Panasonic G7 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly lower than average mean saturation levels, with about average hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
100
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. The Panasonic G7 produces images with slightly muted colors compared to most cameras at default settings. Mean saturation is 106.1% (6.1% oversaturated) at the base ISO of 200, which falls to a minimum of 99.2% at ISO 25,600. The Lumix G7 pushes dark reds and dark blues moderately and some other colors slightly, but undersaturates yellow, light green, aqua and cyan. 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 G7 does reasonably well, producing fairly natural-looking Caucasian skin tones with only a slight push towards pink when either Auto or Manual white balance is used in simulated sunlight. Some skin tones were a bit too orange in our tests, but overall results not too bad. 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 G7 shifts orange toward yellow and cyan toward blue, but most hue shifts are quite minor. The characteristic Panasonic yellow to green shift is mild, but when combined with moderate desaturation it can produce dingy-looking yellows. The G7's mean "delta-C" color error after correction for saturation is 4.85 for JPEGs at the base ISO of 200 (100 is an extended ISO). That's about average these days, and color error remains quite stable throughout the ISO range. 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
Warm colors with Auto and Incandescent white balance setting. Good color balance with the Manual setting. Average positive 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 warm with the Auto white balance setting, though we've seen much worse. Results with the Incandescent setting was also too warm, with a slightly stronger orange-yellow cast. The Manual setting produced accurate results, just a hair on the cool side. The Panasonic G7 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation here, about average for this shot. (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
Slightly cool colors overall. About average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Panasonic G7 performed well, with natural-looking though slightly cool color in the Far-field shot. Skin tones are fairly realistic in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, though perhaps just a bit too orange. Exposure accuracy was about average, as the camera required +0.7 EV compensation for our "Sunlit" Portrait shot to keep facial tones reasonably bright. That's typical for this shot. Despite the bright appearance, very few highlights were actually blown in the mannequin's white shirt which is quite good, though there are some very deep shadows that are a a bit greenish and posterized. The default exposure was a bit dim for the Far-field shot, but as a result there are almost no blown highlights, though again there are some very deep shadows that are a bit noisy and discolored.

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

Resolution
~ 2,350 to ~2,450 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
~2,450 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,350 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,450 lines horizontal
ACR converted raw
Strong detail to
~2,350 lines vertical
ACR converted raw

In an in-camera JPEG, our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns to about 2,450 lines per picture height horizontally, and about 2,350 lines in the vertical direction. (Some might argue for higher, but merging and aliasing artifacts begin to occur at these limits.) Complete extinction of the pattern occurs between 3,000 and 3,200 lines per picture height in both directions. We weren't able to extract significantly more high-contrast resolution by processing the Panasonic G7's RW2 file using Adobe Camera Raw, and the ACR conversion also shows higher color moiré which is practically nonexistent in the camera JPEG.

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

Sharpness & Detail
Good sharpness overall, with minor edge-enhancement artifacts on high-contrast subjects. Mild to moderate noise suppression visible in the shadows even at base ISO.

Good definition of high-contrast
elements, with just slightly visible
sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The Panasonic G7 captures fairly sharp, detailed images overall. Some minor edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the sharpening "halos" along the lines and text in the crop above left, but default sharpening here is fairly typical for consumer-oriented models, and not too overdone. 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 the effect of noise suppression in the form of smudging of individual strands together in the darker areas of the model's hair, as well as in areas with low local contrast. Still, this is good noise versus detail processing performance for a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds model, leaving plenty of detail intact instead of blurring much of it away in an attempt to hide noise. 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 G7 produces sharp in-camera JPEGs with good detail. As is almost always the case, better detail can be obtained from carefully processing RAW files than can be seen in the in-camera JPEGs, with fewer sharpening artifacts to boot. Take a look below, to see what we mean:

Base ISO (200)
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 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

As you can see, the in-camera JPEG contains very good detail, however ACR extracted additional detail, particularly in the red-leaf fabric where it managed to resolve some of the thread pattern. The ACR conversion also shows less chroma noise at default settings, though it shows much higher luminance noise after sharpening, especially in areas with flat detail. You can always turn up the luminance noise reduction (default of zero was used here), or process the files in your favorite noise reduction program or plugin if you find the noise objectionable.

Bottom line, though, as is usually the case shooting in RAW mode provides better detail, improved color, and offers much more control over the final image when using a good converter.

ISO & Noise Performance
Very good high ISO performance for a Micro Four Thirds model.

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

The Panasonic G7's images are detailed and clean at ISOs 100 (extended) and 200. ISOs 400 and 800 are also quite detailed, though a touch more noise can be seen primarily in the shadows. ISO 1600 shows higher noise levels with stronger noise reduction blurring some very fine detail in the process, though overall detail remains very good. ISO 3200 shows a larger drop in image quality with stronger smudging, more noticeable noise "grain", and some subtle chroma blotching, though there is some fine detail left. At ISO 6400 and above, images take on a crystalline or peppered effect as noise reduction struggles, while detail is reduced to the point where very little fine detail is left in the hair at ISO 25,600. Chroma blotching also becomes progressively stronger and objectionable at ISO 6400 and above, and saturation drops off as well.

Overall, though, high ISO performance is quite similar to recent Panasonic Micro Four Thirds models, which is to say very good. We're of course pixel-peeping to an extraordinary extent here, since 1:1 images on an LCD screen 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.

