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Surprise: The Olympus E-PL5 has no Low-Pass Filter (no AA filter).


Recent E-M5 and E-PL5 comparisons showed how the image quality is quite different despite the fact that both uses the same Sony 16MPX sensor. Our friend Pierre Paul Lepidi (translation here) may found one of the possible causes that may explain the increased E-PL5 image quality. He contacted Olympus France and got the confirmation that the E-PL5 uses no Low-Pass Filter at all!

The exact info from Olympus France was: “As agreed during our recent telephone conversation, we confirm that the unit E-PL5 lacks the LPF, low-pass, unlike the M5-E device.

This new PEN cameras didn’t excite us a lot when announced back in September and they never managed to jump into the best mirrorless camera rankings. But they are grabbing more and more attention now!

New PEN preorders:
E-PL5 at Amazon, Adorama, Bhphoto. In EU at Amazon Germany, Amazon UK, Amazon France,
E-PM2 at Amazon, Adorama, Bhphoto. In EU at Amazon Germany, Amazon UK, Amazon France,

More info about Low-Pass (or so called Anti Aliasing) Filters on Wikipedia. E-M5 vs E-Pl5 tests at (Translation here) and Techradar.

  • If this is true, why have Olympus not made something of this in marketing the camera? It is a real selling point.
    Both Pentax and Nikon have fanfared the arrival of cameras with no low-pass filter (and charged a premium!).

    • I never quite understood why those cameras without AA filter (like the D800E) were more expensive than the ones with the filter. I always heard that those AA filters are quite expensive, so a camera without it should be cheaper, no? Now Olympus seems to prove this.

      • Renato S.

        That’s not the logic behind it. The logic is that you have to create a separated production line in which they don’t put the AA filter and to produce less units cost more in the end, that’s why that camera cost more. IF ALL D800 didn’t have the AA filter, then it would be cheaper, but as it’s only fewer units without the AA filter, it costs more to make a different production line.

        • Missing a step on a production line should not cause an increase in cost unless there is change to dependant processes after the filter is attached, in other words a different production line. But missing a step in the process is no extra charge, sometimes it just happens on its own, they don’t charge extra for that.

      • OlyFun

        Yes, maybe but somehow they have to offset the extra research for aliasing detection and removal algorithms. I know i’ts much cheaper in software but still…

    • Renato S.

      Selling point for the E-PL5? Yes, but not so for the more expensive E-M5, got it? It wouldn’t be wise to use that as a selling point if that means that it’s better than the E-M5.

  • Shep

    If the lack of an AA filter is really an improvement, it may be possible to remove the AA filter in the EM-5 in a future firmware update. But what would be the downside of doing that?

    • I’m under the impression that removing the filter would require body upgrade. It’s physical.

    • Daemonius

      Lol.. AA filter is real piece of glass in front of sensor. It cant be “firmwared out”. It can be only removed in lab and replaced with clear glass.

    • “Remove the AA filter…in a future firmware update”? The AA filter is a physical component, like the shutter button or the neckstrap lugs.

      Specifically, it’s part of the sensor stack (sensor, AA filter, Bayer filter, etc.) and simply removing it would require complete redesign of the whole stack. (That’s why the Nikon D800E doesn’t simply ‘remove’ the filter; it neutralizes it by ADDING a second AA filter that cancels the original filter.)

      That fact makes me a bit skeptical of this Olympus France “confirmation”…

      • Ulli

        aa filters have been removed in the past from FT cameras by a few genius diy photographers, and replaced the empty aa layer with Schott glass.

        • Daemonius

          Yep, its not that big problem and there few companies around globe which specialize in this. AA filter is under IR/cover glass, so you simply take those away and replace AA with clear optical grade glass of same thickness. Or if you want it with IR mod, you simply replace it with thicker glass. This way theres usually no need to recalibrate AF, but its recommanded.

          If you just remove AA without replacing with anything, then you must recalibrate AF in case of dSLRs. Probably not needed with mirrorless (as it focus basing on what sensor is seeing right now). Tho it wouldnt work with PDAF/CDAF hybrids.

          • The piece of replacemnt glass has to have the same refractive index as that of the AA filter it replaces. It’s not a problem.

