subtraction and is best left on Auto so it will cut in at 4 seconds or longer exposures to help reduce noise build-up that happens in those longer exposures.

The Noise Filter item is the one that tries to lessen apparent noise but at the expense of detail smearing.

My approach is always Noise Reduction = Auto and Noise Filter = Off for jpegs, and also set Sharpness to -1 or -2 to lessen noise and nasty edge halos. Be aware that Olympus jpegs even at -2 Sharpness always have a little bit of sharpening added. Best to use RAW and sort it all out afterwards if needing a very large print or savage crops of an image.

All noise reduction and sharpening is best handled in post process be it jpeg or RAW.

In most cases noise does not matter at all for normal screen viewing or most print sizes, and sharpening is always best done as the last thing in post process to suit the display size or print size.

I always use auto ISO but set the high limit to what I can bear at the time, for average out and about I set it to 1000 or 1250 on my E-PL1 and maybe to 1600 if wandering in a really dark situation.

For just about all camera makers the top two ISO settings are a bad joke, just there for marketing reasons and not for actual photography.

Regards...... Guy

except that I think E-pl1 ISO 1600 Monochrome looks very nice, even 8 x10".



ISO 3200 color is Ok, not great but ok.

Tedolph

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fdi_bcn
fdi_bcn Regular Member • Posts: 120
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

Anders W wrote:

fdi_bcn wrote:

>But reportedly, it emulates the jpeg engine of each specific body

I guess it reads in the file's metadata in which camera was the picture taken, don't know. Or from the file's header... And files should have less pixels to cheat the software and try that. And sure some other details I ignore.

Would like to know if it's all there or not. Love the color and the detail of older Pens (I use the E-P2) just would like to get rid of the chroma noise in low light and some noise up to, say, ISO 1600 in good light, not much more! But keeping all the rest of the magic. So I can use my Jupiter 11 or Industar 22 at faster speeds for instance but preserving all aspects of their signature color, texture, detail, etc. To have the weakest possible AA filter (but going back to the detail level of the E-PL1 would be already great) so we can fully enjoy the many great lenses the system have.

Just would like to know if that "microdetail" that some find missing is lost -only- when generating the JPG (which may be corrected through firmware if they may) or somewhere else, before the RAW file... I keep wondering, since for me it started after reviewing many E-M5 photographs and missing that "something"* and I guess not all were direct from camera! (or Oly software) So detail may be lost somewhere else in addition to JPG denoising...

(*) a certain degree of detail when using lenses like the Panasonic/Leica 25mm/1.4 or Pan. 20mm/1.7 and in general a certain kind of perceived volume that I see in files from the cameras using the older sensor (pre E-M5 Olympuses)

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Fernando

No problem at all with this if you are RAW shooter and use a RAW converter other than the Olympus Viewer. The problem is only with the in-camera jpeg engine and the Oly Viewer (which emulates it). I use LR 4.x and have no difficulties at all.

That's good to know , thank you

Still strange why I can't find images showing the same degree of detail as with the old sensor... I mean the kind of detail that make lenses like the 25/1.4 or the 20/1.7 so special ("microdetail"?) That's why I started thinking the "issue" was before the JPG engine...

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Fernando

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Anders W Forum Pro • Posts: 21,466
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

fdi_bcn wrote:

Anders W wrote:

fdi_bcn wrote:

>But reportedly, it emulates the jpeg engine of each specific body

I guess it reads in the file's metadata in which camera was the picture taken, don't know. Or from the file's header... And files should have less pixels to cheat the software and try that. And sure some other details I ignore.

Would like to know if it's all there or not. Love the color and the detail of older Pens (I use the E-P2) just would like to get rid of the chroma noise in low light and some noise up to, say, ISO 1600 in good light, not much more! But keeping all the rest of the magic. So I can use my Jupiter 11 or Industar 22 at faster speeds for instance but preserving all aspects of their signature color, texture, detail, etc. To have the weakest possible AA filter (but going back to the detail level of the E-PL1 would be already great) so we can fully enjoy the many great lenses the system have.

Just would like to know if that "microdetail" that some find missing is lost -only- when generating the JPG (which may be corrected through firmware if they may) or somewhere else, before the RAW file... I keep wondering, since for me it started after reviewing many E-M5 photographs and missing that "something"* and I guess not all were direct from camera! (or Oly software) So detail may be lost somewhere else in addition to JPG denoising...

(*) a certain degree of detail when using lenses like the Panasonic/Leica 25mm/1.4 or Pan. 20mm/1.7 and in general a certain kind of perceived volume that I see in files from the cameras using the older sensor (pre E-M5 Olympuses)

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Fernando

No problem at all with this if you are RAW shooter and use a RAW converter other than the Olympus Viewer. The problem is only with the in-camera jpeg engine and the Oly Viewer (which emulates it). I use LR 4.x and have no difficulties at all.

That's good to know , thank you

Still strange why I can't find images showing the same degree of detail as with the old sensor... I mean the kind of detail that make lenses like the 25/1.4 or the 20/1.7 so special ("microdetail"?) That's why I started thinking the "issue" was before the JPG engine..

If still in doubt, go here and select the E-P2 that you are using as one of the cameras to compare with. Then look at some fine detail and let me know which camera shows more of it.

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/olympusem5/21

 Anders W's gear list:Anders W's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH +28 more
fdi_bcn
fdi_bcn Regular Member • Posts: 120
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

If still in doubt, go here and select the E-P2 that you are using as one of the cameras to compare with. Then look at some fine detail and let me know which camera shows more of it.

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/olympusem5/21

Thanks, I did that maaaany times, it doesn't work in this case

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Fernando

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Olympus PEN E-P2 Fujifilm X-E1
Anders W Forum Pro • Posts: 21,466
Re: Olympus EPL2 noise superior to EP3 and OM-D?

fdi_bcn wrote:

If still in doubt, go here and select the E-P2 that you are using as one of the cameras to compare with. Then look at some fine detail and let me know which camera shows more of it.

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/olympusem5/21

Thanks, I did that maaaany times, it doesn't work in this case.

What is it that doesn't work? Your eyes? According to mine, there is no question of which camera provides more detail, and it isn't the E-P2.

 Anders W's gear list:Anders W's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH +28 more
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