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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 / ZS7 Gordon Laing, March 2010

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 / ZS7 results : Real-life resolution / Sharpness wide-angle / Sharpness telephoto / High ISO Noise

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 / ZS7 vs Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5 High ISO Noise (default auto settings)

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To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 / ZS7 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5 within a few moments of each other using their best-quality JPEG settings and at each of their ISO settings.

The lenses on each camera were adjusted to deliver the same field-of-view; the Sony crops are larger due to its lower resolution. Each camera was set to Program mode without intervention to see how they performed with default settings.

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 / ZS7 in Program mode at 80 ISO with an exposure of 0.62 seconds and the lens set to 7mm f3.7; the original file measured 3.65MB. The crops below are taken from the area marked with the red rectangle and presented here at 100%.

The TZ10 / ZS7 kicks-off this sequence at 80 ISO where it delivers a pretty clean and detailed result. Pixel peepers may notice a handful of speckles typical of Panasonic's compact images even at their lowest sensitivities, but most would be happy with the results at this point.

Below this we have the TZ10 / ZS7 at 100 ISO and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5 joining-in at its lowest sensitivity of 125 ISO. As we saw on our first results page, each camera takes a different approach to image processing with its default settings. The TZ10 / ZS7 is delivering punchier output by default with most of its settings 'turned-up' compared to the Sony. Here the contrast, sharpness and saturation are all higher, with the Sony looking a little subdued in comparison. Set the Panasonic to Intelligent Auto and it can become even punchier still, although if you prefer a more laid-back approach you can also tweak the settings to suit.

In terms of noise, the Sony appears cleaner at this point, but we believe this is more down to smoothening from its image processing than superior sensitivity.

At 200 ISO, the noise textures from the Panasonic have become more noticeable and you can see further examples in our Sample Images Gallery. This texture along with edges becoming less well-defined is a result we've seen from other Panasonic compacts. To be fair though, the Sony is also exhibiting familiar behaviour from earlier models, where in an attempt to eliminate any visible textures, the noise reduction inevitably smears-out fine details. The Panasonic does however allow you to adjust its noise reduction settings if desired.

With the sensitivity increased to 400 ISO, noise textures have become even more visible on the Panasonic images when viewed at 100%, although there's still some good detail remaining. Once again the Sony manages to avoid the same textures, but only by applying ever-increasing noise reduction. The image looks smooth as a consequence, but how much detail is being lost? That said, 400 ISO on either camera is about as high as you'd want to go for the best results. Beyond here both begin to suffer.

At 800 ISO there's a big drop in quality from both cameras, with a hike in noise and processing on the Panasonic, and an image which is slowly turning to mush on the Sony. At 1600 ISO, things really take a turn for the worse, with both cameras suffering from a drop in detail and the Panasonic colour shifting quite noticeably. These higher sensitivities really are for small reproductions or emergency-use only.

That's as far as the TZ10 / ZS7 will go at its maximum resolution, but the TZ10 /ZS7 does offer a High Sensitivity scene preset which operates between 1600 and 6400 ISO, albeit at a greatly reduced resolution of 3 Megapixels. Here it's automatically selected 3200 ISO, and despite the significant drop in resolution, it's arguably better-looking than the 1600 ISO sample.

In the meantime, the Sony HX5 bravely offers 3200 ISO at its full 10 Megapixel resolution, although by this point, any fine detail has long since departed and you're left with an image packed with noise.

So once again, the best results from both cameras are below 400 ISO, and any choice between them is really down to personal preferences on image processing. Personally speaking we felt the Sony was a little heavy-handed with its noise reduction, leaving the Panasonic with an edge in detail at lower sensitivities. This coupled with greater control over image processing, including noise reduction, made the TZ10 / ZS7 slightly preferable overall, but again it's far from a difference of night and day.

Head on over to our Sample Images Gallery for more examples across its sensitivity range, or if you've seen enough, head straight over to our verdict!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 / ZS7
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5
80 ISO
Below 125 ISO not available
100 ISO
125 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
High Sensitivity preset (here at 3200 ISO)
3200 ISO

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 / ZS7 results : Real-life resolution / Sharpness wide-angle / Sharpness telephoto / High ISO Noise

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