Panasonic GX1 vs Olympus E-P3 – Part 3 – RAW

Panasonic GX1 vs Olympus E-P3 – Part 3 – RAW

OK, here we are with part 3 of this continuing comparison between the new Panasonic GX1 and the Olympus E-P3. This time, after the difference in  JPEGs by each camera yesterday where the GX1 tended to underexpose a little and the Oly overexposing a little we get to take a look at RAW performance of each camera. The Olympus JPEGS were IMO a bit snappier and sharper than the GX1 JPEGS but can the Panasonic do better when it come to the RAW files?

All of the images below were shot with the same lens on each camera. Each file was processed to JPEG from RAW using ACR 6.6. I included crops embedded in larger JPEGS this time, so click on each image and an 1800 pixel wide JPEG will open with an embedded 100% crop from each file.

If you found this post and did not see the others yet, you can see PART 1 HERE and PART 2 HERE.

 1st up! Panasonic GX1 with the 25 again at f/8 – FROM RAW – click image to see large with 100% crop – Much sharper now

The Olympus…darker blue sky and sharp!

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This time at f/2.8 the image from the Panasonic seems softer. Focus may have missed here though  – I was using center point and focused at the same point as the Olympus below.

The E-P3 has that Olympus color…

This next image is not 100% accurate as the GX1 was shot at f/4, and the Olympus was mistakenly shot at f/3.5. So this gives the GX1 a slight edge. You can see this is pretty sharp from both cameras. 

The Olympus at f/3.5 but still very sharp. Both did great, but there are some color differences here.

The Panasonic once again at f/8 with the 25 – see the larger version to see the full crop…

…and the Olympus, f/8 – NEITHER camera nailed the color or WB here BTW though the Oly is closer

There you have it! Which do you prefer?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. I downloaded the two pictures of the tank comparison and looked at them in detail. If you look real close (yes, we are pixel peeping here) at the left side where the green hose is as well as the homes and farm land in the background the Oly clearly leans a bit more heavy on the brown side as far as colors goes. The entire left side is like 1 big brown blotch, with some of the brown color even making it’s way into the hose as it’s taken on a slightly brown color. If you look at the Panny shot, the colors separation is much better. It’s as if the Panny shows more restraint and control at color accuracy.

    I look at the homes in the far background (still on the left side here). Even the homes in the background seem to have taken on brownish characteristics that are absent in the Panny shot. I noticed the smog in the background of the Oly and I tried to figure out why it’s so much stronger than on the Panny. The only rationale I can come up with is the Oly is over committing to the darker colors.

    If you look at the 2 shots with the tube it’s the same story. The Oly overdoes it with the brown colors. The Oly also has obvious chromatic aberration which I don’t even have to pixel peep to see.

    I think the Oly has better looking shots that look more pleasing to the eye because the picture looks more saturated. But if you want an honest to goodness picture that is more true to what is, the Panny wins hands down.

  2. It must be me, as I prefer the GX1 and find the colour rendition has it over the Olympus. I always shoot RAW, and I can look after colour aberations in processing.

    Now … have I just justified to myself my purchase of a GX1 + 14? Hope so, but we’ll find out when it arrives (soon I hope … 🙂

  3. I’ve had the GF1, GF2, GF3 and now the GX1. I must say that this is the best G series I’ve had. This is my mid sized camera. I was contemplating the Nex 7 but the size of the lenses for the Nex series put me off. I love the collapsible Panny 14-42mm and 20mm f1.7 lenses.

    The only minor complaint that I have is the colour production of jpeg images that the GF1 shoots. Its clear that it is a little less warm and dull compared to the Olympus E series and Sony Nex cameras. Guess you can’t have everything.

    Steve, what would you recommend to put as the picture setting, for outdoors, and for indoors with flash?

  4. At one point i only care about dinamic range años plus i want The colors to look as Rich as my x100.


  5. This comparison showcases that it’s not just Olympus jpegs but also Olympus RAW files have better colors than Panasonic. Just look at the magneta cast in Panasonic Raw.

  6. am i the only one.. who wait for the lens pan leica 25mm review ??
    beside the GX vs EP3..

  7. Nice review steve,
    Like everyone else do you mind to continue the test with low light indoor photo. That would be great if you could do it.

