Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 Review
Software - RAW conversion
The biggest news feature-wise with the FZ8 is the inclusion of raw mode, something I would now class as essential if you don't like the heavy-handed approach to noise reduction taken by the Venus III processor. As with other Lumix models the camera ships with a special (fully featured) edition of SILKYPIX, a rather quirky, though surprisingly well-featured, raw development application for Windows and Mac. The (on-screen) manual is very comprehensive, but doesn't really explain the features very well, and first-time users may find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options on offer. This isn't helped by the slightly dodgy translations and the plethora of sliders with names that don't really indicate what they actually do. But there is lots here to get stuck into, and the default settings produce perfectly acceptable results (very similar to out of camera JPEGs).
But then, after a lot of experimentation (and a good read of the manual) you'll discover that the SILKYPIX can produce far superior results - and can be fine-tuned to produce output that suits your own needs / tastes. In fact there's much, much more tweaking on offer than you get with Adobe Camera Raw, for example, and compared to what you get with most cameras it's hard to complain. It is worth using SILKYPIX for the ability to control noise reduction alone.
You can save parameter sets (for some reason you put them in the 'cloakroom', but hey ho) once you've found out what works for you, which combined with batch processing and extensive output options (TIFF or JPEG), takes some of the grind out of the business of developing large numbers of raw files.
JPEG & RAW Resolution compared
Although the FZ8's JPEG resolution is very good there is a slight advantage to shooting raw. On the downside there's a bit of moiré at the very highest frequencies, but you're not going to see this in 'real world' shots, and the extra resolution (and control over noise reduction) will deliver real benefits in scenic shots containing foliage or other fine detail. Note that at the time of writing there is no support for the FZ8's raw files in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) but it will no doubt eventually find its way into a future update.
As the crops below show the camera is by default applying quite a lot of sharpening during JPEG processing, and the raw files (using the default settings) look very soft by comparison - perfect for post-processing. You can increase the sharpness in SILKYPIX but - as shown below - the difference isn't great, and you're better off doing it in Photoshop later.
RAW -> TIFF
|JPEG from camera||SILKYPIX RAW
RAW -> TIFF (Default)
ISO 100 Studio shot comparison (default settings)
Using the SILKYPIX default settings produces output that has a similar 'feel' to the out-of-camera JPEG, though closer examination reveals a considerably less processed-looking image with considerably lower sharpening. The beauty of shooting raw is, of course, that you don't have to make do with the default settings, and it's an easy job to reduce the rather excessive saturation and contrast if you want to produce a more natural result, or one better suited to post-processing.
To get an idea how much work the VENUS III engine is having to do - even at ISO 100 - to combat the inevitable noise problem arising from cramming so many pixels onto such a small sensor we've also included below a crop from the same shot developed from raw with SILKYPIX's noise reduction options all set to their lowest settings. This would explain why even at the lowest ISO setting the out-of-camera JPEGs show obvious signs of NR artefacts if you look closely. Then again, unless you're producing huge enlargements or viewing - as here - at 100% / actual pixels - the JPEG output is pretty good.
ISO 400 Studio shot comparison
At high ISO settings there's an awful lot of noise, and shooting raw allows you to make decisions about how much detail you're prepared to sacrifice in order to reduce the visible graininess. The camera's own approach is fairly unusual (and is the instantly recognizable visual signature of the Venus III processor) - the luminance detail is left almost untouched, whereas the chroma (color) information is blurred to the point where it looks like it's been painted on later. Using SILKYPIX allows you to control the amount of noise reduction and to preserve the final low contrast tonal detail / texture that is lost by the in-camera noise reduction (even using the low NR option). The crops below show the default output as well as an indication of the range of noise reduction available, from minimum to maximum.
ISO 1250 Studio shot comparison
Interestingly at very high ISO settings (ISO 800 and 1250) the raw output is so noisy that in most cases you're no worse off with JPEGs, as it is impossible to get as much luminance detail out of the raw files as the Venus III manages in-camera. Sure, the color information is all shot, but at least for low light social shots you're going to be able to recognize the people in the picture.
|It's good to be at home by Nightcrawler12|
from Best photo of the week...
|Tiny tree by Kaappo|
The Olympus 17mm F1.2 promises to open up new possibilities for Micro Four Thirds shooters seeking razor-thin depth-of-field and smooth, 'feathered' bokeh. Take a peek at our extensive sample gallery.
Are you a speed freak? Hungry to photograph anything that goes 'zoom'? Or perhaps you just want to get Sports Illustrated-level shots of your child's soccer game. Keep reading to find out which cameras we think are best for sports and action shooting.
Still yearning for an Aperture replacement? Here's a quick overview of RAW Power, a Raw image editor for iOS that pairs with the Mac application introduced in 2016. Take a look at some of its capabilities.
