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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ15

By: Dave Etchells

Panasonic introduces a four-megapixel digicam with the high quality optics of a 12x Leica lens.

<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): FZ15 Imatest Results>>

FZ15 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 10/30/2004

Untitled Document

Digital Cameras - Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ15 Test Images

 

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISOsetting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all*that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested inthe information need wade through it!

 

"Sunlit" Portrait:
(This is my new "Outdoor" Portrait test - read more about it here.)

High resolution and a lot of fine detail. Nearly accurate color, and a pretty good exposure too.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Lumix DMC-FZ15 performed pretty well.

The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, less than what's usually required here. I also used the camera's low-contrast option, which still left contrast a little high from the harsh lighting, but did a good job holding onto highlight detail in Marti's shirt. Though the overall color balance is just slightly on the red side, I chose the Auto white balance setting for the main series. The Daylight setting resulted in a warmer image, and the Manual setting was too red.

Marti's skin tones are pink, and the blue flowers in the bouquet are a bit more purple-colored than in real life, but the overall result isn't too bad. (Many digicams have trouble with the blue flowers, and the DMC-FZ15 is no exception. In reality, the flowers are a light navy blue, with just hits of purple in them.) The strong red flowers are a bit pinkish and a little oversaturated as well, while the strong greens and yellows are somewhat dark. Resolution is excellent, and detail is strong throughout the frame. Detail is pretty good in the shadows, though image noise is moderate there.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files FZ15OUTAP0.HTM through FZ15OUTAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

Contrast Series:
The FZ15's contrast adjustment does a good job, affecting highlights and shadow areas more or less equally. Very nice.
Contrast Series
Low
Normal
High


Saturation Series:
A photographically useful range of saturation adjustment, although I'd like to see maybe five steps covering the same range, vs the three offered.

Saturation Series
Low
Normal
High


Noise Reduction Series:
The FZ15 is unusual, in that it offers user control over how it trades off image noise for subtle subject detail. The shots below show the results of varying the noise reduction setting from low to high. In these shots, at low ISO, the effect is pretty subtle. There's little or no impact on detail in the subtly shaded areas of Marti's hair, but a very noticeable effect in the shadows under the bouquet.

Noise Reduction Series
Low
Normal
High



 

Closer Portrait:

Outstanding resolution and detail, and good results at the default exposure.

Overall results are similar to the wider shot above, in terms of color and exposure. The shot at right was taken at the camera's default exposure and low contrast setting, and contrast is only slightly high. (Very good, considering the deliberately harsh lighting.) Highlight detail is good, and the midtones are reasonable. The DMC-FZ15's 12x Leica zoom lens helps prevent geometric distortion of Marti's features, and picks up sharp details. Resolution is excellent, with incredible fine detail visible in Marti's face and hair. Details are nice and sharp, with great definition even in the more subtle areas of her skin. A very nice job.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files FZ15OUTFACAP0.HTM through FZ15OUTFACAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash
+0.3 EV
Slow-Sync Flash
Default Exposure

A slight tendency to underexpose, but pretty good coverage.

The DMC-FZ15's flash underexposed this shot slightly at the default exposure setting, though coverage wasn't bad. I found better results with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation boost, though the overall image was still slightly dim. Increasing the exposure compensation any further resulted in overly strong highlights though, so I stuck with the 0.3EV boost for the main selection for this test. Color balance is a little cool, with magenta tints from the room lighting and somwhat pink skin tones, but it's within the range of what I'd consider acceptable. The background incandescent lighting results in a very slight orange cast in the shadows of Marti's shirt and on the back wall. The DMC-FZ15's flash also has a Slow-Sync setting, which allows more ambient light in to balance the flash exposure by using a slower shutter speed. I stuck with the default exposure setting there, as anything brighter only intensified the highlights and the color casts. The orange cast from the background incandescent lighting was much stronger in this shot, producing a pronounced orange/pink cast.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV in the normal flash mode, see files FZ15INAP0.HTM through FZ15INAP4.HTM thumbnail index page.

