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Date: 06/10/2013 | By: Mathieu

Panasonic Lumix GX7 vs. Olympus Pen E-P5: How does low-light performance compare?

DSC-RX100M2, 1/10, f/ 32/10, ISO 1600

Panasonic Lumix GX7 vs. Olympus Pen E-P5: How does low-light performance compare?

About twenty minutes away from the city of Turin sits one of the grandest royal palaces of Northern Italy, the Reggia di Venaria Reale. It is the former royal residence of the house of Savoy and is one of the largest royal residences in the world.

The palace was mostly used as a base for duke Carlo Emanuele II’s hunting expeditions. Inside you will find dozens of rooms, each decorated with paintings by famous court artists of the times, stuccos and statues. Outside are the expansive royal gardens which were destroyed during the Napoleonic domination to make way for a French training ground, but were later rebuilt in a modern style.

Since cloud, mist and rain had engulfed most of Italy on Saturday, we decided to visit the palace to test out the new Panasonic Lumix GX7 with a specific focus on how it compares to its direct competitor, the Olympus Pen E-P5. (We also brought along the Fuji X-M1 but we’ll leave that for a future article!)

The test was based around the low-light performance of the two cameras, specifically high ISO performance and internal stabilization.

High ISO Performance

Before performing our own test, we had read on various forums and photography blogs that the GX7 performed slightly better than the E-P5 in terms of high ISO. This could only be expected as the GX7 has a more recent sensor than the E-P5, which has the same sensor as the OM-D E-M5. Of course we trust words less than pictures, so we took some images of our own inside the Reggia di Veneria Reale to verify these claims.

The pictures in this selection range from 1600 ISO all the way up to 25600 ISO, which is the maximum both camera can reach. Every pair of images was taken with the same settings for aperture, shutter speed and white balance. Both picture profiles were set to natural and we used the same kind of lens, the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens from Olympus. The only difference is that the GX7 had the more recent version of that kit lens.

Please note that if not otherwise stated, all the pictures come from the raw files.

Let’s start with 1600 ISO:

E-P5, 1/30, f/ 35/10, ISO 1600
E-P5, 1/30, f/ 3.5, ISO 1600
DMC-GX7, 1/30, f/ 35/10, ISO 1600
DMC-GX7, 1/30, f/ 3.5, ISO 1600

Here the differences are minimal if not non-existent. Both cameras seem to handle equally with regards to detail retention and the amount of noise. The only differences are in the out-of-camera JPGs where the GX7 seems to be slightly cleaner. Both cameras were set to standard/0 for noise reduction. I guess each camera applies a different kind of noise reduction by default.

E-P5, 1/30, f/ 35/10, ISO 1600
E-P5, 1/30, f/ 3.5, ISO 1600 – 100% Crop
DMC-GX7, 1/30, f/ 35/10, ISO 1600
DMC-GX7, 1/30, f/ 3.5, ISO 1600 – 100% Crop
E-P5, 1/20, f/ 35/10, ISO 1600
E-P5, 1/20, f/ 3.5, ISO 1600 – On Camera JPG
DMC-GX7, 1/20, f/ 35/10, ISO 1600
DMC-GX7, 1/20, f/ 3.5, ISO 1600 – On Camera JPG

The only thing that we can really notice is a difference in colour rendition and contrast, which is also confirmed by the out-of-camera JPGs below. This difference is visible in all the shots we took.

At 3200 ISO, both cameras continue to perform in the same manner.

E-P5, 1/60, f/ 35/10, ISO 3200
E-P5, 1/60, f/ 3.5, ISO 3200
DMC-GX7, 1/60, f/ 35/10, ISO 3200
DMC-GX7, 1/60, f/ 3.5, ISO 3200

In the first 3200 ISO pair, the GX7 seems sharper, especially if you look closely at my sweater. However, I couldn’t be 100% sure that the two pictures had the exact same focus point. Moreover, the fact that we used two different versions of the 14-42mm lens may have caused the images from the GX7 to be sharper than those from the E-P5. As such, I later did a quick test using the exact same lens to see if there was a noticeable difference in sharpness.

