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Mark Peters : July 31th 2005 - 17:00 CET

Lumix FZ-30 equipped with Panasonic Venus Engine 2

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PanasonicLumix FZ-30 equipped with Panasonic Venus Engine 2 : The Panasonic Lumix series took a major evolutionary step this summer with its new Venus Engine 2 LSI. Aptly called the heart of the camera, the new LSI greatly raises the level of performance over previous Lumix models. Shigeo Sakaue, manager of the DSC Business and Development Center, describes it like this, "Panasonic digital still cameras have three main features: a high-power zoom lens, Mega OIS (optical image stabilizer), and high image quality. Venus Engine 2 is a signal processing LSI that handles the crucial role of producing high image quality. The Venus Engine II development concept; Higher Image Quality + Higher Speed - was the same as that of the original Venus Engine.
Lumix FZ-30 equipped with Panasonic Venus Engine 2Increased Resolutions
The excellent diagonal resolution of the Venus Engine in previous Lumix models was extremely well received. Venus Engine II employs an innovative method that increases vertical and horizontal resolution as well. "In addition to our previous signal processing for diagonal resolution, a new adaptive brightness processing method improves resolution in the image edge directions. This lets you take sharper pictures with higher vertical and horizontal resolution," said Sakaue.

High image quality
Sakaue explains that, "High image quality basically refers to high resolution with low noise in the picture. While that kind of performance is simply common sense in a digital still camera, the question is how far you can exceed common sense. We had to come up with new ideas and raise a number of performance factors to improve on the image quality of our previous models."

The new system is able to precisely judge noise
Noise reduction is indispensable to raising image quality, but it can do a lot of damage to the picture if it is not done correctly. If you simply apply it uniformly over the entire image, you lose detail and get extremely flat, lifeless results. As Sakaue describes it, "If you lose the detail in a person's hair, it makes them look like they're wearing a helmet. To avoid this, we detect the noise in each individual pixel, rather than blanketing the entire image with the same level of noise reduction." The new system is able to precisely judge noise, and then reduce it in accordance with the brightness of each target pixel. This greatly cuts noise in dark image areas without sacrificing detail.

Correcting Chromatic Aberration
One of the Lumix's greatest features is its high-power 12x optical zoom lens. When you shoot with a lens having this level of magnification, though, you often get color bleeding around the edges of your subject. Sakaue tells why: "This is due to differences in the refraction of the red, blue, and green colors contained in the light that comes through the convex lens. Our lens minimizes this color bleeding, but when the lens magnification increases, some bleeding is inevitable. We've been able to eliminate color bleeding in the edges of the subject by adding a circuit that corrects the red and blue data by precisely aligning it with the green data."

Panasonic Lumix camera models
As Sakaue describes it, "Cameras are meant to capture moments in time. If they can't catch things the instant that they happen, they just aren't doing their job. Quick response and fast processing are absolutely essential." Venus Engine II handles all of these processes almost simultaneously. Sakaue sums it up by saying, "This allowed us to slash the shooting interval and speed up consecutive shooting." The new Panasonic Lumix models also achieve the industry's highest level of response for the release time lag, which is the time it takes for exposure to start after you press the shutter button. According to Sakaue, "It used to take 0.1 second for exposure to start after clicking the shutter. The new Lumix camera models bring this down to less than 1/10 that speed. Exposure starts almost the instant you press the button."

Extremely long shutter speeds
The new Panasonic Venus Engine 2 takes a hardware approach to processing Mega OIS, which is one of the key strengths of Panasonic digital still cameras. When taking photos indoors or in other relatively dark places, you have to use extremely long shutter speeds, like 1/8 second or 1/4 second. It's almost impossible to avoid hand-shake at speeds like these, especially with a camera as small as Lumix. Sakaue explains the solution, "The image is stabilized by using angular rate sensors, called gyrosensors, to detect how quickly the camera is moving in both vertical and horizontal directions. Then, a corrective lens is moved in the direction opposite to that of the detected data to cancel out the hand-shake."

Panasonic Mega OIS was first done with software
He goes on to say that, "In previous models, this Mega OIS was done with software. The detection data from the gyrosensors was sent to a microcomputer CPU inside the LSI for processing. A part of the new Venus Engine II uses hardware to handle this processing. This new feature was build in the recently announced Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-30. The incredible increase in speed enables more precise image stabilization." As a result, the level of correction has been greatly raised for photos that are taken indoors or in other low-light conditions that call for slower shutter speeds, and when shooting in any of the unstable conditions that lead to hand-shake.

Extremely difficult to lift their precision
"Image stabilization technologies have been around for some time, but it's been extremely difficult to lift their precision," says Sakaue. As it turned out, it wasn't such an easy thing to keep on adding image and speed improvements while maximizing the performance of the overall camera. Sakaue expresses it like this, "When we first achieved a camera that gave us the images and speed that we wanted, we were pretty impressed with it. On the other hand, we still want to make the images even better and the speed even higher. I think the digital still camera has come very close to the level of the film camera. Even so, our goal to create digital cameras that make it even more fun to take photos is still the same."

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