Digital Cameras - Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 Test Images
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-FX35 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!
This is our new "Still Life" test target. We're combining
some of the elements from previous shots (DaveBox and Res Chart) into
this and the "Multi Target" shot below, plus added a number
of elements that are very revealing of various camera characteristics
Here's what to look for in this target:
Tone-on-tone detail & noise suppression:
The cloth swatches in the pinwheel were chosen because they show a lot
of tone-on-tone detail, across a broad range of colors. This is just
the sort of detail that noise suppression processing tends to flatten
out. If you look at the detail in these swatches as the ISO increases,
you'll see just where different cameras start to lose subtle detail.
-- The white and tan swatches and the dark swatches tend to be particularly
revealing of this. The label of the vinegar bottle (second from the
right) is another great place to look for lost detail from noise suppression,
as the image of the person at the top of the label is actually a depiction
of a mosaic. The dark colors in the background and in the figure's clothes
contain detail that's very quickly lost when a camera's noise suppression
system kicks in. Cameras with really high-quality, low-noise sensors
that require little noise suppression will be able to hold onto the
detail in these areas, many others will show only a uniform swath of
Another place where you'll quickly see the effects of over-aggressive
noise suppression is in the white salt grains of the salt grinder in
lower left. Cameras are often more conservative about suppressing noise
in highlight areas (because our eyes tend to see less of it there),
but many cameras seem to have a hard time holding onto the subtle shadings
that distinguish the salt grains from each other, particularly at higher
Fine Detail: You'll find a lot of fine detail
in the label of the beer bottle on the right, in its fine cursive text,
but the other bottle labels hold a lot of fine detail as well. Fine
text is often a good visual indicator of resolution, because our brains
have an excellent idea of what the text should look like, so
are very quick to notice even minor loss of detail.
For really fine detail, look to the circular scale/calculator on the
right side of the scene. Some of the fine lines there are extremely
fine indeed. Looking at results from many different cameras with this
target, we found that camera noise-suppression systems often confuse
the fine lines with image noise, and so flatten them out. There's also
a nice range of fine text sizes in this chart as well, once again great
visual cues for resolution and detail.
Highlight Detail: Three elements in this scene
show off (or show up) a camera's ability to hold onto highlight detail.
As mentioned above, the salt grains (and reflections of the studio lights)
in the salt mill are examples of fairly subtle highlight detail that
cameras' anti-noise processing sometimes obliterate. The folded white
cloth under the mug on the right side of the frame likewise shows a
lot of white-on-white detail that is easy to lose, particularly if a
camera's tone curve is too contrasty. As it turns out though, the most
sensitive test of a camera's highlight abilities seems to be the hank
of white embroidery thread in the upper right corner. These fibers are
unusually bright and reflective, so its easy for a camera to blow out
detail in them.
Shadow Detail: Several elements of this subject
are useful for evaluating shadow detail, particularly the black mug
and the pieces of folded black velvet, both under and inside the mug.
The bottoms of the beer bottles also provide some gradations of deep
shadow, and the clump of peppers in the bottom of the pepper oil bottle
had a fair bit of detail that's far down at the shadow end of the tone
We were actually surprised when we constructed this scene just how dark
the velvet and sides of the beer bottles ended up being. Even with the
bright studio lights shining directly on it, the velvet in particular
stays way, way down at the shadow end of the tone curve. With most cameras
and on most monitors, the velvet will simply appear as an unrelieved
swatch of black. To see whether it contains deep detail or not, in most
cases you'll have to open the file in an image editor and boost the
brightness dramatically, to bring the detail up into a visible range.
Preservation of "Shape" in Strong Colors:
As you approach the extremes of a camera's color gamut (its range of
recordable colors), it becomes more and more difficult for the camera
to show fine gradations of tone, because one or more of the RGB color
channels are close to saturation. It's not uncommon to see a brightly
colored piece of clothing or a vibrant flower appear in digicam photos
as just a blob of color, because the camera ran up against the limits
of its color gamut. The brightly colored embroidery threads in the upper
right portion of the Still Life target are good examples of situations
where this might happen. Pay particular attention to the bright red
and dark blue colors here, as these are both colors near the edge of
the typical sRGB color gamut.
