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View Full Version : Noise and the FZ3



brad nichol
10-04-2004, 04:52 AM
As I expected there are now a few snippets on the forums regarding the noise of the files from FZ3s and 20s. Having now played with my FZ3 over the past 3 days I would like to make a couple of comments regarding this issue.

The FZ3 does exhibit a reasonalby high degree of noise compared to many other digicams, especially if you compare it to say a Canon S1is.

Now many entusiasts thing of noise as some sort of digital cancer and dismiss cameras on the basis of their noise performance.

Let me tell you, noise ain't necessarily a bad thing. Most digicams would exhibit awful noise if it were not for the in-built noise reduction processes.
Unfortunately often the noise reduction process knocks the life out of sharpness and detail, with many cameras it doesn't matter because their lenses are not up to the job anyway.

I have done a huge amount of work with Canon A70s (3 megapixels) and produced wonderful prints up to A3 plus, I have even held a one man exhibition using photos taken with this camera. The point I want to make is that the Canon has very low noise for its image size yet still maintains very good clarity. However there is a trade-off, because Canons' noise management and processing kills fine detail in greens/yellows and subsequently makes grass look very plastic and mushy..... many other 3 meg and higher cameras do the same thing. Noise reduction also kills subtle tonal gradation!

As a result of this I have had to work around the problem by actually adding noise to the files (after some serious up-sampling) then follow it up with some rather involved sharpening processes, it works a treat but it is a complicated business.

Panasonic seem to take a very different approach, first of all they produce a lens which is incredibly sharp (sharper than Canons), and then they preserve the detail by not processing the noise out of the file.

This means you have a better raw material to work with.

The noise is easily removed using noise ninja or something similar and in general is really only an issue in prints beyond A4 size which contain large areas of blue sky. Since most people probably only make postcards and 5 by 7s it is unlikely it will ever be a problem in real world use.

Don't get too hung up on noise, there is noise and there is noise and some of it is very useful, especially in landscape work with lots of high frequency detail, I would much rather noise than digital mush. Trust me when I say as an ex-portrait studio owner the noise you see in files in A4 prints from your digicams is far less worse than much of the noise (grain) problems we had with 35mm 400ISO films of 20 years ago and in fact even 160ISO vericolour was probably worse.

I hope this helps and I am very happy to discuss these issues further, hopefully during the week I will get achance to shoot some FZ3 shots at high ISOs and run them through noise ninja, then make them available for comment.