« Rose of Sharon Before and After | Main | The Fate of the Rose of Sharon »

Monday, 10 September 2018


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Wow, this makes me feel good :)

I actually have two of those cameras, the E-M1.2 and the G9. Interestingly, I agree with you entirely when it comes to the E-M1.2, but the G9 leaves me cold. So, whatever magic I perceive, it's not inherent to the sensor alone. But that E-M1.2, oh my. I often shoot at ISO 800 in all light just for the tooth the final images have. Such a lovely look. I agree, it feels reminiscent of film and good paper, but also is more detailed and clear than those were (at least, the stuff I used, but I only had a few years with it before digital won the fight). I've mostly settled on telling people it just doesn't feel overly plastic. Only camera I've ever considered buying a second copy of just to prolong its use in my collection once it becomes discontinued.

I rented the GX9 to try out, using a couple nice M4/3 lenses I already own. I thought the files were nice, but I didn't shoot with it long enough perhaps to gain a real appreciation. I get the same feeling though, from my Ricoh GRll when I finally get to using it. I think it has more to do with the lens, but I find myself always zooming in to see the details, like with this shot.

So I know the general feeling of geekery. I suspect it has to do with the new sensor combined with all the generally great m43 lenses out there.

I currently have a GX9 and the 16mp GX80 and sold my 16mp GX7 not so long ago and although I can see where you're coming from I can't see any real difference between the 20mp GX9 and the 16mp ones. They're all nice.

On the likening the look of files point. I had a Panasonic G1 and I loved the files from ISO 100-400 and one thing I liked doing was shooting with old film era lenses intending to crop them later, maybe to 100%. I really liked the results from the combination of the film era lenses and the G1 files cropped to 100%.

I use both the Panasonic GX8 and G9 and love their output. Not sure if it's more "special" than the Nikon D3 or D800, though.
What surprised me most however was the quality of the 14-140 mm lens that came with the GX8. (My frame of reference is the D800 with Zeiss Apo-Sonnar 135 mm or Voigtländer Apo-Lanthar 90 mm ...)

The only problem I have with those cameras is the way Lightroom renders their noise at higher sensitivities. In some conditions it creates kind of a moire pattern on a huge scale in areas of dark even tones (e.g. late evening sky). Other converters don't show that effect.

Mike, I'm curious to hear you describe what gives off the painterly cues in that photo of Butters. What I see is light from an overcast day giving soft shadows and lower contrast with the sun overhead. That's one of my favorite conditions to shoot in for landscape (with my FF camera), but, like you, I think the look of many skilled and experienced photographers is dictated mostly by the light they choose to shoot in, whether that's natural or created.

Check Luminous Landscape/On the Rocks/Episode 5/Olympus Cameras.
The gentlemen, discussing the latest Oly’s, also speak of the extraordinary "quality of file" from these cameras.
(dindn’t you, years back, coin that phrase: "quality of file"?)

I can't offer insight regarding your prized sensor but your "painterly" comment in one of the captions caught me. It is a phrase I use often to describe the effect upon a 16MP X-Pro 1 file enlarged "carefully" - and I will also say "artfully" - to nearly 2x3 feet in size and exhibit at a gallery I'm a member of. People looking at those landscapes think of them as "sharp", and they are in a "painterly" sort of way, just as your blowup of a portion of your example is. I am frankly very fond of enlarging my favorite images to a point where the word "painterly" describes them perfectly. When I owned the original EM-1 (16MP) I did the same thing with those files.

I feel very similarly with my D850. It has a way of converting to black and white that just makes me... hmmm... melt, I guess. Especially at higher ISO, somehow. I can't explain it, and in a way I don't really want to, I just love the result.

I think the 2 cameras you forgot were the Panasonic GH5 and the cheap Chinese YiM1 camera.
I haven't used that chip yet. I do love 16Mpixels in general. The GM5, EM1 and Nikon Df all with 16Mp chips are great. I may test out an XT1 one day.

Nope. Still using the mark 1. Has a different sensor I do believe. This post does make me want to step up, but finances and my steadily declining volume of photos taken makes me think twice. I love the mark 1 though, if that helps.

On getting a particular "look" to the images... ever tried the Sigma DP1,2 or 3 Merrill cameras? No interchangeable lens. You get the body for wide, normal and mild tele to fit your vision. Clunky and slow. Takes 15 seconds to write an image file. Lens matched to the body - and they are good lenses. Battery life? Figure like 35 exposure rolls of film per battery and shoot accordingly. You'll probably get a bit more but in the cold, be safe with extras.