  • Miroslav

    Olympus is onto something here. Can’t wait for the test results.

    • +1
      The filter-less version of the Nikon full frame looks controversial since aliasing artifacts negatively affecting image quality are sometimes there after all. I wonder if Olympus could fight this in software… Pixel density should be about the same as with the Nikon sensor if memory serves me right, but running even a mild filter in software could require some additional processing power…

      • MJr

        Pixel density of the D800 equals 16MP on APSC, not MFT.

  • So one should expect the usual AA artifacts?

    Otherwise, thought seriously about picking it up with 17mm. The f/2.8 is less of a limitation with the Sony sensor.

    Guess would have to wait for the DPR’s review. They already had the camera during Photokina: Panasonic booth (and several others), as per EXIF, were shot with mostly with E-PL5 (and RX100). (Not GH3 which I wanted to find there.)

  • Stand by for idiots demanding an E-M 5 without the low-pass filter, in the belief that removing this filter makes the pictures better.

    Low-pass filters cost money. Do you think manufacturers would include them if image quality would be better without them?

    • Nikon do charge more for their full-frame camera version with not filter, don’t they? Though I guess the additional charge could be due to additional software or processing power required to make up somewhat for lack of filter. It does alias though, nevertheless.

      • No, they don’t. As I noted above, the D800E is not simply a D800 with the AA filter removed. Instead, they neutralize the effect of the AA filter by adding a second AA filter with the opposite orientation, which cancels out the effect of the original AA filter. The extra components cost more money, and those costs are spread out over fewer units because the D800E is a limited-production model. This is all well-documented in coverage that appeared when the D800s were introduced.

        The reason Nikon doesn’t simply “remove” the AA filter is that camera sensors are not Legos. You don’t simply snap in or snap out pieces at will. The entire sensor stack — sensor, Bayer filter, AA filter, IR filter, etc. — has to be designed to work together, and changing any component requires the redesign of the other components to compensate. That’s why I’m skeptical that this Olympus France info actually is correct.

        • rpm40

          I really don’t think this is correct. The AA filter is a physical layer that induces blur. Once the image is blurred, how can you add another piece to “unblur” it? There are plenty of services out there that advertise aa filter removal, for example see here:

          They describe the process. They are essentially removing the filter and replacing it with glass without the same blurring quality.

          Can you point us to some of the information you mentioned about the D800 that is contrary to this? I suppose it’s possible that this camera is different than the others I’ve heard of, but adding a second filter to cancel out the aa filter doesn’t make sense to me.

          • Walter Freeman

            That’s only true if you do something that destroys the phase information (like capture the photons on a sensor). It’s like your glasses: a myopic person has an optical defect in her eyes that causes a blurry image, but putting another element in front (eyeglasses) “unblurs” the image so that it’s sharp when it hits the retina.

            You might be tempted to say “That’s silly, there’s a difference between defocus and whatever the AA filter does.” Not really: both are optical effects that cause a particular (and well-defined) change in the wavefront of the light passing through, and that change can be undone by a suitably-designed refractive element.

            • “rpm40 wrote:
              I really don’t think this is correct. The AA filter is a physical layer that induces blur. Once the image is blurred, how can you add another piece to “unblur” it?”

              Because the picture isn’t blurred yet! BOTH the AA-filters in the D800 resides in front of the sensor (where else?), and the second one cancels out the first one. Hence no blurring of the picture. So “Ranger 9” is right. See?

            • So men don’t get defective vision?

            • Anonymous

              Glasses mostly fix focus issues (at times more complex ones like astigmatism). If an AA filter would slightly ‘defocus’ an image and then get ‘corrected’ by another piece of glass that ‘refocuses’ the image, then the net result of your filter if the glass were perfect is nada, nothing. Since glass isn’t perfect, you add impurities and loss of quality for absolutely zero gain. Removing the AA filter and replacing it by a bit of glass with the same refractive and dispersion properties as the filter would be a much better option.

              Additionally, if an AA filter would slightly defocus the image, it wouldn’t work at all with sensor-based AF because this slight defocus will simply be corrected by AF. Rather, with sensor-based AF it is possible to defocus the image slightly without needing any kind of AA filter.

