Sunday, 14 April 2013

High ISO performance of the GH series cameras

When new camera generations get launched, everybody expect the high ISO image quality to improve over the previous generations. While we would use a low ISO as possible at all times some years ago, it is generally quite safe to use ISO 800 with newer generation cameras. Let's take a look at how the Panasonic GH series handles high ISO.

To test this feature, I rigged the Panasonic GH1, GH2 and GH3 on a tripod, using the Sigma 30mm f/2.8. I left the lens wide open, it tends to be quite sharp. To be able to compare the cameras, I set both in the Shutter speed priority mode (S), at 1/10s and auto-ISO. The camera would then select the ISO needed for the exposure to be sufficient. I used Auto White Balance (AWB).

Here are the three images:

GH1, 1/10s, ISO 1250
GH2, 1/10s, ISO 1600
GH3, 1/10s, ISO 1600

These are the out of camera JPEG images, with standard image settings. The histogram below shows that all cameras expose the scene pretty similarly. The GH3 exposes it a bit brighter, though:

Another thing to note is that the GH1 uses the lowest ISO value of the three, 1250. This confirms again that the Panasonic GH1 had a somewhat conservative ISO scale, compared with other Micro Four Thirds cameras.

Looking at the image quality, we can compare 100% crops from all three images. I rescaled the GH1 image, to make it comparable with the 16MP output of the other cameras.

I think we can see that the GH2 images look sharper, but at the expense of shadow details. The GH3 appears to give a higher dynamic range, with more usable details in the dark parts of the image. With the advances of high ISO image quality, I feel quite confident using ISO values of 1600, and even 3200 when needed, with the Panasonic GH3.

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