Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 / ZS10 Gordon Laing, March 2011
 

Panasonic Lumix TZ20 / ZS10 results : Real-life resolution / Noise
/ Noise vs SX230 HS / Noise vs TZ18/ZS8 / Handheld Night Shot

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 / ZS10 vs Canon PowerShot SX230 HS High ISO Noise

 
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To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS and Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 / ZS10 within a few moments of each other using their best-quality JPEG settings and at each of their ISO settings.

The lenses were adjusted to deliver as close a field-of-view as possible. Each camera was set to Program to see how they performed with default settings; Contrast enhancers were disabled as they can introduce noise.

The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS at 100 ISO with an exposure of 0.8 seconds and the lens set to 7.7mm f3.5; the original file measured 2.4MB. As stated above, we allowed each camera to automatically select its own exposure in Program mode, in order to compare how they performed under default settings.

Both the PowerShot SX230 HS and Lumix TZ20 / ZS10 share (C)MOS sensors, but with quite different resolutions: 12 and 14 Megapixels respectively. This accounts for the difference in the areas of the crops when viewed at 100%, but the big question is whether the lower resolution of the Canon allows it to better handle noise, and or whether the higher resolution of the Panasonic allows it to capture finer detail.

This question is answered in the very first pair of crops, taken with each camera set to their minimum sensitivity of 100 ISO. Pixel-peepers may notice the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS crop has a sprinkling of noise, but it's considerably cleaner than the output of the Lumix TZ20 / ZS10, which even at 100 ISO is looking quite patchy in comparison. The Canon crop definitely exhibits lower noise, but to our eyes there's also no extra detail in the Panasonic crop.

To be fair, the Canon crop also looks punchier due to greater digital sharpening which could of course also be applied to the Panasonic, although doing so would make its noise artefacts even more visible. The bottom line is there's very little adjustment in terms of image processing on both cameras, so their default output is very important - and there's few who'd choose the TZ20 / ZS10 over the SX230 HS based on the image quality at 100 ISO alone.

Moving on to 200 ISO, the Lumix TZ20 / ZS10 at least delivers a result that's not a great deal different from its base sensitivity. The PowerShot SX230 HS is however showing a little more noise texture than before, but it remains cleaner and preferable to its rival.

At 400 ISO, the Panasonic has become patchier, no doubt due to an increase in noise reduction to wipe out noise. This has had a detrimental impact on the image, with subtle tonal differences becoming hard to discern and edges becoming poorly defined. The SX230 HS is also suffering more than before, but again remains cleaner and crisper than the TZ20 / ZS10.

The story continues at 800 ISO where the Lumix becomes patchier with ugly electronic-looking artefacts and progressively less definition: the edges are becoming quite rough, while the subtle tones between the organ pipes has seen them almost blur into one mass towards the top. Meanwhile the PowerShot image is also suffering from increased artefacts, softening and a gradual loss of saturation, but again side-by-side, there's few who'd choose the Panasonic over it.

There's a big drop in quality from both models at 1600 ISO, although the Canon still enjoys a comfortable lead. This represents the top of the ISO scale at full resolution from the Panasonic, with the High Sensitivity preset taking over at a greatly reduced resolution of 3 Megapixels. Even with pixel-binning though, the TZ20 / ZS10 image at 3200 ISO isn't a patch on the 3200 ISO full resolution sample from the Canon.

Both cameras also offer a composite mode which stacks multiple images in an attempt to reduce noise. In each mode, the ISO is set automatically, and give this scene the Canon and Panasonic selected 800 and 640 ISO respectively. The TZ20 / ZS10 version may be lacking the noise of its single image mode, but is very soft and ill-defined. In contrast, the SX230 HS sample is much cleaner and detailed despite a slightly higher sensitivity, and if you compare it to the single frame at 800 ISO above, it's a visible improvement.

Judging from the samples on this page, there's be few if any who'd choose the Panasonic Lumix TZ20 / ZS10 over the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS based on image quality alone. The push to 14 Megapixels coupled with aggressive noise reduction has delivered images packed with artefacts from the lowest sensitivity, which simply look worse than the SX230 HS. We hoped for less noise from the lower resolution of the Canon sensor and got it, but sadly there's no visible advantage in real-life detail to the higher resolution Panasonic.

It's a lose-lose situation for the TZ20 / ZS10. This is a shame since so much else about the TZ20 / ZS10 works so well, and as you'll discover throughout this review, it enjoys many benefits over the SX230 HS. But ultimately a camera is about capturing images and the bottom line is the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS simply delivers visibly better quality results than its super-zoom rival. Canon followers will also be relieved to note the small jump from the 10 Megapixels of the first PowerShot 'HS' models to 12 Megapixels here hasn't had a negative impact on noise.

So overall a great result for the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS here, at least compared to its biggest rival. There may still be more noise than we'd like to see on its images, but they remain a big improvement over the TZ20 / ZS10, making it the preferred super-zoom for those who rank image quality as their priority.

To see how the TZ20 / ZS10 compares against the Lumix TZ18 / ZS8 with its CCD sensor, see our Lumix TZ20 / ZS10 vs TZ18 / ZS8 High ISO Noise results. Alternatively, check out our Lumix TZ20 / ZS10 Handheld Night Shot results page, or if you've seen enough, skip-ahead to our sample images or verdict.


Canon PowerShot SX230 HS
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 / ZS10
100 ISO
100 ISO
     
200 ISO
200 ISO
     
400 ISO
400 ISO
     
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
High Sensitivity Preset (here at 3200 ISO and 3 Mpixels)
     
Low light preset (here at 1600 ISO and xx Mpixels)
High Sensitivity Preset (here at 3200 ISO and 3 Mpixels)
     
Handheld Night Scene (here at 800 ISO)
Handheld Night Shot (here at 640 ISO)

Panasonic Lumix TZ20 / ZS10 results : Real-life resolution / Noise
/ Noise vs SX230 HS / Noise vs TZ18/ZS8 / Handheld Night Shot


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