ISO WARS: The Olympus E-P3 vs The Sony NEX-5!
When Olympus released the E-P1, the camera suffered from slow AF, poor high ISO performance and it always lost out to the Panasonic M4/3 camera (slightly) and other larger sensor cameras. The E-P2 did nothing to improve upon the high ISO but the AF did get a speed boost and the video control improved. With the new E-P3, Olympus claims better high ISO performance, and if you read my review you would have seen that I loved the AF speed boost, and just about everything else about the camera. But I did not really get into high ISO performance so much and I recieved a few e-mails asking me to pit it against the Sony NEX-5 at 3200, 6400 and 12,800.
It was just over a year ago when I reviewed the Sony NEX-3 and 5 cameras. At that time, their high ISO capability was unheard of! 12,800 ISO in a small camera like that was a first, and everyone raved about the quality of low light shots, even me!
With its APS-C sized sensor (not quite full frame, but larger than the Micro 4/3 sensor) the Sony was able to do better at high ISO and low light than other small cameras and it competed with larger DSLR’s. The E-P3 is here and still has the 4/3 size sensor of course, so I wanted to see how it would stand up to the NEX, not only in noise, but in detail. I used the 12mm f/2 lens on the Olympus at f/3.5. On the Sony I shot with the higher end 18-200 at 18mm, f3.5.
I did a quick and dirty test, using the STEADYSHOT of the 18-200 and the built in IS of the E-P3. I turned OFF the Noise Reduction on the E-P3 as you can. The Sony does not allow you to turn it off but it does let you switch it to “WEAK”, so this is what I did. I wanted to let each camera give the most detail without letting Noise Reduction get in the way and smear it all up. I shot JPEGS as there is still no Lightroom or Photoshop support for the E-P3 RAW files.
The first comparison shot of a couple of books was taken in my living room, at night, with a very dim lamp shining in from my office. Here we go!
FIrst I will show you a couple of resized images from each camera – ISO 3200 and then ISO 12,800. After that I will show you the crops from each at 3200, 6400 and 12,800. You can click on the images for larger 1800 pixel wide versions.
The E-P3 at ISO 3200 – 12mm – f/3.5 – 12mm (24mm)
Sony NEX-5 – ISO 3200 – f/3.5 – 18mm (28mm)
Ok, let’s go to ISO 12,800
BELOW: E-P3 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger version – scroll down for 100% crops
NEX-5 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger version – scroll down for 100% crops
E-P3 1st, NEX-5 2nd
What happens if you convert the JPEGS to black and white?
First the E-P3 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger
NEX-5 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger
How about another subject with a little more light. I my Kitchen area…
The E-P3 – ISO 3200 – This time I had it set to F/2 though. MUST CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL 100% CROP VIEW!
and the NEX – ISO 3200 – MUST CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL 100% CROP VIEW
and one more…
BELOW: E-P3 CROP
BELOW: NEX-5 CROP
What I see in all of the images is that the Noise Reduction in the NEX is hindering the detail. Also, the Olympus 12mm lens is a sharper lens than the $799 Sony 18-200. I actually prefer the grit and grime of the E-P3 versions over the somewhat dull and mushy NEX versions. Olympus did a good job with the E-P3 and when NR is turned off there is still plenty of detail in the files, even at high ISO. Next test should be against the X100 :)
HOW ABOUT MORE VIDEO SAMPLES WITH THE E-P3? Even a low light video that is pretty free of grain!
I’m still waiting for the “PRO PEN” with a built in EVF. Also, the rumored Sony NEX-7 with built in EVF should up the stakes yet again. Below are a couple of high ISO shots taken with the E-P3 this evening just to test it out. Enjoy!
ISO 6400 – spot metered on the can – in camera B&W JPEG (not the art filter grainy B&W, but MONOTONE color selection. Click for larger.
ISO 3200 – NIGHT – OOC JPEG, NO NR, NO PP
ISO 3200, night..f/2 – 12mm
E-P3 – 12mm, f/2 – ISO 6400, in camera B&W, NR OFF, evening, no lights on.
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