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06-06-2015, 02:54 PM   #1
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K-3 vs. E-M10 vs. Q7

Earlier this week I took possession of an Olympus OM-D E-M10 kit that included a 14-42mm lens. I got access to a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake as well. My intention for this camera is to have it slot between my Q7 and K-3. I love both of those bodies but they represent two extremes. The Q7 is teeny tiny and makes for a great travel kit but I sometimes wish for better low light performance, more high quality primes, and even a WYSIWYG viewfinder of some sort. I can get all of that and more with my K-3 but now I am saddled with significantly more bulk. That by itself is not bad but there are some situations where it doesn't suit me. Traveling by plane is one of them. Carrying my K-3 kit when I already have a suitcase and a carry on is too much for me. The K-3 is perfect when I travel by car or go for a local walk. The u4/3 system always seemed like a good in-between fit between my Q and K systems. There are many sharp pancake prime lenses available. The bodies are reasonably small and lightweight. Sensor IQ is very high. The price has always been a barrier to entry for me until now.

The M10 is a very pleasurable camera body to use. Ergonomics are good. Response time is quick. I wanted to know how well this camera performs compared to my Q and K systems so I performed an informal, subjective, unscientific test. My desk has a row of dusty vacuum tubes that are real easy to photograph. Just set the camera on the desk, enable the 10 second timer, and press the shutter button. I did just that and cycled through the ISO settings in 2x steps to understand the sensor noise levels. All three cameras cover different a different ISO range so I picked a range that all three can do: 200 to 12,800. I don't have lenses for all three bodies that give an exact same FoV but I tried to cover approximately the same FoV by adjusting the position of the camera. The M10 had a Panasonic 20mm which is 40mm in FF-speak. I mounted my FA 31mm Limited on my K-3 and pulled the camera back. My Q7 got the 01 prime and I positioned it at almost the same spot as the M10.

All the test shots were shot in RAW and processed in Capture One. I adjusted the white balance, contrast, highlight recovery, and sharpening on one image and copied the settings to each of the other images in the set. There were some slight differences in the resulting histogram but nothing so huge that would completely invalidate the test. It was "good enough". I captured 100% crops for each image and collated them into a single image. Here is a link to the result on my Dropbox drive. Please let me know if the link doesn't work.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/1fixkk5q02os0aa/K3%20vs%20M10%20vs%20Q7.jpg?dl=0

The organization of the image should be self explanatory. Cameras in columns, same ISO in rows.

What did I discover? A few things ...

All three cameras work very well at low ISO. Noise levels are low. Each camera resolves the fine dust revealing plenty of texture and detail. Even the Q7 with its tiny sensor fared admirably. Of course, the larger resolution of the K-3 reveals a bit more detail than the Q7 and the M10. As the ISO is increased the question becomes which camera starts to lose detail first? The Q7 faltered first at ISO 800 where the fine dust starts becoming a grey smear. Both the M10 and K-3 continue to show some detail. I feel like the M10 started smearing the dust significantly at ISO 3200 but the K-3 continues to show some detail. Finally, at ISO 6400 the K-3 starts smearing some of the detail too. By ISO 12.8k it's time to convert to B&W and accept the noise a simulated film grain.

The K-3 was helped a lot by the extra resolution where the additional pixels kept resolving the dust. Couple the resolution with the lower noise and the K-3 will always come ahead. Still, the M10 did great in this pixel peeping test. Even the Q7 did well at the low ISOs. The Q7's lower resolution hindered it a bit since there is less to resolve the details with. We have to remember that viewing this 100% crop is like looking at a small mural. For small prints up to 8"x10" all three cameras will do well. Another good test would be to take some shots like this but in bright daylight conditions. Maybe another day.

This test wasn't about proving anything. I just wanted to begin to understand the noise levels I can expect at different ISO settings. The Q7 is definitively a camera for good light but will fare well in darker and dimmer areas if you crank up the ISO and go for small prints. I was impressed with the M10 seeing how close it came to the K-3. Of course, the K-3 can pull ahead as it should. When the absolute best possible performance is a must then the K-3 must answer the call. However, when the bulk of the K-3 is a show stopper then the M10 is an obvious choice. I can see coupling the M10 plus three primes with the Q7 plus the 06 and 08 zoom. Now I can leverage the strengths of both systems in a lightweight package if I can handle the bulk.

06-06-2015, 10:19 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
The Q7 is teeny tiny and makes for a great travel kit but I sometimes wish for better low light performance, more high quality primes, and even a WYSIWYG viewfinder of some sort. I can get all of that and more with my K-3 but now I am saddled with significantly more bulk. That by itself is not bad but there are some situations where it doesn't suit me. Traveling by plane is one of them. Carrying my K-3 kit when I already have a suitcase and a carry on is too much for me. The K-3 is perfect when I travel by car or go for a local walk. The u4/3 system always seemed like a good in-between fit between my Q and K systems. There are many sharp pancake prime lenses available. The bodies are reasonably small and lightweight. Sensor IQ is very high. The price has always been a barrier to entry for me until now.
That is also how I feel. I bring the K-3 with me and wifey bring her K-30 when we are out travelling by car. If I am traveling light within Australia, I might bring the K-3 with me too. If I am travelling overseas, the K-3 and even just 1 lens become too much to carry. I don't have a m43 system so I just bring my Q and my wife just bring her Samsung NX Mini.

Like you I yearn for a better Q performance and sometimes feel if I should also slot in a cheap M43 in between the cameras....but running multiple platforms can be costly....
06-09-2015, 03:09 PM   #3
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Thanks for the info. If my G12 dies...m4/3 might be way...
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