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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3

By: Dave Etchells

Panasonic offers an affordable three-megapixel digicam with an optically stabilized 12x Leica lens.

<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): Print-Friendly Review Version>>

FZ3 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 11/03/2004

Digital Cameras - Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 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!

 

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

Good resolution and 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-FZ3 did a pretty good job in this respect.

The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is a little less than is usually required here. The FZ3 does a surprisingly good job of holding onto the highlight detail in Marti's shirt here, particularly for a camera without a contrast adjustment option. Though slightly reddish, I chose the Auto white balance setting for the main series. The Daylight setting resulted in a stronger red cast, and the Manual setting produced a yellow image.

Marti's skin tones are here are just slightly reddish, but very close to the mark, and the blue flowers in the bouquet are a bit more purplish than in real life. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, which is in reality a light navy blue with just hints of purple in it.) The greens and yellows in the bouquet are also a little dark, but the red flowers are bright and vibrant, perhaps just slightly oversaturated. Resolution is high, and detail is strong in the flower bouquet, as well as in the creases of the fabric background. Shadow detail is moderate, with relatively low image noise. An excellent job overall, with this tough subject.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files FZ3OUTAP0.HTM through FZ3OUTAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.




 

Closer Portrait:

Excellent resolution and detail, though again high contrast.

Exposure and color balance are similar to the wider shot above, and contrast is slightly high. The shot at right was taken at the default exposure setting. Highlights are bright, but have good detail, though the midtones are slightly dark. The DMC-FZ3's 12x Leica zoom lens helps prevent geometric distortion of Marti's features, and captures sharp details. Resolution and detail are much stronger in this close-up shot, with great definition in Marti's face and hair.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +0.7 EV, see files FZ3OUTFACAP0.HTM through FZ3OUTFACAP2.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash
+0.3 EV
Slow-Sync Flash
+1.0 EV

Only a slight underexposure at the default flash setting, and very good color.

The DMC-FZ3's flash has low intensity at the default exposure setting, resulting in cool overall color. While the color balance remains slightly cool, flash performance is better with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation boost. (This is less boost than most cameras require on this shot.) The resulting shot is well-exposed, with good detail in the highlights of Marti's shirt, and good skin tone on her face. I also shot with the camera's Slow-Sync flash mode, choosing an exposure compensation adjustment of +1.0 EV. At the lower exposures, an orange cast from the background incandescent lighting seems to dominate the image. Increasing the exposure compensation results in brighter highlights, but decreases the orange cast.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files FZ3INFP0.HTM through FZ3INFP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

To view the exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV in the Slow-Sync flash mode, see files FZ3INFSP0.HTM through FZ3INFSP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

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

Slightly cool-looking with the Manual setting, but good results overall, and better-than average exposure accuracy.

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-FZ3's Auto white balance setting produced a slight reddish color balance that was just a little too red for my taste, but that many users may actually prefer, as being more representative of the warm room lighting. Instead, I chose the slightly cooler color balance of the Manual setting, as it appeared the most neutral. (The Incandescent setting produced a warm, yellow color balance.) Skin tones are slightly magenta, and the blue flowers are quite purple, no surprise, given the lighting for this shot. - The FZ3 actually did very well with this shot, much better than average. The main exposure was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which gave a good exposure overall, while still holding detail in the highlights on Marti's shirt.

ISO Series:
The DMC-F3Z generally has pretty good image noise levels. Noise is low at the 80 and 100 ISO settings, increasing to a moderately high level at ISO 200. Noise becomes quite strong at ISO 400, with a full grain pattern and bright pixels. Even at that though, it's not as bad as ISO 400 noise in some competing models, and Panasonic generally seems to do a very good job of preserving subtle subject detail, rather than reducing everything to mush as part of their noise-reduction strategy. - An approach taken by an unfortunate number of manufacturers. (The blurring in Marti's hair in the ISO 80 shot is due to a slight head movement during the long, 1/5 second exposure.)

ISO Series
ISO 80
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400



 

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

High resolution and strong detail, with pretty accurate color and good sharpness in the corners.

The DMC-FZ3's Auto white balance setting produced the best overall color here, though the Daylight setting also produced good results. The Manual setting resulted in nearly accurate color as well, though the overall color balance was cooler and less pleasing. Resolution is very high, as the tree limbs above the roof and shrubbery in front of the house show a lot of detail. The house trim and brick pattern also show a lot of fine detail. Details are pretty sharp throughout the frame, with less of the softening in the corners that I'm accustomed to seeing from consumer-level digicams.



 

Far-Field Test

Excellent resolution and detail, good sharpness corner to corner but the camera's overexposure 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-FZ3 performed very well for its 3-megapixel class. The tree limbs over the roof and fine foliage in front of the house show strong detail, with good definition in the leaf and brick patterns. Details are also sharp across the entire frame, with very little of the softening in the corners that most digicams are prone to. The FZ3's in-camera sharpening does a good job here, with few halos or other sharpening artifacts. It did overexpose the shot a fair bit, which caused it to lose a lot of detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a trouble spot for many digicams. However, detail is a little stronger in the shadow area above the front door. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO and sharpness series.

Resolution Series:

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
2,016 x 1,512
FZ3FAR2016F
FZ3FAR2016N
1,600 x 1,200
FZ3FAR1600
-
1,280 x 960
FZ3FAR1280
-
640 x 480
FZ3FAR0640
-


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, but not nearly as much as I'd normally expect from a digicam at the FZ3's price point, with its features.

