Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20By: Dave Etchells
Panasonic introduces a five-megapixel digicam with the high quality optics of a 12x Leica lens.
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DMC-FZ20 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 12/17/2004
Digital Cameras - Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 Test Images
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumbnail index page for the test shots. The data on this page includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with all that detail, we're posting the thumbnail index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!|
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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 produced good color, although it left the midtones slightly dark when the exposure was set to hold highlight detail. (Still, it did much better than average.)
The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, and the contrast adjustment set to its lowest value, which does a good job of preserving the highlights, albeit at the cost of somewhat dark midtones and shadows. (The midtones were better at the +0.7 EV exposure, but I felt that the higher setting lost too much highlight detail.) Midtones are slightly dark, but still show a lot of detail. The Panasonic FZ20's Auto white balance setting produced the most accurate color here, as the Daylight setting had a slight warm cast and the Manual setting a slight red cast.
Marti's skin tones look about right (though slightly yellow), but the blue flowers in the bouquet are rather purplish. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, which is in reality a light navy blue with just hints of purple in it.) The strong greens look very good, but the red flowers have a pinkish tint and the yellow flowers are a bit dark. Still, results are pretty good overall. Resolution is very high, and a lot of fine detail is visible in the flower bouquet, as well as in Marti's face. Shadow detail is fairly good, with low to moderate image noise.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files FZ20OUTAP0.HTM
through FZ20OUTAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Excellent resolution and detail, and a pretty good exposure.
Overall exposure looks good here, with slightly more tame highlights than in the wider shot above. The shot at right was taken at the default exposure, and though contrast is just the teeniest bit high from the high-key lighting, detail is still good in the midtones and highlights. The Panasonic FZ20's 12x Leica zoom lens helps prevent distortion in Marti's features, and also captures well-defined details. Resolution and detail are much stronger in this close-up shot, with even better definition in Marti's face and hair.
To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +0.7 EV, see files FZ20OUTFACAM1.HTM
through FZ20OUTFACAP2.HTM on the thumbnail index
Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Slight underexposure with the flash at its default settings, but good coverage, and good color in normal mode.
The Panasonic DMC-FZ20's built-in flash illuminated the subject fairly well with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, though overall results are slightly dim. (The image taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment was much too bright on the white shirt and Marti's face.) However, the default exposure was quite dark. (Most digital cameras I test need +0.7-1.0EV of exposure compensation for this shot, so the FZ20's behavior here is pretty typical.) Overall color is nearly right, though a magenta tint adds pink to Marti's skin tone, and light from the flash is slightly cool. The background incandescent lighting creates a faint orange cast, mainly noticeable on Marti's hair, and in the shadows behind the plant. The camera's Slow-Sync flash setting resulted in a more even exposure, thanks to the slower shutter speed, and I found the best results in this mode with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment. The warm cast from the incandescent lighting increases, but the overall exposure is actually more pleasing, despite the orange color.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV in the normal flash mode, see files FZ20INFP0.HTM through FZ20INFP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
To view the same exposure series in the Slow-Sync flash mode, see files
FZ20INFSP0.HTM through FZ20INFSP4.HTM on the thumbnail
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Slightly cool with the Manual option, but pretty good results overall. (Auto white balance produced an acceptable result as well.) 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, and the Panasonic DMC-FZ20's Auto and Incandescent settings responded with warmer color balances (the Auto with a red cast and the Incandescent with a warm, yellow cast). Though just a slightly cool and magenta-tinged, the Panasonic FZ20's Manual setting produced the best results here. (Although results with the Auto setting were a good bit better than average as well.) Marti's skin tone is good, if a little pinkish, and the flower bouquet looks about right as well. The blue flowers are very purplish, however, but that's quite commonly the case, given the difficult light source here. The main shot was taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is about average for this subject.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files FZ20INMP0.HTM
through FZ20INMP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Natural-looking color, with very high resolution and strong detail throughout the frame.
While all three of the Panasonic DMC-FZ20's white balance settings that
I tested actually performed pretty well here, I chose the Auto
setting as the most accurate overall, because it had the most natural
color and a good white value on the house trim. The Daylight
setting was slightly warm, and the Manual
setting was a little too cool and magenta for my taste. Resolution is
very high, and detail is strong throughout the frame. Leaf patterns are
distinct both in the tree limbs above the roof and in the front shrubbery.
Details are fairly sharp from corner to corner of the frame as well.
High resolution and strong detail, but high contrast limits the 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-FZ20 performed very well in that respect. The leaf patterns in the
front shrubbery and in the tree limbs above the roof show a lot of fine
detail, as do the brick pattern on the house front and the tree branches
and trunks. Details are well-defined and much sharper than average from
corner to corner. The bright sunlight causes the camera to lose some detail
in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a trouble spot for
many digital cameras. Detail is also somewhat limited in the shadow area
above the front door, further evidence of a slightly limited dynamic range.
The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed
by ISO, sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color series.
Lens Zoom Range
An 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
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20's lens is equivalent to a 36-432mm zoom on a
35mm camera. That corresponds to a moderate wide angle to a very substantial
telephoto. (And the anti-shake system really helps you make the most of
that long zoom.) Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Slightly warm color, but still good results. High resolution and strong detail.
