Test Dynamic Range - What's It All About? A Panasonic GH2 vs Pentax K5 Comparison

WT21

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Hey Amin,

Thanks for taking the time to run this comparison.

There is one thing I would like to put out there for consideration. It is not scientific at all, but a confirmed and re-confirmed impression for me.

When I would consider images from my 5D and my GF1 in which DR is important (scenes not dissimilar to that used in your test) I could notice a very real difference.
This is the reason I can't let go of my 5D. The pictures I get out of my 5D even with my ancient 70-210USM and 50/1.8. blow away my NEX and m43.

But in terms of comparison of NEX to m43 (i.e. APS-C to 43 sensor), I don't find a noticeable enough difference.
 

flash

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What I appreciate about Amin's original post is that it is important to be aware of the differences, such as they are, and decide if they are important to your end objective. Will they different levels of DR make an impact on what you have in mind? Only you can decide. Of course, there are many other factors to take into account other than DR.
Give the man a cigar!!!

This is, to me the whole point of having camera specifications available. Not to make one camera, lens, sensor "better" than another. But, rather to be aware of any limitations so you can make an educated decision as to whether it matters to *you*. In addition being aware of what a particular sensor can (and can't) do will allow a thoughtful photographer to get the best shot available with the gear available. If you know you've got 8 stops of EV then you'll learn to work with that. maybe you'll carry some ND filters or learn HDR photography.

Back in the good/bad/indifferent old days I shot my first dozen rolls of Velvia. Every one was raving about this stuff and I threw 400 frames into the bin. I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. It was a good friend of mine who told me to "stop being so closed minded and learn to see the world in five stops". Previously I'd only shot negative films with at least double the latitude. It was a revelation to me in my earlier days. And once I "got it" I loved Velvia, like almost every one else. That was when I understood what Adams meant with the term "previsualisation". I've never had an issue with the DR of any digital camera. Partly because they all have more latitude than Velvia and partly because my friend told me what I needed to hear.

No camera sees like the human eye/brain and, to some extent we all need to learn to see like the camera rather than worrying about getting a camera that sees like we do.

So in part I wholeheartedly agree with Amin that the DR of m4/3 cameras is better in the real world than specifications alone would suggest, I also think that learning learning what your gear can do and worrying less about what it can't do, will help you get the best from it.

Gordon
 

Pelao

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Another great point. All the Micro 4/3 cameras meet my current high standards for image quality. I can't remember the last time I felt like sensor image quality was an issue with a photo that I otherwise considered to be good.

By the way, if anyone thinks the DR of any MFT camera is inadequate for landscape, here is a good place to start: Panasonic GF-1 Review in the Landscape
Amin,

I don't think anyone here suggested that M4/3 is inadequate for landscape. The article you point to is one of those that brought me to M4/3. To be thorough in the reading though, he primarily expresses delight with M4/3 in comparison to other compact cameras. Similar to my point, he notes that the camera "almost rivals the 5D". Which means the 5D MKI.

David Clapp continues to use his Canon 1DsIII for landscape work too.

I am very happy with the performance of my M4/3, including for landscape shooting. But I am not going to deny that my 5D did have advantages in output under certain conditions, and that there are times when I have to work my skills a bit harder to get the most out of my GF1.

This does not bother me at all, because the tradeoffs are great for me. But, if I were to return to landscape photography in any great volume, with large high quality prints as my output, then I would be adding a non M4/3 to my bag.

All the same, to describe the DR of M4/3 sensors as an Achilles heel, or even weakness, is nonsense to me. The DR is simply what it is, and each person would have to decide what that means for their photographic objectives.
 

Pelao

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This is the reason I can't let go of my 5D. The pictures I get out of my 5D even with my ancient 70-210USM and 50/1.8. blow away my NEX and m43.

But in terms of comparison of NEX to m43 (i.e. APS-C to 43 sensor), I don't find a noticeable enough difference.
Hey - try your 5D with the Canon 50 / 1.4. Gorgeous.
 

Amin Sabet

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I don't think anyone here suggested that M4/3 is inadequate for landscape.
I agree and didn't mean to suggest that anyone here had. I was only saying that if anyone comes across someone who feels that way that the Clapp article was a good place to direct them.
 

Pelao

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I agree and didn't mean to suggest that anyone here had. I was only saying that if anyone comes across someone who feels that way that the Clapp article was a good place to direct them.
Well, similarly, a few days ago I came across a site with some GH2 shots of soccer. They looked great. Now, we all know that M4/3 cannot take action shots...

I am not suggesting that the GH2 is right up there with every DSLR, but this was good stuff. I will see if I can find the site and link to it.
 

Bokeh Diem

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My thoughts exactly. Panasonic isn't exactly a camera company, but a vertically integrated research and development machine. Pentax uses a Sony sensor, we use native material. Makes me proud.

I see distinct gains on the new GH2 sensor over the G2, and all this in very limited time. Go Mu-43, and on to slay those dragons.

Thanks for an informative, well reasoned article Amin.

Bokeh D

I rarely find myself on that edge, so my K5 is probably going to find itself in the classifieds pretty soon.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes Panasonic to catch up to this latest generation of Sony sensor technology. As you are no doubt aware, the difference between APS-C and 4/3 sensor size isn't all that much, and the predicted DR disparity based on sensor size would be less than half a stop.
 

shoturtle

 
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dxo scores is only a nice to know side notes. Not really relevant as it is all raw work flow results.