Video features have become an important factor to many photographers when choosing a new camera. Read on to find out which cameras we think are best for the videophile.
Tech lover Albert Lee was one of the first to pre-order the intriguing 16-camera module Light L16. Two months in, here's what he has to say about using this not-so-little computational camera.
The public art installation featured blurred portraits, ostensibly captured by the artist under that same underpass... except they weren't. They were actually portraits of comedians, pulled from the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival program.
Edelkrone has upgraded its SliderOne with a SliderOne Pro and introduced a new generation of Wing and Wing Pro models, all while simultaneously improving the app that controls its entirely lineup.
People have waiting a long time for the Canon 85mm F1.4L IS lens, but how does it compare to Canon's 85mm F1.2L and Sigma's 85mm F1.4 Art? Phillip Pettit of Lensrentals took all three lenses for a spin to find out.
Affinity Photo for iPad, one of the first full-featured Raw editors designed specifically for tablet use, has been named Apple's Best iPad App of 2017. And what's more, it's currently 50% off!
VSCO Messages allows VSCO X subscribers and free users alike to share text, images, photo editing 'recipes', VSCO journal entries and more.
Flickr has revealed their top 25 photos of 2017, and there are some truly stunning shots in the mix.
Testing of the Canon G1 X Mark III is well underway, inside of the studio and out. We've just added it to our test scene comparison tool, where you can take a look at its performance side-by-side against peers like the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V.
Whether it's a trip to the beach for some snorkeling or scrambling up a 10,000 ft volcano, the Olympus Tough TG-5 proved to be a great travel companion for Jeff. That's why it's his 2017 Gear of the Year.
Last year, the DJI Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4 Professional took top honors in our end of year buying guide. Read on to find out who it this year for beginners, consumers, prosumers, and professionals at a price tag less than $2,000.
Meyer Optik Goerlitz is resurrecting yet another classic lens. This time, the company has set its crowdfunding sights on the Primoplan 75mm F1.9, a lens originally manufactured in a run of just 2,000 back in the 1930s.
The folks at Kolari Vision—an infrared camera conversion company based in New Jersey—recently tore down a brand new Sony a7RIII, giving everybody a peek at the camera's much-improved weather sealing.
Resource Travel's Brandon Cunningham recently joined The Giving Lens for a 10-day adventure in India. A trip he won't soon forget, to a country that left him in "sensory and soul overload."
Meet the new Freefly Movi, a handheld gimbal stabilizer designed by cinema stabilization pros for use with the iPhone. Freefly is calling this little beast "the world's most portable, adaptable, and intuitive cinema robot."
Photography portfolio site PhotoShelter is adding their voice to the growing group of online companies that are speaking out in favor of net neutrality, and against the FCC's upcoming vote to kill it.
The Direct app would replace the current Inbox on the Instagram app, doing for Instagram what the Facebook Messenger app did for Facebook on mobile.
Qualcomm's latest high-end mobile chipset offers higher frame rates and a wider color gamut, among other important camera improvements you can expect to see in next year's flagship smartphones.
Photographer Josselin Cornou recently got trapped in a blizzard in the Snowy Mountains of Australia with his Fujifilm GFX 50S and new Tamron 15-30mm F2.8 lens. Find out how they held up to 110km/h winds and -15°C temperatures.
While film nostalgia reaches an all-time high, Seattle-based pro photographer Sofi Lee is turning back to 'digicams' made between 2008 and 2011.
The fixed prime lens camera market may be a bit niche, but it's here that you'll find some of the best cameras you can buy. Sensors ranging from APS-C to full-frame are designed to match their lenses, which cover ranges from 28-75mm equivalent, so image quality is top-notch.
With a capacity of 512GB, Samsung's new UFS chips take built-in storage on smartphones to desktop-PC levels. Will this eliminate the need for microSD slots?
Photographer Josh Rossi decided to go big for this year's Christmas card, so he recreated the Star Wars: The Last Jedi poster using himself, his wife, and their two kids.
In response to a NY Times article about how some traffickers were using Instagram as part of the illicit animal trade, Instagram has added a content advisory screen that pops up to warn users any time they search for hashtags "associated with harmful behavior to animals."
Kodak is expanding its instant photography lineup today with the release of the Kodak Mini Shot Instant 10MP camera. A tiny little digital camera that spits out either 2.1 x 3.4-inch or 2.1 x 2.1-inch prints.
Huawei'e next high-end smartphone could be the first to take computational imaging to the next level with a triple-camera that spits out 40MP files.
Landscape photographer Spencer Cox recalls the single most rewarding—and frightening—landscape photography experience of his life: photographing a sandstorm.