E-P5, 1/25, f/ 35/10, ISO 3200
E-P5, 1/25, f/ 3.5, ISO 3200
DMC-GX7, 1/25, f/ 35/10, ISO 3200
DMC-GX7, 1/25, f/ 3.5, ISO 3200
E-P5, 1/25, f/ 35/10, ISO 3200
E-P5, 1/25, f/ 3.5, ISO 3200 – 100% Crop
DMC-GX7, 1/25, f/ 35/10, ISO 3200
DMC-GX7, 1/25, f/ 3.5, ISO 3200 – 100% Crop

The GX7 seems to retain ever-so-slightly more detail but the difference is so minimal that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Many people have said that the GX7 doesn’t have an AA filter but there hasn’t yet been an official statement declaring that this is the case. The E-P5 apparently has a weak AA filter, so if the GX7 lacks an AA filter completely, the tiny difference in detail retention we see could be justified by this.

At 6400 ISO, some differences start to become more evident. The GX7 seems to produce sharper images and colour reproduction appears more accurate.

E-P5, 1/125, f/ 35/10, ISO 6400
E-P5, 1/125, f/ 3.5, ISO 6400
DMC-GX7, 1/125, f/ 35/10, ISO 6400
DMC-GX7, 1/125, f/ 3.5, ISO 6400
E-P5, 1/320, f/ 35/10, ISO 6400
E-P5, 1/320, f/ 3.5, ISO 6400 – 100% Crop
DMC-GX7, 1/320, f/ 35/10, ISO 6400
DMC-GX7, 1/320, f/ 3.5, ISO 6400 – 100% Crop

This becomes even more obvious at 12800 ISO especially regarding colour accuracy. It is visible in both raw and JPG format. The Pen E-P5 tends to produce an excessive amount of yellow/green while the GX7 files look more natural.

E-P5, 1/320, f/ 35/10, ISO 12800
E-P5, 1/320, f/ 3.5, ISO 12800 – On Camera JPG
DMC-GX7, 1/320, f/ 35/10, ISO 12800
DMC-GX7, 1/320, f/ 3.5, ISO 12800 – On Camera JPG

Finally, at 25600 ISO, the GX7 beats the E-P5 hands down. It almost looks as if the two cameras had different white balances, but of course this wasn’t the case.

Honestly, what the GX7 can do at 25600 ISO just blows me away!

E-P5, 1/1600, f/ 35/10, ISO 25600
E-P5, 1/1600, f/ 3.5, ISO 25600
DMC-GX7, 1/1600, f/ 35/10, ISO 25600
DMC-GX7, 1/1600, f/ 3.5, ISO 25600

Internal Stabilization

It is important to note that a stabilization comparison wouldn’t have been possible before the release of the Lumix GX7 because Panasonic never used to include stabilization in its camera bodies; they would include IS in their lenses instead. Even the wonderful Panasonic flagship, the Lumix GH3, has to rely on the internal stabilization of the lenses used with it.

It was for this reason that we were very curious to see how the first Panasonic camera with stabilization would stand up against the 5-axis IS found in the Pen E-P5.

The test took place in the town of Veneria, just outside of the palace grounds. The speeds we used were between 1/10 of a second and an impossible 3 seconds, just to push the cameras to the extreme (as well as our ability to stand perfectly still!). For every shot, we kept the ISO to 200 and the white balance to 3200 Kelvin. We used the two 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lenses from Olympus.

At 1/10 of a second, both cameras perform almost equally, while at 1/5 of a second, the GX7 starts to show some blurriness.

E-P5, 1/5, f/ 35/10, ISO 200
E-P5, 1/5, f/ 3.5, ISO 200
DMC-GX7, 1/5, f/ 35/10, ISO 200
DMC-GX7, 1/5, f/ 3.5, ISO 200

Due to the diverse technology of the two in-camera stabilisation systems, on paper the 5-axis of the Pen E-P5 clearly has an advantage (5 axis versus 2 axis for the GX7). We took shots down to 1 second. For 1 second, we both sat on a bench and tried to remain as still as possible. The E-P5 results are sharper but I must say that the GX7 defends itself very well.

E-P5, 1/1, f/ 56/10, ISO 200
E-P5, 1s, f/ 5.6, ISO 200 – 100% Crop
DMC-GX7, 1/1, f/ 56/10, ISO 200
DMC-GX7, 1s, f/ 5.6, ISO 200 – 100% Crop

At speeds slower than 1 second, the E-P5 clearly shows the power of its 5-axis stabilisation and what you can do with it at even 2 or 3 seconds.