Image quality? Way above their weight. Check out Lloyd Chambers on it if you want the geek perspective.

I'm partially getting off the tread mill. My Full Frame will be film cameras I already own. My crop sensor digital will be the rumored iPhone Xs. Apple may pronounce Xs as ten ess, but I prefer eXess, as in Malcolm X (not Malcolm 10).

Nice shots of Butters. Once again proving that most people have no real need for full frame. When posting on social-media, blogs or doing 18x24 prints M4/3 is more than good enough.

Personally, I love what I can milk from my Olympus EM1 mk II. I always stick to the sharpest primes. The Voitlander 25mm, and more recently the Olympus 25 mm f1.2 because of its weather sealing and beautiful bokeh. The overwhelming majority of my photography is with theses two lenses.

I admit to being an Olympus fan for my whole life. An OM-1 was my second camera as a young teenager. My first serious camera. Dad gave me a silver one, and kept the black one for himself. To this day I still have to have the black version if there is ever a choice. My first digital camera was the Olympus C5050, followed by the E-3, EPL-1, EM-5, EM-1 and finally the mk II. Definitely an Olympus obsession going on there.

Yes I venture away at different times, a canon 5Dsr for a year and a Fuji GFX 50s at the moment.

When I print my work at A3, I really have to look hard to pick only the subtlest of differences. I even throw in an iPhone X snap and most photographers can’t tell the differences. When I go to A2, I think it’s getting more obvious and it is my working limit for micro four thirds for me.

The dynamic range of the Canon and the Olympus were practically identical for me, obviously the differences with the Fuji are greater.

With none of these cameras can I get satisfaction with colour, so revert to large format film when I need too. I am just never happy with it unless I am intentionally abstracting the colours.

Now, coming back to this particular sensor being painterly. Honestly, I just don’t see it. I see beautiful crisp monochromes. And perhaps that is exactly what you are talking about, the way it renders colours.

Yup, owned a nice pair of GX8's until the GH5 came along. Indeed lovely sensors and a wonderful body too. I regret selling the GX8's but now I have both a G9 and a GX9 and they both have a place in my bag, depending on what I'm doing.

That said, the GH5 also makes very nice stills. I can say with confidence that none of them suck, but there does seem to be an edge in still images with the G9 and GX9 having an additional bite of micro-contrast, but not so much as to look crunchy.

Having been a full frame snob for many years, I have no regrets diving into m4/3. I find the files to have a very nice look to them, more like 35mm film to me than FF. Plus the smaller and lighter lenses make carrying them all day much more palatable for the bulging disks in my spine.

I have the very nice PEN-F (along with other 16mp m/43 bodies) and like it a lot. I used it in Morocco this year and was very happy with it. In this Morocco gallery I also have some Konica Minolta 7D photos when I was there in 2006 along with the 2018 PEN-F photos. I shot KM 7D jpeg files and PEN-F raw files. All photos are in chronological order captioned with the year and with the PEN-F photos starting in gallery Morocco 3:


[Further to my previous comment - I hit "Post" when I meant to hit "Preview..."]

I think the "painterly" look you refer to is due to the great dynamic range of this sensor (or "exposure range" as Ctein puts it.) The subtlety of contrast and roll-off in bright highlights is impressive, and deep shadows process up without excessive noise. It's a first for such a small format and really quite amazing.

Hi Mike

I use the Pen F and you’re no crazier than me. In fact .......😇

Seriously tho - you had another post featuring a red car that made the point as well

All the best

I feel the same with the Ricoh GR lens + sensor combo (the 16mp apsc version). Being GAS affected it’s the only camera is always with me and that I won’t sell.

I have the E-M1 II... I like it a lot.

Recent shots, with a bit of HDR but not too much.



The recent Olympus lenses are also really good.

Mainly agree here Mike. For almost everything, it’s the G9, especially with the Olympus 40-150 F2.8. But I’m afraid that for people photos, nothing even comes close to Fuji, specifically Xpro2/23 F1.4.

Just my two bob’s worth...

Max from Down Under


You hit the nail on the head. This sensor (in the E-M1 Mark II for me), along with the great Olympus pro glass, is exactly why I sold my D-810 and have not looked back--or forward for that matter--to full-frame cameras.


