Surprise: The NEX-5R and E-M5 have the same Dynamic Range!

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How much difference in dynamic range do we have between the Sony 16 Megapixel sensor of the new NEX-5R and the 16 Megapixel Sony sensor of the Olympus E-M5? That question has just been answered by DxOmark (Click here). And it’s quite a surprise to see that both cameras have exact the same dynamic range! The only real difference is that the E_m5 has no ISO 100 and that’s why the NEX-5R has a better overalls core. But from ISO 200 up to ISO 12800 both cameras are delivering the same performance. The question now is, why can’t we have ISO 100 on the E-M5 too?

UPDATE: Some people still think that I made up the story of the E-M5 having a Sony sensor. Guys, Hiroyuki Sasa CEO of Olympus said it!!! Here is the source: DC.watch.

E-M5 Case deals:
There is a small E-M5 $30 price drop via third party resellers on Amazon (Click here). Plenty of refurbished E-M5 in US at Cameta (Click here) and in Europe at Olympusmarket (Click here).

E-M5 Case:
There is the official CS-36FBC Olympus case. A leather half case from Hong Kong. A full leather case with strap from Cina. Than we have half cases from two well known producers, Zelenpol, Kaza and Gariz.

E-M5 Batteries, and other things:
The Olympus GS-4 strap and the DSTE E-M5 batteries you have to use with an extra charger. There is an E-M5 car charger a new E-M5 LCD screen and a Front Cover+ Top Panel.

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  • JF

    I think it is not just the fact that Nex-5R has one lower iso point (iso 75), you can see that iso 100 is also better on Nex-5R. This probably due to wider pixels (same number of pixels but wider sensor)

    • rwrw

      How does that work out when both are at the same real ISO

    • Anonymous

      ISO 75 at 13 EV is pretty much all you need!

    • Anonymous

      “But from ISO 200 up to ISO 12800 both cameras are delivering the same image quality.”

      Since when is dynamic range the only measure of image quality?

      In order for dynamic range to be an issue the dynamic range of the scene that you are capturing needs to be equal or greater to the dynamic range of the camera. That rarely ever happens.

      • ssgreenley

        This happens fairly regularly to me using the old PEN sensors…

        • spam

          It happens with any camera available today. I’m sure 13EV is correct measurement. However, it doesn’t mean that you can pull out useable detail from dark areas that are 13EV away from the (blown) highlights.

          They are able to measure the difference between noise and real detail at 13EV, but the eye will still see those areas unusable. Any clipping of one (or two channels) will further reduce usable DR.

          “Real” DR is a lot less than the measured number, how much depend on many factors like subject matter, type of light and the viewer’s quality requirements. Some test programs like Imatest actually give more than one number for DR depending on the quality requirements and the high quality number can easily be just 2/3 or less than the low quality measurement.

      • BoB B

        Well…since MFT has better lenses than Sony….I guess the EM5 delivers better, sharper images !!!! 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Does anyone know if the NEX-6 will use the same sensor as the NEX-5R?

  • L

    Well, actually there is almost a full EV step at base ISO. It may have something to do with the OM-D strange tonal curve. Anyway it’s not surprising since DR, unlike SNR, doesn’t directly depend on the sensor size.

    • Anonymous

      I agree, I see 13.1 v.s. 12.1, not having iso 100 or lower was oly’s fault so that’s not an excuse, I would shoot iso 50 sometimes, if my camera had it.

      • digifan

        Where do you see the 1EV diff at ISO100. You must be halucinating. At most it’s 0.5EV

      • JF

        +1000
        I’d really like to have iso 50 for long exposure shots…
        iso 50 f11 60s instead of iso 100 f16 60s, better sharpness, less DOF resulting in less stain due to the filters when using wide angle lenses + ND and GND filters…

      • Anonymous

        It’s not Oly’s “fault”. It’s simply that the slightly smaller pixels on the m4/3 version of the sensor fill up sooner (have lower well capacity) and therefore clip at ISOs below circa 125. There is nothing Olympus can do about it.

        • tm

          Fill up? you’re referring to the old analogy that the pixel is like a bucket catching photons, but that’s too simplistic. You don’t need a bucket with wider rim, you could use a deeper bucket. There’s still some way to go on the sensor technology. In a couple of years, mft sensors will be as good as full-frame for all practical purposes.

          • bart

            Any sensor could use a ‘deeper’ bucket, and it is again a ‘wider rim’ that determines the point where it is ‘full’.

            You are in my opinion right that the practical value of this when looking at m4/3 isn’t very significant and will only get less significant, but, technically there will always be a difference between smaller and larger pixels when everything else is the same (so including ‘bucket depth’)

            Yes the bucket analogy is too simple, but in this case it is valid.

  • My E-M5 as a better dynamic range than my reflex full frame Nikon D700… It is not a surprise for me.

