Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 Gordon Laing, June 2011
 
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 vs Canon EOS 600D / T3i High ISO Noise (JPEGs using default settings)

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  Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 results
1 G3 resolution vs Canon T3i / 600D
2 G3 resolution vs Nikon D5100
3 G3 resolution, RAW vs JPEG
4 G3 high ISO noise vs Canon T3i / 600D
5 G3 high ISO noise vs Nikon D5100
6 G3 Sample images gallery

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 and Canon EOS 600D / T3i within a few moments of each other using their best-quality JPEG settings and at each of their ISO settings.

Each camera was fitted with its respective kit lens, the G Vario 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S and EF-S 18-55mm IS II, both set to f5.6, adjusted to deliver the same vertical field of view, and focused using Live View at the highest magnification.

Noise Reduction was set to the default options on each camera, although I disabled any automatic contrast-enhancing modes as these can artificially introduce noise. As such, I.Dynamic on the G3 and Auto Lighting Optimizer on the Canon were disabled.

The image above was taken with the Lumix G3 at 160 ISO with an exposure of 0.4 seconds and the lens set to 23mm f5.6; the original Large Fine JPEG measured 6.64MB. The crops below are taken from the area marked with a red square and presented here at 100%.



I shot this scene in the G3's 4:3 aspect ratio which delivers the highest resolution. The Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D was set to its native 3:2 aspect ratio and the lenses on both cameras adjusted to deliver the same vertical field of view. As such, I'm only comparing the vertical resolution of each camera here, and by only considering a 4:3 cropped area of the Canon's wider 3:2 frame, it's effectively being treated as a 16 Megapixel camera. Coincidentally this essentially matches the resolution of the Lumix G3 across the same area and shape, so the crops below show the same area; just remember the Canon is recording a wider image with an extra Megapixel of information on either side.

The most obvious comment to make first of all is the difference in measured white balance: the Lumix G3 has applied a much cooler white balance than the Canon under exactly the same conditions moments apart, and coincidentally the Nikon D5100 opted for much the same approach as the Canon. In reality the actual scene looked somewhere between the two, so neither was more accurate than the other in this respect. What this does illustrate though is how the white balance evaluation on different cameras can really vary, and since this is so easy to correct or adjust in RAW files, I'd strongly recommend shooting in this format if the final colour balance is important to you.

Moving on, both cameras at their base sensitivities are delivering clean, detailed results as you'd expect, although note the Lumix G3's base is actually 160 ISO. At 200 and 400 ISO, both cameras continue to perform well, and even though pixel-peepers may notice a tiny increase in noise, it's nothing to worry about yet.

At 800 ISO, both cameras begin to show the signs of increased noise, with a slight loss of saturation and increased textures. Interestingly the Canon's noise textures look slightly patchier than the Panasonics, but it's early days yet - the important thing is both are still delivering respectable results.

With the sensitivity increased to 1600 ISO, both cameras finally begin to show more obvious noise artefacts, along with a continued loss of saturation. Revealingly the Canon seems to be suffering slightly more though with more apparent textures than the Lumix G3. Likewise at 3200 ISO where the Canon is definitely patchier and lacking the crispness of the G3 sample.

At 6400 ISO, neither camera is looking great with pronounced - and artificial-looking - noise artefacts, although the Lumix G3 arguably enjoys a slight edge. Some may call argue for a draw, but few if anyone would say the Canon was preferable at this point. The Lumix G sensibly calls it a day at this point, leaving the Canon to muster a patchy 12800 ISO sample.

So another excellent result for the Lumix G3's new sensor here, which keeps up with - and arguably slightly beats - the decent 18 Megapixel APS-C sensor of the most recent Canon bodies. Shooting in RAW and carefully applying noise reduction and sharpening will deliver superior results, but it's impressive to see what the Lumix G3 can deliver straight from the camera. It's noticeably superior to the performance of the previous 12 Megapixel (Micro) Four Thirds sensor deployed on so many earlier models, and to my eyes at least as good as the higher-end Lumix GH2 if not better in some respects.

At last Panasonic has a mainstream (Micro) Four Thirds sensor which can keep-up with rival APS-C DSLRs, although it should be noted it took them until mid-2011 to achieve this, when the performance you see here from the Canon sensor was first delivered 18 months earlier with the EOS 7D. So Panasonic has caught up, but with a sensor that's a year and a half older and likely to be replaced with the next generation. But even then I'm not going to let that spoil the result here, which is the best yet from the (Micro) Four Thirds format.

That's the comparison with Canon out of the way, so now find out if the story is any different with the Lumix G3 vs Nikon D5100?

 
 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with G Vario 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S
 
Canon EOS 600D / T3i (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS II
160 ISO
100 ISO
     
200 ISO
200 ISO
     
400 ISO
400 ISO
     
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO not available
H (12800 ISO)


Lumix G3 results : G3 vs T3i / 600D res / G3 vs D5100 res
/ G3 RAW vs JPEG / G3 vs T3i / 600D Noise / G3 vs D5100 Noise



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