by Ian Burley
E-M5's 16MP LiveMOS sensor crowned the the best Micro Four Thirds sensor tested at DxOMark
DxOMark, the France-based website that lists camera sensor and lens test findings made by DxO using its professional test suite, DxO Analyzer, has at long last published its findings for the sensor used in the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (and the forthcoming Pen Mini E-PM2 and the Pen Lite E-PM5). While DxOMark has not been kind to the Panasonic-made sensors Olympus has used for several years in its E-System and Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Sony-made 16MP sensor Olympus is now using has scored very highly according to DxOMark, with an overall score of 71 compared to the Olympus Pen E-P3 at 51 and the Olympus E-5 DSLR at 56.
The previous best score for a Four Thirds sensor camera was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 at 64. That was exceptionally good for smaller sensor system camera three years ago, but the increase in pixel density from the GH1's 12 megapixels to the GH2's 16 megapixels saw a drop in DxOMark rating to 60. The E-M5's sensor is also 16 megapixels but its DxOMark rating of 71 shows a marked advantage over the GH2's admittedly ageing sensor. Panasonic has now launched the GH3 and we understand that this will be the same Sony sensor as used in the E-M5, so we anticipate DxoMark's rating for the GH3 with some interest!
So how does the E-M5 DxOMark score compare with larger APS-C sensor competitors. Well, the E-M5 out-scores the 66 rating of the Canon EOS-7D - a current model DSLR, although one of the older ones available. Nikon's similarly elderly 12MP D300s is still on sale scores 70, one mark below the E-M5 although with 4 megapixels less. Nikon's new D3200, with a 24MP sensor does score a spectacular 81 with DxOMark, though. Nikon says it designs its sensors but we know that Sony makes its DSLR sensors, so one has to speculate whether or not the E-M5 benefits from Sony's very latest generation of sensor technology.
DxOMark figures show that the E-M5 is now only marginally lower in sensor score than some Sony NEX and SLT models and has surpassed the Samsung NX models that DxOMark has tested.
Back to the E-M5 compared to the previous generation, a direct comparison with last year's 12MP Pen E-P3 shows that colour depth is now rated at 22.8 bits compared to the E-P3's 20.8 bits, maximum dynamic range is 12.3 EVs compared to 10.1 and the acceptable low light sensitivity threshold rises from 536 ISO to 826 ISO. One has to keep reminding one's-self that the E-M5 has a more densely packed sensor than the E-P3, so these figures are all the more impressive.
You can read more about DxOMark's OM-D E-M5 findings on the DxOMark website.