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.


  1. 1) David B
    December 16, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    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…

    • 1.1) Michael
      December 17, 2012 at 10:51 am

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

      • 1.1.1) David B
        December 17, 2012 at 11:01 am

        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
    December 17, 2012 at 12:59 am

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

  3. 3) Bhanu S
    December 17, 2012 at 1:01 am

    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.

    • December 17, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      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
    December 17, 2012 at 2:15 am

    No X-Trans because of the RAW issues?

    • 4.1) Adam
      December 17, 2012 at 2:17 am

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

      • December 17, 2012 at 6:13 pm

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

  5. 5) Hoeras
    December 17, 2012 at 2:21 am

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

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 5.1) Romanas Naryškin
      December 17, 2012 at 3:52 am


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

    • 5.2) David B
      December 17, 2012 at 11:02 am

      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. December 17, 2012 at 3:26 am

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

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 6.1) Romanas Naryškin
      December 17, 2012 at 3:56 am


      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. 7) mayank
    December 17, 2012 at 3:50 am

    Hello Friends
    has nay one used below camera,

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


    Waiting for all your feed back.


    • December 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm

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

      • 7.1.1) mayank
        December 18, 2012 at 3:20 am

        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

  8. December 17, 2012 at 5:37 am

    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…

    • December 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      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. December 17, 2012 at 5:58 am

    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.

    • December 17, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      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. 10) Samson
    December 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    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.


  11. 11) vijay mudhol
    June 22, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Will mirrorless cameras replace entry level DSLR cameras.

    Vijay Mudhol

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