Photography and Art

Monday, October 6, 2008

My Latest Camera

I seem to be developing an alarming predilection for losing small items on airplanes. If you saw my carry-on baggage, it would hardly seem surprising that I shed the occasional bit of plastic because I resemble Mr. Gadget when I go on holidays. Between the music equipment (headphones, Zune portable, various chargers and plugs) and the camera equipment (lenses, bodies, batteries, chargers etc.) there are 'way too many pieces to lose.

Last trip, it was a pair of Mountain Co-op sunglasses that never made it off the plane. I've been punishing myself for my stupidity ever since by wearing a $5 pair of sunglasses that I bought in Australia. The trip before that, it was a Canon S5 point and shoot. Until recently, I was doing without a point and shoot camera, but I missed having a camera with me to pick up those spontaneous shots that come out of nowhere.

I did a little bit of research. I was looking for a camera that shot Raw images, offered lots of manual controls, was fairly small, responsive (especially compared to the Canon S5 predecessor that was a slug), was inexpensive and capable of producing good quality images. The camera that seemed to fit the bill was the Panasonic Lumix dmc-lx2:

This is the silver version - mine is black.

I bought mine used on Craigslist for $300 Cdn. The young man who sold it to me must have imported it from Taiwan because the manuals and the software are Chinese, but other than that, the camera works beautifully. The controls are very intuitive and the big dial on the top is remarkably similar to the ones on my Canon cameras. It has no viewfinder, so it has taken some time to get used to shooting through the rear screen. But, the cool thing about using the screen is that it can show all sorts of useful information superimposed on the image, like ISO, shutter speed, aperture and even the histogram.

One of the neat things about this camera is its panoramic mode. Panasonic makes TV's, so it makes sense that their cameras would follow the same 16:9 format as high definition television. This is the default aspect ratio out of the camera and this really seems to work well for landscapes. For portraits, this isn't as compelling, but there are lots of pixels (10.1 MP), so cropping isn't problematic.

The Leica lens seems to be quite sharp for a compact camera and it has a very useful 28mm equivalent wide angle as well as a good 4x zoom range. There is also "Mega OIS", Panasonic's marketing buzzword for anti-shake and it seems to work very well. My old Canon S5 suffered from the occasional blur caused by hand-shake, but I've not had a single blurry shot out of the first 50 or so with the new camera.

The only knock against the camera is its noise at higher ISO's. Photos are useable out of the camera at ISO 100 and 200, but images taken at 400 and above suffer from the pox. A good dose of Noise Ninja is needed to make them presentable.

All in all, I'm very happy with this camera. I can carry it around in my jacket pocket and be ready whenever that magic picture taking moment arises. I can also attend family functions without looking like the hired photographer. Perhaps the coolest thing of all is that it allows me to lay to rest that oft-repeated phrase "those are great pictures - you must have a very good camera". Now I can reply: "But not at all, these were just taken with a normal point and shoot camera".

At normal sizes (e.g. 8x10) prints from this camera look quite indistinguishable from those taken with my Canon 5d. The white balance is not as reliable, so I often have to correct it in Lightroom, but I'm quite satisfied with the quality of the images. Here are a couple of party snaps of family members taken with the LX2:

Kate and Ben

Steve and Claire

No comments:

Post a Comment