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Old Jul 14, 2005, 9:52 PM   #1
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Okay all, I've taken a few batches of photos with my week-old FZ20, and have selected just a few to share. The images can be found in one of my flickr sets at the following link:


Please note that I am still learning the tricks of this camera. I actually feel twinges of disappointment with some aspects, here are a few:

- Noticable noise even at low ISO levels (I can see it plainly at full resolution on some of my ISO 80 shots, in good lighting).

- I was having problems with the autofocus until I realized my focus bracket was pretty large, and I think now that I've switched to spot focusing I'll do much better.

- The auto/preset white balance is pretty poor IMO, but manual works well (of course).

- Some of the shots seem unsaturated too, while others look almost bleeding with saturation. I'm constantly switching from STD to HIGH saturation on the camera.

- Some of my shots seem well exposed except for areas of highlight, which are pretty much solid white with little detail. Color information gets lost for some reason. I'm constantly adjusting my EV values, but sometimes it seems to be of little help.

- Colors are unpredictable. Oftentimes there are absolutely pitiful color mistakes (one photograph was of a woman in a peach/orangeish dress, which turned out almost white with just a hint of a peach hue to it).

- Poor low-light operation. I won't hold this against the cam though, because no cam can work miracles without light. I just have to get used balancing speed/aperture/ISO/etc.

I have examples of most of these things I've noticed upon request.

Anyway, I don't mean to complain, I do like the camera and I think it has inredible potential. I think I just have to learn how to manipulate it to overcome these weaknesses. However, at this point I am sort of suprised at how massive the following for this camera is and how highly praised it is despite some rather serious shortcomings, IMO.

Don't forget to take all of this with a grain of salt, because I am by no means a seasoned photography veteran. I guarantee these flaws are things I have actually discerned and seen for myself, but my incompetance is likely at least partially to blame for them :G

Tips/suggestions/comments appreciated.


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Old Jul 15, 2005, 5:16 AM   #2
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Nice pics, Jesse.

You'll learn more with time, but you have already un derstood the weak points of FZ20.

- Spot Focus is the fastest and more precise.
When you cannot spot focus owing to too low edge contrasts (as when aiming at clouds) turn the cam in portrait mode, half press shutter and when the green dot signals focus, return the cam horizontal.

- Sometimes Auto is the best (except for Manual) for it is the less one which gives yellowish casts (at least in green environs, like with many trees).
I don't understand if the cast is always yellow or it depends on the dominant color of the scene.
However, with no fine tune, sunny and cloudy WB are even worse then AUTO.
Very bad to have to Manual WB at almost any shot.
This is one of the worst points of FZ20.

- Low light: it's as you say.
With tripod and low shutter speeds, it is very fine. Remember to Turn off OIS when on tripod or when the cam is steady on a surface.
Also learn how to "comprehend" the occurrance of sharp focus when using Manual focus ring. It is of help in darkness. Especially in close ups, for the Auto focus assist lamp will not lighten the subject if it's too close to the lens.

- Color saturation settings:
another pain: High saturation can make the pics look better, but in most of the times it will increase the color shifts and the noise.
On the other hand low saturation will produce very poor colors and all the pics will need PP.
So I use Standard. However I have a "Selective colors" adjustments in Photoshop stored in a file which will give me "Canon like" colors.

FZ 20 has problems with:
Greens: too yellowish in most of WB types
Reds: sometimes too purplish
Violets: sometimes turn out blue

All this can be corrected with PP, but it's another loss of time to have to do that on hundreds of pics...

- Noise:
In underexposed backgrounds of macros, or in portions of sky it is noticeable at 100% and can turn visible in resized images too, if this has been sharpened.
Use NR software or plugins (Noise Ninja, Neat Image, Noiseware...) which will give you silk smooth backgrounds and eventually undo the effect of NR in zones like grass or else in which NR could destroy textures.

- Low Dynamic range (low detail in shadows, or burnt highlights):
This is another lack of all FZs.
They ar great for macros, for taking pictures of particulars (distant birds, towers and more), but they can show their limits when you are trying a more general panorama, where you want to achieve both a very bright bluesky with clouds AND theterrains below it...
Some cheap P&S will give you less troubles, but with FZs you'll stride to get the shot (better early in the morning or late in the afternoon) unless the part of the sky you are aimin to is not too much brightier than landscapes below.
A Polarizer or a ND filter are nearly OBLIGATORY.
You can turn the sky darker, make clouds far more aggressive and preserve more details in the shadows of terrains.
Expose for the mid-high lights, for with PP it will be easier to gain some light in the terrains (Selective colors and Levels in Photoshop).

In normal conditions a -1/3 or -2/3 EV will prevent highlights from burning, but when the Dynamic range of the scene is a little bit more than average, FZ will have problems to capture the whole range of differently enlightened zones.
Also Bracketing could be of few use (and hard to recompose the pics in PP If you don't know how to do that quickly).
Maybe some small cams like my Canon A series are far better than FZs in Colors accuracy, WB and Dynamic range, but with some knowledge in PP, patience and time you can heal most of FZ issues. And no compact cam will give you the long zoom of FZ20 (which is in many respect better than S2IS, although in some it might be worse).