To view the same exposure series in the Slow-Sync flash mode, see files FZ15INFSP0.HTM through FZ15INFSP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance

Slightly cool with the Manual option, but pretty good results overall. Good exposure as well.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The DMC-FZ15's Manual white balance setting did the best job here, though overall color is just slightly cool. The Auto setting resulted in a slight red cast (but well within acceptable limits), and the Incandescent setting produced a warm, yellow cast. Though overall color is cool and magenta with the Manual white balance, the white shirt appeared the most accurate with that setting. Skin tones are rather pink, and the blue flowers are dark and purplish, neither of which should be a surprise with this light source - The FZ15 actually did a very good job with this shot. The main exposure was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which preserved highlight detail and still produced a good exposure on Marti's face. A nice job all around.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files FZ15INMP0.HTM through FZ15INMP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

ISO Series:
The FZ15 seems to generally have pretty good image noise characteristics. Noise is low to moderate at the DMC-FZ15's 64 and 100 ISO settings, increasing to a moderately high level at ISO 200. At ISO 400, noise is quite high, with a strong grain pattern, but still not as objectionable as that from many competing cameras at the same ISO setting.

ISO Series
ISO 64
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400


Noise Reduction Series:

The DMC-FZ15's Noise Reduction setting offers High, Normal, and Low intensity adjustments. At low ISOs (ISO 100 in the shots below), the effect is fairly subtle, to the point that I suspect it will be missed entirely by most users. Its effect is most noticeable in the flattened detail in areas of Marti's hair and in shadow areas.

Noise Reduction Series, ISO 100
Low
Normal
High


Noise Reduction Series, ISO 400:

With the camera's ISO set to 400, the noise pattern is much stronger and more visible, but the effect of variatoins in the noise reduction setting are still fairly subtle. In the shots below, you can see the impact of the "High" noise reduction setting most clearly in shadow areas on Marti's face, in the corner of her eye next to her nose, and on her cheek, where it's shadowed slightly by her hair.

Noise Reduction Series, ISO 400
Low
Normal
High



 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Excellent resolution and sharp detail from corner to corner, with fairly accurate color too.

The DMC-FZ15's Auto white balance setting produced the most accurate overall color and white value here, though the Daylight setting also produced good results (just slightly warm). The Manual setting, on the other hand, resulted in a slightly cooler image with hints of magenta. Resolution is excellent, and a lot of fine detail is visible in the tree limbs, front shrubbery, and house details. (The DMC-FZ15's four-megapixel CCD stretches the limits of this poster as a test target, even though it was made from a 500MB scan of a 4x5 negative shot with a tack-sharp lens.) Details are also quite sharp and well-defined, from corner to corner. A very good job overall.



 

Far-Field Test

Excellent resolution and detail, but the camera overexposed the subject significantly, limiting dynamic range.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the DMC-FZ15 does an excellent job with it, clearly delivering a top-tier performance for its four-megapixel resolution class. The tree limbs over the roof and fine foliage in front of the house show excellent detail, with good definition in the shading and patterns of the leaves. In-camera sharpening does a good job here, with crisp details throughout the frame, but very little evidence of halos or other sharpening artifacts. The camera overexposed the shot significantly, causing it to lose a lot of detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a trouble spot for many digicams. However, the shadow area above the front door benefits by having more detail. (We'll try to get back to reshoot this subject, with some negative exposure compensation dialed in.) The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color series.


Resolution Series:

Wide Angle Uncompressed
TIFF
"Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
2,304 x 1,728
FZ15FAR.TIF
FZ15FAR2304F
FZ15FAR2304N
1,600 x 1,200
-
FZ15FAR1600
-
1,280 x 960
-
FZ15FAR1280
-
640 x 480
-
FZ15FAR0640
-


ISO Series:
Noise in these outdoor shots is quite low, and the camera generally does a very good job trading off noise suppression with the need to preserve subtle subject detail. As the ISO level increases though, detail in regions of subtle contrast is progressively flattened, particularly in shadow areas.

