Panasonic Lumix G5 review - Quality

Quality

Panasonic Lumix G5 vs Sony NEX-6

 

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix G5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-6, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The Lumix G5 was fitted with the Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 and the NEX-6 with the E PZ 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens. To produce an equivalent field of view to the lens on the G5 I zoomed the NEX-6 in to 19mm .

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

  Panasonic Lumix G5 results
1 Lumix G5 Quality JPEG
2 Lumix G5 Quality RAW
3 Lumix G5 Noise JPEG
4 Lumix G5 Noise RAW
5 Lumix G5 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix G5. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f5.6 and the sensitivity to 160 ISO (the base value). The camera metered an exposure of 1/400. The Sony NEX-6 metered an exposure of 1/500 at f5.6 at its base 100 ISO sensitivity.

The test scene on the day that I took these shots was particularly demanding with bright sunshine presenting a very contrasty scene with a wide brightness range. The Lumix G5 slightly overexposed the shot blowing the highlights in parts of the sky and on the white wall of the buildings. There’s a slight gap on the left side of the histogram and a spike on the right, so had the G5 metered -1/3 or even -2/3EV more highlight detail could have been recorded without loss of detail in the shadows. Despite that the G5 has produced a good overall result with accurate white balance and natural looking colours.

Turning to the crops, the first one looks a little soft but this is partly at least due to the slight overexposure and slight atmospheric haze. Despite that there appears to be at least as much detail in the chapel walls and the grassy foreground as in the NEX-6 crop opposite. In the second crop, from closer to the frame edge shows a bit more contrast and the lighthouse is clear and distinct. The window frames and tiled roofs in the mid and foreground of this crop are are a little soft, though fairly typical of the laissez faire processing style of Panasonic Micro Four Thirds models.

The edges in the third crop, from close to the frame border are a little soft, but not noticeably more so than in the middle – at its 28mm equivalent wide angle setting the Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 produces quite consistent results across the frame – and if you compare the RAW file with this JPEG there’s none of the distortion or correction that’s necessary on the NEX-6 with its 24mm equivalent wide angle and larger sensor, although of course the Panasonic could be doing its own corrections before the RAW data is recorded. Finally, the fourth crop from the centre of the frame, other than in the blown highlight regions, shows a good level of fine detail with crisp edges.

Compared with the crops from the Panasonic Lumix G5, the NEX-6 crops look punchier and more detailed, but is there really any more detail being resolved than in the G5 crops? The G5 slightly over-exposed the scene which doesn’t help, but despite that, the gentler Panasonic processing produces less contrasty and slighter softer image detail. I’m not sure that there’s really more detail in the NEX-6 crops, if there is, it’s fairly marginal. Having said that, if you prefer the punchier look to the NEX-6 JPEGs, G5 owners might want to create a custom Photo Style setting with increased sharpness and/or contrast. Failing that, you of course also have the option of shooting RAW and doing your own processing.

Check out my Panasonic Lumix G5 RAW quality results on the next page or see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Panasonic Lumix G5 Noise results.

 

Panasonic Lumix G5
 
Sony NEX-6
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO


Panasonic Lumix G5
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Panasonic Lumix G5 vs Sony NEX-6 RAW quality

 

To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix G5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-6, within a few moments of each other using their best quality settings.

The Lumix G5 was fitted with the Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 and the NEX-6 with the E PZ 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens. To produce an equivalent field of view to the lens on the G5 I zoomed the NEX-6 in to 19mm.

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

  Panasonic Lumix G5 results
1 Lumix G5 Quality JPEG
2 Lumix G5 Quality RAW
3 Lumix G5 Noise JPEG
4 Lumix G5 Noise RAW
5 Lumix G5 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix G5. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f5.6 and the sensitivity to 160 ISO. The camera metered an exposure of 1/400. The Sony NEX-6 metered an exposure of 1/500 at f5.6 at its base 100 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 5500K 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.