So for the latter case, one should have a compact cam which suffer less in the scenes with heavy contrasts between lights and shadows).

FZ20 and sisters are verygood cams if you know their limits aside their "highlights".
Some claim they are prefect: I invite them to take the same shot with a Nikon, Olyor Canon 500$ camera and compare.
FZ ones will need more PP as far as sharpening, color shifts adj, saturation, Noise removal...
But this is the price to pay for such a long and stabilized zoom: only a few things are impossible to cure with Photoshop.
The only real problem is that digital allows you to take hundreds of pics nearly for free. But when you take 500 pics and go back home with 400 pics each sunday (after eliminating the bad ones on the moment), you have to deal with 100 or more pics which will deserve PP andf which will be greatly improved after it... this can be irritating to do even for one like me who likes playing with Photoshop: very expensive in terms of time.

On the other hand FZ10-20 (and also FZ5, 15, 3)are IMO the best UZ as far as details (see the posted tests in Dpreview). The perfect compact Ultrazoom is not yet appeared, and most of the Canon and co. Prosumers and A/S (or similar) compact have better Image quality. But they lack that zoom, which is a great feature for creativity...

So take a lot of pictures to test the pro and cons of your FZ. Study the exifs...
With the time you'll need less pics to hit the target, and you'll already know which ones will be those WOW shots which deserve PP.
For, despite their issues, FZ can take really a lot of "WOW shots"...

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Old Jul 15, 2005, 6:45 AM   #3
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Very good post, Narmer - a good rundown of the FZ experience;
which basically boils down to -

the FZ20 is a very versatile camera, that lets you get a variety of shots in a wider range of situations than any other (fixed lens) cam, but its 'straight-out-of-camera' pics are typically not of the consistent quality Canons, Nikons and Olys will give. Most of theseissues are readily PP fixed - butit takes a lot of time...
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Old Jul 15, 2005, 6:58 AM   #4
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My experience with my FZ 20 is in alignment with all of the above. I spend a lot of time post processing. Having said this, I don't know of another camera of this type I'd rather have for outdoor wildlife shots.
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Old Jul 15, 2005, 12:46 PM   #5
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Excellent reply, thanks for expounding on some of those points. I agree entirely with everything you said. I guess I was just a little naive and became fooled by the massive amounts of hype that this camera carries. Don't get me wrong - it's got fantastic potential, and I really do like it. But like I said in a reply over at the dcresource.com forum, I think there are some significant flaws that most of the trusted review sites out there at worst ignored and at best glossed over. The comments of the fanbase alone are enough to make it seem flawless, and though I know better than to trust fanboys (no offense pals ), the variation from the reports of some trusted review sites is sort of suprising.

Anyway, I have no fear of post-processing. I have Photoshop and Noise Ninja, and I can take care of most of these things. I think it's just that the camera is soo nice in so many ways, and it makes me regret it's deficiencies more than I would in a lower-class camera.
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Old Jul 15, 2005, 4:00 PM   #6
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- Noticable noise even at low ISO levels (I can see it plainly at full resolution on some of my ISO 80 shots, in good lighting).
I've looked at your gallery and the shots you are referring to (noisy at ISO 80 with good lighting) are not obvious to me. Which ones in particular are you talking about?

As to your other concerns, I think most reviews I've seen of the camera and the general concensus of opinion here at Steve's is that while there is an element of truth in all of them they are not, even when taken alltogether, a deal-breaker. The comment about noticeable noise is the only one I'm really taking exception with as this has not been a problem from me with either ISO 80 or 100 in the 6 months I've owned my FZ20.

Edited because I type like a hippo rollerskates.

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Old Jul 16, 2005, 5:26 AM   #7
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Sprocket87 you also say things I have always thought and even written down in other posts:

1) Reviews rarely mentionissues like the no LCD/EVF gain in low light non P mode, problems with WB and color casts

2) both for software and hardware, games and other stuff: when the product quality is just fine, flaws are easier to bear.
But when you see how easily it could have been even PERFECT (in its range) with a few effort, buttons and attention, it becomes really much more irritating to have to do with these issues which ruin a great thing, turning it to a fine one...

About the Users, it is clear than many of them have never had a digicam before they bought a FZ, so it's hard to compare.

3) Again, I like Post processing at least as much as taking photos (in itself: but being out in the nature is really great).
Yet having 2 batteries, I use to erase on the spot the bad shots (OOF macros, badly exposed shots...., double shots...).
So when I am home I always have about 200-400 pics (each Week, and a 50-100 more from my still trusty Canon A300).
It will be my character or the fact that each shot has something, but I really erase a few of them and most of them would be greatly anhanced from PP.
But it can become annoying to do PP on 500Mb of images, although it is fine to do that on 20-30 of them....

