GX1 upgrade from E-PM1

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by dhazeghi, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    So it looks like I'll be making a couple of trips in May which will involve a good deal of photography. Last year I did the same thing and took my Nikon D700, and while the results were great, lugging the camera around was not.

    I picked up the E-PM1 a few months back and it certainly does a decent job overall. In evenly lit scenes, at the right apertures, it gives the D700 a real run for its money. Sadly real life isn't particularly evenly lit, and the noise at base ISO on the E-PM1 is fairly ugly even in the midtones.

    I love the E-PM1's size and controls. The kit lens is okay for walkaround (might upgrade to the Panny 14-45). The main complaint is the shadow/midtone noise.

    Question is whether the GX1 or indeed any other current m4/3 camera in the reasonable (<$750) price bracket that would be a worthwhile upgrade.

    I'd like to keep the body as small as possible. I do expect to use an EVF occasionally.

    Is the low ISO performance of the 16MP Panasonic sensor that much better than the 12MP one? Are the settings on the GX1 easily changeable, as they are on the E-PM1 with the Super Control Panel? Am I missing other obvious options?

    Thanks,

    DH
     
  2. dcassat

    dcassat Mu-43 Veteran

    272
    Nov 16, 2011
    Cloverdale,CA
    Our options at this point are the Panasonic GX1 or the Oly E-M5.

    Neither is going to give all of that FF goodness but the GX1 has less noise and the noise is less objectionable. It may be the upgrade I choose from my E-PL2 because I think it has reached that level of acceptability.

    I've closely looked at the shadow noise at ISO 200 and compared it against my camera and many others including FF. You can do the same at dpreview.com, if you haven't already done so.

    We really don't know how the E-M5 will perform or what's its off-the-line issues will be so I won't be jumping in until others have vetted it. From what we know it's what we've been waiting for...

    Dan
     
  3. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    A better lens for your E-PM1 will get you miles ahead than a GX1. A low resolution kit lens will seem to produce more noise than a high resolution lens. It simply can't resolve the fine detail well enough to look really good at base ISO.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    The GX1, G3 and OMD M5 all "appear" to use the same sensor which is a higher resolution and step up from the sensor in the E-PM1 (and its brethren). The Panasonic GH1 and GH2 also have a better sensor but they are a bit larger and unless you buy used probably over your budget. That said, I'm with Ned in that a better lens would be where I would start as opposed to a new body.
     
  5. starlabs

    starlabs Mu-43 Top Veteran

    856
    Sep 30, 2010
    Los Angeles
    Do you have any other lenses or only the kit lens?

    If you only have the kit lens, then you should definitely look at getting more lenses instead of a new body... e.g., what Dixeyk and Ned said. :smile:
     
  6. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    I really should start signing my posts. For anyone interested my name is Kevin.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. D@ne

    D@ne Mu-43 Top Veteran

    593
    Feb 23, 2012
    Toronto
    I was a bit disappointed when I first bought the e-pm1 with kit lens. Then switched to the 14mm and saw a bit of improvement, but still wasn't thrilled. It wasn't until I bought the 45mm that I realized what this camera is capable of. Like everyone else said, if you've only used the kit lens, at least try some other options before you switch. At worst, your new lens can be used with whatever you replace the mini with in the future.
     
  8. timallenphoto

    timallenphoto Mu-43 Veteran

    266
    May 20, 2011
    Kent, England
    Not sure I totally agree, my E-PL2 still gives loads of shadow noise even with the well regarded Panasonic 20mm attached. To me it's the biggest issue with m4/3 so far, considering the sensor is so close in size to APS-C it's a long way off with regard to noise performance and dynamic range in my opinion.
     
  9. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    I do have several good lenses: the Olympus 12-60/2.8-4.0 (4/3), the Panasonic 20/1.7, and the Olympus 45/1.8.

    But the 14-42II seems perfectly adequate (if not outstanding). Here's a 100% crop from two shots, taken with identical settings using the 14-42II and the 20/1.7 respectively. The fine detail looks reasonable to me.

    i-rP6mQTM-L.
    i-CVVrz5Z.

    The noise however is there regardless of lens (not in this shot thankfully, but one can't always shoot at noontime on sunny days with no shadows to speak of).

    DH
     
  10. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    The problem with DPR's tests is that somehow they don't quite match what I've seen in the past. I think it has to do with the lighting of their scenes - it is fairly uniform - and in my experience that makes a difference.

    I actually think FF is a bit oversold at this point, at least the generation I'm using. With the right lenses, a NEX-5n easily beats a D700 at low ISO. Problem is, most of the right lenses don't exist.

    The E-M5 looks to be interesting. I daresay if the price were $300 less, I'd consider it. But I've wasted too much money over the years being an early adopter only to discover things weren't quite what I though they'd be.

    DH
     
  11. starlabs

    starlabs Mu-43 Top Veteran

    856
    Sep 30, 2010
    Los Angeles
    For low ISO, your best bet is probably the GH2. You can probably find a second hand GH2 on the cheap. However you'd lose the size/compactness of the E-PM1/GX1 RF form factor...
     
