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Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested

Our tests show the same megapixels don't necessarily deliver the same resolution

There has been some recent discussion about sensor resolution on the Four Thirds User forum, with one poster fearing that the E-420 resolved significantly less detail than the top of the range E-3. At the same time there has been some debate over the discover by several reviewers that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 can resolve significantly more detail than any other Four Thirds DSLR, including the E-3, prompting the choice of the L10 as the default body for testing Four Thirds lenses.

I though it would be interesting to compare sensor resolutions of as many Four Thirds DSLR bodies as possible. I've almost managed to cover the entire gamut, missing only the Olympus E-300 (which I'd expect to be similar to the E-500 as they use the same 8MP Kodak sensor), Panasonic DMC-L1 and the Leica Digilux 3.

Testing was done use a standard ISO 12233 resolution test target, but placed at approximately double the distance normally required. In fact the correcting factor turned out to be 2.08x. The reason for doubling the distance was that 10MP cameras just about out-perform this target at normal distance. We hope to be getting a double resolution version of the target in due course.

The same 50mm f/2.0 Macro Olympus Digital Zuiko prime lens was chosen for maximum optical quality. With 2KW of tungsten floods illuminating the test target, the exposure was determined to be 1/30th second @ f/5.6, ISO 100, and set manually on all cameras. White balance was set manually to 3000K. Where possible, the cameras were triggered remotely or by self-timer. Again, where possible, mirror lock-up (anti-shock mode) was used, with a 5 second delay.

The results below are all taken from RAW files and exported from Olympus Studio 2.0, apart from the L10 file, which was exported from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Most of the test images were sharpened and contrast-enhanced, and noise filter settings switched off, though there were a few exceptions (see notes below).

As expected, the L10 delivered the highest technical result by some margin. A bit of a surprise is that the E-3 resolved slightly less than any of the other 10MP models. These results suggest that Panasonic has opted for very light anti-aliasing (deliberate blurring via a glass filter placed directly in front of the sensor) of their sensor in the L10, while Olympus has opted for stronger anti-aliasing on the E-3's sensor. The theory is that greater anti-aliasing will reduce the prospect of undesirable moiré patterns forming when photographic fine repeating pattern in subjects like textiles. It's also been suggest that increasing the anti-aliasing strength helps smooth tonal gradations. The cost is resolution.

Anyway, here are the results, and I hope you will find them useful!:

10MP Olympus E-520, corrected resolution: (lines per frame height): 2180 lpfh (lines per frame height).

 

10MP Olympus E-420, corrected resolution: 2180 lpfh.

 

10MP Olympus E-3, corrected resolution: 2080 lpfh.

 

10MP Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10, corrected resolution: 2600 lpfh.

It was quite hard to interpret the L10's result as the lines looked rather artificial at the higher end of the resolution scale. The lines are also clearly aliased (jagged) at the lower end of the resolution scale, much more so than the other cameras tested.

 

10MP Olympus E-510, corrected resolution: 2180 lpfh.

With the E-510 I found I needed to reduce sharpness compared to the others to avoid halos.

 

10MP Olympus E-410, corrected resolution: 2180lpfh.

 

10MP Olympus E-400, corrected resolution: 2180 lpfh.

The E-400 produced a very soft result, but responded well to sharpening and the result shown here is after additional sharpening compared to the other Olympus models, except for the E-510.

 

7.5MP Olympus E-330, corrected resolution: 1870 lpfh.

 

8.0MP Olympus E-500, corrected resolution: 1980 lpfh.

 

5.0MP Olympus E-1, corrected resolution: 1560 lpfh.

 

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Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested

Four Thirds User editorial team Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
With talk that Panasonic's Lumix DMC-L10 Four Thirds DSLR can out-resolve an Olympus E-3, with the s... (more)

John Perriment Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Well that's a bit of a suprise, these results show the L10 resolves more detail than the E3 in bucke... (more)

Barr1e Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Thanks Ian - I shall look at this in more detail later as I shall miss my train. At first glance... (more)

knikki Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Hmmm!! Interesting. To be honest I can't see that much of a difference, the L10 looks a littl... (more)

JMK Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
I think I'd prefer to leave Angela & Barney out of it.... (more)

John Perriment Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
My suggestion was a bit tongue-in-cheek and I guessed it might get a response. But think what you... (more)

Ian Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Well, I think one has to ask, is ignorance bliss or a sin? Personally, I like to know what's diff... (more)

John Perriment Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Oh, I didn't mean that all of this information is of no consequence, Ian! Quite the reverse, it m... (more)

zts Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
H... (more)

yyshiu Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Ian Thanks for your afford. Your result comforts me that my E-520 is not worse than E-3 resolutio... (more)

Ian Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
There are definitely benefits to be gained from sacrificing a small amount of resolution through ... (more)

Rick Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
I know that it would result in much more work, but would you be so kind and include the E-510 to the... (more)

Ian Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
No problem at all :) I'll also include the E-400 (10MP Kodak interline sensor) and the E-500 (8MP... (more)

mike_j Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
It's a bit difficult to be sure but I get the impression that the Pentax is the best of the bunch... (more)

Ian Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
It's difficult to evaluate these shots because I fear that the exposure conditions (these were ta... (more)

zts Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
e Clearly E-3 contains much more detail. Interestingly enough only DMC-L1 decided to expose this s... (more)

zts Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
hat's the exact point where pretty much personal preference and taste comes in :D . K20D is an aweso... (more)

Bob Ross Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Hi Ian, That is an interesting set of result. If you divide the number that you got by the sensor's... (more)

olyinaz Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Would it be possible to get the DMC-L1 or Digilux 3 added to the test results? Thanks, Oly... (more)

Ian Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
The reference to Leica is interesting - maybe some Leica influence crept in at the Panasonic plan... (more)

Bob Ross Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Hi Ian, That would be fun to find out along with the "image quality stategies". Leica's versions... (more)

Ian Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
I don't have either of these models in my arsenal, but I will see if I can get loan samples. I wo... (more)

John Perriment Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Hope it's somewhere nice - have a good time! :)... (more)

olyinaz Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
Thanks Ian! Have a good break. Best, Oly... (more)

Ian Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
I can't escape from work :) We're going to stay with David and his family (David does a lot of th... (more)

zts Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
i Ian, hope you enjoy your vacation as much as possible. Hey, if you can ask Julia if DMC-L10 has so... (more)

John Perriment Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
n;16261][COLOR="Red"]I can't escape from work :) We're going to stay with David and his family (Davi... (more)

zts A few more shots
A... (more)

Kuifje Re: Four Thirds sensor resolutions tested
It's quite funny that the dpreview oly slr forum topic on this test is a quite interesting read. So ... (more)