Sunday, March 9, 2014

Grand-Kids and a Decent Pocket-able Camera

The DMC-LX in White (Stock Photo)
Call it Retail Therapy, but I bought yet another one. I didn't actually push the checkout button until I was certain that one of my two EOS 5D Classics were going to sell - I'm keeping the one I did the mirror repair on, and selling the one I bought last year. Either way, I'm making several hundred dollars in profit by doing this flip.

So, what I bought is a Lumix DMC-LX5 in white. That is a more up to date LX7 shown above, but the outward differences are minor. I went for the least expensive one on Ebay, and I expect it was bidding low because it is a white one - far less popular than black. A camera's outer colour doesn't concern me too much, as long as it isn't pink or purple - it's the inside that counts. I was getting tired of not having a camera handy when I need one, and for years I've been aware of the relatively good quality of Panasonic's Lumix DMC-LX series. Sure, I've written articles here about how a Canon Digital Rebel can be "pocket-able" with a small pancake lens on it - well, that is, "pocket-able" in a winter jacket perhaps. And what about all those small film cameras like the Olympus Trip-35? Well, the Trip-35 isn't small enough to fit a normal pocket - again, a large winter parka is your only choice. I've also got an Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80, which actually does fit my shirt pocket, but it's a very poor performer. As it turns out, the Lumix DMC-LX5 is exactly the same in every dimension as the Zoom 80, with the lens retracted in both cases, and therefore, pocket-able!

Certainly, there are other cameras that are more pocket-able than this - yes indeed, like the Lumix DMC-FH27, which I bought on sale a couple of years ago, but never warmed up to it - the touch screen controls aren't my cup of tea, and in spite of it having a "Leica" lens, I found it's image quality to be not much better than my Samsung Galaxy II Smartphone. The Lumix LX series is in a totally different league from all the rest of Panasonic's cameras, and they just keep getting better. It is well known that this series of cameras have also been re-branded as Leica's D-Lux series - Leica puts the Panasonic works inside their own case, throws in some Adobe software, provides a 2 year warranty, instead of Panny's 1-year, then they add 50% to the price. But, they are indeed, exactly the same camera. The German's are good at doing this - take the Audi A3 Wagon. It's exactly the same car as the VW Golf Wagon, without the roof rails, but again, with 50% added to the price.

The DMC-LX5 takes some amazingly great pictures. I don't know why, but Rockwell won't even give these a passing glance. He covers every other Japo camera brand (aside from the main contenders, Nikon and Canon, he reviews Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Pentax and Sigma), but he doesn't do Lumix. One time he kind of brushed one off with a very insulting review of the Leica D-Lux4, which was the same as the Lumix DMC-LX3 - sure it may be considered a poor excuse for a Leica, because, aside from the lens, and even that's questionable some say, it isn't really a Leica, but - go figure! To me, any camera should be judged by the pictures it takes, not by the badge on the front. Here are some shots that show what this little honey can do -

The First Pic I Took - High Wire Act - Installing My Solar Panels

The rest were taken at my Son's house, featuring my two Grandsons.


Note the nice out-of-focus bakground. Although not a "Bokeh King", most compact minicams would never manage even this much subject isolation.

A touch of red-eye here, but I just looked - I didn't have the flash set right to reduce red-eye.

This boy loves to mug for the camera!

Now for some B&W - I'm amazed at how much "soul" this camera catches - almost "like a Leica". In my opinion, that probably is a real Leica lens.

I should also mention - this camera catches the moment perfectly - every bit as fast as a DSLR. If there's any hint of compact camera shutter lag, I'm not feeling it. Amazing bit of progress here!


Here I notice that White Balance is nothing like a Canon. But at the same time, there's nothing wrong with it either. I prefer it, actually. Rockwell complains about colour a whole lot, and has a very strong preference to Canon's way of doing things, followed closely by Nikon. But I'm still baffled as to why Panasonic Lumix cameras aren't even on his radar.

Finally, I'll offer my brief list of pros and Cons:

The Lumix DMC-LX5: What I like-

  • Image quality
  • Great colour which I actually prefer to Canon
  • Incredibly soulful B&W
  • Leica lens
  • AF works good - better than my EOS 5D (but given the 5D's age, this is expected)
  • The Multi-Aspect Ratio switch on the lens - I especially like 1:1 Square
  • AF Mode switch on the lens (includes Macro)
  • Flash enabled by popping it up, instead of fiddling with Menu
  • It even looks cool in white
  • Imperceptible shutter lag
  • Good build quality, except the dials and switches feel a bit cheap
  • Dual action rear control wheel, which doesn't feel cheap. Canon could learn from this for their Rebel DSLR's!
  • Turns on quickly, but not instantly
  • Nice heavy rubber grip adds to feeling of quality (this is optional on the Leica version!)
  • Zoom can be continuous, or step-able at 24, 28, 35, 50, 70 and 90mm - how cool is that?
  • Shoots RAW & JPG -  a must have these days.
  • Good Quick Menu function
  • Built-in "Film" Emulation presets
  • A real clip on lens cap that hangs from a string - these protect the lens much better than the more typical butterfly openings found on most compacts

What I don't like:

  • No viewfinder, although both an EVF and an OVF are expensive options (but then, when you add a VF, it's no longer a pocket-able camera). I'm thinking of buying one of these instead
  • The "all or nothing" Info display on the live-view rear LCD screen
  • Zoom is slow - not sure why this would be these days.
  • The Quick Menu is great, but the Main Menu is bizarre
  • Turning on in Play Mode has to be done by holding down the Play button while turning on the Power Switch - a minor complaint which is offset by how you can go direct to Shooting Mode by pressing the shutter button halfway, and the transition is very quick. 
  • Maximum Zoom is 90mm (105 with 1:1 Aspect Ration selected) - a bit short, but then, this camera has a bigger than usual Image Sensor, meaning the Zoom has to remain short to remain pocket-able

The pro's and con's have a lot to do with the question - "do you want a good pocket camera to supplement your DSLR or don't you?" This camera may do a lot more than merely "supplement" my big heavy brute. Again, we shall see.

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