Olympus E-M10 III Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Bright colors with very good hue accuracy.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured at base ISO. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Click for a larger version.

Saturation. The Olympus E-M10 III pushes darker reds by a fair amount and a number of other colors moderately, but most colors are fairly close to accurate in terms of saturation. Default mean saturation at base ISO of 200 is 113.1% (13.1% oversaturated), which is a little higher than average. Overall, default saturation levels are quite pleasing and they can of course be adjusted to taste. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than what's found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Olympus E-M10 III did reasonably well here when white balance was matched to the lighting, producing decent Caucasian skin tones that were slightly on the warm side. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Olympus E-M10 III generally exhibits very good overall hue accuracy, with a better-than-average Delta-C color error after correction for saturation of only 3.97 at base ISO (lower numbers are better). As is typical, cyan is shifted towards blue for bluer skies, and we see almost no yellow to green shift which is nice. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto and Incandescent white balance struggled, but good color Manual white balance. Slightly above average exposure compensation required.

Auto, Keep Warm Color On (default)
+0.7 EV
Auto, Keep Warm Color Off
+0.7 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.7 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.7 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was much too warm and orange with the default Auto white balance setting. The E-M10 III has a "Keep Warm Color" option for Auto white balance which is On by default. When turned Off, the results were too cool with a cyan tint. Results with the Incandescent setting were not bad, but slightly greenish. The Manual setting was quite good and very neutral. The Olympus E-M10 III required +0.7 EV exposure compensation here, compared to +0.3 EV for most cameras we've tested. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Bright looking colors overall, with good exposure accuracy.

Manual White Balance,
+0.7 EV

In simulated sunlight, the Olympus E-M10 III performed well, with pleasing colors and good exposure. Skin tones were slightly warm and yellow with the Auto white balance setting in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, so we preferred Manual white balance for is slightly pinker rendering, although skin tones were still a bit warm. The Olympus E-M10 III required an average amount of positive exposure compensation (+0.7 EV) to keep the mannequin's face relatively bright. Default contrast is a bit high as it is from most cameras producing some very dark shadows, but despite the bright appearance in some areas there are very few blown highlights in the mannequin's shirt and flowers, which is better than average. (Note that this shot was taken at ISO 200 as ISO 100 is an extended setting with inferior dynamic range.)

Resolution
~2,450 lines of strong detail in native resolution JPEG and RAW files.

Strong detail to
~2,450 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,450 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,450 lines horizontal
ACR processed ORF
Strong detail to
~2,450 lines vertical
ACR processed ORF

An in-camera JPEG of our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,450 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,450 lines in the vertical direction, although some strong aliasing is visible well before those limits. Complete extinction of the pattern doesn't occur until about 3,000 to 3,200 lines. Adobe Camera Raw wasn't really able to extract more resolution here but generated less luminance aliasing, though false colors and color moiré are much more apparent past the limits of resolution. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

Sharpness & Detail
Very sharp images though edge-enhancement artifacts on high-contrast subjects are visible. Mild noise suppression visible in the shadows.

Very good definition of high-contrast
elements but with some visible
sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The Olympus E-M10 III produces very sharp, crisp images overall, though as is often the case, edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects when default settings are used, such as sharpening haloes around the lines and lettering in the crop above left. However, images that may look oversharpened when viewed on screen at 100% often look better when printed, and you can always turn down the in-camera sharpening if desired. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows fairly mild noise suppression artifacts in the darkest areas of the mannequin's hair as base ISO, smudging individual strands together when contrast between them is low, though quite a few individual strands remain visible. Overall detail is very good for a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds model, and chroma noise in particular is well controlled. Some minor aliasing artifacts can be seen, but this is a common issue with cameras that don't have an optical low-pass filter as they gain sharpness in return for an increase in possible aliasing artifacts. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Olympus E-M10 III does a great job at capturing sharp images with lots of fine detail in its JPEGs, however more detail can often be obtained by carefully processing RAW files, while at the same time reducing sharpening artifacts. To see what we mean, take a look below:

Base ISO (200)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare an in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 10.4 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

As you can see, the Adobe Camera Raw conversion contains fine detail superior to the camera's Super Fine JPEG at default settings, especially in the red-leaf swatch where low-contrast detail is better and much of the thread pattern is resolved. However, ACR does leave behind more noise at default noise reduction settings. The in-camera JPEG also has more "pop", with higher contrast, sharpening and saturation, however you can always adjust those attributes in the conversion as well. Overall, the E-M10 III's JPEG engine does a very good job capturing most of the detail offered by its 16-megapixel sensor, at least at low ISOs. (And its expanded ISO 100 setting does even better, but at the cost of lower dynamic range.)