There were recent test of default raw workflows with brand provided editing software, where canon out did nikon. That never happens with dxo results. So I would not get overly concern with the dxo scores.

The smaller sensor of the gh2 does not have as much dr as the pentax. But it still produce a nice photo, and with the editing skills of the user in RAW an excellent photo can be produced.
 

Armanius

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Amin-

Great write up and comparison. Extremely informative and easy for a noob like me to understand.

Lee-

When I compare photos of the K5 and GH2, I also see a subtle difference that goes beyond the objective qualities of sharpness and dynamic range (if those can be objective). While the GH2's images appear to be sharper for the most part, the GH2 also appears more "clinical" to my eyes. The K5 has more ... depth? More of a 3D? This is probably just a matter of opinion though. Not sure if it's quantifiable.

Of course, if I had to pick between the two, I'd pick the ... :)
 

phrenic

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Interesting results, not what I expected to be honest..and a nice analysis in case we missed some of the meaning of the tests!

Thanks for taking the time to work on this.
 

Sapphie

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Armando, you little tease! The answer is ... (drum roll please ... ) there isn't one!! They are both great cameras and, at the end of the day, there's more to it than alleged IQ. I have found that the LR 'auto tone' facility does wonders for the GH2 shots. I love the ability to change aspect ratio on the GH2. I also prefer the K5 OVF ... I just can't see well through the GH2 in bright light, maybe it's me or maybe there's some setting I haven't found yet.

Regarding sharpness, try cranking up the LR sharpness beyond 25 for the K5 images to say, 60 or so. Any better?

LOL, now the X100 is tempting me ...

Lee
 

dko22

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The difference in DR is apparent only after substantial pushing of the shadows. This kind of shadow pushing is not a common event in my postprocessing. With a shot such as the example shown in this article, I tend to leave the shadows dark, similar to the displayed shadow crops prior to rollover. In that case, the difference in DR is simply not apparent.



Although I would probably try a different sort of torture test for DR (such as the typical interior when the view out of the window and the interior should both be correctly exposed which is a situation that no camera can handle without major pp -- I may post an example or two of this tomorrow), I find this an excellent article and above all the point above that the DR differences are only apparent with heavy shadow pushing is spot on. Far too many complain about blown highlights which is purely the fault of the photographer not choosing the correct exposure-- I know as even with the GH2 I still occasionally do it.

David
 

Armanius

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Armando, you little tease! The answer is ... (drum roll please ... ) there isn't one!! They are both great cameras and, at the end of the day, there's more to it than alleged IQ. I have found that the LR 'auto tone' facility does wonders for the GH2 shots. I love the ability to change aspect ratio on the GH2. I also prefer the K5 OVF ... I just can't see well through the GH2 in bright light, maybe it's me or maybe there's some setting I haven't found yet.

Regarding sharpness, try cranking up the LR sharpness beyond 25 for the K5 images to say, 60 or so. Any better?

LOL, now the X100 is tempting me ...

Lee
Yes, I have to tease! I'm still working on a write up about using the GH2 and K5 side-by-side.

The EVF on the GH2 doesn't help you in bright light? That's a bummer. I like the EVF of the GH2 much better than any OVF. Because it's so much bigger and brighter. Same with the EVF of the Sony A55.

Whenever I crank up the sharpness in LR, I end up getting the speckle noise look-a-like thingies. So I then have to add masking, and then get those weird looking transitions between the sharpened areas and the masked areas. In another words, I haven't quite mastered the art of sharpening (or de-noising) yet. Maybe someone will be kind enough to do a write up on sharpening and de-noising. Hint, hint!!! :smile:
 

drpump

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such as the typical interior when the view out of the window and the interior should both be correctly exposed which is a situation that no camera can handle without major pp
Perhaps off-topic, but I've had reasonable results with careful use of a flash to illuminate the interior. Sometimes takes a few tries to get the exposure right though.
 

dko22

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Perhaps off-topic, but I've had reasonable results with careful use of a flash to illuminate the interior. Sometimes takes a few tries to get the exposure right though.
Not off topic at all I would say. Problem is there are many, including myself, who dislike flash and especially built-in camera flash in many situations even though of course it helps enormously to give more even lighting. Probably with an investment in time and money in proper studio lighting equipment, you can get closer to recapturing the feeling of natural light -- this would perhaps be a good thread in itself as I have little experience in this area.

David
 

dko22

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http://dko22.zenfolio.com/img/v20/p1028006623.jpg

http://dko22.zenfolio.com/img/v21/p734510461.jpg

here is a before and after shot example at medium size which should be enough to show that even having to push the shadows even over 5 stops as here, the results with the GH2 at base ISO are still pretty usable unless you're printing large. I remember that my FF results with such a test were better but not dramatically so. Yes, getting an ideal flash setup is the best answer but would the lighting still keep the fresh daylight look?

David
 

John M Flores

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http://dko22.zenfolio.com/img/v20/p1028006623.jpg

http://dko22.zenfolio.com/img/v21/p734510461.jpg

here is a before and after shot example at medium size which should be enough to show that even having to push the shadows even over 5 stops as here, the results with the GH2 at base ISO are still pretty usable unless you're printing large. I remember that my FF results with such a test were better but not dramatically so. Yes, getting an ideal flash setup is the best answer but would the lighting still keep the fresh daylight look?

David
Pretty impressive, David. I'll have to try that someday...
 

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