Another camera that has that special look is the old Nikon D700.

I waxed poetic about the sensor in the APS-C posts comments. I bought the PEN-F and fell in love with the look. That camera and a 25mm 1.8 are constant companions with the front dial set to B&W most of the time. I liked the look of the files so much I bought the E-M1 MK II to have a “more capable” camera with that sensor. The funny thing is other than action shots of the dog, I grab the Pen first. I’m a fan of the Oly jpegs and most of what I shoot with the Pen is used Ooc. But the raw files produce the same look, I think there’s a degree of depth and edge separation that make the files feel like your looking directly at a piece of Fujichrome.

I have two OM-D EM-1 II cameras and a Sony A7RII. I have also shot with KNEEKONn D200 D300 D700 D800e cameras and a Canon 7DII. I guess I was a severe GAS sufferer.

Anyhows I am so glad you mentioned the color pallet from my brace of Olympus.It is something I really recognize but have been to timid to comment on for fear of ridicule.

It somehow pleases me more than any of the other cameras. It may be partly the marriage with the Oly Pro lenses but whatever it it is really shows in the prints. (Epson P800 with Epson Ultra PP Luster).

Thank you for some positive affirmation.

I agree. I shoot with two GX8s and love both the sensor and those great little cameras.

GX8 shooter here. You're not crazy. The 16 MP sensor (still have my E-P5) is somehow rougher and crunchy by comparison, especially as the light drops.

I don't shoot with any of those cameras, but Mike, you bring to light an element of modern digital photography that is often lost in the chase for the latest and greatest - the sensor matters, and not just in how much resolution or dynamic range it produces. It matters for the character it imparts on the image - good or bad. It sure would be cool if we could swap out sensors like film, because they are the modern equivalent.

GX8 for me and I thought it was just me but I love what i see coming from that camera. My favorite lens is my Pana/Leica 15mm 1.8. The combo of that lens and camera is sweet.

I wonder if the LX100 II will similarly benefit from the 20MP sensor. I liked the files out the original LX100 better than the files I’ve seen out of its 1” sensor competitors, and if the II can improve on ‘quality of file’ significantly, that’ll make it a much more enticing option, despite the minimal updates to the camera overall, and improved competition.

I recently picked up a used GX8 to use with a couple of Panasonic lenses I had from an earlier Panasonic of the 12mp variety which I did not like and sold. I am having a bit of a time getting on top of the ergonomics but I am constantly surprised by the quality of the files. I shoot mostly at ISO 200 with the occasional 400. And that "look" is there for sure. I am hard pressed to describe it so I won't try. John Dahlstet

I have loved my older 16mp sensor cameras (EM5), but I have to admit, the 20mp in the Pen F gives me a feeling of a "bigger" image. Not the number of pixels, just the feel of the files. The color is also more "mature"?

I moved to GX9 from Fuji, largely due to IBIS. Not a good comparison in terms of handling and ergonomics IMHO.
I was hoping for IBIS in the new Fuji. Ah well.

I have the G9, the crispness and colors come from the 13 stops DR and the sensor has no AA filter on it. It has a sort of Foveon style sharpness in the photos.

Dang, am I going to have to upgrade from the 16MP sensor camera then?

[Don't do anything on my account. --Mike]

I agree, Mike, with your observation about film-qualities. I have an Olympus OM-D EM1 Mk II and it hits "home." It is closer to a camera that becomes invisible in my hand than any other. But it was the sensor that you were writing about and I think that Olympus has just nailed the processing engine on these.


Just got a GX9 thanks to my dearest spotting a nearly unused one in the shop window.
Love the files.

Mike, I think it is funny how many people say a certain camera or sensor has a "film-like" look. You see this a lot on Dpreview, many of who's denizens never used film. It reminds me of how people used to say a certain CD transport or A-D converter made their CDs sound like vinyl. Back to photography: if you want you pictures to look like film, use film. Most serious photographers probably have a 35mm camera in their stuff in the house. It is easy enough to put it back into operation.

