Crazy Comparison! Sony A9 vs Olympus EM1 MKII!

Crazy Comparison! Sony A9 vs Olympus EM1 MKII!

Hey guys! It has been a long time since I posted a Crazy Comparison but they are BAAACCCKKK! As always, these are JUST FOR FUN and I let the camera do the work here, so we can see what each one gives us when it calculates the exposure. Real world my friends, real world.

I have been on vacation for the past six days visiting family, and shooting both the Olympus EM1 KII and the Sony A9. I have mostly been using the Olympus for photos and the Sony for video but both are lovely cameras that are so capable, and not so different when it comes to speed, usability and fun factor…even size.

The Olympus as most of you know is a Micro 4/3 format camera. The Sony is full frame.

Where the Sony wins over the Olympus in real world use (for me) is that it can be used in ANY situation. Light, Dim, Dark, and it will focus in almost any light. For me, the Sony is the most tech advanced camera at its price point that one can buy. While expensive at $4,500, it is a camera that has yet to let me down in any way, shape or form. No matter my use.

The Sony full frame sensor will offer more dynamic range over the Olympus (though both are fantastic) and better AF tracking if that is your thing, but the Olympus will be a tad bit smaller with some equiv. lenses (though not by much) and offer its own unique brand of color, which is normally warmer where the Sony is a little cooler.

Both cameras are fast, responsive and built well but the Olympus offers better build quality with a more complete weather sealing over the Sony. The Sony is $4500, the Olympus comes in at $2,000. When the Olympus was announced, that $2k price point sounded quite high. When compared to the Sony, it appears cheap in price, lol. (not really but you know what I mean).

I have been having so much fun with both cameras but at the end of the day, for photos, the Sony offers more versatility due to the larger sensor, and the fact that it can shoot in the dark and use almost any third-party lens (Nikon, Canon, Leica, etc).

Even so, the Micro 4/3 format is still amazing for its size vs what it can do. Below are just a few random shots that I snapped with each camera to show the rendering and color difference in good light.

1st shot, click it for full size file!

The 1st image is from the Olympus EM1 MKII wth the 25 1.2 lens at f/1.4. This combo is my fave for Micro 4/3. The 25 1.2 is a wonderful lens that renders beautifully. CLICK IMAGE for full size! 

Now the shot from the A9 (JPEG) using the very nice Voigtlander 50 f/3.5 lens. This lens is gorgeous, and becoming one of my most used on the A9. Manual focus but lovely rendering. If I use this on the Olympus it would become a 100mm lens, and lose some of its character. You can see the detail of this lens wide open by clicking on the image below. 

Now using the Ultra wides. The 1st shot is the Olympus shot with the 7-14 at f/2.8, 8mm (16) – See the flare. 

Now the Sony A9 and Zeiss 16-35 f/4, at f/4 at 16mm. No flare!


Olympus 7-14 at 14mm

The Sony 16-35 f/4 at 16. I meant to do this to match the focal length of the Olympus but screwed up. Either way, here is the image. Again, full size. 

I love both systems and while I do not NEED both today, I use both and enjoy them equally. My Sony is getting loads of video use as it’s AF is now at a level (compared to the A7 series before it) where you can shoot video and have fast AF even with fast aperture lenses wide open. The Sony is a tour deforce or tech, the Olympus is as well but with its smaller sensor it just has limitations at higher ISO and lower light when compared to the Sony.

As for lenses, I prefer the Olympus and Panasonic line up of lenses vs the Sony but both now offer fantastic lenses and glass, and if I had to pick one to keep and were forced to only have one, it would be the Sony due to the versatility with low light and lens selection (Leica or almost any lens I want to mount can be mounted).

Gotta love this hobby, especially today when our choices are so so good, and so vast. No matter what camera you choose today, when you stick with brands like these as well as Fuji, Panasonic, Nikon, Canon, or any of the big names you know you will get a great capable memory making camera ; )

Stay cool my friends, and have a wonderful day! I will be back from my vacation this week, so more to come!



  1. Hi Steve
    Thanks for the best Camera site out there!
    I never feel the need to post but Ive just picked up the A9 and loving it all except the viewfinder, crazy as it sounds but its higher resolution than my A7Rii but the edges seem more stair stepped which turns the image to unsharp mush in bright outside light so its not a nice experience to look at for long periods especially in Video mode.
    I’m much more aware that I’m looking through a electronic viewfinder now more than ever before compared to the previous A7 range!


