Olympus E-PL7 Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Olympus E-PL7 image quality to its predecessor, the E-PL5, as well as against several competing models at similar price points or in similar categories: the Fuji X-A2, Nikon D3300, Samsung NX300 and Sony A5100.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction 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-PL7, Olympus E-PL5, Fuji X-A2, Nikon D3300, Samsung NX300 and Sony A5100 -- 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-PL7 to any camera we've ever tested!


Olympus E-PL7 vs Olympus E-PL5 at Base ISO

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 200
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 200

At the base ISO of 200, the E-PL7 and E-PL5 produce very similar results which is to say excellent image quality for a 16-megapixel Four Thirds sensor. Interestingly, though, the E-PL7 leaves a bit more noise in the red-leaf fabric, but otherwise, image quality is practically identical here with only very subtle differences.

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 200
Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 100

As shown above comparing the E-PL7's base ISO 200 (left) to expanded ISO 100 (right), one advantage of the E-PL7 over its predecessor is that it offers an expanded low ISO 100 equivalent with noticeably improved detail particularly in our red-leaf fabric (due to lower default noise reduction), but at the expense of less dynamic range. The E-PL5 does not offer an extended ISO 100 setting.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Fujifilm X-A2 at Base ISO

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 200
Fujifilm X-A2 at ISO 200

Here we compare the E-PL7 to the 16-megapixel APS-C Fuji X-A2. This Fuji model uses a traditional Bayer-filtered sensor instead of Fujifilm's unique X-Trans sensor, but it still performs very well when coupled with Fuji's processing. The X-A2's images are cleaner and softer looking than the PL7's, however they do show a little less detail in the mosaic crop. At first glance, the red-leaf fabric appears to have less detail as well, but if you look closely, it actually has just as much if not more, but contrast is significantly lower. The Olympus does do better with the pink fabric, though.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Nikon D3300 at Base ISO

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 200
Nikon D3300 at ISO 100

Here we decided to compare the E-PL7 to an excellent entry-level APS-C DSLR, the Nikon D3300. The 24-megapixel D3300 does resolve more fine detail with fewer noise reduction artifacts, however the E-PL7 compares well here, especially considering its base ISO is higher.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Samsung NX300 at Base ISO

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 200
Samsung NX300 at ISO 100

The 20-megapixel APS-C Samsung NX300 resolves a bit more detail and also shows fewer noise reduction artifacts, but it struggles with the red-leaf swatch already at base ISO, blurring it more than the E-PL7. Overall, we still give the edge to the Samsung at base ISO, but only just.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Sony A5100 at Base ISO

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 200
Sony A5100 at ISO 100

In this comparison with the 24-megapixel APS-C Sony A5100, the Olympus holds it own, though the Sony does resolve more detail overall. The A5100's images are fairly crisp without the obvious sharpening halos generated by the E-PL7, however the Sony shows quite a few false colors in the monk's clothing (some of them are real -- a result of the offset printing process -- however they appear somewhat exaggerated). Sony's rendering of the tricky red-leaf pattern appears softer but actually contains good detail, while the E-PL7's rendering resolves some of the thread pattern, however it's also noisier giving the impression of more detail.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

Again, pretty similar results from the two siblings at ISO 1600, however the older E-PL5 does a bit better at holding onto fine detail while the E-PL7 produces a slightly cleaner image. We're splitting hairs here, though, and both struggle to retain fine detail in our challenging red-leaf swatch.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Fujifilm X-A2 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-A2 at ISO 1600

As we saw at base ISO, the X-A2 produces a cleaner looking image with fewer noise reduction and sharpening artifacts at ISO 1600, though it appears a bit soft. Both cameras struggle with our red-leaf fabric however the X-A2 does resolve slightly better detail, but with much lower contrast.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Nikon D3300 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 1600
Nikon D3300 at ISO 1600

There's a dramatic difference between the E-PL7 and D3300 here at ISO 1600. While the Nikon's image is much noisier, it retains much more detail, and the noise is very fine-grained, almost film-like in nature. The E-PL7 on the other hand is working hard to smooth over noise, however it loses more detail in the process.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Samsung NX300 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 1600
Samsung NX300 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, the Samsung continues to resolve more fine detail while producing lower noise and fewer artifacts, but contrast is a little lower and it really struggles with our red-leaf swatch.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Sony A5100 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 1600
Sony A5100 at ISO 1600

The Sony A5100 continues to resolve more detail than the E-PL7 at ISO 1600, but its somewhat clumsy processing smudges fine detail, giving some areas of the image a slightly soft, almost veiled look. The E-PL7's image also shows a loss of detail as well as unwanted artifacts, but it appears crisper with more "pop". The Sony does do a little better with our notorious red-leaf swatch, though some of that apparent detail is false.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

Again, very similar results from the two Olympus PEN models at ISO 3200, but yet again, the E-PL5 does a tad batter at retaining fine detail, while the E-PL7 shows slightly lower noise. Both produce fairly strong artifacts in their attempt to control noise, and both only show a slight semblance of the red-leaf pattern.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Fujifilm X-A2 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 3200
Fujifilm X-A2 at ISO 3200

