Olympus E-M1mkII Long Exposure Noise Reduction Comparison

I look forward to getting out and doing some astrophotography as well as some long exposure night landscapes whenever my time allows.  I decided to take a look at how the long exposure noise is on the E-M1mkII before I head out to make some real images.  I felt it would be interesting to see how it stacked up against the former E-M1 as well.

For those users unfamiliar…the cameras have a feature called Noise Reduction.  This is basically a dark frame reduction from the captured image.  The camera takes a second image after your image is made for an equal length of time and does some unique trickery to remove the noise present from heat build up, etc…  This second image is just a black frame.  Some people like to make their own dark frames and do the reduction themselves, I usually prefer the camera do it for me in most general cases.  If you have shot a 15 minutes exposure of star trails and then you have to wait 15 minutes for the dark frame…just remember to watch your batteries and make sure you are comfortable for the wait!

Please be aware, the camera will NOT create or apply a dark frame if you are in continuous shooting mode EVEN if you are using a long exposure.  (anything over 1 second)  You need to be in standard shooting mode for this to function.  I have a habit of leaving my camera in Continuous L.  I need to remember to switch to standard when I am shooting anything over 1 second.

This option is under Custom Menu E1 > Noise Reduction.  Off prevents the dark frame, On makes a dark frame every time, Auto only makes it if the camera feels it needs to based on shot parameters.

You can click on the following images to see them larger.  All images were 60 seconds at ISO 200. The images that say “Boosted” are at +5 stops Exposure and +100 Dark slider in Lightroom to help bring out the noise pattern.  The shots that are NOT BOOSTED are what the actual images look like coming out of camera.  Keep that in mind.

These first two shots are the E-M1 vs the E-M1mkII.

E-M1mkII Long Exposure Noise Reduction
100% center crop – Noise Reduction Off – E-M1 left / E-M1mkII Right
E-M1mkII Long Exposure Noise Reduction
100% center crop – Noise Reduction On

The following two shots are just the E-M1mkII for direct comparison of Off and On NR.

E-M1mkII Long Exposure Noise Reduction
E-M1mkII NR off left / NR On right – not boosted, full frame
E-M1mkII Long Exposure Noise Reduction
E-M1mkII  not boosted Off Left / On Right – Center 100% crop
E-M1mkII Long Exposure Noise Reduction
E-M1mkII NR off left / NR On right – Boosted, full frame
E-M1mkII Long Exposure Noise Reduction
E-M1mkII Boosted Off Left / On Right – Center 100% crop

Overall there is a a nice improvement in long exposure handling.  There is a huge difference between the E-M1 and the MkII with NR turned off.  This is the biggest improvement I see.  I also no longer see the phase detection patterns that were present on the E-M1 images.  The E-M1 at full frame would show large bars in the center of the frame when boosted full frame.  The MkII camera does not seem to show this.  So far so good.

Without boosting a ridiculous 5 stops…the standard images out of camera look really great with or without the noise reduction!  I think this may be the best Olympus has done yet.

I can’t wait to get this camera hooked up to a telescope or set in place to do some star trails.  Have you done any long exposure with the E-M1mkII yet?  If so how do your results look?


4 responses on "Olympus E-M1mkII Long Exposure Noise Reduction Comparison"

  1. Just recently purchased the E-M1 mk ii but have yet to do too much with it apart from a few tests, but so far I really like what I see in the image. The RAW seems to be more flexible too compared to the E-M1 mk i.

  2. What’s the difference between the first img, on the right “EM-1 mark II NR off 100% crop” and third img on the left ” EM-1 mark II NR off 100% crop” ?

    • Hi Cedric,
      Those two shots, both being same exposure, NR off, and boosted, should be the sameas far as I remember. If there is slight variation it could potentially be due to the amount of time I was shooting long exposure frames for, ambient temperature, etc… Technically, those should be the same.

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