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-   -   Why All the Noise About the FZ-20? (

NickTrop Oct 24, 2004 11:11 AM

Note the illustration below, and my notes. These are actual sizes of the sensors in your camera:

1. The reason why you have such a compact 12X super zoom on your camera that "maintains its f 2.8 brightness blah, blah, blah" isn't because of any optical engineering genius on "Leica"'s part, it's because Panasonic uses teeny, tiny sensors in its cameras that were initially designed for one or two megapixel cameras.

2. The lens focuses the captured image on a small sensor, resulting in its compact size, and ability to remain bright throughout its focal length. Increase the size of the sensor where the lens must focus a relatively much larger image, and so too the size of the lens must increase its dimensions porportionately. There's no magic to it.

3. If Pana were to use a 2/3" or a 15.8 X 13.4" sized sensor, that were designed for 5 megapixel cameras, the lens would approach the size of your standard giant telephoto lens of a film SLR, or DSLR.

4. Cramming millions more pixels into sensors that were designed for 1/2, 1/3 as many results in noise and distortion.

5. It also results in a mini-photoshop session to correct issues via the processor. Call me anal, but I would rather take care of that that on my own, in PS, thank you very much.

The FZ-1V2 is still the best of the lot because, while it is aggressive in terms of how many pixels it's cramming into its 1/3.2" sensor at 2, it isn't NUTS about it by trying to cram 4 megpixel into the sensor. (I wonder ->and this is MY thinking out loud, not a statement of fact<- if there's not a little interpolation going on here, adding fake pixels to increase "megapixel" ratings like Fugi does with some of their cameras.)

So, here's the case for the FZ-1V2 (upgrading the firmware is a must)

1. (a) Compact Super zoom lens, (b) Lots o' megapixels, (c) Low Noise - pick any two.

2. It crammed an aggressive amount of megapixels into its small sensor, but didn't go crazy.

3. It's photoquality is equal for web/CDR shots, it's photoquality is comparable for 6X4's.

4. I can use stepped interpolation with excellent results for smooth 8X10's, which are a rarety.

5. Venus I, same Leica-branded lense...many of the same features; burst mode, bracketing etc.

6. IR capabible... none of the others are

7. Right-sized. Much more compact, which is wonderful, without feeling like a toy.

8. Less noisey

9. HALF (as in .5, one half, 50%) THE PRICE!

In conclusion, comparable image quality, heart of the camera is the same, nice and compact - HALF THE PRICE. Like the classic Mustang, Panasonic got it right the first time around by designing a cool, fun, affordable, camera and opted out of the great "megapixel wars" by differentiating their product with a terrific compact, super-zoom lense, "just right" compact size, and tons of useful features not found in other camera in its price range. It was (is) truly a unique camera - a classic in a crowded field. The downside? It was only a two megapixel camera because of the constraints around sensor size-to-lense size ratio explained above. Is that really a downside? No, because the final image quality is ->identicle<- for PC viewing, 35 mm photoquality on 6X4 prints - which, between the two, accounts for how 99% of pictures are viewed. It produces excellent 8X10's at 150 ppi, and can be interpolated without noticable issue up to 100%, or 300 ppi, for the infrequent 8X10.

Also, like Ford did with the Mustang, they are in the process of screwing it up to appease the more-is-better psychology of the American consumer at the expense of the product's true price to performance ratio. What are you buying with the FZ-20? A noisier, more heavily processed image, that seems to have difficulty rendering greens in some circumstances according to some posters. You're buying a bulked up camera made to look impressive and "SLR-like" losing that wonderful, compact "right size" in the process. Mainly, what the FZ-20 buys you is the ability to satiate your insecurities over megapixel envy, and your "more-is-better", super-size me, psychology that's been brainwashed into you by the mass media. Oh, yes, you do also get a hotshoe. Likewise with the 15, but you lose audio on your video captures. The FZ-20 is truly a case of more (cost, megapixels, and size) is less.

bobc Oct 24, 2004 12:38 PM


I agree with you to a certain extent. But there are many brand name 5MPcameras that use a 2/2.5 sensor. And Sony uses a 1/2.4 sensor on many of their 5MP cameras.

