Panasonic FZ2500 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Typical saturation levels and hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
125
200
400
800
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 toward 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. Mouse over the links to compare results at different ISOs, and click on the links for larger images.

Saturation. Overall, saturation levels are about average from the Panasonic FZ2500 using default settings, with a mean saturation of 110.6% (10.6 oversaturated) at base ISO. The FZ2500 pushes dark blues the most, but also oversaturates red, orange, brown and dark green by smaller amounts, while it undersaturates yellow and aqua tones. Like most cameras, mean saturation tends to decline as sensitivity rises, to a minimum of 99.9% at ISO 25,600 in our tests. 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, the Panasonic FZ2500 did fairly well, producing reasonably natural-looking pinkish Caucasian skin tones with auto white balance, but they were a bit warmer and yellow with the manual white balance setting under simulated daylight. 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 FZ2500 shifts cyan toward blue by quite a bit, but most other color shifts are quite small. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) The FZ2500's handling of yellows isn't as problematic as some cameras; yellows are undersaturated and shifted slightly toward green which can make them look a bit dingy, but we have seen much worse. With a mean "delta-C" color error of 4.94 after correction for saturation, overall hue accuracy is about average at base ISO, but as usual, hue error does increase as ISO rises, though not dramatically so. 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
The Auto white balance setting produced warm results and Incandescent was quite warm, however Manual was pretty accurate. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was a bit warm with the Auto white balance setting, while results with the Incandescent setting were very warm and orange. The Manual setting was by far the most accurate and pretty neutral. (Note: The FZ2500 also has a Kelvin Temperature White Balance option, however we did not test that mode.) The Panasonic FZ2500 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation which is about average for this scene. (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
Good color and exposure accuracy under harsh lighting, though with high contrast.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Panasonic FZ2500 performed fairly well for its class. +0.7 EV exposure compensation was required to keep the mannequin's face reasonably bright in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, which is about average among cameras we've tested. However default contrast is a quite high and the camera ended up clipping some highlights in the white shirt and flowers, and also produced some very dark, discolored shadows, though they are fairly clean for the class. Auto color balance performed well in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, though skin tones are perhaps just a touch yellow. Manual and Daylight white balance produced slightly warmer skin tones. The Far-field shot with Auto white balance looks a bit cool, and default exposure is slightly underexposed producing some deep shadows that are noisy and discolored, however almost no highlights were blown as a result.

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

Resolution
~2,500 to ~2,550 lines of strong detail.

In-camera JPEG:
Strong detail to
~2,550 lines horizontal
In-camera JPEG:
Strong detail to
~2,500 lines vertical
ACR converted RAW:
Strong detail to
~2,550 lines horizontal
ACR converted RAW:
Strong detail to
~2,500 lines vertical

An in-camera JPEG of our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns up to about 2,550 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,500 lines per picture height in the vertical direction. Some may argue for more, but aliasing artifacts begin to interfere and lines begin to merge at that point. Complete extinction of the pattern didn't occur until about 3,000 to 3,100 lines. An Adobe Camera Raw conversion produced similar results, but complete extinction of the pattern was extended to about 3,100 to 3,200 lines and color moiré is more visible. 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 thumbnails of all test images

Sharpness & Detail
Slightly soft images but with very good detail; some sharpening artifacts are visible. Moderate noise reduction at base ISO.

High-contrast edges
have moderate sharpening halos which varies with focal length.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The FZ2500 produces slightly soft-looking images at base ISO though with very good detail, however sharpening halos can still be seen around high contrast transitions, such as the lines and text in the crop above left. The camera appears to adjust sharpening based on focal length and aperture, so the visibility of sharpening halos can vary. 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 good detail for the class of camera, with moderate levels noise suppression in the darkest areas of the mannequins's hair, and almost no chroma noise. Some individual strands are smudged together in areas of low contrast at base ISO, but performance here is actually quite good considering the size and resolution of the sensor. 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.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Panasonic FZ2500 produces images with very good detail but they can appear slightly soft despite showing noticeable sharpening halos. Let's see how an Adobe Camera Raw conversion at base ISO compares.

Base ISO (125)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare an in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to a matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.9 using default noise reduction, then sharpened in Photoshop.

