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Compared to... Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd and Olympus SP-560UZ

Below you will find a studio comparison between the Panasonic DMC-FZ18, the Fujifilm Finepix S8000fd and the Olympus SP-560UZ at ISO 400.

Studio scene comparison (@ ISO 400)

  • Panasonic DMC-FZ18: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 400, Default Image Parameters, Manual white balance, +0.66 EV compensation
     
  • Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 400, Default Image Parameters, Manual white balance, +0.67 EV compensation

  • Olympus SP-560UZ : Aperture Priority mode, ISO 400, Default Image Parameters, Manual white balance, +0.7 EV compensation
     
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Fujifilm S8000fd
Olympus SP-560UZ

ISO 400, 1/250 sec, F4.5

ISO 400, 1/220 sec, F4.5

ISO 400, 1/320 sec, F4.5
3,189 KB JPEG
3,447 KB JPEG
2,530 KB JPEG

At ISO 400 noise reduction takes over from the lens as the main impact on image quality and Panasonic's approach to noise reduction is, as usual, rather heavy handed. There is comparatively (for a compact camera) little noise in the FZ18's output at ISO 400 but this comes at a cost. It's interesting to see how Panasonic has tweaked the noise reduction since the FZ8, which featured heavy chroma noise reduction resulting in unacceptable bleeding of colors, particularly red. That bleeding has (almost) gone, but in its place there's an overall softness and general blurriness that can only mean one thing; the noise reduction is also working on the luminance signal - even if only a little.

Ultimately the output from all three cameras at ISO 400 leaves much to be desired, though just about usable for smaller prints of less detailed subjects (such as portraits). It's interesting to see that Fuji's noise reduction - here working on a conventional CCD, rather than its own Super CCD, is actually still pretty effective at producing subjectively sharper output.

The FZ18's saving grace is that if you need to shoot at settings above base sensitivity, and are not fond of the Venus III noise reduction engine you can switch to Raw mode and bypass it altogether.

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