Friday, November 30, 2012

Olympus OM-D E-M5 versus Panasonic GH3 versus Panasonic G5 at 3200 ISO – High ISO Shootout (test, review, whatever) – **Updated Again on 18 July 2013**

Hmmm … should this be called "The Defender versus the Contender versus the Pretender?” Smile

The OM-D is the darling of the m4/3 market, with a huge following of almost rabid fans. In fact, it is a gorgeous camera with a small yet very capable body. The image quality is stunning and the video is quite good (for an Olympus) … all in all, what is not to love? Well, for one thing the price … because the body is a bit hard to hold securely until you buy the grip and suddenly the body is costing you $1300 …

The GH3, on the other hand, comes with a wonderful dSLR like styling and built in grip and charges that price right out of the box. It also comes with world class video that harkens back to the golden GH2 era (which is still going on :-)

The G5 … what to make of this camera? It uses a variation of the GH2 sensor with the multi-aspect ration disabled. It is the older Panasonic 16mp sensor and thus well behind these two in development. Going by the number of people who toss off comment like “it is just better, I see it every day” and such, the OM-D should crush the older G5. The GH3 might actually be able to stay in the game because it is rumored to use the Sony sensor. I’m not sure that is true, but at the least it uses someone’s flagship sensor.

image I have borrowed the RAW images that Focus Numerique provide for testing and evaluation purposes.

The original images are copyright © Focus Numérique.

I am using them for educational purposes and obviously I therefore am making use of the fair use doctrine for copyright.

Click on the logo at left to go to their site

So … on with it. I’ve used the 3200 ISO original RAW images that were shot with the Olympus 12-50 kit lens on the OM-D, the Panasonic 14-140 all in one kit lens on the GH3 and the Panasonic 12-35 2.8 lens on the G5. All were shot at f/5.6, which should more or less equalize the clarity and sharpness we see. At this focal length, all the lenses are stopped down at least a bit.

I find, though, that the testers were not all that scrupulous about getting identical framing and magnification. Slight differences can make unsubtle differences in perceived sharpness, but this is one of the better test images I have seen, so off we go.

I have processed all three images in Lightroom 4.3 Beta because this version supports the GH3. I have sent the processed TIFFs to CS5 for cropping and crafting of the 100% crop juxtapositions for 5 portions of the scene. I did my best to equalize tone, saturation, sharpness and noise. With these fairly close, we can compare details, edges, dimensionality … all those indefinable things that go to make an image really pop.

But first l think it instructive to see how different they are at typical 1000px web sizes. This is how the vast majority of images are present every day, and it is instructive to see how much difference we would see on the web or on typically small prints, say up to 8x10. This represents the vast majority of usage.

Remember to click on these images to see the full 1000px presentation.

Panasonic GH3 (contender)

Olympus OM-D E-M5 (Defender)

Panasonic G5 (Pretender)

If you are using an IPS panel that is hardware calibrated then you will likely notice that these are so similar at web sizes as to be virtually indistinguishable. I’ve been saying this about the 16mp sensors for some time now. In RAW, the differences are marginal at best. Your lens and your technique will absolutely swamp the sensor differences at high ISO.

It has been asserted to me many times (without supporting backup) that there is a 1 stop+ difference from the G5 to the OM-D at higher ISOs, but for the life of me I cannot find it in the test images here, nor could I find it when I processed test images from imaging-resource or … I tend to get the same excellent results from all the 16mp sensors at these higher ISOs. So I am forced to take all such assertions with a grain of salt. (Truckload would be more accurate.)

And now, the meat of the comparison. We’ll compare 100% crops to see how far apart they really are. This comparison mimics looking at portions of 46” prints from about 20 inches. That is a little insane, yet it is what we pixel peepers do every day, and it is not a bad indicator of what to expect at poster sizes.

Crop 1

The first crop is the upper left corner of the image, specifically the map and a little of the overlapping fan of paint chips plus some of the feather. Now, at 3200 ISO, it should be a bit of a struggle to resolve names from that distance and feather details should be hard to come by.

My analysis says that the GH3 is the detail winner hands down. The lens is obviously very sharp in the upper left corner, while the other two are not as good. In fact, the GH3 has excellent feather detail as well. I suppose that we will have to chalk this up as a lens difference.