  • 100 iso is possible with the next firmware, if Olympus hears us…

  • Renato S.

    I think that maybe the ISO100 is the price to pay to keep every other aspect like DR and ISO performance about the same, despite being a smaller sensor.

    • JF

      +1

    • bart

      ISO 100 would come at the expense of 1 stop of dynamic range.. at ISO 100, and wouldn’t affect any other ISO levels.

      The ‘real’ issue here is that when you provide ISO 100, people will expect it to offer better quality then ISO 200, which it won’t. Olympus tried this in the past, and it only gets them a lot of flak for blown hilights, without offering anything real for the end-user. Overexposing by 1 stop at ISO 200 and correcting for that in post will get you the same result.

      • Renato S.

        People are more worried about high ISO performance than ISO 100, just look at how many comparisons are out there about high ISO and how many people really talk about DR.

        Panasonic GH3 – which I’m pretty sure uses the same sensor – offers the ISO 100 as a extended ISO but as the high ISO, you lose DR, etc.

        • bart

          I know they do, and so does the E-P1, and most if not all Olympus 4/3 cameras.

          But that extended ISO is just what I said, overexpose ISO 200 by a stop and pull it down afterwards. The only difference is which bit of software corrects the exposure, hence it doesn’t really get you anything for photography. For video that is different.

  • Who needs large sensors anyway? 😉

    I’m still happy I made the move from NEX to u4/3. I’m also glad I waited for the EM5 as clearly it was the one to get.

    I think the tougher competition in the future will come from advanced compacts rather than other mirrorless cameras. The RX100 is getting rave reviews, although is is very expensive for something that can’t change lenses.

    • Anonymous

      The RX100 may be expensive for something that can’t change lenses, but look at the prices of the lenses we can change!

      • Anonymous

        Those Lumix 14 and 20mm primes are surely expensive, as is the Olympus 45mm…

        Sorry to hear you can’t afford the high-grade lenses, but you wouldn’t in any other system either. The more affordable lenses in m4/3 are very good however.

  • KI

    I would love to have ISO 100 (and even 50) as an extension for the E-M5. – even at the cost of DR. The 200 could still be the recommended one.

    • bart

      So shoot at 200, overexpose 1 or 2 stops and correct for this in post, it will get you the same result (including the loss of DR and blown hilights)

    • Anonymous

      You can always add a ND filter to get around iso200 base

  • adriaantie

    I think iso 200 on em5 is iso 100. They just call it iso 200 to compete with apsc. Look how good iso 1600 and 3200 is on the em5. But in reality it is iso 800 and 1600! It is a trick from Oly to hide bad/medium performance. its so funny and obvious…..

    • Steve

      Both of them cheat with the E-M5 cheating a bit more, but DxoMark already takes this into account with their charts. Just move your mouse over any of the dots on the chart and you will see the measured vs manufacturer ISO.

      • 5654

        What arbitrary number a camera company decides to call a given ISO within the, shall we say flexible standard. Doesn’t really matter till it comes to comparing cameras and this is where DXO’s determination of RAW comes into play as it helps to standardise results across models.

        I can understand the desperate long term Olympus users thinking the E-M5 is delivered from heaven, due to their experience with the 12mp sensor. The reality for users of Panasonic mFT is that the E-M5 is not even one stop better than the G5/GH2 , and when you look at the Nikon 16mp models D5100 ,D7000 or the Pentax models using the 16mp they are still ahead of the E-M5 , the only difference being that the gap is much closer.

        I honestly don’t think there has ever been a more hyped product than the E-M5 in the history of photography.

        • avds

          Not an owner of the EM5 here, but the fact that it has been an undisputed m43 leader in IQ and is a living evidence that an m43 camera can reliably overcome most advantages of competing systems with larger sensors isn’t unimpressive, is it?

        • Samuli

          Well, I am a long time ff-user (had a little break between film and 1Ds2). May I still think that E-P5 is “delivered from heaven”?

          It is surprisingly great little beast delivering superb raws to beat in Lightroom. (And thats about all I care about.)

        • thethirdcoast

          +1

          The levels of hype and fanboyism over this device are truly nauseating.

    • JF

      LOL !!!! you are so blind and stubborn !!! I’m affraid you don’t understand anything about dxo curves right ? Dxo uses TRUE iso and not manufacturer iso. And when you look at the curves what do you see ? E-M5 is on par with Nex-5R from iso 200 to iso 12800. Nex-5R is only better at 75 (not existing on E-M5) and at 100 iso (slightly better only) THIS IS NOT ISO CHEATING, THIS IS REALLITY !!!

      • DaddyLargeBelly

        @JL : Ignorancy is nothing but ignorancy.

        What is “TRUE” iso?

        There is NO such thingamy except hallucination.

