Build complex toys and simple tools
by Tony Karp
"why do it simply, when you can make it wondrous and complicated?"
The DMC-FZ150 has a brand new menu called "Photo Style," and it's the very first one you see when you press the Menu button. It's different from the FZ100's "Film Mode" menu and from the separate "Color Effect" and Pict. Adj" menus of earlier models like the FZ35. All of these menus performed similar functions, but with slightly different approaches.The FZ150's Photo Style menu provides six different color rendering modes:
STANDARD This is the standard setting.
VIVID Brilliant effect with high saturation and contrast.
NATURAL Soft effect with low contrast.
MONOCHROME Monochrome effect with no color shades. (Black and white)
SCENERY An effect appropriate for scenes with vivid blue skies and greens.
PORTRAIT An effect appropriate for portrait picture with a healthy and beautiful skin tone.
The five color settings are compared in the photo above. Choosing among them is like saying which is your favorite grandchild. They all look good, in one way or another. What's interesting is that some are lighter and some are darker, but they all received the same exposure. You can reach these color settings through the Record menu, by pressing the Menu button, or through the Quick-Menu button beneath it. For the purposes of this discussion, I'll refer to these settings as "Color Modes."But wait, there's more.For each of the Color Modes listed above, you can adjust:
SATURATION (color vividness)
These settings are much more interesting, and have led to a number of discussions on the photography forums. For the purposes of this discussion, I'll refer to these settings as "Detail Modes."If you aren't confused yet, you haven't been following closely.Where to start? The Detail Mode settings are probably the most important. They have the biggest effect on the image quality of the final picture. Each of these detail modes can have one of five values (-2 to +2). Let's take a look.CONTRAST This setting expands or contracts the tonal range of the image, I usually leave this set at 0. You might want to set it to a higher value if you're shooting a scene with very flat lighting, such as on an overcast day. You might want to set it to lower value if the lighting is very contrasty, such as in direct sunlight. You can always adjust the contrast in the post-processing if you didn't get it exactly right when you shot the picture.SHARPNESS Setting this to a higher value boosts the in-camera sharpening when the picture is taken. If you set it at zero, you can always add sharpening in the post processing. I use +1 on the FZ150 because it seems to add some detail. Setting it to +2 can leave white outlines around some details. Don't set this below 0. According to the manual, this reduces sharpness.SATURATION This adjusts how strong the colors will be. A plus number makes the colors pop more, and a negative number cranks the colors down. I've used digital cameras where I had turn down the saturation because the colors were too bright. For the FZ150, I leave the saturation at 0. If need be, I can tune this in post processing.NOISE REDUCTION All digital images have some noise. At the lower ISO settings, you probably won't notice it. But at higher ISO settings that you'll be using indoors, it may become objectionable. The noise reduction setting can remove some of this noise, but it can also remove detail from your images, so you have to be careful. The noise in the FZ150's images is already pretty low, so I turn the noise reduction off by setting it to -2. If noise does show up in one of my pictures, I can remove it in post processing.As I said before, setting the Noise Reduction to -2 and the sharpness to +1 pretty much does it for me. You might want to tweak all of the Detail Mode settings a little to get the best results for your own liking. In earlier Panasonic models, the colors menu and the details menu were separate. Now, they're all shmushed together and there's a separate set of Detail Modes for each one of Color modes. (Over 3,700 combinations.) This allows you to fine-tune the details for each color mode. (And it adds a great deal of confusion that makes my head hurt.) So if you're going to experiment with the color modes, make sure you set the appropriate detail modes as well.There's something else you should know before trying the different Color Modes. When you shoot a JPEG image on a digital camera, it records all sorts of information along with the image. There's standardized stuff like the camera model, shutter speed, and f/stop. There's stuff related to a particular manufacturer's camera or model. All of this information is referred to as the EXIF data. You can read this data with some photo editing programs, and there are a number of EXIF-reading utilities you can find with your favorite search engine. This EXIF data is handy if you can't remember when a particular picture was taken or the settings you used.The settings for the detail modes -- Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness, and Noise Reduction -- all show up in the EXIF data. But the record of the Color Mode setting you used, that's another story. I searched the FZ150's EXIF data with a number of EXIF reading utilities and I just couldn't find it. Very unusual. It means that if you're experimenting with the various Color Mode settings you'd better keep notes because there's no way to go back later and see which setting you used.(If you know where this particular information is buried, please drop me an email. It wouldn't be the first time I missed something like this.)What to do with the color mode settings? As the photo at the top of the page shows, there is some variation, but not all that much. So I'm going to make a recommendation. Forget the Color Mode settings. Set the Color Mode to Standard. Then adjust the Detail Mode settings and you're done. As I mentioned earlier, I set Contrast at 0, Sharpness at +1, Saturation at 0,and Noise Reduction at -2. If you want to experiment, playing with the Detail Mode settings such as Contrast and Saturation will yield the most useful results.Now a word about post processing. When you shoot digital images, very few come out 100% perfect. Most can use some additional work, usually referred to as post processing. Modern photo editing programs make these corrections easily and some have these optimizing functions automated. A good photo editing program isn't expensive, and some are even free. So there's no reason not to put in this small additional effort, especially when you can see the improved results.That's why the Color Modes on the Photo Style menu aren't that important. Rather than fiddling with these preset choices, shoot in just one mode (Standard) and tweak your images to the best result in post processing.Note: After changing any of the settings in the Photo Style menu, remember to press the Set button, or your choices will be lost.Note: If you choose MONOCHROME (Black and White), the SATURATION control gives you a toned effect. A setting of -2 gives a sepia effect, and a setting of +2 yields a cooler tint.I'm glad we had this little talk. Now go take some pictures.
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