Is it possible to make 16x20 inch prints using images from the Olympus OM-D EM-5 (and some good Olympus primes), while retaining sharpness and detail? Especially for landscape images?

I've used a Panasonic G2 and even with the great Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, I could not print larger than approximately 12x16 without losing detail in the prints. I always use a tripod and good technique, exposure, etc., so I attributed the loss of detail to the small micro four-thirds sensor. On the other hand, I've printed 30x40 with an APS-C sensor (Pentax K-5), with little problem in terms of sharpness and detail.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Somewhat related: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/26001/… \$\endgroup\$
    – djangodude
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 4:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I haven't done it before so I don't have an answer but have you tried using the 12mm f2.0? The 20mm f1.7 is a great lens for it's price but may not be suitable for 16x20. Also, the new 17mm f1.8 will probably be suitable too. May I suggest printing at 15x20 to reduce cropping? \$\endgroup\$
    – BBking
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 4:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ 16MP will give you about 225 pixels per inch for a 16 x 20 print - that's usually considered enough for normal viewing distances. The G2 was giving you ~195 PPI for the same size image - normally that would be just enough, too. Are you sure that lens wasn't letting down the G2? Did you try it stopped down quite a bit to test it? \$\endgroup\$
    – vlad259
    Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 11:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @vlad259, I'm curious why you chose to use a comment instead of provide your response as an answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – dbigca
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 14:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dbigca, it was because I wanted to ask a couple of questions to try to clarify it a bit. By the way your answer is far more concise than I would have managed! Cheers. \$\endgroup\$
    – vlad259
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 18:24

3 Answers 3


Yes, it is possible to print a 16"x20" print from a Olympus OM-D EM-5 16Mp file that retains it's sharpness and detail - when viewed from a typical viewing distance.

The key here is viewing distance. Typically, a person does not view a 16"x20" print from the same distance as, say, a 4"x6".

A 'safe' calculation of viewing distance for a 16"x20" print is just over 3'.  At that distance your print will appear 'just a sharp' as a 4"x6" viewed at 11". I'm using quotes because how the print is displayed plays a role - and it's also quite subjective.

Additionally, there are many factors in play regarding sharpness within an given image, regardless of print size. Luminous Landscape has some info regarding this, as well as other aspects of overall image quality.


Yes, but you won't match the K-5 easily. Coincidentally I just completed a review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 yesterday and had to print some 16x20" in the process. They only hold up at ISO 400 or less but larger softness becomes evident.

The K-5 was reviewed two years go and managed to do much larger prints. Actually, surprisingly large! Posters over 6' tall from my K-5 are on display at a local university and I was amazed when I saw the prints.

The sharpening done in-camera is superb. The K-5 IIs just arrived here and should exceed that. You may be able to close the gap with a good lens like the Zuiko 12mm F/2 plus some doing your own sharpening from RAW, perhaps with a specialized too rather than the usual Lightroom or Photoshop.

The difference in sharpness is not because of sensor-size but the lens first, followed by anti-alias filter and other aspects of sensor design. Smaller sensors at equal resolution are disadvantaged though because they require the lens to resolve finer.

Of course as ISO increases, you loose details from noise and softness from noise-reduction.


I do not have a micro 4/3, but shoot with an Oly e600, which is 4/3 12MP. I had a 16 x 20 print made of some interesting roots with moss. The photo was shot hand held and the print is excellent, very sharp and a lot of detail - even when viewed from a fairly short distance (less than one foot). This image was shot at low ISO as that is what I prefer to shoot, I bagan with film in the 1980s and shot Kodachrome 64 or Ilford 25 (B&W), so the low sensitivity is not much of an issue - at least for landscape or other still shots. I believe that this image could have been successfully printed even larger, but there was no point.


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