Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lumix DMC-LX5 Image Quality Review

Canon EOS 5D, EF 70-210 f4 Lens

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
To make comparisons of image quality requires taking the same picture with a reference camera, which should be a "best" camera, compared to the camera you want to compare. I happened to be so equipped for my story on the needless and sad destruction of Radio Canada International, and I managed to take two similar pictures, one with each camera. In order to be equal and fair, although I was shooting with Raw and Jpeg with both, I decided to use the Jpeg only for comparison, because with Raw data files, it's so easy and tempting to make a shot look much, much better. One thing I did with both however, was to add the same film emulation (that being G'MIC's Fuji Velvia-50) to both Jpeg's, with this being a simple one-click enhancement which would be applied equally. In actual fact, both Jpegs needed a little extra something, as they were both rather dull looking out of the camera, as is usually the case. I should also mention that both were shot at f8.0, with the Zoom set at 90mm - the maximum limit on the LX5, and close to the lower limit on the Canon EF70-210.

Keep in mind what we're comparing here. The reference camera is my EOS 5D Classic, with a 12.8 MegaPixel full-film 35mm sized CMOS sensor - a big heavy brute of a DSLR with a very old, heavy EF Telephoto Range lens, whilst the subject camera is my DMC-LX5 - a fully pocketable 10 MegaPixel on a 1/1.63" (approx. 12mm) CCD Sensor, with a Leica 24-90mm Zoom Lens. The two cameras couldn't be more different in design, except for one thing - they're both built for top-notch picture quality in their respective class.

In comparing the two pictures above, one would be tempted to think the LX5 shot is a bit darker than the Canon shot, but in making comparisons in the snow, and not in the sky, it's easy to see this is not the case - the exposures are the same, but the white balances are vastly different. White Balance would've been changed by my addition of film emulation, but keep in mind they would've been changed in exactly the same way. Knowing that the transmitter building is painted pure white, I would say the LX5 did a better job here. The LX5 also portrays a more natural tone to the sky, with the Canon leaning more to Cyan than blue.

However, when it comes to capturing detail, the EOS 5D is the clear winner, and with such a huge difference in sensor size, we can only say that "it had better be so". Immediately, we see that the big Canon captured virtually endless detail in the sky and clouds, and as every part of the pictures is examined, we can see how the 5D serves up more detail. But the LX5 is no "distant second" here! There is still an amazing amount of "micro-contrast" provided by this tiny camera. Both pictures exhibit plenty of "roundness", and both pictures "lay flat" with plenty of real depth that invites you into the scene. I've noticed how early digital cameras (meaning 4 MegaPixel or less) rendered a "painted wall" appearance, especially when compared to film, which was still king back in the early 2000's.

Naturally, with the EOS5D being a full-frame semi-professional camera, especially with the truly great, and rather old (read- "meant for film") EF70-210 f4 lens, a small-frame consumer pocket camera wouldn't be expected to win at image quality. It seems like a crazy idea to make a comparison at all, but like I said above, it's always a good idea to use your best reference camera. But what we've seen is how the Panasonic DMC-LX5 is no slouch when it comes to out-door image quality, and that it does meet every expectation for what we would call "great" quality - not "the best", which we would naturally reserve for professional grade cameras. My verdict is "surprisingly good", and this makes the DMC-LX5 to be not merely a good pocket camera, but a great one in my books.

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