As you can see, ACR produced additional detail that isn't present in the JPEG from the camera. Perhaps the most dramatic increase in detail is in the fabric crop, where ACR was able to resolve much more of the thread pattern in the red-leaf swatch which the camera's JPEG engine presumably treats as noise. ACR also did a bit better reproducing fine detail in the pink fabric, as well as producing more accurate color. But as is usually the case, much higher levels of luminance noise can be seen in the RAW conversion particularly in flat areas as shown in the bottle crop, thanks to ACR's light default noise reduction and the relatively strong sharpening required to keep the soft RAW images crisp-looking (we used 300% USM with a radius of 0.5 pixels and a threshold of 0). You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. Bottom line: As is almost always the case, you can do noticeably better than the camera with a good RAW converter, provided you're willing to apply your own noise reduction and sharpening to taste.

ISO & Noise Performance
Good high ISO performance for its class.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 125
ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 1600 ISO 3200 ISO 6400
ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

ISOs 80 through 200 produce similar results, with detailed images containing low levels of fine-grained luma noise and almost no chroma noise. ISO 400 shows a more noticeable drop in image quality as noise reduction ramps, but fine detail is still quite good. ISO 800 shows another step down in image quality with additional blurring of fine detail and stronger luminance noise, but is still pretty good. ISO 1600 is noticeably softer thanks to much stronger noise reduction and more visible luma noise, however chroma noise is still fairly low. At ISO 3200, image quality takes a larger hit with higher noise, both luma and chroma, and the camera's processing starts to produce images with a somewhat crystalline look. Image quality drops off very quickly from here, with ISOs 6400 through 25,600 being quite noisy with strong luma noise and chroma blotching.

Overall, though, high ISO performance is pretty good for its class, and the FZ2500's default noise reduction does a good job balancing detail with noise. We're of course pixel-peeping to an extraordinary extent here, since 1:1 images on an LCD screen often have little to do with how those same images will appear when printed. See the Print Quality section below for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

Note: We used to shoot this series at f/4 because of the relatively low light, but we now shoot it at f/5.6 or f/8 for 1"-type and larger sensors, as lens performance well away from center where we take the above crops is often not optimal at wider apertures. The added depth of field for a scene with this depth is also a better compromise than the potentially slightly sharper but shallower focus depth that a larger aperture would produce.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Decent dynamic range for its class in JPEGs. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images and focusing in fairly dark conditions.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Panasonic FZ2500 fared fairly well under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above. To keep facial tones reasonably bright, +0.7V compensation was required, which led to some clipped highlights in the mannequin's shirt and flowers, though not as many as we often see in this shot. Detail is quite good in moderate shadows at +0.7 EV, though very deep shadows are a little noisy and discolored.

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.)

Face Detection
Aperture Priority,
f/5.6, 0 EV
Face Detection Off
Aperture Priority,
f/5.6, 0 EV,
Face Detection On
iAuto,
f/3.9, 0 EV

Face Detection. Like most cameras these days, the Panasonic FZ2500 has the ability to detect faces (up to 15 in a scene), and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. As you can see from the examples above, face detection improved exposure in both Aperture Priority at f/5.6, and in iAuto mode where the camera had control over aperture, choosing f/3.9 (the maximum aperture at the focal length used).


Far-field Highlight/Shadow Examples

Highlight/Shadow Adjustment
The above shots are examples of Panasonic's Highlight/Shadow adjustments at work on our high-contrast Far-field subject, with no exposure compensation. There are four settings: Standard (default), Higher Contrast, Lower Contrast and Boost Shadows, along with 3 Custom settings which allow you to modify and recall your own custom tone curves. As you can see the defaults worked as expected. It's a nice feature that offers much more control over highlights, midtones and shadows than the camera's basic contrast settings.


Far-field Intelligent D-Range Examples
Off
Low

Intelligent Dynamic Range
The above shots are examples of Panasonic's Intelligent Dynamic Range Control (or iD-Range) at work, with no exposure compensation. Note that the camera does not take multiple shots and merge them as HDR mode does (see below). It's a system that adjusts local contrast and exposure more akin to Nikon's Active D-lighting, Canon's Automatic Lighting Optimization or Sony's Dynamic Range Optimization.

There are three levels of iD-Range available on the Panasonic FZ2500: Low, Standard and High, plus Auto and Off. It's automatically invoked in iAuto and some scene modes and manually selectable in PASM modes. As you can see, manual levels of iD-Range progressively attenuated highlights without impacting shadows and midtones, however the Auto setting produced very little change compared to Off (disabled).


Far-field HDR Examples
Off

HDR mode
Here, you can see the Panasonic FZ2500's High Dynamic Range mode at work with our Far-field shot. HDR mode takes three images at different exposures and combines them to increase dynamic range. Mouse over the links, and click on them the view the full resolution files.