              So, 1. I think it works a bit differently from what you describe, and 2. the ‘glasses’ example is really not a good example.

              The ‘shake the sensor’ idea sounds interesting, but I’m not sure if replacing a ‘passive’ thin layer of glass by mechanics (sensor shake) is a very good way to go. Additionally, 5 axis IBIS also rotates the sensor around 3 axis, this might well interfere with the ‘quick shake’ needed for a ‘sensor shake based AA filter’. Oh, and I wonder how this would work for exposures of unknown length (bulb, live-bulb etc).

        • Thanks, sounds interesting.

          • Walter Freeman

            Erik, that’s another way to put it — the picture isn’t blurred yet because there is no picture until the light hits the sensor, and anything you do to the wavefront with one bit of glass can be undone with another.

      • Daemonius

        Nikon D800E unlike E-PL5 isnt AA free camera.

        It works pretty simply, in order to avoid manufacturing more parts or making manufacturing D800E really different, they simply used what they had.

        So D800E has two AA filters, first layer split light beam in one direction and second layer puts that beam back together. This way you are loosing only bit of sharpness and contrast. Light loss is same. And making D800E is obviously not much different as sensor assembly thickness is still same. Theres no real reason for asking more for this camera as its not more expensive to make.

        E-PL5 simply has either clear glass instead of AA filter or there is nothing and they tuned AF for different sensor thickness. It really doesnt matter at all for mirrorless as they AF via sensor so thickness difference shouldnt create any issues.

    • Daemonius

      Well, you are right and wrong.

      AA filter is something like 3:2 aspect ratio. Its sorta relic of old days. When dSLRs had 6 mpix, it was needed. When dSLR has 36 mpix, it really isnt that much needed, but ofc its still better to have it as its not enough mpix to avoid moiré.

      But, m4/3 sensor which has 16 mpix has same density as would have 62 mpix FF. So AA filtr really isnt needed, even old E-PL1 or G1 which had really weak AA didnt have much trouble and they have just 12 mpix (around 46 mpix FF).

      I think that it might rarely cause some trouble but right demoisacing alorithm, it should be pretty fine. Tho ofc, reaching 20 mpix on m4/3 would probably completely made AA past (around 78 mpix FF density). At 20 mpix diffraction should kick in at any f-stop, so it will act as natural AA. Tho I guess we are bit far from that yet..

      Ofc if you remove AA from 16 mpix FF, then you are asking for moiré.. lots of it. :D

      • Actually, no. But neither of you will believe me, so I won’t waste my breath trying to debunk this appealingly oversimplified belief that “less antialiasing is better, and no antialiasing is best of all.”

        The June 9 issue of Amateur Photographer (UK) magazine had an article by Professor Bob Newman explaining what antialiasing filters actually do (as opposed to what photographers think they do), why they’re beneficial, the real reason why medium-format cameras don’t have them, and various other topics. Anyone who might want to buy a back issue of the magazine and read the article can do so here:

        • Daemonius

          I know how it works and why its used.

          MF backs dont use it cause 1) it would increase already problematic depth of sensor (colorshift) 2) its expensive, very expensive at this size and mpix count.

          Problem is theres a lot of downsides of AA filters.

          1) when done wrong, it doesnt help – try sharp lens, fabric and Canon 1DMK3
          2) when done wrong in different way, it ends like Sony A900 – thanks to strong AA, fine microcontrast and detail is gone, which especially with Zeiss lens is sad. A99 will be improvement in this..
          3) increases thickness of assembly which in case of mirrorless designs can cause color shift – NEX-7, NX200 etc.
          4) robs you of bit of light, contrast and colors
          5) expensive

          Real life benefit of AA filter is bit questionable. Especially after seeing pics from Leica M9 or S2. :) All this is theory, practice is that pics from AA-less cams when done right are much better looking.

          What matters in the end is picture, not science behind it.

          • That last paragraph is the defining point. The rest is inconsequential.

    • JeremyT

      The higher the pixel density, the less important an AA filter is. Moire is more easily handled in post-processing of RAW files these days as well. So, as megapixel counts go up, many companies have been using weaker filters and/or no filters.

      Still, it seems an odd choice at this time, especially for a consumer oriented device like the PL5. I wonder how good the in-camera JPEG processing engine is at dealing with moire.

