Panasonic Lumix FZ200 review - Quality

Quality

Panasonic FZ200 vs Canon SX50 HS Noise JPEG

 
  Panasonic Lumix FZ200 HS results
1 Lumix FZ200 Quality JPEG
2 Lumix FZ200 Quality RAW
3 Lumix FZ200 Noise JPEG
4 Lumix FZ200 Noise RAW
5 Lumix FZ200 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS , within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Because the zoom on the PowerShot SX50 lacks fine nudge control and zooming in by the smallest amount led to a larger difference, I left both cameras on their wide angle setting – 25mm (equiv) on the FZ200 and 24mm (equiv) on the SX50 HS.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f4 and the sensitivity to 100 ISO. The Lumix FZ200 metered an exposure of 1.6 seconds at f4. To produce a comparable image on the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS I set exposure compensation to +1EV to produce an exposure of 1 second at f4 at 80 ISO.

I should note that the shutter speed limit in Aperture priority mode on the SX50 HS is 1 second and that the 100 ISO exposure was also 1 second, falling to 0.6s at 200 ISO so, had it been able to, the SX50 HS would most likely have set 1.2s for the 80 ISO exposure. One way around this limitation is to set manual exposure mode which allows you to select shutter speeds up to 15 seconds. But there’s a catch. Even in Manual, you can only select exposures longer than a second at the base 80 ISO setting. It’s a small thing, but if you do a lot of night shooting and long exposure photography it’s worth knowing about.

Turning to the crops, as we saw in the outdoor test shots the Lumix FZ200 has some visble noise at its base 100 ISO setting, in low light at an exposure in excess of a second it’s a little worse here than it would be outdoors with a shorter exposures. You don’t have to look too hard to see the grainy texture in the wall and if it weren’t for the slight noisiness the text in the memorial panel and other fine detail would be a little clearer. That said, I think this is a very respectable result for a compact MOS sensor, it’s on a par with the 80 and 100 ISO PowerShot SX50 HS crops, and there’s no way you’d spot this at anything less than 100 percent view.

At 200 ISO things are looking a little more granular and the text is a little less readable and the step up to 400 ISO shows a deterioration of about the same amount. Now the text is no longer legible and the once sharp edges of the memorial panel are beginning to crumble a little. $00 ISO still looks pretty good though and I reckon you’d just about get away with full-sized prints and large screen display at this sensitivity setting.

You can’t really say the same for 800 ISO, though, and this is the point at which the FZ200’s processing really loses the battle with the noise being produced by the sensor. On a positive note though, the FZ200’s colour balance and saturation remains strong well up the sensitivity range to 1600 ISO. By now, though, the game is really up and the settings beyond 1600 ISO are more noise than image data. To sum up, I’d say that the FZ200 produces good quality images at the low end of the sensitivity scale despite low level noise. Processing manages the noise well up to 400 ISO with 800 ISO a good bet for smaller than full size display and 1600 ISO for must have emergency shots.

Like the PowerShot SX50 HS, the Lumix FZ200 also has a low-light composite mode. Hand Held Night shot takes a fast sequence with exposure and sensitivity set automatically and combines them into a single shot. In this instance the FZ200 chose 800 ISO which resulted in a shutter speed of 1/8th at f2.8. The camera was still on the tripod for this shot with stabilisation off, but you can shoot hand-held at the wide angle setting with stabilisation on and get sharp results. As you can see from the crop, while it’s still noisy, the FZ200’s Hand Held Night Shot crop is a visible improvement on the single frame 800 ISO crop.

Compared with the crops from the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, once again, there’s not much to separate these two 12 Megapixel sensors, though in its favour the FZ200 made a better job of the exposure, producing slightly warmer results. At 100 ISO I’d say the FZ200 crop looks slightly clumpier and the text isn’t quite so readable. At 200 ISO the Canon SX50 HS crop also looks to be slightly cleaner. From 400 ISO up, the noise looks a little different, but has much the same effect. I think it’s fair to say that at the lower ISO settings the SX50 HS has a small noise advantage, but from 400 ISO upwards there’s very little, if anything, in it.

To find out how much of a role processing plays in keeping noise at bay in these crops take a look at my Lumix FZ200 RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my Lumix FZ200 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Panasonic Lumix FZ200
 
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
80 ISO Not available
80 ISO
     
100 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
     
Handheld Night Shot 800 ISO
Handheld NightScene 1600 ISO


Panasonic Lumix FZ200
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Panasonic FZ200 vs Canon SX50 HS RAW quality

 

To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, within a few moments of each other using their best quality RAW settings.