And what’s going on behind the scenes is that, as I suspected the Lumix G5’s sensor is capturing more detail than the in-camera processed JPEGs would lead you to believe. Once again the Lumix G5 crops don’t look quite so punchy as the Sony NEX-6 ones but that’s mostly if not all due to the exposure difference. Look closely at the first crop and you can see a lot more detail in the chapel stonework and the grassy hill than is visible in the JPEG crop on the previous page.

As always, these processed RAW files are very revealing in what they tell us about the NEX-6’s in-camera JPEG processing as well as how much detail the sensor and lens combination is recording. In terms of the detail, the first and last crops are the most instructive. Though this image has had a much higher degree of sharpening applied than you’d routinely use, it does reveal that the NEX-6 sensor is recording a greater level of detail than you can see in the JPEGs. You can see detail in the stonework of the chapel and its surrounding wall much more clearly here as you can in the rocks and grass in the foreground.

There’s more compelling evidence for this in the second and third crops. The lighthouse is a clean-edged cylinder with a distinct lamphouse, window frames are crisp and roof tiles are individually distinct. There’s a little more evidence of noise in these crops, which is to be expected, but ordinarily you wouldn’t be using such a high degree of sharpening with no noise suppression. The point is that there is more detail and better quality to be had from the G5’s sensor if you shoot RAW and are prepared to coax the best results from it. One other thing worthy of note is that there’s no evidence of finging where you might expect to see it on the third crop from the edge of the frame, further comfirming the PZ 14-42’s excellent edge-to-edge performance.

The fourth crop from the centre of the frame again shows a high level of detail being resolved. As before, the central area is blown out, but on the RAW file you’d have no difficulty recovering these highlights.

Now see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Panasonic Lumix G5 Noise results.

Panasonic Lumix G5
 
Sony NEX-6
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO

Panasonic Lumix G5 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Panasonic Lumix G5 vs Sony NEX-6 Noise RAW

 
  Panasonic Lumix G5 results
1 Lumix G5 Quality JPEG
2 Lumix G5 Quality RAW
3 Lumix G5 Noise JPEG
4 Lumix G5 Noise RAW
5 Lumix G5 Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix G5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-6, within a few moments of each other using their best quality settings, and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 power zoom on the NEX-6 was zoomed in to 19mm to produce an equivalent vertical field of view with the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 power zoom on the Lumix G5 and an equivalent focal length of 28mm for both lenses.

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 G5 with the PZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens. The sensitivity was manually set to 160 ISO and the Lumix G5 was set to Aperture priority exposure mode with the aperture set to f4. The metering selected an exposure of 1/3s. To achieve a better exposure more closely matched to the Lumix G5, I applied 1.3EV exposure compensation on the NEX-6, resulting in a shutter speed of half a second at f4 at its base 100 ISO sensitivity.

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.

At the base 100 ISO sensitivity the Lumix G5 crop has a slightly granular texture but the detail appears clearer and sharper than in the 100 ISO crop from the Sony NEX-6. Where it was hard to see a difference between the 100 and 200 ISO JPEGS, here the difference is marked, with an increase in granularity that’s already beginning to affect the edge detail. It’s the same at 400 and 800 ISO with a very discernible linear increase in the noise at each level. The noise pattern is small and very regular, though, and there doesn’t appear to be much colour noise. These factors may be contributing to the success with which Panasonic is able to deal with it in-camera.

Beyond 800 ISO, though, there’s just too much noise for any amount of processing to hide and, though the in-camera results at 1600 ISO are good, beyond that it gets difficult to separate the noise from the recorded image data. Practicaly speaking that means while it should be relatively straightforward to achieve improved results from RAW files at the base 160 ISO setting, at sensitivity settings above that it will quickly become a challenge to squeeze more detail from these files and deal effectively with the noise at the same time.

