the other answer would be, if you're not printing out large prints or pixel peeping at 100%, the differences are negligible. Having said that, I find the current round of Olys and the most recent round of Pannys to be a solid one step in IQ ahead of a the first 2 iterations.
As a measure of image quality the DPReview Studio Comparison Tool is most useful for comparing definable aspects such as absolute resolution and noise. Micro 4/3 cameras tend to fare quite well in terms of resolution and make some other more highly regarded cameras look soft and mushy in comparison. It is harder to get a feel for less tangible and visually comparable (at a small scale) aspects of IQ, which might be given such wishy-washy names such as the "depth" or even the "look" of an image. Amongst Micro 4/3 cameras you'll start to see the newer models pull ahead of their predecessors for noise control at higher ISOs, but they won't necessarily resolve any higher in the normal ISO ranges.
As a side note, comparing jpegs from camera to camera can also be misleading because DPR tend to use the standard factory settings, which may not always be the optimal settings for pixel-peeping comparisons.
other than high ISO...they're pretty similar. If the tests look similar to you, congratulations.....you're a normal human being. If you look at the test results and think that one is CLEARLY the winner, you should buy that one. The more I look at old cameras, the more I prefer their IQ.
If you're really picky about your image quality, and I hate to call myself a pixel peeper but the type of commercial work I do has very stringent requirements... but in my opinion the best IQ in Micro Four-Thirds bodies are found in the Olympus E-PL2, E-P3, E-PL3, E-PM1, and Panasonic G3 and GH2. The Olys have the edge in their weak AA filter, while the Pannys have the high resolution sensor to their advantage. Personally, I prefer the sharper pixel detail (Olympus) over the higher pixel resolution (Panasonic), but that's personal. They're both as good to most people.
What most people fail to take into account though, is that the body is still just an accessory for the lens. The lens determines most of your performance attributes including IQ, with the body playing back-up to hopefully make the most of the lens' potential.
It's funny how people get so hung up over the minute differences in IQ between bodies, and totally ignore the huge differences between lenses. After you've collected enough high quality lenses to meet your needs, then you can look at the performance of your body to fine tune your system to be the best of the best. Only the lens will take you to that "next level". Until then, you should choose your body based on its form and design, because that's where the differences in bodies are really noticeable - not in IQ.
There is no doubt in my mind that the larger the sensor within the same format the higher the noise of all sorts. Often this can be seen more readily on the screen than in a print. Everyone should run off a print every so often! When I last compared prints that were raw processed from a Lumix G1 and an EP2 the difference was negligible but the smaller sensored Oly had the edge with regards to noise and overall IQ Ah! you might say these were raw files, but all things are not equal even with raw files. The Lumix raw files seem to have been more aggressively presented at the raw stage than the Olympus files even when both camera settings are the same. Which after testing the argument on any number of occasions brings me to the conclusion that the in camera S/w has a greater influence on IQ than the camera manufactures will admit to...
Wow, wonderful, informative replies! I certainly appreciate everyone taking the time to respond. I use a DSLR for most situations but am considering the MFT as a carry camera when walking or wishing to travel a bit lighter. I must also admit that I’m not a huge fan of fixed lenses any longer so I would most probably stay with zoom lenses.
Yes you are right I was thinking of two issues. Just to clarify regarding IQ, I did a print comparison to find out if two cameras with the same sensor would actually produced identical images. I could not make up my mind which one to buy at the time! In very general terms the differences were small but the results from the Olympus were just finer. To my eye the differences in the image quality was because of the processors and software. The differences became even more apparent with changes in the ISO. I also used the same lens and colour balance on both cameras just to keep things equal. The G1 print was a bit more saturated a bit sharper a bit more contrasty etc etc.
It would seem Olympus have adopted a policy of steady improvements in their processors using the same sensor and from the results that have been published (some on mu-43) so far, slow and steady looks right.
It's difficult, maybe impossible, to compare sensors without considering software. I went from an Olympus E600 to a Panasonic G2. The sensors are at least similar. The out of camera jpeg's were quite different. Over a range of settings the Oly jpegs are consistently better.
The interesting thing is when processing the E600 raw files in Aperture they looked almost identical to the ooc jpegs. The G2 raw files processed in Aperture also look like the E600 files instead of the G2 ooc jpegs. Aperture seems to "override" many of the software/hardware differences in the cameras.
There are a few not too scientific IQ comparisons here: Nex 5N vs Leica M9 - FM Forums
With regards to Aperture again you are right I bought version 2 but found I still had to duck into PS too often so it just slowed me down. I love all the features in both Aperture and LR but have been using PS professionally since version 2 and Babelizer before that. ACR is I think the most neutral converter, Bibbble had some nice features as does Capture 1 but I can't justify the ongoing cost of the latter as I don't think I will ever buy a camera with Phase 1 back they are just too darned heavy to lug around for my work... I did it for too long with a Pentax 6x7!
Still trying to sell an EP2 for anyone who is interested:smile: