Battle of the Mirrorless – Part 1 (Dynamic Range)

As promised, I have performed some additional dynamic range tests on the mirrorless cameras I am testing (Nikon 1 J2, Canon EOS-M, Sony NEX-F3, Sony NEX-5R, Sony NEX-6, Sony NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D EM-5) and I have the data ready for your viewing pleasure. As expected, the Sony APS-C sensors performed the best, with the Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6 leading the game (although other NEX series are extremely close) followed by the Olympus OM-D EM-5, then Canon EOS M and then finally the Nikon 1 J2. Here is a comparison chart that shows performance of the various mirrorless cameras:

Once again, I wanted to see how far off the cameras are from the Nikon D800/D800E, the king of dynamic range and resolution:

As you can see, the D800E stands out from the crowd, but not by a huge margin. This shows that APS-C and even smaller sensors are very capable of excellent dynamic range.

I know I will be asked on why my tests show less dynamic range overall than say DxOMark’s. Well, first of all, our testing methodology is completely different (more on that in a separate post), so the numbers will always be different. DxOMark uses its own DXO tools for measuring dynamic range, while I use Imatest with a Stepchart, taking 4 separate shots, 2 stops apart (8 total stops) in order to compute dynamic range.


Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) David B

    And Olympus Om-D uses Sony’s sensor as well (as was confirmed by Olympus own President) so essentially they are all Sonys except Canon and Nikon…

    • 13
      ) Michael

      Nikon D800E uses Sony’s sensor as well. In Nikon 1 you would find Aptina’s sensor.

      • 14
        ) David B

        Yes, so the only non-Sony ones are Canon (for sure not Sony), and Nikon 1 Series. Other than that you are comparing Sony sensors. No wonder Olympus OM-D is such a successful camera (I love mine) after they put that Sony sensor in, they got great low light performance, much better Dynamic Range, etc… Sony sensors are very good, that is why many mfrs are using it.

  2. 2
    ) Bhanu S

    David B- The Nikon D800 and D600 both use Sony sensors as well.

  3. 3
    ) Bhanu S

    Nasim- Thanks for this post. Will you be doing an RX-1 review shortly? I just bought one and I am so looking forward to your review before I decide whether to keep it or not. Seeing AF to be a real challenge with portraits, despite the amazing lens/sensor/size.

    • Bhanu, I will review the RX-1 as well, but only after I am done with all the mirrorless cameras, which will take me a while :(

  4. 4
    ) Adam

    No X-Trans because of the RAW issues?

    • 5
      ) Adam

      I haven’t been keeping up with your posts, just read “Mirrorless – The Quest for the Best” so you can ignore my previous comment… = )

      • Adam, no worries! The Fuji stuff will be tested in Part 2 :)

  5. 6
    ) Hoeras

    Can anybody confirm that the NEX-5R sensor is the same as used in NEX-5N Maybe the same as in D7000?

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      9
      ) Romanas Naryškin

      Hoeras,

      it is in fact the same sensor by Sony. However, it may be tweaked a little differently by Nikon..

    • 15
      ) David B

      I’d say if you see 16MP sensor in ANY camera these days, it is the Same Sony Sensor, maybe with a different variations by different mfrs, so RAW performance are generally very similar.

  6. Surprised that the Fuji X-PRO1 is not included here, especially as it does have a unique sensor that is not made by Sony.

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      10
      ) Romanas Naryškin

      Paul,

      it is understandable why you’d expect Fuji to be here. In truth, we don’t have unlimited access to all the latest and greatest gear at any time. Sometimes we need to buy to review.

      With that in mind, Nasim is hoping to have the new X-E1 for the second round once he’s done comparing these cameras. It has the exact same sensor as X-Pro1. We will also review X-E1 as soon as we can.

  7. 8
    ) mayank

    Hello Friends
    has nay one used below camera,

    is it good to travel photography as back up and using rain or under water photography

    COOLPIX AW100

    Waiting for all your feed back.

    regards
    mayank

    • Mayank, sorry, but we don’t review point and shoot cameras here…

      • 21
        ) mayank

        Dear Nasim
        I understand that , but reason I put it here is that this camera is for special need for underwater snaps as well, that is is why I asked here, normally if you want to do underwater snaps i guess you need totally different gears if I am not wrong, but if this camera is good then can be a really great tool to take with, as I am planning to go some beaches in Indian Ocean and want to do underwater snaps.

        I really don’t know any thing about underwater imaging so just going through different tools available. and with Nikon only i got this camera , which is handy and cheap as well.

        looking forward for you advise.

        Best regards
        Mayank

  8. I think this is the “Part 2″, and not Part 1 anymore, check your title ;)

    Except that, I am very disappointed not to see the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 here… I played with the Fuji and my own D800 and it can really produce awesome results in low light and DR…

    • Jordy, no, this is part 1, because part 2 will have many other cameras like Fuji X-Pro1, EX-1, Nikon 1 V2, etc.

  9. Hi Nasim. As per your assessment, do you envision Mirrorless cameras replacing the current DSLRs for all types of photogs in next 5 years? If affirmative; why?

    Thanks in advance.

    • No, definitely not all types of photography, at least anytime soon. I would say cropped sensor DSLRs are very threatened by the mirrorless cameras – we will probably see mirrorless take a huge chunk out of DX DSLRs in the next 5 years, probably even less than that.

  10. 22
    ) Samson

    Hi Nasim,

    Would you be kind enough to inform me at what ‘difference or range’ will we be able to see a difference in actual image?

    Ex. Would we be able to see a difference in clipping etc if one camera is 10.4 and the other is 10.7?
    Ex. A difference of 1.2 be enough to see a difference?

    Don’t know if you understand my question or not but much thanks for the comparison.
    I find it put things into perspective for me.

    Samson

  11. 23
    ) vijay mudhol

    Hi Nasim,

    Will mirrorless cameras replace entry level DSLR cameras.

    Thanks
    Vijay Mudhol

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