Though its not out of the question that I may still choose that option, yesterdays tests were somewhat discouraging. I have no problem with Olympus choosing to correct and improve the images from the E-5 with software, but I was disappointed with the overall sharpness of the images when processed in Rawker. I realise that I didn't shoot the images, but the jpgs were very sharp. Most of them were shot on an Olympus 12-60mm zoom which is an excellent lens.
What made me most concerned was the Panasonic L10 shot I posted as a comparison looked as sharp, if not sharper. With that in mind I did more tests on the L10.
The Rawker conversions from the L10 files are superb. Sharp, noiseless, virtually no CA or fringing and no fringing. The E-5 files were showing noise at the cameras base ISO 200, plus moire and CA etc.
I will admit that the E-5 files converted in Olympus Master 2 were very attractive. Nice colour and apparent sharpness, though when looked at closely there was a fair amount of "smoothing" done, which became more apparent in the high ISO pictures. I've seen some wildly conflicting high ISO samples from the E-5. Some look fine, some look terrible.
With this in mind I returned to the L10. ISO 1600 is as high as it will go so I decided to shoot at that and underexpose. This gave me the opportunity to assess its use in low light, simulating how it would work in the ISO 1600-3200 range. I used the Olympus 50mm macro fixed at f2 and shot the following pictures.
I used Adobe Camera Raw to convert them and varying degrees of Photoshop noise reduction. There is luminance and chroma noise visible, particularly in the black areas. However these are all shot at the approximate equivalent of ISO 2000-3200, achieved by underexposing at ISO 1600 by varying degrees. Personally I don't find them unattractive. They look more "natural" than the E-5 shots I've seen. They are certainly sharp, the 50mm has seen to that. I should say that I've never been able to get anywhere near this level of sharpness using my Canon lenses wide open at high ISO's.
So in the meantime while I decide what to do the L10 has earned its keep for a while. On the Canon front my colleague B is considering either the 7D or 550D with some lenses. If he does choose one of the cameras I will decide whether to keep the other or go for something new, or indeed get an E-5. I am of course hoping that the Panasonic GH2 may solve all of these dilemmas, and I won't come to any final decision until I have one of those.
Finally its interesting how an obscure discontinued camera is still able to perform very capably. With new equipment coming thick and fast its sometimes easy to forget that the pace of change is somewhat slower than we think. I severely underestimated the L10 when I bought it. Its an excellent camera and I'm warming to it by the day.