| Panasonic Lumix FZ38 / FZ35 vs Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 vs Lumix FZ100 Real-life resolution RAW (wide) |
We shot the scene opposite with the Panasonic Lumix FZ38 / FZ35, Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and the Lumix FZ100 in RAW+JPEG mode so that we could compare images produced from each camera using the RAW data.
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 - 27mm equiv for the Lumix FZ38 / FZ35 and 25mm equiv for the Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 and FZ100 we used these settings for our wide-angle quality comparisons.
All three cameras were set to their lowest available ISO sensitivity - 80 ISO on the Lumix FZ38 / FZ35 and FZ45 / FZ40, and 100 ISO on the Lumix FZ100. The RAW image files were processed using 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.
For a level playing field, not to mention to avoid diffraction, we set the aperture to f4 on all three models using Aperture Priority; note the earlier FZ38 / FZ35 has a tendency to select f5.6 in program or Auto modes, given a bright scene, and as we saw in our review of that model, this will soften the result due to diffraction. The image above was taken with the Lumix FZ38 / FZ35 with the lens at 4.8mm (27mm equivalent), where the metering selected an exposure of 1/500th of a second at f4 using an ISO setting of 80. The original RAW file was 14 MB from which SilkyPIX produced a 5MB JPEG.
We've seen test crops from the Lumix FZ38 / FZ35 before, of course, in our full review, but what's interesting here is to compare it with images shot from the the two newer cameras, the FZ45 / FZ40 and the FZ100, particularly in light of reports that the Image quality of the FZ45 / FZ40 and FZ100 are not up to that of their predecessor.
We've looked long and hard at the 100 percent crops below and it really is too close to call for the FZ38 / FZ35 versus the FZ45 / FZ40, at least at 80 ISO. Doubtless there will, and have been, those who say the image quality of the FZ38 / FZ35 is better than that of the FZ45 / FZ40, but we'd put them neck and neck here at their lowest sensitivity. Look closely and the FZ45 / FZ40 looks to be marginally better in terms of detail on the lighthouse crop and the third crop from the frame edge with the roof tiles. But in the first and last crops the FZ38 / FZ35 looks slightly sharper and more detailed. The earlier model also has fractionally fewer noise speckles in areas of flat colour like the blue sky, but again this is serious pixel-peeping.
Don't forget that with these comparisons we're also not comparing shots from the same sized sensor shot at exactly the same focal length. The FZ38 / FZ35's 12 Megapixel sensor produces a 4000 x 3000 pixel image whereas images from the 14 Megapixel FZ45 / FZ40 measure 4320 x 3240 pixels. And the FZ38 / FZ35's wide angle is 27mm compared with the FZ45 / FZ40's 25mm. These differences effectively cancel each other out on this page, which is why the crops show the same area.
On balance, it seems fair to conclude Panasonic has delivered a camera with a longer lens and slightly higher resolution that's capable of producing images every bit as good as those of its predecessor - albeit not actually superior, and again we've only tested here at the lowest sensitivity.
As for the Lumix FZ100 though, that's a different story. As you can see on our first results page, its in-camera JPEGs suffer from noticeable smearing which greatly reduces fine detail. On this page though, the RAW files have revealed what's happening underneath: a reasonable degree of detail is recorded, but with higher visible noise speckles. Clearly Panasonic has attempted to mask these higher noise levels on in-camera JPEGs with noise reduction, but the result is smearing.
By tweaking the in-camera noise reduction, or processing RAW files, it's possible to retrieve much more detail from the FZ100, albeit at the cost of higher visible noise levels. That much is clear from the crops below. But what's also clear is the older FZ38 / FZ35, like its successor, still out-performs the FZ100 in terms of detail and noise levels whether shooting JPEG or RAW. In our full review of the FZ100 we'll examine these quality issues in more detail and look at ways of squeezing the best possible results from the camera's 14 Megapixel CMOS sensor.
Now head over to our Panasonic Lumix FZ45 / FZ40 gallery to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.