Testing of the ZS3/TZ7

 


In this section:

  1. 1.Testing of the ZS3/TZ7 Firmware

  2. 2.The ZS3/TZ7 versus the ZS7/TZ10

  3. 3.The ZS3/TZ7 with Teleconverters



Testing of the ZS3/TZ7 Firmware


The ZS3/TZ7 was first released in early 2009 with firmware v1.0 but in April 2009 a firmware update to v1.1 was announced.  This update was stated by Panasonic to affect motion picture playback and to reduce the noise of autofocus during action.


In June 2009 an update to v1.2 was released which according to Panasonic affected only battery detection.  After installing this update, the cam was prevented from operating with “unauthorised third party batteries”.  Subsequently however, third party batteries became available which were able to be used in the cam.


In July 2009 another update called v1.3 was released.  Panasonic’s description of this update was: "Optimization of software processing: Change in software version has no effect on camera performance."  This description is rather cryptic, and even perhaps contradictory in its English translation.  It depends what the terms “software processing” and “camera performance” are taken to actually mean.  It could be construed that “software processing” could mean that the firmware alters the image processing and hence IQ, while “camera performance” could be referring, as is common in camera reviews, to non-image functions such as the speed of startup and various other operating timings.


Because of this uncertainty about the actual functions of v1.3 it has been held by some people that it does affect the IQ and that it has a detrimental effect compared with v1.1.  As there appeared to be few actual test results available to verify that I conducted some tests of my own, as described below.


Comparison of v1.1 and v1.3 Firmware on the ZS3/TZ7


When I purchased my FZ3 in May 2009 it came with v1.1 installed.  However, all of the versions from v1.1 to v1.3 are available from the Panasonic website at:

http://panasonic.jp/support/global/cs/dsc/download/TZ7_ZS3/index.html

The website also gives detailed instructions of how to install the firmware.  It is possible to change from v1.1 to v1.2 and v1.3, and also to revert back to v1.1.


Test Procedure


My aim was to eliminate all the variables as much as possible, apart from the firmware, so I arranged that the FL, ISO, aperture setting, shutter speed, lighting, and cam distance were all kept exactly the same throughout.  I did replicated shots (4) with each firmware version to take account of any small variations resulting from the alignment of the image on the pixels of the sensor and other factors such as possible variations in the AF system, etc.  This was to determine if, beyond any possible shot-to-shot variations, there were any further differences which could be attributed to the firmware version alone.


I compared firmware v1.1 with v1.3 on my ZS3 using a resolution chart I had previously set up to test my FZ35/38 as shown here.  In this case I was only interested in comparing the firmware versions rather than determining actual resolution figures, and so the distance of the cam from the chart was selected simply to provide an image that covered an area at the centre of the chart.  I used a tripod kept at the same position for all tests, and I used the timer.  I set the ISO to 100 and used max zoom (300mm) and the same exposure (f/4.9, 1/8s) for all the tests.  An example of one of the full images is shown below:



Example chart image


I examined one pair of images taken using v1.1 with one pair of images taken using v1.3.  I compared these images side-by-side at 200% (but in differing orders) and I made image captures from the 24’ screen display, which are shown below.


(1) Centre chart:



From the left: P1010092, v1.1; P1010104, v1.3; P1010105, v1.3; P1010093, v1.1.


(2) Birtinya Island photo:



From the left: P1010092, v1.1; P1010093, v1.1; P1010104, v1.3; P1010105, v1.3.


  1. (3)Narrowing lines:



From the left: P1010104, v1.3; P1010092, v1.1; P1010105, v1.3; P1010093, v1.1.


After I had done these tests I started a thread on the DPR Panasonic Forum in which I presented the above comparisons, but with all details of image identity and firmware version omitted.  I then invited forum member to try to identify which images were from v1.1 and which were from v1.3.  My intention was to avoid any subjective bias which might arise from knowing which image was which beforehand.


Results and Conclusions


The post and the results are shown here:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1033&message=36822316


It was quite clear from people’s attempts to identify the images that it was not possible to distinguish which firmware had been used for any particular image.  I concluded that under the conditions of the test, at 100 ISO there were no significant differences in IQ between images due to the software version.  At this high magnification there were slight shot-to-shot variations visible even for shots with the same firmware installed.


While it  was shown there were no differences in IQ at 100 ISO between the firmware versions, I did not test at any other ISO settings and so it is not possible to know whether different results might be obtained at higher ISO values.  In my own case I generally use my ZS3 outdoors in good light and I have it set it at 100 ISO to minimize noise.



Continue to ZS3/TZ7 compared with ZS7/TZ10


Continue to ZS3/TZ7 with Teleconverters


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