Olympus E-P1 and Nikon D90

I will add to this thread over time, and while I didn't intend to start a comparison of one system against another, I did a similar shot the other day with both my E-P1 and Nikon D90.

I post this mainly as an example of how differently these cameras behave and as a matter of interest. I don't intend people to ditch one camera for the other. I see these as complementary photographic tools.

See Post # 5 for the correct images. I have left these here as there has already been comment on the images.

The E-P1 was fitted with a Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 and this shot was taken at f/2.


23 V The Artist's Tools - Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 @ f2 by peterb666, on Flickr

The Nikon D90 was fitted with a Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom set to 24mm and taken at f/4.5


24 N - The Artist's Tools - Nikkor 10-24mm @ 24mm and f4.5 by peterb666, on Flickr

The picture is of a spray can in the window of an abandoned tram carriage.

I am a little surprised how differently these images are rendered. One thing that is obvious is the Nikon does have better dynamic range. Look at the detail in the ceiling of the carriage and brighter whites, yet the blacks are still quite strong (the black edging to the yellow star).

I quite like the general detail of the Voigtlander lens. The are no problems there at all. The Voigtlander bokeh literally creams the Nikkor lens which has some excessive doughnuts around bright bits.

IMHO, the main differences here are in the camera's sensors and the effect on the dynamic range. In isolation, both cameras do their job well but the Nikon D90 performs better.

How do you see it?


The Voiglander bokeh literally creams the Nikkor lens which has some excissive donouts around bright bits.

IMHO your comparison is not valid concerning bokeh: you used different focal lengths (even two focal length which differ in angle of view) and different apertures. The lens you should have used on the Nikon is the AF-S 1,8/35mm.

The exposures are different, too, the picture taken with the Nikon seems to be a little bit overexposed compared to the E-P1. In my experience the Nikon D90 has the tendency to overexposure slightly, while the Olympus E-P1 has the tendency to underexpose slightly.

But you are right: I had a Nikon D90 and unfortunately I sold it. The image quality of the Nikon is much better and I really mean: much better. I can see the difference even at ISO 200. The Nikon D90 has more dynamic range and much less noise. My Olympus pens are noisy even at ISO 200 where the Nikon D90 showed virtually no noise at all. Regarding dynamic range: even my Canon G12 has more at base ISO than the E-P1.


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Thanks for this, but you are comparing a cheap AF 50mm f1.8 lens versus a (much more expensive) 25mm f0.95 MF lens and the cheap one wins, (in one way)

you also say that the CV bokeh is better, (or you like it better), but you used the CV at f2 and compared it with the Nikon at f4.5

The D90 is just different from the EP1 anyway and the two lens are certainly different

I'm not being negative towards what you have done and it is interesting - I prefer the Nikon DSLR over the M43 in many ways - but I'm not sure that the comparison is valid in any way - it has more negatives, (in a comparison test), than positives

There is a Nikon AF f1.4 and a manual focus 50mm f1.2 - they are both considerably cheaper than the 25mm f0.95

Just my views

Pictor, you are right that the closest fit would be the 35mm f/1.8 lens but then I don't have that. Considering it another way, if the D90 had a full frame sensor a 50mm lens would be the perfect macth and both of these shots have been cropped anyway.

Edit: It turns out I am comparing a 25mm and 24mm lens anyway. I will see if I did the same shot at f/4 with the Voigtlander as that will be a near match.

As I said at the beginning, I didn't intend doing comparision but as I had a pair of essentially similar images the thing that sprung to note regarding the bokeh was how well the Voigtlander behaves for a fast lens. On the other hand, the Nikkor is pretty ordinary.

The slight underexposure from the Olympus E-P1 is probably a good thing as the highlights do get blown out more readily and there is far less lattitude for recovery. Both photos were taken with 0EV readings however the D90 was using matrix pattern and the E-P1 spot (according to the EXIF however I would have thought I had it on centre weighted). Even when both cameras are set to spot or centre weighted, I have noticed the 2 cameras give quite different exposure readings and may differ by more than 1/2 stop.

I didn't mention noise, but you can see a difference even in these pictures.

I wouldn't be surprised that the G12 has more dynamic range than the Olympus E-P1 - the sensor is the Olympus is a real achillies heal. On the other hand, I wouldn't like to see an image noise comparision between the Olympus and the G12 as you head up the ISO range. Even the Olympus would win that over a 1/1.7" sensor.

I am hoping the E-P3 or whatever ditches the current sensors and heads over to a Sony sensor or a Kodak sensor (provided it isn't a dud).

I will be doing some comparisons between the Olympus E-P1 with the Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm zoom and the D90 with the Nikkor 10-24mm. These lenses overlap from 12-24mm in the Nikon. I can tell you however, there is one area in which the Olympus 9-18mm wins hands down and that is with lens flare. Ironically the Nikkor 10-24mm is relatively well regarded in that respect.

Edit: On checking the EXIF date, the Nikon shot was taken with the 10-24mm zoom set to 24mm and f/4.5.


I wouldn't be surprised that the G12 has more dynamic range than the Olympus E-P1 - the sensor is the Olympus is a real achillies heal. On the other hand, I wouldn't like to see an image noise comparision between the Olympus and the G12 as you head up the ISO range. Even the Olympus would win that over a 1/1.7" sensor.

Thanks for your answer and the additional test photo, which is better concerning this comparison.

Since I own the Canon G12 and the Olympus E-P1 (and E-PL1) I want to add my experience about the differences you mention. You are right, that high ISOs make a difference. According to DxOMark, the dynamic range of the pens will be better than the dynamic range of the G12, if one increases ISO. But at base ISO the Canon G12 seems to be better and in my experience this holds even for noise: At ISO 80 the G12 has less noise than the E-P1 at 200. ISO 200 is the base ISO of the E-P1, while ISO 100 is the same as ISO 200 but with a different tone curve and less noise but also with less dynamic range. The E-P1 at ISO 100 clearly wins concerning noise, but looses concerning dynamic range compared to the G12.

But the lens of the G12 is faster than the kit lenses of Olympus and Panasonic and has better image stabilization than the pens. If ISO gets higher than base ISO, the E-P1 has an advantage of one full step and the advantage increases further when ISO gets higher. But when I use my G12, I can use at least one step less ISO, which compensates the advantage of the E-P1 (if I don't need fast shutter speeds).

In my opinion the difference concerning noise is not as great as the difference in sensor size suggests. If the sensor of the G12 had the same size as the sensor of the E-P1, the G12 would outperform the E-P1 easily.