Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Cold Hard Camera Facts


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.

OMGGGGGGGGGGGG
*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.

48 comments:

  1. I should ditch Canon and join either Olympus or Nikon.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Be careful about brand worshipping... you're going into it; finding whatever facts on the internet to justify your belief, eh? One small disadvantage on your part and then you go all out and say "my camera is wayyyyyyyyyy cheaper then your Canon 7 fking D."

    I'm going all out to say this too; Nikon D700 also costs $2000 and beats the crap out of.... but what's the point? A roll of $3 expired Velvia on a disposable will pawn u all. ahahaha..... nothing can beat it's superior colour trackking and unheard-of autofocus speed (no need to focus at all).

    I'm not condemning you and your Ollie; rather, I'm asking you to be careful, you might fall into the trap where you pray at every thing Olympus produces?

    Hey, why don't we just talk about the weather or about some hot chicks instead?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hmmm... Interesting stuffs. My 40D actually outperforms the 7D in most way.

    ReplyDelete
  4. i see the truth in the photos

    -Marcus

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey jasonmumbles,
    its just the 7d. Your 40D rocks.

    Hey fishtan,
    wow i am so touched and moved by your concerns!
    Lets lay down some facts and get them straight;
    1. I have repeatedly complained about oly's poor iso performance and DR limitations.
    2. I have mentioned countess times the dinosaur AF I have.
    3. I admit Olympus is behind in terms of photoimaging tech.
    A keen reader would have picked those up on my many entries.
    So, brand worshipping much?
    My main point of the entry is to address the current upgrading hype, but i do not see 7d and d300s as upgrades at all!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey cyril,
    yeah, beware of the marketing hype. New does not necesarily mean better.

    Hey marcus,
    you got that right!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Haa.. endless debate if we were to argue which brand is the best of all. Well, sometimes reviews and statistic comparisons are just for reference only. It's best for you to see it with your own eyes, and handle it by yourself, before decided which one you want to go for.

    I believe each brand has its own advantage, and I don't worship any brand. I am using Canon, and I accept the fact that it has its own flaw, but I'm sticking to Canon, cos I like what I see in Canon.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear allen,
    First of all, this entry is NOT an argument, nor is it any sort of brand worshipping.

    I shall reiterate my purpose of highlighting the comparisons, and the finding is true, the newer cameras are somehow lagging behind in terms of image quality and performance.
    Yet, so many people rush over to upgrade from whatever they have to the better bodies, buying into the myths that those latest models are indeed surpassing their current models. I have merely proven that, Canon 7D was even behind my entry level camera, and nikon D300s was only ahead in a close margin.

    To summarize this act as brand worshipping, you have got to lay down more cards.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear Robin,

    No worries. I never said this entry is an argument, and as for brand worshipping, I caught that from Fish's comment, which reminds me how some people will blindly defend the brand they are using and so on. :)

    As for EOS 7D being behind your camera, I am not sure about that, as I have yet to read about it prior to your entry here.

    Dude, reply me in MSN lar! =.="

    ReplyDelete
  10. I found you blog from a fb link. I myself own a E520. It is my first DSLR. Overall, I am pleased with it as a beginner DSLR. It delivers the result that I want and yet at the same time, its weaknesses ( primarily lowlight and dynamic range)teaches me a lot on how to develop my photo skills to get around the problems.

    I like Olympus. I have always used an Olympus, even back to automatic camera days. I am comfortable with their cameras. However, I feel it is silly to go brand worshipping. All camera brands are more or less the same. It is just which you are comfortable using and what makes sense budget wise.

    That said, it is good to know that the humble E520 beats the Canon 7D and matches the Nikon 300 in many respects. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Just to clarify, my Google Account ID is the same as my ID for the Keadilan blog I am maintaining. PKR is not endorsing Olympus. ;)

    Anyone just drop me a message on my e-mail and we can exchange ideas on my facebook.

    ReplyDelete
  12. hey keadilan,
    Wow, long trail you got to my blog.
    I like your final sentence about the position of E-520. Well said.

    ReplyDelete
  13. After reading this, you made me stop thinking about upgrading to... er.. D700 / 5D MK II already. *sobs*

    Yeah.. I know... Totally unrelated. Haha.

    ReplyDelete
  14. hey chong,
    5Dmk2 and D700 rocks. ahahah... nothing against them. Just dunno whats wrong with 7D and D300s.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Chong : If you compare 1DMK4 and 5DMK2, both are very similar, if not, the latter outperforms the former. Interesting finding.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hey Chong and Jason,
    Buy Buy BUy !!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Good one, Robin! I enjoyed reading this.

    I'd normally compare with cameras closer in price range such as the D5000 or 500D, but never in hell I'd go as far as you comparing it to 7D! :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. hey nelson,
    You will be surprised !! Nonetheless, it was not so much of what the E-520 is capable of, it was the issues of what the newer cameras are cutting down.

    ReplyDelete
  19. when you learn how to use the DxOMark charts you will understand the results better.

    Comparing these cameras at 100% is a waste of time.

    In my opinion the fine-detail of the 7D looks awful at 100% even when shooting raw and using dcraw, but at full-image it looks pretty normal. I wouldn't buy a 7D to look at shots at 2MP online. It's a camera for printers and close-croppers.

    Other than that I wouldn't put too much stock in the cutoff values used for the lowlight tests, those numbers are exposure & scene-dependent, not something that can be fixed for all shots. What really matters is the performance at ISO100 coupled with the resolution of the camera, the AF quality and the way that it handles raw data. The rest is all secondary.

    ReplyDelete
  20. ...it's pretty easy to use the screen option and show results that make older cameras look better than new ones.

    But how often do you look at your images at 100%?

    the one option that I do not see is something in the VGA to 2MP range at 100DPI, which is where the vast majority of images are viewed these days.

    ReplyDelete
  21. You have completely misinterpreted the dxo data. Of course the 7d has lower snr than the other two: it has many more mp so each pixel is smaller and noisier. But when it comes to printing or downsampling to view online, these extra mp help reduce the noise and increase the snr. That's why the 7d ends up with a better total score than the Olympus.

    ReplyDelete
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