Compared to...

Studio scene comparison

This is our standard studio scene comparison shot taken from exactly the same tripod position within minutes of each other. Lighting: 2 x 800W studio lights with dichroic daylight filters bounced off a white ceiling reflector. Crops magnified 200%. Ambient temperature was approximately 21°C (~70°F).

Aspect Ratio

The biggest difference between the Olympus E-1 and all other digital SLR's is that it has a 4:3 aspect ratio sensor compared to the more film traditional 3:2 aspect ratio. This means that in comparisons we must frame the scene vertically to be fair to the E-1. In our tests we found that the Olympus ED 50 mm lens performed best (highest resolution) between F5 and F8, with this in mind we chose an aperture of F7.1 (which also still delivers plenty of DOF). The other digital SLR's use 35 mm lenses, these are best between F8 and F11, hence our usual F10 aperture. For those who wish to compare an E-1 F10 image is available for download at the bottom of this page.

Olympus E-1 vs. Canon EOS 10D (@ ISO 100)

While Canon wouldn't promote the EOS 10D as a professional digital SLR it is certainly built like one and has proved to deliver high quality, low noise images suited to a wide range of photography. It remains the benchmark six megapixel digital SLR. Price wise the EOS 10D is approximately $200 cheaper. With the aspect ratio difference taken into account the six megapixel Canon EOS 10D carries a vertical resolution advantage of just 128 pixels (approximately 6% more).

Camera settings:

  • Olympus E-1: Olympus ED 50 mm F2.0, Aperture Priority, ISO 100, JPEG SHQ,
    Manual WB, Default Parameters, Anti-Shock 2 secs
  • Canon EOS 10D: Canon EF 50 mm F1.4, Aperture Priority, ISO 100, JPEG Large/Fine,
    Manual WB, Default Parameters, Mirror Lock-up self-timer
Olympus E-1 Canon EOS 10D
ISO 100, 1/2 sec, F7.1 ISO 100, 1 sec, F10
2,958 KB JPEG (2560 x 1920) 2,138 KB JPEG (3072 x 2048)

Color balance from the two cameras was fairly similar, with perhaps the EOS 10D delivering slightly more muted color on its default setting. The 10D's resolution advantage is clear, and seems to be beyond the simple additional vertical pixels. The E-1 exhibits some Bayer interpolation artifacts (including moiré), especially along diagonal pixel-wide lines, the 10D delivering a far cleaner image with almost no visible artifacts.

This further supports our assumption that the E-1's JPEG image processing engine is optimized for speed rather than quality (as noted with the 'High Speed' option in the RAW converter). Sharpness appears to be almost identical, with both cameras opting for a fairly hands-off approach.

Also available for download