  8. hi steve,
    personally i think panny took what was a good camera gf-1 and just screwed it up twice gf-2 -3 , now with the gx-1 ..once again they took 3 steps back as far as design and went back to the gf1 just made it smaller and added 16 mp ….but left the touch screen good for some bad for others , ep3 well its an ep just with a pop up flesh …..i think both of these cameras have went through there life spans ! panny and oly should really come up with a complete new camera including the out dated out performed micro 4/3 chip !
    from the pics above you can even see both cameras performance to be almost identical just a slight variation in color again personal preference……from what i hear oly is working on a brand new camera which will be shown shortly and are revemping all there current models including the ep-3 …..thank god ! looks like 2012 is going to be the year of the new camera designs for most company’s !

    also steve wanted to thankyou for the outstanding work that you do ! your site brings me joy every day , just like the morning cup of coffee, looking forward to reading your posts this year !!!
    hope this year brings you health happiness in your life !


  9. The blues and greens honestly look richer and better to me on the Panasonic, although I’d have to hand the yellows and reds to the Olympus. It also seems like the perceived lack of shadow detail in the Panasonic is due to the shadows being darker and stronger, which I prefer. It just shows how subjective color really is.

  10. Steve just out of curiosity, in the first photo why are the two birds in sky in the GX1 RAW comparison in the identical spot to the two birds in the Jpeg comparison? Or are they not birds at all but an unclean sensor perhaps?

    • Possibly one shot saved as RAW + Jpeg. then convert the RAW with ACR6.6 for the RAW test. All valid and less likelihood of introducing humanoid aspects (movement etc)

  11. The EP-3 and GX-1 each appear to have their own advantages.

    For me, the Pen with a viewfinder is preferred over GX-1 for when I may want to shoot jegs. A low light advantage and barely noticeable resolution advantage for the GX-1 is not sufficient in and of itself to make me want it over the still great styling of the Pen series.

  12. Got my GX1 around the same time I lost my Olympus FL360 (and an Olympus 45mm 1.8.) on the subway (ouch) so I attended a New Years Eve party last night sans off-camera flash. I’m frankly shocked at how good on-camera flash of the GX1 performs, by simple virtue of the fact that it snaps back 90 degrees so you can bounce it off the ceiling. Because the high ISO performance is so fantastic, I truly got off-camera flash results, with good skin tones, and this was at a party in a photo studio with a high ceiling. I did have to jack the flash power up by 2 stops and increase the exposure compensation a few stops too. When we wound up at a bar with a black ceiling, the results weren’t quite as good, but still pretty amazing for an on-camera flash, and I suppose I would have the same problem with a flash gun. The bouncable flash is one of the most important and so far overlooked features of the GX1. I’m very happy with my choice and would take the GX1 even over the NEX 7 (which I know also has a bouncable flash)

    • Forgot to point out that most of the images were between 800-1600 iso (using the intelligent auto iso limited to 1600) and all still looked amazing.

      • Just curious Steve, but does the flash on the NEX 7 also snap and lock into a vertical position or do you have to hold it? Hope that’s not too off topic. I would love to see a head to head comparison with the GX1 and NEX 7. I did seriously consider selling off my entire system, a GF1, GH1, flash, and five lenses to get the Sony. I think I made the right decision for me.

    • The bounce flash is one of the reasons I love the GF2. On the GX1, will the flash stay at 90 degrees on its own, or do you have to hold it like on the GF2?

      • Clips back on it’s own and stays at 90 degrees. No holding! I’ve been experimenting with small scraps of paper, a business or index card is fine, and slipping it between the flash and EVF so it will bounce up for vertical shots too. It works quite well! You do have to shoot button side down which is a bit awkward though. I’ve also tried placing the card behind the flash when it’s pointed up to get some forward reflection, which also works. Although, when I was doing vertical shots at the party I got some really nice results from the flash bouncing of a wall that was around 10 feet away with no reflectors. So far I’m having an amazing time with this camera.

  13. I really dont care about sharpness that much.. I have yet not seen a raw-file from any camera that does not give me a sufficiently sharp image.. What I DO CARE about is the dynamic range. With raw-files from the GX1 I dont feel like Im held back in PP because the sensor cant deliver.. But with the 12mp m43-raw-files theres just something missing, and its harder to get the look I want with the old 12mp 43-sensor. The GX1-sensor will give you a better Raw-file to work with. BUT, if you like shooting Jpeg, I would recommend the E-PM1, a splendid Jpeg-machine for the money.

    • The dynamic range is a fair (and important) point indeed.

      Steve – do you have plans to compare these cameras in respect to this? Is there a noticeable difference? Thank you.

  14. How does the color output, raw and jpeg, of the GX1 compare to the GF1 and earlier G series cameras?

  15. I still prefer the EP-3 opposed to the GX1. Both are formidable cameras, but when you like to shoot at longer distances with manual focus lenses, I would prefer the Ep3 because it has built in IS… and it does help me alot as compared to cameras without IS…

  16. Great comparison, still happy happy joy joy with my E-P3 !

    Pixel peeping must be a cry for help for people who never takes pictures at all…

  17. I really like this series. What I take away from this is that all cameras take good pictures in bright sunlight. I am not the kind of person who zooms in and looks at each pixel, but if I were, I would go buy myself a full frame camera.