Keep in mind that the results of hand-held pictures taken at slow shutter speeds are also affected by how still the photographer stands when he or she presses the shutter release button. For each example, we took several pictures and picked the best one. We noticed that we needed 3 or 4 shots with the GX7 to have a good/acceptable results, while with the Pen E-P5 we only found an average of one bad result in four pictures taken.

This shows another advantage of the 5-axis stabilization which is its consistency.

With the GX7, you really need to be as still as possible, while with the Pen, you have more margin for error with micro movements.


If we stop pixel-peeping for a minute and look at the images in terms of a real world situation, I would say that the performance of both cameras in low-light conditions is great. You really need to push the boundaries of each to see the differences. The Panasonic Lumix GX7 has a newer sensor, so by default it has better ISO performance at high values. I also noticed better colour rendition, and judging from the pictures we took yesterday it also seems to have more dynamic range.

The Olympus Pen E-P5 on the other hand has the unbeatable Olympus 5-axis stabilisation that allows you to take sharp pictures down to 1 second, and even below one second the results are more than acceptable. The GX7 defends itself quite well (remember, in-body stabilisation is something new in the Lumix line) but can’t rival the Pen when the shutter speed becomes too slow.

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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Alex

    I was debating between the EP5 and the GX7… ultimately went w/ the Olympus and have no regrets. Read why –

  • Mathieu

    I don’t see any significant difference between the two shots regarding the depth of field. The one on the E-P5 could seem slightly more blurry but you really need to analyse it.

  • David E

    There is one thing i don’t understand.
    EP5-vs-GX7-low-light-raw-27.jpg and EP5-vs-GX7-low-light-raw-27.jpg are shot with the same settings and both lenses used should be similar – but background blur seems totally different – like one or two stops, anyone has a explanation for this?

  • Mathieu

    Bonjour Yann, personnellement je préfère toujours travailler avec un viseur donc ma réponse serait oui par défaut 😉 Le GX7 est très récent et est meilleur en tout: qualité d’image, ergonomie etc. Le viseur électronique est de très bonne facture également. Si tu veux faire un saut de qualité en plus d’avoir un viseur, ça en vaut sûrement la peine. Autrement, il existe un viseur électronique externe pour le GX1, le LVF2.

  • Yann

    Bravo pour l’article et pour le site! Je l’ai découvert il y a peu et je suis maintenant régulièrement l’actu :)
    J’ai débuté le M43 avec le GF1 couplé au 20mm et j’ai adoré cet appareil (il reste au chaud dans mon armoire photo^^) Je suis passé il y a 6 mois au GX1 toujours avec mon unique 20mm et je suis toujours enthousiasmé! je l’utilise également avec une bague pour y ajouter mes optiques AIS, essentiellement pour la vidéo. Par contre je rêve toujours de ces appareils avec un viseur à la Fuji (je préfère la visée à l’oeil) et je découvre le GX7! Est-ce que cela vaut la peine de changer actuellement pour le GX7 et son EVF? j’avoue que je m’interroge…
    Bravo encore, à bientôt

  • Mathieu

    Hi Maurice, some GX7 pictures seem overexposed but in fact it just a consequence of the two sensors being calibrated differently. With the same settings, the cameras deliver different results. Also the GX7 has slightly more sensitivity because it is a new sensor (the E-P5 has the same sensor as the E-M5). There is also a difference in how the cameras handle auto white balance. But each of these results can easily be adjusted in Lightroom. In my opinion, the GX7 performs slightly better at high ISO but the differences are minimal and that alone cannot justify that one camera is better than the other. There are more features to look at 😉
    I also never encounter the 1/160 shake problem so far.

  • Maurice

    Am I the only one seeing this ? The GX-7 pictures look “washed-out” and /or overexposed…….Look at the “whole picture” and one must conclude that the EP-5 looks pretty good in comparison? I have an EP-5 in use for 4 months now and I never saw “the 1/160sec blur”… I am not “pixelpeeping” on my monitor;I look at the complete picture?

  • Manuel

    Thank you so much for your answer, I liked your article so much.

  • Heather

    We love the build, stabilisation and colour rendition of the E-P5 but we’d probably go for the GX7 as it has a built-in viewfinder. If Olympus had decided to include a built-in VF, our vote would have gone to the Pen.

