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  1. #1
    Senior Member ravenmore's Avatar
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    Interesting new trend in digital photography

    Ok, so, I've been researching equipment because I'm going to start shooting again. Yesterday I discovered some people are in a little bit of an uproar in regards to something Panasonic has started doing with their cameras without telling anyone. Their LX3 had been winning a lot of praise and acclaim for the quality of the lens. It was producing shots with very little barrel distortion and chromatic aberrations - best in class actually. Several reviews indicated this little compact camera was producing results that rivaled some dslr's and, to be honest, after looking at some examples I agree that its not too much of a stretch. Fantastic quality at the lower ISO's and better than a compact camera has a right to be at higher ISO's.

    The trouble began however when certain photographers began shooting in RAW format (an uncompressed, unprocessed format - more info than a jpeg) and were editing in a RAW editor other than the one included with the camera (I believe its called Silkypix or something like that). They noticed all of the sudden they were having to correct a lot more barrel distortion and chromatic aberration than they did either from in camera jpegs or through the Panasonic RAW editor. Finally, and here's the critical point, Panasonic admitted that both the in camera software/firmware and their RAW editor were programmed to automatically correct and compensate for some flaws in the lens. So basically, a lot of the optical quality of the camera is being determined by the software in the camera. Panasonic is taking this approach with their dslr's as well, although it only works with certain lenses.

    My first thought was that the camera wasn't as good as advertised and that I was going to send mine back (haven't received it yet), but after thinking about it I thought 'hmmm, why not?'. I mean frankly the software is just correcting something I would probably do myself in post processing. I mean if it really is a bother I can shoot in the RAW format and process it through another editor. Whenever you use the jpeg format, you're always kind of at the mercy of in camera software anyway. Really what a manufacturer should want to do is create a product that delivers the best quality possible. Panasonic (and other companies possibly as well), is just taking a new approach made possible by technology. Its just interesting because, up until now, the camera was more or less just a light tight box - the quality of the photograph was almost entirely determined by the lens. Now the camera and how it processes the information handed to it is contributing directly to the optical quality. Now the camera is actually compensating for flaws in the lens. Definitely interesting.
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    That is an interesting trend, but it has a downside:

    The camera produces zero authentic images, all are fundamentally Photoshopped before you plug the camera in to copy the images or swap out the memory card.

    This doesn't bode well in cases where you want a 100% authentic image, such as in forensics. Even the slightest alteration of an image can win or lose a crivil or criminal case.

    Its a cool thing, but Panasonic should have it as an optional feature.

  3. #3
    phony collective progress x136's Avatar
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    Seems such technology will inspire laziness on the part of the camera manufacturer. Why go through the trouble to make as perfect a lens as possible if it can just be worked around in software?

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    My sentiments exactly. Because they get easier results with this, a photographer doesn't really know how accurate an image is.

    This is all the more reason to stick only with Canon and Nikon for anything relating to this line of work.

  5. #5
    carbon positive lifestyle carbonlife's Avatar
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    Even expensive DSLR zooms will have some barrel and pincushion distortion. If you need to correct for it, you do it in software or buy another lens. If the lens is permanently attached to the camera, that's a great idea to correct its imperfections in firmware and the included software.

    If people thought the quality of the images was the result of a great lens, then Panasonic must be doing it right! I'm guessing the main thing you lose with the software correction is resolution, but let's face it, these small-sensored cameras don't deliver the advertised resolution anyways. No one is going to do serious landscape photography with a small-sensored camera.

    I've recommended Canon point-and-shoot cameras to friends in the past, but I really like what Panasonic has been offering lately with the TZ5 and LX3. Myself, I just bought a cheapo Panasonic FS5 for $120 because I wanted something I wouldn't worry about losing or breaking, and I'm really pleased with it. The menus and buttons are very easy to learn, and the picture quality is great, as long as I don't look at the images at the pixel level.

  6. #6
    carbon positive lifestyle carbonlife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlts22 View Post
    This is all the more reason to stick only with Canon and Nikon for anything relating to this line of work.
    Are you that confident about how Canon and Nikon process their images? Aren't all digital camera images heavily processed to create a file? Since ravenmore said it was discovered that the raw files processed outside the Panasonic software showed the problems, aren't the Panasonic raw files what you are expecting?

