Olympus OM-D E-M1 vs Fuji X-T1 ISO Comparison

I have just added another section to the Camera Comparisons page of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, where I provided RAW performance comparisons between the OM-D E-M1 and the Fuji X-T1. Some of our readers requested this comparison, so here it is for those that just want to see this particular section of the review. Although the X-T1 has a similar resolution of 16.3 MP, it is physically larger in size (APS-C vs Micro Four Thirds) and hence has larger pixels than the OM-D E-M1. Let’s take a look at ISO 200 (Left: Olympus OM-D E-M1, Right: Fuji X-T1):

Olympus OM-D E-M1 ISO 200 Fuji X-T1 ISO 200

As expected, both sensors perform very well at ISO 200. There is a bit of fine grain visible on the OM-D E-M1 and it appears sharper, but that’s most likely coming from differences in RAW processing in Lightroom, which applies slightly different sharpening algorithms to both cameras.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 ISO 400 Fuji X-T1 ISO 400

The same is true for ISO 400.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 ISO 800 Fuji X-T1 ISO 800

As we push to ISO 800, we start to see differences in ISO performance.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 ISO 1600 Fuji X-T1 ISO 1600

As ISO is pushed to higher levels, the performance differences become more apparent. Noise patterns on the OM-D E-M1 definitely increase in comparison.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 ISO 3200 Fuji X-T1 ISO 3200

We see a similar situation at ISO 3200. At this point, the difference is around 2/3 to a full stop of advantage on behalf of Fuji.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 ISO 6400 Fuji X-T1 ISO 6400

Both lose details at ISO 6400, but it is pretty clear that the Fuji X-T1 retains colors better, particularly in the shadow areas. Noise patterns on the X-T1 are noticeably better throughout the frame. Again, I am seeing between 2/3 of a stop to a full stop of difference in performance here. If you take the ISO 6400 sample from the X-T1 and compare it to ISO 3200 on the OM-D E-M1, they look similar.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 vs Fuji X-T1 Summary

As expected, a physically larger sensor does produce better results, particularly at high ISO levels above ISO 1600. Unfortunately, since Fuji does not have the ability to produce RAW files at “boosted” levels (ISO 100, 12800 and 25600), I could not provide comparisons for those (I only compare RAW output). As noted above, there are visible sharpness differences between the two cameras and it has nothing to do with the optical quality of lenses, but more with the way Adobe Camera RAW and Lightroom render RAW images. It seems like Adobe applies more aggressive sharpening on the OM-D E-M1 RAW files by default, which makes its crops appear sharper. Either way, you can see that the X-T1 provides cleaner output. When comparing images side by side, I see roughly 2/3 of a stop to a full stop of advantage on behalf of Fuji X-T1 at ISO 1600 and above. If you are a JPEG shooter, you might see even more differences, since Fuji does an excellent job with noise reduction when rendering JPEG files.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Riad
    April 29, 2014 at 3:37 am

    Fuji is worth consideration, would the range of lenses be wider! But then the X-Pro 1

  2. 2
    ) Ertan
    April 29, 2014 at 5:55 am

    I still feel that Fuji applies NR to RAW files, and colors are a little bit dull (especially reds and yellow-greens). There is more noise in E-M1 but X-T1 files have more blur (less sharp). I have the same results from my X-E2 vs E-M5 pictures.

    • 4
      ) Neil
      April 29, 2014 at 7:15 am

      The dirty little secret is that all manufacturers do some basic preprocessing of their raw data (including noise reduction) before writing it. And Lightroom, while getting more competent, is not the best tool for Fuji files.

      • 11
        ) Ertan
        April 29, 2014 at 2:11 pm

        Neil, I heard the same defence from 10s of people but my own experience with XE2 JPEGs is in line with LR results, and XE2’s RAWS (and probably XT1’s RAWs as well) are the most processed files I’ve seen in terms of NR.

