Tag Archives: Lumix

Low light image quality test: Nikon 1 V2 and J1, Lumix GH-2 and GH-4

I tested the low light image quality of the Nikon 1 J1 (electronically the same as the Nikon 1 J2 and the Nikon 1  V1), the Nikon 1 V2, the Lumix GH-2 and the Lumix GH-4.

The Nikon 1 is a 1″ sensor camera with a 10 MP image resolution and the V2 has just over 14 MP. The Nikon 1 is also an interchangeable lens camera.

The Lumix cameras are micro-four thirds sensors. In the 3:2 ratio in which these photos were taken, both have just over 14 MP of image resolution.

The Nikon 1 camera images were shot with the 1 Nikkor 18.5mm lens, at f/1.8 to f/2.5. The cameras were set to Program mode. White balance was set to Auto.

The Lumix cameras were shot with the Lumix 14-42mm kit lens, at 25mm (equivalent to the Nikon 18.5mm lens field of view) at about f/5.6. The cameras were set to Program mode and white balance was set to Auto. I realized afterwards the GH-4 was also set to a “Custom” photo setting that I use to reduce the highlights so it was not quite identical to the GH2.  The 1 Nikkor prime lens is also sharper than the Lumix kit lens.

These are 1:1 extractions of RAW images from Lightroom 5.x. All shots are at ISO 800 as my goal was to test low light situations.  Noise reduction and sharpness setting were what ever the default was at – thus, no attempt was made to clean up the noise. These tests are not laboratory quality – but the kind of tests that us hobbyists do to better understand our gear!

You can click on any photo to see the full size image.

LOWLIGHT EXAMPLES AT ISO 800

Nikon 1 J1

J1-800

Nikon 1 V2

The V2 shows a slightly higher noise grain than does the J1 (V1 equivalent).  However, the J1 is a 10 MP sensor and the image enlargement is not the same. When the J1 is resized to match the V2, the noise grain is closer in appearance to the J1.

Also note that in the smaller sensor J1 and V2, magenta chromatic aberration is apparent at lower left. This is easily fixable in Lightroom.  Also, those faint pink splotches captured in the V2 images were captured to some degree with all the cameras. There is a reflection from something going on – I just never noticed it before.

V2-800

Lumix GH-2

Interesting to see that the GH-2 had a lower exposure selection. Not shown, but an open window to the left of this section of the photo was bright for all of these photos.

There appears to be a very slight bit of chromatic aberration at lower left or at least some slight flaring at the high contrast points.

Lumix800

Lumix GH-4

The GH-4 did better on the auto exposure, white balance and the chromatic aberration. Even though the GH-4 is using the exact same lens as was used on the GH-2 photo above. That implies the GH-4 is doing some image processing on this RAW file that the GH-2 does not do. While there are differences in white balance making the grain harder to see in the GH-2, manually adjusting the exposure in Lightroom showed fairly similar levels of grain.

GH4-800

LOWLIGHT COMPARISON J1 VERSUS V2 AT ISO 1600

J1 ISO 1600 RAW

J1-ISO1600

J1 ISO 1600 RAW processed with LR noise reduction

J1-ISO1600-Processed

V2 ISO 1600 RAW

V2-ISO1600

V2 ISO 1600 RAW processed with LR noise reduction

V2-1600Processed

IMAGE RESOLUTION 1:1

The following is not a fair test. The Nikon 1 cameras used the 18.5mm prime lens while the Lumix used the 14-42mm kit lens. Unfortunately, I do not have a Lumix prime lens (25mm) which is needed to make this test fair.

What this does show is that the Nikon 1 with the prime lens is very sharp – perhaps sharper or at least on par with the 4/3ds camera with the kit lens. Each photo taken with the lowest ISO setting.

Nikon 1 J1 – ISO 100

J1-100

Nikon 1 V2 ISO 160

V2-160

Lumix GH-2 ISO 160

GH2-160

IMAGE RESOLUTION 3:1 ENLARGEMENT

Nikon 1 J1 – 10 MP sensor

J1-100-3

Nikon 1 V2 14+ MP Sensor

Because the J1 has fewer pixels, the 1:1 image above shows a wider area. Still, it is surprising how good the 10 MP image looks compared to the 14+ MP image.

V2-160-3

J1 ISO 100 Resized

With the images reset to roughly equal sizes, the greater resolution of the V2 becomes apparent. Here, the J1’s 10 MP image is enlarged to match that of the higher resolution V2. Bear in mind that these are really bad case/low light situations too.

J1-100-3-equal

V2 ISO 160 

If you look carefully, you can see slightly more detail on the ceramic cup, at left, and you can see more detail in the writing on the spice container in the middle.

V2-160-3-equal

J1 3:1 on the Creole seasoning container

J1-equal

V2 3:1 on the Creole seasoning container

While the resolution improvement in the V2 is visible, it does not have nearly as much visual impact as you would expect in going from 10 MP to 14 MP. Note the word “Original” in the yellow band area – the word “Original” is readable in the 14 MP version but not so well in the 10 MP version. Still … not a lot of difference, is there?

V2-equal

Lumix GH-4 ISO 400 3:1

Even at ISO 400, the GH-4 looks slightly better than the Nikon 1 V2 at ISO 160  (above). I did not shoot this test photo at ISO 200 (or using the expanded ISO setting on the GH-4, I could go as low as 100 – but there is apparently no improvement in image quality at that setting).

