Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 Digital Camera Review
Read a digital camera review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8. Digital camera ratings, comparisons, and more.
Testing / Performance
*Most manufacturers claim that their cameras' colors are true to life, so we test those claims by photographing an industry standard color chart. The images are loaded to Imatest imaging software, which compares the colors snapped by the camera to those of the original color chart. Ideally those would be the same. Below is a chart that shows the camera’s depicted colors in the outer square of each tile, the ideal color of the original chart in the inner vertical rectangle, and the luminance-corrected ideal in the inner square.
The next chart shows the same information except that the ideal colors are represented as squares and the Panasonic FZ8’s colors are shown as circles. The line between the two colors shows just how erroneous or accurate the camera’s colors are.
The red colors are the most inaccurate, but this is typical for digital cameras that do this to enhance skin tones. Most cameras oversaturate colors a bit to make them look richer and the FZ8 is typical in this way too. It oversaturated colors by 6 percent, which is an improvement over the Panasonic FZ7 that oversaturated by a whopping 20 percent.
The newer FZ8 improved upon its predecessor, the FZ7, in several other ways too. The FZ8’s mean color error was 7.99, meaning that its colors are more accurate than the FZ7’s 9.56 mean color error. In the end, the FZ8’s overall 7.51 color score is decent among digital cameras and is a big improvement over the previous Lumix in this line.
Still Life Sequence
***Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the full resolution images. *
**The Panasonic FZ8 has a 7.2-megapixel CCD that is sized the typical 1/2.5 inches. We tested this camera’s resolution by photographing an industry standard resolution chart in optimal lighting and loading the pictures into software that analyzes every detail and nearly counts the pixels.
The software gives results as line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which is a representation of how many alternating black and white lines of equal thickness could fit across a frame in the horizontal and vertical directions.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 resolved 1789 lw/ph horizontally with 12.1 percent oversharpening and 1815 lw/ph vertically with 18.9 percent oversharpening. Many cameras tend to oversharpen a little bit, but these numbers are a bit extreme. In-camera oversharpening could make adjusting the image parameters a difficult endeavor in editing software.
When we took the pictures for the test, we tried out different focal lengths and apertures to see if one point was sharper than another. Indeed it was: the sharpest shot came from an image snapped at 20mm at f/5.6 using an ISO setting of 100.
In the end, the Panasonic FZ8 had a decent 5.16 overall resolution score but the heavy in-camera sharpening isn’t a plus.
Noise – Auto ISO ***(1.01)*
**We set the FZ8 so that it would automatically choose an ISO setting and photographed the color chart in bright studio lighting. Many digital cameras choose the lowest ISO setting available, but the Panasonic FZ8 shot at an ISO 200 setting instead. This is higher than usual and because of the abundance of noise there, it resulted in a poor 1.01 score.
Noise – Manual ISO*(5.75)
*The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 has five manual ISO settings from 100-1250 that function in full resolution. This ISO range is far wider than what was offered on the FZ7, which topped off at ISO 400. We tested the noise levels at each of the FZ8’s ISO settings and put the results in the chart below. The ISO settings are on the horizontal plane and the noise level is on the vertical plane.
At its lowest setting, 1.5 percent of the image is already muddled into noise. This is disappointing. Usually noise takes a steady curve upward as the ISO is increased. There is a dip in noise from ISO 200 to 400 though; this could be due to Panasonic’s noise reduction system kicking in around there.
The manual ISO noise score is a lackluster 5.75. Despite its mediocre performance, it still performed better than its predecessor. The FZ7 had a 3.87 score and much smaller ISO range.
Low Light Performance* (8.77)
*Not everyone shoots in the gloriously perfect lighting of a photo studio. So we dimmed the lights to mimic common low-light situations. The first test is done at 60 lux, which is similar to a living room after dusk with two soft lamps. Reading is still possible in this light. At 30 lux, a good squint would be needed to read. This is about as much light as comes from a 40-watt light bulb. The 15 and 5 lux tests are extremely dark and not as common for photo opportunities, but help us determine if there are any trouble spots or limitations to the camera’s image sensor.
The FZ7 had problems keeping colors accurate and properly saturated in low light, but the Panasonic FZ8 seems to have fixed that issue. This camera’s custom white balance was tricky to set though: we had to center the camera on the white card for as long as the exposure was set for. For example, we had to hold the card steady for 15 seconds so the FZ8 could set the white balance for the 15-second exposure. The hassle pays off though. The mean color error in the dim 5 lux test was 8.51, which is far better than what most cameras can do.
Illumination and color remained in tact during the low light tests, but noise crept into images the longer the shutter was open. Below is a chart showing the exposure time on the horizontal axis and the percentage of the image lost to noise on the vertical axis.
There isn’t a significant overall trend with the FZ8. Most cameras have more noise as the shutter is open, but the FZ8 shows that its noise drops from 5 to 10-second exposures and from 15 to 25-second exposures.
Overall, subjects will be discernable in low light which is more than can be said of many digital cameras. Subjects will be properly colored and lit, but there will be a lot of noise eating at the finer details of the image.
Dynamic Range ***(4.99)*
**For the dynamic range test, we photograph a film step chart that is backlit and shows a series of rectangles that range from transparent to opaque and very dark. The chart shows about 13 exposure stops, which is more than what digital cameras can capture. We loaded the images into Imatest, which told us how many of those rectangles the camera can capture at once, at various levels of quality. As with our other tests, we push the camera to its limit in optimal situations so the results are more useful as comparison to other cameras’ results.
Below is a chart that shows the number of exposure stops on the vertical plane and the ISO setting on the horizontal plane. Usually, digital cameras will capture less and less detail and less dynamic range as the ISO is increased.
That statement is true of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8: the dynamic range falls off steadily as the ISO is increased. It wasn’t great to begin with at the lowest ISO setting anyway. The FZ7 performed much better: at ISO 100, the FZ7 captured 10.5 steps of exposure and the FZ8 doesn’t even capture 6. This is a disappointment that is reflected in the poor 4.99 dynamic range score.
*Startup to First Shot (7.1) *
The Panasonic FZ8 took less time than its predecessor to wake up and snap its first shot. It took 2.9 seconds. This still isn’t as speedy as an SLR, so turning on the FZ8 long before the action happens is recommended.
*The FZ8 has three burst modes: High Speed, Low Speed, and Unlimited. High Speed takes 5 shots in 1.3 seconds, each shot coming 0.3 seconds apart. Low Speed takes 5 shots in 1.9 seconds, each shot coming 0.5 seconds apart. Unlimited takes shots 0.5 seconds apart and shoots indefinitely. These are all quite speedy, but the Unlimited mode is the most useful because it shoots continuously and doesn’t take a pause after a small handful of shots like the other modes.
*There isn’t much shutter lag on the FZ8 – when some prior preparation is made. When the exposure and focus were locked, it was hard to measure any lag at all. If the camera was not focused at all, it took about 0.4 seconds to capture a shot. That’s nearly half a second. When shooting, photographers should constantly be focusing and refocusing by pushing the shutter release halfway down again and again. It’s that first half of the shutter release button that takes 0.4 seconds: the last half to the picture clicks by so fast it’s immeasurable.
*A single shot takes 1 second to process for the FZ8.