Sony NEX-5R vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 200-800)
Let’s take a look at how the Sony NEX-5R compares to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 with a Micro Four Thirds sensor. The base ISO of the Olympus sensor starts at ISO 200 and it can go all the way to ISO 25,600. Here is a comparison of both cameras at ISO 200 (Left: Sony NEX-5R, Right: Olympus OM-D E-M5):
Both cameras look very clean at ISO 200, with no difference in noise characteristics.
The same is true for ISO 400.
As we increase ISO to 800, we start to see more noise on both cameras. But I can’t say that one is better than the other – despite a smaller sensor size, the OM-D has impressive image quality.
Sony NEX-5R vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-25600)
At ISO 1600, there is still very little difference between the two.
Both cameras add plenty of noise at ISO 3200, but neither one has an upper hand. Again, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 shows impressive noise performance at high ISO, despite having a smaller sensor.
Pushing ISO to extreme (for APS-C) values obviously results in significant amount of noise – ISO 6400 is already above my comfort level. We again see a similar situation at ISO 6400 – both cameras perform very well, with perhaps a slight lead on behalf of NEX-5R, which seems to retain details a tad better.
At ISO 12800, there is too much noise on both cameras. Hard to tell which one looks better – you be the judge.
And ISO 25600 is there for fun. Images are too grainy and ugly, with not enough detail and colors throughout the image.
Sony NEX-5R vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Summary
As you can see from the above crops, the Sony NEX-5R and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 have very similar noise characteristics. Despite the smaller sensor size, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 performed about the same throughout the ISO range. At low ISOs, both cameras produce practically noise-free images. At ISO 1600 and higher, there is about the same amount of noise added to the highlights and the shadows. The NEX-5R has slightly better image quality at ISO 6400 and above, but that difference is minimal. When looking at image crops, you might have noticed that images from the Olympus OM-D E-M5 look slightly darker. This is not due to a difference in exposure – if you look at EXIF data from all images, you will see that there were shot at exactly the same aperture, shutter speed and ISO. After testing a number of mirrorless cameras, I came to the conclusion that the OM-D has a tendency to slightly underexpose by about 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop (it was the only camera that did it). This means that ISO 200 is not really ISO 200, but something like ISO 160.
Sony NEX-5R vs Sony NEX-7 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 100-800)
Since both Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6 have exactly the same sensors, I will not bother with providing crop comparisons. Instead, let’s take a look at how the NEX-5R compares to a higher resolution NEX-7. Here is a comparison of base ISO 100 on both cameras:
While both cameras produce impressive, noise-free images at ISO 100, the Sony NEX-7 produces slightly sharper images. This is due to downsampling – the NEX-7 has a lot more resolution to play with.
ISO 200 again looks impressive on both cameras.
We start seeing some noise at ISO 400, but there is no clear winner here – both cameras produce about the same amount of noise at the same resolution.
The same goes for ISO 800.
Sony NEX-5R vs Sony NEX-7 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-25600)
The NEX-5R shows a little bigger grain than the NEX-7 due to lower resolution.
Which we see again at ISO 3200. The NEX-7 seems to lose a little bit in the shadows.
Despite the bigger grain on the NEX-5R, it seems to retain the shadow details and colors a little better than the NEX-7 at ISO 6400.
This is even more noticeable at ISO 12800 – the shadows on the NEX-7 added quite a bit of artificial red.
Both images look terrible, but the NEX-7 certainly has better details, despite the added red color all over the image.
Sony NEX-5R vs Sony NEX-7 Summary
When comparing images between sensors with different resolution, the only proper way to do it is to downsample images. Otherwise, sensors with bigger pixels (lower resolution) are always going to show better noise characteristics (assuming both are of similar generation/technology). In this case, the NEX-5R has a 16.1 MP sensor, while the NEX-7 has a very high resolution 24.3 MP sensor. An 8.2 MP difference can play a huge role when comparing sensors. The NEX-7 has the advantage of a high resolution sensor and its images retain excellent detail even at very high ISO values. It certainly does lose to the NEX-5R in the shadows at extremely high ISOs, resulting in visible artificial colors in the shadow areas, but the amount of detail is still higher. Overall, it would be wrong to say that one is better than the other, since both have their uses. For landscape photography, the NEX-7 would be the obvious choice, while for everything else, the NEX-5R also produces superb images at lower resolution (only considering the sensors). Sony chose to differentiate these camera models by features, rather than sensor resolution alone, so you get a lot more with the NEX-7 with a built-in viewfinder, better controls/layout, built-in flash and other extras.
