Sony E-Mount Lens Guide Here >>

Olympus vs Sony – Lab Testing, Low Light Focus, High ISO, and More…

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

In this article I’m going to focus on comparing the image quality and focus speed of the Olympus and Sony camera systems in low light lab conditions. This will show us how well each camera works in the lab environment which can be used very effectively! I’m working on getting the A6000 for a more updated camera comparison, but my Sony Nex-6 and Sony A7r will do just fine in my opinion for these comparisons. In fact the older Nex-6 has the 16mp sensor which matches up just right with the OM-D EM-5 Mark II, which will make comparing lab photos cake. When the resolution is different it adds another element of confusion into the mix I find when comparing.

Also, the older 1st generation hybrid AF that the Nex-6 offers will be really fun to compare! If it holds up, can you imagine how much better the A6000 would perform. I will re-do the tests with the A6000 if I get one before this review cycle is over just so you know…

I will also use the 40mp High Resolution Mode that the OM-D E-M5 Mark II offers and compare that to the 36mp A7r files. See how they compare in lightroom at 100% and so forth.

Lastly I will share some sample video which did not come out as good as I expected honesty….

Lab Testing

So I have a 25mm f/1.8 lens to use with the Olympus and the 75-300mm lens. For the Nex-6 I have the 18-55mm kit lens and the 55-210mm kit lens for focus testing, and High ISO Testing.

For the depth of field testing I am going to use the full frame A7r because I have a 50mm lens that I can set to f/1.8 which will be the same as the Olympus 25mm with the crop factor. This will show you just how much the depth of field is effected by the sensor size itself. The smaller APS-C sensor Nex-6 would have a depth of field about half way between the full frame and micro four thirds…

High ISO

High ISO is one of those tests that must be done and is most important to many folks, so here ya go…
ISO 25600 Jpeg Quality Images

First the Olympus EM-5 Mark II using Auto WB Jpeg Quality. Please click on the photos for the ~1200px version!

om-d e-m5 mark II - ISO 25600, Jpeg Quality
om-d e-m5 mark II – ISO 25600, Jpeg Quality
om-d e-m5 mark II - ISO 25600, Jpeg Quality
om-d e-m5 mark II – ISO 25600, Jpeg Quality – 100% Crop
om-d e-m5 mark II - ISO 25600, Jpeg Quality - 100% Crop
om-d e-m5 mark II – ISO 25600, Jpeg Quality – 100% Crop

Sony Nex-6 ISO 25600

Sony Nex-6 - ISO 25600 - Jpeg Quality
Sony Nex-6 – ISO 25600 – Jpeg Quality
Sony Nex-6 - ISO 25600 - Jpeg Quality
Sony Nex-6 – ISO 25600 – Jpeg Quality – 100% Crop
Sony Nex-6 - ISO 25600 - Jpeg Quality - 100% Crop
Sony Nex-6 – ISO 25600 – Jpeg Quality – 100% Crop

In my opinion the Sony Nex-6 does a better job at retaining the details and color accuracy in this high ISO lab test. Note how the full scenes from each camera look fairly awesome considering it’s ISO 25,600. Only when you view them pixel for pixel does the differences become apparent. Very close is the bottom line… I also notice Auto White Balance appears more accurate on the Nex-6 in the lab scene based on the color chart.

Depth of Field and Bokeh Testing

Full Frame Sony Alpha A7r vs Micro 4/3rds (2x crop factor) Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
First the full frame A7r and the old school Minolta 50mm f/1.4 Rokkor-X Lens @ f/2

Sony A7r @ f/2 using the old school 50mm f/1.4 Minolta Lens
Sony A7r @ f/2 using the old school 50mm f/1.4 Minolta Lens

Here is the Olympus at the same distance from the screw using the 25mm lens @ f/1.8 so you can see the effective depth of field difference. Both cameras @ 50mm effective…

om-d e-m5 mark II w/ 25mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/1.8
om-d e-m5 mark II w/ 25mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/1.8

Minimum Focus Distance w/ OM-D E-M5 Mark II and 25mm f/1.8 lens.

om-d e-m5 mark II w/ 25mm f/1.8 Lens - Minimum Focus Distance
om-d e-m5 mark II w/ 25mm f/1.8 Lens – Minimum Focus Distance

At the minimum focus distance, the separation achieved and bokeh rendering is pretty awesome with this camera and lens combination in my opinion. Not full frame killer quality, but still very good in all regards.