  • Manuel

    Honestly, if you have to choose one of them as your first camera micro 4/3, which one would you choose?

    I have this doubt now.

    Thank you so much.

  • Mathieu

    Thanks Josh. If I get the chance to put my hands on a Nex 6, I’ll do some comparison 😉

  • Josh

    Great comparison! Found you through 43 Rumors, too.

    If you pixel peep on DP Review’s comparison tool, you can see that the GX7 is pretty sharp but has a lot of purplish chroma noise (mostly purplish) at high ISO. It shows up in DXO’s rating of it, too. But what those two don’t really show is the big picture: the GX7’s color is much more natural in low-light situations. It’s something I’ve noticed for years about Panasonic.

    Now if I could just find a similar comparison with the NEX-6!

  • Mathieu

    Hi Geoff, I thought you meant the E-P5. There are too many cameras out there with similar names, it’s easy to type the wrong one 😉 (sometimes I have to be careful myself when I write my articles). The external VF-4 for the E-P5 is better, I agree. But it increases the size of the camera, while the GX7 having it built-in, is more comfortable to fit in a tight bag.

  • Geoff Howard

    Hi Mathieu,
    Apologies, seems I made a mistake, I meant E-P5 not E-M5, as regards the built in EVF I feel it is a weakness of the GX as having tried it on a try out day in UK I felt it was an appendage waiting to break off and prefer the add on EVF of the Olympus. As regards the images I stand by my original comment, the Olympus definitely looks the better.

  • Mathieu

    Bonjour Alain, j’imagine que la qualité du D800 soit difficilement comparable, mais comme vous le dites le GX7 se réserve quelques exclusivités. Le mode silencieux est extraordinaire, j’ai également eu l’occasion de le tester et c’est une des caractéristiques les plus importantes de cet appareil à mon avis.
    Aussi, le viseur inclus dans le boitier est un autre point positif.
    En ce qui concerne les objectifs, le 12mm Olympus est de très bonne facture si vous aimez les grand angles. Hélas les zoom de qualités ne sont pas très nombreux et un peu chers à moins de les trouver d’occasion, ce qui est plus rare pour du matériel M43.

  • Mathieu

    Thanks Geir. You can find our RSS feed here or even follow us on Flipboard if you are using it.
    The GX7 and E-P5 image quality is very similar, I agree with you that other aspects can be more important. Personally, the built-in viewfinder makes the GX7 a winner here.

  • Mathieu

    Yes the GX7 images look a little bit flat, especially when you open the RAW files in Lightroom. But if I slightly increase contrast and colour vibrance, they come back to life 😉



    J’ai le GX7. Un peu déçu au début en comparaison du nikon d800, mais enthousiasmé quand je prends des photos de concert classique en SILENCE et que les photos et vidéos sont superbes ( avec 20mm f/1.7 et 45mmF/1.8).
    J’ai comparé avec Fuji = qualité proche (avec de bonnes optiques).

    Ses qualités :
    – expert de poche pour la street photo

    – viseur décalé pour garder un oeil dans l’objectif et un oeil sur la rue !

    défauts :
    – prix boitier nu trop cher de 100€
    – prix des zooms de qualité, très élevé.
    – ecran amovible et tactile génial !
    – ergonomie top !
    – viseur oculaire amovible astucieux !

    Conclusion : le meilleur appareil que je connaisse pour la street photo. Par contre : pas intéressant pour les longues focales (un reflex apsc ou ff est beaucoup mieux pour cela !

    NB : j’utilise le 20mm 1.7, le 45mm 1.8 le 14-42mm et un vieux 14-140. je cherche un 75 F/1.8 d’occasion

  • Geir

    What a fantastic site you have here. I found you through “43 rumours”, and will follow you (if I can just find a way to subscribe through RSS).
    When it comes to image difference, I see that we’ve come to a level where it really doesn’t matter any more. The results are so good on both cameras that other questions become more important: How the menu systems work, solidity of cameras, price, customer support etc.
    I’m also curious what will happen with these two cameras once the OM-D EM1 becomes available.

  • Geoff Howard

    Interesting set of comparisons, though I have to say I though the E-M5 were by far the better, with the GX7 images looking flat and lifeless in comparison.