ISO Series
ISO 64
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400


Sharpness Series:
The FZ15's in-camera sharpening algorithms work very well. The default setting produces good sharpness with absolutely minimal "halos" or other sharpening artifacts. The Sharp setting does make things look more crisp, but still with relatively few artifacts, while the Soft setting takes unsharp masking in Photoshop(tm) and other imaging programs very well.

Sharpness Series
Soft
Normal
Sharp


Contrast Series:
As noted earlier, the FZ15's contrast adjustment works very well, affecting shadow and highlight areas more or less equally.

Contrast Series
Low
Normal
High

Saturation Series:
As before, a good range of saturation adjustment, but I'd like to see more steps covering the same range.

Saturation Series
Low
Normal
High


Color Effect Series:

Color Effect Series
Cool
Warm
Black and White
Sepia



 

Lens Zoom Range

Excellent 12x zoom range.

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (12x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The DMC-FZ15's Leica lens is equivalent to a 35-420mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to an average wide angle to a very substantial telephoto. (And the anti-shake really helps you make the most of that long zoom.) Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
12x Telephoto
Digital Telephoto



 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Red and magenta color casts in response to the cool composition, but great detail and resolution.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. Both the DMC-FZ15's Auto and Daylight white balance settings were tricked slightly, producing reddish color casts as a result. The Manual setting instead resulted in a cooler, more magenta cast. As the Daylight setting had a slightly lesser red cast, I chose it for the main image. Skin tones are warm and pinkish, and the blue robe and background have strong purplish tints. Resolution is excellent, however, as fine detail is strong throughout the frame, especially in the embroidery on the blue robe, flower garland, and beaded necklaces. (The original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like the DMC-FZ15 are definitely capable of showing more detail than the poster has in it.)



 

Macro Shot
Standard Macro Shot
Macro Shot with Flash

A tiny macro area with great detail in the dollar bill, but the flash is ineffective up close.

The DMC-FZ15 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.58 x 1.19 inches (40 x 30 millimeters). Resolution is very high, and detail is strong in the dollar bill. However, the coins and brooch are soft due to the very short shooting distance, and possibly some lens distortion in the corners. (The left side of the frame is soft as well.) The DMC-FZ15's flash had a difficult time throttling down for the macro area, and was mostly blocked by the large lens barrel. (Definitely plan on using external lighting for close-in macro shots with the FZ15.)



 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Slightly cool and magenta color balance, but generally good color, and a pretty good exposure.

On this target, the DMC-FZ15's Manual white balance setting won out, as it produced the most neutral white value overall. The Auto setting had a reddish cast, while the Daylight setting resulted in a warmer color balance. Though the Manual setting does have a slight magenta tint, overall color looked best. Exposure is good, and the camera distinguished the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target well.

Color here is generally pretty good, with the slight ovesaturation that most consumer cameras have. There are slight hue shifts in some colors, the blues generally being pulled toward more purple tones, oranges being pulled toward red, and reds pulled a bit toward purple. I think these color twists are some of why the FZ15's skin tones tend to be on the pinkish side, I don't think the overall effect is too severe.

Detail is moderately strong in the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes, and image noise is moderate as well.


Now, for the REAL technoids, Imatest!

I've recently begun using Norman Koren's excellent "Imatest" analysis program for quantitative, thoroughly objective analysis of digicam test images. For those interested, I've prepared a page summarizing what Imatest showed me about the Panasonic FZ15's images.


The results in the tests below mirror those seen above in other test shots. The test series are repeated here without further comment, for the benefit of our more quantitatively-oriented readers.


ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 64
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400


Contrast Series:

Contrast Series
Low
Normal
High


Saturation Series:

Saturation Series
Low
Normal
High


Color Effect Series:

Color Effect Series
Cool
Warm
Black and White
Sepia



 

Low-Light Tests

About average low-light shooting capabilities, with good color. Image noise is high at the highest sensitivity setting, not bad otherwise. Good low-light autofocus performance.

