Olympus E-M1X Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Olympus E-M1X 's image quality to its closest sibling's, the E-M1 II, as well as against several high-performance interchangeable lens cameras at similar resolutions: the Fuji X-T3, Nikon D500, Panasonic G9 and Sony A9.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction ("noise filter" in Olympus parlance) and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Olympus E-M1X, Olympus E-M1 II, Fuji X-T3, Nikon D500, Panasonic G9, and Sony A9, -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Olympus E-M1X to any camera we've ever tested!

Olympus E-M1X: ISO Low (approx. ISO 64) vs Base ISO

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 64
Olympus E-M1X at ISO 200
First, let's compare the Olympus E-M1X to itself at the lowest and base ISOs. We usually avoid expanded low ISO settings for our image quality comparisons as we don't normally see much improvement in image quality, and they almost always come at the cost of reduced dynamic range. However, like prior Olympus Micro Four Thirds models, the E-M1X displays noticeably better detail in its extended low ISO JPEGs compared to the lowest standard or base ISO of 200, especially in our red-leaf fabric crop. Dynamic range is definitely lower with the extended-low ISO settings, but if your subject and lighting suits, you may want to use the E-M1X's extended low ISO setting for even better detail in JPEGs.

Olympus E-M1X vs Olympus E-M1 II at Base ISO

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 200
Olympus E-M1 II at ISO 200

Above we compare base ISO (200) image quality from the E-M1X to the smaller, more affordable E-M1 II which we are told uses the exact same sensor. As you can see, the E-M1X's crops are a bit sharper with slightly better detail and contrast, however be aware that we have since upgraded our MFT lab lens from an Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/2.0 to a Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2, and we have also changed the aperture for this series from f/8 to f/5.6 to reduce diffraction. (The Leica lens has less field curvature than the Olympus, allowing us to use a wider aperture while still keeping most of our Still Life test target in focus.) Despite the changes in lens and aperture, we do see some processing differences as well, including slightly stronger default sharpening and higher contrast, but we also see lower overall saturation levels. Note that the E-M1 II was shot with firmware v1.0 though, and Olympus has since tweaked that camera's image processing in the v2.0 and v3.0 firmware releases to the point where it now pretty much matches the E-M1X's JPEG output.

Olympus E-M1X vs Fujifilm X-T3 at Base ISO

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 200
Fujifilm X-T3 at ISO 160

Above we compare the MFT E-M1X to the APS-C X-T3. You would think the 26-megapixel X-T3 would have a noticeable resolution advantage over the 20-megapixel E-M1X here, but both cameras have fairly similar resolutions on the vertical axis (4160 vs 3888 pixels) which is how this scene is framed, so the resolution difference is pretty minor and mostly boils down to different demosaicing algorithms and processing. Luminance noise appears a little higher from the Fuji, but chrominance noise is higher from the Olympus. The Olympus produces a crisper image with higher contrast, though default sharpening also appears to be stronger with more obvious sharpening halos. The X-T3 resolves more of the printed pattern in our red-leaf swatch with fewer aliasing artifacts, while the E-M1X renders it softer with areas containing what look to be thread patterns, however the Olympus does much better with thread pattern in the pink fabric. Both cameras produce good color, though the Fuji's are more saturated.

Olympus E-M1X vs Nikon D500 at Base ISO

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 200
Nikon D500 at ISO 100

The 4:3 aspect Olympus E-M1X image appears larger in scale than the 3:2 APS-C Nikon D500 image despite the Nikon's slightly higher pixel count of about 20.7 megapixels because of the way this shot is framed (vertically). Both cameras however resolve very similar levels of detail here in most areas, as both don't include an optical low-pass filter. And both apply generous amounts of sharpening yielding crisp images with visible sharpening halos around high-contrast elements, though the E-M1X's default sharpening is a little more aggressive. The Nikon however does noticeably better with our red-leaf swatch, but overall colors are a little more accurate from the Olympus. Noise levels appear similar, but the E-M1X is smoothing out the background texture more than the D500.

Olympus E-M1X vs Panasonic G9 at Base ISO

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 200
Panasonic G9 at ISO 200

Above we compare the E-M1X to another 20-megapixel MFT camera without an OLPF, the Panasonic G9. At base ISO, the G9 does a slightly better job at rendering fine detail, however noise levels are a bit higher. The E-M1X image is crisper and more contrasty, but shows more obvious sharpening halos as well. Both produced moiré patterns in our tricky red-leaf swatch, but contrast is a bit better from the G9 there. Color is warmer and overall more pleasing from the E-M1X.

