Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 Gordon Laing, April 2012

Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 Noise

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  Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 results
1 Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 Quality
2 Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 Noise
3 Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 Handheld Night Shot
4 Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 using its best quality JPEG settings and each of its ISO settings.

As the first of the 2012 pocket super-zooms, I have decided to share results here from the ZS20 / TZ30 alone and to discuss how it compares against previous results for the ZS10 / TZ20.

As we review the ZS20 / TZ30's main rivals, I'll update these pages with more comparisons.

The image above was taken with the Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 with the lens set to 6.9mm (39mm equivalent). In Program mode, the camera opted for its maximum aperture of f3.9 throughout the ISO range below.

At 100 ISO, pixel-peepers may notice a faint smattering of noise when examining at 100%, but it's really nothing to be worried about. More importantly it's a visible improvement over the earlier ZS10 / TZ20, not to mention most other older Panasonic compacts.

At 200 ISO, noise textures have become more visible, but again to a lesser extent than the previous model. Likewise at 400 ISO, where the older ZS10 / TZ20 was beginning to look pretty ropey, but the new ZS20 / TZ30 remains very usable.

The story continues along this pattern. At 800 ISO, the ZS20 / TZ30 has become noisier, but still contains respectably more detail and fewer processing artefacts than its predecessor. With the sensitivity doubled to 1600 ISO, the earlier ZS10 / TZ20 had become a mush, and while the new ZS20 / TZ30 ain't looking too pretty at this point, it's at least a stop ahead.

At this point the older ZS10 / TZ20 sensibly gave up, but the new ZS20 / TZ30 goes one step further, offering a 3200 ISO option at the full resolution - and I'd say it looks at least as good as its predecessor did at 1600 ISO.

So the new ZS20 / TZ30 may still not deliver the cleanest output from a small sensor camera, but it is a visible improvement over its predecessor - by at least a stop, which isn't bad considering the resolution has remained the same. I'd ultimately have preferred Panasonic to drop the resolution from 14 to 12 Megapixels and use the same sensor as the Lumix FZ150 for even better results, but clearly the company believes the pocket super-zoom market is driven by numbers, so if not increasing, then maintaining resolution between models is important. Revealingly this is opposite Canon's strategy which dropped resolution to achieve better quality on its most recent HS series compacts, and it remains to be seen if its 2012 pocket super-zooms, the SX240 HS and SX260 HS, will match or beat their big rival.

I will of course update this page when we've tested the ZS20 / TZ30 against other 2012 pocket super-zooms, but for now I'm very happy to report it represents a visible improvement over its predecessor as Panasonic claims. Considering image quality was my major bugbear with the earlier ZS10 / TZ20, this is good news all round for the new model.

This isn't the end of the story though as the ZS20 / TZ30 also offers a Handheld Night Shot mode which combines multiple exposures taken in a burst into a single image to reduce noise levels. See how it performs in my Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 Handheld Night Shot results page, or skip straight to my selection of Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 sample images.

Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
100 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
Handheld Night Shot at 400 ISO
HDR Scene mode at 400 ISO
High Sensitivity Scene mode at 2500 ISO

Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 results : ZS20 / TZ30 quality / ZS20 / TZ30 Noise
/ ZS20 / TZ30 Handheld Night Shot

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