Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 / FZ40 Ken McMahon, October 2010
 

Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 results : Real-life resolution / Sharpness mid-range / Sharpness tele / High ISO Noise
/ Vs FZ38 / FZ35

Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 vs Lumix FZ100 vs Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Real-life resolution (wide)

 
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To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, we shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40, Lumix FZ100 and the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings; scroll down for a RAW comparison.

The lenses on each camera were set to approximately the same field of view. As all three cameras have closely matched maximum wide-angle focal lengths - 25mm equiv for the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and FZ100, and 24mm equiv for the PowerShot SX30 IS we used these settings for our wide-angle quality comparisons.

All three cameras were set to Program mode at the lowest available ISO sensitivity - 80 ISO on the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and PowerShot SX30 IS, and 100 ISO on the Lumix FZ100.

The above image was taken with the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 in Program mode. The lens was set to 4.5mm (25mm equivalent) and the metering selected an exposure of 1/500th of a second at f4 at an ISO setting of 80. The original 4320 × 3240 pixel image had a file size of 5.17MB. Scroll down to the bottom of this page for a comparison in RAW. Note in the first row of crops, the distant building was in shade when we took our FZ45 / FZ40 sample, but the other areas of the composition weren't affected.

This scene, lit by mid-day early Autumn sunlight, though it looks like a typical holiday scene, poses a real challenge for digital camera sensors. It's difficult for them to capture the full range of tones from the shadow detail in the foreground to the white, sunlight-drenched walls. In these kinds of conditions the range of tones is right on the limit of what most camera sensors can record. So getting the exposure right is critical - overexpose and highlight detail is blown out, under-expose and the shadows begin to fill.

On this particular day the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 marginally overexposed this shot resulting in a slight loss of highlight detail. It's a small error, probably no more than half a stop and if you took advantage of the FZ45 / FZ40's RAW mode, you'd easily be able to recover the detail. Otherwise, the image looks good with adequate contrast and vibrant colours, though, compared with the Powershot SX30 IS they are a little muted.

Looking at the detailed crops, the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 looks very promising. The first thing to expect in a lens with a 24x optical zoom would be colour fringing caused by chromatic aberration, but there's no sign of it in these crops, even the third one which is taken from the extreme right edge of the frame. The reason for this is not that Panasonic engineers have discovered how to eliminate chromatic aberration from long zoom lenses, but that they've taken the far easier option of removing it while generating JPEGs in-camera. Either way, the result is very good - images that don't suffer from colour fringing.

The degree of detail in the crops is very consistent, it doesn't get softer towards the edge of the frame and there's no visible distortion. Overal though, the detail does look a little soft. Possibly, if you didn't have the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS to compare these crops against, you might not notice, but there's no denying that the PowerShot SX30 IS crops look more detailed with better contrast and edge sharpness.

If the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 crops are softer than those of the PowerShot SX30 IS, the Lumix FZ100 crops are softer still. The Lumix FZ100 has also overexposed the shot, blowing the highlight detail. The image quality of the Lumix FZ100 is clearly not up to that of either is less expensive sibling or the PowerShot SX30 IS. Given that they share the same lens, that leaves two possible reasons for the softness of the FZ100 crops, the sensor, or processing. If the latter, it may be possible to achieve better results by changing the camera settings or shooting RAW - find out by scrolling down to the bottom of this page for our RAW results. But for JPEG quality straight from the camera on default settings, the FZ45 / FZ40 wins by a clear margin.

Wide angle performance is only part of the story though, for the full picture make sure to take a look at our mid-range resolution and telephoto resolution test pages before seeing how they compare at higher sensitivities in our High ISO Noise results - and don't forget our RAW results at the bottom of this page. We also have a comparison against its predecessor in our Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 versus FZ38 / FZ35 page.



Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ100
 
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO




Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 / FZ40: JPEG versus RAW (including FZ100 RAW)


We photographed the scene pictured above using the FZ45 / FZ40's RAW plus Large Fine JPEG mode, allowing us to directly compare images created from exactly the same data. Below are 100% crops taken from the original JPEG file alongside the RAW version, processed with the supplied Silkypix Developer Studio 3.1 SE; by default, the Unsharp Mask is set to zero in SilkyPIX, which unsurprisingly delivers a very soft result, so here we've increased the amount to 100 in order to accentuate fine details. We've also included crops taken from the FZ100's RAW file, processed with the same settings for comparison. Note in the first row of crops, the distant building was in shade when we took our FZ45 / FZ40 sample, but the other areas of the composition weren't affected.

At first glance the in-camera JPEG and processed RAW results from the FZ45 / FZ40 look quite similar with the default settings, but look closely and you'll spot greater noise speckles on the latter, especially in flat areas of colour like the blue sky. Clearly the FZ45 / FZ40 is applying greater noise reduction to its in-camera JPEGs by default than the standard settings of Silkypix. Which is better is entirely personal: some may like all speckles to be smoothed-out by noise reduction, even at the cost of ultimate detail, while others will prefer a more hands-off approach which leaves some noise behind in an attempt to preserve detail. Of course the important question is whether there is actually any more detail visible on the RAW version, and the answer is very little in this case. But the valuable thing is having access to a wide variety of settings to tweak, along a higher dynamic range to play with, so those who want to get the best from their FZ45 / FZ40 should definitely shoot in RAW and experiment with different settings for the desired result.

Moving onto the FZ100 crops, it's clear they're also showing more noise speckles than the in-camera JPEG (seen above); it's certainly revealing to see the FZ100 RAW file suffering from more noise than the FZ45 / FZ40 at the same ISO sensitivity. But while the FZ100 RAW crops below are noisier than those from the FZ45 / FZ40 alongside it, they're arguably preferable to the overly-smeared results from in-camera JPEGs above. Clearly the FZ100's CMOS sensor is noisier than the CCD in the FZ45 / FZ40, and Panasonic has attempted to mask this with overly-aggressive noise reduction. But for our money, turning down the noise reduction, whether on in-camera JPEGs or by processing RAW files, produces a better result. Yes there's much more visible noise, but also lots more detail. We'll take a closer look at the FZ100's image quality in our separate review of that camera.

Now let's look at how the camera performs at longer focal lengths in our mid-range resolution and telephoto resolution test pages before seeing how it compares at higher sensitivities in our High ISO Noise results.



Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 (JPEG)
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 (RAW)
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ100 (RAW)
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO


Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 results : Real-life resolution / Sharpness mid-range / Sharpness tele / High ISO Noise
/ Vs FZ38 / FZ35


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