Panasonic G3 Noise Reduction
The Panasonic G3's 5 noise-reduction settings provide quite a bit of flexibility in choosing how you want to make the trade-off between subject detail and noise levels. The Panasonic G3 applies NR to its JPEGs at all ISOs, so we've included crops at all ISOs in the tables below. The combination of shooting with NR turned down to the lowest setting (-2) and using a good noise-filtering program after the fact can produce very clean images with lots of fine detail in them.
The crops below show the effects of three (-2, 0 and +2) of the Panasonic G3's five levels of noise reduction available, under the studio HMI lighting we use to simulate daylight. See for yourself how the noise reduction works under daylight-balanced lighting. Click on any of the crops below to see the corresponding full-sized image.
To our eyes, the default (0) level of noise reduction strikes a good balance between noise and subtle subject detail, although the red fabric swatch presents a real challenge, as it does for virtually all cameras we test. Cranking the noise reduction setting up to +2 produces very smooth-looking images, while still maintaining good detail in areas of high local contrast (as seen in the circular scale), but a lot of detail is lost in areas of subtle contrast (the red fabric swatch is a particularly challenging subject, and the detail loss there is worse than you'd find in most real-world examples). At the other end of the scale, the -2 noise reduction setting leaves more noise in the image, but also leaves more subject detail: Use this setting if you have good third-party noise reduction software; with appropriate processing, the result could be quite good. You should be able to do even better working from the RAW files.