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Old Nov 18, 2005, 6:33 PM   #1
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1. I've been reading on forums and looking through the manual for the FZ20 before purchasing, and some things about noise in low light over ISO 200 and slight oversharpness led me to this section of the manual:
On the camera, [REC MODE] -- > [PICT.ADJ.] allows choices such as:
CONTRAST
· Increases the difference between the brightness and the darkness in the picture.
· Decreases the difference between the brightness and the darkness in the picture.
SHARPNESS
· The picture is sharply defined.
· The picture is softly focused.

What if I want NO increase or decrease in contrast or sharpness? What are the defaults? Is "off" a choice here, or are you always one or the other of these choices? Can NOISE REDUCTION also be "off?"

2. I've heard the LCD display makes the image look very dim in low light -- even the manual mentions it. But the manual also says: Increase display light: Press the [MENU] button / Select the [SETUP] Menu / Select [Monitor] for 7 steps of brightness adjustment.

Does setting the LCD display to a higher brightness make the image sufficiently bright for composing? Is the viewfinder (EVF) sufficient if not?

(I realize a great advantage of this camera is maintaining f/2.8 aperture for entire zoom, with terrific image stabilization .. meaning you shoot at a much lower ISO than with just about anything else. Lower ISO = lower noise.)

All comments welcome!
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Old Nov 18, 2005, 9:23 PM   #2
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first off, let me say i've had an FZ20 for a year, and am very happy with the results i've gotten with it. it's a very capable camera, and though it's not without its faults, the limitations it does have are not serious, and i think you'll be well served with it.

now let me try to answer your questions.... there are options in the menu to increase or decreasecontrast, sharpness, noise reduction, etc. the default settings are "std", and you can set them to high to increase those factors, or low to make them less pronounced. there is no option for "off". i've had very good results with all set to "std" except sharpness, which i personally prefer set to "high". i like a sharp, crisp photo, and if i'm taking something i want to intentionally soften, i can do it in PP.

the LCD is dim in low light. the brightness the manual refers to is simply a function to make the LCD brighter under all conditions, not just low light. setting LCD brightness higher may help slightly, butin low light the LCD will still be difficult to use. the EVF is no improvement, since it merely projects the same information that was on the LCD into the viewfinder.unfortunately, this is one of those limitations that FZ users simply have to deal with.

the other weak spots in the FZ20are the relatively slow start up (while the lens moves into position) and the fact that the EVF/LCD freezes up momentarily when the shutter is pressed, which makes pan shots of fast moving subjects a difficult and frustrating proposition. this is not helped by the fact that the auto-focus usually cannot keep up with something moving very quickly, like a bird in flight or a car coming toward you. to an extent, you can overcome this by using manual focus and focusing on a spot where you anticipate the subject will be when you snap the photo, but for something like a bird, that can move in any direction at any time, it's really not very effective. this is where having distance indicators, like they used to have on 35mm SLR lenses, would be a real blessing. unfortunately, Panasonic either hasn't figured out how to do this, or chooses not to, so we have to live with it.

noise seems to be a subject of much discussion, but in the FZ20 it reallyisn't all that bad, especially at lower ISO settings. it's no worse than any other camera in its class, and i find that when it is obvious enough to be objectionable, it's easily removed with NR software like PictureCooler or Neat Image. remember, noise that may look bad at full size on your monitor is often not even visible in a print.

the FZ series cameras are optimized for outdoor work. after all, one doesn't put a 12x zoom lens of this caliber on a cam made for snapshots of the relatives on Thanksgiving, or pics of the kids across the room. that lens is awesome, and the f2.8 maxand excellent OISallow you to take shots handheld at speeds you could never manage with a lesser camera. i can say with certainty that the FZ20 will produce absolutely stunning 8x10 and 11x14 prints when you use a good print processor, and if you do your part, the camera will definitely reward you with excellent results.


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Old Nov 18, 2005, 10:21 PM   #3
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Id like to add my opinions about the fz20 and noise. I absolutely cant stand noise. That said Im still buying a camera noted as having high noise.

Well I did my homework and poured over many images from comperable cameras and what I noticed is that they all have essentiallythe same amount of noise, the difference is that the other manufactures chose to soften the image to reduce the "appearance" of noise, its still there, its that the image as a whole is compromised even at a lowISO it still softens the image which I found bothered me even more than noise. This is unaccepatable for me.

I will take sharpness with unsoftened noise and then chose to edit the noise myself on images I feel it is necessary.

If you want to compare noise images yourself go to http://www.dpreview.com I opened up images for several cameras at a time and compared them sidexside. I used the images of the winebottle setup focusing on the white label with the gold and the grey board in the back for noise as well as the watch. If you look at dslr images you will really come to appreciate the difference in noise its unfortunate most of use cant afford them and all the lenses to match the FZ20's range.
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Old Nov 18, 2005, 10:23 PM   #4
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Great replies .. thanks so much for both of your help!

And .. whew! So there is a middle (what I called "off" setting). That's good news.