  2. I propose to compare those gear to a Leica M3, to have a good idea watch the movie “the decisive instant” or the “instant decisif”, it’s an Asian movie which tell the story of one old reporter who has to face stupid laughs of young reporers with big canon or nikon it could be sony or olympus.
    I know Leica M3 is a RF optimise for 50 mm but with extra finder we can use a lot of lenses. With top RF lenses and good films… do you think sony a9 and olympus truc will win?

  3. I bought the Oly MKll and the 25 1.2 on the strength of the reviews and comments on this site.

    It really was a departure for this Pentaxian of 35 years. Initially the hesitation was the 4/3 vs APS.

    Forget about it. The Oly 4/3 is fabulous and unless one is very intent on off the hook low light and DOF that can be had w FF, nothing is missed. The output is fabulous. Difference vs APS – I see little or no difference on low light or DOF. I know there must be differences as a matter of physics, but nothing significant in my opinion.

    The 25 1.2 is awesome and my MKll has become a virtual fixed lens point and shoot w this lens never leaving the camera. It’s a little on the large and heavy side as lenses go but it is sooooooo good that the trade off is worth it. I jokingly refer to it as the “miracle lens”.

    I would be very tempted by an rx1 incarnation of the A9. I’m sure that’s forthcoming.

    Expensive hobby but what the hell, life is short 🙂

  4. When you explain that the Oly has not great High ISO performance ( compare to FF), Does it mean that it is still the same as the older 16mp sensor?
    Or is it improved?


      • 1 stop seems a good improvment.

        I was wondering if this camera can deliver at ISO6400 the same results than my 16 mp Oly at ISO 3200?

        If it is the case sounds great !

      • My head hurts lol I’m just deciding on leaving the oly and going for a9 as I can’t a afford both systems. Help

        • What are your needs? Do you value speed and response? Do you shoot video? Do you want full frame qualities and DOF? I use my Sony for video mostly, and for that it is amazing (AF performance). For photos it fantastic as well but so is the Only ; ) Less noise at base ISO for the Sony. You will always have some noise even at ISO 100 with the Olympus, but in print or reside you will never see it.

          • Thanks for the reply Steve it looks like the Sony for me. I think the auto focus alone from what I have watched on you tube is worth it alone and as you say about base iso Thanks again for your time. I look forward to more videos from your self.

  5. Sony worms. That really is a devastating flaw. I presume they go away with proper raw processing, but it seems the jpeg engine in the A9 is compromised in certain situations. This crazy comparison shows the A9 to be a crazy choice if you are a big-time jpeg shooter.

    I was astounded when I took a close look at the head stone. The worm effect is not subtle. An A9 photographer now has to wonder when it will surface. Is it ever predictable? That doesn’t matter, though; the worms should not be there.

  6. That Voigtlander lense is superb !
    I didn’t think there would be so much difference, though I don’t shoot jpegs,
    but the A9 blows me away in this comparaison, I prefer the colors, and The Olympus seems already to have noise blur at these ISO
    I didn’t regret 1 second it’s purchase,
    having the A7RII too, it makes a killing combo.
    Thanks Steve, your real world reviews and crazy comparaisons are really helpfull.

    The patern You see is a sharpening artifac of the jpegs, similar to adobe sharpening patern.
    it appears because there is far more details in the A9 shots than the smoothy Olymp.
    You can set different settings in camera if you want to avoid it, and Raw converter as the free C1 for Sony don’t do ceate patern.

  7. Yeah, crazy, but good. I own the Olympus camera and while it has been obvious to me that compared to the FF cameras (my Leica and Nikon), there is some dynamic range and high ISO loss, what comes out of that E-M1 Mark II is quite remarkable for such a smallish sensor. With the fully-articulated screen also, it dramatically adds to the diversity and use of the camera, thus dramatically expanding the ability for one to capture creative photos. The FF sensors still have the edge, but like in a rearview mirror, the chasing micro 4/3 may be closer than you think.

  8. Interesting comparaison. The Sony “worm” seems to be artifacts created by the Sony internal software. Am I using the right term?

  9. You call it a ‘Crazy’ comparison but I suspect this is a choice that I may not be alone in considering for real! I’m currently using an E-M1 Mk.1 for natural history shooting and find the tracking AF totally inadequate. I’ve tried using an EE-1 dot sight to follow birds in flight but my E-M1 with Panny/Leica 100-400m rarely nails the focus. I thought the Mk.2 might solve my problem but, from your comparison, it seems to lag well behind the A9. The flip side for me (apart from price) is that the larger sensor needs larger tele lenses to fill the fame.

  10. I know the point you’re making is that the 7-14 flared vs the Sony that didn’t, but I actually think it adds to the image…unlike the white balance on the Oly shot. WB is fixable in post though unlike the flare should it impinge on objects in the image.

