I have spent a considerable amount of time working with 7 different mirrorless cameras from Sony, Canon, Nikon and Olympus. I apologize for not being able to provide periodic updates on these cameras. I have come up with new ways to measure digital camera sensor performance, so it took me a long time to do it in a way that I believe will be more accurate and objective compared to my previous methods. Not only will you be seeing crops of sensor performance in a controlled environment, but I will also provide some numbers to quantify performance in colors and dynamic range. As I have already mentioned before, I will be measuring dynamic range myself going forward without having to rely on other websites for the data. It will be interesting to see how my data compares to other sites like DxOMark. I am not planning to do anything super intensive and I bet my measurements will not be without issues and errors, but I believe it is something worth trying. Hopefully it will give a different perspective to testing sensors.
Here is the first test that shows the low light performance of the following mirrorless cameras: Nikon 1 J2, Canon EOS-M, Sony NEX-F3, Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6, Sony NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D EM-5. Since these cameras all look excellent at ISO levels between 100 and 800, I decided to only show ISO performance at 1600 and above. Take a look!
Nikon 1 J2
Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6
Olympus OM-D E-M5
Quick analysis of the above noise tests (from best to worst):
- ISO 1600: Sony NEX-7, Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6, Sony NEX-F3, Canon EOS M, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Nikon 1 J2. Sony NEX-7 stands out with excellent detail due to more megapixels. All other Sony cameras look very similar to Canon EOS M. Olympus also looks very good and Nikon is the worst in the group with the lowest resolution sensor. Colors look best on the Canon EOS M and Sony NEX cameras.
- ISO 3200: Sony NEX-7, Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6, Sony NEX-F3, Canon EOS M, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Nikon 1 J2. The Nikon J2 clearly looks the worst in the group and the rest of the cameras again behave similarly as at ISO 1600, with Sony leading the game in terms of noise levels and details. Canon looks a little cleaner in the shadow area.
- ISO 6400: Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6, Sony NEX-F3, Canon EOS M, Sony NEX-7, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Nikon 1 J2. Lots of noise, loss of color and loss of dynamic range on all cameras. The Sony NEX-7 gets plenty of false red colors in the shadows, making NEX-5R/NEX-6 and F3 look better in comparison. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 loses lots of detail and the J2 again looks the worst.
- ISO 12800: All look really bad as a group. The Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 seem to be a little cleaner in the shadows.
- ISO 16000 and above: Sony NEX-7 is the only camera that shows a little more detail and better colors due to its high resolution sensor. All look extremely bad though, unusable for any sort of photography.
Looks like the Sony NEX-7, NEX-5R/NEX-6 sensors handle noise levels the best in low light conditions. The Canon EOS M also looks great and has superb colors. Olympus is not bad either, but it loses a little more detail at ISO levels above ISO 1600. The Nikon 1 J2 obviously looks the worst, thanks to its smaller, lowest resolution sensor.
Don’t jump to conclusions quite yet, because these tests only show one aspect of camera performance. Colors, dynamic range, camera features, AF performance, lens selection and other criteria are also quite important, which I will cover in detail in the upcoming reviews.
There is a solid 2 stop difference between the D800E and the best Sony NEX series cameras, which is roughly what we should expect when comparing a full-frame sensor to a cropped sensor. The D800E images look very clean and extremely detailed in comparison, thanks to its massive megapixel count.
In Part 2, which I will post tomorrow, I will show the dynamic range performance of all of these cameras.