What about tonality? Well, try as I might, the OM-D resisted my attempts to soften its contrast and maintain nice edges and noise, so it has stronger shadows that are readily apparent in the paint chips at the right. The Panasonic images have very similar tones, which is strange since the G5 sensor is really old.

I think this is a win for the GH3 hands down, with the G5 coming in an easy second. Again, this might be purely down to the lenses. The OM-D’s kit lens is pretty embarrassing, especially when compared with the 14-140, which sports a 10x range. I have this lens and it is delicious :-)

Crop 2

This crop is just about dead center in this image, so there are no “it’s the lens” excuses here.

Hmmm … my analysis says that these could have come from the same camera and lens. No surprise to me but I will bet a few people are wondering what trickery I am up to. Well, I have been sure for a while that these sensors are very similar in RAW and they all compete quite easily with low end dSLRs.

So, it is a 3-way tie.

Crop 3

Top middle of the image. We’re well away from the corners, so the lenses should not be much of a factor. On the other hand, we have really rich colors, so there is an opportunity for a real difference to show up.

Hmmm … the colors seem very similar on the GH3 and OM-D … makes me wonder of they really do share a sensor. The G5 coloring is clearly slightly different, which makes some sense if the sensor is two years older.

ALERT! I was called onto the carpet by a pedant with certifiable perfect color vision on the previous paragraph. Apparently, my statement is utterly false because the hues are so different between the OMD and the GH3. Apparently, this is offensive to some (presumably the well organized union of pedants with perfect color vision.) The “1000” on the right is blue on the OMD image and some unspecified completely different hues on the two Panasonic images. So I examined them at the pixel level in Photoshop and I agree. The red and green channels on the OMD are in good balance, leaving the numbers looking basically blue. The red channel is stronger on the GH3 and even stronger on the G5 with a weaker blue channel, causing each to lean into the world of magenta, with the G5 going a bit further. This also seems to make the yellow look brighter in the OMD image, although that may be an overly bold statement that will draw further retribution. Anyway, keep that in mind when you process these opinions, in case it matters to you too. For those with great pride in their perfect color vision, please accept my apologies.

Yet I prefer the G5 color and tone, at least on the head gear at right. The Olympus continues to show small but visible edge artifacts. I notice them on most images, but here they make a difference in the left portion of the image. Not sure if this is a demosaicing issue or not.

I think I give this one to the G5 by a hair, with the GH3 next and the OM-D bringing up the rear. ALERT! This is a personal judgment and yours may very well be ordered oppositely.

crop 4

Bottom of the image in shadows. This is where the OM-D should really assert itself.

Well, the OM-D does not disappoint. Its lens is clearly the sharpest of the three at the bottom of the frame. Its tendency to stronger contrast helps it a lot here, although I am also noticing some posterization as the transition to black is a little harsh and sudden. The others are of course somewhat exposed to noise pollution from more open shadows, yet I don’t really see extra noise.

Interestingly, the little flower illustration at left shows up best and cleanest on the G5 again. It really handles edges beautifully. But no matter …

The OM-D wins for its rendering of the car. But it is definitely equivocal. The GH3 and G5 are in a tie for second. This is a contrasty scene that looks much better on this OM-D rendering if you ignore the deep shadow blocking a bit. Cranking the contrast a bit on the others would help them out here, and that can be done without blocking the shadows. This one is pretty complex to judge.

crop 5

Just to the left of crop 4 is an opportunity to show the white bear against the black wall and some writing on the right of the crop.

The G5 shows the writing best, the OM-D shows slightly more detail on the bear’s fur, and the GH3 is more or less similar to both. The OM-D again tries to block the shadows a bit. I would be processing the OM-D on a fairly soft tone curve at all times to prevent this.

There is not much to choose here overall, so I give the G5 and OM-D first place with the GH3 a hair behind.


I had to really stretch to find the differences in some of those I mages. I would say that all three are close enough that you should not be freaking out over the differences at this ISO. You should spend far more time improving your technique and processing skills rather than fretting over perceived differences between these sensors.

In fact, I believe in choosing based on how the camera shoots and what it feels like in the hand. Thus, I am a Nikon and Panasonic fan. But YMMV of course.

Cheap Knock-Offs … can you trust them?

My confidence in cheap knock off products was shaken badly when I noticed something really weird …

2012-10-30 14.03.30

Check out the difference in the brightness claims. 160 lumens versus 68 lumens. That’s quite the variance, despite having identical product SKUs.