        • 12
          ) Neil
          April 29, 2014 at 2:24 pm

          I’m not trying to defend or attack Fuji. Just stating a truth that they all do a lot of work on the raw data before they call it raw. No one gets the actual true sensor dump with no pipeline processing. The question is, does it really matter that much? And that’s really a debatable point with no final answer because we may disagree on what characteristics of raw files matter most

          • 15
            ) AJ
            April 29, 2014 at 10:24 pm

            I think you’re both right.
            I have no vested interest in either Fuji or Oly but when I compare the online pictures of the 2 side by side I feel that the Fuji is not as sharp as the Oly and had come to the same conclusion that Fuji are applying a lot of processing even at base ISO. Somehow the Fuji pixels seem ‘smeared’.
            As Neil says, probably all manufacturers do some processing between sensor and memory and ‘RAWS’ are not ‘RAWS’ in the true sense of the word.
            This is, of course, at pixel level but how it translates to ‘normal viewing’ is debatable.
            IMHO, the Oly wins at low ISO and the Fuji at higher ISOs.
            It would be nice to get Nasim’s take on this :-)

  3. 3
    ) Jon McGuffin
    April 29, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Awesome quick look at an extremely relevant comparison as I know many will be comparing these two models and wanting to know specifically which system performs better.

    To take it one step further and put things into perspective it would be great to see how the Fuji compares to say a D7100 and also a D800. I’m sure this will be included in your full review.

    Lastly, did you see as others have noted that the Fuji is not delivering accurate ISO metering relative to others? Some are reporting nearly 2/3 stop difference (under) at ISO 6400z

    • 5
      ) Gianluca
      April 29, 2014 at 7:45 am

      I ‘d like to know the exact aperture/shutter speed from each comparison…usually Fuji is 1/2, 2/3 slower shutter speed at any given iso setting…

      • 7
        ) Neil
        April 29, 2014 at 10:02 am

        It’s funny, when I first read about all that, it was 1/3 “slower” then it becomes 1/2 and 2/3 and beyond. And it only applied to the X-E1 mainly. It’s like an internet amplification effect. Like the Canon 1D Mark 2 not focusing or the Nikon 24-70 light leak.

        • 8
          ) Don K
          April 29, 2014 at 10:48 am

          This is from the DPREVIEW:

          “By our tests, the X-T1’s measured sensitivities are around 1/2 – 2/3EV lower than marked, which is unusual for a modern camera. This means that for any given light level, the X-T1 has to use a significantly slower shutter speed, brighter aperture or higher ISO to get an image of the same brightness as an accurately-rated camera.

          It’s unusual to see this sort of discrepancy and we’re disappointed that Fujifilm persists with a system that, while technically compliant with the ISO standard, ends up appearing rather disingenuous.”

          Here is a link to that review:

          http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/fujifilm-x-t1/16

          • 9
            ) Neil
            April 29, 2014 at 11:23 am

            OK, so this would only impact camera to camera comparisons. Fair enough. However, if you’re using the system it really won’t matter all that much. Worth noting when evaluating camera options; worth forgetting after making a decision.

        • 19
          ) Gerry C
          April 30, 2014 at 9:17 pm

          @Neil, I agree 100%. I noticed the slight metering differences between my D600 and X-T1 when I went hunting for it (the differences) but personally, I don’t spend much time thinking or worrying about those differences when shooting *either* camera.

          @John McGuffin It’s funny how the 1/2 to 2/3 stop difference is often noted for the Fuji cameras. It must be a “Fuji issue” (or maybe it’s just the “internet amplification effect” that Neil mentioned, LOL)!

          It’s interesting though, that when I downloaded a few “Still Life” sample photos from imaging-resource.com’s Camera Comparator site for both the X-T1 *and* the OM-D E-M1… the EXIF data show that the exposure values are exactly the same for both the Fuji and Oly cameras at 800/1600/3200 ISO.

          In general both the X-T1 and OM-D E-M1 exposures were about 2/3 stop slower than, for example, the Nikon D610 at the same ISOs.

