Olympus E-M5 vs. Canon EOS 1Ds Mk.2: A “crazy comparison”!

You probably all know the “crazy comparisons” that Steve Huff frequently publishes …. taking the same picture with wildly different cameras that one probably should never compare because they are just uncomparable …. well are they?

Currently, I still have a Canon EOS 1Ds Mk.2 with the trusty EF 24-105L f/4 lens and I really almost never use it. On very rare occasions, I need the 24 mm wide-angle because my widest Micro Four Third lens equals 40 mm. But anyway, the 1Ds2 always was – and still is – to me the benchmark camera regarding general performance and image quality. I love the 1Ds2 files. They were so detailed and rich! Remember this was a 2004 release, it’s almost ten years old by now!

2012 wonderland: Olympus E-M5.
2012 wonderland: Olympus E-M5.
A blast from the past: The mighty Canon EOS 1Ds Mk.2!
A blast from the past: The mighty Canon EOS 1Ds Mk.2!

Of course, the camera was insanely expensive when new, but in 2009 or thereabouts, they were beginning to become more affordable to normal people. I always felt that this camera would give me exactly the image quality that just makes me happy. 16 megapixels are ample for A4 double spread offset print and still enough for even very large posters. There are cameras today that offer much more resolution but people realised that it’s often hard to really make use of this resolution, due to diffraction kicking in, ever-so-slight blurriness in your everyday photography, and so on.

Now, the little Olympus E-M5 was, for me, the next big benchmark camera after the 1Ds2. Gone is the huge size and the complicated SLR mirror system. It also has 16 megapixels, albeit on a much, much smaller sensor. But it’s a 2012 sensor from another leading manufacturer in this field – Sony – and I found the eight years of true technological advantage were able to offset the small sensor size.

OK enough said, here’s my crazy comparison: The same subject, same field of view, same real depth of field, cameras on a tripod, and all that. One picture was taken with my little E-M5 and the 45/1.8 at f/5.6, ISO 200, and the other one with the Canon 1Ds Mk.2 and 24-105L f/4 at f/11, ISO 100. I was able, however, to overexpose the Olympus shot by +0.7 stops (as I always do) to compensate for the ISO 200 penalty. (With the new E-P5, Olympus has corrected this design flaw of the E-M5 by enabling it to shoot at ISO 100.)

Both RAW files were subject to exactly the same settings in Lightroom. I found that auto white balance on the EOS 1Ds2 was way off so I did a manual white balance for both files, roughly based on the settings the E-M5 chose.

Of course, the two lenses are different in their imaging characteristics and I realise that a nice 85 mm lens on the 1Ds2 would probably be a more fair comparison. But on the other hand, this zoom is really good enough at f/11. It’s not a cheap kit zoom like the stuff that Olympus currently sells. You’ll notice that the focus plane is differing somewhat, especially at the edges of the frames (see the detail on the old Kodak camera at the bottom of the shot). I did not align that camera to be in precise focus, instead I just focused on the nose of the teddy tiger (and took even several shots to make sure that one is really in perfect focus for this comparison).

Now these files are available as full-size downloads (just click the images below for a full size view). Both are cropped a bit to 3:2 format. You can’t tell from the pixel dimensions of these files which is which. I also removed EXIF date (hopefully) and also removed the sensor dust spots of the Canon shot in LR4. Sharpness for both files in LR4 was set to 40%, radius 0.5.

Compare for yourself and try to tell me which camera is which!

E-M5 vs. 1Ds2: 9738 (I need this number for reference...)
E-M5 vs. 1Ds2: 9738 (I need this number for reference…)
E-M5 vs. 1Ds2: 9739 (I need this number for reference...)
E-M5 vs. 1Ds2: 9739 (I need this number for reference…)
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