Saturday, 28 September 2013

E-M1 and GH3 comparison images

In a camera store, I was able to take some example photos with the Olympus OM-D E-M1, the most exciting camera news this autumn. The camera was apparently set up to take medium quality JPEG images only, around 3MB, and had the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 lens.

I used my GH3 with the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 for comparison, and was able to take photos under the same lightning conditions. Both cameras were set to Aperture Priority, ISO 200, f/2.8. I used the face detection feature, and kept a distance of about 1 meter to the subject. The shutter speeds were around 1/50s.

Olympus OM-D E-M1Panasonic GH3

If you enlarge the images above, the first thing that you notice is the extreme sharpness of the Olympus photo. It appears that the camera was set up to do heavy sharpening on the output file, while I prefer to have a neutral sharpness on my GH3, and rather do the sharpening later if needed.

Another explanation for the sharpness is that the E-M1 does not use an anti-aliasing (AA) filter (low pass filter), or uses a weaker than normal filter. This gives more sharpness at the pixel level, but at the risk of introducing moiré when there are fine patterns. If moiré arises, the camera will employ image processing to try to remove it.

Having a weak AA filter, or dropping it completely, is one of the major trends in digital imaging today. While both the E-M1 and the GH3 have 16MP sensors, the effective resolution is going to be higher from the E-M1, since the GH3 has a relatively stronger AA filter. On the positive side, the GH3 will be less prone to producing moiré, which is probably better for video. On top of this, the E-M1 also adds on-sensor PDAF technology, placing it firmly at the forefront of current mirrorless camera technology.

Another thing to notice is that the models were smiling more at the Olympus camera. Seeing that they were paid by Olympus, I think this is quite natural.

Here are 100% crops from the images:

If I apply some heavy sharpening to the GH3 image, they look more alike in this respect:

Sharpness aside, though, what do you think of the colours and tones? Generally, people say that Olympus has a better JPEG engine, providing more pleasing colours. However, I don't think the GH3 is far behind in this respect.

If you want to examine the image files yourself, here are the out of camera files:

Olympus JPEG image file

Panasonic JPEG image file

In my experience, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 was a well designed and pleasing camera to use. Finally an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera with a proper grip! The E-M1 is also notably smaller than the GH3.

Image stabilization

The two cameras have a different approach to image stabilisation. In the Panasonic philosophy, this is done by having Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) built into most lenses. No Panasonic cameras have In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) so far, with the exception of the Lumix GX7. Panasonic will probably release more cameras with this technology in the future.

Olympus, on the other hand, relies solely on IBIS, and all Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras have a sensor which can more around, intending to cancel the effect of camera shake.

When shooting at the event, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 I borrowed was set up to use IBIS only, and the lens was the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 lens set to f/2.8. I took nine pictures at 1/60s, whereof one was blurred, one was useable, and the rest were tack sharp.

With the Panasonic GH3, I used the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom lens, which features OIS. The lens was set to 17mm, f/2.8. At 1/40s, I took five pictures, whereof two came out blurred, to useable, and one tack sharp.

This is hardly a scientific test. Perhaps the environment was more stressful when I was shooting the GH3. But is shows that the IBIS implementation in the Olympus Olympus OM-D E-M1 works well.

Camera features

Looking at the headline features, the E-M1 ticks almost all the boxes, but at a high price:

CameraTilt LCDEVFIBISPDAFFlashCompactFocus peakingPrice
Lumix GX7YesYesYesNoYesYesYes$900
Olympus E-M5YesYesYesNoNoMediumNo$900
Olympus E-M1YesYesYesYesNoMediumYes$1400
Olympus E-P5YesOptionalYesNoYesYesYes$950
Lumix GH3YesYesNoNoYesNoNo$1100
Lumix G6YesYesNoNoYesMediumYes$750
Sony NEX-6YesYesNoYesYesYesYes$650
Fujifilm X-Pro1NoYesNoYesNoNoYes$1200
Fujifilm X-E1NoYesNoYesYesYesYes$800
Canon EOS MNoNoNoNoNoYesNo$300
Nikon 1 V2NoYesNoYesYesYesNo$800


  1. I like the Olympus jpg's a little better, but both are good. Great choice of subjects to shoot. Gorgeous girls!

  2. Both Olympus and Panasonic look good. They just have a different look. Every company will render out jpegs and have different settings.