[I didn't say it had a film-like look. I said I didn't know why it appeals to me so much and that that might be one possible explanation. I hope that isn't it, though, because I don't want to be one of those people who's married to the look of only one kind of technology. If I ever figure out why I like the GX8's look so much, I'll let you know. --Mike]

I'm not sure how much it's the 20MP sensor, and how much something generic to Micro Four Thirds. I love the images from my G9 and GX8, but even those from the old GH2 (12MP) had a "pop" which the contemporary 18MP Canons just couldn't match. It's also pretty much lens-independent: as true for the pancake 14-42mm power zoom which requires a lot of correction in the RAW convertor as for the excellent 12-35mm f/2.8.

I did wonder if it was just a natural synergy between my love for good DOF and the smaller sensor, but it sounds like it's broader that that.

"Let me know if I overlooked any."

The 20mp Sony IMX 269 is also in the inexpensive little micro 4/3 oddball, the YI M1. The YI M1 renders pretty much the same as the other cameras in this list, provided you shoot in RAW, and nail focus (which can be "challenging" depending on the lens and conditions). The YI is still the cheapest way to try out the micro 4/3 20mp sensor and currently exists in a category by itself (entry-level compact bodies with the 20mp). It will remain relevant until Olympus and Panasonic drop the 20mp in the PL and GF series bodies (and M10 series for that matter).

I agree with the statements on the rendering of the 20mp sensor. It's definitely got character. I like the results I get from my YI versus my 16mp micro 4/3 bodies. The rendering difference is subtle, but it's there (so you're not crazy).

Here's hoping the next generation of small bodies (the PL10, E-M10.4, and GF11 if released) contain it.

I purchased a Panasonic GX8 mainly for the DUAL IS for use with my Panasonic 100-400mm, and also for a bit more cropping with the 20mp vs 16mp sensor.

Since you mention FF, the advantage I notice with my Sony over the Panasonic is the increase in dynamic range. On an architecture project, I was using Panasonic 7-14mm and often for structures outdoors I bracketed. When the the FE 4/12-24 was released, I switched over to using the Sony and rarely have to do this.

Nonetheless, the GX8 + 100-400mm lens is stellar, and I have no complaints.

A couple of examples:



For larger views:



I remember that when the OM-D-E-M1 II and the PEN-F were introduced many reviewers, even including Olympus ambassador Robin Wong, wrote they were a bit disappointed because Micro Four Thirds sensors did not make enough progress. And since then you read this again and again. Now watch this video that I found through TOP. Usually I can’t watch these things to the end, but Marc Newton is very entertaining puts things in the right perspective.

My guess was that you would notice a difference between MFT and FF at sizes of 40 X 30cm and larger but in this video the long side of the images is one meter and there still is no visible difference. There must be a moment where FF will look better, but how large will those images be?

I've been a fan of Olympus mft cameras since 2011, when I purchased an E-PL1. Since then I've had an E-PL5, OMD EM-1, and an EM-5 II. I've either sold, traded, or given away those cameras.

I've been using a Pen F for the past couple years. It's a great camera--IQ, fit and finish, ergonomics (with the OEM grip). The 20 MP chip is very good.

My Pen F kit consists of three zoom lenses: Pana/Leica 8-18, Oly Pro 12-40 f/2.8, and the 12-100mm f/4 (a miracle of modern optics).

Olympus will announce a new camera in 2019. Sometimes the noise/grain structure looks great at ISO 800 and above, sometimes not. I'm hoping the sensor in the new camera stays at 20 megapixels. I hope the noise floor at ISO 1000 is comparable to the look of the current sensor at 400.

As much as I love the files from my Sony A7r II, the Olympus Pen F is a friendlier camera and more fun to use.

Have to agree with John Camp that the Olympus 75mm f1.8 is something special. Best lens I've ever owned in 45+ years of photography.

Pen F user here. Special look? Sometimes. Depends on the light; and probably therefore the lens. Better than the earlier 16 or 12Mpx sensors? Yes, especially in lower light and when you want to pull up shadows. SOOC black and white also works well, if that’s your thing (and the Pen F has many customization options).

I honestly hope someone can explain to me how sensors can be different. Don’t they all function identically? If so, then aren’t all the “looks” we’re discussing therefore software functions, and the praises we’re singing should then go to the programmers? (Not including lens factors)

No offense, Mike, but I am baffled: how can an image with "a look of edge sharpness, a distinctive crispness" be also "painterly"? To me, these are incompatible, nearly mutually exclusive visual properties. I have never seen a painting which has edge sharpness or crispness.