So … which one is likely to be accurate? The lower one, of course. Kinda sleazy …

Air Canada at the Hartford Airport

This really ticked me off … I had to wait quite some time to check in …

2012-11-02 17.03.12

Weird Phenomenon with the Late Afternoon Sun

Anyone know what this is? It was a little freaky to see two suns in the sky …

2012-11-20 15.11.53

2012-11-20 15.11.46

Galaxy sIII for those wondering why the image quality in my last few posts has been so mediocre. Going through the phone to post things I had meant to earlier :-)

The best hat that $14 can buy :-)

2012-11-26 13.38.28

Yes, I did buy it Smile

Procrastination …. sometimes there is a price :-)

2012-11-26 14.37.28

It wasn’t that cold and I had changed my tires two days before and left everything ready and charged for the task … but it was still a little unpleasant …

Panasonic GF3 with 14-42 X Vario PZ Power OIS – a STEAL at Future Shop RIGHT NOW!

2012-11-29 12.56.03

On clearance, as the GF5 has been out for months. But look at the price of just the lens on eBay …

The kit is going for about $500 on eBay right now …

For those wanting an X10 with its small (by comparison) 2/3” sensor, this is an interesting option …

Tassimo versus Keurig

I have never seen anything quite like this …

2012-11-30 00.00.25

2012-11-30 00.00.32

Thursday, November 29, 2012

WINZIP and AVG partner to be the world’s most annoying virus … *UPDATED*

I fricken HATE (HATE, HATE) tools that cheat to get you to install toolbars and search engines form their partners so that they can scan a dime from you.

I restarted a Winzip 17 installation and realized on one panel that I’d forgotten to unclick the AVG crap on the previous wizard page, so I clicked “back” and unclicked the two check boxes, then proceeded forward.

Half way through the installation I realized that it was not going to work to restart my trial so I cancelled and then uninstalled.

But guess what? Winzip went ahead and installed AVG into several locations, despite my unchecking of the boxes.



I now have to clean AVG out of all my browsers, which often takes a few tries. These guys are a virus, plain and simple. They bulldoze their way onto your computer and they waste your time trying to clean up their shit all over your machine.


Winzip is uninstalled also, even though I have been a customer for a decade. But I’ve had it with them. I think I will look for an alternative.

UPDATE: I disabled it and it is still coming up in IE … piece of shit!!!!!

OMFG!!!! I removed it this time and it came up anyway!!!! F*CK!

UPDATE June 2016: I dumped WINZIP almost immediately after writing this article. For a number of years now, I have happily used 7ZIP ever since. It is actually superior to WinZip in several ways that include a lack of shovelware and cross platform support, and it is free. There is no contest whatsoever. So WinZip did me a favour by so blatantly attacking my machine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From the “you gotta be sh-ting me” files …

Ordered a few kitchen supplies … including what I thought was a nice 6” or 8” cast iron pan for eggs … I made an assumption and did not verify the size …

Well …

Every once in a while …

… the rich go a little too far and someone blows the whistle.


That story will make you ill, as the owner is accused of systematically “robbing” people by claiming damages that were often not repaired at all but charging them outrageous prices that they could not afford.

The stories go on to document at least one woman made to cry because she could not afford the $1000 they were charging for the windshield repair. Note: It does not cost that much.

So … if these charges prove to be true then I really hope that karma takes care of that guy. Big time. You know what they say … karma is a bitch.

What is wrong with the world?


That article has some really scary news: Manufacturers are using flame-retardant chemicals in the foam padding of a lot of furniture, office and home, that (a) does not work(!) and (b) poisons us as we use it and definitely if it burns.

As a member of our corporate health and safety committee for some years, I had the privilege of attending a seminar by the fire department with a film showing the speed at which an office will burn once it gets going (and your house) …

If I recall correctly, you have about 2 minutes before everyone is at risk of imminent death. This because all furniture is horrifically toxic when it burns.

So if you smell smoke in your house, you look for the point source to see what you can do. I hope you keep fire extinguishers up to date just in case. But … if you feel heat or see a lot of smoke, you have seconds or minutes to get everyone out. The place is probably toast and you don’t want to go with it.