Sony NEX-5R vs Canon EOS M (ISO 100-800)
The new Canon EOS M mirrorless camera has the same APS-C size sensor from the Canon EOS 650D DSLR. Physically, the sensor on the EOS M is a little smaller than the one on the NEX-5R (1.6x vs 1.5x crop factor), as shown on the first page of this review.
As usual, there is no difference in noise characteristics at such low ISO values. The Canon EOS M looks much sharper, because its 18-55mm lens is excellent, while the Sony 18-55mm resolves much less detail in comparison (to be discussed in the upcoming Canon 18-55mm review).
The same goes for ISO 200 – both cameras show no noise, even in the shadow area.
At ISO 400 we start to see some grain on both cameras.
ISO 800 looks equally good on both.
Sony NEX-5R vs Canon EOS M High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-12800)
Boosted to ISO 1600, the Canon EOS M seems to produce a little more noise in the shadows, but the difference is very small.
However, at ISO 3200, the shadow area on the EOS M certainly looks grainier in comparison.
At ISO 6400, the EOS M shows more noise, especially in the shadows. There is also a loss of detail and colors in the shadows.
And at the maximum ISO of 12800, the EOS M definitely shows worse performance, with more artificial colors throughout the image. Overall though, both are pretty close in performance, with perhaps 1/3 of a stop advantage on the NEX-5R at very high ISOs.
Sony NEX-5R vs Canon EOS M Summary
Despite the 2 MP resolution difference (the EOS M has an 18 MP sensor), the NEX-5R showed impressive performance, surpassing the EOS M at high ISOs. Both are very similar in performance at low ISOs, but the NEX-5R certainly performs better at ISO 3200 and above. I would not judge the performance of these cameras by just looking at images though – the NEX-5R is a more mature camera, with a much better autofocus system and other neat features like focus peaking. Where the NEX-5R loses, is lack of a standard hot shoe to use with speedlights and flash triggers. This will be discussed in detail in the upcoming Canon EOS M review.
Sony NEX-5R vs Nikon 1 J1/J2/V1 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 100-800)
Again, sensor size and resolution win big time here – the Nikon 1 looks noisy in comparison to the NEX-5R even at base ISO of 100.
No need to repeat the same words – the NEX-5R looks very clean and practically noise-free at ISO 200 and 400.
At ISO 800, there is a little bit of grain on the NEX-5R, but it still looks very good in comparison to the J1/J2/V1.
Sony NEX-5R vs Nikon 1 J1/J2/V1 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-6400)
Again, the much larger and higher resolution sensor of the Sony NEX-5R does make a difference here – it performs very well at high ISOs, even at ISO 6400 when downsampled.
Sony NEX-5R vs Nikon 1 J1/J2/V1 Summary
As I have numerously talked about before, the only proper way to look at sensor performance is by down-sampling. While the J1/J2/V1 looks great at pixel level, it certainly disappoints when its competition is down-sampled to the same resolution. The Sony NEX-5R looks exceptionally good when its images are at 10 MP – those extra 6 MP help reduce noise and bring out the sharpness of the image. At the same time, don’t forget that the sensor of the NEX-5R is also over 3 times larger than the one on the Nikon 1 system. A larger size sensor also means larger lenses – and that’s Sony’s biggest weakness. It has a very compact camera body, but much bigger camera lenses (with the exception of the 16mm pancake lens). On the other hand, a large sensor also means two things: shallower depth of field and better dynamic range – two major factors that work in NEX-5R’s favor. Sony has a few other advantages, such as excellent grip / handle, swivel / touchscreen LCD, in-camera editing, HDR, panorama and 3D modes.
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