The DMC-FZ15 has a maximum exposure time of eight seconds, which combined with its adjustable ISO setting, results in pretty good low-light shooting capabilities. That said though, I only obtained a bright exposure at the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test with the 400 ISO setting. At ISO 64, images were bright only as low as 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux), and at ISO 100, images were bright to about 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux). At ISO 200, images were bright as low as 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux). Given that typical city street lighting at night corresponds to a light level of one foot-candle though, the FZ15 should do fine for normal outdoor night shooting in urban settings. Color balance was pretty good with the Auto white balance setting. As I noticed with the Indoor Portrait above, the camera's Noise Reduction setting had a fairly subtle effect on image noise. At the Low setting, image noise is fairly strong at high ISOs, but subtle details are more distinct. The High setting takes the noise down a notch, but there's still quite a bit of it, and the image develops more of a blotchy look. I was pleased with the FZ15's autofocus performance, as it could focus well down to somewhere between 1/4 and 1/8 foot-candle without its AF illuminator, and in more or less complete darkness (on nearby objects) when the AF-assist light was enabled. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
High N/R Low N/R
ISO
64
Click to see FZ15LL06403.JPG
3.2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL06404.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL06405.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL06406.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL06407.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL06407NRH.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL06407NRL.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
ISO
100
Click to see FZ15LL10003.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL10004.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL10005.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL10006.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL10007.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL10007NRH.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL10007NRL.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see FZ15LL20003.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL20004.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL20005.JPG
5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL20006.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL20007.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL20007NRH.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL20007NRL.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see FZ15LL40003.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL40004.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL40005.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL40006.JPG
5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL40007.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL40007NRH.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ15LL40007NRL.JPG
8 sec
f2.8



 

Flash Range Test

A powerful flash, without virtually no falloff at the 14-foot limit of this test.

In my testing, the DMC-FZ15's flash illuminated the test target all the way out to 14 feet, without any significant decrease in intensity. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see FZ15FL08.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 64
Click to see FZ15FL09.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 64
Click to see FZ15FL10.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 64
Click to see FZ15FL11.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 64
Click to see FZ15FL12.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 64
Click to see FZ15FL13.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 64
Click to see FZ15FL14.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 64



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

High resolution, 1,150 lines of "strong detail." High barrel distortion, though fairly low pincushion. Low chromatic aberration, and good corner-to-corner sharpness.

The DMC-FZ15 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height vertically, though you might argue for about 600 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,150 lines, in both directions. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,550 lines.

Using its "MTF 50" numbers, which correlate best with visual sharpness, Imatest showed an average uncorrected resolution of 1117 LW/PH, and a resolution of 1361 LW/PH when normalized to a standard 1-pixel sharpening. Very good results, equal to those of many 5-megapixel cameras.

Optical distortion on the DMC-FZ15 is high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.01 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared better, as I measured approximately 0.13 percent pincushion distortion there. (The barrel distortion is high compared to that of cameras with shorter zoom lenses, but overall distortion is pretty good compared to other long-zoom models.) Chromatic aberration is quite low, showing only about four or five pixels of very faint coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) While the corners of the frame get softer at maximum telephoto, the FZ15's images are generally much sharper from corner to corner than those of most cameras I test, testimony to the quality of its Leica optics.

Resolution Series, 50mm
Wide Angle Uncompressed
TIFF
"Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
2,304 x 1,728
FZ15RES2304.TIF
FZ15RES2304F
FZ15RES2304N
1,600 x 1,200
-
FZ15RES1600
-
1,280 x 960
-
FZ15RES1280
-
640 x 480
-
FZ15RES0640
-

 

Sharpness Series
Sharpness Series
Soft
Normal
Sharp



 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

Excellent accuracy from the electronic viewfinder.

The DMC-FZ15's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF) is very accurate, showing 99+ percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor is also very accurate, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the DMC-FZ15's LCD monitor is essentially perfect in this regard. Flash distribution is fairly even at wide angle, with just a little falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform, but intensity is very low.




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