Sensor quality – Here I would say I am interested in producing natural colours and smooth images (free from noise). The LX7 is better than the LX5 but neither can touch the Sony. The Sony has smooth images with very limited noise that doesn’t get exaggerated when the images are processed. The colours from the Sony are also very lifelike. I have often thought the Panasonic colours, especially Green, look a little unnatural. The ISO performance of the LX7 is better than the LX5 but the Sony is much better than both of these. As I shoot most of my work at base ISO and hardly ever go above ISO800, the LX7 and RX100 are fine. The LX5 struggled above ISO400.
Pixel Count – This only becomes important if you are going to be producing large prints and by that I mean above A3+. The Sony will produce a slightly larger than A3+ print at 300dpi without any enlargement whilst you will need to enlarge the LX5 or LX7. What is interesting is that some of the LX5 or LX7 images enlarged appear sharer and more detailed than the Sony. If you go to A2 printing the LX5 and LX7 can achieve this is you take care whilst the Sony can be enlarged to this easily but it can reveal the soft corners (I said it was irritating). If you are only going to share your images on the Internet then any of the cameras will be fine.
Filters – I shoot landscapes so I need to be able to attach square filters such as ND Grads. All three cameras allow this but the LX5 requires a bulky tube to be attached. I hated this as it stopped the camera fitting easily in my pocket. The LX7 uses a screw in adapter which I like but I can’t leave the filter adapter ring attached as it jams the lens when it retracts. It also causes vignetting at the 24mm end when shooting 16:9 format (which I do alot). The RX100 filter adapter is a stick on affair which is very slim and works well but it’s expensive.
Handling – I find the RX100 small to handle but it is improved by the addition of the Sony leather half case. The layout and dials are good on the RX100 as is the front aperture ring which can be switched to other purposes such as focussing. The LX7 has a great aperture ring and I love the format switching ring. The LX5 is similarly good but lacks the aperture ring. If pushed I would say the LX cameras are easier and faster to work with than the RX100. If your bag is street photography then I think the LX cameras are probably better to work with.
What this all means is that for me, none of these cameras is perfect but all will perform well and achieve the results I want. I suspect (unless you see something above to convince you otherwise) that they would also serve you equally well. The best advice I can give is what I started this blog with – understand what features are important to you and why before investing.
If I had to use just one camera it would actually be the RX10. It has the great sensor of the RX100 but the lens is amazing. Its failure (if you can call it that) is that it’s significantly larger than the others and won’t fit in your pocket. Surprisingly my Olympus EM5 is quite a bit smaller than the RX10 and produces the best image quality of all the cameras – I still can’t fit it in my pocket unless I am using prime lenses.
Remember, no camera is perfect for all tasks.
I was recently contacted by someone who had purchased my Nik Silver Efex book but was having problems. I mention in the book that Nik provide a number of useful presets on their site which are free to download. These include a good Landscape preset and a faux infrared preset which is quite dramatic. There were also links to download a number of additional presets for the Color Efex software. When trying to access the link I provided this person was being redirected to a new Google/Nik site.
The bad news is that Google, despite all the improvements they have made to the Nik software, has removed the presets. I spent quite some time trawling their site and archives and can’t find the presets anywhere. Whether or not this is temporary I don’t know.
The good news is that I have been able to locate the presets using the “Wayback Machine” website. Here is the link for anyone wanting to access these.
In case you are wondering, the image above didn’t use any presets. It was shot with a Panasonic LX5 from the top of the Empire State Building in New York shortly, after sunset on a rather dull day. But more on the LX5 in another post soon.
One of the things that I love about compact cameras (aside from the great quality you can now achieve with some of the “Pro” models) is that they are easy to carry. They are light and fit easily into your pocket or bag. This makes them the ideal photographer’s tool to have ready to hand at almost any time. It also means you can take a good quality camera with you, just in case when you are out and about. This is one reason why I first invested (a few years back) in the new breed of compacts and bought an LX5.
At the time I had heard good reports about the LX3 and LX5 but had decided not to invest as I was concerned about image quality. Once I saw some images and processed some RAW files for myself, I was convinced. This was also the ideal camera for me to take out when I was walking locally.
I am sure many of you reading this also have or would like compact cameras that allow you to capture images when you are out and about near to home. If that is the case, let me ask you, how often do you actually do/would you do this and what do you do with the images after?
