ISO Comparison for Olympus E-P1 Micro Four Thirds DSLR

The number one question I've received since readers knew I was testing the Olympus E-P1 Digital SLR was about its low light performance. So I've put together a batch of images ranging from ISO 100 all the way through ISO 6400 so you can see for yourself how the E-P1 (with new image processing engine) performs.

Both Jpeg and Raw (processed with Olympus Master 2 software) versions are included on the Digital Story Flickr page. The images were captured in Mahattan's Lower East Side around 8 pm on June 16, 2009. Here's how I took the shots.

The Olympus E-P1 was on a tripod using the self-timer to trip the shutter. I had the kit 14-42 mm lens mounted using Programmed exposure and auto white balance. I used the Raw+Jpeg recording format. The Jpegs you see on my Flickr page have not been processed. They are full size and straight from the camera. If you click on "All Sizes," you can see the original image at full size.

This image was captured at ISO 400 in Raw mode on an Olympus E-P1. Click on the picture to see a 100 percent magnification of a portion of it.

The Raw files on that page were processed in Olympus Master 2 using a white balance setting of 7500 K with exposure set to +0.2 EV. Sharpening was set to +1. The images were then exported as Jpegs from Olympus Master 2 and uploaded to the Flickr page without any further editing.

In the Raw files, I like ISO 200, 400, and 1600. I haven't done enough testing to understand why there was some smearing at ISO 100 and 800 with the Raws. ISO 3200 and 6400 should be reserved for special situations where getting the shot outweighs its high level of noise.

ISO performance is a very personal thing among photographers. Everyone has their threshold for image noise. Take a look at this collection of shots and decide for yourself how the Olympus E-P1 performs in low light.

The Olympus E-P1 kit with 14-42 mm lens will be available at for $799 US.

If you want to listen to a podcast about the Olympus E-P1, check out Meet the Olympus E-P1.

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As one of those that was asking, thanks so much for doing this. So far, to my eye, I agree with you that 1600 looks to be a usable ISO, with 3200+ being for emergency use. Some night/stage shooting should shed a bit more light.

Yeah, it's going t take a few shoots in different lighting situations to really find out where the limits are, plus maybe a print or two. But after this first test, I'm willing to give ISO 1600 a chance.

Thanks for testing the ISO right out of the gate, Derrick. I'm pretty excited about this camera, especially if 1600 is usable (guess 3200 is too much to ask). As with most people, low light is the huge flaw with the G10 for me, as much as I love the G10 for its cool macro capabilities and decent zoom...

Derrick, thanks for the review and it's good to see you back on DPReview!

Thanks for the EP-1 info. I find the low light performance of my EP-1 to be very good, especially with the IS on. But I do tend to get a lot of noise in the shadow areas of my photos at ISO 1600. Can you tell me what Noise Reduction and Noise Filter settings you are using?

Hi, thank you for the wonderful blog, a truly great start to the 2010, keep up the excellent work, Tonia.