          Just for kicks I viewed the EXIF data for the Canon 5D Mark III photos at the same ISOs and guess what? Exposure values from the Canon were exactly the same as those from the Fuji and Oly — 2/3 stop slower than the D610 at the same ISOs.

          BTW, I know this isn’t exactly an exhaustive scientific analysis, but having this data is *something*… and interesting nonetheless.

          • 27
            ) WILLIAM WONG
            June 27, 2014 at 6:54 pm

            Similar experienced with the omd EM1 & Nikon D700. The OMD EM1 is 3/4 stop slower.

    • 26
      ) Martin
      May 6, 2014 at 1:44 am

      The comparison with the D7100 and others is available on http://www.imaging-resource.com/IMCOMP/COMPS01.HTM

      Happy pixelpeeping :). All these comparisons and “better” praise for the Fuji camera are worth nothing. Any camera is as good as a camera can get with the given latest technical equipment.

      Point is that the Xt-1 at ISO 100 isn’t any better than a Nikon D90. But saying that won’t get you on the frontpage of Fuji-rumors.

  4. Profile photo of Himanshu Agnihotri
    6
    ) Himanshu Agnihotri
    April 29, 2014 at 9:32 am

    A little out of context but Nasim do you think that a point and shoot camera in addition to my DSLR kit should also be bought. Just for anytime everywhere scenarios? If so, which one would you recommend.
    I am an amateur photographer self taught and currently use Nikon D5100.
    Landscape and Portrait photography interests me currently. Pls do help. Thanks.

  5. 10
    ) SDavies
    April 29, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    I am quite impressed by the E-M1 in this comparison. While I don’t have the best tech (an Apple Cinema Display), on my monitor the difference between these cameras is vanishingly small.
    Actually, to my eyes, the color is better on the E-M1 in the high ISOs – brighter, cleaner, more contrasty. But it is a very small difference, either way, as is the difference in sharpness and noise.
    When you consider the E-M1 is working with a much smaller sensor, that seems amazing to me.
    And in choosing between the two cameras, given the other benefits of the M4/3 system (super IBIS, much wider lens choice, smaller size and weight, more mature system, more 3rd party support, etc.), it really seems to throw the balance in favor of the E-M1.
    It seems to me that in these comparisons, when it is very close, people (we photographers) tend to see what we would like to see to help us decide in favor of the camera we wanted anyway (or to justify what we already bought).
    In this case, I am quite torn. I am already heavily invested in the M4/3 system, both Olympus and Panasonic. I love both my E-M5 and my GH2. I don’t plan to upgrade until prices have fallen on the next level up, but I’m “window shopping”.
    But that XT-1 – what a beautiful camera! It gives me gear lust. I can really understand someone wanting to find reasons to justify switching systems.
    And I don’t feel that way about the E-M1. I think it’s a step back from the E-M5 (aesthetically – I realize it’s improved functionally – though I do prefer the separated grip on the E-M5).
    Ah well, overall,it makes waiting easier – to see what Olympus has up it’s sleeve for the E-M(?) and Fuji for the XT-2. If Fuji makes significant improvements in its remaining weak areas and retains the beautiful design, it will be even more of a “contender”.
    Right now it’s really win – win – win for photography enthusiasts and “GAS” attackers – a lot of really nice cameras at all levels.

  6. 13
    ) Zeissiez
    April 29, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    I think the two systems are quite close in terms of IQ. The choice would rather be in what type of photography we do. For reportage, sports and if u prefer a 3:4 format, obviously the Olympus is a better choice. For people who prefer 2:3 format or need more depth of field control, then the Fuji has advantage (full frame equivalent: 24mm-F4 vs F2(new Fuji 16F1.4), 35mm-F3.6 vs F2, 50mm-F2.8 vs F2, 85mm-F2.4 vs F1.8). Choose the wrong system for the job means decreased efficency.

