Micro Four-Thirds Friendly Website

Is the E-M5 Sensor really that good?

Stacks Image 701

Reports say that Olympus President Hiroyuki Sama confirmed that the E-M5 image sensor is made by Sony. All you have to do is enter "E-M5 Sony Sensor" into Google and you have enough reading to keep you reading for a while. Best report I saw was the one on the Mu 43.com website.

I was always a little frustrated plus disappointed thinking that Olympus had the guts to enter the digital era with a new sensor design while the rest were ready to live with a compromise. While Olympus were standing tall amongst all the large competitors and confident that they did it right, they made a mistake sharing their inside know-how to a partner that would later withhold that which were required by them to successfully move on. Yes, I am talking about the 12MP PEN sensor that did wonders in the PEN series camera and which at the end had to unexpectedly compete against the special multi aspect 12MP and later 16MP sensors. Today I even wonder if that original PEN sensor was really the best the house could offer?

I think with hindsight it is no wonder that Olympus managed to grow the PEN business using an aged sensor and even being hit by a resigning management board. I think what we witnessed was the photography DNA, companies like Olympus are made of. Years of know-how and experience are build into the design and operation of photographic equipment and even in the case of a sub standard sensor the results are still above average. Users and reviewers refer to Olympus colors when they express the photographic DNA present in the Olympus products. Those lacking this DNA trademarks are plagued with color casts, basic IQ issues and products never moving to the level one would expect them to.

Then when Olympus again had access to competing sensor technology they really let it go by demonstrating tremendous marketing skills and lifting the E-M5 to levels never before expected to happen in the 43rds world. While the GH2 is dying a non glamorous end of life cycle, the E-M5 is breaking one record after the other in terms of sales, reviews, awards and user experience. Again one witness the true DNA of a photographic company mixed with an excellent product and great marketing skills. Even while I felt strong about what happened I still bought the G3 wanting to compare it with my new E-M5.

Again one could sense that photographic DNA when using the E-M5, the E-M5 is just so much more. It is not only the magnesium body design or the new kit lens or the sensor, it really is the total package offered by Olympus that makes the difference. I was always wondering, can it really be that these two cameras use the same sensor, the E-M5 raw files are pro-like, similar to that of top SLR raw files and in many ways the G3 feels like a supercharged LX5 compact camera.

I bought a GH2 for test purposes, wanted to see what it is like and what the image quality are like. Surely it is an older camera and should not be compared with the E-M5. The E-M5 should rather be compared with the GH3 I think. One really interesting aspect I noticed with the GH2 was the following. There has been a time where increasing mega pixels was the in thing, Canon were leading the pack and every new model had more pixels. Not much more came with the new pixels other than noise, excessive noise reduction and reduced dynamic range for example.

Then Nikon manage to develop better software to reduce noise plus them using Sony sensors benefitted from the advances Sony made in terms of reducing noise at the sensor level. The difference I saw with the E-M5 sensor was not only an increase in pixels but really an outstanding sensor in terms of all the aspects that typically suffered when pixels were increased. The GH2 did not share this aspect, what I rather witnessed was a camera that increased pixels similar to what Canon did. This does not speak for video, I realize the the GH2 is a master in terms of video…..

I am glad the truth came out and I really hope Olympus will look forward and that they will not make that mistake again by applying what the Panasonic Product Manager said when asked about the sensor:-

It is true that we supply for some time the captors to Olympus, and we have entered into a partnership towards the establishment of the Micro Four Thirds protocol, but beyond that, it is undeniable that we are competitors in the same market, and it seems sense that each firm should reserve a space to develop differentiated products with unique technologies. - (source Mu 43.com)