Recently, I have come across a website, dedicated at measuring and ranking camera systems, in a very unique and quite reliable manner. This place must have been popularly known by most DSLR users: DXOMark. Being curious, I made some quick comparison between the latest line ups of near top professional level DSLRs from Canon and Nikon, and pitched these cameras against my own, obsolete, entry level, mostly looked-down by everyone, Olympus.
Hence, the comparison was not exactly fair, and generally you would have expected professional level systems to beat the crap out of an entry level system in at least all the major technical aspects of the camera, such as ISO-Noise performance, Tonal Range, and Color Reproduction, right?
Lets explore the possibilities. I have to admit, I was quite shocked to find out what this DXOmark testing system has to conclude.
1) Entry Level vs Professional
Olympus E-520 - $450
Canon 7D - &2000
Nikon D300s - $1800
In terms of specifications, and overall summary, Canon and Nikon won hands down in terms of image resolution (all those megapixels...pffftt), dynamic range and low light ISO performance in general. Performance wise, such as handling and frames per second, Olympus is way behind, since the specifications were designed for entry level category.
However, if we explore further into the image ouput territory, the DXOmark has a lot of interesting stories to tell. Here comes.
2) ISO-Noise Performance
Olympus E-520 performs BETTER than Canon 7D from ISO100 to ISO1000 !!!!!
Olympus E0520 is only lagging behind by a very slight margin in comparison to Nikon D300s.
*falls down the chair with white foams coming out of mouth
Now this is the real head turner. Who would have thought, a nearly 2 years old entry level camera, can sit right there on par with todays latest professional level DSLR from both camera giants, Canon and Nikon?
3) ISO Level Accuracy
From the charts, it can clearly be indicated that Olympus is the honest guy here, staying true to the closest value they can, with ISO markings very close to the neutral gray lines.
Meanwhile, Canon and Nikon falsely claim their ISO ratings, by lowering the REAL values, most likely so that in real life, people might think their ISO1600 images come out so noise free, but in fact it was actually more like an ISO1200 image. Cheater !!!!
4) Tonal Range
Another measure of average noise level.
The trend of the results was very similar to the ISO-Noise performance as mentioned earlier. Olympus E-520 outperforms Canon 7D from ISO100-ISO800 and just slightly lagging behind the Nikon D300s.
5) Colour Rendering
This should not come as a surprise to me, because I have always been a strong believer in Olympus colour rendering.
According to the chart, somehow, for a professional Canon 7D, the Colour Sensitivity was quite dissapointing, especially placed side by side with a mere entry level Olympus E-520. Nikon is the clear winner, again, but not by far.
Do not get me wrong guys. I am not brand trashing here. I do not have anything against Canon and Nikon.
However, I have heard people raving on and on about the new Nikon D300s and Canon 7D, and how everyone have rushed to upgrade from whatever current system they are using, just in hope for better performance and image quality that the new systems are promising to deliver. Now the question is, do they deliver?
For a new professional system with larger sensors, priced averagely FIVE FREAKING TIMES more expensive than an entry level camera with smaller sized sensor released two years ago built on dinosaur technologies: yet one of them fall below par, and the other one only doing slightly better...
Another question you have to ask yourself, is it worth the upgrade? Yes, there are other elements and aspects that the Nikon and Canon are better than Olympus, obviously, but does the price justify the overall consideration?
The answer is subjective, and it is left open for your own interpretations.
For what I can tell you, I am going to stick to my humble Olympus E-520, for a long, long long time.
Probably until a worthy successor comes along, something that can truly surpass E-520 in every aspect, but still fall under not an overly ridiculous pricing. (I consider full frames as ridiculously overpriced)
For full reference, please go to the official DXOMark website link here.