The reason I ask this is because I don’t think that I take my camera along often enough. If I am out for a walk locally, I often don’t feel the landscape (I am after all a landscape photographer) is worthy of taking photographs. This is odd as I know people who travel to where I live to take picture and I have even seen magazine articles. Strangely I just can’t see it and can’t enthuse over the landscape. I think I have become blinded by familiarity and often find myself travelling for an hour or two to areas that I feel offer more potential.
Last night however I was working through my huge back catalogue of images that are yet to be processed, looking to delete some when I came across the image here. I have never really paid any attention to the images I have snapped locally but I found last night that I actually quite like this one. It’s not earth shattering but it gives a pleasant view of one of the villages where I live.
The village you see in the picture is of Delph in Saddleworth and I am on top of the hill above Dobcross. You probably haven’t heard of either of these but both have been used as Film and TV locations. Dobcross was used in the film Yanks amongst others whilst Delph appeared (briefly) in the Film Brassed Off. They must have been chosen for a reason.
What I think I need to do is to open my eyes to the beauty of the location where I live and not go out with a pre-conception of the type of image I want to capture.
After my previous post, I am no longer feeling sorry for myself and am well on the road to recovery. In fact I am feeling quite satisfied as I have finally completed my book “The Panasonic LX5: How to Achieve Exceptional Image Quality” which has been on the go since November last year.
As the title suggests then book is about how to create exceptional image quality with the LX5. It is supported by a worked example turning a standard LX5 image into a highly detailed 30” print. If you are a member of my Lenscraft web site you can download the full resolution 30” image for a closer look. The only rule is that you can’t sell it, change it or pass it off as your own work.
If you want to find out more about the book you can find the details here.
Hopefully normal blogging resumes from next week.
Firstly, let me say Happy New Year to everyone. I hope it’s a great year for you.
Now, if you have been following this blog for a little while you might be aware that I recently purchased a second Panasonic Lumix GX1 body so I could send my old camera for conversion to Infrared. Over the festive season I received the converted camera. Unfortunately it’s been a frustrating period due the weather here being terrible. Most of the UK has been suffering severe flooding and even where it hasn’t flooded, the rain has continued relentlessly.
Last Sunday there was a short break in the rain (although the clouds didn’t really part for more than a few minutes) and I found myself out in the Peak District with my new camera. The weather really wasn’t conducive to shooting infrared but I gave it a go because I was desperate to try out the camera. The results were quite interesting and I noticed a few things that I hadn’t previously been aware of:
- When shooting Infrared the dynamic range of the camera seems huge. I could shoot without using any ND Graduated filters. The same shot with my unconverted GX1 needed at least a 0.6 ND Grad to balance the exposure with the sky. I did try using a ND Graduated filter with the Infrared camera but it made absolutely no difference to the exposure or histogram. This sort of makes sense but I haven’t quite got my head around it.
- The autofocus worked to some degree. To be honest I had expected it not to work at all so that was a nice surprise. The focus wasn’t however as accurate as I want so I will need to switch to manual focus. If you are old enough to remember film cameras you might be aware of an Infrared mark on your lenses which shows the infinity point of focus when using Infrared film. This is because IR light has a different point of focus and I haven’t yet worked out how I’m going to address this.
- The depth of field appears less with the Infrared camera. Again I can’t get my head around why but my usual trick of shooting at f/7.1 and focussing on the near foreground just didn’t cut it. I will need to experiment more.
- I was shooting with the camera set to RAW and JPG in Mono. The Mono JPG’s looked OK but I think a true conversion from RAW will be best. Looking at the RAW images they display the usual Red shift with most of the data being in the red channel and little in the blue and green. I need to work out the best approach to converting RAW files to produce the typical infrared look I am after.
- Relying on the cameras auto exposure resulted in an underexposed histogram during shooting. It was possible to push this by 1-2 stops without the histogram becoming clipped and this produced quite nice in camera JPG’s. I’m not however sure this technique produced good RAW files for conversion so more experimentation is required.
- My 14-45mm lens appeared to suffer from quite a bit of barrel distortion on the infrared camera that wasn’t previously present or is present on my other GX1. My 45-200 lens doesn’t seem to suffer and the 9-18 Olympus lens only shows limited distortion at the widest end. I need to work out the best approach for dealing with this
So, in summary, I have a lot more experimentation to achieve the results I was hoping for but the early indications are good. I now need the weather to improve so that I can use the camera properly.
