Saturday, December 29, 2012

High ISO Noise - Olympus E-PM2 Vs Canon EOS 650D

I couldn't resist buying the new Olympus E-PM2 on eBay when I saw the price it was listed at.  I love my E-PM1, but its high ISO performance above 800 ISO is not great.  From various test reports I've read, the E-PM2 is the ideal travel compact camera for me.  It has the same sensor as the OM-D E-M5, so in theory it should have the same image quality and high ISO performance.

After shooting with it for over a week, I can easily say it is a great little camera.  I will now mainly use the E-PM1 for doing time lapse photography and video work.  The E-PM1 is still a great camera, but the E-PM2 is just much better for image quality.  I wanted to know if the noise performance is as good as my Canon EOS 650D.  I set up a simple test in my bed room with a calendar and a suite with fine pattern.  In my experience, noise and morie pattern are worse on men's suites when shot in dark rooms.

Here is the 100% view of the test image.  The bed room was very dark and only lit with one bedside lamp to the left.  Both cameras were mounted on a tripod.  They both had custom white balance set and focused using live view.  Finally, the shutter had a 2s time delay to avoid camera shake.  The lens on the E-PM2 was the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 at F4.  On the Canon, the lens used was the 17-40mm F4 L USM at F5.6.

100% view of test image
The resulting images were processed Olympus Viewer 2 for the E-PM2 and Canon DPP for the 650D.  I then took 100% crops of the calendar and the suite of the images from 800 ISO to 6400 ISO.  Before showing you the test results, I want to say Olympus E-PM2 images were a lot sharper (before applying noise reduction), especially the fine pattern of the suite.  There was far more details from the E-PM2 images.
I had to apply more chroma noise reduction in Canon DPP to get rid of the really bad chroma noise from the 650D images.  However, I did noticed there was a small colour shift from 3200 ISO with the images of E-PM2.  This was very noticeable on the suite.  Click on each image for a larger view.

800 ISO E-PM1 on the left EOS 650D on the right

1600 ISO E-PM1 on the left EOS 650D on the right

3200 ISO E-PM1 on the left EOS 650D on the right

6400 ISO E-PM1 on the left EOS 650D on the right

I am very impressed with the images from the E-PM2 and how well the fine pattern on the suite is preserved at 3200 ISO.  Even at 800 ISO, the fine details on the 650D is already worse than the E-PM2.

After seeing the results, all I can say is Canon is well behind in the sensor development when compared to Olympus (I've heard it is using a Sony sensor).  It will be interesting to see what Canon will release next year.  They really do need a 650D replacement soon with a new sensor, or they will be left behind.

How ever, it does not mean the Canon 650D is a bad camera, it is just not as good as the E-PM2 for image quality.  I still prefer to use the Canon 650D for a lot of work due to handling and the lenses I've for it.  It means I no longer have to compromise image quality when I am traveling light with the E-PM2.


  1. Nice test. It clearly shows the quality of the latest Sony micro 4/3 sensor combined with Olympus processing. If you need a lot of image quality in a very, very compact and lightweight package, the Olympus E-PM2 with some of the compact native micro 4/3 lenses is an excellent choice. Some people complain about the handling of the small camera, but I think it's a very good compromise. If you familiarize yourself with the controls and options you do have on this small camera, you’ll find out that it’s actually not that bad. Man, it’s so small, it’s almost only a sensor, a display and a shutter button with a lens in front of it. I love it. The image quality is identical to the famous EM-5, it’s very responsive and loaded with features, what more could you ask for in a low budget camera?

  2. Thanks Ricky, I like the EPM2. It is the camera I take with me when I leave the house.