  18. The Panasonic errs towards yellow, while the Olympus errs on the magenta side. Both are easily fixable.

  19. Steve, great shots for comparison!

    I would’ve liked it though if you’d arrange the pictures side by side rather than stacking them. Makes it easier to see the difference (to me at least) 🙂

  20. Thanks’ for the review

    I suggest that you through in some portraits. Skin tones rendering is something that has to be considered IMHO. I use my camera to take pictures of people most of the time and I believe lots of the readers also do so.

  21. Gx1 is a real camera ep-3is an obsolete model with a crappy old sensor. Sorry olympus fan club, but its the truth…..

    • your probably right, but the pics tell a story and they dont lie …the crappy old sensor still is better than the “real camera”………and i dont own either.

      • I disagree with the crappy comment, but these images don’t show the ep3 is better as far as iq. They are even for the most part and gx1 has better high Iso

        The sharpness is not a surprise due to mp difference. Download the full size samples, resize and compare.

    • Yeh, you are the only one that knows the truth. Based on your comment one can’t be more biased than that.

    • lolwow, if this is true i hope they start blowing the ep3 out pricewise and i will pick one up asap!

  22. Steve, were these processed with “As Shot” white balance, or normalized to be the same?

    I ask, because as a raw test, this should aspire to show only differences in the capture part of making the image, and the white balance is is really a post-processing parameter. Mixing in the camera’s guess at WB would confuse the raw comparison.

    • Yes “as shot” as my comparisons (and I have explained this 100 times) Shia what each camera will do on their own, as most will use it. What you see here is what each camera will give you without editing. If I edit these results then it is no longer what the camera will give you, and thus, not fair.

      • Fair enough, though I would argue that as we enter the land of raw processing, we have left the “as most will use it” land far behind.

        I guess I come from the “I don’t trust the camera post-processing” school of raw photographers, which is probably differently motivated than the “I’d like some extra adjustment latitude post processing” school. To the former, including camera chosen WB in a raw comparison is silly; to the latter it is much more sensible. It is also more sensible if using vendor supplied raw conversion which replicates the in-camera processing as a baseline. But not so much when using something else like ACR which is decidedly not attempting that.

  23. It looks to me like the E-P3 processes shadow detail much better. Look at the lower right support of the tank in the photo of the fence. Also I looked at the GX1 in a local camera store yesterday and didn’t like the build very much … too small for my hands and Steve mentioned this earlier … the dial on the back doesn’t inspire confidence … too small and it seemed hard to control the stops. Haven’t tried the E-P3 but it seems like the trend is to get too small. Thanks very much for your reviews … when I first saw the release of the GX1 I thought this is it … now not so it …

    • Having had a GX1 for a couple days, I concur that the shadow detail is one area where the IQ seems to fall apart, even in good light with low ISO. Oh well.

      On the ergonomics, they both have many warts and gems. The tiny-tiny thumb wheel on the GX1 is a wtf-were-they-thinking shame, but on balance I find the GX1 controls vastly easier to operate with big clumsy fingers than the E-P3 controls–your fingers may have more dexterity. At the end of the day, that was the final deciding factor for me. It was a hard choice though. I take comfort in knowing that I would probably be equally irritated and delighted with the E-P3, just in different ways.

      • JRF..I have found that with a minimal amount of post processing in software, such a Nik Efex Pro 4, will pull out all the shadow detail you could possibly want from the GX1 RAW files…the info is all there to be had. The GX1 produces flatter, more even files out of the camera but there is tons of info there to make truly spectacular photos with a little bit of effort.
        I usually post process all of my images so there is a lot to like about the GX1 for me.

    • People pay top dollar for smaller size. Why do you think they are paying $4000 on ebay for Sony nex7 when a $500 Nikon will eat it alive? Same size lenses. Size…they are paying a $3500 premium for size…by the way nex7 is the same size as gx1.

    • I bought a GX1 and LVF2 …I concur about the click-wheel…The one on the GF1 was vastly superior!….Panasonic…how could you get that so wrong?
      Overall I do like the GX1 camera over the GF1 as it does so many things better. I am getting used to the click-wheel…but the focusing, frame-rate, and write speeds are so much better.
      I am also on the fence about the smaller size of the camera…but I am getting used to that as well.
      The RAW comparison here looks like a pretty even wash…but I would have expected the GX1 to do somewhat better than the E-P3. Not so according to this test. (On DPReview the G3 did much better in a more scientific environment, even in the shadow detail against the E-P3….DPR have not posted GX1 RAW results yet…but the GX1 and G3 are supposed to be sharing the same sensor…be interesting to see what they come up with).

