Intelligent Zoom blurs away detail on Panasonic DMC-ZS7

I recently bought the DMC-ZS7 (US version of DMC-TZ10) for my vacation at Glacier National Park, but with my shortage of time to get familiar with all its features, I mainly used it in Programme mode with the Intelligent ISO limited set at 400 maximum and its other “Intelligent” features set to off. I have to say that I was really impressed with the image quality in most of my photos throughout the zoom range and was also rather surprised how well and stable the video turned out.

When I returned home, I decided to experiment with its other features. When it came to the Intelligent zoom feature, while I was not really surprised to see no further detail in the 16x i.Zoom shots compared with the 12x regular zoom shots, what did shock me was that the 16x i.Zoom shots had detail blurred away and in some areas looking like a watercolour! :eek:

First, here’s a comparison crop of 12x zoom vs. 16x izoom. To my eyes, the right image looks like a watercolour. Besides the watercolour effect, see if you can spot the differences: :smiley:

Both were taken with aperture f4.9, ISO80, image stabilisation disabled, on a sturdy tripod and calm weather. The only difference was that Intelligent Zoom was disabled in the left shot and enabled on the right shot.

In the following comparison, I took the left image, blew it up to the same size using using Lanczos3 scaling and applied an unsharp mask of 0.5, 50% strength.

In the red square, parts of the branches have been blurred away in the right image. Also, notice how the branch appears to change direction approaching the stem, indicated by the green arrow.

I’m not sure whether this issue exists with other Panasonic cameras that feature Intelligent zoom, such as the upcoming DMC-LX5. However, I’m sure this affects the DMC-ZS6 (DMC-TZ8), which is nearly the same as this camera, but lacks the GPS, stereo mic and AVC HD recording.

Sadly, I recently purchased a ZS-7 only to find the same problem while cropping. This is most unacceptable for the work that I do, or any shots for that matter. Zoom also pulls up at 2X then 4X. Terrible. I called tech support and was told (this is the way it works). I just sold the camera this week.

There´s one rule for this bullshit: ALWAYS turn off digital zooms!!!

If you want to get closer, then get closer, or experiment in Photoshop later (there are ways to pseudo-improve resolution which if controlled carefully usually work better than the dumb stuff they pre-set in your cameras)