The Panasonic ZR1 matches the Olympus E-P3

Blue and Green, Roaring Fork - Austin, Texas

Blue and Green, Roaring Fork – Austin, Texas

A couple of weeks ago, I went out to the Roaring Fork restaurant in North Austin with a friend. We talked about life, photography and art. The meal was a prelude to a downtown photowalk. The thing was, both of us were ambivalent about making the trek down south. The meal and drinks were nice and we felt comfortable just talking about the challenges of life and photography. I did want to test my Panasonic ZR1, however, by creating urban landscapes. So instead of going downtown, we settled for making images in and around the modern, upscale restaurant.

Reflections, Roaring Fork - Austin, Texas

Reflections, Roaring Fork – Austin, Texas

As you know, urban landscapes and architecture is one of my favorite subjects and I’m in the middle of my point and shoot challenge. I want to make photographs with this cheap $70 point and shoot that equals the quality of the images that I get with my other, more expensive cameras. And at ISO 80 the little Panasonic does a really nice job. Surprisingly so. The thing is, with a maximum aperture of f3.3 and at ISO 80, I need to use a tripod for any image that is not in good light. This was certainly the case for the 3 photos I took with the ZR1.

The mercury vapor lamps created this odd green color and it looks fantastic against the blue sky. The out of camera JPEGs were enhanced with even more color saturation, to give that extra pop. Since the camera lacks any kind of P S A M control, I have to use the appropriate scene mode to create these long exposures. The camera doesn’t have any exposure compensation on any image that is over about a 1/4 second. I use the Night Scenery mode or the Starry Sky mode instead to approximate the best exposure.

Green Bridge, Roaring Fork - Austin, Texas

Green Bridge, Roaring Fork – Austin, Texas

How good are these JPEG images? At ISO 80, I have no complaints. The photograph at the bottom was taken with the Olympus E-P3 and 14mm lens. The framing is not exactly the same and the Panasonic at a 25mm equivalent is a wider than my 28mm Olympus view. The colors were a lot different too but I tweaked the Olympus RAW to approximate the Panasonic color. The Olympus RAW is sharper but the image is actually noisier than the ZR1 point and shoot. I ran Topaz Denoise on the Olympus RAW and the resulting image was amazingly similar to the Panasonic output.

It would be hard to pick the two apart other than, even at F9, the Olympus still has a slightly shallower DOF. The deep DOF on the point and shoot was beneficial here and allowed me to take a brighter image, 5 seconds faster, since its aperture was at f3.3. Since the point and shot has such a smaller sensor, even if the aperture is wide open at f3.3, the DOF is still deeper than f9 on the Olympus.

Surprising and interesting results. Image quality and noise levels can vary a bit depending on the scene so this in not a comprehensive test, however, very promising results nevertheless. If I’m willing to use a tripod. the is no telling what this little camera can do.

Green Bridge, Roaring Fork - Austin, Texas (with a E-P3)

Green Bridge, Roaring Fork – Austin, Texas (with a E-P3)

Please make sure to click on the photographs to see a larger image and hover over the photos to see the exposure detail.

I ordered my Panasonic ZR1 as a factory refurbished model from Adorama. I got it for $69.95. If you are thinking of buying this camera please use this link. You will get the same low price and I’ll get a small commission, which helps support this site.

6 thoughts on “The Panasonic ZR1 matches the Olympus E-P3

  1. The purpose of a small, compact camera is portability and traveling as light as possible. Doesn’t the tripod defeat that purpose?

    I absolutely love your images and I’m a guy who usually doesn’t like the HDR look.

    1. Tom, thanks for your visit and comment. I use a really small table top tripod to avoid the bulk. Just to make it clear, though the image is highly saturated, it is not a HDR.

  2. Very nice. I really like the look of the colors and the low angles.

    Have you run into any of the infamous Panny P&S color smearing yet? Just curious. Used to be very troublesome – maybe they’ve fixed it.

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