Build complex toys and simple tools
by Tony Karp
Pixels and parking lots -- The Panasonic FZ35
 - The artist's muse contemplates the evening sky -- Panasonic FZ35, processed in LightZone 3 - Tony Karp, design, art, photography, techno-impressionist, techno-impressionism, aerial photography , drone , drones , dji , mavic pro , video , 3D printing - Books -
The artist's muse contemplates the evening sky -- Panasonic FZ35, processed in LightZone 3
Imagine that your digital camera's image sensor is a parking lot. All of its little pixels are parking spaces.

Now imagine that the individual points imaged by the camera's lens are cars, trying to fit into the parking spaces.

If the parking spaces are big enough, everything works out fine. In a digital camera, this produces a sharp image.

If we want more cars in the same parking lot, we can make the spaces smaller, to squeeze in more cars. This will work, but only up to a certain point.

If the spaces get too small, the cars can no longer park in a single space, and start to crowd out the spaces around them. In a parking lot, this would lead to chaos, and a lot of smashed-up cars.

This is a pretty good analogy about what happens when you try to jam more pixels into the same size image sensor on a digital camera. In most cases, the numbers look great in the advertisements but the result, in terms of image quality, will be a mess. This is one of the reasons why DSLRs, with their large image sensors, produce higher-quality images, while superzoom cameras like the FZ35 with their tiny, crowded sensors have such a struggle producing high-quality images.

Smaller pixels are also noisier pixels. This has to do with the laws of physics. The crowding of more pixels onto an existing image sensor increases the noise. To some extent, this can be handled by improving the processing in the camera's onboard computer. But even with this, there's a limit.

Let's look at the history of the Panasonic cameras leading up to the FZ35 (Pixel density numbers courtesy of dpreview's online camera database):

FZ18 -   8 megapixels - 32 MP/cm² pixel density
FZ28 - 10 megapixels - 36 MP/cm² pixel density
FZ35 - 12 megapixels - 43 MP/cm² pixel density

For comparison, Panasonic's DMC-GH1 has a 5 MP/cm² pixel density.

The FZ18, with its less-crowded image sensor, produces the highest quality images of the three cameras, but it handles the higher ISO settings poorly, with lots of noise.

The FZ28 had better image quality at the higher ISO settings, thanks to its improved processor.

The FZ35's image quality is close to the FZ28's but, with its increased pixel count, it's a struggle that doesn't always work out that well. The FZ35 has 50% more pixels than the FZ18.

So how is the FZ35's image quality? About what you would expect from jamming yet more pixels into the same size sensor. A little less sharpness, but that's hard to quantify since, with its increased pixel count, you'll have to look at less of the image to compare it with earlier models.

And now there's some color fringing (red and green), which was pretty much absent on the earlier models. (Some people refer to this as "chromatic aberration.") But, thank goodness, it's mostly in areas of extreme contrast so it only showed up in a few shots.

And there's color bleeding as well, especially at the higher ISO settings (800 and 1600). Again, this won't be noticed in most shooting situations.

If you're shooting raw, you probably won't see any appreciable difference until you get to ISO 800 and above. Here, the raw processing seems to control the color bleeding a little better than the JPEG format. But in terms of overall quality, it's still pretty close to a correctly-shot JPEG, except at high magnification. So it's going to be a question of whether a tiny gain in image quality is worth the effort involved. There is no real answer to this issue. It's a matter of individual taste.

All in all, the FZ35 manages to keep up with the FZ28 in terms of image quality. The pictures lack the crisp detail of the FZ18, but for most purposes, the sharpness is more than adequate. And there is a little more noise than on the earlier models. Again, you reap what you sow -- more megapixels only helps the marketing department.

But get this straight, the FZ35 is definitely the best in its class. In terms of its new features and its performance across a wide range of ISO settings, it's probably the best go-anywhere, shoot-anything camera in this Panasonic series.

Another reality -- Here's the real-world impact of adding 50% more pixels:
Increased storage requirements in the camera's memory card
Increased storage requirements in the computer's storage on disk
Increased memory usage In photo editing programs
Increased processing time in the camera
Increased processing time in photo editing programs on the computer
Panorama programs will take longer
Making thumbnails and cataloging will take longer
Raw "development" will take longer
Transferring pictures from the camera to the computer will take longer
Loss of the "Unlimited" burst mode in the FZ35

Here's the bottom line. When you do something like adding more megapixels, it should make the camera's images noticeably better. Adding 50% more pixels should produce a stunning improvement in image quality. Otherwise, why bother?

The engineers at Panasonic are wizards, but the marketing people make too many of the important decisions.

