21 September 2009

Comparing two Lumix camera models – the DMC-ZX1 and DMC-FS6


Lumix ZX1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS6

By odd combination of birthdays and timing, we have gained two new digital cameras in our household. A rather high-end Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 and a more entry-level DMC-FS6. Both have Leica-branded lenses, or perhaps more accurately, lenses designed and manufactured to Leica standards that carry the Leica name. As Panasonic say, ‘The Leica DC lenses are manufactured using measurement instruments and quality assurance systems that have been certified by Leica Camera AG based on the company’s quality standards.

The ZX1 has a DC Vario-Elmar and the FS6 a DC Vario-Elmarit lens. As far as I can see these hark back to Leica naming traditions based on the maximum apertures of lenses – Elmars to f/3.5 (f/3.3 in this instance) and Elmarits to f/2.8 ( discussion). In addition, the FS6 uses Panasonic’s Venus IV image processing system, while the ZX1 uses the newer Venus V system.

So, here are four pairs of photographs (ZX1 first): click on the pictures to link through to sources on Flickr, with access to full resolution versions.

ZX1 | macro | intense red FS6 | macro | intense red
ZX1 | landscape FS6 | landscape
ZX1 | 5x zoom FS6 | 5x zoom
ZX1 | Macro | ISO 400 FS6 | macro | ISO 400
  • The geranium flower at the top is handled well by both cameras in AF Macro mode, but the ZX1 has the edge for the rendering of the petals, which look slightly unnatural in the FS6 version
  • The garden landscape appears to be almost identical on both cameras
  • The street scene is noticeably clearer with deeper-hued brickwork in the ZX1
  • The last close-up has a more faithful rendering of the red fish; both used ISO 400

Overall I am impressed at how well the FS6 performs in these simple examples. For everyday use it compares well, considering it costs less than half that of the ZX1. I am also relieved that the ZX1 is often noticeably better, and with other features (a longer reach in the zoom range (8x), a wider base angle (25mm equivalent), higher resolution (12MP vs 8 MP – not always a good thing, I know), and HD movie recordings, I think the camera does deliver quite a lot more.


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