View Full Version : FZ3 vrs FZ15/20

brad nichol
09-28-2004, 09:34 PM
Currently I am looking at buying a super zoom digicam for my classes, (I teach digital imaging)and I am very interested in the way in which this new style of camera can lend itself to new means of photographic expression.

An image stabilized fixed aperture, 12 times zoom on a DSLR is really nothing more than a dream (a potentially ultra expensive one too) but it is a wonderful reality in the world of the superzoom digicam.

Like many I was very impressed by the FZ10 and came within a whisker of buying one, now we have 3 new options but which one really is the best.
Straight up most people would say the FZ20 of course and I would agree that it has the highest resolution and the most features.... but wait...lets think about what the real advantages of this type of camera should be.

My guess is it should be compact so you actually carry it with you, sharp throughout its zoom range, flexible enough to handle most regular conditions, not too expensive, and not overly complex for the average person to use. After having a play with a FZ3 a few days ago I can only say it is one of the nicest handling digicams I have ever held.

The FZ20 looks like it comes close but in reality the FZ3 actually really hits the target. Now I know that we seem to have become pixelly fixated these days so how could the FZ3 paltry 3 megs compete with the FZ20s almost aceptable 5 megs.

Recently I got hold of some files of an FZ3 and printed them out to A4 size, frankly I was stunned at the detail. There might only be 3 megs there but the quality is brilliant.

I was interested when this site put up some sample pics from the FZ3, FZ20 and Minolta to see how they compared, so I downloaded the full size samples of the chinatown street scene. In the interests of the principle that when you have nothing nice to say about something you should keep your mouth shut I will simply pass over the minolta. The FZ3 and FZ20 files looked very similar at a 100% veiw, the FZ3 is just a bit lighter, detail wise they are very close.

I decided to interpolate the FZ3s file to the same size as the FZ20 using just basic photoshop bicubic and compare them for detail. Guess what! they looked virtually identical, the only noticible difference is that I could just make out the word SONY on the sandwhich board near the centre of the frame on the FZ20 and I couldn't on the FZ3. bear in mind though this would be a very very small part of the actual print.

There is little doubt the FZ20 is a terrific camera, but for the money and real world use it looks like the FZ3 is a real corker!

By the way neither camera is exactly low on noise, however the sharpness of the files means it is not a problem, I have run files from both cameras through noise ninja and lets just say that this takes the images to a whole new level.

The fact that both cameras can produce tiff files should push the quality even higher.

So if you have the money buy the FZ20 but if not don't worry about holding back on buying the FZ3.

09-29-2004, 06:07 PM
How important is manual focus (missing on FZ3)? Also, when I looked at FZ3 and FZ20 both had noticable barrel distortion at wide angle, but the FZ3 was much more noticable (next time I'm bringing a sheet of graph paper).

If I could figure out how to do macro's at other than the wide angle end, the FZ3 would be a definite winner. Any ideas?


brad nichol
09-30-2004, 01:11 AM
In response to Bill and manual focus etc.

The manual focus on the FZ10/20 is nice, however in the short time I had with the FZ3 it certainly seemed to have no problem in focusing, it seemed to latch on quite quickly. Generally you can get around the lack of manual focus with most digicams by focusing and reframing etc.

Under most circumstances the depth of field afforded by small sensor digicams eliminates much of the hassle, incidentally the FZ3 should have greater depth of field (slightly) than the FZ20 as it uses a smaller sensor and therefore a shorter focal lenght lens.

Close up macro work may benefit from the manual focus but having said that most digicam are brilliant macro workers compared with 35mm film cameras.

As for the wide angle macro issue well you could try add on close up filters (a pretty cheap option). The FZ3 should focus down to about 120cm at the tele end of the zoom range... doesn't sound too hot but then remember it is a 12 times zoom so that probably brings things pretty close anyway..... without any barrel distortion and would also provide a flatter perspective.

Barrel distortion is a fact of life for small sensor digicams, but don't sweat it because it is very easliy fixed via a number of software programs.

In the end I like to think that a camera writes the music but the performance comes down to how I play it and what instrument I use (software). From that perspective the Fz series cameras appear to write great music that lends itself to wonderful performances...... I think you will be happy which ever way you go.

Brad Nichol

09-30-2004, 02:08 AM
Thank you very much for your clear explanation. I'm really concerned with the problem, I can't have a camera to play with, in my town if I want it I have to order it. So I've been wondering weather I should decide for a FZ3 or a FZ20 for a month. My heart says FZ20 but rationality says FZ3 (it's smaller and cheaper) the only doubt now is, what rate of missing shots do you have with both cameras at full zoom? I know there is an anty shake, but is it more easy to miss a shot if you have a hevy camera, any way, or if you have an anti shake this doesn't matter?
Thanks for your help.

brad nichol
09-30-2004, 07:03 AM

I imagine the strike rate for ong telephoto shots would be pretty much the same with both cameras, the image stabilizer is trulu impressive in operation and makes long tele shots a breeze.

You will often hear about people saying they cannot get sharp tele shots with super zoom digicams at long focal lenghts, I hear this complaint a lot from my students especially in relation to Olympus 700 series cameras..... they don't have image stabilizers and unfortunately their top shutter speed is not fast enough to compensate.

Trust me the Panasonics and the also "image stabilized" canon S1is are in a completly different ball park when it come to long tele shots, frankly all other non-stabilized superzooms are incapable of really doing the job hand held.

At this point it seems the Panasonics have by far the best lenses of them all and "if you want class you need the glass".