Color accuracy and white balance: It's pretty
small in there, but we've included a mini-MacBeth chart, which displays
very carefully controlled color swatches. Our Multi Target (see below)
sports a full-sized MacBeth chart, but the one here serves as a good
check of color balance and rendition, and is also useful for checking
white balance on this particular shot.
Image noise and detail vs ISO: As mentioned above,
this target contains many elements useful for evaluating detail loss
to anti-noise processing. We'll therefore always shoot a full set of
test images of this target across each camera's ISO range, for every
camera we test. (See below.)
Our new "Multi Target" is actually an interim design that
we plan to replace with a modified version within the next few months.
(By the end of summer, 2006.) In its current form, its just an ISO-12233
res chart with several other elements attached to it, covering portions
of the target we don't generally use in our reviews. (We'll continue shooting
the full res chart in SLR reviews for the sake of interested readers,
but all lesser cameras will now show just the Multi-Target instead.) The
added elements largely mirror ones that were present in our "DaveBox"
test target, which we've now semi-retired. Here's some of what you'll
find in this target:
Res chart elements: In placing the new elements on the ISO
target, we were careful to leave the highest-frequency hyperbolic resolution
wedges (the sets of fine lines that fan out vertically and horizontally),
since these are what most people look at on the ISO chart to judge camera
resolution from. There are also enough of the slanted black parallelograms
available to use them to measure a camera's Spatial Frequency Response
characteristics with Imatest.
Gray Scale: While reflective gray scales don't cover the full
dynamic range of higher-end cameras, advanced readers may be interested
in using the gray scale here to evaluate noise performance vs brightness
level, and/or examine the shape of a camera's tone curve.
MacBeth Chart: This is about as common a color standard as
you can get these days, very widely available for only mildly exorbitant
cost, and quite well controlled in its production. It thus serves as a
good basis of comparison between cameras and between test setups. Imatest
also understands the MacBeth colors very well, and uses them to produce
its color accuracy map that we feature in all our reviews.
Kodak Color Separation Target: We include this for reference
because it's used by other reviewers out there, but caution our readers
that it really isn't well-suited for use as an absolute color standard.
As its name suggests, its actual intended purpose is as an aid in setting
exposure levels for old-style film-based color separation, using panchromatic
graphic arts film, RGB filters, and halftone screens. It's ideal for that
usage, but the colors aren't well-controlled enough and are too subject
to fading for it to be usable as a true reference standard for color accuracy.
Kodak Q60 target: This is another target that's perhaps not
well enough controlled for quantitative measurements between cameras,
but one that does have several useful characteristics nonetheless. For
instance, it provides a good reference for the handling of various colors
representative of common skin tones (the tan and brown patches along its
right side), as well as of lighter, less-saturated tints of both additive
and subtractive primaries (red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow).
The MacBeth chart's colors lean heavily toward highly saturated values,
and there aren't any pastel tones present at all. In the past, we've found
that cameras with contrasty tone curves sometimes have trouble with the
pastel tones in the Q60 target, making it a valuable reference that we'll
continue to include.
Wide and Tele Resolution Tests:
The main shots of this target above are captured at an intermediate focal
length, roughly corresponding to 60mm on a 35mm camera. (Just slightly
longer than "normal.") Zoom lenses often behave quite differently
at wide angle and telephoto focal lengths though, so we offer below examples
shot at the two extremes of the camera's focal length range. (We'll include
these wide/tele shots for any cameras we do full reviews of, but not on
cameras that receive "basic test" treatment only.)
