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

The battle of the 1-inch-sensor long-zoom cameras! Both cameras show an impressive amount of fine detail at base ISO, with both the Panasonic and Sony displaying excellent, crisp detail in the mosaic crop. Even at base ISO (these images are shot with default noise reduction enabled), you can still make out some noise reduction processing ever-so-slightly in the shadow areas. The biggest difference is in the difficult fabric swatches, with the edge leaning to the Panasonic FZ1000. The Sony pops the contrast more, but if you look very closely, you can see some of the very fine, diagonal thread detail in the FZ1000's rendering of the red swatch, that the RX10 doesn't pick up. The contrast of that swatch in real life is probably somewhere between what the two cameras are showing us here. Both cameras, again, do great here, but the Panasonic displays just a bit more fabric detail compared to the Sony. The pink fabric is also a very close comparison, but the Panasonic looks a little more natural.


Panasonic FZ1000 versus Sony RX10 at ISO 1600

Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, both do very well here for this class of camera, with relatively low noise and a fair amount of fine detail. While both show signs of noise reduction processing, the Panasonic's is a bit more aggressive, but does a great job at removing noise and grain, especially in the shadows. Both cameras, again, do well with fine detail, as seen in the mosaic crop. Once again, the Sony's contrast pops the image more, but the Panasonic doesn't thicken the lines in the mosaic pattern the way the RX10 does. The big difference at ISO 1600 is in the fabric swatches, with the Sony taking the prize there. The Sony RX10 show at least some of the leaf pattern in the red fabric, while the Panasonic FZ1000 looks quite smeary and smudged.


Panasonic FZ1000 versus Sony RX10 at ISO 3200

Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, both cameras struggle with the balance between fine detail and noise. The Sony shows more luminance noise in the background shadows than the Panasonic, though you can see some odd darker specs and splotchiness in the Panasonic's image as well. Both cameras can still produce decent detail at this ISO, however, as seen in the mosaic crops, the Panasonic just edges out the Sony. Finally, unlike at ISO 1600, both cameras now struggle significantly to produce detail in the fabric swatches, particularly the red-leaf fabric. Different from the background, the Sony's rendering of the red swatch shows less luminance noise than the FZ1000, despit the latter's heavy noise-reduction processing.


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 80/125 prints are nice and sharp at 24 x 36 inches, with good color reproduction and general detail. 30 x 40 inch prints are certainly fine for wall display purposes as well.

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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