Software - RAW conversion

Supplied software

Panasonic supplies two packages with the FZ30; Lumix Simple Viewer, an image viewer that does little more than display pictures (though it can resize them for emailing and can print), and there are many applications (including some shareware and freeware options) that do the job better. The second application is the slightly more capable PHOTOfunSTUDIO, which offers an ACDSee-style image browser and rudimentary RAW conversion. Given the typical user of a camera like the FZ30 I can't see either package being used very much.

PHOTOfunSTUDIO allows you to browse directories and view thumbnails of images. Double clicking on a JPEG or TIFF allows you to view it full screen. There are options for resizing, emailing, printing, rotating and so on.

Double-clicking on a RAW file brings up a warning that the file has to be converted before it can be viewed.

Click on OK and the RAW converter is launched. There's no options on how the file is saved, no conversion controls and not even the option to specify a destination. The output file is a JPEG that is almost identical in size to a High Quality JPEG produced in-camera.

JPEG & RAW Resolution compared

If we were disappointed by the lack of functionality or control offered by the PHOTOfunSTUDIO RAW conversion we were even less impressed with the results. It's not unusual for very basic RAW converters to produce results almost indistinguishable from an in-camera JPEG, but in this case the results are considerably worse. Not only is resolution lower (due to what appears to be very heavy noise reduction), but there is heavy moiré (color fringing) that you don't get with out-of-camera JPEGS or TIFFs. After using the software we were going to call it 'underpowered', having seen the results that opinion was revised to 'spectacularly useless'.

The good news is that if you use Adobe's Camera Raw plug-in to convert the files you'll get a lot more out of them, including a smidgeon more resolution and detail than with in-camera JPEGs or TIFFs. You need to tweak the settings to cure the luminance noise (see below) but at least there is more information in there to play with, and - if you invest in the Adobe software - the world of control offered by RAW file processing opens up to you. Word on the street is that Panasonic intends to offer an improved RAW converter at some point in the future; let's hope it's not too far in the future.

Update: we are informed by Panasonic that the latest version of Silkypix Developer Studio 2.0 can convert FZ30 RAW files for a more reasonable ¥16,000 (around $145), though we did not have time to try it for this review.

Adobe Camera Raw
RAW -> TIFF (Default)
ACR 3.2 Beta
JPEG from camera Panasonic RAW

Studio shot comparison

As you can see from the 100% crops below the Panasonic supplied RAW converter is basically using very heavy-handed processing to mask the inherently noisy results from this new sensor. Converting using Adobe Camera Raw plug-in (using the default settings) produces an image with significantly better detail and sharpness, but one that suffers from noticeable luminance noise (certainly higher than we'd like to be seeing from an ISO 80 image - look at the red patch). By increasing the Luminance smoothing option in ACR you can remove this whilst preserving more detail than you get from either JPEG or RAW files processed using the supplied converter.

Adobe Camera Raw, RAW -> TIFF (Default), ACR 3.2 Beta
ISO 80 studio scene 100% crops
ISO 80 studio scene 100% crops
JPEG out of camera , High quality setting
ISO 80 studio scene 100% crops