Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1
Panasonic cameras raised the bar when the company launched the FZ1, and the Venus Engine showed how high image resolution could be achieved with a small pixel resolution chip. Since then the company has continued to produce the goods, though image noise has sometimes been a problem.
The L1, with the combination of 4/3 sensor and Venus Engine III can produce some fine images, and there is a lovely tonality to the images. However, this tonal smoothness comes at a cost, as images usually need just a little sharpening to give them a lift, particularly when viewed close-up on screen, or if printed to a decent size.
For the most part the L1 produces images with good colour saturation, excellent tonality and, at ISO 100 and 200, reasonable, visually excellent noise control.
Measured noise is a tad higher than the Canon EOS 350D, but not visibly apparent. From ISO 400 upwards we see more noise in the images, which is borne out by our lab tests. Obviously noise is raised as the gain is raised, but maintains reasonable result. Our lab results at ISO 1600 shows all the RGB and luminance noise levels staying closely plotted throughout the grey tones; it is more usual for the blue channel to show a greater incidence of noise, especially in the darker tones. So while the camera produces more measured noise in our tests, the way it’s well controlled keeps it hidden, especially in the mid range of the ISO.