ISO & Noise Performance
Very good high ISO performance for its class.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

The Olympus E-M10 III's images are quite clean and detailed at ISOs 100 through 400, though there's a minor increase in noise in the shadows as ISO rise within this range. ISO 800 shows a slight drop in overall image quality, but fine detail is still quite strong. At ISO 1600, we see some moderate detail loss due to stronger noise and noise reduction efforts, but fine detail is still pretty good. ISO 3200 is of course noisier, but fine detail retention is surprisingly good and chroma noise remains well-controlled. ISO 6400 is the first step in sensitivity where image quality suffers a large drop with much stronger blurring of fine detail as well as much higher luminance noise, though chroma noise is still in check. Image quality drops off significantly at ISO 12,800 and 25,600, with much stronger noise, visible noise reduction and sharpening artifacts, as well as some chroma noise blotching.

Overall, though, high ISO noise performance in JPEGs is quite good for a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds model with some minor improvements over the Mark II, and it even bests some APS-C rivals. As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
High contrast but with very good dynamic range. Very good low-light performance as well.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight
The Olympus E-M10 III did very well with this difficult shot, requiring the average amount of exposure compensation (+0.7 EV) to keep the mannequin's face reasonably bright in this harsh lighting. As mentioned previously, despite the bright appearance of the mannequin's shirt, dynamic range is surprisingly good, with very few highlights blown and good detail in the shadows as well, though very deep shadows do sometimes exhibit blotchy discoloration or desaturation. Still, performance here is well above average, particularly for a Micro Four Thirds model.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)


Face Detection
Off at 0 EV
Aperture priority, f/8
On at 0 EV
Aperture priority, f/8
Full Auto
f/1.2

Face Detection. Like most cameras these days, the Olympus E-M10 III has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. As you can see from the examples above, it worked fairly well, as the center image with face detection enabled is better exposed for the face than with it disabled, without having to use exposure compensation. The Full Auto setting worked even better by choosing Portrait scene mode which selected max aperture (f/1.2) for much better subject isolation, and it applied i-Enhance and Auto Gradation to reduce strong shadows and highlights. An excellent performance under very difficult lighting such as this.


Outdoor Portrait Gradation Comparison

Gradation. Similar to dynamic range optimization systems from other manufacturers, the Olympus E-M10 III's Gradation setting applies local contrast adjustments in an attempt to preserve shadow detail and prevent highlight clipping with the Auto setting. Above are examples of the Normal (default), Auto, Low Key and High Key settings applied to our "Sunlit" Portrait shot with no exposure compensation. Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail and click on the links to visit the full resolution image.

As you can see, the Low Key setting applies Gradation for making subjects darker, while the High Key setting does the opposite for brighter images. The Auto setting did a good job here, boosting shadows and midtones without blowing additional highlights, for a much better overall exposure than the Normal setting.


Highlight/Shadow Control Comparison
Highlight:
-7
-4
-2
0
+2
+4
+7
Shadow:
-7
-4
-2
0
+2
+4
+7

Highlight/Shadow Control. Above, we can see the E-M10 Mark III's Highlight and Shadow Control options at work on our "Sunlit" Portrait test shots. This feature lets you adjust both ends of the tone curve independently in 15 steps from -7 to 7, giving you more control of highlights versus shadows than the regular contrast adjustment; a very nice feature. Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail, and click on the links to visit the full resolution image.



High Dynamic Range Comparison
HDR Setting:
Off

High Dynamic Range. The E-M10 III's in-camera HDR feature works by combining four shots at different exposures. Two strength settings are available: HDR1 and HDR2, with the later providing a more extreme result. ISO is fixed to 200.

Above, you can see the E-M10 III's in-camera HDR mode at work with our "Sunlit" Portrait shots with no exposure compensation. HDR1 did a decent job brightening shadows and toning down highlights, though you can do better by using bracketing mode and combining the images yourself in software. HDR2 mode looks overprocessed and too flat for this subject, with soft details.

Notice that the HDR images are not cropped compared to the non-HDR image, which can imply the camera does not microalign the source images, or at least can't compensate for much camera motion. This is pretty much confirmed by the user manual which says to use a tripod for HDR shots, potentially making this mode less useful than those offered by some other manufacturers.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
A key parameter in a digital camera is its Dynamic Range, the range of brightness that can be faithfully recorded. At the upper end of the tonal scale, dynamic range is dictated by the point at which the RGB data "saturates" at values of 255, 255, 255. At the lower end of the tonal scale, dynamic range is determined by the point at which there ceases to be any useful difference between adjacent tonal steps. Note the use of the qualifier "useful" in there: While it's tempting to evaluate dynamic range as the maximum number of tonal steps that can be discerned at all, that measure of dynamic range has very little relevance to real-world photography. What we care about as photographers is how much detail we can pull out of the shadows before image noise becomes too objectionable. This, of course, is a very subjective matter, and will vary with the application and even the subject matter in question. (Noise will be much more visible in subjects with large areas of flat tints and subtle shading than it would in subjects with strong, highly contrasting surface texture.)

