Testing the Panasonic FZ2500 at ISO 80. Supposedly the extended ISO limits dynamic range. Is that true?

OOC Jpeg with camera set to Vivid and ISO 80

I needed a walk yesterday. I'd heard the news about Charlottesville and I was disturbed that Nazism and racism reared its ugly, nasty head once again; and in such an obvious and hate filled way. I know some readers think we should only talk about photography here but hatred spreads when normal, middle class people like me choose to "duck and cover" for comfort instead of at least making the public statement that racism and Nazism is unacceptable and has no place in our society. Even less so when used as a tool by political opportunists on the far right. If you disagree then feel free to click away and never come back... 

At any rate, I decided to get away from my computer and my phone and just walk with a camera. I recently saw a YouTube video by Tony Northrup making the case that extended low ISOs were not the bad compromise that many technical photography writers have suggested over the years. He backed up his words with tests and examples and it made me curious to see what files from the Panasonic FZ2500, which has extended ISO range to 80, might look like. Would we see a flattening of the contrast or a diminution of dynamic range? Or something else? 

On nearly every other aspect of the camera I have made my peace, figured out the best ways in which to use the camera and have come to really, really like both the raw and Jpeg files I get from it. I've also discovered that the wide ranging lens is close to equalling the lens on the Sony RX10iii when proper focus is achieved. My little foray into lower ISOs would not change my overall opinion of the camera but a great performance at lower ISOs would be yet another tool in its growing tool kit. 

In looking at the finished files later in the evening, yesterday, I noticed that the skies and flat color areas were mostly noise free. No fine pattern graininess or noise. The obvious use for lower ISOs would be in video where one is working with 24 fps set ups with the shutter speed set to 1/50th. If wider apertures are called for the recourse is either to use the lowest ISO possible or depend on neutral density filters. Too bad the extended ISOs are not available in video so the lowest ISO there is 125. 

After carefully inspecting the files I would say that the lower ISO use case for best image quality would be to use the camera on a tripod, use f5.6 for optimum sharpness (pretty much anywhere in the focal length range) and then find the shutter speed that works best in combination with ISO 80. It was a bit of a revelation for me to see just how sharp the files could be. A final suggestion for ultimate sharpness at lowest ISO would be to turn down the noise reduction within your picture profile. A minus two step or three step setting in noise reduction is just about right for increasing very fine detail without introducing any noise that would be visible in normal use or at normal viewing distances. If your life is spent pixel peeping at 200% then all bets are off. 

The second part of my investigation with the FZ 2500 was to ascertain just how sharp that sometimes maligned lens is; especially when used in a normal, handheld fashion (apologies to people who live in the UK and profess to never seeing sunlight --- this is the bright stuff I live with....). The images below are mostly shot at ISO 125 and ISO 200 because I wanted shutter speeds that would allow good, handheld exposures with sharpness.  The image from Bill's Blacksmith shop is near the longest end of the lens. But the coffee sign painted on the side of the parking garage below ranges from the widest end to the longest end. 

While it may not be apparent in the web compressed images here the sharpness at all focal lengths (mostly shot at f5.6) is very, very good. On par with many of the lens and camera combinations with bigger sensor sizes that I've used in the past. 

Got brick walls if you want them..

As I've noted before, the FZ2500 is a very good still photography camera for many uses. Its one weak spot is high ISO performance. That's a trade off between its sensor size, cost and flexibility. When you add in the amazingly good video performance of the camera it's one on the best bargains on the market today.

Finally, I don't care which political party you affiliate yourself with, hateful racism and any embrace of Nazi ideas is always wrong and we should all stand up against any incursion of this into our society.


  1. A big "Thank you" from Germany for the first paragraph and last sentence.

  2. Thank you, Kirk, for taking a stand. As someone whose father-in-law spent almost two years in a Nazi POW camp, I have a very good idea of what Nazism means from someone who directly experienced it.


  3. Thank you, Kirk, for your rare incursion into current political affairs. Every decent citizen needs to make it crystal clear that Naziism is unacceptable in America.

    Thanks also for the review of the ISO 80 capacity of the FZ 2500. As a landscape photographer, it has puzzled me why all the emphasis with digital cameras has been on ever higher ISO's. In film days I routinely shot ISO 25 film for the finest grain and broadest dynamic range. I have wondered why digital ISOs never seemed to go below 100.

  4. It's difficult for me to write anything on the topic without sliding off into the deep end. So, I nominate you as my spokesman on social-political issues. That's more than a little bit chicken, I know, and a burden for which you did not volunteer. But you have a capacity for restraint and the ability to remain coherent, qualities which elude me.

  5. Just a reminder that comments are moderated. Anyone trying to make the argument that the hard right/racist, fascists Nazis have an equivalency to the counter protesters ( people rightly protesting racism and Nazism ) will find that their equivocating comments won't make it past the stringent moderation process.