  7. 14
    ) Honeybadger
    April 29, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    What’s the big woop. I have a Oly OM-D 1, which I love, and I use DXO as my RAW converter. The latest version has a noise reduction feature beyond anything else out there. I can (but rarely do) shoot at ISO 1600, and with processing in DXO get a perfectly clean image, with every nuance and detail in place. The argument is purely academic at this point, as both cameras are so good. So choose your weapon and shoot, shoot, shoot.

  8. 16
    ) Stephen Scharf
    April 29, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    The reason the Fuji X-T1 images do not look as sharp as the E-M1 is because ACR and Lightroom 5.4 is not as effective in demosaicing the RAW files from the Fuji as it is for the conventional Bayer sensor in the E-M1.

    If you want to assess the actual sharpness of files from the Fuji, you need to do RAW conversions to TiFF files using Iridient Developer, Photo Ninja or Capture One. You will observe significantly improved sharpness (actually, acutance) from the Fuji RAF files using these app over Lightroom 5.4 or ACR.

    • 17
      ) Ertan
      April 30, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Hi Stephen,
      Do you have any comparison examples in which you can show improved image quality when you use software other than LR&ACR? I’d really like to see if XT1 would benefit if I use, say, Capture One. I tried Photo Ninja but it’s not very different from LR.

      • 18
        ) Stephen Scharf
        April 30, 2014 at 12:29 am

        Yes, absolutely. I’ve done a fair number of comparisons. IMO, Capture One is the best, followed closely by Iridient Developer. Pls send me your email address to scharfsj@ix.netcom.com and I can send you some full size files to compare.

  9. 20
    ) TR
    May 3, 2014 at 4:39 am

    Looking at these images I am actually a little disappointed by the Fuji. That is not because the high ISO shots are bad, not at all, but rather by the performance comparison to the Olympus. The Fuji sensor is significantly larger and uses a different pattern to the Bayer sensor that has all sorts of mythical excitement attached to it. Some people even argue it is as good as a full frame sensor with regards to noise. Considering all that I’d argue that the difference is surprisingly close, especially if you consider that the Fuji interpretation of the ISO values seems to be different from everyone else. If you take that into account the difference is likely to be so minute that you can almost ignore it – differences in metering, white balance, lens etc. will be so much more important. I’d argue that looking at the sensor differences the Fuji should have performed noticeably better and that in terms of cost/image quality m/43 actually wins this clearly – especially considering that the EM10 and other m/43 cameras essentially have the same IQ as the EM1.

    Now, I am not saying that the Fuji is not a good choice as a camera, quite the opposite, I find it rather attractive. It is just that one of the main arguments for buying it – the IQ – really doesn’t seem to hold that much relevance. Maybe it is just Lightroom rendering – however, as I would not be prepared to breack my workflow just because Adobe and Fuji cannot get this fixed everything else is theoretical for me…

    • 22
      ) Don K
      May 3, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Popular Photography reviewed the EM-1 in December of 2013 and the X-T1 in April of this year, and they came to the same conclusions as you (and me).

      • 23
        ) TR
        May 4, 2014 at 4:12 am

        Thanks, I will check out the review!

  10. 21
    ) Nick
    May 3, 2014 at 6:57 am

    I shot both X-T1 and E-M1 in the camera store the other day and saved the JPEGs to my laptop for later viewing. I had NR set to none on both cameras and JPEGs set to Large Fine. Surprisingly, the X-T1 had noticeably better output up to 6400. I was disappointed because I think the E-M1 is a better all-round camera. However, it does look like the RAW output of the E-M1 is better than the JPEG output.

    I’m going to be travelling for another year and so I’ll be mostly shooting JPEG to avoid having to post process. However, that might change, too.

    I’m looking for a camera with the most flexibility, which includes high ISO quality, and it doesn’t seem like the E-M1 has this. But, it has so much else, including much better video than the X-T1 – which is important to me. I don’t need a GH4, but the E-M1 seems to at least have the minimum, which the X-T1 doesn’t.

    Thanks for this comparison. I’ll be going back to the shop to shoot the two again. This time using a tripod and ensuring both cameras have the same aspect ratio and latest firmware.

