Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 Review

 
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Very good overall color and hue accuracy, with minor oversaturation of some colors.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Saturation. The Panasonic DMC-FZ8 oversaturates red, blue, and some green tones slightly, but undersaturates bright yellows. This is quite typical of consumer models, but we found its colors pleasing on a wide range of typical subjects. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. Here, with the color balanced properly for the light source, the FZ8's skin tones were a little flat and clay-like, with only slight warmth. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Panasonic FZ8 showed small color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, and overall had more hue-accurate color than most consumer cameras we test. Hue is "what color" the color is.


See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Slightly warm with Auto white balance, very warm with Incandescent setting, but good color with Manual white balance. About average positive exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+1.0 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+1.0 EV
Manual White Balance
+1.0 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was slightly warm in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting had a very warm cast. Manual mode was the most accurate. The FZ8 required a +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, about average for this shot. Overall color with the Manual white balance setting is quite good, though the blue flowers are quite purplish. (Many digital cameras reproduce these flowers with a dark, purplish tint, so the DMC-FZ8 struggled a bit here.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Slightly flat color, good exposure, though with high contrast in harsh lighting.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 did reasonably well, with good exposure in the outdoor far shot, except that shadows are too deep and highlights too bright. Though the shirt is almost completely blown out in the +0.7 EV shot, this is the closest it gets to good skin tones without excessive highlights taking over the face. Default contrast is clearly too high. Detail is also sacrificed in the shadows, with heavy evidence of noise suppression. We advise you turn down the contrast on the Panasonic FZ8.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,500 ~ 1,600 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,500 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,600 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,500 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,600 lines vertically. Extinction didn't really occur, though lines began to merge around 1,800-1,900 lines. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp images overall, with only minor edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Noise suppression limits detail in the shadows.

Definition of high-contrast
elements is squashed by
noise suppression and there's
evidence of minor
edge enhancement.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
Marti's hair here.

Sharpness. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8's detail would probably be better were it not for the significant noise suppression that obliterates detail at even the lowest ISO setting. Slight enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows fairly high noise suppression, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing limited detail, where the individual strands are lost in a sea of color. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a jump in noise with strong blurring at the higher settings.

ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
 
ISO 800 ISO 1,250

Noise levels and efforts to suppress noise are quite evident at the Panasonic DMC-FZ8's lower sensitivity settings, with much higher noise at ISO 400 and up. Even at ISO 200, we can see some fairly obvious noise reduction artifacts, namely blurring of fine detail and some blotchiness. At ISO 400, we start to see a fairly strong grain pattern appear, and it only gets worse from there. At ISOs 800 and 1,600, the grain pattern becomes progressively stronger, with a shift in overall color as well. Not a favorable result.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, but slightly high contrast and limited shadow detail. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.

Default Exposure +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight:
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 had some difficulty dealing with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Shadow detail is limited, with the effects noise suppression evident in the form of smudged detail in deep shadow areas. The camera required about average compensation to get proper exposure of skin tones, at +0.7 EV, but unfortunately blows the detail in the shirt, a clear indication of excessive contrast preventing capture of a good sunlit image. Shadow detail is also quite limited thanks to heavy noise suppression. Consider reducing the contrast setting with the Panasonic FZ8, and be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)




  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
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
Low NR
ISO
100
Click to see FZ8LL01003.JPG
1.6 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL01004.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL01005.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL01006.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL01007.JPG
30 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL01007LONR.JPG
30 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see FZ8LL02003.JPG
0.8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL02004.JPG
1.3 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL02005.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL02006.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL02007.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL02007LONR.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see FZ8LL04003.JPG
0.4 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL04004.JPG
0.6 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL04005.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL04006.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL04007.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL04007LONR.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
ISO
800
Click to see FZ8LL08003.JPG
1/5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL08004.JPG
0.3 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL08005.JPG
0.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL08006.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL08007.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL08007LONR.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
ISO
1250
Click to see FZ8LL12503.JPG
1/8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL12504.JPG
1/5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL12505.JPG
0.3 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL12506.JPG
1.3 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL12507.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ8LL12507LONR.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8

Low light:
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 performed pretty well on the low-light test, capturing bright images at the lowest light level with the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). Noise increases with higher ISOs, but this is expected. Color balance was pretty good with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system worked well also, as it was able to focus on the subject almost down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted, and down to the darkest light level with the AF assist enabled. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

The Panasonic FZ8 has three noise-reduction options available in its Record menu, we used the default "Standard" setting for all our shots, but tried the "Low" option at the darkest light levels in the test above. The results in the "Low NR" column show a slight improvement in fine detail at the cost of a bit more noise. Though the overall effect is slight, we recommend turning down the noise reduction in addition to the contrast for better images with the Panasonic FZ8. Processing your images on the computer with even mediocre noise reduction software will give you greater control and better results.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Powerful flash at close range, though not a match for the camera's 12x optical zoom. Our standard shots required slightly lower than average exposure compensation, coverage was pretty uniform.

36mm equivalent 432mm equivalent
Normal Flash
+0.7 EV
Slow-Sync Flash
+0.7 EV

Flash coverage was slightly uneven at wide angle, but but much better than average. At full telephoto, the target was too far away for the flash to illuminate it. In the Indoor test, the DMC-FZ8's flash underexposed our subject just a little at its default setting, requiring a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get good results. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced slightly brighter and more even results, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see FZ8FL06W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL07W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL08W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL09W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL10W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL11W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see FZ8FL12W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL13W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL14W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL15W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL16W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see FZ8FL06T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL07T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL08T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL09T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL10T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL11T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see FZ8FL12T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL13T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL14T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL15T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL16T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100

ISO 100 Range. At wide angle, flash shots at ISO 100 remained fairly bright out to a distance of about 11 feet, decreasing in brightness from that point on. At full telephoto and ISO 100, the target at 6 feet was quite bright, but the images darken gradually from there.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see FZ8FL_MFR098WM0100.JPG
9.8 feet
ISO 100
Click to see FZ8FL_MFR089TM0100.JPG
8.9 feet
ISO 100

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the wide angle shot above, the DMC-FZ8 seems to perform exactly as Panasonic says it will, producing a good exposure at the rated distance with its ISO set to Auto (which selected ISO 100). At telephoto, the image is a bit dim, though the camera did not boost ISO to compensate. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, good color, sharp 11x14 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 8x10, ISO 800 shots are still good at 8x10.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 had enough resolution to make good looking 11x14 inch prints. 13x19 inch prints were reasonable, but chroma noise shows up in some places. ISO 200 shots are better than expected at 11x14, with good color and detail. ISO 400 shots are soft at 11x14, and the color is muted, with the image darker overall. At 8x10 detail returns, though color is still less saturated and dark. Noise suppression starts to eat at ISO 800 images at 8x10, but color and exposure don't get any worse than they were at ISO 400. At 5x7, however, results are quite good. ISO 1,250 images are good at both 5x7 and 4x6. Some noise is evident in the larger of the two, but it's handled well enough that most people won't notice. ISO 3,200 is probably fine for Web display at small sizes, but don't use it for important work that you'd want to print, because images are very soft even at 4x6.

Overall, the Panasonic FZ8 gets quite a boost from the printed results, as we'd been close to dinging the camera pretty heavily based on its image quality at 100% on a computer screen. Of course, that's why we do these printed tests, because that's where it really matters for most people. So long as you don't spend a lot of time pixel-peeping on a computer screen, you'll be very happy with the printed results from the Panasonic FZ8. Venture above ISO 400 only if you're good at framing your images in the camera, because you won't want to do much cropping.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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