Here are the ones I found:

Canon: SD20

Fuji: E510, F450

Casio: EX-250, Ex-255

Kodak: DX7530, DX7590

Minolta: X50

Pentax: SV, X, S5i, S50

Sony (1/2.4): DSC-F88, DSC-T11, DSC-T1, DSC-T3, DSC-M1

I Think the sensor size is a factor in additional noise, but not the whole reason. I think the total design of the lense, sensor, and processing engine has more to do with it.

I have also noticed that some of the other big zooms (5MP) have larger sensors, but as you said... they don't maintain a f2.8 through the full range.

I also noticed that any camera that I checked that was above 5MP had a larger sesor. Maybe 5MP is the max for a 1/2.5.

I am anxious to see what the next generations of the Lumix will bring. Hopefully a larger sensor, gain up on the display, etc...

What ever the case, I have definately learned enough by now to know what I am looking for.


NickTrop Oct 24, 2004 12:48 PM

Damn! Bobc, I can't oops you off anymore! Ha ha ha. Suppose that's a good thing. You pass the test. You're cured.

But by the way, just 'cuz the newer models, like Pana, try to cram more an more pixels into the sensor - increasing noise, doesn't mean that that's what they were initially designed for. I'm seeing no big improvements in image quality, and more complaints of noise in the reviews I'm reading. Overall, improvements across the board for all manufacturers seem to be corrections in the processing engine where earlier models overshapened or over compressed images. Like the "FZ-25" will correct the ugly greens that are turning up under certain conditions with the FZ-20, a problem absent in the earlier FZ-1. Anecdotal, but things seem to be moving backwards not forward for the reasons cited above... Kinda like the software industry did for a time. More features, higher price, and many more bugs and security issues. Digicams now have more features, more megapixels, and more processing issues resulting in crappier images than they did a few years ago in many instances.

thekman620 Oct 24, 2004 2:27 PM

Good info NickTrop. THANK YOU!!! I have purchased a FZ20 and still have another week to decide if I want to keep it or return it for a full refund. I must say the shooting performance of this camera is excellent. The ergonomics, speed and general outlay of the camera is very good, but I've taken a lot of pictures in the last week, and have tried many settings, and have been disappointed with the image quality. The noise issue is definitely a very large one to consider. I shoot lots of landscapes and night photos which are subject to low light and longer shutter speeds. Although harder to use, my little Nikon 4300 seems to produce cleaner and more pleasing images that the FZ20 under these conditions. That's because of the sensor size, no doubt (4mp's on a 1/1.8" sensor), compared to the smaller FZ20 sensor. In good lighting conditions, the FZ is good. I have little or no issues with the image quality, but those aren't the conditions I always shoot in. I tried something yesterday that produced some cleaner images - I set the size of the photos to record at "fine" and down to 3mp, and they were definitely cleaner. Which I guess again proves your point NickTrop. I feel like I'm buying useless pixels. Right now, it looks like I'll be returning this camera, and will probably take the plunge for a SLR, or just keep plugging along with my 4300 and it's slow performing pitfalls. The bottom line for a camera to me is image quality, and I don't think the FZ20 is producing images that I expect it to. Most will probably blame me for not knowing the camera etc., but I've used all the settings, auto through full manual, iso at 80, and NR on high, but the results have been consistent. This will probably upset a lot of FZ'ers, so you have my apologies, but I think NickTrop is correct. Thanks again NickTrop for the info. I bought the FZ20 hoping it would be what I was looking for: performance wise, it exceeds it, but image wise, it is failing. Believe me, I wish it wasn't the case. If anyone does know some way to reduce the noise in camera(other than the obvious), while shooting in low light conditions, it would be helpful. I do want to keep this camera ......thekman.