      It will be interesting to find if the E-M2 also lacks the AA filter.

      • JeremyT

        Er, I mean E-*PM2*, not E-M2. There’s no such thing :)

      • My feeling is that removing the AA filter is not as simple as it sound and Olympus wasn’t quite there with the release of the EM.

      • James

        It’s not the pixel density that reduces moire per say but how much detail the camera can resolve. The 36MP D800E will produce less moire than the 16MP E-PL5 because it has higher resolution for an equivalent focal lengh therefore able to outresolve the E-PL5 leading to less moire. Remember you use a different focal lengh to frame the same shot between 35mm and m4/3 so comparing different pixel densities between formats is irrelevant when comparing the potential for moire. It’s how much detail the camera can resolve before nyquist. That is why medium format does not really need AA filters even though they have low pixel densities because they can resolve so much detail.

    • Me

      The OM-D has a very light AA filter. I saw color artifacts on my 3rd test shot.

      I’m not sure I’m happy or not.

    • Ulli

      it totally depends on the definition of “better”, in certain situations the re moval of the blurring effect of AA gives subtle improvement.

  • simon

    hmm this camera sounds more and more like a perfect addition to my em-5.

  • Hello
    If this is true , this would be another “weird” decision by olympus
    Removing the anti alias filter on the more mainstream camera

    But after all , Olympus is the company that brings a serious weather sealed camera and then do not include weather sealing on the lenses which are of most interest to em5 users


    • Anonymous

      More weather sealed lenses will most likely come later as Olympus introduces its pro or more advanced MFT system(s). I get the impression that Olympus’ product rollouts could have been better managed, since there are a lot of mismatching of product lines. The silver primes 12/2, 17/1.8, 45/1.8, 75/1.8 were probably designed to match the non weathersealed PEN line. There will probably be a new set of lenses (weathersealed and black, perhaps faster zooms and telephotos?) to better match the OM-D and pro M/FT lines. (Of course, you can use any m43 lens on any m43 body you wish.) Just my guesses though… could be wrong. I think we will find out for sure in 2013/14.

    • Me

      It do makes sense to me… the “mainstream” camera will be less used with high quality lenses that can trigger color artifacts, and maybe people will not care when it will happen.

    • Don’t forget 2012 coins were not made in 1995 and flat panel TV were not available in 1960 so why would the move to waterproof (resistant) be applicable to the lenses made before the move to waterproof bodies was made?

  • madmax

    OMG OMG! Finally! Panasonic please do the same with the GH3!

    Regarding the AA cost.
    It’s been ages since electronics were priced according to cost. Cost goes into the equation, but has little bearing on the final retail price of a product, as these days anyone in their right mind uses perceived value as their main pricing strategy.

    Cameras without AA filters sell for more because then want to price out the un-aware, beginners, and the like. Then only those who really want the feature with its pros and more importantly cons will knowingly make the decision. In other words, they simply want the AA-filtered to be lowered priced as to avoid trouble with noobs buying AA-less just because its cheaper.

    • Chris K.

      Panasonic, being extremely focused on video on the GH3 (wisely, as that seems to be the market focus for the GH2 as well) would see no value in removing the AA filter.

      I hope for focus peaking. Perhaps my Nokton lenses will make it into my everyday bag again with a body as good as this. (Have been considering selling them as I’ve mostly moved to the NEX-7. I’ve been on the fence on the E-M5 but the PL5 might be a wiser pairing with these low-light, prime monsters.)

      • Me


        The GH3 without AA would be a disaster for video.

      • Ulli

        I see no valid reason why your Noktons would be a better match with the EPL-5 then the OM-D

    • Anonymous

      Panasonic already confirmed that they resdesigned the AA filter on the GH3. So it definitely will have a AA filter

    • madmax

      With the pixel density in that sensor size plus all the pixel binning, moire should be a non-issue. It’s not like they are skipping lines like Canikon…
      Plus it affects color also, as the bayer pixels overlap under an AA…
      I still think they should just take it off…

  • Rinaldo

    Same with E-PM2?