  • Mathieu

    Hi Anthony, yes you are correct. The GX7 will use the lens O.I.S. instead of internal stabilization when mounted on the body. For a comparison with the Olympus IBIS, I think it depends of the kind of lens and its focal lenght. The only Lumix O.I.S. I have is the 35-100mm 2.8. I’ll make a quick test and let you know 😉

  • Anthony Dayton

    If I remember correctly, the Panasonic stabilization turns off when a lens with built in stabilization is used. How well would the GX7 fare with that setup, when compared to the IBIS system?

  • Mathieu

    The most honest answer I can give you is the one based on my personal experience. I never had that issue so far, so I would need to try my E-P5 and a model with that issue to really understand what’s causing the problem.
    That being said, since you’re not the first to mention it, I’ll be more careful from now on when shooting with those shutter speeds to see if the problem shows up.

  • T N Args

    Yes, I think this issue with the E-P5, producing shaky images with or without IS (worst in the 1/80 to 1/250 range and using lenses of 25mm to 75mm — so typical of normal photography), is critically important. Too many independent owners and users have reported the same problem. It means to buy an E-P5 is to enter a lottery where the manufacturer will not recognise that you have a problem if you draw the short straw.

    It is not an adequate reply to say that YOUR E-P5 is not showing the problem, when you are making recommendations for readers, surely?

  • Mathieu

    Hi Felice, the option to add the focal length for image stabilisation is for manual lenses only that don’t have a chip, therefore the lenses don’t give any information to the camera.

  • Mathieu

    Bonsoir Franck, en effet tout le monde l’attendait ce GX7. Il s’agit surement de l’un des meilleurs appareils chez Panasonic. Je suis d’accord pour la tropicalisation, hélas il semble que ce genre de traitement ne soit disponible que sur les produits plus haut de gamme comme le GH3.

  • Franck


    Ayant déjà eu un GF1, j’attendais depuis un moment ” son vrai” remplacant, avec un viseur. Et voilà le GX7.
    Par rapport à mon utilisation, une tropicalisation m’aurait comblé..mais ce n’est déjà pas mal.
    Mon 20 mm f1.7 qui attend depuis 3 ans va pouvoir travailler.

    merci pour ce test

  • Felice DeNigris

    I have an E-M5 and I noticed that in the menu I can add my focal length for image stabilization. Which focal length do you enter in, your lens focal length, or do you calculate & multiply the lens focal length by 2 because it’s microfour thirds sensor? I’ve always wondered what’s right?? And I wonder if that has any affect on the accuracy of the Olympus Image Stabilization?

  • Mathieu

    Hi Georges. I remember someone else mentioning the same problem. I checked the Dpreview review but honestly, I never experienced such a problem with both the E-M5 and the E-p5, especially with short focal lengths.
    According to Dpreview, this isn’t entirely the 5-axis fault but it’s related to the ergonomics of the camera. True, it is light and the grip is not the best but I don’t know how this can be the real cause.
    However, the E-M1 is heavier and has a far better grip, so if what they say is true, this problem shouldn’t happen with the E-M1.

  • Georges

    Have you read the E-P5 review on
    According to this review (and reading the comments, also confirmed by some users) E-P5’s 5-axis image stabilisation system has some serious issues (“Unusually prone to blurred/shaken images at certain shutter speeds (around 1/160sec)”).
    Any thoughts on this?
    My main interest is the OM-D E-M1. Having the same image stabilisation system, this camera may have similar issues.

  • Mathieu

    Hi Torsten, yes the GX7 defends itself relatively well in terms of stabilization. But the Olympus 5-axis gives you more flexibility and consistency.
    I agree with you, ergonomics and functionality make all the difference between different models within the same system like MFT.

  • Torsten

    Interesting post. I am especially surprised to see that the GX7 does relatively well in the handheld test, after all that has been said about how much better the Olympus IBIS was likely to perform. I just bought a GX7 a few days ago and apart from a few nuisances I enjoy the camera. I’d be happy with it even if your test had come out the other way round though – basically I think that IQ on most systems is so good now that ergonomics and how well the camera fits the intended purpose overall are much more important. Having said that as a geek I enjoy the technology comparison too!

  • Mathieu

    Merci Alain!

  • alain BARRE

    Bravo ! beau travail pour ce comparatif, précis et surtout utile car fait dans les conditions réelles de prise de vue.

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