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. The DMC-FZ20's Auto
and Daylight settings both produced warm color
here, though the Auto setting resulted in a bit of a red cast. (The Manual
setting resulted in a cooler, magenta cast.) Though warm, I felt overall
color looked best with the Daylight setting. Skin tones are believable,
if a hint reddish, and the warm cast creates slight purplish tints in
the blue background and the blue robe. Still, overall color is pretty
good. Resolution is very high, and detail is excellent in the embroidered
bird wings on the blue robe, as well as in the instrument details and
beaded necklaces. (The original data file for this poster was only 20MB
though, so cameras like the Panasonic DMC-FZ20 are capable of showing
more detail than the poster has in it.)
A very small macro area with great detail, though a dim exposure. Flash has trouble up close, and is blocked by the lens.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 performed very well in the macro category,
capturing a minimum area of only 1.46 x 1.10 inches (37 x 28 millimeters).
Resolution is very high, and fine detail is strong in the dollar bill,
coins, and brooch. Details are softer on the coins and brooch due to the
close shooting range, as well as from some lens distortion in the corners
of the frame. (Most digicams produce images with soft corners when shooting
in their Macro modes.) The image is a little dark, as the camera is so
close to the subject that the lens blocks some of the lighting (a macro
ring light might prove more effective here). The Panasonic FZ20's flash
is ill-placed for shooting at such close range, as the large lens blocks
most of the lighting from it. (Again, a macro ring light may be the best
option, but definitely plan on using some sort of external lighting for
your closest macro shots with the FZ20.)
"Davebox" Test Target
Good overall exposure and color, though a slight color casts with each white balance.
Though slightly magenta, the Panasonic DMC-FZ20's Manual white balance setting produced the most neutral color here. The Auto and Daylight settings resulted in warmer color balances, with the Daylight setting producing the strongest cast of the two. Contrast is a little high, but not so high that the DMC-FZ20 has trouble with the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target. The camera picks up the subtleties in tone well, and overall exposure is pretty good.
The large color blocks are all pretty good to the eye, but the FZ20 really liked the blues in this chart, oversaturating them a fair bit, and hue-shifting them slightly toward purple. The bright red block is somewhat oversaturated as well (as it is by essentially every digital camera I test), but the rest of the colors are pretty accurate.
The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows moderate detail, with
moderately low noise.
Pretty good low-light performance, with good results under average city street lighting at night, and darker. Noise is moderate to high, but overall color is good. Good low-light autofocus performance.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at the 400 ISO setting, with good color. At ISOs 80 and 100, images were bright down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level, and at ISO 200, images were bright as low as 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux). The FZ20's autofocus system worked quite well at low light, as it managed to focus down to a bit below 1/4 foot-candle with its autofocus-assist light turned off, and in more or less complete darkness (on nearby objects) when the AF-assist light was enabled. Since average city street lighting at night equates to about one foot-candle (11 lux), the Panasonic DMC-FZ20 should easily handle urban night scenes as well as subjects a fair bit darker. Noise was moderate in most cases, but high at the ISO 400 setting. The large blotches from noise and the associated noise-reduction processing gave the long-exposure ISO 400 images an almost painterly look, blurring details slightly in the process. The DMC-FZ20 offers High and Low Noise Reduction settings, which control how much subtle subject detail is traded off to achieve lower noise levels. The effect of this control is itself very subtle, but fairly evident in regions where the contrast between local detail elements is fairly low. (In the DaveBox photos here, look in the ISO 400 NR Hi and NR Lo samples at the boundary between steps 12 and 13 of the small grayscale on the Kodak Q-60 target, or at the detail in low-contrast areas of the cotton gauze. The High Noise Reduction setting clearly left the subject detail quite a bit more blurred.) 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.)
Flash Range Test
A powerful flash, without virtually no falloff at the 14-foot limit of this test.
In my testing, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20'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.
High resolution, 1,300-1,400 lines of "strong detail." High barrel distortion at wide angle, but virtually no pincushion. Low chromatic aberration, and good corner-to-corner sharpness.
The Panasonic DMC-FZ20 performed fairly well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height horizontally, and about 800 lines vertically. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,300 lines vertically, 1,400 lines horizontally. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,700 lines.
Using its "MTF 50" numbers, which correlate best with visual sharpness, Imatest showed an average uncorrected resolution of 1116 LW/PH, and a resolution of 1608 LW/PH when normalized to a standard 1-pixel sharpening. (Uncorrected results are virtually identical to those of the 4-megapixel FZ15, corrected results are very good, at the top of the 5-megapixel field. - But I personally think that these MTF 50 numbers somewhat overstate the sharpness of the FZ20's images. They're sharp, but not to the extent that the corrected MTF 50 numbers would indicate.)
Geometric distortion on the DMC-FZ20 is high at the wide-angle end, where
I measured approximately 1.01 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto
end fared quite a bit better, as I measured approximately 0.01 percent
pincushion distortion (about three pixels' worth) there. Chromatic aberration
was relatively low, showing only fairly faint coloration around high-contrast
objects in the corners of the frame. (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 FZ20'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. (Oddly though, I did see more flare in
the corners of the res target images than I did with the FZ15, which uses
the same lens.)
Resolution Series, medium focal length
Resolution Test, Zoom Series
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
Excellent accuracy with both the electronic optical viewfinder and LCD monitor.
The Panasonic FZ20's electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) is very accurate, showing about 99 percent of the final image area at wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor also performed well, since it's essentially the same view on a larger screen. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the DMC-FZ20's LCD monitor and EVF both performed very well here. Flash distribution is only slightly uneven at wide angle, with a small amount of falloff at the corners of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform, but the intensity at the long shooting distance used here was very low.