Interestingly, the comparison with crops from the Sony NEX-6 shows less of a difference than the JPEGs on the previous page. Certainly up to 800 ISO it’s hard to say there’s a difference in the overall noise levels. The Lumix G5 crops actually look to be sharper with more detail than those from the NEX-6. It’s too close to call at 1600 ISO, but I think past that point the G5 crops look slightly noisier.

So, if you’re processing RAW files, there’s very little to recommend one over the other, but Hand-held Twilight mode and the option to add the Multi Frame Noise Reduction App put the NEX out in front when it comes to low-light performance.

Now head over to my Panasonic Lumix G5 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my Verdict.

Panasonic Lumix G5
 
Sony NEX-6
     
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
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO Not available
25600 ISO


Panasonic Lumix G5
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Panasonic Lumix G5 vs Sony NEX-6 Noise JPEG

 
  Panasonic Lumix G5 results
1 Lumix G5 Quality JPEG
2 Lumix G5 Quality RAW
3 Lumix G5 Noise JPEG
4 Lumix G5 Noise RAW
5 Lumix G5 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix G5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-6, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings, and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 power zoom on the NEX-6 was zoomed in to 19mm to produce an equivalent vertical field of view with the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 power zoom on the Lumix G5 and an equivalent focal length of 28mm for both lenses.

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 G5 with the PZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens. The sensitivity was manually set to 160 ISO and the Lumix G5 was set to Aperture priority exposure mode with the aperture set to f4. The metering selected an exposure of 1/3s. To achieve a better exposure more closely matched to the Lumix G5, I applied 1.3EV exposure compensation on the NEX-6, resulting in a shutter speed of half a second at f4 at its base 100 ISO sensitivity.

As you’d expect the Lumix G3 delivers clean detailed results at its base 160 ISO sensitivity setting and, practically speaking, there’s little difference between the 160 ISO and 200 ISO crops with neither exhibiting much if any evidence of noise. Even at 400 ISO you have to look very closely at these 100 percent crops to see the marginal deterioration in image quality that results from a one stop increase in the ISO sensitivity. You can’t actually spot noisy individual pixels in the 400 ISO crop, but the fine detail is a little less well defined and the flat coloured wall looks a tiny bit blotchy.

At 800 ISO we’ve finally got something to look at in terms of noise but it’s still very fine grained, there’s no clumpiness or smearing, just a slight loss of edge sharpness and blurring of the fine detail combined with a fine granularity in areas of flat colour. It’s by no means unpleasant or intrusive, though, and you’d get good quality full sized prints at this setting.

At 1600 ISO the game’s up, though, and the cumulative effect of the marginal increases in noise has now produced a fine gauzy mist across the entire area of the crop. That said, this shot looks fine at smaller sizes, the only giveaway being the slight desaturation and cooler white balance. Oddly, the colour balance and saturation are restored at 3200 ISO, but by then the noise is in the ascendent and all but the coarsest detail has fallen victim to it.

The Panasonic Lumix G5, compares very favourably with the NEX-6. The G5’s Four Thirds sensor is slightly smaller then the APS-C sized sensor in the NEX-6 but its 160 base ISO setting, compared here alongside the NEX-6’s 100 ISO crop, looks every bit as good. What’s more, the G5 manages the NEX-6’s trick of keeping the noise at bay as you progress up the sensitivity range. Except that it can’t quite keep up and by 800 ISO it’s looking just a bit noisier. Despite that, it doesn’t lose any more ground and remains close, if a little behind the NEX-6 right through to its maximum 12800 ISO setting. But in addition to a further 25,600 ISO setting, the NEX-6 boasts a Hand-held Twilight composite mode plus, if you’re wiling to pay a little extra, the more versatile Multi Frame Noise Reducton app.

To find out how much of a role processing plays in keeping noise at bay in these crops take a look at my Panasonic Lumix G5 RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my Panasonic Lumix G5 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Panasonic Lumix G5
 
Sony NEX-6
     
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
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO Not available
25600 ISO
     
Handheld Twilight 1000 ISO


Panasonic Lumix G5
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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