Category Archives: Photography

The Lumix LX 100 Mrk II – Panasonic Follow Sony’s Strategy

With today’s launch of the mark II  LX 100 from Panasonic, it seems a lot of people are disappointed and not going to be replacing their LX100 original anytime soon, But they are kind of missing the point completely.

I like it. A mark II rather than a new distinct product, l.ike the imaginatively divised LX200 could have been. I don’t recall Panasonic having done this before, but it has long been used by Sony in their benchmark RX100, which is around the same ballpark as the LX100 i.e. an enthusiast’s compact. They are following Sony’s communication and product lifecycle management pretty much to the ‘t’,  in sticking to the ‘form factor’ . Like Sony’s iterations of the RX,  most of the hardware and human interface are still there, same old same old, so panasonic are evolving the camera rather than revolutionising it.

Within panasonic there is though going to have to be internal conflict because the product managers were allowed to reveal that the LX100 uses an mFT chip, all be that cropped in on a smaller light circle from the obviously more compact lens. They must surely be worried about cannibalisaiton of their mFT compacts and furthermore, lenses because as fast a zoom lens as this from their range costs twice as much as the outgoing price tag on the ‘100.

In effect this is an update, a minor upgrade, a getting up to where mFT cameras are these days with a higher resolution mFT sensor which is reported to demonstrate lower noise characteristics. A touch screen is added, and the rest it seems are very minor new features.

Amongst these new features which will work emmenently well with a touch screen, are two new focus modes. One is focus stacking, very useful in macro photography and hopefully also when you are doing things like HDR montage using a wide open lens to build up a landscape or street shot with a marked depth of field from very near the camera to infinity. Within the set up for then what is focus bracketing, which I presume builds a single image vis a vis stacking, availability in RAW outputther is probably absent. In addition to stacking,  they have perhaps thrown in ‘post focus’ based on the same software as stacking.  ‘Post Focus’  I am presuming is essentially an autobracketing of various focal points as single images, and you then touch select which area of the photo you want in focus most, and that image is chosen on screen and the others duly deleted. A bit like poor man’s light field camera. This is actually a really useful feature for things like foliage in the way, and candid shots of people when there is movement and varied light. As I say though, this probably isnt very fancy pants,  because it will be no doubt restricted to jpeg output, and wont work in combination with for example exposure bracketing, which could make for some really cool macro and HDR shots.

While on consumery stuff, never having used much filter in camera myself, there is an improved BW choice there, and I wonder if they have done anything with their HDR mode, because it was pretty rubbish and you are better off exposure bracketing and using either your home PC ‘s weapon of choice, or even some on line offerings for merging layered exposures. I quite like my HDR Mode on my mobile, it suits a roughly 35 mm lens with foreground and a lighter background working good enough for social media.

The dust devil is maybe addressed with this camera, but the so called bete noire of the LX100, is actually a pretty common bug bear on compacts with zooms and medium sized sensors. Not that it ISNT a concern and that it ISNT always easy to get a service job by Panny where you may actually live.

 

Disappointments for me personally are that they havnt stretched the focal length of the glass to 90mm. I would then like a sister camera with a range of say 40mm-200mm which could be a bit bulkier, but is based on the same sensor and user interface. Or maybe they should do a video optimised version in a different body?

Another little pandering to the phillistines in the LX100 is the digital zoom, which is only useable if you want to document something happen, like the martian invasion three houses up the street. The mark II will have much better digital zoom in the portrait and sports critical focal range of 90 to 120 mm, due to the higher resolution sensor.  So I am guessing without having done the maths, that around 100mm crop zoom will be the same resolution as the LX100 at 75mm full optical legnth (?) .  Now that is very useful for portraits, and any loss of blurry background can be made up with layering those post focus shots in your software at home.

With a price point to maybe try and keep to, guessing around €/$ 750-950 at launch, then why need to retool the whole production line, when you can upgrade and entertain new buyers who are downsizing from APS-C DSLRS or upsizing from their mobile phones?  The three big main asks from the moaners in internetland are tilt screen, weather and dust sealing and a longer reach lens, and all of those require majore retooling and alterations to the supply chain.