        There is FIVE methods to measure light sensitivity of the sensor, aka ISO.

        REI, SOS can’t be used in JPEG-only camera.

        ISO 12232:2006 is NOT the same as ISO 2240:2003. Even ISO 12232:2006 itself has THREE methods to measure light sensitivity. The other two are from CIPA DC-004.

        If you don’t understand what I say, do not show ignorancy by saying “TRUE iso”

        • JF

          Ok, you are right ! there is no TRUE iso but some standardized iso measurments, Dxo uses one and don’t use manufacturer iso to plot curves. As a consequence, you can compare sensors performances of different manufacturers without any cheating…

          • Anonymous

            Sensor iso may be more relevant for your use, but that doesn’t mean using vendor suggested curves is cheating in any way.

          • Esa Tuunanen

            Sensor and its photosites don’t have any ISO, period!

            How much light it takes to saturate pixel doesn’t have any relation to photography.
            ISO is setting at which certain combination of aperture and shutter speed in certain light level gives properly exposed photograph.

            http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2012/09/why-iso-isnt-iso.html

    • avds

      No, the graphs show that they both underexpose quite a lot (vs DXO reference) with only a minor difference. This sensor (and it’s obviously the same sensor, perhaps cropped at different sizes) looks extremely good as both cameras even have very identical SNR despite different sensor areas.

    • Sören

      Lol, disqualified yourself by not understanding the measurement…

  • when author of this blog stop referring to 16mp sensor in GH3/EM5 as Sony sensor ? the only current Olympus cameras with Sony sensors were shown in a joint Sony/Olympus presentation ( http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/09/28/Olympus-and-Sony-confirm-yen31bn-397mdollar-collaboration ) = here are they = http://insidechina.onehotspots.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/ae58d__sony10.jpg

    feel free to find out EM5 there.

  • avds

    Not only dynamic range. All other measurements look pretty identical too. To me the biggest surprise actually is that they have very similar SNR. This basically defeats the usual disadvantage of a smaller sensor in terms of useful sensitivities.

    • JF

      “This basically defeats the usual disadvantage of a smaller sensor in terms of useful sensitivities.”
      Hey, don’t forget that Nex-5R has iso 75 which gives better results than E-M5 iso 100…so bigger sensor is still better so far…

      • avds

        Oh, that hurts, ISO 75 is cool! 🙂 By “usefulness” I meant high ISO noise of course, rather the very availability of certain sensitivities to the system. I don’t know, is it due the larger sensor specs? I wonder if it could be simply a “political” limitation dictated by Sony…

        • JF

          ” I don’t know, is it due the larger sensor specs? I wonder if it could be simply a “political” limitation dictated by Sony…”

          I was wondering the same but they give state of the art sensors to Nikon so…

          • Perhaps as Oly was first they were conservative with the settings. Sony realised that in real use they could offer what some oly users want and went ahead.

    • petrah

      don’t know how they manage it but Sony actually seem to get poorer performance out of its own sensors than Nikon or Pentax, when you compare the results from the D5100/D7000 or the Pentax cameras with the 16mp sensor the all manage to outperform the Sony cameras using the sensor, and obviously outperform the E-M5. Not by a huge amount now I can see APS failing if it doesn’t come up with something different. Though the 1 inch sensor holds a lot of potential for those looking for a truly compact size combined with pretty great results.

      • avds

        Well, who knows… If Pentax or Nikon can use the sensor in a better way than Sony, I suppose Olympus should be able too 🙂

      • Making the sensors does not mean they are the same. Supply contracts could be for a standard version, or any required variation that would be exclusive.
        Canon made the original laser printer that HP went on to conquer the world with. Canon was handicapped as their contract excluded canon from using many features of their own engine so HP had the world domination for years. Same can apply to sensors, just parts or a full turnkey operation, who knows.

  • jimbo

    Not surprised they are this close. The m43 sensor size is actually only slightly smaller than the aps-c in a 4:3 crop (~15-20%). The size difference is negligible in real world shooting.

    • Anonymous

      APS-C is 53% larger than 4/3, 372 sq mm for APS-C vs 243 sq mm for 4/3

      • Anonymous

        Regarding noise etc, it is the *pixel size* that matters, not the sensor size. The E-M5 has 266 pixels/mm, and the NEX-5R has 209 pixels/mm. This gives 27% more pixels/mm for the E-M5. Ok — maybe it is the area of the pixel well. The point being that since the form factors of the sensors differ, you cannot just compare the sensor sizes.

      • jimbo

        you must’ve not read my statement (IN 4:3 CROP).

      • jimbo

        I ran some calculations and in 4:3 crop, APS-C in the Nikon/Sony are approximately 30% larger. Canon’s APS-C is probably about 20% larger in 4:3 crop. The 30% gain in size doesn’t make it noticeably better in image quality. As DPReview said, to gain any appreciable quality over the OM-D sensor you will have to go to FF size.

