Studio scene comparison (RAW)

For our usual tests, we use Adobe Camera Raw for our RAW tests, however, as part of our normal reviewing process we discovered that ACR simply wasn't getting the detail we'd expect out of the E-30 files (we always compare at least three raw converters before we start this section). When we compared ACR's output to Olympus's own converter and Capture One the results were more different than we'd expect (ACR usually does very well in the resolution test).

Athough the most recent version of ACR offers support for the E-30, it does not appear to be producing the sort of quality we would expect to see - specifically it's resolution is actually lower than JPEG (probably not something you'd see in a print, but it would be very unfair to the E-30 to use it for pixel-level comparisons). We contacted the ACR team at Adobe and they acknowledged the rather sub-optimal resolution results for the E-30 in ACR 5.3 (it wll be fixed later). As a result, we have taken the unusual step of offering preliminary comparisons based on a different RAW converter.

These are not intended as a replacement for the ACR comparisons (which will be done at a later date), but just to give initial impressions. We will continue to use ACR as our default comparison tool and have strayed from it in this instance because a final-spec version offering E30 support isn't yet available. We will not be changing RAW converters to 'suit' particular cameras.

  • Load RAW file into Capture 1
  • Adjust exposure to match co-shot JPEG
  • Save as a TIFF (for cropping) and as a JPEG quality 11 for download

This is our standard studio scene comparison shot. Lighting: daylight simulation, >98% CRI. Crops are 100%. Ambient temperature was approximately 22°C (~72°F).

And, so that you can try subjecting the images to your own noise reduction and image processing workflow, you can download the following RAW files:

Olympus E-30 vs. Canon 50D vs. Nikon D300

Olympus E-30
Canon 50D
Nikon D300
4.4 MB JPEG (4032 x 3024)
5.2 MB JPEG (4752 x 3168)
4.4 MB JPEG (4288 x 2848)

We often have to point out that the differences between modern DSLRs are extremely subtle as base ISO and this demonstrates that exactly. The D300 initially appears to be sharpest, though the slightly crisper paperclips in the 50D images suggest that the difference may be down to a minute difference in focussing.

The E-30's crops are not quite as sharp and detailed as its two rivals but for most purposes we're splitting hairs here. The D300 has the best per-pixel sharpness but I defy anyone to see a significant difference between these three cameras for the majority of real world uses.

Compared to Panasonic G1

We were hoping to compare the E-30 to Panasonic's G1 but could find no common ground on which to compare - Capture One does not support the G1 and, as mentioned above, the current ACR support for the E-30 produces results that are inconsistent with other converters.

That said, the Capture One conversion of E-30's output reveals little additional detail over the JPEGs (which is common on recent Olympus DSLRs - the JPEG engine does an excellent job of conveying the majority of the information from the RAW data), and falls significantly short of the level of detail that can be pulled out of G1 RAW files.

This leads us to suspect that, as with the previous generation of cameras, that the G1 and E-30 share the same underlying silicon but have different anti-aliasing filters and back-end electronics (it seems that less noise is ending up in the E-30's RAW files but it's difficult to be certain, given the tools currently available). However, as can be seen in the comparison to its high-end APS-C peers, the E-30 is only producing marginally softer images than its APS-C peers.