ISO Series
ISO 80
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400


Color Effect Series:
(Yeesh, do you suppose there are enough "color" options here? ;-)

Color Effect Series
Natural Color
Cool Color
Warm Color
Standard Color
Vivid Color
Black & White
Sepia



 

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 DMC-FZ3'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

Warm overall color, but good 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-FZ3's Auto and Daylight white balance settings produced warm color balances, while the Manual setting resulted in a cooler, slightly magenta cast. I settled on the Daylight setting for the main shot, as the warm cast wasn't quite as strong. The models' skin tones are quite warm, and the blue background has purplish tints that aren't in the original image. The blue robe also has purplish tints, in the deeper shadows. Resolution is very high, and detail is strong throughout the frame. The bird wings on the blue robe are well-defined, as are the instrument details, beaded necklaces, and petals in the flower garland.



 

Macro Shot
Standard Macro Shot
Macro Shot with Flash

A very small macro area with excellent detail, but the flash is blocked by the lens when shooting this close.

The DMC-FZ3 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.6 x 1.2 inches (41 x 30 millimeters). Resolution is very high, and the coins, brooch, and dollar bill show a lot of fine detail. The coins and brooch are slightly soft due to the close shooting distance, and also from some lens distortion that softens details toward the corner of the frame (as evidenced in the top left corner). The camera's flash is too far behind the lens to be effective here, and was mostly blocked by the lens barrel. (Definitely plan on using external lighting for close-in macro shots with the FZ3.)



 

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

Nearly accurate color, and a good exposure.

Though it has just the slightest hint of a cool, magenta tint, the DMC-FZ3's Manual white balance setting produced the best overall color and white value here. The Auto and Daylight settings both resulted in warmer casts. Exposure looks about right, and the DMC-FZ3 does a good job distinguishing the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target. Colors are vibrant in the large color blocks, and nearly accurate, with less oversaturation of the red block than most cameras manage, but somewhat oversaturated blues. - Overall very good accuracy though, with very few hue shifts. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows good detail, with moderate image noise.


ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 80
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400


Color Effect Series:

Color Effect Series
Natural Color
Cool Color
Warm Color
Vivid Color
Black & White
Sepia



 

Low-Light Tests

About average low-light performance, with good color, better than average low-light focusing.

Equipped with an adjustable ISO setting and a maximum exposure time of eight seconds, the DMC-FZ3 performs about average in the low-light category. The camera produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color, only at the ISO 400 setting. At ISOs 80 and 100, images were bright as low as 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux), and at ISO 200, images were bright down to 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux). Given that average city street lighting at night corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle though, the FZ3 should do just fine for most outdoor shooting at night under artificial lighting. Color was good with the Auto white balance setting. Image noise was low to moderate at the lower ISO settings, but increased quite a lot at ISO 400. The FZ3 focused down to a bit darker than 1/4 foot-candle with its autofocus illuminator turned off, and in complete darkness with the AF illuminator on. 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
ISO
80
Click to see FZ3LL0803.JPG
3.2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL0804.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL0805.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL0806.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL0807.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
ISO
100
Click to see FZ3LL1003.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL1004.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL1005.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL1006.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL1007.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see FZ3LL2003.JPG
1.6 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL2004.JPG
3.2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL2005.JPG
5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL2006.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL2007.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see FZ3LL4003.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL4004.JPG
1.3 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL4005.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL4006.JPG
6 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ3LL4007.JPG
8 sec
f2.8



 

Flash Range Test

A moderately powerful flash, with some falloff at the 14 foot limit of this test.

In my testing, the DMC-FZ3's flash illuminated the test target all the way out to 14 feet, though with decreasing intensity. The flash was still effective at 14 feet, just dim. 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 FZ3FL08.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 80
Click to see FZ3FL09.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 80
Click to see FZ3FL10.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 80
Click to see FZ3FL11.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 80
Click to see FZ3FL12.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 80
Click to see FZ3FL13.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 80
Click to see FZ3FL14.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 80



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

High resolution, 1,050 lines of "strong detail." High barrel distortion, low pincushion, good corner sharpness, and very low chromatic aberration.

The DMC-FZ3 performed pretty well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600~800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,100 lines horizontally, although only to about 1,000 lines in the vertical direction. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred around 1,300 lines.

Optical distortion on the DMC-FZ3 is higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.07 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared better, as I measured approximately 0.2 percent pincushion distortion there. Chromatic aberration is quite low, with only 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.) The corners of the images are generally sharper than I'm accustomed to seeing in consumer digicams, although at maximum telephoto, detail in the corners softens somewhat. (Actually, the entire image is noticeably less crisp at full telephoto.)

Resolution Series, 50mm
Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
2,016 x 1,512
FZ3RES2016F
FZ3RES2016N
1,600 x 1,200
FZ3RES1600
-
1,280 x 960
FZ3RES1280
-
640 x 480
FZ3RES0640
-

 

Resolution Test, Zoom Series
2,016 x 1,512
(Fine, Wide)
FZ3RESW
2,016 x 1,512
(Fine, Tele)
FZ3REST



 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

Excellent accuracy from the electronic viewfinder.

The DMC-FZ3's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF) is very accurate, showing about 98 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and 99+ percent at telephoto. 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-FZ3's LCD monitor performs well here. Flash distribution is fairly even at wide angle, with just a little falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At full 12x telephoto, the flash is too weak and the studio lights were necessary for a bright exposure.




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<<Reference: Datasheet | Print-Friendly Review Version>>

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