Panasonic FZ1000 Image Quality
Panasonic FZ1000 Image Quality Comparison
Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Panasonic FZ1000 against the Sony RX10 at base ISO as well as at ISO 1600 and 3200. We originally had FZ1000 crops from images shot with version 0.3 pre-production firmware here, but they have been updated to version 1.0 with very little change.
NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings).
Panasonic FZ1000 versus Sony RX10 at Base ISO
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 125
Sony RX10 at ISO 125
Panasonic FZ1000 versus Sony RX10 at ISO 1600
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 at ISO 1600
Panasonic FZ1000 versus Sony RX10 at ISO 3200
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 at ISO 3200
Panasonic FZ1000 Print Quality
Good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 80/125/200; a fairly good 11 x 14 at ISO 1600 and a good 4 x 6 at ISO 6400.
ISO 200 images are also quite good at 24 x 36 inches, an impressive sized print for ISO 200 in this class.
ISO 400 delivers a very good 20 x 30 inch print. There is mild softening that occurs in our test target red swatch and a mild trace of noise in a few shadow areas, but still a really good print.
ISO 800 yields a solid 13 x 19 inch print. There is a fairly substantial loss of contrast detail in our red swatch, but that's common for most cameras at this ISO and higher for this class of camera.
ISO 1600 produces an 11 x 14 inch print similar to the 13 x 19 at ISO 800. Noise is actually well-controlled in flatter areas, a nice sized print here all things considered.
ISO 3200 is notoriously difficult for cameras with relatively small sensors (compared to APS-C and full-frame), and the FZ1000 succumbs to the difficulties like so many others. 8 x 10's here are simply too lacking in fine detail to make our "good" grade, likely the result of fairly high noise and aggressive noise reduction processing, but we can rate the 5 x 7 inch print good here.
ISO 6400 prints a 5 x 7 that almost passes our good grade, but it's a bit drab and undersaturated to officially call good, so we'll rate the 4 x 6 inch print good here.
ISO 12,800/25,600 settings do not yield good prints and are best avoided.
The Panasonic FZ1000 delivers solidly in the print quality department up to ISO 1600, which is the highest ISO we recommend for this sensor size. It slightly outperforms its biggest competition, the Sony RX10, at ISO 200 and 400 by one print size. Looking side-by-side, Sony's default JPEG processing generates too much in the way of unwanted artifacts, and thus the print size difference. At higher ISOs, however, the RX10 pulls slightly ahead, allowing for one print size larger at ISO 6400 and 12,800. A fairly close race, but if you remain at ISO 1600 and below the FZ1000 is the better choice for JPEGs at default settings in print.
About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell 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 routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.
The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.
See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.
*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)
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