Olympus E-PL2 Noise Reduction

The Olympus E-PL2 offers four levels of noise-reduction, which gives good control in choosing how you want to make the trade-off between subject detail and noise level. The E-PL2 applies NR to its JPEGs at all ISOs, so we've included crops at all ISOs in the tables below. The combination of shooting with NR turned down to the lowest setting and using a good noise-filtering program after the fact can produce very clean images with lots of fine detail in them.

See for yourself how the noise reduction works under daylight-balanced lighting. Click on any of the crops below to see the corresponding full-sized image.

Noise Reduction Comparison
In-camera JPEGs
Daylight-balanced illumination
NR= Off
NR = Low
NR = Standard
NR = High
I
S
O

2
0
0
NR = Off
NR = Low
NR = Standard
NR = High
I
S
O

4
0
0
NR = Off
NR = Low
NR = Standard
NR = High
I
S
O

8
0
0
NR = Off
NR = Low
NR = Standard
NR = High
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
NR = Off
NR = Low
NR = Standard
NR = High
I
S
O

3
2
0
0
NR = Off
NR = Low
NR = Standard
NR = High
I
S
O

6
4
0
0

The above crops show the effects of the four available noise reduction settings, under the studio HMI lighting we use to simulate daylight. To our eyes, the default (Standard) level of noise reduction is a little heavy-handed, blurring fine detail already at the base ISO of 200. The Off noise reduction setting leaves a lot of luminance noise in the image, but still removes a lot of chrominance noise impacting detail in the red fabric. You'll be able to do better working from RAW files. 

How does the Olympus E-PL2's high ISO JPEGs compare to other compact Micro Four-Thirds models? See the following table which compares at the default Noise Reduction setting at ISO 800 and above.

High ISO Comparison with Olympus E-PL1,
Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic GF2
(In-camera JPEGs, all default NR)
Daylight-balanced illumination
Olympus E-PL2
Olympus E-PL1
Olympus E-P2
Panasonic GF2
I
S
O

8
0
0
Olympus E-PL2
Olympus E-PL1
Olympus E-P2
Panasonic GF2
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
Olympus E-PL2
Olympus E-PL1
Olympus E-P2
Panasonic GF2
I
S
O

3
2
0
0
Olympus E-PL2
Olympus E-PL1
Olympus E-P2
Panasonic GF2
I
S
O

6
4
0
0
N/A
ISO 6400
not supported
N/A
ISO 6400
not supported
N/A
ISO 6400
not supported

Here, we can see the E-PL2 appears to be applying more noise reduction by default than the other two PEN models, which is most noticeable in the red fabric. Both the E-PL2 and E-PL1 show less noise than the E-P2.The Panasonic GF2 takes a slightly different approach to noise reduction, leaving more luminance noise than the Olympus models. This leads to some un-natural looking sharpening artifacts at higher ISOs, and its ISO 6,400 image quality is markedly worse that the others.

 

Let's see how the Olympus E-PL2's high ISO JPEGs compare to compact system cameras with APS-C sensors:

High ISO Comparison with Sony NEX-5,
Sony NEX-3 and Samsung NX100
(In-camera JPEGs, all default NR)
Daylight-balanced illumination
Olympus E-PL2
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Samsung NX100
I
S
O

8
0
0
Olympus E-PL2
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Samsung NX100
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
Olympus E-PL2
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Samsung NX100
I
S
O

3
2
0
0
Olympus E-PL2
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Samsung NX100
I
S
O

6
4
0
0
Olympus E-PL2
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Samsung NX100
I
S
O

1
2
8
0
0
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported

As you can see, the two Sony NEX models have arguably the best high ISO performance of the group, though noise reduction is pretty hard at work. The Samsung NX100 shows a lot more luminance noise as well as chroma noise, but holds onto more detail in some areas, and less in others.

Keep in mind that each camera manufacturer makes somewhat different trade-offs between noise and image detail, compounded by the number of different NR settings each offers. Be sure check out our RAW crops, to see how sensor output compares without NR or other in-camera processing.

 

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