The lighting in this shot is deliberately awful, about what you'd expect
from noontime sunshine here in the Atlanta, GA area. (In fact, the color
balance has been chosen to pretty well match the hazy sunshine here in
The reason for the harsh lighting is to provide a real "torture
test" of how cameras handle conditions of extreme contrast; and in
particular, how well they do holding onto highlight detail.
Overall color: Matching summer sunlight here in the South,
the lighting in this scene is a bit more yellow-tinged than that in
many parts of the country, or in the fall or winter. - So there may
be an overall warm cast to the color. That said though, there's a fair
range of color represented in the bouquet, presenting a tough challenge
for the cameras. For some reason, the blue flowers seem particularly
hard to handle, with many cameras rendering them as purple. (In real
life, they're a light shade of navy blue, with just a bit of purple
Skin tones: The overall slight warm cast will tend to leave
Marti's skin tones a bit on the warm side as well. Nonetheless, look
to see if her skin seems overly pink or if they have a too-bright tinge
of yellow: Some cameras oversaturate skin tones (make their color too
intense), leading to an almost sunburned look. A little oversaturation
can make for a more "healthy-looking" complexion, but it doesn't
take much variation for skin tones to look unnatural.
Highlight detail: When Marti's skin tones are at a more or
less normal level of brightness, how much detail can you see in her
shirt? Does it blow out entirely to white, or can you still see the
creases and folds in the fabric?
Overall contrast: Most consumer digital cameras produce bright,
contrasty images, because that's what most consumers like. Unfortunately,
under bright sunlit conditions, many such cameras produce images with
little or no highlight detail, and dark, plugged-up looking shadows.
Shadow detail: The area under the flower bouquet is in quite
deep shadow. Does the camera in question retain good detail here, with
low image noise? To see, you may need to download the image and play
with it in Photoshop(tm) or another imaging program. Brighten the image,
and see how far detail extends into the shadows. Photo printers are
generally much better at showing shadow detail than are CRTs, so you'll
want a camera that preserves good detail here. The ability to boost
brightness without encountering too much image noise is important if
you ever have to "rescue" an underexposed image on the computer.
Detail in areas of subtle contrast: Most digital cameras employ
some sort of noise-suppression to remove electronic noise from their
images. Noise suppression is a good thing, but only if it's not overdone.
Too much noise suppression will "flatten out" subtle detail
in areas of reduced contrast. You can often see this in hair, where
the individual strands become blurred, and the image takes on an almost
watercolor effect. Look at the detail in Marti's hair, and compare how
it looks with different cameras in the Comparometer.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files FX35OUTAP0.HTM
through FX35OUTAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
This shot duplicates indoor shooting conditions in most US homes, with
fairly bright incandescent room lighting. The challenge here is for the
camera's flash to blend naturally with the room lighting, and produce
good, neutral color overall. - Some cameras will be overly affected by
the room lighting, even with their flash enabled, and the result will
be a strong orange cast. Another common failing is for the highlights
from the flash to take on an unnatural bluish cast.
Finally, exposure is important here, and frequently a tough challenge
for the cameras. Marti's white shirt is central in the scene, reflecting
a lot of the light from the flash right back at the camera. As a result,
most cameras underexpose this shot, and require some positive exposure
compensation to produce a good result. - And that's an important consideration
in itself: Does the camera even permit adjustment of its flash
exposures? Many do not. These photos are a tough exposure challenge, if
they come out OK, the camera in question can probably be coaxed into delivering
a good flash exposure of any subject within its range.
Note too, that the normal flash shot (as opposed to the slow sync one,
if the camera offers that feature) will be sharply rendered, any subject
or camera movement frozen by the quick pop of the flash. That makes this
shot a good one to look for the effect of over-aggressive noise suppression
in Marti's hair.
To view the exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV in the normal flash
mode, see files FX35INFP0.HTM through FX35INFP4.HTM on the thumbnail
To view the exposure series from zero to +1.7 EV in the Slow-Sync flash
mode, see files FX35INFSP0.HTM through FX35INFSP5.HTM on the thumbnail
The incandescent lighting used in most US homes actually has a very
strong yellow color to it. Our eyes have an amazing ability to ignore
color casts like this, something digital cameras struggle to emulate.