  • st3v4nt

    I always have information that AA filter needed for avoiding moire, isn’t that the reason Fuji using random bayer filter? I shall not comment any further until someone do moire test on EPL-5 and compare it with EM-5. Also judging from the last red spot flare problem with EPL-2 weak AA filter will EPL-5 suffer the same fate?

    • rpm40

      I don’t think the reflection has anything to do with the density of the aa filter (unless it’s a reflection bouncing off the filter itself, which I doubt). I still think it’s the sensor relecting light back to an element inside the lens, especially since the reflections often look the same color as the sensor when you view it directly.

      Either way, it’s not just the Oly that suffers from it- I’ve gotten this result with several point and shoots, and my iPhone does it far more often than any camera I have had including the Oly.

      • st3v4nt

        So I guess the red spot flare happen in EPL-2 due to the different coating of sensor Oly use in EPL-2? Because I never see it in my EPL-1 and my OM-D. The D800 E with ‘canceling out’ AA Filter do have more moire compare to D 800 as tested in here….

    • Daemonius

      Flare has nothing to do with AA filter.

      And yes, Fuji used that pattern to be able to not use AA filters at all. Except lack of good RAW developers, it suceeded.

  • Anonymous

    Finally made something I would be interested in, but alas, there is no 3:2 ratio shooting options. what a waste. Sometimes I get the feeling, there is someone at Olympus that is constantly trying to undermine their success.

    • Jorginho

      So their succes hinges on your personal preference. I wonder how many Oly cams you already have then…

      • Anonymous

        OH, a man with half a brain. I pity the half brain dead.

        • Daemonius

          3:2 is ancient relic and its pretty bad AR for everything. Too long for portraits, not enough for landscapes. We shoot it cause there isnt much choice (except m4/3s.. thank god for that).

          It was never choice of professionals during film era. Who could, shoot MF format and as you know, it doesnt have 3:2, unless you really want it.

          Its like APS-C sensor, nobody really wanted it, just there wasnt any other choice in that time.

          • Kaen G.

            If it would be just ratio 4/3, but area… AREA… about 40% less than APS-C, Diagonal 28.2 mm APS-C / 21.6 mm 4/3″.

    • 3.2 format, that’s something that never should have happened. When using 35mm movie film stock for pictures they should have gone square on the 35mm stock not 3.2 it would have been better lens wise and given many here nothing to argue about!!!!

      • Anonymous

        Maybe your pictures would be better, if you understood design principles, just a wee bit. There is a reason the 3;2 ratio exist and when you figure it out, then you wil probably feel like a fool, for ever saying what you just did. Of course, some people just never get it, I guess, but it’s not their fault really, probably just from too much in breeding or something.

        • So the world must be 3.2 or is it something that was thought about afterwards. After all the original movies were not 3.2 and never have been. TV has never been 3.2 either. Plate cameras were sometimes 3.2 but not all. So?

        • MAFAv8r

          It would be great if you did not log in as anonymous. That way I wouldn’t have to bother reading your negative, fight-picking repetitions, in case it is something intelligent I can learn something helpful to my photography from some one else called anonymous.
          @ admin why not do what dpr does, so you can turn off people you can’t be bothered reading.

          • admin

            I am thinking to do soemthing in that aspect. But I need some time to do that…

  • Anonymous

    You can get AA artifacts with e-m5 too.

    • Daemonius

      Except few cams, you can get moiré with any camera.

  • Henrik

    Imaging-wise, it is a very interesting little cam, even more so without an AA filter. Shame for the design – that tack-on handgrip and tack-on flash put me off.

  • Hubertus Bigend

    Interesting, but, if they really did what the article suggests, wouldn’t it have been a more sensible product policy a) to clearly communicate and advertise what they did and b) to offer a second version of the E-M5 without the AA filter, instead of secretly keeping the filter out of a new E-PL model?

    • Steve

      Maybe that is why they didn’t mention it. They don’t want to upset existing E-M5 owners or introduce another E-M5 model.

      • WSG123

        The Epl5 and the EM-5 are significantly different cameras, and I can’t imagine existing owners being upset by an AA filter.

  • Republic

    I for one hope that with all the latest innovations and breakthroughs by Olympus all this tech and future innovations will make its way their flagship E-x Series of Pro 4/3 bodies. I just want to be able to shoot past iso 3200 without grain.