The X-A2 continues to do noticeably better than the E-PL7 at ISO 3200, with lower noise, fewer artifacts and better fine detail, though the image remains a little soft overall. Both cameras really struggle resolving much of the pattern in our red-leaf swatch, however the E-PL7 does continue to produce slightly higher contrast.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Nikon D3300 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 3200
Nikon D3300 at ISO 3200

The D3300 easily out-resolves the PL7 at ISO 3200, but continues to produce a much noisier image. However as was the case at ISO 1600, the noise has a very tight "grain" and images look more natural and film-like, as well as containing more detail than the E-PL7's.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Samsung NX300 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 3200
Samsung NX300 at ISO 3200

The Samsung NX300 works hard at eliminating noise at ISO 3200, though it still manages to offer much better fine detail in most areas. The NX300's noise reduction does however leave behind some dark pixels in flat areas, which give those areas a bit of a peppered look, and it really smudges out almost all detail in our red-leaf swatch. The E-PL7's noise in the shadows is more grainy and natural looking, however fine detail in the mosaic crop shows a lot more artifacts.

Olympus E-PL7 vs Sony A5100 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-PL7 at ISO 3200
Sony A5100 at ISO 3200

Here again the Sony's image at ISO 3200 is quite soft from aggressive default noise reduction and light sharpening, though it does continue to contain more detail overall.

Olympus E-PL7 vs. Olympus E-PL5, Fujifilm X-A2, Nikon D3300, Samsung NX300, Sony A5100

Olympus
E-PL7
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus
E-PL5
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fujifilm
X-A2
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D3300
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Samsung
NX300
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A5100
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. We also like to take a look at high-contrast detail, as results often differ from what we see in the tables above. Here, the E-PL7 continues the Olympus tradition of producing great results with high-contrast detail as ISO rises, as did the E-PL5. As you can see, contrast and detail remains very good at ISO 3200, and even ISO 6400 only shows a slight drop in detail and saturation. Excellent results, though perhaps not quite as good as the E-PL5's. The Nikon D3300 however performs the best in terms of detail here, but it does lose sharpness and contrast as ISO climbs. The Sony A5100 is almost the opposite, dropping less in sharpness and contrast, but losing more detail. It also generated the most false colors. The NX300 drops in contrast noticeably as ISO climbs, but still retains good detail. Trailing the pack is the Fuji X-A2, which has difficulty resolving the fine lines within the lettering even at base ISO, while losing contrast as sensitivity increases.

 

Olympus E-PL7 Print Quality Analysis

Excellent 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100/200; a nice 16 x 20 at ISO 1600; and a good 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100/200 images look excellent at 24 x 36 inches. A very close inspection reveals a trace of pixelation given the 16-megapixel resolution, but for normal viewing distances of a 2' x 3' print, this would never be noticed in the slightest. Fine detail is very sharp, and colors look excellent.

ISO 400 prints at 24 x 36 inches introduce the slightest trace of noise in a few flatter areas of our target, but are fine for less critical applications. 20 x 30 inch prints here look quite good with no noticeable issues.

ISO 800 almost makes our "good" grade at 20 x 30 inches. Moving down a size to 16 x 20 inches does the trick and yields a very nice print across the board with virtually no noise reduction artifacts.

ISO 1600 produces a good 16 x 20 inch print, which is quite good for an entry-level camera at ISO 1600. Fine detail and full color reproduction are on display here.

ISO 3200 is often the turning point for Micro Four Thirds cameras in general, but the E-PL7 handles it about as well as any in this class. 13 x 19 inch prints here are good with only a few areas showing minor issues with softening in the red channel and some mild noise in flatter areas.

ISO 6400 takes a fairly dramatic toll on image quality, as is typical for all but the best full-frame camera bodies on the market. 8 x 10 inch prints here pass our "good" rating, though all contrast detail is now lost in our tricky red-leaf fabric swatch.

ISO 12,800 yields a 5 x 7 inch print that almost passes our good grade, but it's the 4 x 6 inch print here that we'll pin our seal of approval on, with full color reproduction still on display here.

ISO 25,600 prints aren't terrible, as with some cameras we've seen, but they don't quite make our good grade at 4 x 6, and this setting is best avoided for most all applications.

Like its predecessor, the E-PL5 and its esteemed big brother the E-P5, the Olympus E-PL7 produces very worthwhile prints across most of the available ISO sensitivity range. It bests the E-PL5 at ISO 1600 and 3200 by a print size, and generally looks better than its predecessor as ISO rises. Fine detail and rich color reproduction are on full display up to ISO 1600, where large 16 x 20 inch prints are still possible with virtually no noise reduction artifacts. Noise and softness begin to take their usual toll in increasing degrees after this, but a good 4 x 6 inch print is still possible at ISO 12,800, which would correspond to a large onscreen image. And while the highest available ISO setting of 25,600 doesn't quite make the grade, it generally doesn't until you move to a larger sensor. A very nice performance in the print quality department by this mid-level PEN camera!

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 



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