posted on Jul 21, 2009 at 5:08PM
Mini Head-2-Head Review: Olympus E-P1 vs. Canon Rebel T1i vs. Nikon D5000
Noise PerformanceBy Ted Dillard
Typically, noise and ISO processing is a case of burning the candle at both ends. You’re going to have to give something up - either color accuracy, grain and smoothness, or fine detail. The secret is to make the best balance of tradeoffs, and these three cameras give us three interesting and contrasting approaches.
First, keep in mind the ISO 200-800 range is where most people are shooting. The Canon and Olympus are performing in pretty similar ways up to ISO 400, then, at ISO 800 the Canon T1i’s noise control improves, approaching the Nikon D5000. From there, the D5000 and T1i track along pretty well, while the E-P1’s noise levels get steadily higher.
This may seem like pixel-peeping, but it’s really not. If you look at the at ISO 1600 samples above, you’re going to see some pretty dramatic differences between the three. The Nikon D5000 has far better tones in the mid-to-low values, while the Olympus E-P1 has noticeable, and objectionable noise. The Canon T1i falls in the middle. Interestingly, when you look at the apparent sharpness of the image, the Nikon seems almost soft- out of focus, or lower resolution. This is not a problem with the focus or the lens however; it’s simply the result of the camera’s more aggressive noise processing. As we said, something has to give. Nikon is controlling the noise, and giving up some crispness in the file. Olympus is at the high end of the scale and not really even in the ballgame. Canon sits in the middle.