    To protest evil is correct. To foment evil is not.

  6. Thanks for what you've written today. It's important that these truths be clearly, firmly, and frequently stated.

  7. Kirk

    I think you misunderstood my point. I'm not suggesting there is any "moral equivalency" between the groups in terms of what they stand for. Just suggesting that being morally right does not convey the right to assault those you find morally wrong.

  8. Welcome back to 1915 when D.W. Griffith's, Birth of a Nation was released and cleared the way for this mach in Washington D.C. in 1926:

  9. I've been disturbed at how the news calling Nazis and racists 'alt-right' seems to have sometimes provided them with a veneer of respectability. There is no excuse, there is no place for them in any right thinking society.

    Back to the photography I was amused that you managed to preempt my fledgling comment with an aside... You are right, in gloomy Wales I find it hard to fathom what use iso80 could be without eye burning studio lighting... Does iso go lower than 400????

    Lovely photos

  10. "If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem."

    Thanks for speaking up.

  11. Hi Luke, thanks for clarifying. I still disagree, when battling wolves one does well to get a bigger wolfhound. The police fell down on the job. The Nazis should never have been given a permit. There is no "equal time" news imperative for Nazi's and the counter protesters didn't bring the hate. They just protested it.

  12. These images are super-sharp Kirk, how can the fz2500/2000 have a so-called `Mediocre Lens` as that reviewer on DPREVIEW stated? did he really understand how to set the camera up or what? When I've heard of a some-cameras-only problem before, the answer has usually been that people are forgetting the effect of lens performance or just didn't RTM. People like to blame hardware instead of themselves. The Internet speeds up the transmission of bad news, even where it's false, and the decline of print media and its replacement with sites that are much sloppier about verifying rumours before passing them on, only add to this. however, well done again Kirk!!


  13. Hi, Kirk,

    Being of a more ancient vintage than you, I will comment on your political statement with the venerable phrase, "Right on, brother!".

    As for the FZ2500, I've been thinking about getting one for quite awhile, now, and have been following your adventures with it with interest. Darned if it's not looking like I just might have to pick one up.


  14. I agree with your comments on society, bigotry and racism is never valid, although admittedly some times counter protests are hijacked by left wing anarchists who escalate the violence. Living in a country that commits refugees who arrive by boat to indefinite detention in camps located in other countries, means I'm definitely living in a glass house. But as you said it is up to the silent majority to make it known we aren't happy with what's going on.

  15. I stand with you on your comments regarding intolerance and violence. In UK we are experiencing a frightening "popularisation" of intolerance which has more than an echo of the 1930s. All foreigners are blamed by the media for any and all problems, which are mostly attributed to large numbers of "immigrants". I was once proud of our tolerant generous multi-cultural society; now I am ashamed by our poisonous spiteful politicians who espouse selfishness and intolerance with every breath, whilst being directly responsible for the problems for which they blame others. The vacuous and easily led follow blindly just as the population of Germany acclaimed Hitler; thinking people need now to prepare and organise political opposition before it is too late.

    Rant over; I apologise in case this infringes your moderation guidelines, now I plan to go out and indulge in some photography (there is a strange golden thing that we rarely see up in the blue sky today, rather than the thick grey blanket of cloud that we are used to here).

  16. The conditions to make a lot of people very angry simply happened. It always does when you take enough of the voters for granted. Getting them to blame someone else is just politics :-/. Until it blows up in everyone's face, as it always does :-(.

    Now, back on topic. One of my favourite features of the A7 II is ISO 50. I've only needed it a couple of times, but on a camera with that much base ISO dynamic range it is hardly a compromise. On the smaller format, extended ISO can also be a benefit when it comes to eking the very best out of the camera. Especially in scenes that aren't too contrasty (or that require minimal under exposure).

  17. There is no rationalization for hate.
    Saying voters are responding because they were "ignored" is just another way of saying "I am angry at the demographic changes in the USA that makes people of color competitive and "uppity"".

    Sorry, the "I am not a racist but....." canard no longer works.
    Either you are unequivocally against Nazis, white supremacists and the domestic terrorists in the country you are one.

    BTW the lens on my FZ 1000 continues to astonish me with its sharpness.
    Just printed a 20x20 and it is the equal of anything from my FF Canon 5Dmk3s.

  18. to yr reflection on Nazism I have nothing to add. Except that my granddad was jewish and member of the resistance (I'm dutch). I will comment on yr expose on low ISO and the stunning pictures. Lucid, detailed, evoking more interest in the FZ2000. I got here out of interest in the FZ2000. Now I am afraid I feel an urge to go through yr archive as a whole... keep up the good work, sir!


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