40MP High Resolution Mode vs 36MP A7r

I download this plug-in for Photoshop in order to get the High Res Olympus  file to work on my Mac laptop, but the Camera saved the file as Jpeg so I did not even bother with it for now. Perhaps if I shoot exclusively raw it will not save it as a jpeg? I will find out… In any event, this high res mode absolutely works and is not a gimmick. I was surprised at the speed it took all the frames and compiled them as well.

So you saw the full lab scene above at what the ~1200px 100% crop looks like. Now reference that with this 100% crop detail and you will see how much more effective information there really is. The A7r does almost the same thing every single frame, but this is an amazing feature for a camera to have. Sony will most likely be adding this to their A7 II camera with a firmware update, or in the next new model re-lease I would bet.

om-d e-m5 mark II w/ 25mm f/1.8 Lens @ 40MP High Res Mode
om-d e-m5 mark II w/ 25mm f/1.8 Lens @ 40MP High Res Mode
om-d e-m5 mark II w/ 25mm f/1.8 Lens @ 40MP High Res Mode
om-d e-m5 mark II w/ 25mm f/1.8 Lens @ 40MP High Res Mode

Here is one from the Sony A7r using the Loxia 35mm f/2 Lens I recently reviewed Here >>

Loxia 35mm Lens - Lab Testing @ f/5.6, A7r, Raw Quality
Loxia 35mm Lens – Lab Testing @ f/5.6, A7r, Raw Quality
Loxia 35mm Lens - Lab Testing @ f/4, A7r, Raw Quality
Loxia 35mm Lens – Lab Testing @ f/4, A7r, Raw Quality

For all intensive purposes this 40mp high res mode works like a charm and should be praised as a killer new functional feature that utilizes the potential of moving sensor technology.

Focus Speed Testing

In this video I will show you the focus speed testing done in the lab using the Sony Nex-6 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. I will use center focus mode for this test.

When using the zoom lenses, focus speeds are reduced on both camera systems as you will see. The Sony A6000 is noticeable faster than my older Sony Nex-6, but I don’t have the A6000 in hand at the moment, so why not use the older Nex-6 I say! I will try and get the A6000 to do some real world speed testing and the lab test again for those interested…

Updated Sample Video!

The sample video I showed you in the focus testing video above, was not properly timed by frame rate and this was totally my fault and resulted in the video looking like crap. I re-processed the video properly this time and added some 60p footage for some slow motion effects. I converted and exported at 1080/24p. Now the video looks much better!

Sample Photos?

A few sample photos with impressions can be seen on the forum if you are interested….

Closing Remarks

Well, as you can see the cameras both performed pretty well in these tests. The larger sensor Sony Nex-6 offers a slight advantage in the lab testing as far as I can tell and the focus speed of the OM-D EM-5 Mark II is faster. The newer Sony A6000 is about the same speed as the OM-D however, so please keep that in mind!

Full Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark II review will be next and thank you so much for checking in and your support,

  1. Nice review Jay – thanks – yes I would expect the larger sensor Sony to do a bit better in high ISO – as the pixel density is similar both with 16MP – although of course the density of the Olympus is higher as it is a smaller sensor –
    My take is that both Olympus and Panasonic have managed to squeeze very good performance with their 16MP sensors – but of course Sony with their A6000 24MP sensor have done a fantastic job –
    I look forward to see Sony make that 24MP sensor back lit – like they have on the small RX100m2/3 and Samsung in the NX1 – that would be really nice – if Samsung can do it so can Sony 🙂
    I have the A7 and A6000 and NEX7 and NEX5n – and it is frustrating due to lens selection for both FE and E –
    So In the last 2 years have massed a lot of M43 gear – OMD-Em5 and OMD-Em1 and Panasonic GX7 and GM1 and LX100 an lots of lenses
    I love Touch Shutter and Touch LCD so I hope Sony will include soon – I hear RX100m4 will have Touch Shutter but no Touch on menu functions – well a start –
    Due to the many nice lenses for the M43 system I still use my M43 gear more –
    Due to horrible menu system my NEX5n and NEX7 just collect dust – but the A6000 is nice to use and getting close – just add Touch Shutter and Touch menu functions and few more lenses with IS

