Panasonic Lumix TZ35 / ZS25 vs Lumix TZ40 / ZS30 vs Canon SX280 HS quality
Panasonic Lumix TZ35 / ZS25 vs Lumix TZ40 / ZS30 vs Canon SX280 HS Noise
The above shot was taken with the Panasonic Lumix TZ35 / ZS25 in Program auto exposure mode. The TZ35 / ZS25 was mounted on a tripod for this test and image stabilsation was disabled. The TZ35 / ZS25 metered an exposure of 1/3 at f3.3 at the base 100 ISO sensitivity setting. The Panasonic TZ40 / ZS30 metered 1/4 at f3.3 and for the Canon SX280 HS the exposure was 1/4 at f3.5 at 80 ISO.
Before I examine the crops in detail let’s remind ourselves what we’re looking at here. All three of these compact models are fillted with a sensor that’s the same 1/2.3 inch physical size, but the Lumix TZ40 / ZS30 with 18.1 Megapixels has the highest resolution, followed by the 16.1 Megapixel Lumix TZ35 / ZS25 and finally the Canon SX280 HS at 12.1 Megapixels. So you might expect the TZ40 / ZS30 to have the worst noise performance of the three, followed by the TZ35 / ZS25, with the PowerShot SX280 HS providing the best results. Lets take a look and see if that’s how it pans out.
The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS is the only model with an 80 ISO crop, so the 100 ISO setting is the first chance we get to compare all three models. It’s worth noting, however, that the SX280 HS 80 ISO crop shows slightly less noise and is marginally better than the 100 ISO crop from the same model. At 100 ISO the SX280 HS crop is a tiny bit noisier, but you have to look closely at 100 percent view to see the difference.
100 ISO is the first chance we get to take a look at the TZ35 / ZS25 and it’s a good start. There’s noise visible in this crop, but generally it’s a good result that’s actually very similar to the crops from both the Lumix TZ40 / ZS30 and the PowerShot SX280 HS. In terms of noise, there’s not much to separate these three models at 100 ISO.
At 200 ISO the TZ35 / ZS25 crop looks both a little noisier and a bit softer, but this is still a good result, the edges of the memorial panel are reasonably clean and the text remains just about legible. At this sensitivity setting there are qualitative differences betweem the the TZ35 / ZS30 and the TZ40 / ZS35, but I don’t think you could argue one is noisier than the other. The edges of the memorial panel and the flat coloured background wall look a little cleaner on the TZ40 / ZS30 crop, but there again, the finer detail in the text panel on the TZ35 / ZS25 crop looks clearer. Such nuances are unlikely to be visible other than at pixel-peeping 100 percent comparisons though. At 200 ISO the Canon SX280 HS crop isn’t quite as soft as the Lumix ones, but it is just as noisy.
At 400 ISO, as you’d expect, the noise has taken another hike. Now, on the TZ35 / ZS25 crop, the text is no longer legible and there’s a coarse grain covering the whole area. For the first time though, the TZ35 / ZS25 has edged ahead of the TZ40 / ZS30 which looks noisier, a little softer and is also suffering from a little localised smearing. Like The TZ35 / ZS25 the PowerShot SX280 HS produces a good result at 400 ISO, but is it better than the TZ35 / ZS25? If it is, I think the difference is so small as to be negligible.
At 800 ISO we get the predicted results, with the PowerShot SX280 HS in front, followed by the TZ35 / ZS25 and then the TZ40 / ZS30. But at 800 ISO the margins are slight, and none of these crops looks particularly good, with the processing only able to keep the noise levels down by sacrificing a lot of detail.
It’s a similar story at 1600 ISO, though by now the crops from all three models are as much noise as image data, but the Canon SX280 HS maintains its edge with a higher level of detail, cleaner edges and less intrusive graininess. Beyond 1600 ISO nothing looks very pretty. Note that of the composite modes, which shoot a quick succession of shots at auto ISO sensitivity and produce a single composite result, the TZ35 / ZS25 produces the best result at 400 ISO, with more detail and less smearing than the TZ40 / ZS30. It’s not possible to make a comparison with the PowerShot SX280 HS which selected 1000 ISO in its Handheld Nioght Scene mode.
Overall then, while there is a noise dividend to be gained from choosing a camera with a lower resoluton sensor, like the Lumix TZ35 / ZS25 or the PowerShot SX280 HS, it’s not nearly as big a difference as you might assume. Now head over to my Panasonic Lumix TZ35 / ZS25 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.