A note about focus for this shot: We used to shoot this series at f/4, however depth of field became so shallow with larger, high-resolution sensors that it was difficult to keep important areas of this shot in focus, so we have started shooting it at f/8 for 4/3" and larger sensors, the best compromise between depth of field and sharpness.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Somewhat high default contrast but with decent dynamic range. Very good low-light performance.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Panasonic G7 did fairly well with the deliberately harsh lighting of this test. Contrast is a little high at its default setting, but dynamic range is pretty good in JPEGs, with good highlight retention and fairly clean shadows, though deep shadows are somewhat discolored. We felt the +0.7 EV exposure is the best compromise here. Although skin tones around the eyes are a bit dark, we prefer it to the +1.0 EV exposure overall, because there are fewer clipped highlights. It's really the photographer's choice here as to which direction to go in. For those Panasonic G7 owners that are going to want to just print an image with little or no tweaking, the +1.0 image would probably produce a better-looking face uncorrected. The bottom line though, is that the Panasonic G7 performed well with the wide dynamic range of this shot, though not quite as good as some competitors.

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.)


Far-field Intelligent D-Range Examples
Off
Low

Panasonic's 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 G7: Low, Standard and High, plus Auto and Off. It's automatically invoked in iAuto and some scene modes and manually selectable in PASM modes. Here, you can see darker midtones and shadows were progressively boosted as the strength was increased, without blowing many highlights in the process. As a result, though, noise is a little more visible, especially noticeably in areas with little detail such as the sky.


Far-field HDR Examples
Off

HDR mode
Here, you can see the Panasonic G7'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. Four settings are available, ranging from Auto to up to +/-3 EV of exposure difference. Mouse over the links, and click on them the view the full resolution files.

Auto, +/-1 EV and +/-2 EV produced very similar results, while +/-3 dimmed the entire image, so the feature did not work very well (and we saw the same behavior with our Outdoor Portrait series). Be aware that double images and ghosting is possible when elements in the scene move between frames. 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.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Sorry, DxOMark has not tested the G7 at timing of writing. We'll to come back and fill this section in after they do.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
200

1s, f2.8

15s, f2.8

15s, f2.8
ISO
3200

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8
ISO
25600

1/125s, f2.8

1/8s, 1 f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

Low Light. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 performed well in our low light tests, able to capture bright images down to the lowest light level we test at. The darkest level equates to about 1/16 the brightness of average city street lighting at night, so the Panasonic G7 should be able to take well-exposed photos in almost any environment in which you can see well enough to walk around in.

Using the default noise reduction setting, noise is low at ISO 200 and well-controlled at ISO 3200, though as you'd expect, noise is quite high at the maximum ISO of 25,600. We didn't notice any significant issues with hot pixels, though with long exposure noise reduction turned off (rightmost column) there were a number of hot pixels visible at base ISO, as well as a *lot* of brighter white, red or blue colored pixels in darker areas. We didn't detect any issues with heat blooming or fixed-pattern noise.

Automatic color balance is just a touch cool particularly at lower light levels, but pretty neutral.

The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on our subject down to just below the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, which is good, especially for a camera with contrast-detect autofocus, though AF slowed down quite a bit. The Panasonic G7 also has a focus-assist light which allows it to autofocus in total darkness, as long as the subject is within range and has sufficient contrast.

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.) Thanks to their phase-detect AF systems, digital SLRs tend to do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. The G7 uses contrast-detect autofocus, as is found in most point & shoot cameras, so its low-light focusing ability may be less than that of some SLRs with phase-detect systems. That said, though, the larger, more sensitive pixels of the G7's sensor do better under dim lighting than do the tiny pixels of most point & shoots.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Very nice 24 x 36 inch prints up to ISO 200; a good 11 x 14 inch print at ISO 3200; a usable 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100/200 prints look practically indistinguishable from one another, and both ISOs print very nicely up to 24 x 36 inches. As is typical for a 16-megapixel Four Thirds sensor, you can see very minor softness and subtle pixelation if you look closely, but at normal viewing distances for prints of this size, they look very good with lots of detail and pleasing colors.

ISO 400 images look very similar, but with just a subtle hint of softness compared to lower ISOs. We're comfortable calling it at 20 x 30 inches here, at which prints look very nice.

ISO 800 prints top out at 16 x 20 inches. At this ISO sensitivity, images are now exhibiting a bit more softness due to noise and the subsequent in-camera NR processing. Noise itself is very well controlled, and there's quite a bit of fine detail despite the higher sensitivity. Colors are still pleasing, but lower contrast areas like our tricky red-leaf fabric are showing a drop in detail, for example.

ISO 1600 images show a further decrease in fine detail, however the G7 still manages a pleasing 13 x 19 inch print with nice detail and very well-controlled noise.

ISO 3200 prints show an expected increase in softness, making an 11 x 14 inch print the maximum size we're willing to call at this sensitivity.

ISO 6400 images make for a nice 8 x 10, which is rather impressive for a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds camera. Any larger and the drop in detail is apparent, but thanks to the camera's nice balance of noise reduction and detail, a print at 8 x 10 inches is certainly doable.

ISO 12,800 prints just squeak by at 4 x 6 inches. Softness due to noise is certainly an issue, and printing any larger is not advisable.

ISO 25,600 images are too soft and noisy for our liking and should be avoided for prints.

The 16-megapixel Panasonic G7 fares rather well in our print quality testing. The camera manages to impress with large, nicely detailed prints all the way up to 24 x 36 inches at ISO 100/200. Towards the mid-range of ISOs, the G7 manages to keep noise in-check, offering a nice 11 x 14 inch print at ISO 3200 and a usable 8 x 10 at ISO 6400. At the top end of the ISO scale, the Panasonic G7 manages to squeak by with usable 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800, however we'd recommend avoiding ISO 25,600 for prints.

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.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 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-G7 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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