    • tm

      Absolutely. Dynamic range has nothing to do with sensor size. Noise is proportional to square root of the area, so there’s a diminishing return on large sensors. You need to be four times as large to be twice as good. Then to achieve decent depth of field, you use close down the aperture, and bump up the ISO. You end up with same noise!

  • Not trolling but how can you say they are the same when on dot is at 12 and the other is at 13?

    Same from 200 ISO and up != the same.

    Is it good enough? Yes. Is it the same? No.

    The headline is ridiculous.

  • Yun

    Yes , Bring back ISO 100 in m4/3 cameras !
    I really hope Pana / Oly can deliver this in the future .
    Back to old time , my GF2 deliver decent image quality in ISO 100 , I miss that moment .
    I want to see that again in Pana or Oly’s future cameras .
    It will be a joke if I tell someone , M4/3 don’t have ISO 100 .

  • Question: The Dynamic Range decreases with higher ISO.
    But on a GH3-Test-Video (with a Candle) with all ISOs the dark and the bright parts were always in correct brightnes. But when the dynamic Range decreases, shouldn’t then the dark gets darker or the brighter parts gets white?

  • “And it’s quite a surprise to see that both cameras have exact the same dynamic range!” /Admin

    What you are talking about!? The figures are not the same, neither is the DR curve. Don’t get me wrong now, I think the OMD is a fantastic camera with amazing image quality, but why do you claim something that is obviously not true?

    • admin

      From ISO 200 towards the DR curve is equal! Or is it not? Even DxO says it 🙂

      • Anonymous

        No! When I stand on the side of the road and pull out 2 cameras to take a picture, the sony gets 13.1 ev of dynamic range and the oly gets 12.1 ev. You can’t just compare the part of the graph you want,you have to compare everything available from that camera. In this case tha’s 13.1 ev from the nex. I can take 13.1 ev dr pictures with the nex, you can not do that with the omd. We maybe fans of oly, but we don’t need to be ridiculous fanboys.

        • If you use iso 100 yes. if you use iso 200 they are the same.

          • a measure of a camera is what it is capable of doing, not what one (out of thousands) of individuals choose to do with it.

            You could easily make the argument that the OMD is better than the NEX because I only shoot iso 3200. That argument doesn’t make sense when judging a camera. We’re not judging the photographers here, the camera.

            • bart

              And neither does it make sense to only look at ISO 75 and 100.

              So the conclusion is still that in most but not all cases both cameras offer a for all practical purposes identical dynamic range.

              You are right to point out there are situations where the NEX does better and that those shouldn’t be ignored, but neither should you ignore that in most cases it won’t do better.

  • David

    NO!

    The EM5 is actually better dynamic range than the Sony. When the camera is set to 1600 as an example the EM5 DR is 10.44 whereas the Sony is 9.97. Yes this is marginal, but holds true for most ISO settings. One of the flaws with DXO is you can not shift the curves to see it with camera ISO. This would be better!
    Also looking at the SNR curves there is no difference. So the EM5 has very slight advantage over the NEX5R with only one sample reported. This also is huge problem, as really need to look at 20 cameras of each to really know whats going on. But with N=1, the OMD-EM5 is better.

  • Haha – an extra stop is not the same…

    But to be honest, once M43 crossed the 12 stop range, it became MUCH more usable.

    The difference in the real world between 10 stops and 12 stops is far more useful than 12 and 14 stops.

    I wonder when Sony will release their next APS-C chip?

  • Ryan S

    It’s not the same nevertheless. NEX still performes very well at lowest ISO, which is very commonly used.

  • Neo

    Here is the link:

    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Publications/DxOMark-Reviews/Sony-NEX-5-R-A-new-Sony-NEX-5N/Comparisons

    I’m very happy with the size of my E-M5 and the wide range of lens available. However, the fact is that the best chance for a smaller sensor is that it can be very close to a larger one. It cannot be superior.

    • not entirely true, as some one else mentioned above it has to do with both the size of each pixel as well as the processing power of the chip v.s. the total mega pixel count.

      My take on things is… m43 is 1/4th the size of a full frame sensor. If you make a m43 sensor that has 1/4th the pixels of a full frame sensor, then it will be equal or superior in every aspect except megapixel count. (superior because things like reading/sampling from a lower mp will be faster than the higher count sensor).

      So, how would you like an OMD that’s only 8mp but has higher colour depth, higher dynamic range, higher frame rate, cleaner iso noise, than say a D800?

      I would buy it.

  • saf

    SO, who tell me it means MFT (olympus) improves their sensors to catch new Sony NEX camera (although they both use SONY sensor) or on the contrary, not the highest end of Nex camera(5R) can beat OMD EM5?

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