[I see your point. Let me shoot with this camera for a longer time (and with more lenses) and I'll see if I can be more articulate about what I'm seeing. --Mike]

Not fair, Mike. Now I’ve fallen for your “click bait” and have to buy a Pen F, slap on my Kern Switar 26 f/1.1 macro and wax nostalgic?

YB Hudson III

[You'll only hate me if you don't like it. If you love it, we'll be good. --Mike]

I understand your point having moved back to m4/3rds and the 20mp sensor. GH5 (x2) and a GX8 here.

I am very taken with the output from the cameras. There is an edge to the colour boundaries, that coupled with the grain gives a bite to the files that is lovely to look at.

Extra depth of field is a real bonus and not to be underestimated. Also, if you need a portrait lens try the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8.

The G80 unlike the G7 has abandoned the antialiasing filter on the 16 mp sensor. I think the resulting 16mp sensor is excellent.

No Mike, you are not crazy. This sensor is pretty great. I called it the Fuji envy sensor, though Fuji is great, I think it puts m43rds to where it can be given current tech.

It's pretty good and I wish both Panasonic and Olympus ditched the 16 MP old sensor already.

I'm shooting am OM-D EM-1 Mk II. The sensor is nice enough, but mostly what I notice is loss of high ISO capability compared to the D700 (the case where that's important in my photos isn't my core territory, and the results are "good enough"; but it's still quite noticeable).

Hi Mike,

I too think the 20MP sensor is pretty good. A little tale of my summer experience. I was shooting with a Pen-F and liked it but this spring I got GAS bad and sold all my Micro 4/3 gear except my two favorite lens: the Panny/Leica 15mm f1.7 and the Panny 35mm-100mm collapsible zoom (perhaps subconsciously I knew I would be back). I jumped wholeheartedly into a new Fuji system, the X-E3 camera and 5 new lenses. All was going okay until the wifi starting acting up and never shut off, thus draining the battery very quickly. The wifi menu screen would stay up on the LCD even when the camera was turned OFF. The only way around this was to remove and reinsert the battery every time I took a shot. That gets old pretty quick so I sent the camera in for repair and whilst that was occurring purchased a Panasonic GX9. Since then I have sold all the new Fuji gear and I really am enjoying the GX9. In hindsight another lesson, enjoy what you have, now days most cameras are pretty decent, and if there are improvements they tend to be marginal.

Was the image quality better with the Fuji 24MP trans-x sensor versus the 20MP Micro 4/3 sensor. In good light no real discernible difference, in low light the Fuji's sensor was better, and I even referred to it as ISO-less, menaing its pretty good regardless of ISO setting. On the other-hand I have far less shots with minor blur from the Panasonic GX9 than I did from the X-E3, so kudos for IBIS. So I will stick with micro 4/3, and sure hope Panasonic and Olympus do too. Image quality is certainly good enough for me, I appreciate the smaller size of lenses and IBIS is wonderful. Image quality might technically be better with a larger sensor in some situations but its is not by leaps and bounds.

Another commentor mentioned treatment of files in Lightroom. Lightroom did not flatter the x-trans files and contrary to what others may say still renders waxy looking skin. But even with Micro 4/3 files I honestly think Snapseed does a better job for editing files than Lightroom. Perhaps how software renders files is a topic for a new blog post. I am looking for a Lightroom replacement (the subscription only stuff gets my goat plus in some situations it does not even render files as clean as Snapseed)and also have bought Affinity Pro and still have Apple's old Aperture software. Put some file organization work into Affinity Pro and it would be a very good alternative to Lightroom.

I know that I am too late with this, but I have a question about the GX8. I have tried every different form of IBIS, body only, body and lens, and off. I have tried electronic shutter, auto and electric shutter off. I still get unsharp files with my good lenses. I tested it today with the 12-35 Lumix with anti shake on and off. Then I tried the 75 f/1.8 Olympus. Then I tried both lenses with an Olympus E-M1. The files from the Lumix were both softer and less contrasty than the one from the Olympus. I love the GX8, but I don't trust it now. Does anyone know how to correct this?

[Have you tried updating your lenses to the latest firmware? That's often the problem. --Mike]

I shoot with a GX8 and a Leica M10 (gifted!) In many cases the GX8 files are every bit as good as the M10. If only my GX8 and 12-35 hadn't taken a dunking on a river shoot (the GX8 survived, but the 12-35 most definitely did not), I'd likely use the GX8 as my daily shooter.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007