Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580 Performance, Timings and Image Quality

by J. Keenan Reads (289)

PERFORMANCE
The Panasonic Lumix FX580 won’t attract too many wildlife shooters with a lens topping out at 125mm, but folks looking to shoot scenics or people fairly close by will feel right at home.

Shooting Performance
The camera powers up and presents a focus icon in about 2 seconds, and if you anticipate this you can get off a first shot in about 2.75 seconds. Single shot-to-shot times (shoot, write, reacquire focus and shoot) times ran about 2.75 seconds as well using a SanDisk Extreme III 20MB/s card. The camera will take three 12 megapixel/high quality images in burst mode before the buffer stops the process to catch up, or 5 images at 12 megapixel/normal quality. Starting the timer with the first shot and stopping at the third, the camera took 1.25 seconds to make the 3 high quality captures, a rate of approximately 2.4 fps. The screen goes dark until after the second shot before displaying the captures starting with the second one.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 0.02
Nikon Coolpix S230 0.02
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
0.03
Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
0.04
Casio Exilim EX-Z150 0.22

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 0.23
Nikon Coolpix S230 0.51
Canon PowerShot A2100 IS 0.60
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580 0.73
Casio Exilim EX-Z150 1.15

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames* Framerate*
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580 3 2.4 fps
Nikon Coolpix S230 2 2.2 fps
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 10 1.6 fps
Casio Exilim EX-Z150 13 1.3 fps
Canon PowerShot A2100 IS 1.1 fps

* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

There are also high speed burst options at 3, 2.5 and 2 megapixels (producing up to 10fps and from 15 to 100 continuous captures) found as a scene mode, but there’s a host of auto functions imposed on these shooting modes: auto ISO that goes high to encourage fast shutter speeds; normal image quality; and focus, zoom, shutter speed, ISO, exposure and flash level are established for the first shot and applied to all subsequent shots in the sequence.

Shutter lag time was good at 0.03 seconds, an improvement over what we measured with the FX500. AF acquisition time came in at 0.73 seconds – the camera feels quicker at wide angle, particularly with the 1 area – high speed focus option selected. AF predictably slowed towards the telephoto end of the spectrum, but overall while not being blazing fast the FX580 did not feel particularly pokey either.

Flash performance was not an overly strong point, with the exception of flash recycle times. The range is limited, particularly if you shoot at 80 ISO for best noise performance – about 5.5 feet at wide angle and 3.3 feet at telephoto. Even shooting auto ISO the ranges are listed as 19.7 and 9.8 feet respectively, and while the camera seems to approach these distances the auto ISO is being set in the 1200 sensitivity range to do so. Auto ISO can range from 80 to 1600, but you can institute a user-established ceiling below 1600 using intelligent ISO.
Recycle times with a fully charged battery ran about 3 seconds for a partial discharge and a bit over 4 for what should have been a full discharge (telephoto, f/8 and 80 ISO in pitch black conditions).

Panasonic rates the battery for 350 shots using CIPA criteria that contemplates taking a shot every 30 seconds, and a flash shot every other image. A spare is a good idea for an all-day shooting session but I did a fair amount of shooting and a lot of chimping with menus and screens and the battery held up quite well.

Lens Performance
FX580 maximum apertures range from a fast f/2.8 at wide angle to a slow f/5.9 at telephoto, but that f/2.8 isn’t available very long after you start to zoom – at 2x the max aperture is up to f/4.3; f/4.9 at 3x and f/5.7 at 4x. The lens will focus as close as about 2 inches in Macro Mode at wide angle.

There is some barrel distortion present at the wide end of the zoom and a slight bit of pincushion on the telephoto end, but both defects are fairly benign. The wide angle is soft in the corners and edges, the telephoto less so. There can be chromatic aberration present in high contrast boundary areas, but it generally took enlargements in the 200 to 300% range to make this defect stand out. All in all, the lens does a pretty good job and the noted defects will require some fairly close scrutiny to detect on all but the largest of images.

Video Quality
The 720p HD video quality seemed only average, but the mono audio was quite accurate. In the video of the mission (which isn’t moving, but this one’s a sound byte) the chimes are very accurately reproduced, and if you listen closely to the hummingbird clip you can pick up a metallic rumble from time to time that is their wing beat.

The zoom function of the lens is not available in movie mode.

Image Quality
I found default images from the FX580 to be generally pleasing and color accurate at a fixed 80 ISO, but perhaps just a tiny bit soft overall. There are contrast, sharpness and saturation adjustments available in the “picture adjust” portion of the REC menu, and most of the shots in this review were made with contrast and sharpness each increased 1 step (out of a possible 2). You can also decrease these settings up to 2 steps from the default, and there is a noise reduction setting that may be user-established over the same range (-2 to +2).

There are B&W, sepia, cool and warm color effects available via internal menu, but the cool is too blue and the warm too red unless you’re looking for a way overblown blast of color. The sepia and B&W options produced nice results, and you could achieve some of the effect of the warm and cool options via saturation and contrast.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
Default

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
Black and White

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
Sepia

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
Cool

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
Warm

The FX580 also features Panasonic’s intelligent exposure recording option to expand the apparent dynamic range of the camera. The feature may be disabled by internal menu, or there are standard, low and high settings that may be set by the user.

Auto white balance worked well in outdoor light, with flash and fluorescent desk lamps, but shot warm with a 3200 degree incandescent lamp. The FX580 offers daylight, cloudy, shade, halogen (incandescent), white set (manual setting) or Kelvin temperature adjustment for white balance.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
Auto White Balance, 3200k incandescent light

Exposure with the camera in the default multiple metering mode was generally good for normally lit subjects, and this mode handled high contrast shots like breaking waves quite well – there were some lost highlights from time to time, but overall a pretty good performance. There are center-weighted and spot metering options available as well.

ISO noise performance appears average at best, and a bit worse than the FX500 – not a good thing since the FX500 got a lukewarm noise grade in its review here. Our studio shots also were a bit warmer than those produced by the FX500. Despite the introduction of the Venus Engine V processor, cramming those extra 2 megapixels onto the same sized sensor appears to have had the expected derogatory effect on image quality.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 80
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 80, 100% crop
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 100
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 100, 100% crop
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 200
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 200, 100% crop
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 400
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 400, 100% crop
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 800
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 800, 100% crop
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 1600
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
ISO 1600, 100% crop

The FX580 picks up an ISO 80 setting the FX500 didn’t have, but once you line the crops up side by side the old camera looks better through 400 ISO, with 800 and 1600 ISO narrowing the gap a bit in favor of the FX580. Small shots look fairly good through the range, except for the annoying warm cast.

Additional Sample Images

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580


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