The incandescent lighting used for this shot is thus not only very common
here in the US, but also very difficult for most digital cameras to deal
with. While we probably want a little yellow color to remain in
the image (to convey some of the mood of the original scene), too much
will look unnatural and distort colors.
Most cameras' auto white balance systems have a great deal of difficulty
with this shot, but many incandescent white balance settings struggle
as well. (It seems that many cameras' incandescent settings are actually
calibrated to the tungsten lighting used in professional studio systems,
which isn't nearly as warm-toned as typical household lighting.)
If you intend to do much shooting indoors after dark, pay careful attention
to this test, as cameras vary widely in this regard.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files FX35INMP0.HTM
through FX35INMP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
"ISO equivalent" refers to a camera's light sensitivity. ISO
200 represents twice the sensitivity of ISO 100, meaning that you can
use a shutter speed that's twice as fast. Higher ISO settings are often
required to get any picture at all when shooting after dark, but even
in full daylight, using a higher ISO can help you freeze fast action.
The problem is, increasing a digital camera's ISO also increases image
noise. In practical terms, this means that higher-ISO images often can't
be used to produce prints as large as lower-ISO ones. The tricky thing
here is that high-ISO images often look much different when printed at
various sizes than they do when viewed on-screen. In particular, for any
level of image noise, you'll often find that while noise is quite evident
at larger print sizes, as you reduce the size of the prints, there will
come a point where it suddenly ceases to be an issue. We routinely print
high-ISO photos from the cameras we test on our studio printer (currently
a Canon i9900) at a range of sizes, and report our findings. If you're
interested in investigating the effect of image noise for yourself, don't
judge cameras' performance by how their images look on your CRT, viewed
pixel-for-pixel. Rather, download the test shots linked in the table below
and output them on your own printer, so you can see how prints of various
sizes will actually look.
One additional note about this particular test series though: Because
these images are shot under household incandescent lighting, the camera
has to boost its blue-channel signal quite a bit to get back to a neutral
color balance. Since the blue channel is generally the one with the most
noise, this makes this shot a real acid test of noise performance. Noise
levels in high-ISO shots taken under daylight conditions usually won't
show as much noise. (See the "Far Field" test for examples of
high ISO shots captured in daylight.)
While the House poster in the shot above provides absolute repeatability
from test to test, it doesn't offer the range of brightness (dynamic range)
that the original scene had, nor does it contain the nearly infinite range
of fine detail found in nature. For these reasons, we still shoot the
original house, even though the vagaries of nature mean that no two shots
will ever be directly comparable. (In fact, over the eight or so years
since we first shot this subject, the trees in front of the house have
now grown so large that they obscure much of the subject. - We're unfortunately
going to have to switch to a different subject in the near future.)
Things to look for here are how well the camera handles the range of
light levels from very bright to quite dark, and how well it renders the
very fine detail visible in various parts of the image.
Note though, that because this is shot outdoors, the character of the
light is unavoidably going to change quite a bit, depending on the atmospheric
humidity and the time of year. - You thus shouldn't rely on it for absolute
comparisons between cameras, since it's unlikely that conditions will
be identical from one test to the next.
Simply reading "4x zoom range" doesn't do a lot to help you
visualize what that means. It also says nothing regarding just how wide
the wide-angle end of that range is. To give you an idea of exactly what
each camera's zoom lens does, we shoot this series of images, showing
results at maximum wide angle, maximum telephoto, and telephoto with "digital
zoom" enabled. (Note of course though, that so-called "digital
zoom" just crops out and enlarges the central pixels of the image,
achieving increased size at the cost of reduced resolution.)
We've discontinued use of the Musicians poster in our testing, due to
its low resolution, and the unavailability of any higher-resolution versions
of the image.
