Can the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II High-Res Mode compete with the Sony A7r?

I thought it would be useful for people interested in the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II and in particular the high-res mode to see how it compares to a Sony A7r. 

For this sample shot I used the Sony, fitted with my ultra-sharp Voigtlander 58mm lens and the Olympus with the 12-40mm zoom which I've just bought. Both at their base ISO's (Sony = 100, Olympus = 200) I used f/11 for the Sony and f/8 for the Olympus.


I set the Olympus to 3:2 ratio to make the images as similar as possible and processed both in Photoshop CS6 with the new version of ACR which supports the Olympus. Both images were processed identically. I reduced the Olympus file to the same size as the Sony for comparison purposes.

As you can see, it's very close. The A7r just shades it, but not by much and nothing a bit of sharpening couldn't take care of. The Sony of course can produce image quality like this without the need for a tripod and taking eight separate shots, but the Olympus is undeniably up there with the best of the current high-res cameras. 

The more important question is - Do the limitations of the Olympus (and let's be honest they are significant) make a difference to you? Because the results do live up to the hyperbole. This new Olympus camera produces genuine, usable, high quality, high resolution files. And it's smaller, lighter and cheaper than all the other options. 

It's also worth remembering that I downsized the Olympus file for this comparison. Below is full-resolution version. In 3:2 ration it's just under 57MP.

As you can see, there is nothing to complain about there. This is a huge file and it's full of detail. It's also noise free and has excellent dynamic range. Would a picture editor or advertising executive see this as comparable with an image created with a medium format camera? Well who knows, but my suspicion is that many would. Whatever the result of that speculation, one thing is for sure. These Olympus OM-D E-M5 high-res files are capable of top class reproduction and would look spectacular on a printed page. It remains to be seen however whether fashion photographers go back the techniques of the late 1800's and get their models to remain stock still for several seconds. But if they did they would be rewarded with some extraordinary images.

So, while Sony might be top of the tree for manufacturing sensors, Olympus are occupying the same position in the applications of sensor shifting. With the IBIS they have come up with in the E-M5 II and this multi-shot high-res mode based again on shifting the sensor, they are seriously pushing the boundaries of what a digital camera can do. I should also mention here that this high-res image production is achieved in complete silence, which is also quite remarkable.

I have to admit that for me, what I shoot and how I sell my images, even with the limitations I have to accept, I'm really quite excited about what the E-M5 II high-res mode offers me. A good deal of my work is photographing static subject matter anyway. Indeed I've got an indoor 'show home' property shoot coming up soon and it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to work out what camera I'll be using!! I'm also looking forward to attaching this camera to a tripod in some scenic areas of the UK and in some good light. Making sure I'm out of the wind of course! It is a fascinating concept and even if Olympus don't succeed in making this technology hand holdable, then it's still going to be of use to me. 

In the past I've not always written complementary words about Olympus, but in this case (if I had one) I'd take my hat off to them.