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Is the G3 just a grainy camera?

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by robertmwilliams, Nov 13, 2011.

  1. I took my new G3 out for its first real shoot today (meaning more than a few test snaps around the house) and while I like the results for the most part there is one thing that keeps jumping out...
    The G3 seems to me to be the grainiest digital camera I have ever used.
    Even at ISO 160 in good light with a fast prime lens the grain is almost at George Seurat levels.
    I am shooting raw, natural picture style with iR and iD off.
    Is it just normal that the G3 is so grainy or is there some menu feature I have missed to modify the grain?
    I can of course smooth it out in LightRoom, but wonder if I am just missing something.

    Butterfly shot to show grain - 1 - DMC-G3 - Minolta Rokkor-X 50mm f1.8 by Robert M. Williams, on Flickr
  2. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 4, 2010
  3. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 4, 2011
    Dublin, IE
    The G3 and the GH2 both produce grainy images at their base ISO.
  4. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Doesn't seem noisy to me....
  5. Dave in Wales

    Dave in Wales Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 5, 2011
    West Wales
  6. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2010
    As stratokaster indicates, the Panasonic 16MP sensor(s) can exhibit quite significant luminance noise, even at its base ISO. I find it particularly evident in raw files when they are underexposed (even slightly) and when sharpening is added. And yes I think it looks like grain as well.

    Like most m4/3 cameras, exposure seems to be the key. There is certainly less latitude than with other sensors, and there can often be a fine line between overexposure that burns out highlights and underexposure that creates this "graininess".

    I get round it by either bracketing exposures, where possible, and I've also come up with some adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw that minimise it in large one colour areas, such as blue skies where it can often appear.

    If its still a problem I fix in in Photoshop.

    You're not alone with this:-
    G3 Low ISO Noise?: Micro Four Thirds Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review

    Review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 review - Digital SLR Reviews - Amateur Photographer - news, camera reviews, lens reviews, camera equipment guides, photography courses, competitions, photography forums

    "Raw files are more detailed than their JPEG equivalents, with images taken at ISO 160 just about reaching 26 on our chart. However, viewing raw images with all noise reduction turned off gives you a real insight into how effective the in-camera noise reduction is for JPEG files. Colour and luminance noise are easily visible at low sensitivities, although the Silkypix Developer Studio 3.1 software does a good job of reducing this noise."

    Other sensors can exhibit less of this "grain" but the G3 does produce very sharp images. Certainly my NEX-5n has very "clean" low ISO files but my G3 images are sharper.
    • Like Like x 2
  7. elandel

    elandel Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 16, 2010
    Milan, Italy
    Well this is something to know in order to prevent surprise when you first see the images.

    Thanks because the G3 is one of the cameras I am considering as soon as I sell my GF1, if ever.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2010
    I don't want to overemphasise this too much. Certainly well exposed images on the G3 (and GH2) are very clean, and personally I'm very pleased with what the G3 can do.

    I would mention that you can get much the same thing with a Leica M9, a camera that is also somewhat unforgiving of incorrect exposure.

    It is to a large extent a trade-off. Cameras and sensors that produce the sharpest images can be prone to increased luminance noise, and cameras that have very clean smooth images can often produce files that can seem a little soft.

    I shoot both jpg and raw with my G3 which gives a choice of cleaner with less sharpness or sharp but slightly grainier.
    • Like Like x 3
  9. JCD

    JCD Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 10, 2010
    Palermo, Italy
    I think this sort of background noise is a direct consequence of the particular sharpness of this sensor, combined with the pixel density of this 16mpx Panasonic. But, as usual, it's more of a forum and pixel-peepers problems, since, in print, I challenge anyone to be able to notice the presence of this "low iso noise"
  10. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2010
    While I agree with the general direction of your post, printing is not the consideration here. For some, how images appear on a screen is more important, and as far as I am concerned it can make the difference between an image being sold or not. My images are heavily pixel-peeped.

    Plus theres absolutely nothing wrong with pixel peeping anyway. People seem to use it as some kind of insult, when it fact its a perfectly legitimate and useful activity.

    There are issues with low ISO noise and the G3, and surely its important to know the weaknesses of our cameras as well as their strengths.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    This post (and the informed responses) is a great relief for the affliction we know as GAS. I was dissapointed recently at some shots from my E-P1 that seemed ridiculously noisy at base ISO. Much worse than this. I had thought that a few new iterations of procesing and sensor development would have eliminated it. I guess not.