    Quote Originally Posted by mlts22 View Post
    The camera produces zero authentic images, all are fundamentally Photoshopped before you plug the camera in to copy the images or swap out the memory card.
    As described in the OP, I believe the raw files from the Panasonic are "authentic," it was more a question of the authenticity of the quality of the lens.

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    Quote Originally Posted by carbonlife View Post
    Are you that confident about how Canon and Nikon process their images? Aren't all digital camera images heavily processed to create a file? Since ravenmore said it was discovered that the raw files processed outside the Panasonic software showed the problems, aren't the Panasonic raw files what you are expecting?



    As described in the OP, I believe the raw files from the Panasonic are "authentic," it was more a question of the authenticity of the quality of the lens.
    I'm confident that pictures taken with their pro cameras will be authentic and not doctored by software. Amateur cameras which end up having their images compressed with jpeg is another story. Its not that this correction was put in, it was that it was put in and used without their customers being aware of this. The key is that the user should know this correction is going on, and not find it out by using a non Panasonic program.

  8. #8
    Senior Member ravenmore's Avatar
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    thats why a lot of people were bent out of shape - because it appears Panasonic tried to cover it up in some people's eyes. We are getting this all in hear say type fashion though. That may not have been Panasonic's intent.

    RAW files are as 'authentic' as it gets with digital. Jpegs are always going to be altered somewhat.

    The lens' quality isn't bad - actually its an astonishing piece of glass, just not quite as astonishing as it first appeared. It is a 24 - 60mm f2.0 image stabilized lens. And what is amazing is that if you shoot it RAW and then run it through another RAW editor, it is actually WIDER than 24mm. To correct the barrel distortion it has to crop in a bit.

    Canon and Nikon are nice, but if there is one name I respect more it is Leica, who is partnered with Panasonic. edit: though to be honest I don't think Panasonic makes a pro level camera yet. However, I believe Leica does, and a bet Panasonic makes the electronics for it.

    Also, I've shot professionally with small sensored cameras. My olympus c5050 produced some amazing images - loved that camera. I did a shoot for a salon with that camera and the customer loved the images. I also shot this with a Canon powershot while I was taking pics for a band's CD. It was featured as photo of the week on photo.net's website (the band loved their photo's too btw). Photography is in the photographer, not the camera.
    Last edited by ravenmore; 01-02-09 at 02:37 AM.
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  9. #9
    carbon positive lifestyle carbonlife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlts22 View Post
    I'm confident that pictures taken with their pro cameras will be authentic and not doctored by software. Amateur cameras which end up having their images compressed with jpeg is another story. Its not that this correction was put in, it was that it was put in and used without their customers being aware of this. The key is that the user should know this correction is going on, and not find it out by using a non Panasonic program.
    Oh, I didn't realize your intention was to compare Nikon and Canon "pro" cameras with a Panasonic point-and-shoot.

    I don't see this as a deception, although I do recognize that the LX3 is meant for a more serious shooter.

  10. #10
    Senior Member ravenmore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carbonlife View Post
    Oh, I didn't realize your intention was to compare Nikon and Canon "pro" cameras with a Panasonic point-and-shoot.

    I don't see this as a deception, although I do recognize that the LX3 is meant for a more serious shooter.
    yep - that's what I got, only mine is silver (was $40 cheaper where I found it in the silver version).
    Last edited by ravenmore; 01-02-09 at 02:34 AM.
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    Senior Member ravenmore's Avatar
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    Oh, and it is an optional feature btw - you just have to shoot RAW and then process in another RAW editior. The RAW files don't have the correction applied in camera.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ravenmore View Post
    Oh, and it is an optional feature btw - you just have to shoot RAW and then process in another RAW editior. The RAW files don't have the correction applied in camera.
    Optional is the keyword right there that is my concern, and this is a concern no matter what a camera maker makes, from a camera you buy for $5 that does 640x480 resolution to the high end pro gear.

    If the user knows about this feature, it is a genuine feature being able to correct for lens issues.

    What I am arguing is that if this was not known to the user, then editing people's photos to correct this is an unauthorized modification, similar to automatically correcting spelling and grammar when saving without telling the user that this was done.

    The key is: Does Panasonic make the users aware that this is being done somewhere in the process? If yes, then cool. If no, then this is skirting on the shady side.