I think it is criminal that the furniture we all have in our houses will kill us even if the flames do not. But such is the world we live in. No doubt someone makes a fortune on these chemicals, so who are we to deny the rich their enormous bounty Annoyed

Panasonic GF3 – Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’

Was that clichéd enough for you lol

I blogged about falling to the ground in Stockholm and smashing the GF3 and the G5 to the ground with some force. Both survived, and the G5 is hardly scratched.

Not so the GF3. I went to Montreal with Mary a few weekends ago and we wandered about downtown that evening, eventually ending up behind the National Art Gallery to shoot the Parliament buildings from across the river. I had repaired the wrist strap from Stockholm by simply tying the ends together with a pair of granny knots. I was too lazy to go find a new wrist strap and replace it.

Well, guess what happened?

You guessed it. Boom. On cement, again. The knots came apart suddenly after weeks of service. Incredibly, the camera hit the ground in exactly the same place. Now it’s really smashed ... deformed would be a good word for it. The LCD has lifted in the corner and the body is crumpled.

GH2 + 14-140  3200iso (!)  f/5.8  1/60

The 14-140 has very close focusing, almost macro. I hand held this under old halogen lighting that was hitting the ceiling and spreading fairly strong but ugly light to the camera here. Note that the body has almost, but not quite, separated here.

GH2 + 14-140  1250iso  f/5.8  1/25

Here is an angle that clearly shows the LCD corner that has lifted. The body now bends away from the LCD quite dramatically at the back.

GH2 + 14-140  1250iso  f/5.8  1/40

gh2 + 14-140  1250iso  f/5.8  1/25

The bottom line is that you could do a lot worse than the GF3. Tough as nails.

Also note that Future Shop are still selling this body with the pancake 14-42 X Vario PZ Power OIS lens for the incredibly low price of 429cad.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Microsoft ruined Skype

Trying to use Skype to dial out and finding that every time I press a DTMF key, it repeats. In fact, it is an increasing sequences of repeats. First I got 2 keys, then 3 and so on. Pathetic.

I think Windows 8 is fun, but I think they need a service pack asa-fricken-p …. or this thing is dead in the water.

As it is, I just may downgrade soon, because my patience is wearing thin …

Monday, November 26, 2012

The latest Power2000 battery is a dud at …

I ordered a spare battery for the GH2 from and it arrived last week. It was a Power2000 battery, similar to the one I already had shipped to me with the GH2. Mine works very well, but the one from bhphoto was DOA. So I sent a message on their support page and they promptly sent me another one. It arrived today and is also DOA.

How disappointing …

Anyway, avoid the G5 / GH2 replacement batteries from bhphoto right now, as they obviously have a bad shipment.

Here are the three batteries, the two on the right are DOA …

Here they are in the charger. The images suck because this is a dark corner of the room and I was too lazy to get the tripod.

Firs one is the old battery, last two are the newer batteries. Note the absence of charging lights on the last two. They do not work in camera either.

So be warned.

G5 – Pho

Nick and I both love Pho, the Vietnamese soup that is so popular these days in this city. You find noodle bowl everywhere here and it is glorious. The local place that makes the very best Pho is “Pho Hoa Nam” (pronounce phuh hwa nam.)

Anyway … we grabbed a bit of lunch today and I carried the G5 with 14-42 X Vario PZ pancake zoom. Nice kit to carry around for street shooting etc. The G5 has electronic shutter up to 1600 ISO so the shutter shock issue with this lens (not everyone of them does it apparently) does not arise at all.

We both order Rare Beef with Rice Noodles and I always order extra onions. This is one delicious treat …

G5  1600iso  f/5.6  1/25

Looks like I had a brain fart there … f/5.6 is 1.5 stops slower than the minimum at 3.5 … hmmmm ….

Nick anticipates the glory while I grab a few shots …

G5  400iso  f/5.6  1/60

That last one was back lit so I had to pull shadows up a few stops. I think it turned out quite well considering. The Panny 16mp sensor is quite nice to shoot.

Money shot …

The rest are variations on the exposure. If you want to see EXIF just click on the image and use an EXIF plugin to examine the exposure info.

On the way out, the usual lucky Buddha … someone has been fairly generous.

Hackin’ a quick dart before leaving …

p.s. Anyone who feels the need to leave a comment on the dangers of smoking can please just not bother. It is all well known.

A surprising amount of snow lasts the day on the first day of any snow at all. That is simply not fair …

The G5 is a dream to shoot. So is the GH2 and even the GF3. These Panny bodies are really a lot of fun and the image quality leaves little to be desired. But then, I am used to shooting compact Fuji bodies with 1/2” sensors and these are miles above that.

