Sunday, November 29, 2009

Panasonic ZS3 versus Fuji F70EXR -- round 1

Shot by the Fuji F11

This round of testing was a bit marred by a world-class brain fart on my part. Sadly, I left the F70EXR in black and white and did not notice it while I was shooting. The reason being that I was shooting today in brutal sun and gale force winds that had my hands completely frozen within 20 minutes. And I mean that quite literally ... they ached hours later from it ....

However, although we cannot compare colors etc (like I could anyway :-), we can certainly compare sharpness and draw a few interesting conclusions ...

The Fuji F70EXR has a lot of range ... 27-270mm ... and there is a lot of talk on the Fuji Talk Forum about how badly this compromises the lens. Well, the Panasonic ZS3 has a massive range from 25mm through 300mm and so it should be even more compromised ... yet I did not find that.

This round is essentially a telephoto round ... the nature of my subject matter makes for mid to full zoom on every shot. Wide angle is not my thing, but I will still perform some testing later on.

So today I was down by the Ottawa River in Britannia Park, a rather nice area of town with lots of tennis courts and access to the river, parks and trails. A nice area for those who love the outdoors. Here is a view of the indoor tennis courts building from another building about a mile away ... I added some glow to give a dull image some mild interest ...

Note: Clicking on these images shows you the large version with EXIF intact.

The wind surfers caught my ey from up there and I thought that they would make for some interesting shooting. It's not easy to capture their sport, as the lines are very long and you cannot get a close up of both the surfer and the sail.

But there was also a brave windboarder as well, and some of those shots are pretty cool.

Obviously, the Fuji images are easy to spot, being that I already said that they would be black and white :-)

I tried like crazy to get shots of the kite / sail and the surfer ... but only got a few that were any good at all. By this time, my hands were like bricks ...

I gave up trying these shots and turned around to watch the staging area. There were a few of the sails sitting on the ground getting ready for launch or packing up.

I have to say that the ZS3 has remarkable clarity in its images. It reminds me a lot of how I viewed the Fuji F10 at first ... a kind of "liquidity" to surfaces that made them look incredibly 3-dimensional and realistic. Fujis have mostly retained this, although I don't think the EXR cams manage it very well at all in hi-res mode. But they do well enough in EXR modes. The Panny manages it at 10mp, which is pretty wonderful in my book.

Here's the same fellow checking another sail / chute with someone else launching from shore behind him.

The last shots I got at the staging area are a pair of fairly close shots of a landing sequence. Cool how they can control the sail / chute well enough to allow someone to catch it.

I adjourned to wander back towards the parking area, and came across some ducks and a muskrat down below the breakwater. I stood there with my hands in my gloves and pockets just watching the animals. I wanted to shoot them, but was enjoying the feeling of razor blades slicing through my hands by this point. Eventually the pain subsided sufficiently for me to move my hands toward my coat pocket to get the Panny. The instant my hands moved, the muskrat dove. He had been watching me ...

So I continued the walk back to the car and came upon Britannia Beach. A pretty semi-circular sandy beach with white caps rolling in from the near gale force winds (I was not kidding.) And some gulls playing at the shore and once in a while launching themselves upwards to coast on the breeze ... very much like radio-controlled glider pilots taking advantage of updrafts under cliffs. This was cool to watch and I'm sorry that I did not catch it on video.

A few of them found their way closer to me as they walked / flew along the shore.

I think this is where the Panny really shows its stuff. Crisp, clear images with stunning color. Yes, I process every shot, but these did not need much. They looked like this out of camera. And if you want to see something truly amazing, here is a 100% crop of one of these gulls. This is pixel for pixel what was captured. Yes, I sharpened this a bit, but you cannot manufacture what is not there ... and this shows how much is there ...

Simply stunning. I searched for an image from the F70EXR to crop, but all were slightly blurred, as the EXR DR DR800 mode chose F11 for every shot ... thus shooting at 1/170s ... much slower than necessary. This has come up in the past and I generally argue that you can fix it ... but in the freezing cold, my mind was not alert. The sun made the LCD hard to read as well, so I was unaware of what it was doing.

And note that these shots are not blown out. The Panny does not have the Fuji's special hardware, yet the birds look fine and the shadows are not blocked. I used compensation, as any competent photographer would do to preserve the highlights. So it appears that the Panny has a nice tone curve and some intelligent processing for exposure and tone. I did not use the intelligent mode much though, because it disables compensation ... so the Panny seems to be just a little better at daytime shooting ... at least so far.

So ... round 1 narrowly to the ZS3 ... but frankly, both get great images in bright sunlight.


Anonymous said...

The exif data doesn't appear on the photo enlargements. You mentioned the problem of using the EXR mode for the F70 as limiting the shutter speed to 1/170s due to f11. Was this generally true for all shots?
What mode were you using for the ZS3 that appears to have given a higher shutter speed?
The ISO data so far are surprising.
Much appreciate your testing of the cams.
Bob Crawford

Kim Letkeman said...

Bob, the EXIF data is intact. You need a suitable plugin (e.g. OPANDA) to see it. The Fuji is known to reach for higher aperture when it is unnecessary. I was in EXR DR mode at DR800, as mentioned. The problewm with that mode is that max shutter speed is 1/500s ... and that is not fast enough for the other aperture it had available (only two at any focal length.) The ZS3 has a normal aperture I think ... and because it has no split sensor, it has no shutter limitations.

Bob Crawford said...

Thanks Kim. I have just purchased the F70 and have been comparing it to my F30 and Panasonic TZ1. The results so far are similar at low ISO's from macro to telephoto. Under low light conditions the F30 is effective up to 1600 and the TZ1 is useless beyond 400. I haven't done a comparison of the F70 and F30 at high ISO. Having said this I do like the TZ1 and my FZ3 (Panasonic) for outdoor shooting in terms of colour, exposure and resolution. The FZ3 only has 3mp but with f2.8 from 35 to 400mm (great lens).
I'll be interested to see how the F70 compares to the ZS3. So far I have not yet been able to master the best menu settings, ie P, M, EXR. There is definitely a higher learning curve compared to the Panasonic cameras. I purchased the F70 for $249 so there is a $150-200 difference between the Pany and Fuji.
Cheers and thanks again for your testing.
PS I cannot use OPANDA on my mac with safari but did manage to get an exif reader that works on your pics.

Lili said...

Interesting series indeed! The Panny does rock in daylight.
As does the get larger aperture and speed in the gull shots you'd have gone manual?
Been thinking going over my images using that tool someone wrote about on FTF.
I note that with my small sensors I use the extreme mostly; widest angle and longest tele.
I thought this might a function oving to use a sily rocker switch to zoom but even with my S6000 it was very true.
Food for thought....

Donald said...

As usual, your maticulous approach to testing is quite commendable. I've been looking recently at 2 pocket cams with HD video capabilities. The ZS3, according to reviews I've read, runs neck and neck with the Canon SX200is. I'd be interested in your opinion of the SX200is. In the meantime, I'll watch your continuing analysis of the ZS3.

nintendo dsi r4 said...

Beautiful pictures. I have got Panasonic ZS3 few months ago. The camera is just small enough to fit in a shirt pocket but unless you're wearing heavy denim it's just to heavy to be comfortable there. It slips fine in a vest pocket or jacket, though. Point and shoots have definitely improved in low light performance since I bought my last one.