The SX50 HS was zoomed in slightly to produce an equivalent field of view to the FZ200 at its 25mm maximum wide angle.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

  Panasonic Lumix FZ200 results
1 Lumix FZ200 Quality JPEG
2 Lumix FZ200 Quality RAW
3 Lumix FZ200 Noise JPEG
4 Lumix FZ200 Noise RAW
5 Lumix FZ200 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f4 and the sensitivity to 100 ISO. The camera metered an exposure of 1/640. The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS metered an exposure of 1/400 at f4 at its base 80 ISO sensitivity.

I processed both files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To further reduce any distracting visual differences between the crops I also set custom white balance to 6000K and tint to 0. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes.

These crops from the RAW files processed in the same way make for interesting viewing. As with the JPEGs, the results from the two cameras are very close, but this time the RAW processing has unveiled a significant difference. The crops from the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 look to be noisier than those from the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. You can see this straight away in the area of ocean on the left side of the first crop and it’s even more obvious in the second. In fact, you don’t have to look particularly hard to see the noisier textures in all of the crops. While you wouldn’t normally process RAW files with this degree of sharpening and no noise reduction what this does show is that the SX50 HS RAW sensor data may be a bit more robust than that from the Lumix FZ200. In other words it’s likely to offer more scope for tweaking and revealing improved detail.

Of course RAW processing isn’t just about squeezing better detail from images and you’d also have no problem rescuing the blown highlights form this RAW file. You might also want to do something about the chromatic aberration apparent in both lenses, but to a slightly greater extent in the FZ200.

In view of the noise differences at the base ISO settings revealed here and in the JPEGs on the previous page, it’ll be interesting to see how these two models compare starting with a JPEG comparison in my Panasonic Lumix FZ200 Noise results.

 
 
 

Panasonic Lumix FZ200 RAW
 
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS RAW
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO


Panasonic Lumix FZ200
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Panasonic FZ200 vs Canon SX50 HS Noise RAW

 
  Panasonic Lumix FZ200 HS results
1 Lumix FZ200 Quality JPEG
2 Lumix FZ200 Quality RAW
3 Lumix FZ200 Noise JPEG
4 Lumix FZ200 Noise RAW
5 Lumix FZ200 Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, within a few moments of each other using their best quality RAW settings and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Because the zoom on the PowerShot SX50 lacks fine nudge control and zooming in by the smallest amount led to a larger difference, I left both cameras on their wide angle setting – 25mm (equiv) on the FZ200 and 24mm (equiv) on the SX50 HS.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f4 and the sensitivity to 100 ISO. The Lumix FZ200 metered an exposure of 1.6 seconds at f4. To produce a comparable image on the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS I set exposure compensation to +1EV to produce an exposure of 1 second at f4 at 80 ISO.

I processed both sets of files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To further reduce any distracting visual differences between the crops I also set custom white balance to 4500K and tint to 0. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes – as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you’re used to seeing in many of my comparisons, but again it’s an approach that’s designed to show the actual detail that’s being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

There are no big surprises here and these Raw crops pretty much confirm what we saw in the JPEG noise results. Cast your eye down the two columns and you’ll notice a marginal difference with the lumix FZ200 showing slightly higher levels of noise throughout the sensitivity range. It’s not enough to make a massive difference, but at the lower ISO sensitivities, once the files are processed to JPEG, it does mean the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS has a slight edge with cleaner detail. As you progress up the sensitivity range the noise in both sensors quickly becomes very apparent, and by 800 ISO and beyond, though the Canon SX50 HS still enjoys a slight advantage, noise levels are so high that, once processing has been applied there’s little if anything between them.

For most people, this won’t make much difference one way or the other. But if you’re after the best quality you can squeeze from these RAW files, the Canon SX50’s sensor provides a little more for you to work with.

Now head over to my Panasonic Lumix FZ200 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my Verdict.

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS RAW
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ200 RAW
80 ISO Not available
80 ISO
     
100 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
     


Panasonic Lumix FZ200
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Panasonic FZ200 vs Canon SX50 HS quality

 

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The SX50 HS was zoomed in slightly to produce an equivalent field of view to the FZ200 at its 25mm maximum wide angle.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

  Panasonic Lumix FZ200 results
1 Lumix FZ200 Quality JPEG
2 Lumix FZ200 Quality RAW
3 Lumix FZ200 Noise JPEG
4 Lumix FZ200 Noise RAW
5 Lumix FZ200 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f4 and the sensitivity to 100 ISO. The camera metered an exposure of 1/640. The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS metered an exposure of 1/400 at f4 at its base 80 ISO sensitivity.

