Not really answering your question directly - but I think it depends on the camera. Certainly my Leica M9's dynamic range is not that great. Much as I distrust DxO results, they seem to bear it out. Only fractionally better than a GH1. That is certainly my experience with both cameras. Full-frame doesn't necessarily mean better dynamic range. Neither does 4/3 or m4/3 necessarily mean reduced dynamic range. I've also had widely differing results from different APS-C sensors.
The reviews at DPReview have a section on dynamic range.
Any reason why you're so focused on DR? Within a generation of sensor, they all seem to be pretty close.
There have been a number of discussion recently, and an article in Outdoor Photographer about how to get the most DR out of your camera:
- shoot RAW
- expose to the right (bump up against clipping the highlights)
- pull it back down to reveal shadow detail during RAW conversion
Thanks, I like to shoot with hi dynamic range. If they are pretty close, why one should shoot with a large sensor (Hasselblad H4D-31 for example instead of Canon Mark 3 / Sony A850 -A900, Nikon D3X etc). I like detailed output at hi and low light situation.
I'm confused ... I have read in forums "Oh my 5D (or Nikon 7D) has near 2 stops more DR than m43" "Hence better shadow detail" or "Highlights with my 5D never have a highlight clipping problem" and so it goes on.
If in fact m43 has less dynamic range I expose sensibly for highlights and let the shadows take care of themselves and or lighten them in RAW anyways sometimes shadows contain busy elements that are best suppressed.
I dont feel DR in m43 limits me in any way and I have NO desire to go FF either Leica canon or others.
I have looked into this a lot. There isn't a direct website looking at Dynamic range. And if you search around alot you will find that many use different methods to look at dynamic range.
What I have also found on forums most of the time people will look at an out of camera image from a 4/3rds camera and compare it to a Raw processed image out of Nikon or Canon 135 camera to make a point. Yes out of camera Olympus files are great, but you can get more range with manipulating the tone curves just like Nikon. I have found that direct out camera Nikon files have terrible DR. But a lot can be pulled out the Raw.
So basically what you will read will be mixed. If your serious, the best thing to do is compare cameras hands on in a shop before you buy. Try shooting the outside window with the camera bag section. That can give you some indication.
I don't think micro four thirds dynamic range is a problem at lower ISO's but if you tend to need higher ISOs to shoot very dark situations like a lot of dark concerts or other similar performances, or maybe dark street walking scenes it might matter? In short I think it becomes most apparent at high ISOs that frankly I almost never need to use.
Ken Rockwell did a nice comparison on his website with APS-C cropped sensors vs full frame nikon D3
under title "Nikon D7000, D300, D3 (D700) and Canon 5D Mark II High ISO Comparison "
It was useful to me as I've been teaching myself through forums like this...I admit I'm a new photographer and decided to go with 4/3 for my first higher end amateur purposes (size did it for me). But, I'm trying to learn here as much as I'm trying to help.
FYI, for bright uneven incident lighting my olympus software that came with EPL-1 has a feature called "instant fix" under the jpeg processing software and it does a pretty decent job of fixing some of the contrast problems from very different incident lighting like bright background with lighter foreground like a sunset or window vs inside etc. Also you can use graduated ND filters to help with sunsets etc...I think that can be a problem in dynamic range no matter the size sensor you have (hence Nikon's active D lighting and the advent of graduated ND filters)?
Again hope to help and good luck in your search for the right camera