A lot of the speed and details of the camera I've learned here (link below) , and was quite sure I'd be happy. http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ20/FZ20A8.HTM

The Sony Cybershot DSC-H1 has been favorably compared to the FZ20, but looking carefully through all specs and feature .. I don't think so! Doesn't maintain it's light on full zoom, no hot shoe or manual focus, etc. The DSC-H1 looks like an almost close but slightly lesser knock off of the FZ20 (on very careful comparison), and yet it is also very well reviewed ... leading me to be that much more excited about the FZ20!

Noise is a function of the size of the sensor, but what the FZ20 does to keep the ISO low is great. As noted, a DSLR with large sensor is the ultimate "solution," but a camera able to print nicely at about an 11 x 14 size can't be too bad -- and the best shots from an FZ20 do just fine at this size I've heard several times.

My photo blog at http://www.flickr.com/photos/controltheweb/ has been all shot with a 1.3 MP camera with 3 shutter speeds .. and yet I've been able to do a lot. But the limitations have driven me a little batty.

So I'm picking up a FZ20 ($412 after shipping from AbesOfMaine.com) and I know I'm going to love it!
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Old Nov 18, 2005, 10:38 PM   #5
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controltheweb wrote:
Quote:
Noise is a function of the size of the sensor, but what the FZ20 does to keep the ISO low is great. As noted, a DSLR with large sensor is the ultimate "solution," but a camera able to print nicely at about an 11 x 20 size can't be too bad -- and the best shots from an FZ20 do just fine at this size I've heard several times.
can't say anything about 11x20, that's kind of an odd size, but i have some 11x14's from my FZ20 that beat anything i ever took with a 35mm SLR...
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Old Nov 20, 2005, 12:14 AM   #6
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Your Imaging resource link was another site I used to determine the FZ20 was an excellent camera. I plan on purchasing mine tomorrow. I hadnt looked at abesofmaine though. I did notice the prices went up over the past week about $25 so now is the time to act.

Let us know how you like your new purchase.


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Old Nov 20, 2005, 12:23 AM   #7
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If you can get the FZ20 for $412 delivered, you will have purchased an excellent camera for the money. I've had mine for almost a year...and it has given me some great shots...and I'm still learning. I have found that Neat Image will take care of any noise problems when I want to pring larger photos. An auxillary flash really helps with indoor flash shots....and the 12x stabilized lens on the panasonics can't be beat for the money. Hope you have as much fun with your camera as I've had with mine!
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Old Nov 20, 2005, 9:27 AM   #8
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I tried Neat Image and Noise Ninja but Picture Cooler is my personal choice -- it has noise removal features not found elsewhere and is currently only $15.

The VERY extensive and regularly update reviews of noise removal software at http://www.michaelalmond.com/Articles/noise.htm is excellent, and places these mentioned applications as the top three overall.

PictureCooler is very fast working and on (1) photos where a lot of noise can be removed, it truly has no equal; it includes (2) an awesome NO NOISE ADDED sharpening tool; and (3) a deblur/deconvolution tool. Example photographs:

1. http://members.chello.nl/r.kroonenberg2/Denoise.html
2. http://members.chello.nl/r.kroonenberg2/refocus.html
3. http://members.chello.nl/r.kroonenbe...nvolution.html

It also integrates with PhotoShop (essentially equivalent to a plugin with proper setup), includes a camera shake removal tool (incredible!) and includes several alternate math and high-pass methods if you want to try alternative approaches. But the defaults work incredibly well. And it easily processes large groups of files as a batch.

My favorite PictureCooler tool though is the Kill Noisy Pixels slider (open extra sliders to access).

You know how if you want to smooth your image completely (strong denoise) then some blurring normally takes place? But if you apply less denoise to keep detail, then a few pesky pixels jump out as small artifacts, basically random "noisy pixels" above the denoise level? The Kill Noisy Pixels slide tool makes them invisible!

I apologize for going on and on about this software tool in a DigiCam forum, but it is very deserving, and the author, not a native English speaker, isn't promoting this incredibly deserving tool particularly well and I think it really deserves a larger audience.

And it's fully functional in the free download! (http://members.chello.nl/r.kroonenberg2/cnt.htm)
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Old Nov 20, 2005, 9:43 AM   #9
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I am not so sure about Picturecooler being the best, however the developer had a thread at dpreview asking for photos from the FZ30 to work on and a day or so later said he bought a FZ30 so I guess he may have a profile for it soon.
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Old Nov 20, 2005, 10:06 AM   #10
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To pick one noise removal application as "best" is definitely too subjective -- all the top programs work VERY well. I feel more comfortable saying for a combination of quality, cost, and features PictureCooler is one of the highest value applications for noise removal.

One of the issues I encounter is in modifying high noise images. There are usually other problems besides noise, such as saturation and sharpness. After saturation modifications noise can really get out of hand and the ability to sharpen well becomes very limited. This kind of noise reduction is where I have found PictureCooler to be my tool of choice vs. in particular NoiseNinja and Neat Image.
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