I was reviewing some of the Google searches which people have used to arrive at the Lightweight Photographer blog when I noticed someone searching for LX5 setting to use when shooting portraits. Usually I like to blog about questions which I don’t think are already answered on the site and this is one example. The reason I haven’t addressed this until now is that I don’t take pictures of people so I don’t even have one to illustrate the blog with. I will however take a moment to explain the settings I would use on an LX5 to shoot portraits:
- I will assume the picture is all about shooting the person and in particular their face.
- Shoot at mid to long focal lengths so that you can zoom in on the face. Ideally this is 50mm or preferably more if you can. Wider angles tend to distort the subjects face and they really won’t thank you.
- Set the camera in aperture priority mode as controlling the aperture is more important than the shutter speed – providing your subject can sit or stand still whilst you shoot.
- The aperture should be wide open at the widest aperture. This will help blur any background in order to focus attention on the sitter.
- Try to compose the image so that there is minimal background showing around the subject in the frame. Ideally the background should be the same all over to avoid any distraction – unless of course you want to show the subject in a particular setting and the setting is important to the picture.
- Move in quite close to the subject to help the blur and also to fill the frame with the subject.
- Place your subject in good light but not direct light. Direct light is harsh and will probably make your subject squint. A good approach if you are indoors would be to stand them next to a window and shoot them so the window it to the side of you. If you are outdoors try standing in the shade of a tree.
- Set the camera to spot meter from the subject. If you expose for the subject in this way it will underexpose the background and highlight the subject further.
- Set the camera into spot focus mode and take care to focus on the eyes of the subject. If anything needs to be in focus it’s the eyes.
- If the subject has a lot of shadows on their face consider using some fill in flash. If you do this check the manual as it’s easy to get the flash too strong.
There is of course more than one way to crack this problem and simply setting the camera to Portrait mode with auto flash will produce a good image. If you still don’t get a good image ask yourself the question, is the problem that the subject is just uncomfortable having their picture taken. It might not be your camera skills that are limiting the results.
After my last blog post about my Camera Wish List, it got me thinking that I will probably want to upgrade my trusty LX5 at some point over the next year. There is nothing currently on the market that would make me switch but I suspect there will be over the next 12 months. Why? Well there is something in technology known as Moore’s law which stated simply says computing power doubles every 18 months.
I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your attention but camera is now really mini computers and the rate of improvement has accelerated so that after 3 years I can probably get a model that’s twice as good at the same price. My LX5 will be 3 years old next December and I think there will be something so good launched that I will just have to switch.
My suspicion is that I will need in the region of £500 to upgrade although I should get some of this back for the sale of the LX5. I need a way therefore to create an additional £500 over the next year and that’s where this experiment comes in.
I was looking at my image archive the other day and realised I had some 50,000+ images shot on my lightweight camera gear that are just sitting on my RAID drives, bit doing much. Some of these I use to illustrate my blogs but by far the majority never see the light of day. I actually want to slim down this back catalogue by editing the images to remove the rubbish, refine the ones I like and generate some money with them.
Now I should point out that I already shoot stock for two libraries but this tends to be with my DSLR. All the LX5, R1, GF1, GX1 and Sony NEX-5 images never go to these libraries as they have very clear guidelines over the cameras they accept. Microstock libraries on the other hand are more open minded about the equipment and will accept all of the above if the quality is right.
The problem I have is not in the quality of the images but in the subject matter. The vast majority of my work is landscape and travel based. These are subjects that the Microstock libraries generally don’t want more of as they are not as saleable as the concept images. I am therefore likely to have quite a lot of rejects although I am free to submit the same images across multiple libraries.
So, my plan is to sign up with 5-10 libraries and submit approximately 10-20 images a week from my archive. If 50% of these are accepted then I should achieve 500 images by the end of the year, hopefully generating sufficient to pay for the equipment upgrade. The only problem with my whole approach is that I might get tired of the relentless keywording and editing to generate the 10-20 images a week. Assuming I get the experiment underway I will report back through this blog in the coming months. Don’t be surprised however if I report back that I don’t have the patience or time to do this.
If you look back over my posts you will find quite a lot of comments about the need to shoot in RAW format and how I use RAW all the time. I have however been reminded by a couple of readers that not everyone does or even wants to shoot in RAW. So what should they do?
I have lots of concerns and reasons why I don’t shoot in JPG but one of the main reasons is the lack of post processing control. This is especially true of Noise Reduction and Sharpening which are applied to JPG’s in camera and which are key to determining the sharpness and detail in the finished image. If you are an LX5 and/or GX1 users I can tell you how to address this and my advice will probably apply to other cameras in the Panasonic Range as well as possibly other manufacturers.