While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Unfortunately, DxOMark has not yet tested the E-M10 Mark III as of this writing, but we'll come back and update this section once they do.

Low-light Autofocus
The E-M10 III's autofocus system was able to focus on our legacy low-contrast AF target down to -3.3 EV unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, and down to -4.6 EV with our newer high-contrast target, which is excellent, especially for a camera with contrast-detect autofocus. The Olympus E-M10 III also has a focus-assist light which allows it to autofocus in total darkness, as long as the subject is within range and has sufficient contrast.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to their phase-detect AF systems, digital SLRs tend to do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. The E-M10 III uses contrast-detect autofocus as is found in most point & shoot cameras, so its low-light focusing ability is less than that of most SLRs with phase-detect systems. That said, though, the larger, more sensitive pixels of the E-M10 III's sensor do better under dim lighting than do the tiny pixels of most point & shoots, (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

Built-in Flash
Decent performance for a small built-in flash.

Normal Flash, Auto ISO (320)
f/4, +1.0 EV

Exposure. Indoors under incandescent background lighting, the Olympus E-M10 III's flash underexposed our standard indoor portrait scene at ISO 200 and f/4, despite using +1.0 EV flash exposure compensation. (An average of +0.7 EV is normally needed for this shot.) With Auto ISO, the camera produced a good flash exposure at using +1.0 EV flash exposure compensation, and it only had to boost ISO to 320. As you can see, Auto white balance was quite cool, though.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Excellent 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100/200; a nice 13 x 19 at ISO 3200; a good 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100 and 200 prints are excellent at 24 x 36 inches, with full, rich color reproduction, crisp detail (especially at ISO 100), and a nice three-dimensionality "pop" to the printed images. At 16 megapixels the resolution doesn't allow for much larger prints, but if your intended viewing distance is not too close you can print as large as the resolution allows you to go at these ISO settings.

ISO 400 images are also good at 24 x 36 inches. They are not as super-crisp as the prints at base and extended-low ISO at this size, but still definitely pass our good seal with nice detail and color throughout, and no real sign of noise anywhere without straining your eyes. For your most critical printing a reduction in size to 20 x 30 inches will do the trick at this gain setting.

ISO 800 shots are good at 20 x 30 inches, which is a good size for this ISO and sensor size combination. There is a trace of noise in the flatter areas of our target upon closer inspection, and a definite loss of contrast detail in the red channel which is a typical phenomenon with most digital cameras in general, but otherwise it is still a good print. For critical printing a reduction to 16 x 20 inches is a wise precaution here.

ISO 1600 yields a very nice 16 x 20 inch print. There are minor issues such as the ones mentioned for the 20 x 20 inch print at ISO 800, including some apparent noise in the flatter shadow areas of our Still Life test target, but this is still a nice sized print for this ISO.

ISO 3200 delivers a solid 13 x 19 inch print, with full color representation and contrast detail remaining. Anything larger from this ISO begins to introduce too much noise in some areas, and too little detail in others, which is common for this sensor size. This is still a fairly large print for this ISO until you get into the full-frame world.

ISO 6400 and higher takes its toll on pretty much all Four Thirds cameras, and the E-M10 III is no exception. You'll need to limit your prints to an 8 x 10 inch size here, and can expect a "good" print at this size, but one still showing minor issues such as a loss of contrast detail in our tricky red-leaf fabric swatch. There is also a slight loss of fine detail in general at this size, so for your best printing projects we recommend remaining at ISO 3200 and below as a general rule with this camera (and Four Thirds cameras in general).

ISO 12,800 can deliver a sound 5 x 7 inch print. It has minor issues such as a slight loss in fine detail, but there is still enough saturation and contrast apparent to call this a good image, especially for casual family use and similar needs.

ISO 25,600 almost passes our good seal at 4 x 6 inches, but there's just not quite enough detail present to make the grade. For all but your least important prints we recommend avoiding this ISO altogether.

The Olympus E-M10 Mark III delivers very good results in the print quality department, as we've certainly come to expect from this solid line of cameras. You're in terrific hands up to ISO 1600, with larger prints abounding, and can even get by at ISO 3200 for most printing needs. Above that you really start to run out of good printing options, and for this reason we highly recommend limiting your Auto-ISO setting to ISO 3200 and below if quality prints are a part of your shooting goals.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Olympus OM-D E-M10 III Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Olympus OM-D E-M10 III with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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