Auto mode chose +/-1 EV for this scene according to EXIF, however results don't match the +/-1 EV manual setting. +/-1 and +/2 EV produced very similar results, while +/-3 dimmed the entire image. Oddly, the +/-1 and +/-3 settings show more noise than the +/-2 and Auto settings. There were very few blown highlights to begin with, though, so this isn't the best subject to test HDR mode. Notice the double images and ghosting of the flag or people moving between frames; something to be aware of. Also notice the angle of view is narrower in the HDR images, likely because the images have been cropped and upsized during the optional auto alignment process.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
125
Click to see FZ2500LL001253.JPG
1.6s, f2.8
Click to see FZ2500LL001257.JPG
25s, f2.8
Click to see FZ2500LL001257XNR.JPG
25s, f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see FZ2500LL032003.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see FZ2500LL032007.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see FZ2500LL032007XNR.JPG
1s, f2.8
ISO
12800
Click to see FZ2500LL128003.JPG
1/60s, f2.8
Click to see FZ2500LL128007.JPG
1/4s, f2.8
Click to see FZ2500LL128007XNR.JPG
1/4s, f2.8

Low Light. The Panasonic FZ2500 performed well in our low-light tests thanks to its reasonably fast lens at wide angle coupled to a 1"-type sensor, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle), even at the lowest native sensitivity setting (ISO 125). As expected for a 1"-type sensor, luma noise is a little high at ISO 3200, but fairly fine-grained, while chroma noise is well-controlled. The FZ2500's highest native ISO of 12,800 is quite grainy with noticeable noise reduction artifacts and is thus not recommended, but that's no surprise.

Color balance is quite good with Panasonic FZ2500's Auto white balance setting, just a touch cool. We didn't notice any significant issues with pattern noise or heat blooming, however quite a few bright pixels can be seen in darker areas at base ISO even with long exposure noise reduction active; high ISO noise reduction takes care of them at the higher ISOs.

Low-light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus unassisted on our low-contrast AF target down to -1.0 EV (1/8 foot-candle) and on our high-contrast AF targets unassisted down to -3.3 EV light level (less than 1/32 foot-candle) at wide angle, which is good. And with the AF assist lamp enabled, the FZ2500 can focus in complete darkness. Performance with the AF assist lamp of course will vary with subject and distance, though.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

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.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Very nice, large 24 x 36 inch prints up to ISO 200; Good prints up to 13 x 19 inches until ISO 800; A usable 5 x 7 inch print at ISO 6400.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISOs 80 through 125 yield very nice prints up to 24 x 36 inches, with fine detail and bright colors. 30 x 40 inch prints are also possible for wall display purposes given the 20-megapixel resolution.

ISO 200 also delivers a good print at 24 x 36 inches, still retaining crisp detail while not yet introducing any signs of noise into the print.

ISO 400 prints at 24 x 36 inches are fine for less critical applications, but a reduction in size to 20 x 30 inches is recommended to ensure against noise, of which we experienced only a trace of at this size in a few flatter areas of our test target.

ISO 800 produces a fairly good 13 x 19 inch print, with enough fine detail to pass our good grade here. There is a hint of mild noise in a few areas of our test target, but it is still well-controlled.

ISO 1600 shots are good at up to 11 x 14 inches. At that size we see a trace of softening occurring in the red channel, and similar mild noise reported at some larger print sizes from lower sensitivities, but not enough to warrant a further size reduction here.

ISO 3200 delivers an 8 x 10 that is usable for less critical applications, but is a bit too noisy to warrant our overall good seal. The 5 x 7's tighten up here, and are fine for most general print purposes.

ISO 6400 also delivers a good 5 x 7 inch print that just passes our good seal. Noise is well-controlled and there is still enough color saturation to pass the grade here. Anything larger is simply too noisy to be usable.

ISO 12,800 yields a muted 4 x 6 inch print that may be usable for less critical applications, but for reasonable prints this setting is not recommended.

ISO 25,600 does not deliver usable prints and is best avoided.

Given the 1"-type sensor housed within, the Panasonic FZ2500 delivers print sizes we've come to expect from this sensor size. You can expect reasonably large prints with good fine detail and well-controlled noise up to about ISO 1600, after which the sensor and processor can't keep pace with the rising ISO and noise and softening both take their toll on the prints.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting 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.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500 Photo Gallery .

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-FZ2500 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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