  24. After pixel peeping the two sets of tank pictures (grey and green) here are my two take aways:

    – As I hypothesized after the first installment of the review, there would be no visible difference in sharpness between 12mp & 16mp. Due to they physical size of the sensor a lens would have to resolve on the order of 100 lp/mm. The 25/1.4 is one of the best lenses, it still only resolves 65 – 70 lp/mm. The m4/3 format is inherently lens limited regrading sharpness. The sensor is big enough to capture enough fine detail to make excellent large prints; just can’t do a lot of cropping.

    – These are “real world” picture examples. It wasn’t shooting in a lab with a giant tripod and a load of exposure and focus bracketing shots. The result is that on the last (green) tank set, the GX1 shot is slightly out of focus so the EP3 is sharper. Very slight amounts of miss focus or camera shake have significant impact on sharpness. This is why obsessing over which lens generated better numbers in lab tests is particularly useful.

    • This review used pics in good light. You pay extra here for the large m4/3 sensor in order to get low light performance. In good light Nikon v1 or canon s95 could do just fine. In good light LeicaX1 $1400 will dominate with that Elmarit lens at 10 ounces.

      The point here is Sony NEX has orange faces in indoor light and olympus cannot really give you ISO 1600. Gx1 can now give you 1600 and good skin tones.

  25. Hi Steve, I am also interested in the answer to Stephane’s RAW processing question.
    Fine review! and Happy New Year!

  26. Hey Steve, what do you mean by RAW processing? Do you apply a set of corrections, or you just put the RAW to JEPG? Thanks
    An happy new year!

  27. I’d have to say it’s a toss up. Can’t really complain about one or the other. Especially the 1st set of images…and what a noticeable difference by Panasonic from (out of the box settings) JPEG to RAW.

    All about personal preference.

    • I think this is what Steve is trying to show, its all about personal preference, this is why he calls it real use of a camera.
      I use Oly for 2 reasons (EP2 and E30). 1 IBIS and 2 Zuiko lenses. I shoot in raw + jpeg The jpeg for quick showing and the RAW just so I can play if I want to. A Panasonic was on the books for purchase in the early days but OIS does nothing for me, why pay for is with every lens. High ISO is nice but not essential, I used 35mm and 120 film, whatever ISO was in the camera with 35mm is what you used. With 120 at least I can change the back on my Bronica GS1 but ISO hunting is not critical.
      Steve keep up the great work.

    • I am guessing the images are not resized. If you open two windows and compare the full size images side-by-side the GX1 images are larger.

    • AZx1…I take that back..only the superimposed insets are larger for the GX1…the images appear to be resized?

  28. I hate to defend Panasonic but the pictures look almost identical. If instead of outdoors you are taking pictures indoors in a restaurant with no flash, the Panasonic will give you clean ISO 1600 and decent 3200. The Oly will suffer at 1600.

    • True.

      At other review sites, I’ve read that they had issues with Panasonic’s rendering of skin tone while indoors.

      Have you come across or noticed that as well Steve?

  29. …I don’t need part IV: as usual: put together Panasonic sensor, video and OIS at tele lengths + Olympus image processing, style and IBIS for primes and legacy and you get the perfect camera!

  30. For general Jpeg snapshots it seems the Olympus is a bit snappier. For RAW, especially in low light high ISO, clear advantage to the Panasonic.

    • Love the ergonomics of the EP1/2/3. 5 customizable buttons are great, but what good is it when Oly won’t let you assign the ISO (as well as some other functions) to those buttons? Instead, we are stuck with ISO as part of the jog wheel. C’mon Oly, firmware upgrade!

  31. The extra 4 mega pixels on GX1 doesn’t translate into more details on these images from what I can see here.

  32. Steve – if it’s shot in RAW, from what the readers of this blog say, that “all the information is there”, does it matter if the WB or apparent color is nailed or not? Simple fixes, right?

    I’m sure either camera is fun to use and each has great optics (far more important than sensor imho), so learn the camera, learn it’s settings, and make great pics. Neither camera is “better” than the other, unless one consistently misses the color as you see it, jpg or RAW.

    What would have been intersting is to add the other RAW format, film, in to the mix to ground the test. Shoot some Portra, Ektar, or Fuji 400 Pro H, employ a decent scan and compare colors. That is a true test of any digital cameras ability to render color and dynamic range.

  33. The GX1 is quite a bit sharper shooting RAW – compard to JPEG´s. I think Pana and Oly are neck-and-neck here..
    I like the colors of the Pen better though, especially the second set of pictures the Oly colors look a bit warmer..

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