Why change a winning formula? Sony hasn’t done it with the RX100, Canon had the 5D, and now Olympus are also at it. It says something to the market, that this brand is so strong a franchise of qualities that we are sticking to it. Also it allows for a fancy assed, and may I remind the bitches and flamers, larger camera, with a mic jack point and a big super zoom lens and a whippy, flippy screen etc etc . Not a bad camera, just not an elegant, jacket pocket one.

I hope people who are disappointed with the Lx100 Mark II  stop in the evolution of a very good camera, and just go off and buy one of the APS-C offerings from CaniFujiKon or who ever makes them. I dont need a tilt screen.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC Lx100 – New Owner Review

Well I finally had an excuse to get an LX100 after four years of sitting on the fence. I was very much hoping Olympus would do a competitor based on the same 16 mpx or even a 20 mpx mFT sensor with a permanent zoom lens bolted on. Waiting no more, despite the probability than Panny will launch an LX200 this autumn, it will be dearer and no doubt have other drawbacks and devils.

Why To Buy an Lx 100 and Why Not?

The time is neigh to buy one because they are gonna stop making them. Right now , new, they are as cheap as they are going to get I would say, being around the 600euro/dollar mark. The new lx200 is likely to be nearer a

grand, although I dare say it will be a very much updated camera. Four years is long in the tooth for any camera these days, but Panasonic have invested in a long product life cycle, which could actually hit five years if they do not have a replacement this autumn.

Why not to buy? Well because there is that Lx200 coming along, probably with a touch screen and 16 effective megapixels based on a 20 mpx sensor. Other reasons not to buy used would be the Bete Noire of the camera, dust ingress in the lens or worse, on the sensor. This is a service centre job so look carefully at example shots and into the lens and dont buy without at least some recently dated shots being sent to you.

Otherwise we have the whole discussion about it being too big compared to the Sony RX100, or not big enough compared to the lens and chip dimensions of ‘full’ mFt offerings which are around this size. Yawn. The lense delivers what it can and is a better choice thann the RX100 for soft backgrounds with silky smooth bokeh as they call it. You are getting NEAR full mFT or DSLR qaulity in a compact with a very fast lens and a useable focal legnth-range.

I think the main reason to buy one is the fact that the camera is pretty much a dream – a high qaulity second travel camera – for those of us who grew up with 35mm film and manual controls. It has an Aperture ring for

Aperture RIng!! put that and the shutter speed dial to A, and you have full auto. Move either or, and you choose A or S, and move both off “A” and you have manual control. No menus or looking at the screen.

gods sake! The physical controls more than make up for the lack of touch screen, and ensure that you can spend your concentration ‘head out of camera’ just using the dials for shooting and altering exposure or other settings.

Another neat little feature, a hard switch for focus modes, middle being Macro.

Drawbacks of the LX100

A major drawback is the ingress of dust in the lens and onto the chip. This affects a notable number of users and is a s I say, the bete noire of the camera. This is getting in on the lens barell most likely and so it is something which affects other cameras too. It is a service job. Variable results of contacting panny are reported on the web. some no problem, fixed quite quickly, other countries or regions, not good.

Other drawbacks versus some other cameras include the ‘reach’ ie 75mm in high res, at the long end of the zoom. Also the buttons are fairly easy to tap or rub with your cheek , and using a wheel in their menu system begs you to put touch screen on the wish list for the lx200. The wheel can be locked off though.

The reach is compensated for a but by having an optical 90mm in the lower res mode, dont quite understand this, but also there is a passible interpolated extended szoom , digital crop with re-pixelation, to about 135 and a full crop to 400. Horrid quality, but useful fo documenting something happening at a distance.

An annoyance relating to the start up is that the lens always extends out, and just auto retracts when finally on sleep. I have not found a shortcuyt to retraction other than switching off. So although start up is quick, the camera needs to be swithced off to go back in its case, travel bag or jacket pocket. It does sleep quicker if you are in picture view mode.

Another drawback for me personally, and many looking to get a travel compact and send daly snaps home ashm or post them on n FB, is JPEG colour room. The colours are skewed, garish reds, and a red tinge in shots. Green is lush and a little over saturated. Skin tones are kind of fake suntan due to the balance in their engines colour room. However you can choose NATURAL or SCENERY and further tone down the saturation, which drags the red to a natural look on screen imho. I have yet to try Portrait and adjust it, and also of course the camera is so advanced as to have a RAW developer programme in house! The picture of Tovdal above would have benefited from from being shot in RAW.