Olympus E-M1X vs Sony A9 at Base ISO

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 200
Sony A9 at ISO 100

In this comparison we pit the 24-megapixel full-frame Sony A9 against the 20-megapixel MFT Olympus E-M1X. Hardly a fair comparison if you just consider the relative sensor sizes alone, however the E-M1X easily competes with the Sony in terms of performance. Here, the Sony captures a bit more detail with excellent sharpness as its sharpening algorithm does not generate obvious halos along high-contrast edges like the Olympus does. Noise is a bit higher from the Sony in flatter areas, but it does a much better job with our challenging red-leaf swatch. Color is however more pleasing and accurate from the Olympus, though not as vibrant overall.

Olympus E-M1X vs Olympus E-M1 II at ISO 1600

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 1600
Olympus E-M1 II at ISO 1600

Here at ISO 1600 we can see significant improvements to sharpness, contrast, detail and even color from the E-M1X, but as mentioned, be aware that: a) different lenses and apertures were used, and b) installing the E-M1 II's latest firmware (v3.0 as of this writing) brings its processing up to par with the E-M1X's. Still, the E-M1X shows the improvements Olympus has made to JPEG processing of late, which are now possible with the older E-M1 II via free firmware updates.

Olympus E-M1X vs Fujifilm X-T3 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-T3 at ISO 1600

The E-M1X actually holds its own fairly well here against the X-T3 at ISO 1600, with lower noise levels and almost as good detail retention, though is does show more noise reduction and sharpening artifacts. While crispness and contrast are better from the Olympus, the E-M1X's noise reduction starts to distort detail in the mosaic crop and it smears away much of the subtle detail in our tricky red-leaf fabric.

Olympus E-M1X vs Nikon D500 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 1600
Nikon D500 at ISO 1600

The Nikon D500 shows slightly lower levels of luminance noise in flatter areas and fewer noise reduction artifacts, however the E-M1X image is crisper and more contrasty. The Nikon continues to do quite a bit better at retaining detail in our tricky red-leaf swatch, though.

Olympus E-M1X vs Panasonic G9 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 1600
Panasonic G9 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, the G9 holds onto slightly more fine detail with fewer noise reduction artifacts than the E-M1X in our mosaic crops, but the Olympus continues to produce a crisper, more contrasty image with better color. Luminance noise appears a little stronger from the G9 in flatter areas, with a coarser "grain" pattern, but chroma noise in the shadows is higher from the E-M1X. The G9 does a little better in our troublesome red-leaf swatch, but both cameras have blurred away a lot of subtle detail.

Olympus E-M1X vs Sony A9 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 1600
Sony A9 at ISO 1600

Unsurprisingly, the full-frame Sony A9 bests the Olympus E-M1X here at ISO 1600, with more detail, lower noise and fewer processing artifacts. As the E-M1X works hard to keep noise under control it distorts, blurs and smudges fine detail much more than the A9, especially in our red-leaf swatch.

Olympus E-M1X vs Olympus E-M1 II at ISO 3200

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 3200
Olympus E-M1 II at ISO 3200

Similar to the improvements we saw at ISO 1600, we continue to see better sharpness, contrast, detail and color from the E-M1X here at ISO 3200. But once again, be aware of the differences in lens, aperture and firmware. When using the same lens & aperture and after installing v3.0 firmware on an E-M1 II, we found virtually no difference in image quality from these two siblings.

Olympus E-M1X vs Fujifilm X-T3 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 3200
Fujifilm X-T3 at ISO 3200

The E-M1X continues to produce a crisper, contrastier image with lower luminance noise, however it shows more chroma noise and noise reduction artifacts than X-T3 making the Fuji's rendering look perhaps a little more natural. The Fuji's advantage in our tricky red-leaf fabric has almost vanished now, and the Olympus still does better in the pink fabric.

Olympus E-M1X vs Nikon D500 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 3200
Nikon D500 at ISO 3200

Luminance noise is a bit higher from the E-M1X here at ISO 3200, but the D500 produces a slightly coarser noise "grain" pattern, as well as slightly less detail in some areas (partially due to its aspect-ratio disadvantage in how we frame this shot). But Nikon's default noise reduction does a better job at reducing noise in detailed areas without generating quite as many artifacts as the Olympus, as can be seen in the mosaic crop. Still, the Olympus image looks crisper, though with more obvious sharpening halos. The Nikon continues to do better with the red-leaf fabric.

Olympus E-M1X vs Panasonic G9 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 3200
Panasonic G9 at ISO 3200

This is a pretty close race here at ISO 3200, with the G9 cranking up its default noise reduction more than the E-M1X's compared to ISO 1600. The E-M1X image has slightly higher contrast and is a bit sharper with more visible sharpening halos, but both cameras hold onto similar amounts of detail. Luma noise is a little higher from the Olympus, but it's more fine-grained in appearance. Colors are still brighter and more pleasing from the E-M1X.