  12. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    My standards are different than yours. I used a D700 for a long time and don't find base ISO E-PM1 shadow/midtones noise objectionable unless I push the file, which I rarely do.

    No, it isn't. In terms of sensor performance, GH2 low ISO shadow noise is slightly better than the GX1 low ISO shadow noise, and the GX1 low ISO shadow noise is very slightly better than the E-PM1 shadow noise.

    That said, the E-PM1 will typically give you significantly noisier shadows than any of the Panasonic cameras (including the GF3 which has the exact same sensor as the E-PM1) because of the default tone curves applied by those respective cameras. Relative to the GF3, an E-PM1 file is underexposed by a stop and then pushed a stop by the JPEG engine to make up the difference in brightness. RAW apps know to apply the same tone curve to E-PM1 files. This is a deliberate Olympus strategy to preserve highlights at the expense of shadows.

    If shadow noise is plaguing you and highlight clipping is not, and if you are a RAW shooter, then you can adopt a Panasonic-like tone curve with the E-PM1 by dialing in +1EV of exposure compensation on all shots and then using "Auto Tone" in Lightroom (or equivalent in your RAW app of choice). You'll get less noisy shadows that way, at the expense of highlight headroom.

    Two comments: 1) E-PL2 adopts the same "underexpose and push" strategy mentioned above, so you get noisier shadows because of that, independent of sensor technology. 2) The Panasonic 4/3 sensor shadow noise (which is what determines DR, not two separate issues) only lags significantly behind Sony sensor technology. It's pretty well on par with the technology from most others, including Canon, Samsung, etc (when you take into account differences in sensor size).
     
    • Like Like x 5
  13. timallenphoto

    timallenphoto Mu-43 Veteran

    266
    May 20, 2011
    Kent, England
    So you're saying I'd be much happier by overexposing +1EV on my E-PL2? OK I'll give that a try, thanks Amin.
     
  14. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    I try to avoid pushing, but it is inevitable. However the noise is there, whether I post-process or no. The post-processing just makes it more glaring.

    The one thing I really regret last year was using the Olympus XZ-1 on a trip to England. The size couldn't be beat, but the files don't look very good at 12x18 and are downright awful at 16x24. Whereas the D700 even looks okay at 20x30. The difference isn't sharpness, it's noise. The E-PM1 is better than the XZ-1, but I'm still wary of anything where base ISO noise is concerned.

    Well that's disappointing. Sounds like I should save my money and be resigned to taking the D700 again I guess.

    I do sort of shoot like that at this point. I expose as far to the right as I can without majorly blowing highlights, and then pull the shadows and midtones down in post. At least that's how I try to do it. It involves a fair amount of chimping, second-guessing the metering, and luck, and even then the files not infrequently fail to live up.

    DH

    P.S. Here's an example of the sort of thing I see. I didn't quite use ETTR here, but there's less than 1/3 stop in the original file without significantly blowing the medium-dark clouds.

    i-5SSJ9V8-L.
     
  15. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Any chance you could share a link to the RAW file for download?
     
  16. timallenphoto

    timallenphoto Mu-43 Veteran

    266
    May 20, 2011
    Kent, England
    That sample shot above is a classic example for me. And every now and again I get a shot totally ruined by noise for no obvious reason. For me my Pen is closer to my LX3 for image quality than it is even to my old Canon 30D. A shame but I don't know what the alternative is now that I'm used to the small size, I guess I just have to live with the compromises; at least I've only bought used and not spent a fortune.
     
  17. gsciorio

    gsciorio Mu-43 Top Veteran

    636
    Dec 29, 2011
    Miami, FL
    Regarding noise, where do most of your images end up? Mine mostly online or in print for magazines and noise has never been an issue. I did not appreciate how freaken sharp the 12mm 2.0 and the 45mm 1.8 Olympus lenses were until I got them. HOLY CRAP! It's like a new camera.

    I'll probably get an OMD to go with my Pen Mini but mainly so I can have the 12 on one body and the 45 on the other.
     
  18. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I have owned all three of those cameras as well and have a completely opposite impression with the Pen coming very close to the 30D in image quality and the LX3 lagging well behind.
     
  19. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    Most of my stuff end up online, but a small fraction does get printed. It's true that the noise usually ends up being a non-issue, but with the large prints mentioned earlier, it does. Also, for large prints, there's often a decent amount of PP which tends to bring out artifacts of all sorts.

    The 45/1.8 I've been pleased with. The 12/2 I tried in the store, and let's just say I'll be keeping the 12-60 for occasions when I really want sharp 12mm shots.

    Cheers,

    DH
     
  20. I still prefer the output of my GH1 over any of the other fixed-aspect 12MP m4/3 bodies I've tried (four of them). It still has noise, but it seems to me to be a better class of noise. The difference seemed most noticable compared to the E-P1, E-P2, and GF1.
     
    • Like Like x 1