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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS18 / FH5 Ken McMahon, May 2011
 

Panasonic Lumix FS18 / FH5 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise


Panasonic Lumix FS18 / FH5 vs Lumix FS16 / FH2 vs Canon PowerShot A3300 IS High ISO Noise

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To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix FS18 / FH5, the Lumix FS16 / FH2 and the Canon PowerShot A3300 IS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The Lumix FS18 / FH5 and Lumix FS16 / FH2 were set to Normal Picture mode and the PowerShot A3300 IS was set to Program exposure mode, the lenses were set to approximate the same field of view and ISO was manually set.


The above shot was taken with the the Panasonic Lumix FS18 / FH5 in Normal Picture mode with the lens at its widest angle setting of 5mm (28mm equivalent). The ISO sensitivity was set to 100 ISO and the exposure was half a second at f3.1. The crops are taken from the area marked with the red square and presented below at 100%.

At the base 100 ISO setting the results from the Panasonic FS18 / FH5's 16 Megapixel sensor are good and there's excellent detail in a well exposed image. Look very closely and you'll notice a slight graininess in the wood panelling, but it's fairly negligible.

At 200 ISO that graniness is amplified slightly and a little of the detail disappears. Quite often there's not much of a difference between the two bottom rungs of a sensor's sensitivity scale, but that's not the story here and our advice to Lumix FS18 / FH5 users would be stick with 100 ISO if you possibly can.

Having said that, 200 ISO produces perfectly acceptable results that would be hard to discern from 100 ISO unless you were looking, as we are, very closely. At 400 ISO, though, there's another quite marked degradation and image quality is beginning to suffer quite badly; notice how much of the detail in the wood panelling is now smeared and the edge of the column is beginning to break up.

At 800 ISO things take another turn for the worse and now we really are into the kind of image degradation that should make you think hard about alternatives before settling for an increase to this sensitivity. At 1600 ISO the overall image quality is really very poor. What you can't see clearly from the crop is that the white balance and saturation have also gone a little askew. With a 16 Megapixel sensor like the Lumix FS18 / FH5's you'll need to revert to a mindset that thinks of 400 ISO as the highest acceptable quality ISO sensitivity setting.

Compared with the Canon PowerShot A3300 IS we think the Lumix FS18 / FH5 does pretty well, its slightly softer image detail and more aggressive noise reduction producing a more balanced result, particularly at the lower ISO settings. But the more interesting comparison here is with the Lumix FS16 / FH2. Whereas the 14 megapixel Canon PowerShot A3200 IS fared little better in our noise tests than its higher resolution stablemate the PowerShot A3300 IS, the 14 Megapixel FS16 / FH2, by contrast, produces superior results to the 16 Megapixel FS18 / FH5. It's not a massive difference, but at 100 ISO the FS16 / FH2 crop shows less noise and at 200 ISO it stays that way, we wouldn't have the same reservations about 200 ISO on the FS16 / FH2 as we do with the FS18 / FH5.

Further up the scale the FS16 / FH2 suffers the same linear degradation as the FS18 / FH2, but maintains a marginal edge all the way to 1600 ISO

In High Sensitivity scene mode both the Panasonic FS18 / FH5 and Lumix FS16 / FH2 produce a 3.1 Megapixel 3200 ISO image which, as you can see from the crops, is quite poorly detailed, but in certain situations possibly better than nothing. The PowerShot A3300's Low Light Scene mode takes a 4 Megapixel image at an automatically selected ISO setting between 1600 and 6400 ISO. We haven't included a Low light scene mode crop as the A3300 IS automatically selected 1600 ISO and couldn't be persuaded to go higher.

Now head over to our Lumix FS18 / FH5 gallery to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.


Panasonic Lumix FS18 / FH5
 
Panasonic Lumix FS16 / FH2
 
Canon PowerShot A3300 IS
80 ISO Not available
80 ISO Not available
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100 ISO
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200 ISO
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400 ISO
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3200 ISO (High Sens scene mode)
3200 ISO (High Sens scene mode)
3200 ISO Not available under conditions of test


Panasonic Lumix FS18 / FH5 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise



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