    I understand that with the present technology, it's a trade-off between sharpness and "noise" or grain. I say give me the sharpness and I can smooth out parts as I see fit.

    In the example shot (and similarly in my own that bother me) the only areas that are really troublesome are the detail-less bokeh. The parts that are in focus and have detail are beautiful. Larger areas of blocks of color without detail it is more visible. I think using selective noise reduction works well for shots like this.
  12. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 4, 2011
    Dublin, IE
    I think the G3 and the GH2 are actually much more forgiving of under- and overexposure than any 12MP Micro 4/3 camera. For example, with my G2 it was impossible to use the 'Fill light' slider in Lightroom, because shadow areas were becoming very noisy with nasty green cast and noticeable magenta blotches. Now with the GH2 I feel free to underexpose in order to save highlights, and often even at higher ISOs it is still possible to lift shadows a little.

    By the way, if you turn the sharpening down in the RAW converter of your choice, you will get softer images with much less grain. This way the images from the G3 look very much like the files from the first generation of Sony NEX cameras. For example, when I'm shooting portraits, I don't sharpen RAW files at all to make skin look softer, then I perform selective sharpening of important areas (eyes, hair etc.) in Photoshop.
    • Like Like x 2
  13. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    Shot RAW, make preset with luminous noise slider utilized and enjoy.

    Last night I compared the photo's of G3, the Olympus E-30 and the Nikon D7000 and there was very little difference.. maybe a bit more dynamic range with the D7000- but that's it!

    The GH2, the G3 and other m4/3 cameras are meant to be a more compact means to get outstanding photo's without carrying around heavy-ass lenses and bodies.

    The *Proper Tool* so to speak- not a Professional Rig that requires a handtruck to get around.
  14. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Glad we're back to calling it noise rather than grain..:smile:
  15. JCD

    JCD Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 10, 2010
    Palermo, Italy
    My statement was not meant in a negative way against anyone who is a pixel-Peeper, but although it may make sense to the fact of seeking perfect pictures on the screen for later sale, I find it rather tiresome when such discussions are ends in themselves, since the majority of those who rarely uses a camera release (assuming that prints ...) 30x40cm and beyond, even more rarely, post images on the Internet at higher resolutions than you see on Flickr, 500px or forum like this .

    That said, however, and given that it is absolutely legitimate to be dissatisfied after spending hundreds of $ or € for a new camera, it seems to me that the sensor in question is showing some problems (the first circulating jpeg, taken from the new GX1 do not seem to have much success ...). Am I wrong?
  16. Thank to everyone for the helpful comments.
    This is one of the things I really love about this forum.
    You get useful ideas, critiques and supportive advice without the petty stuff that goes on elsewhere **cough dpreview cough**.

    I think the G3 is a great camera, but was concerned that what I was seeing was not 'normal' for the device.
    I have other u4/3 cameras and had not noticed this before so I did not consider it part of being a u4/3.
    Neither did I see a similar issue with the other camera I was shooting with that day, but it's an APS-C based model so I did not directly compare them too much.
    Perhaps it is more noticeable to me because of the type of image I like to capture.
    I do a lot of close up nature work where fine details are important (and pixel-peeping is a _good_ thing).
    To me whats the point of having, say, a sharp image of an insects eyes (showing all the lens segments) if I have to smear out that detail by cranking up the noise reduction to stop the bokeh from looking like sandpaper.
    I full accept that it could just be my skill level, use case and aesthetic opinion so to many others it may not even show up as an issue.
    I am going to give it another go today and try some of the suggestion given before I decide to return it or not.
  17. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Looks fine to me.
  18. Sorry RT_Panther, to me that is what it was.
    A reminder of the old days when different film showed different grains based on its chemical composition.
    To me 'noise' is the random coloration inserted into dark areas due to signal leak at high gain in the sensor.
    So you are correct in the digital age it really should be called noise and not grain.
    I guess this old timer needs to change with times :biggrin:
  19. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    +1 on pixel peeping. In post, if the image doesn't pass sharpness at 100%, I toss it.
  20. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    No worries - I still shoot with film so I'm admittedly biased here....:biggrin:
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