Note: The FZ28 and FZ35 have a slightly larger image sensor than the FZ18. This is why the 50% increase in pixels between the FZ18 and the FZ35 only brought a 35% increase in pixel density.
< Previous Sep 9, 2009 Next >
Copyright 1958-2017 Tony & Marilyn Karp
Web Site Design
Systems Design
The Future
About
About Tony Karp
Recent Entries
Variations on a skink
Andy shoots raw. Ann always shoots JPEG
A butterfly in Havana -- From start to finish
Recovering highlight detail in JPEG images
A tribute to Paris on November 14, 2015
Some black and white pictures from long ago
Panasonic DMC-ZS40 pictures - Part 2
Panasonic DMC-ZS40 pictures - Part 1
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- A butterfly takes wing
Shooting for NBC
What's new at the zoo?
On being a photojournalist
Some pictures of Manassas
Finishing a picture
Watching the sunset in Adams Morgan
A night at the circus - 1966
Fortune Qwerkies (tm) -- Fortune cookies for the smartphone user
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- The evolution from flat to solid
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- Showing how the pieces fit together
Getting a grip on the Panasonic DMC-LF1
Some random thoughts about the Panasonic DMC-LF1
The Panasonic DMC-LF1 is a game-changer
Art and the Zen of QR Codes -- Making QaRt
A new process for printing art in the 3rd dimension
Bubbles! Bubbles! Bubbles!
Photographing the Perry Como Show
Hiking at Sky Meadows with my Panasonic DMC-ZS20
Working for the union
A new take on JPEG vs raw - Panasonic DMC-ZS20
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-ZS20 - Part 2
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-ZS20 - Part 1
My new go-everywhere camera - Panasonic DMC-ZS20
My brief life in the studio
Shooting Shakespeare - The Tempest - NBC, 1960
Impressionist bees
In the studio with Roz Kelly
At the Peppermint Lounge - 1962
An evening with Gene Kelly
A portrait of Donna Mitchell - Variations on a theme
The "Sky Dream Ultimate" plug-in from Wilkington-Smythe
There's a 3D object on this page and why you can't see it
Post-processing: Going from good to great
Winter pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ150
Using the Panasonic DMC-FZ150's "Photo Style" Menu
A valentine for the Artist's Muse
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150's controls
Some thoughts on the Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - Part 2
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - A cure for DSLR envy?
Some thoughts about my Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - Part 1
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 -- Best camera ever?
Sunglasses - What can you add to a picture?
Hey, camera makers. If my smartphone can do this…
The Artmuse Variations - a look inside my new book
A tribute to George Washington on Veterans Day
A visit to the White House
The little farmhouse, the tractor, and the interesting tree
Buckminster, the baby buckeye butterfly
Memories of September 11
Happy Corporation Day!
A trip to Monterey and San Francisco
The first battle of the American Civil War -- 150 years ago
The end of an era -- The last American manned mission
Growing an Italian stone pine tree
Random thoughts on art and other stuff - From my new book
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 3, Warrenton
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 2, In the house
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 1, Winter
Some recent pictures
Fixing a Panasonic DMC-FZ18/FZ28/FZ35 problem
Into the world of shadows
Snowbound!
A walk through Warrenton
Partly moony with my Panasonic DMC-FZ35
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 3 - Video
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 2
Happy birthday to muse...
Pixels and parking lots -- The Panasonic FZ35
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ35
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 2
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 1
On our way to Warrenton
Evolution of an Iris
A new feature in Adobe Camera Raw 5.4
A tribute to the Apollo 11 astronauts
The pole dancer - Variations on a theme
Restoring lost highlight detail in JPEG images
A short course in photography in ten easy lessons
Kodachrome memories
A walk in the woods on my birthday
Mythbusters - More raw vs JPEG myths
Restoring lost shadow detail in JPEG images
Action!!
Expose for the highlights, develop for the shadows
Something new -- Interchangeable cameras
Honey, I shrunk the newspaper - The "Nano" NY Times
Mistaking evolution for revolution
Some pictures from the artist's muse
Photography becomes art -- Daibutsu Buddha at Kamakura
Happy House-i-versary
25 random things about the artist's muse
It happened at the Met
Some pictures and some settings - Part 4 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Part 3 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Part 2 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Noiseography -- A new photographic technique
Shooting infrared with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
You're never too young
One month with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
A trip to Berryville - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
It's the Hobbitt's birthday
On September 11th
Shooting Tri-X with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
A shot in the dark - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Sunset and the far-up lens -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Further musings on the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Customizing your camera for high-ISO photography
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 vs DMC-FZ18 at high ISO
Some musings about the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Hummers, SUVs, DSLRs, and my DMC-FZ28
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 -- At the Flying Circus
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 -- The journey begins
Farewell, my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
More about the settings for the DMC-FZ18
Dealing with the modes and settings of the DMC-FZ18
Photography becomes art - Bird on a wire
The artist's muse at sunset -- DMC-FZ18
Do you need fancy equipment?
Now here's my plan
Good cookie, bad cookie
But seriously, folks...
Post-processing Mr. Squirrel
A museum of one's own
We need new words to describe what's happening
Going over to the dark side
Shooting the moon
Happy Anniversary, Hobbitt
The view from my window - DMC-FZ18
My favorite museum
A toast to the artist's muse
The DMC-FZ18, a sunset, and a glass of beer
Remembering Herbert Keppler
Shooting abstracts with the Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Fixing a Panasonic DMC-FZ18 problem
More pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
The journey of a thousand Melvins
Stairway to the stars -- Extreme post processing
DMC-FZ18 - Raw vs JPEG - The JPEG Manifesto
Chromatic aberration and the DMC-FZ18
Raw vs JPEG, the DMC-FZ18, and a mystery
Some pictures from my Kodak P880 - Part 2
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Some pictures from my Kodak P880 - Part 1
DMC-FZ18 - Don't be afraid of the dark
Shooting in "Medium" - DMC-FZ18 - The right exposure
Shooting in "Medium" and the Panasonic DMC-FZ18
In-use review -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18 - Part 2
In-use review -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18 - Part 1
Photography becomes art - Fantasy at Ida Lee
Photography becomes art - The chefs at Little Washington
My new old camera - the Kodak Easyshare P880
Photography becomes art - Variations on a theme
Doing the impossible - Part 4 - The final result
Doing the impossible - Part 3 - The solutions
Doing the impossible - Part 2 - The challenges
Doing the impossible - Part 1 - The Godfather
All the (art) news that's fit to print
The museum becomes art - #1
Photography becomes art - Making an angel
How to test a camera
Hitting the wall
Extreme post-processing - Working with infrared
Blogging 2.0 - A new interface
A funny thing happened on my way to the blog
In the beginning...