  11. Totally get this is a fun comparison of the differential strengths and weaknesses of each system. The question I have is whether or or not the Sony is $2500 better than the Olympus?
    If you put video to one side , It is possible buy a 4k dedicated video cam for the $2500 price differential between the Olympus and the Sony. If you then looked at a comparison between for example a D500 and the A9 just for fun, the A9 might have a fast FPS rate etc, but the thing that really matters most, the image quality is fairly similar.

    For me where the A9 really shines is integration of stills and video in a single package. However because $4500 is quite a stretch for my shallow pockets.The GH5 would be my balance between affordability and performance.

    Yes that would be two systems etc.

  12. Hi Steve,

    thx one again for your creativity and your never ending efforts …

    2 points i observe in this comparison:
    – the quality of the bokeh from the Oly combo is much nicer and organic
    – but what strange artifacts appear in the Sony picture: actually it is much “clearer” and also sharper, but especially the black surface of the stone appears as to be covered by millions of worms… is that normal, especially with the ( here in Germany 5.300 Euro expensive) a 9? The same in the second picture of the church with the green grass or the first step of the stair.. “astonishing”, that the Sony sensor delivers when rendering flat, even and monochromatic objects..


  13. Hi Steve, thanks a lot for this interesting ‘crazy’ comparison. I am just in the process to possibly upgrade from m43 to FF and therefore am very interested in those topics. But please tell me, what is that weird pattern in the middle grey tones, best visible on the light grey base of the grave stone – good visible in the A9 images – as well as in the stairs to that small church? They are not visible in the Olympus image. Thanks a lot again for sharing your knowledge to us!

    • That is weird. I just compared the Olympus vs the Sony and there is a weird ‘wormy’ pattern in the grey stone with the Sony. It looks like it may be a sharpening issue.

    • I think Sony must be using Fuji’s X-Trans colour filter array!
      Just kidding. Possibly sharpening artifacts or Adobe demosaic artifacts.

  14. What was the ISO setting for the Olympus on that wide church shot?
    That flare is weird, the sun is out of frame and behind you. I did not expect that.

  15. Obviously the Sony is better because you could have taken 20 shots a second while spinning the aperture wheel wildly and then picked out the ideal picture. 😉

    These always prove the obvious, all cameras are good now, can’t make a bad choice.

    • I do like the Olympus colors better in these, but i’m sure it wouldn’t take much to make them match in LR

      • Af is faster and more accurate on the Sony though. Olympus tracking doesn’t even come close either. I do not care as I never use tracking but I do appreciate accurate spot on AF – The Sony has never missed one shot for me. The Olympus has mis focused a few times. Both are superb though.

        • The Sony must be freaking amazing fast AF if it is appreciably better than the MKll.

          MKll has awesome AF speed and lock.

          Damn you Steve you are making me think about adding the A9 to my collection!

          • Well, the A9 is faster and I have a 100% hit rate with AF. The Olympus IS fast as well but falls a little behind the Sony which is pretty amazing that a full frame camera can do that. BOTH are wonderful though and up there with the best in this area of all cameras.

      • I forgot about that, the Oly wins because you can spin the dials even faster!

    • I know your comment is light-hearted but you do realise that 20 shots a second on the Sony is dead slow next to the 60 shots a second the Olympus can manage?

      • Only in single auto focus. CAF, Olympus can “only” manage 18 lol. Either way, both systems are incredible tools.

  16. I’m with you Steve, gotta have both. Except I’d use the Olympus for Video (video stabilized with Oly IBIS is ridiculous – like being on a gimbal) and long lens stuff (the 300MMPro is intoxicating) and the A9 for everything else. It is indeed a great day to be a “Gear-Head”!

  17. Thanks Steve,
    i always enjoy your crazy comparisons.
    This time, the picture of the church, which i like a lot, tells me again why i have some reservations when it comes to M43.
    I´ve seen worse examples of flare in Pictures taken with the new Panasonic 8-18mm F2.8-4 lens, and now it seems the Olympus 7-14 has similar problems.
    This and the limited Lowlight abilities of M43 makes me want the new Sony, it´s just too expensive for me.
    Looking forward to the next crazy comparisons.

  18. I prefer Olympus. I even like it’s film-like grain. And if I need full-frame I use my Canon. At least I can make more than 1k pictures with one battery =) And yes, if I had more money I’d get a new Fujifilm 50s

  19. Fun comparo Steve! The dof and bokeh for Oly 25 at 1.4 nearly equals the Sony at 3.5. Interesting. The Zony 16-35 often gets underrated in forums, I have it and found it to be excellent..

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