#Consumer Affairs
Panasonic Corp.

In the past, many Panasonic digital still cameras were marked (both by camera reviewers and ordinary users) as a very noisy cameras. The truth is that the Panasonic cameras are not noisier than similar cameras on the market (small sensor cameras). The "problem" was in lower in-camera noise reduction. Thanks to this, the direct out-of-camera images were not so pleasant to see, but they were significantly better for later PC denoising (using the Noise Ninja or Neat Image).

The things dramatically changed with new generation of Panasonic cameras with new Venus III engine. The main advantage of this new engine was claimed to be less visible noise. And it's not a hollow claim. The images are now less noisy. BUT(!) this "less noise" is achieved by smudging the fine image details!

The things can be improved using the LOW in-camera noise reduction, which is fortunately adjustable both in LX2 and FZ50. Unfortunately, the level of details obtained from LOW NR JPEGs is still far from the level of details obtained from RAW files, which are free of noise reduction (UPDATE..click here).

The whole extent of the problem can be seen on these full resolution crops from FZ50:
ISO 100:

ISO 200:

ISO 400:

ISO 800:

ISO 1600:

The best is to compare RAW (Noise Ninja NR) crops with JPEG shots taken with LOW and STANDARD in-camera noise reduction. You can clearly see the difference in level of details obtained from RAW and JPEG.

Also this is very good example of the problem, this time taken with LX2:

Please, ignore the ISO 200 RAW shot. It's blurred by an accidental camera shake ;)

One would say.. "So fine, if the RAW output is so good, why don't you use it for general shooting instead of JPEG?". Just because of three reasons..
1) Size of RAW - around 20MB per file (only 42 files on 1GB card)!
2) Significantly slower writing time - not a tragedy..it's under 5 secs with fast card but you can't use burst mode or bracketing and some other camera features in RAW shooting mode.
3) Possible problems with PC editing and archiving such large amount of data.

So RAW is good in cases where you want to achieve the best possible quality. But it's not as good for general shooting where the size of file or speed of writing does matter. For example in cases of memory space shortage or in street and reportage photography.
And here (finally) comes the matter of this petition ;)

What we really need is an option to be able to completely turn the in-camera Noise Reduction OFF (and the rest of picture adjustments like contrast, sharpness and saturation). In a theory, it shouldn't be a problem. It's already possible for RAW and we can set the three different levels of picture adjustments for JPEG (LOW/STANDARD/HIGH). So one additional level (OFF) shouldn't be a problem for Panasonic developers. The real problem is that Panasonic not releasing the public firmware updates for their cameras. And this is what we want to change by this petition.
Update 07/12/2006

Up to now we believed the RAW data obtained from any camera (not only Panasonic) are intact and free of Noise Reduction or any in-camera editing. Unfortunately, the below posted LX1/LX2 RAW comparisons (made by a fellow LX1/LX2 owner) show us that there is definitely something wrong even with RAW files! Although the LX2 RAW data are now less noisy, the fine details in shadows are completely destroyed (somehow smeared)!



According these samples, it seems, that the Venus III NR is not present only in JPEG mode, but affects also RAW data, which is very unexpected and unwelcome step! And if it's not a Venus III NR engine, then there is something terribly wrong with the camera sensor or data processing! This is not something we expect to see from the successor camera!

Update 04/09/2006

Thank you all for signing up this petition!

If you wish to support our petition even more, place the clickable Petition banner on your web, in your favorite photographing forum signature or anywhere else you want.

Here is a direct link to image..

We, the undersigned petitioners (the owners and prospective buyers of Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2/DMC-FZ50) request the firmware update for the recent prosumer digital still cameras DMC-LX2 and DMC-FZ50.

This firmware update should allow us to turn OFF the in-camera picture adjustments in JPEG output, especially the Noise Reduction! So then we will be able to shoot in JPEG (which is fast to save and space saving) with the same level of details and (un)processing as in RAW output.

We also want a review of in-camera RAW processing, which also seems to be affected by VENUS III NR, as pointed in the petition details.

This is what we really want and what we are hoping for!

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The Panasonic FZ50/LX2 Firmware Problem petition to Panasonic Corp. was written by Pavel Kudrys and is in the category Consumer Affairs at GoPetition.