Compared to... Panasonic DMC-FZ7

Below you will find a studio comparison between the Panasonic DMC-FZ8 and its predecessor, the DMC-FZ7, at ISO 400. See later in the review for the FZ8's higher ISO (ISO 800, 1250 and 3200) modes.

Studio scene comparison (@ ISO 400)

  • Panasonic DMC-FZ8: Aperture Priority mode (F5.0), ISO 400, Default Image Parameters, Manual (preset) white balance, +0.33 EV compensation
  • Panasonic DMC-FZ7: Aperture Priority mode (F5.0), ISO 400, Default Image Parameters, Manual (preset) white balance, +0.7 EV compensation
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Panasonic DMC-FZ8
Panasonic DMC-FZ7

ISO 400, 1/250 sec, F5.0

ISO 400, 1/320 sec, F5.0
2,594 KB JPEG
1,862 KB JPEG

Anyone who has been following Panasonic's camera development closely will recognize the rather unusual 'color wash' effect associated with the new Venus III processor's noise reduction system. The FZ8's output looks almost identical to the FZ50 and TZ1. Panasonic's approach to NR is certainly right in principle (separate the chroma from the luminance detail, use heavy NR on the former, much less on the latter), but the amount of chroma smearing seems excessive and produces visible bleeding and loss of texture.

Recent Videos

Yes the results are, for a 7MP 1/2.5-inch sensor at ISO 400, very free of noise. And in fact for shots like this, with lots of high contrast detail and areas of solid color, the system actually works quite well, producing a shot with little visible noise but plenty of detail. But when you're shooting in less bright conditions, or subjects with texture, low contrast detail or lots of fine color variations you'll see just how much you're losing.

Of course any comment on higher ISO performance with a camera like this needs to be tempered with a little dose of realism. You can't have a 12x zoom lens in a compact camera without using a very small sensor, and a small sensor with more than a few million pixels is going to be noisy. But our problem with Panasonic is not that the sensor is noisy (which it undoubtedly is), but that the noise reduction used is so destructive of the fine color information that gives a photograph much of its texture. Even at small print sizes the color bleeding can give ISO 400 shots a slightly odd 'magic paint book' feel. For some subjects the output is fine, but for others it just doesn't look 'right'.

The other - though significant - saving grace is that if you need to shoot at ISO 400 and don't like the effect of the Venus III noise reduction you can switch to Raw mode and bypass it altogether.