Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 review - Quality

Quality

Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 vs Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 vs Canon PowerShot SX240 HS image quality

 

To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25, the Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 and the Canon PowerShot SX240 HS, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.The lenses all three cameras were set to an equivalent field of view and all were set to Aperture Priority exposure mode.

The ISO sensitivity was manually set to 100 ISO on each camera.

Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 results
1Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 Quality
2Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 Noise
3Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 Sample images

The above image was taken with the Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25. The lens was zoomed in slightly to 5.9mm to provide an equivalent field of view to the Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 and Canon PowerShot SX240 HS. To provide a fair comparison and to avoid diffraction from a small aperture setting the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 was set to Aperture priority mode and I selected an aperture of f4 which resulted in a shutter speed of 1/320. For this tripod-mounted test stabilisation was disabled. The original Fine JPEG file was 5.2MB in size. The crops are taken from the areas marked with red rectangles and presented here at 100%.

These bright overcast conditions should prove no problem for the PowerShot ZS15 / TZ25, but in fact all three cameras overexposed the scene slightly, resulting in highlight clipping. Aside from the slight overexposure, the ZS15 / TZ25 has produced a good result with plenty of contrast and neutral, natural looking colours.

The ZS15 / TZ25 crops show a good level of detail overall with little noise, but a degree of softness, particularly towards the edge of the frame. In the lighthouse crop the lighthouse itself is a little indistinct and there’s the merest hint of a colour fringe in the third crop from the extreme edge of the frame. The edge detail in this crop is quite soft too, particularly when you compare it with the fourth crop from the centre of the frame which has much sharper edges.

Overall this is a good result from the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25’s 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor just a little let down by the softness at the frame edges.

Compared with the 14 Megapixel Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 the results are closer than you might expect. In the crops from the frame edges there’s not much to choose between them but, comparing the final crop from the centre of the frame, there’s a little more detail in the ZS15 / TZ25 crop and it’s sharper. The comparative lack of detail in the crop from the ZS20 / TZ30 is due to a degree of noise which, if you look closely you can see in all four crops. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ZS15 / TZ25 has a slight quality edge due to it’s superior noise performance at 100 ISO. It’ll be interesting to see what effect this has at higher ISO sensitivites on the next page.

Compared with the Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25, the PowerShot SX240 HS crops actually look remarkably similar. Both cameras have a 12 Megapixel sensor and there’s very little to choose between them in terms of either the resolving power of their respective lenses or the image detail recorded by the sensor. The detail in the first crop is a little softer on the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 and the lighthouse is less well defined – though this is more due to slight overexposure on the ZS15 / TZ25 than lens or sensor deficiencies. In the third crop the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 has the edge for sharpness, but in the centre of the frame the edge detail is better defined by the SX240 HS. Overall I’d say the PowerShot SX240 HS produces slightly sharper results.

See how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 Noise results.

Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25
Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30
Canon PowerShot SX240 HS
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO

 


Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 results : Quality / Noise

Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 vs Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 vs Canon PowerShot SX240 HS Noise

Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 results
1Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 Quality
2Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 Noise
3Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25, the Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 and the Canon PowerShot SX240 HS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.The cameras were set to f4 in Aperture priority mode, the lenses were set to the same field of view and the ISO sensitivity was set manually.

 

The above shot was taken with the Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25. The lens was zoomed in to 5.4mm to produce an equivalent field of view as on the Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 and the Canon PowerShot SX240 HS. For these tests the camera was placed on a tripod and image stabilisation and tonal adjustments were disabled. The ZS15 / TZ25 metered an exposure of 0.8 at f4 at 100 ISO.

The 100 ISO crop from the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 isn’t noise free, you can see speckling in the flat colour of the wall and the darker tones of the memorial, but it’s minimal and unobtrusive, which is another way of saying you’d only ever notice it if you were looking closely at the 100 percent crop. At 200 ISO it gets a little bit worse, but, again, for on-screen viewing at less than 100 percent, you’d never know the difference, which means you can use the 200 ISO sensitivity on the ZS15 / TZ25 to give you more scope for low light exposures without worrying about quality issues.

At 400 there’s another step up in graininess, but the quality is still well within acceptable limits, even at 100 percent, and the noise reduction processing produces a natural result with plenty of detail. It’s at 800 ISO that things start to look scrappy, with the finer detail obscured and edges becoming less distinct. At 1600 ISO the noise is affecting even the coarser details, we’re now well into the range where quality will be noticeably poorer even at smaller viewing sizes. the 3200 ISO sensitivity is the ZS15 / TZ25’s ‘throw caution to the wind and get the shot no matter what’ position.

To sum up, the ZS15 / TZ25 provides good quality images that you can be confident will look good at all sizes up to 400 ISO. The 800 and 1600 ISO sensitivities are fine at less than 100 percent view and 3200 ISO is good for low-light emergency shooting. The ZS15 / TZ25’s Handheld Night Shot stacking mode which sets the ISO automatically, can produce better results than a single high ISO exposure, with a more regular noise pattern and better retention of detail. And finally there’s a 3 Megapixel Low light scene mode, though results are aggressivley processed an a lot of detail is smoothed out along with the noise.

Compared with the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25, the PowerShot SX240 HS crops stand up well, but there are some interesting qualitative differences between these two 12 Megapixel cameras, particularly at the lower ISO sensitivities. Although there’s noise visible in flat areas in the 100 ISO crop from the ZS15 / TZ25, it doesn’t affect fine details nearly so much and the same is true at 200 and 400 ISO. From 800 to 1600 ISO it’s the PowerShot SX240 HS that performs slightly better and by 3200 ISO the ZS15 / TZ25 image detail is badly broken up. Both the SX240 HS and the ZS15 / TZ25 produce cleaner crops with more detail and less noise than those from the 14 Megapixel ZS20 / TZ30 throughout the ISO sensitivity range.

This confirms the suspicions of many commentators: the cheaper ZS15 / TZ25 does indeed deliver cleaner images than the flagship ZS20 / TZ30 at higher sensitivities, and even at the lowest ISOs if you’re looking really closely. Panasonic really has to stop playing a numbers game and understand there’s nothing wrong with using lower resolution sensors. It sensibly made the right choice with the FZ150, but once again foolishly pushed its flagship pocket super-zoom a bit too far. To be fair, the ZS20 / TZ30 is an improvement over last year’s ZS10 / TZ20, but it would have been even better with the same 12 Megapixel sensor as the FZ150 and ZS15 / TZ25.

Now head over to my Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

 

Lumix ZS15 / TZ25
Lumix ZS20 / TZ30
PowerShot SX240 HS
100 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
Hand-held Night Shot 640 ISO
Hand-held Night Shot 500 ISO
Hand-held Night Scene 1600 ISO
High Sensitivity 3200 ISO
High Sensitivity 3200 ISO
Low Light 1600 ISO
Panasonic ZS15 / TZ25 results : Quality / Noise
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