NickTrop Oct 24, 2004 3:38 PM

TheKman620. You're welcome! Thank you for "getting it". They're going backwards - a victim of their own marketing strategy. Twice the price, twice the bulk, twice the noise. Here's a good link (among many others) found right on this forum:

At 2 megapixels, the critical mass in terms of pixel density to achieve max image quality has been obtained for virtually all consumer uses - the web, 6X4, and even 8X10's. Beyond that, it's as pointless and bogus a stat as the "5700 dpi" boasted on some photo inkjet printers, when perfectly fine, photo quality pics are produced by ink jets with 1/4 of the dpi. Worse, in the case of digicams, they're introducing more noise and overprocessed images. Case in point. Look at the detail and resolution of the pic below which is around 72 ppi viewed on a standard monitor. If you put that exact 72 ppi image on photo paper, would that not qualify as "photoquality"? Does an image that is 140 ppi have twice the clarity of detail of the picture below? At 300 ppi is it 3 times more detailed or clear? Answer, No. All they're doing is introducing more noise into the image. Personally, I would rather resample the image - in steps, for those occasions where I want an enlargement or some cropping, than deal with the noise. They're going backwards:
Taken with a 2 megapixel FZ-1v2, which has no problem with greens, not known to be a noisier than average camera, can capture audio in Quicktime movies, can handle an IR filter, has same 12X optical zoom, with IS, same or approx same sensor size as the FZ3,10,15 and 20, is nicely sized, and is currently 1/2 the price of the FZ-20.

oldud Oct 24, 2004 4:58 PM

Also see -

José A. Oct 24, 2004 5:14 PM

NickTrop wrote:

1. The reason why you have such a compact 12X super zoom on your camera that "maintains its f 2.8 brightness blah, blah, blah" isn't because of any optical engineering genius on "Leica"'s part, it's because Panasonic uses teeny, tiny sensors in its cameras that were initially designed for one or two megapixel cameras.
I thought that the f / 2.8 through the whole zoom range, as opposed to the lens that close when you zoom in, depended on the construction of the lens and didn't have anything to do with the "teeny, tiny sensors". Am I wrong? Actually, there was a thread in these forums talking about it, but I can't remember it.

mslan Oct 24, 2004 8:29 PM

Boy, now I am confused. I read good reviews on the FZ-20 on Steves and DCRP and was sold on it... until I read this thread. I guess that since you can zoom in camera, you don't need to crop and emlarge as much but to go down to a 2 megapixel camera... I can't believe that it is the answer for me.

Is the noise a question for someone who wants the zoom capabilites, yet prints most at 4 x 6?

NickTrop Oct 24, 2004 9:01 PM

Jose, this - indirectly, too has to do with the sensor size. Because the sensor is small, the image focused onto it is also small. As a result, Leica and Pansonic were able to develop a "mini-superzoom lens". In the film world a comparable lens would be huge, its size needed to focus on a plane 35 mm in size, the size of the film. These large lenses contain a dozen and more elements (up to 18 or more) to compensate for flare, reflections, and absorption physically caused by the light traveling down a larger lens. The more elements, the more light is lost - up to 1/2 to 2/3rds of an f/stop. The longer the zoom, the lower the T-values, the light transmission index of the lens. A regular prime lens with fewer elements results in little light loss inside the lens itself and is able to maintain its brightness.

Back to the sensor size. The small sensor means a more compact lens. Its conpact size results in less flare, reflection, and absorption physically caused by the lens itself, and no need for twice the number of light absorbing elements. The FZ-1 lens, I think (spec book not handy), contains six elements(?), as opposed to 12 to 18 elements found on a regular, large telephoto film lens.

Smaller sensor = extremely small zoom lens size = less distortion = fewer elements (six as opposed to eighteen) = lens able to maintain brightness throughout zoom range.

Oldud - Yes! Van Riper loved the FZ-1. The FZ-10? Not so much. Why make the darn thing bigger? Compactness was one if its biggest assets.

thekman620 Oct 24, 2004 9:11 PM

Yes, it's interesting stuff about the pixel myth. My sister in law was the first person I know to own a digital camera, and it was I believe a Pentax e100(?). It had 1mp and the images are what caught my interest in digital photography. It produced excellent pictures at 1mp. The noise levels werequite low, and detail was very good. Seems a shame like you say about the current race for more pixels.Ken Rockwell saysSLR's are the way to go for noisebeing under control and itonly makes sense. More room for the pixels, larger pixels, and less of them.I plan to experiment some more in the next few days. Might lower the resolution down to 2 mp and see what occurs. It'd be a shame to have to pay $1000 (I live in Canada so it's very expensive), for a 5 mp camera that produces better images at 2 or 3 mps. I'll let you know what I find............thekman

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