    1. Thanks for the comments Ingolfur 😉 I agree that the smaller 16mp sensor is very good considering the size and pixel density as you said.
      We shall see what the new cameras offer, but hopefully a touch screen and other cool features like live exposure would be great!
      E-Mount lenses are the biggest problem for Sony and they are addressing it fairly well these days. At first it was super bad, but now at least we have the basic lenses. The beauty of the E-Mount is the adaptability though, and that is what attracted me initially. Now I want killer native glass, because I have no use for the DSLR anymore honestly….
      Thanks again,

  2. Jay reviewing cameras from other brands an comparing them to Sony was a great idea! I’m looking forward to seeing other comparisons, perhaps featuring the Fuji Xt1 or the Samsung NX1. Could you please explain in more detail how the 40mp high resolution mode works in the olympus OM-d? Does it require the camera to be on a tripod?

    1. Thank you Alberto for the feedback and kind words 😉
      Yes, the camera should be on a tri-pod for the high res feature, because the sensor actually moves in-between frames. The camera then takes several frames with the sensor at different physical locations. It then combines the images creating a monster 40mp image!
      I did not try this feature hand-held, but it may work somewhat if you are super steady I suppose.

  3. nice post. Hey Jay i have the A7ii and the nex 6… i was thinking of trading in my nex 6, with kit lens, and 55-210 lens in order to purchase the a6000. should i bother losing all the money i paid for nex 6, kit and 55-210 to get a6000. I use the a7ii mostly but when i want a smaller system. i would break out the nex 6. is the a6000 really worth trading up to a6000 for mininum use?

    1. The question is what are you feeling the NEX-6 is not able to do when you need it? If you require faster auto focus then for sure it will be worth it but I dont see much more to gain from such move.

    2. Hi Tim,
      Great question and thanks for the comments 😉 Honestly, I think the A6000 is worth upgrading for if you want more resolution, better focus speed and accuracy, and want the better menu system. The Nex-6 menus system sucks big time in my opinion and drives me crazy nowadays when I have to find a setting.
      If you use the A7II mostly I would not bother upgrading unless you have the cash and need a better unit. I have not gotten rid of mine, because I only use it as a back-up type thing or for reviewing lenses. If it was my personal everyday camera I would totally upgrade, but it’s not. I have the A7r for everyday…. I want the A7II though and plan on selling the A7r pretty soon. It would be nice to have the latest APS-C camera as well though! Especially for reviews on my end..
      I hope that helps a little,

    3. the first thing you have to know is that the viewfinder in nex 6 is bigger then the one in a6000. With a6000 you will get better focus speed and 1/2 stop IQ in high iso. I wouldn’t trade the viewfinder for this.

    1. Thanks for the link and sharing the news 😉 Olympus will get some Sony sensors and Sony got the 5-axis sensor shift technology it appears….

  4. Hi Jay, and thanks for the great comparison review … well done.
    You can set the E-M5II to raw+jpg for the High Res shots and you’ll get a normal 16Mp raw, 40Mp high res jpg, and 64Mp high res raw.

  5. Very cool comparison. Thank you. I have been contemplating moving over completely to Sony because I also shoot with the A7. Though the size and lens choice on m43 is still so appealing, as well as the 40mp mode on the EM5II because from what I have seen, the sharpness you get with seems way higher then single photos taken with other cameras at high MP. This is helpful for me though in my continued contemplation. 🙂

    1. I hear ya, and yes that 40mp mode does produce sharper results than my A7r 36mp single frame shots… I was not using a top quality lens on the A7r though, so that has a lot to do with the results don’t forget 😉
      Good luck with your decision,

  6. Thank You for this comparison. I want to buy my first interchangeable camera. I will use it to take pictures of my newborn daughter, some family shots and for travel photography. I love nature and it would be great to have lenses to use it for wildlife pictures. I consider between A6000 with SEL35f1.8 and SELP18105 and Olympus M5 mark II I know that there are a lot of lenese in m43 but i have seen a lot of A6000 reviews that shows its great AF.What would be better? I love M5mII look but i am affraid of focusing in low light conditions. Specialy with my “always moving” daughter. What should I do?

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