  13. #13
    Grizzled Curmudgeon keithm0's Avatar
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    If by "authentic" you mean "raw bits read directly off the sensor", then some DSLRs do, some don't. For example, the NEF format used by the Nikon D70 (the DSLR I happen to own) is characterized as "virtually lossless", which is marketing-speak for "lossy". I *think* the D80 and D90 use this same format, but I haven't been able to confirm this yet. Higher-end Nikons (like the D3) support lossless TIFF images.

    Also, I wouldn't be surprised if camera features such as "white balance control" are implemented as software transformations applied after the image is read from the sensor. Does this make the image less "authentic"?

    Of course, any JPG image is not "authentic" because JPG is a lossy compression method and introduces compression artifacts.

    That said, the LX3 looks like a cool little camera.

  14. #14
    Senior Member ravenmore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlts22 View Post
    Optional is the keyword right there that is my concern, and this is a concern no matter what a camera maker makes, from a camera you buy for $5 that does 640x480 resolution to the high end pro gear.

    If the user knows about this feature, it is a genuine feature being able to correct for lens issues.

    What I am arguing is that if this was not known to the user, then editing people's photos to correct this is an unauthorized modification, similar to automatically correcting spelling and grammar when saving without telling the user that this was done.

    The key is: Does Panasonic make the users aware that this is being done somewhere in the process? If yes, then cool. If no, then this is skirting on the shady side.

    Well, on the outside it might seem shady, but bottom line most compact cameras don't even give you the option of shooting in RAW. Most are jpeg only which means some on board camera 'engine'/software/firmware is controlling aspects of the image without telling the user. This is for ANY camera that shoots jpeg (which is most). Manufacturers don't tell customers what aspects are being controlled there, because frankly, most customers probably don't care as long as their pictures look good. Panasonic may not have been trying to intentionally deceive anyone - again, I don't know the real story.

    And I really don't want to argue for or against it too much. Again, I just think that its interesting technology has gotten to the point where the camera can compensate for some physical limitations of the lens.
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  15. #15
    carbon positive lifestyle carbonlife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ravenmore View Post
    yep - that's what I got, only mine is silver
    Let us know how you like the LX3. I was researching the TZ4/TZ5 and the LX3. The LX3's wide f2.0 lens and the larger sensor sound fantastic, and the well-regarded 10x zoom on the TZ cameras were appealing too. I tend to gravitate towards more control, more features, and less noise, but ultimately I realized I've got the D200 for that so I went in the opposite direction and decided on small and cheap, so I got a compact Panasonic FS5 and I am quite pleased with it. Even though it was very cheap it has a metal body and feels durable, and the "night portrait" mode (the only scene mode I've used so far) worked really well.

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    carbon positive lifestyle carbonlife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keithm0 View Post
    If by "authentic" you mean "raw bits read directly off the sensor", then some DSLRs do, some don't. For example, the NEF format used by the Nikon D70 (the DSLR I happen to own) is characterized as "virtually lossless", which is marketing-speak for "lossy". I *think* the D80 and D90 use this same format, but I haven't been able to confirm this yet. Higher-end Nikons (like the D3) support lossless TIFF images.
    My friend had a D70, and yeah he discovered that the D70 only had lossy compressed NEF format available, and I believe this was intentionally done for marketing separation. I think my D200 offers uncompressed NEF, lossless compressed NEF, and lossy compressed NEF options.

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    Senior Member ravenmore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carbonlife View Post
    Let us know how you like the LX3. I was researching the TZ4/TZ5 and the LX3. The LX3's wide f2.0 lens and the larger sensor sound fantastic, and the well-regarded 10x zoom on the TZ cameras were appealing too. I tend to gravitate towards more control, more features, and less noise, but ultimately I realized I've got the D200 for that so I went in the opposite direction and decided on small and cheap, so I got a compact Panasonic FS5 and I am quite pleased with it. Even though it was very cheap it has a metal body and feels durable, and the "night portrait" mode (the only scene mode I've used so far) worked really well.
    Will do - I got the LX3 to be a cheap backup to which ever DSLR I end up using. I wanted something high quality, with a good wide angle and fast lens. Professionally I'm targeting doing stuff like this:



    To be honest the LX3 should be fine in a pinch. Plus I can carry it with me on a bike a whole lot easier.
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  18. #18
    Videre non videri
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    Where to draw the line, then? Because RAW data too is modified in-camera, if you will. CMOS sensors have per-sensel noise reduction, and all sensors have readout issues that the AD-converter and associated circuits correct for to some extent. A pure, unmodified RAW wouldn't even be a digital file!