The pancake X Vario PZ zoom is also really nice. I can easily tuck the GF3 and that lens into a smallish pocket and I only need a slightly larger pocket to tuck the G5 in with it as well. I carry the 3442 Tamron Rally Micro case with this combo in it and it is not even tight.

GH2 – Snow tires – Have you mounted yours yet?

This applies only to those in snow climates. But have you mounted your snow tires yet?


You don’t use snow tires? Are you obtuse? Dense? Touched?

Here’s the deal. Since the mid-90s manufacturers have been systematically changing the snow tire formulas such that what they ship on cars are closer to old-school summer tires than they are to all season. This because all season tires wear out quicker because they need softer compounds. (I think that was the reason given when I read this.)

The problem, of course, is that these cars also end up in the snow belt and that makes the tires unsuitable for winter driving. It is my understanding that you can be charged for reckless driving or some such if you end up in a ditch. The point being that snow tires will mitigate the risk of hitting that ditch as they have vastly better grip in snow and on ice than do summer tires.

So … sometime in November, you need to swap the tires over. I did mine on Saturday and Nick did his today. Here are some images of my tire swap …

I’m going to pass on labeling every image. They were all shot with the GH2 and the wonderful 14-140 all in one lens, generally wide open. Very nice images from this combo.

Here, I have retrieved the snow tires from the garage.

Only I was wrong … those are Nick’s tires. A decade of swapping the CR-V tires had me on auto pilot. Smile

Before I put them back, I photographed the system I have used for a long time to ensure that the tires are rotated every season. Each set of tires gets rotated on every swap.

So this year the tire was on the driver’s rear wheel. Next spring, the tire will be installed on the driver’s front wheel. It’s that simple.

Here are the tools of the trade. Well, the cheap version for the wannabe anyway. The jack is the cheapest 30 buck jack Canadian Tire sold on sale one day. The air wrench is an inexpensive Sears Mastercraft complete set that was maybe 50 bucks. The hose was an extension I bought to reach the driveway. And that is really all it takes to do this quickly (30 to 45 minutes ion total.)

And of course we cannot forget the compressor. This is my second compressor as the first one packed it in. That one was the 3 gallon Porter Cable and had a cheap plastic knob that simply failed eventually. This one is MotoMaster, which is the Canadian Tire house brand, and it has twin tanks that hold 4 or 5 gallons of compressed air. Nice. It can feed two hoses, but that would only be useful for small drains like a brad nailer.

Never pay full price for this stuff. Canadian Tire is always cycling through their products and putting them on sale. I caught this on sale at about half price (under $100) which was a steal. Very happy with it.

A view of my much nicer looking rims on the snow tires against the ones that came with the car. The tires I bought are Altimax Arctic by General Tire. Consumers Reports rates these as the second best ice tire after the Michelin X-Ice. And the reason I buy these instead of #1 is two-fold:

  1. The Altimax is rated better on wet roads by quite a bit, the X-Ice is rated better on ice by a small margin. We get more wet roads than pure ice. Easy choice.
  2. The Altimax is a much cheaper tire. By quite the margin. No brainer.

Normally, I would put cheap 50 dollar black painted steel rims on the snow tires, but I ordered everything from in Chicago, and they have the lovely machined aluminum rims for 79 bucks. That was irresistible … and the kicker is that they offer dynamic balancing for free. These are the smoothest tires at all speeds that I have ever driven. So good choice Smile

The after image ….

And now let’s move on to the random imagery portion of our program today. The street in the late afternoon sunlight … note the incredible sharpness of the branches … very nice for a kit lens.

Here’s a shot of the buds for next year’s Lilacs. The branches in the background are barely a foot behind, but shooting at 280mm equivalent throws them nicely out of focus. The bokeh on this lens is very pleasing to me.

This is the same bush at 28mm from about the same distance. The branch I focused on is the one right in the middle that is branched to the right as well. I shot the branch that goes straight up.

A similar shot.

A slightly different angle.

The top of a neighbour’s tree across the street.

A view down my side street. A huge bird’s nest in the second tree breaks the monotony. Note the very sharp branches.

A shot of one of my new 6” fence posts and the neighbours’ houses across the street.

And that’s that. Get your snow tires on Smile