Olympus E-M1X vs Sony A9 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-M1X at ISO 3200
Sony A9 at ISO 3200

The Olympus E-M1X does very well for a Micro Four Thirds camera, but it simply can't compete with a good full-frame sensor in terms of noise, which means its noise reduction processing has to work a lot harder to keep noise in check with fine detail suffering more as a consequence. Despite the stronger noise reduction, the Olympus also shows slightly higher luminance and chrominance noise than the Sony, and subtle detail in our red-leaf swatch is all but gone now, replaced by noise and other artifacts.

Olympus E-M1X vs. Olympus E-M1 II, Fujifilm X-T3, Nikon D500, Panasonic G9, Sony A9

Olympus
E-M1X
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus
E-M1 II
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fujifilm
X-T3
ISO 160
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D500
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic
G9
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A9
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it, too. Here we can again see the improvements made over the E-M1 II especially as ISO climbs, but again be aware that using the same optics and installing the latest firmware for the E-M1 II brings it in-line with the E-M1X. Unsurprisingly, the full-frame Sony A9 comes out ahead in this comparison, with very little degradation in image quality as sensitivity rises to ISO 6400. The Fuji X-T3 does quite well for an APS-C sensor, though contrast lags somewhat as sensitivity climbs The APS-C Nikon D500 also does quite well with only minor degradation as sensitivity is increased. The Panasonic G9 does pretty well, but trails all but the E-M1 II in terms of contrast and color as ISO is increased.

 

Olympus E-M1X Print Quality Analysis

An excellent 30 x 40 inch print at ISO 64/100/200, a good 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 1600, and a nice 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 64/100/200 yield superb images at 30 x 40 inches, and even a bit larger depending on your intended viewing distance where resolution is concerned. The images have a wonderful three-dimensional pop, realistic colors and presence, as well as very nice fine detail. Wonderful printed images all around!

ISO 400 prints are quite good at 24 x 36 inches, with nice colors and fine detail. There's virtually no sign at this size that the ISO sensitivity has risen, and you can also certainly use the 30 x 40 inch prints here for wall display purposes.

ISO 800 produces quite a nice print at 16 x 20 inches, with only a trace of noise present in flatter areas of our test target. There is of course a noticeable lessening of contrast detail in our tricky red-leaf fabric swatch, which is typical for most enthusiast cameras by this gain setting, though certainly not all. You can push the size to 20 x 30 inches here for less critical applications and wall display purposes as well, but for important prints remaining at 16 x 20 inches and below is recommended.

ISO 1600 delivers a 16 x 20 inch print that somewhat surprisingly passes our good seal. We say surprising because this is quite a large print at ISO 1600 for a Four Thirds sensor to achieve. There is certainly a bit more noise present in some flatter areas of our test target upon close inspection, but not quite as much as we saw with the E-M1 Mark II (with v1.0 firmware). This is a worthwhile achievement indeed.

ISO 3200 is generally the gain setting where most Four Thirds sensors begin to show their limits, and while the E-M1X is nearly as good as any in its class, it is still no exception. We can wholeheartedly recommend 11 x 14 inch prints here, and it most assuredly merits our "good" seal, but anything higher is not recommended save for less critical printing applications.

ISO 6400 prints also continue to show the strain of ISO gain, and are best restricted to 8 x 10 inches in size. There is nearly full color representation and fairly good fine detail for this ISO at that size, although all contrast detail is now lost in our tricky target red-leaf swatch. There is only minimal noise apparent in a few flatter areas, so not a bad print overall for this much gain increase.

ISO 12,800 yields a nice 5 x 7 inch print considering the lofty gain setting. We've pretty much now moved out of "professional grade" printing territory since you can no longer achieve a quality 8 x 10, but it's still nice to see that you can achieve a worthwhile print for general and family-type purposes.

ISO 25,600 prints are not awful at 4 x 6 inches, and will likely work for less critical applications, but for anything of a serious nature there's simply too much noise apparent to make the grade. We therefore recommend avoiding this gain setting for most all printing purposes.

The Olympus E-M1X delivers one of the best performances in the Print Quality department that we've yet seen from a Four Thirds sensor. Base ISO and extended low settings yield superb 30 x 40 inch prints, while even ISO 1600 can deliver a quality 16 x 20 inch print. After that and in somewhat typical fashion the quality level and usability for printing purposes does fade rather quickly, but you'll be in good hands at ISO 1600 and below, and can even get by at ISO 3200 if you're not printing super-large. A fine job once again from Olympus in providing superior quality for enthusiasts and professionals from a relatively small sensor.

 



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