    I wish my Canon 40D had a feature that corrected for optical errors for JPEG, because I don't find the quality acceptable as it is now. It's mostly CA that I correct in post-processing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ravenmore View Post
    My first thought was that the camera wasn't as good as advertised and that I was going to send mine back (haven't received it yet), but after thinking about it I thought 'hmmm, why not?'. I mean frankly the software is just correcting something I would probably do myself in post processing.
    What's the contribution of all that pre-processing to shutter lag?

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    Senior Member ravenmore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg View Post
    What's the contribution of all that pre-processing to shutter lag?
    I've heard the performance is fine, but I don't have the camera yet so I can't say personally. Hopefully it'll get here today.
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  21. #21
    the dog ate my earbuds KirkeIsWaiting's Avatar
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    when Panasonic came out with the FZ series, it was all about the Leica lenses.
    I have the FZ1 and FZ20. The FZ20 is their pro-sumer model and was at the time a great buy when you compared it to the DSLRs available five years ago. It still stands the test. And now you can find them for a 1/4 of the original cost.
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    Senior Member Lamplight's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure most point-and-shoot cameras have been designed to do this for several years now. My first digital camera was an Olympus PAS and I couldn't believe how nice the pictures looked straight out of the camera. When I got my digital SLR, it's pictures didn't look nearly as nice directly from the camera, but they looked better once I had done some post-processing. So the next time I used the Olympus I loaded the pictures on my computer and zoomed in really close. It looked like the photo had already been though some sort of sharpening filter (like unsharp mask in PS). I tried auto-correcting the levels and colors, and there was almost no effect on the photo. So I'm not sure how much the image is altered in-camera, but I know that, with my SLR, it takes at least a few minutes of adjustments in PS to get a picture to the point of the Olympus right off the camera. Granted, the final results are clearly superior, but you have to do it all yourself. I prefer it that way, but I'm sure the average consumer would not.

  23. #23
    50000 Guatts of power 127.0.0.1's Avatar
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    first, it is not a doctored image. there is one image produced and that is the one you get


    software corrects lens abberations before the image is written. it is on a chip and
    cannot be altered


    same basic idea behind ground based telescopes producing images that rival the hubble. and also
    the technology on the hubble itself. you can't make a perfect lens, but you can figure out the
    distortion and compensate for it
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    Senior Member ravenmore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lamplight View Post
    I'm pretty sure most point-and-shoot cameras have been designed to do this for several years now. My first digital camera was an Olympus PAS and I couldn't believe how nice the pictures looked straight out of the camera. When I got my digital SLR, it's pictures didn't look nearly as nice directly from the camera, but they looked better once I had done some post-processing. So the next time I used the Olympus I loaded the pictures on my computer and zoomed in really close. It looked like the photo had already been though some sort of sharpening filter (like unsharp mask in PS). I tried auto-correcting the levels and colors, and there was almost no effect on the photo. So I'm not sure how much the image is altered in-camera, but I know that, with my SLR, it takes at least a few minutes of adjustments in PS to get a picture to the point of the Olympus right off the camera. Granted, the final results are clearly superior, but you have to do it all yourself. I prefer it that way, but I'm sure the average consumer would not.
    There is usually a preset level of sharpening in all digital cameras, even dslr's. Same with noise reduction, some cameras are just more aggressive about it than others. This is the first instance that I've heard about where the correct aberrations of the lens with in camera firmware though. Of course that doesn't mean it hasn't been done before and I just wasn't aware of it.
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    So I have become able, against my best interests, to spot degradation in jpgs from just doing stuff like letting windows rotate the image for me w/o opening it in my photo editor of choice. Why can my $200 camera do a better job of processing the jpg image so that it comes through the crappy lens looking 'good enough' than either my operating system or that much more expensive (sticker price) photo package? Is that just a jpg problem and that's why people are going to .raw in the 1st place?

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