On that note the “HDR” function is hopeless- it offers a slight extension in dynamic range while having the issues of movement in mulit exposure, a green tinge in whites I saw, and some artefacts- pixelisation/banding. Any smart phone today will blow it away. A shame when this style has become part of my repertoire recently due to a Sony smart phone I bought with very good HDR.

For the Plus Sides

The plus sides are many – a bright and fast lens, very high quality physical controls, 4k video, I could go on. It is immediacy of control and user experience. More to follow, here are some pictures instead of many words

Buggy Whips and the Google Pixel 2…..

Will the Google Pixel 2 in phone camera whip the compact camera market and challenge DSLR’s in terms of image quality? 

Well if the first pictures Google have released in high-res are true to the real form of the OOC images, then it is very had indeed to see the difference between a crop sensor whip off lense camera (MILC or DSLR) and the compact camera had better learn fast or drop out of the race. I cannot see a single image that is notably inferior to a good qaulity amateur enthusiasts camera, and in fact the dynamic range and blurred  background effects  (bokeh) mimic some of the best unadulterated sensor images from those types of bigger cameras. 

What we are actually talking about now is very much this ” oh those internal combustion engines have their place, but they’ll never be as good as a horse and buggy. No sir, you can’t beat a living thing, does the work for you, smells and breathes quality and reliability” .

The first deriviative of this analogy, taking it further, is that we no longer drive on torturous rutted roads. Our photographic media has changed. 20 years ago when I worked in advertising and design, we sweated with photographers over details on colour transparencies and negatives, only to have our best efforts sabotaged by the CYMK process into print. We worked with 660 dpi scans and laser exposed colour separations. The road is different now, essentially 72 dpi at two feet from the face is all your eye can resolve anyway.

Secondly in stretching our analogy too far, they had better stop producing buggy whips. A few years ago all the local mommies turned up at every kid’s event with a DSLR dangling around their necks. It was often a gift from grandparents, hint hint take lots of baby shots, or an essential purchase. But those kit lenses did the cameras no favours, and most of the entry levle DSLRs became obsolete because mobiles caught up ENOUGH in image quality for the new medium. The internet. Suddenly images were no longer even needing to conform to 1080 pixels in terms of perfect resolution and sharpness, they were a little 300 odd pixel width image on Face’ or Insta’ or Snap ‘.  Everyone had iPhone, and soon the cost of the ubiquitous single buttoned accessory overtook that of an entry level DSLR kit. 

Like those buggy drivers with their whips, they dismiss the new technology as inferior and when you are talking about a 6,000 to 10,000 eurobucks investment in a Full Frame DSLR system with fast lenses, then yes you are darnable right. However the whole landscape has changed and the masses are consuming their media in a different, immediate, 24/7 up time. Also those peer groups and family we share photos are influenced by this, and the impact of an image surpasses the need for technical quality of the image.

We have then come a little full circle perhaps especially back to the long tradition of Leica, the original Olympus PEN and also the box brownie shots. It was more important what they captured in terms of its immediacy, its’ historical importance, its irony, its illustrative or illuminative capture of the blink of the eye period of time and history.  From the beaches of D-Day to the oval office, the small , take anywhere compact camera took many of the most impactful images of the 20th.

So we come to the latest offerings from Apple, Huwaie, HTC, Sony and Google Pixel 2. The images are frankly astounding for a mobile phone, and point I believe to what I said about in camera processing compensating for lack of sensor size and optical ability. A bit like sensible old hooves and wooden wagon wheels giving way to rubber on asphalt, we see a sea change in how images are created  in the few microsecond after the sensor is exposed. 

So now we can certainly start to count out the fixed lens compact camera from the mass market, and a good number of shortish focal range zoom compacts. For a lot of photography of family, landscapes, townscapes and so on, you really don’t need a zoom or telephoto lens. You can survive well with around a 32- 40 mm equivalent fixed lens, and crop when needs be. If you did a world wide EXIF analysis prior to mobile phones, and in the era of the 28-80 mm kit lens, you would probably find around 35 mm as the modal focal length due to the subjecy matter we as humans like best – us, where we are, who we are with.


The best camera possible, is the one you always have with you.