There are two basic problems to my mind with the JPG’s from the LX5 and GX1 (and also the GF1 if I remember correctly). They have too much noise reduction and too little sharpening. If I had to shoot JPG I would be turning off noise reduction and sharpening in camera. I would then apply noise reduction as a separate step once I had the JPG on my computer before I did any image manipulation. I would then sharpen the final image to a level at which I am happy. Working in this way will help preserve your images and minimise loss of detail.
The way to switch off the noise and sharpening is through the Film Mode in the LX5. This is found in the Menu under the Record settings and is on the first page. Here you have the option to configure a new Custom film setting for which you can specify Contrast, Sharpening, Saturation and Noise Reduction. The GX1 is very similar to this.
If you want to shoot JPG but want to achieve sharp details, check your camera manual and give this approach a try.
I was going to use today’s post to tell you a little more about how I used the Topaz Detail 2 software to emphasise the detail in my LX5 images to produce enlargements. On Friday however I attended a Topaz webinar about Detail 3 which is due for release shortly. Detail 3 seems to be a big leap forward on Detail 2 (which is already very good) so I will wait until I have the new software to explain more. Instead I want to share some information about a trip out yesterday.
These days my opportunities to shoot tend to be when I am out in the landscape walking so my main camera for this is the GX1. Every month or two however I have the opportunity to get out with other photographers and spend a day or two just photographing. For these trips I tend to supplement my usual GX1 and LX5 cameras with a 5D MKII. I do like to use this camera and the results are superb. The downside is that it’s heavy and walking around with two full camera systems on your back for a long period of time is hard work.
For this weekend’s trip I decided I would only take the GX1 and LX5 with me together with some ND graduated filters (“P” sized HiTech) and a lightweight Velbon tripod (that I discussed a few posts back). The GX1 was a replacement for my 5D and the LX5 was a sort of point and shoot experimental camera with which to explore ideas. The GX1 and 3 lenses weighs less than the 5D body but the big surprise was how much I used the LX5; I literally couldn’t put it down.
What a joy it was packing such a limited amount of equipment. There was far less than usual and everything I needed fitted in a small Low Pro slingshot bag. This allowed me to walk around all day on the beach, easily access my equipment and not need to put the bag down on the sand. In the past this has been a problem with the bag ending up with sand in it, not to mention the neck pain due to hanging a heavy camera round it.
In the end I enjoyed the photography much more than usual as I was free to more around with ease due to the small camera size. I felt very fresh through the day so was more prepared to put up with the very cold conditions. I was also able to shoot quite late into the day without the need for my tripod. I was even shooting handheld with the LX5 well after the sun had set (not that you could see the sun yesterday afternoon) but I will speak about that another day.
Lightweight only days are definitely going to be a feature of my future trips and I’m now wondering if it’s worth retiring the 5D.
In my previous blog I shared my process for making large prints with the LX5. I didn’t however explain about two of the other pieces of software that I also experimented with. The first of these that I want to tell you about is Photo Ninja which is a RAW converter. If the name reminds you of Noise Ninja, that’s because it’s by the same people.
Anyway, the reason I wanted to try out the converter is because many people are raving about the detail and quality of the images created. And to be honest, I have to agree. There was a huge amount of detail rendered and I didn’t have to work that hard to make the image sharp and of a high quality. Here you can see a small screen sample of an LX5 image shown at 100%.
No this hasn’t been sharpened other than a little RAW sharpening applied in the converter as I would in Lightroom.
I think the slider that really did the magic for me was something called “Detail”. When I used this the details just seemed to pop out but in a very natural way. It also did nothing to damage the colours which also rendered very well.
There were two interesting points to this experiment however:
- I didn’t have to spend much time learning in order to produce excellent images and with a little practice I expect I could do better.
- After I resized the image and did the same in Lightroom, I applied the Topaz Detail filter to both images. I expected the image from Noise Ninja to be better but it wasn’t. Both images were pretty much on a par. This suggests to me that Lightroom is also doing an excellent job of extracting details but you just don’t get to see it until you use an enhancement tool like Topaz Detail.
Will I switch to Noise Ninja? Probably not. I found the process of waiting for it to render images after each adjustment a little too time consuming. This is supposed to be lightweight image editing after all.
If you are interested in the link to Photo Ninja, here it is…