  11. 24
    ) JL Williams
    May 4, 2014 at 7:13 am

    This was an interesting comparison for me because I’m very satisfied with the results from my (older) Olympus E-M 5 EXCEPT in terms of low light/high ISO performance (ISO 3200 and up.) I have been considering adding a Fuji body and a couple of lenses, and in fact got demos of the XE2 and XT1 just yesterday at my local camera store.

    However, your comparison photos seem to show LESS difference than I had expected — the XT1 does appear to produce slightly smoother-looking tones, but there’s little difference in overall detail or in nuisance artifacts such as banding and clumping in dark areas.

    Combine that with the fact that Fuji offers no image stabilization with fixed-focal-length lenses, and has no fast lenses longer than medium tele (I use my 75/1.8 Olympus lens a lot; too bad there’s no Fuji 100/1.8!) and it begins to look as if I’d be better off upgrading my E-M 5 io an E-M 1, rather than dealing with the headache of maintaining two systems. Thanks!

    • 25
      ) TR
      May 4, 2014 at 8:51 am

      It seems we came to the same conclusion – there is a difference but not enough to make a difference. From what I have seen/read it seems that the same applies to the EM1 vs EM5: the image quality (RAW) is really not very different. In fact, DXO and some reviews seem to suggest that the EM1 is actually slightly worse at higher ISO. So if your main reason for upgrading is less noise I think you’d be better of to wait for a new sensor generation and save the money for the moment, JL.

      • 28
        ) Stephen Scharf
        June 27, 2014 at 8:59 pm

        I have to respectfully disagree. I have both an EM-1 and E-M5 and X-T1 and X-Pro1, and I think there’s quite a bit of difference in noise performace that amounts to significant difference. I like my Oly’s very much; they’re terrific cameras, but in low light at high ISO they simply can’t match my Fujis. In fact, my little Fuji XA-1 has better noise performance than the Olys as well….better overall image quality, in fact. The Bayer sensor in the X-A1 is superb.

        • 29
          ) TR
          June 28, 2014 at 2:53 am

          Well, it is hard to argue as I cannot see your samples. What I can see are Nasim’s shots and I agree with his conclusion that there is about 2/3-1 stop difference between the Fuji and the Olympus at high ISO. If you consider the odd way the Fuji measures ISO then the practical difference is even lower. Nasim’s conclusion also reflects what I saw from downloading Fuji RAW files and processing them with Lightroom. That still leaves the Fuji in the lead – as it really would have to, considering the larger sensor – , but from what I see here not so much as to make a real difference for me that would make it worthwhile taking one camera over the other just because of this feature. If I need the best high ISO performance I grab my FF camera anyway…

          Do you shoot JPG or RAW, Stephen? From what I have been told the difference in JPG may be more striking, so perhaps that explains the different view? Did you factor in that the Fuji seems to measure the ISO differently? If you do factor that in in your analysis and if you do shoot RAW then it would be interesting to see samples that differ from Nasim’s. Or it could just be that we differ in what we call significant. For me, anything below one stop is not significant – welcome, but not relevant on its own.

  12. 30
    ) Andres
    August 18, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    Thank you for the comparison. Did you set all three aspects of the exposure triangle for these test pictures. That is, did you manually set the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO in order to ensure that both cameras were being compared with the same exposure. Owning both Olys and Fujis (formerly), I can affirm that both overstate their ISO values. Fuji is the worst offender, metering two thirds to a full stop slower shutter speed for any given ISO as compared to most of the competition. Olys also have egg on their face, tending to meter one third to two thirds slower shutter speed as compared to the competition. I used to own a Sony Nex 6. When tested against the fuji, the fuji appeared to have a one stop advantage in low light…that was until I reviewed the exif data. I then realized that the Fuji was consistently two thirds of a stop slower in shutter speed. When matching shutter speed and aperture, both cameras had very similar low light performance. The fuji looking slightly better due mainly to its less aggressive sharpening.

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