To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene using the Panasonic Lumix L1 at each ISO setting.
The L1 was set to its Standard film mode which employs the camera's minimum noise reduction value of -2. We repeated the tests with the noise reduction set to its medium '0' and maximum '+2' settings.
The image was shot in 4:3, but the zoom adjusted so the vertical field matched recent DSLR results for comparative purposes.
The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 at 22mm f8 and at 100 ISO; the original measured 4.34MB. The
crops are taken from an area just below and to the left of the centre.
The crops below show a similar pattern to the Gretag Macbeth results on the previous page: up to 400 ISO, the L1's images are clean and detailed, with noise only becoming apparent at 800 ISO and above. And as before, while the 800 ISO result exhibits a reduction in detail, the big drop occurs at the maximum sensitivity of 1600 ISO. This is also seen in our Gallery page.
The Canon EOS 400D / XTi and especially the Nikon D80 outperform the L1 in terms of noise at their highest sensitivities, although interestingly the L1's noise levels roughly match those of the Sony A100.
If you demand very low noise at 1600 ISO, then we'd recommend going for the Nikon D80. At lower sensitivities though, especially at 100 to 400 ISO, the Lumix L1 performs essentially the same as the best cropped-sensor DSLRs.
Note: as the second and third columns of samples show, there's little to be gained by increasing the L1's in-camera noise reduction settings. We'd recommend shooting at the lowest noise reduction setting (as set by default), and if necessary using third-party noise reduction like Noise Ninja.