The test scene on the day that I took these shots was particularly demanding with bright sunshine presenting a very wide brightness range. The Lumix FZ200 has made a reasonably good job of the exposure, but nonetheless there’s a good deal of highlight clipping in the image, particularly the white walls of the buildings which are reflecting the bright sunlight. The histogram reaches both ends of the chart, so had the FZ200 chosen a faster shutter speed it would have clipped the shadows rather than the highlights. Note the PowerShot SX50 HS had the exact same problem with this high dynamic range scene.

Overall, the Lumix FZ200 has produced an excellent set of crops despite the demanding lighting conditions. The first crop shows a good deal of fine detail with the texture in the rocks and grass well resolved as well as some fine detail in the stonework of the chapel. In the second crop the lighthouse has grown a little fat, and there’s some noise texture in the sea and sky regions. The foreground detail in this crop also looks as though it’s been slightly degraded by noise. It certainly lacks the contrast of the SX50 HS crop.

Moving on to the third crop from close to the edge of the frame the FZ200’s lens can’t maintain the same level of sharpness and contrast here as in the middle and the detail looks softer. There’s also a little bit of colour fringing and the noise that was aparent in the second crop is more noticeable, particularly in the window area. Finally the last crop from nearer the centre of the fram sees a return to sharpness. You can’t see much right in the centre of this crop which, like the SX50 HS is blown out, but the window frames in the furthest building are reaonably crisp and theres a good level of detail in the tiles roofs in the foreground.

Compared with the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS there’s very difference in the quality of these crops. Certainly crops one and two are very close with a similar level of detail. At the edge of the frame, shown in the third crop the 25x zoom lens of the Lumix FZ200 dosn’t do as good a job at maintaining consistent image quality as the PowerShot SX50. The detail here looks a little smeared and distorted and there’s also a significant amount of colour fringing in the Lumix FZ200 crop. Back at the centre of things in the final crop, again, there very little in it, they’ve even blown the highlights by a similar degree. The Lumix FZ200 crops are a tiny bit noisier than those from the SX50 HS but, other than that, there’s little to choose between these two models.

To compare results with the lens zoomed in I repeated this test, this time with both lenses zoomed in to a little under 400mm. I used the scale on the SX500’s lens to estimate the focal length zoming it as close as I could to 400mm equivalent which, as it turned out, was 65.4mm or 365mm equivalent. I then zoomed the Lumix FZ200 to match the framing at a focal length of 65.8mm – 366mm equivalent. Both cameras were set to f5.6 in aperture priority mode at their base ISO sensitivity setting. As always, the 100 percent crops are taken from the areas indicated in red. You can see these results below the first set if yuo scroll down the page.

These crops don’t reveal any shortcomings in the FZ200’s 25-600mm lens that weren’t apparent at the wide angle setting. What’s interesting though is that they reveal more clearly the noise produced by the sensor. This is nothing to do with the zoom magnification, it’s just more apparent with the larger detail in these crops, particularly the first one. Compare the area within the vertical grey bars of the rail and you can see the edges are grainy and unsharp and the light background has a clumpy speckled texture. So, ironically, it’s not lens deficiancies highlited in the second test, but sensor noise.

Check out my Canon PowerShot SX50 HS RAW quality results on the next page or see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Noise results.

 
 
 

Panasonic Lumix FZ200
 
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO

Panasonic FZ200 vs Canon SX50 HS quality at 365mm equivalent

Panasonic Lumix FZ200
 
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
25-600mm at 65.8mm (366mm equiv) f5.6, 100 ISO
4.3-215mm at 65.4mm (365mm equiv) f5.6, 80 ISO
25-600mm at 65.8mm (366mm equiv) f5.6, 100 ISO
4.3-215mm at 65.4mm (365mm equiv) f5.6, 80 ISO
25-600mm at 65.8mm (366mm equiv) f5.6, 100 ISO
4.3-215mm at 65.4mm (365mm equiv) f5.6, 80 ISO
25-600mm at 65.8mm (366mm equiv) f5.6, 100 ISO
4.3-215mm at 65.4mm (365mm equiv) f5.6, 80 ISO


Panasonic Lumix FZ200
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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