Some shots are not as good as to preserve them in full format but not as bad as t oerase them, so I only resize to screen size, sharpen, color and contrast adj.... all very mechanical and repetitive....

Really I am trying to shot less: even if digital photography is free in terms of costs, time is not endless


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Old Jul 19, 2005, 11:30 AM   #8
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I find some of this curious, because it doesn't agree with what I'm seeing with my FZ20.

For one thing, I find it generally takes better pics than olympus. Of the three brands mentioned, only Nikon looks consistently better to me, and then only in their DSLR series. Their fixed lens camera seem almost the same, but with an inferior ultra-zoom and I found the UZ Nikons were pretty noisy on a lot of shots even in good light.

In any case, mentioning brands doesn't mean much, because individual models vary a lot.

Most of the Canon and Olympus cameras that I see are OK, but nothing exceptional. I don't really see any that compete with the FZ20 exactly. Their high end stuff is nice,
but then you can also get high-end cameras from Panasonic/Leica too. The stuff at or below the FZ20 price range didn't seem that great to me, with the exception of the
C5xxx series. It was tempting to get one of them, but I wanted a nice zoom.

Nikon and Minolta seem to the be the only competition in the niche the FZ20 occupies, and I didn't personally find either to be better, only that they had made different compromises. Overall, I found that to get what I could have with the FZ20, I had to spend more on Minolta and Nikon than my budget allowed. If I'd had the money, I might have taken that route, but then you are starting to wonder if you shouldn't just get a DSLR. The Minolta Z series for example, seemed no better until the price went about $200 over the


I can't agree about white balance. It seems to work about as well as most cameras in the same range. I also found that using sunny WB helps reduce blown highlights where I take pictures (wooded or green open areas, bright and sunny, humid). A lot of people say that isn't possible, but I know it works for me. I've tested it thoroughly with back-to-back shots on a tripod.

I do hate the brightness levels in the viewfinder, but in practice it rarely hurts, and an eyecup helps fix things.

Another thing which helps a lot with the FZ20, and might end some complaints about its image engine, is to turn the automatic processing down. By default it is somewhere between a DSLR and a Kodak "print me immediately" mode. Few people even know the menu to adjust this exists, or so it seems.

I have had few problems with saturation. What are you guys taking pictures of when you see this?

I don't find exposure does what I expect. Still experimenting with it.

As far as the comment on how difficult it is to take "general" pictures with sky and ground details... I have yet to find any camera that does this well until you get to the high end, and even there you'll have occasional troubles.

Generally what I do is take two pictures at different light settings, and then blend them together later. Not much help if you are doing hand-held shots of course.

I'm surprised no one mentioned the more expensive focus options. I find they don't seem to work well. Even on a tripod, it seems like the camera sometimes picks focus points up at random in 9-point mode. Maybe I'm missing the point of that mode, and it is supposed to do that to let you have more choices in what it uses, but it seems wierd to me.

The other major problem I have seen is that sometimes the camera sets shutter speed very slow, when there is no reason for it. It has something to do with adjusting some things manually, and the camera seems to overreact a bit.

The other day on the battlefield at Yorktown, very bright and humid (lot's of haze), the camera kept wanting to shoot at 1/150 or slower shutter. Finally coaxed it into going faster, but something was really confusing it and I don't have any idea what.

The slow pictures look fine, but the faster ones are sharper since I had no tripod with me.

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Old Jul 20, 2005, 7:19 AM   #9
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the Wb and saturation issues (yellow cast, and yellowish hues in grass and treees) can be partially adjusted with some fine tune towards blue or with Manual WB + Fine tune or with PP.
But it would be better if the colors were reproduced better directly in cam and Auto WB. From the pics I have seen, FZ30 seems better in this respect.
However you might not eve notice the problem if you don't have another cam with you (I have a cheap Canon A300 to compare).

"to turn the automatic processing down": do you mean setting Saturation, Sharpness, Contrast and NR to LOW ?
I begun justlike this (one of the setting which has less noise in pics) but then you have too soft images and very dead colors !!!
Thus the PP becomes even more necessary than having saturated (though slightly yellowish) hues...
So I generally set STD Sharp, LOW NR (except in some high iso), StD Satur (except in some indoors or concerts when low light) and one of the 3 options for Contrast, according to th situation and zoom level.

You are right about Dynamic range of even entry lev dSLR.
Also expensive camslike S2 pro can have more troubles in these circumstancies.
And even if few do that, Photoshop can hel to regain some detail in shadows areas (unless completely black) like trees which have been UE in order to take a well exposed bright sky. Polarizer often helps a lot.

I rarely use 9 p AF... Generally spot.

Agree on Manual mode : it often gives completely different results.


PS generally I get very bored by the issues of my FZ20 for it would have been relatively easy to avoid them. However I am the first to acknowledge that with some Photoshop work you can get dSLR-like quality pics, and with far less money spent and weights to carry.
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