Panasonic G2 High ISO NR
Panasonic G2 Noise Reduction
The Panasonic G2's 5 levels of noise-reduction settings allow you quite a bit of flexibility in choosing how you want to make the trade-off between subject detail and noise level. The Panasonic G2 applies NR to its JPEGs at all ISOs, so we've included crops at all ISOs in the tables below. The combination of shooting with NR turned down to the lowest setting (-2) and using a good noise-filtering program after the fact can produce very clean images with lots of fine detail in them. RAW images with no NR or sharpening are also shown for comparison.
The crops below show the effects of three (-2, 0 and +2) of the Panasonic G2's five levels of noise reduction available, under the studio HMI lighting we use to simulate daylight. A RAW image with no NR or sharpening applied (the lack of sharpening is why it's soft-looking) is also included for comparison. See for yourself how the noise reduction works under daylight-balanced lighting. Click on any of the crops below to see the corresponding full-sized image.
To our eyes, the default (0) level of noise reduction strikes a good balance between noise and subtle subject detail, although the red fabric swatch presents a real challenge, as it does for virtually all cameras we test. Cranking the noise reduction setting up to +2 produces very smooth-looking images, while still maintaining good detail in areas of high local contrast (as seen in the circular scale), but a lot of detail is lost in areas of subtle contrast (the red fabric swatch is a particularly challenging subject, and the detail loss there is worse than you'd find in most real-world examples). At the other end of the scale, the -2 noise reduction setting leaves a lot of noise in the image, but also leaves the subject detail largely undisturbed: Use this setting if you have good third-party noise reduction software; with appropriate processing, the result could be quite good. You should be able to do even better working from the RAW files.
The following table compares images from competing SLD models at the default noise reduction setting at ISO 100 and above.
The Panasonic G2 applies stronger default noise reduction than the GF1 in areas of low contrast, like the red fabric, at least up to ISO 800. At higher ISOs, the difference between the two Panasonics is not as significant, but the GF1 does show a bit more detail as well as more chroma noise than the G2. The Olympus E-PL1 has the cleanest looking images of the group, though it too applies strong noise reduction that blurs fine detail in low contrast areas. You'd expect the 14-megapixel Samsung NX10 to produce cleaner looking JPEGs because its APS-C sensor has the largest photosites of the group, but that's not the case. The Samsung NX10's JPEGs show more luminance noise than the Panasonic G2, and its noise reduction struggles even more than the G2 in areas of low contrast.
Each camera manufacturer makes somewhat different trade-offs between noise and image detail, compounded by the number of different NR settings each offers. Be sure check out our RAW crops, to see how sensor output compares without NR or other in-camera processing.