"Davebox" Test Target
Because most of its various elements
are now contained or represented in the combination of the Still Life
and Multi Target shots, we no longer routinely shoot the Davebox by itself,
as would normally appear in this space. (We do however, still use it for
our flash range and low light tests below.)
Many are interested in close-up or "macro" photography. This
test shows the best results we could obtain using each camera's macro
mode. What to look for:
Minimum Macro Area: What's the smallest area that the camera
can photograph? - We calculate this and report on it in the Test Results
section of each review.
Softness in corners?: The images from most digital cameras
get fairly soft when shooting in macro mode. Some are better than others
though, you can use the texture of the paper fibers or the details in
the dollar bill to compare corner sharpness between models.
Flash performance in macro mode?: Macro mode flash performance
varies widely between cameras. Some can't throttle down the flash enough,
others throttle down enough, but have very uneven lighting, while others
have lenses that project into the path of the flash, casting strong
shadows. The Macro with Flash shot here will show you what to expect.
Low light photography is an area where there are really enormous differences
between digital camera models. This test starts at a light level about
equivalent to typical city street lighting at night (one foot-candle),
and then progresses down from there, each successive test being at half
the light level of the preceding one. You may also see the effect of poor
low-light autofocus in some of these shots, although we use a different
test setup to check autofocus performance more directly. (The results
of which are reported on in the main Test Results section.) Things to
look for here include:
Exposure limit: What's the darkest level a camera can handle
at each ISO setting? If the leftmost images are reasonably bright, the
camera should do fine with typical city night scenes. If you're shooting
in the more dimly-lit suburbs, you'll need a camera capable of producing
good images one, two, or three steps to the right of that.
Autofocus Limit: How dark can you shoot and still get well-focused
White Balance: Does the camera's white balance suffer at low
light levels? (Many do.)
Noise Levels: Look at the photos, print them on your own photo
printer. How large a print can you make at acceptable quality levels,
at various ISO settings and light levels?
Detail loss to anti-noise processing?: Do details in the white
gauze and even in the lettering on the test targets suffer at lower
(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
Flash Range Test
Digital camera makers have gotten better with their flash-range ratings.
In the early days, many cameras had rather "optimistic" flash
range specs, to put it politely. These days, the manufacturers seem to
be toeing the line. (No doubt at least in part because of tests like this.)
Consistent with our philosophy of testing worst-case conditions, this
test also involves some use of each camera's zoom lens. Flash range is
greater at wide angle focal lengths than at telephoto ones. If you're
shooting at the wide angle end of the lens' range, you might get better
flash range than what's shown here. - But you'll never get a nasty surprise
if you let the test shots below be your guide to flash capability.
Flash Range: Wide Angle
Flash Range: Telephoto
Because the critical elements of this target now appear as part of the
Multi Target above, we no longer shoot standalone images of the Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
Viewfinder accuracy is an important parameter, especially for shots
where framing is critical. The optical viewfinders on most digital cameras
match the (poor) accuracy of those on film cameras, typically showing
only about 85% of the actual final frame area. It's likely that this is
a deliberate design choice by the camera engineers, to help avoid users
accidentally cutting off the heads of their subjects. We disagree with
this approach, or at least feel that it should be mitigated a bit, perhaps
by increasing the accuracy to 90 to 95%.
Unlike the optical viewfinders, the LCD viewfinders on most digital
cameras tend to be quite accurate. There are exceptions though, and it's
unfortunately not uncommon to find an LCD monitor that only shows 90%
or less of the final frame.
Things to look for on this test chart are:
Optical and LCD viewfinder accuracy: When we shoot this target
in the studio, we line things up so the bold black outline on the target
is just visible at the edges of the viewfinder frame. The resulting
photo then very directly shows how accurate the viewfinder is.
Flash Uniformity: The flash units on many digital cameras don't
illuminate the scene very evenly, especially at wide angle focal lengths.
We also shoot the viewfinder target with the flash enabled, so the last set of photos
here show how uniform the flash is.