GH4-400-3

I did not shoot the test photo with the GH-2.

Conclusions

Small sensor cameras are doing better and better as each new product is announced.

The Nikon 1 J1 is already up to the J5 generation with 20+ MP and a better low light sensor. The V2 is presently up to the V3, with the V4 rumored to appear soon (and assumed to be similar to the J5 sensor).

The Lumix GH-2 is now up to the GH-4 generation.

In well lit areas, the Nikon 1 V2 appears to hold its own very well against the larger 4/3d sensor (the GH-2 and V2 are roughly comparable in that they were both sold around the same time). I have generally avoided shooting at ISO 800 and have probably never shot at ISO 1600! However, after these tests, I am comfortable that I can get decent results on any of these cameras at ISO 1600.

In low light, the larger sensor of the GH-2 and the GH-4 cuts the noise. You can probably shoot the GH4 at an ISO setting double that of the V2, for the same noise level. Not a big surprise.

The 4/3ds sensor also has noticeably wider dynamic range but none of these tests demonstrate that feature.

None of these cameras compete directly with full frame sensor cameras and their better low light capability. But then, they cost a tiny fraction of the cost of the full frame camera. If you are not shooting extreme low light situations, the smaller sensors may be entirely fine – which is the case for me.

I did these tests because I am thinking I may carry only the Nikon 1 V2 on some future trips. Not only is the camera small, but the lenses are small too and weigh very little compared to larger formats.

In the real world where most of us post photos to FB or Flickr, the image resolution we look at with this detailed pixel peeping just does not matter. These photos will all look fine on line.

As long as I am not shooting a lot of low light situations, there is not a big difference in image quality and I can usually control for the slightly narrower dynamic range of the 1″ sensor by shooting RAW and if necessary, using exposure compensation to control for bright highlights and dark shadows.

Red tulips, yellow daffodils and more!

Click any image to click through to Flickr for larger sizes including the original full size uploads.

Photo taken with Nikon 1 V2 and Nikkor 30-110mm lens.

Red tulip

 

Photo taken with Nikon 1 V2 and Nikkor 30-110mm lens, with -0.7 ev exposure compensation.

Yellow daffodils in the setting sun

 

Photo taken with Panasonic Lumix GH-2 and Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens.

Closeup of Rose, Lumix GH-2

 

Photo taken with Olympus XZ-2 “point n shoot”!

Bleeding heart flowers and rain drops

 

Spring flowers

It is that time of the year now. Blossoms and flowers. Click on any photo for larger sizes at Flickr.

Nikon 1 V2, 1 Nikkor 30-110mm lens. Outside the public library building.

Blossoms outside the library

 

 

Nikon 1 V2, Minolta 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/4.0. Outside the public library building.

Spring time blossoms

 

Lumix GH-2, Minolta 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.0.  This photo taken during summer of 2014, outside city hall.Flowers at City Hall, Summer 2014

 

Lumix GH-2, Olympus 9-18mm wide angle lens. Photo taken at Zion National Park in April of 2014.Flowers #2, Zion National Park, Utah

Nikon 1 J1, 1 Nikkor 30-110mm lens. Taken March 12, 2015, in my front yard.Close up of spring flowers

Online 3D Photo Web Sites

The following web sites are more than just Flickr – they provide online 3D editing tools. You typically upload two images, a side by side 3D image or an MPO file – and then make alignment and other changes “in the cloud”. Once done, your finished 3D image can be stored in your online photo gallery and viewed in multiple formats, as selected by the viewer – such as side by side cross eyed views or anaglyph.

  • Phereo.com
  • Dualfoto.com
  • 3dMedia.com (uses offline composition software, web site does not display photos on my NVidia GPU – because I do not have a stereo monitor)
  • This list is to be continued …
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Fujifilm W3, Lumix 3D1 and Toshiba Z100 3D cameras all appear to be “discontinued” but…

In the last two weeks, many 3D cameras have been marked as discontinued or their price has been slashed, suggesting they are being discontinued, or their availability has been sharply curtailed.

It is likely that vendors are clearing out inventory the week before Christmas in anticipation of announcing new 3D cameras at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show during the 2nd week of January.

B&H Photo has marked the Fujifilm Finepix 3D W3 camera as “discontinued”; Walmart.com says the same thing. I own this camera and find it a lot of fun for shooting quick 3D stills. A lot easier than my dual camera setups!

Amazon has marked the dual lens, dual camera 3D Toshiba video camera down to $159.95; B&H was at $149.95Toshiba Camileo Z100 3D Digital Camcorder Camileo Z100

That is a remarkable price for a stereoscopic 3D video camera recording dual video channels (at 960×1080) – and amazingly, the Z100 includes an external mic input too. Main drawback is lack of image stabilization to control for shaky handheld shots.

The Panasonic Lumix 3D1, which was carried by Amazon itself until a few weeks ago, is now only carried by resellers: Panasonic digital cameras Lumix 3D shooting black DMC-3D1-K. And B&H Photo lists this camera as “discontinued”.

My guess: We will see many new 3D cameras at the 2013 CES!

I plan to be at CES and will be filing reports on cameras, especially micro-four thirds systems, 3D photo and video cameras, and tablet computing devices. Some of my camera items will appear here and at least one other web site. More info as we get closer to CES!

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