  • Ronan

    No AA Filter + Images are a bit sharper, and theirs going to be a LOT more artifacts.

    Not a high-point at ALL unless shooting in control environment (like a indoor studio or vast landscape which is what the D800 was meant for).

    • Anonymous

      Maybe the Pens are mostly used with the kit zooms, which are not quite as sharp as the primes, which the OM-D users probably prefer. And a not-so-sharp lens is an excellent AA filter!

  • jessyp

    The E-PL1 had one of the lightest AA filters ever for m4/3 camera. Was quite tack sharp with most lenses. The E-M5 has come to closest to that same level, but not quite. I’m very interested in the E-PL5 now, but not at current prices.

  • Walter Freeman

    The AA filter is not needed on m4/3, but not for the reason you think.

    Moire and color artifacts can’t be eliminated in software. If you give me a camera with a Bayer filter and no AA filter, I can draw a pattern of black and white dots that will come out red (or green or blue) no matter what sort of clever processing you apply. Moire can sometimes be minimized in post by clever guesses about which signals near the edge of the Brillouin zone are color detail and which ones are luminance detail, but ultimately they will always remain guesses, since the whole point of the Bayer array is to use the far corners to carry chroma information, and for that information to be unambiguous they have to be decoupled from the luminance information of the scene by a lowpass filter.

    However, these “clever anti-moire algorithms” can do a pretty good job assuming that the scene doesn’t contain repetitive high-frequency detail. Cameras like the E-5 and Leica M9 don’t show moire most of the time, allowing for better resolution of high-frequency luminance detail; in the circumstances where they show moire, it’s bad, but most of the time it’s not present.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have the extra microcontrast from the lack of an AA filter most of the time, but put the AA filter back in when shooting something that will show moire? In principle, we can! From the perspective of the sensor, all the AA filter does is blur the image; that same blur could be achieved by throwing the lens slightly out of focus or using crappy glass.

    It could also be achieved by superimposing a very fast vibration of the IBIS mechanism with an amplitude of one pixel on top of whatever other motion the IBIS is already making. Perhaps Olympus is doing this? Just leave off the AA filter, and fake one with the IBIS (which has exactly the same effects in Fourier space) when needed.

    • Daemonius

      Reminds me that I always wondered why Olympus (or Sony, Pentax) never tried to do multi-shot camera..

  • Hooey

    AA filters are only for alcoholic photographers.

    • These discussions do make me reach for the bottle. *burp*

  • Ian

    Just looked at some images from the E-PL5 and holy crap are they detailed wide open. Many of us are already aware of the detail the lenses/sensors were able to capture, but this was pretty amazing. Would love to see one of these new sensors in a dslr body.

  • Bob

    That is really great news. Keep pushing the envelope Olympus!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Will this mean higher DXO mark score for E-PL5 compared to E-M5? If so, maybe this will start a trend. More cameras without AA filter. Canon and Panasonic certainly need to do something desperately if their sensors don’t improve or else be stuck in DXO mark 50s & 60s! Olympus will get to 80+ score eventually and Pancanonsonic will be left floundering! Well done Olympus (and Sony)!

    • Anonymous

      Wow, just think how long we’ll have to wait for the results if the DxO mark is higher that that of the E-M5, we might get to see it in 2015….

  • Heat Legend

    why bother? The D800E is only so very slightly better than the D800 that anyone couldn’t pick the difference between the two.

  • uit

    I think it’t not true.

  • The e-pl5 comes with a free cheeseburger in place of the AA filter!

  • Panasonic too. Since GF1……

  • M

    Says the representative that calls the “OM-D EM-5” “M5-E”…
    Perhaps only misspelt?

    • Anonymous

      Hey, it’s easy to make a mistake in speech. Just give some people the benefit of the doubt. It’s not a life or death situation.

  • pll

    If true, either the space of the LPF element, or the IR info in the sensor, may be used for some other purpose (that we don’t know yet). Maybe it’s new Art Filters, or maybe the medical division needs full-spectrum sensors for cheap. Or maybe there’s a novel approach for adaptation of Four Thirds glass. We shall see!

  • dau

    Thanks guys, as usual after reading another of these discussions im sufficiently confused.

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