LX5

RX100 V’s LX5 and LX7 – Part 2

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Death Valley Sand Dunes - RX100
Death Valley Sand Dunes – RX100

Continued…

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.

RX100 V’s LX5 and LX7 – Part 1

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Death Valley dunes - RX100
Death Valley dunes – RX100

It’s funny how the same questions keep coming up in photography and this is one of them. Which is the better camera the RX100 or the LX5/LX7? I see people arguing on forums, it comes up as a search term in the traffic stats for this sight and I even receive emails asking this. I thought therefore it would be good to post a blog on the subject as I can understand people’s confusion.

At the outset I should say that I have owned all three of these cameras and currently still own the RX100 and LX7. Initially I had purchased the LX5 some 3 years back and was delighted by its performance. My only niggle was that I wanted more megapixels. When the RX100 came out I purchased that also and in time found I was using my LX5 less and less, so I sold it. Just before Christmas this year I found myself buying an LX7 as I was missing the LX5 and finding weak spots in the RX100 performance (but more on that shortly).

The first important point is to realise that you can’t expect to compare cameras based on specification alone. If it were that simple we would all be buying the same cameras (providing we could afford them). Buying a camera is a personal thing so you need to understand what is motivating you to make a purchase and what your expectations are. Most people overlook this point and as a result waste money, often being disappointed in the results.

What follows is my comparison using the points that are important to me. What’s important to you may be considerably different.

Wide angle lens – Ideally I want a 24mm equivalent lens at the wide angle. Both the LX5 and LX7 have this but the RX100 is 28mm. It may not sound like much but it is if you shoot landscapes. For me though this isn’t a deal breaker, but it is important and something I find frustraiting when using the RX100.

Long lens capability – Ideally I want 150mm at the long end of the lens or more. The LX5 and LX7 have a long end of 90mm and the RX100 of 110mm (I think). In practice there is little difference and neither gives me what I want here in order to be truly versatile. Again though, this isn’t a deal breaker.

Lens quality – I want a lens that is sharp from corner to corner and displays little chromatic aberration. Detail should be well resolved and appear nice and crisp in the final image. If I chose to resize the image I want to have confidence the image will look good. Both the LX5 and LX7 have great lenses and produce corner to corner sharpness. I would say if pressed that the LX5 lens on the camera I sold was better than the LX7 I now have, but it’s marginal. The RX100 lens is great in the centre but the corners are soft at the wide end and it drives me mad. Also, under some conditions the corners of images from the RX100 can also take on a red tint. These “features” may not worry you but I find them very irritating.

Image quality – This means the ability to shoot RAW (which all three cameras do) but I find the Panasonic RAW files easier to work with than the Sony files. This may just be my personal feeling.

To be continued…

Return of the LX

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LX7 landscape shot from the Peak District, UK
LX7 landscape shot from the Peak District, UK

Regular readers may recall my decision a few months back to sell the Panasonic LX5, as I wasn’t using the camera. Most of the time when I needed a compact camera I was taking the Sony RX100 which is a great little camera and much more compact than the LX5 (when the filter adapter was fitted).

I don’t know why but I recently had a rush of blood to the head and found myself missing the LX5. I think it was on processing and printing some images I shot in New York where the A3+ prints were simply amazing.

LX5 New York image.
LX5 New York image.

Anyway, I have now purchased an LX7 to replace the LX5. I was about to write that it’s still limited by its 10Mpixel sensor but stopped myself. This doesn’t matter. It will produce great A3+ prints so why do I need more pixels.

In terms of sharpness and image quality the LX7 seems pretty much on a par with the LX5 although the noise at higher ISO settings is reduced. The other nice feature is the filter adapter which screws onto the outside of the lens. This makes it much more compact and it will now fit easily in my pocket.

Had I traded in the LX5 to buy the LX7 I would have been disappointed as I don’t think it justifies the additional cost. Having sold the LX5 I somehow feel the purchase of the LX7 is OK and that I haven’t traded one for the other. It’s early days yet but this camera feels like the return of an old friend.

Broken Link in Silver Efex Book

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New York in the Evening. Captured on a Panasonic LX5.
New York in the Evening. Captured on a Panasonic LX5.

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.

http://web.archive.org/web/20130203200623/http://www.niksoftware.com/addons/index.php/presets/index?lc=en

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.

Learning to Love your Location

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View above Delph in Saddleworth
View above Delph in Saddleworth, England. Click to view larger version. Captured with a Panasonic Lumix LX5

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.

LX5 Book Launched

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LX5 Worked Example from my book
LX5 Worked Example from my book

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.

Sony RX100 – A Good Question

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The LX5 is a great camera and will render fine detail in the landscape despite its "limited" resolution.
The LX5 is a great camera and will render fine detail in the landscape despite its “limited” resolution. Click the image to view larger.

Following my blog posting to say that I am upgrading my LX5 to a Sony RX100 someone asked the perhaps obvious question why I had picked the Sony. There are so many high quality compacts now coming onto the market, why this one. In answering the question, I couldn’t provide one overriding reason so thought it best to respond fully in this post.

The first and probably most important thing that I want to highlight is that not everyone has the same demands of a camera or places the same value on its functions and specification. If we did all think the same we would all be buying the same camera.

In deciding to switch to the RX100 as my compact camera I had a number of criteria that I weighed up. These included:

  • Size of the camera. It needs to fit in my pocket easily. This wasn’t something I could do with the LX5 once the filter adapter tube was attached. Surprisingly the RX100 is smaller than the LX5 and is much easier “carry anywhere”.
  • The camera must be able to shoot RAW and the RAW files work with my converters. With some of new cameras I would need to wait until support is added to my converters or use the manufacturers’ software. Manufacturers’ software usually falls well short of the likes of Lightroom.
  • It must be possible to attach a filter adapter so I can use P sized filters. As I shoot mainly Landscapes this is essential. The LX5 used a bulky adapter tube but for the RX100 I have ordered a rather small neat solution from Lensmate which attaches to the front of the camera and isn’t bulky. I also noticed that some cameras just don’t have the ability to accept filters and there are no third party solutions.
  • Resolution was important to me. Whilst I thought the LX5 was (and is) an amazing camera, I wanted more resolution, ideally a minimum of 14Mpixels. This was very important to me as I want the option of producing very large and detailed prints. I know I can resize the LX5 to 24 inches and perhaps 30 inches with some images but I don’t always want to be resizing images. The RX100 produces +18 inch prints at 300dpi out of the camera.
  • Low light capability. The RX100 is superb in this respect. Probably due to its 1” sensor that isn’t too much smaller than the Micro 43 sensors.
  • Image quality and detail. For this I simply downloaded sample RAW files from the internet. I was impressed by some cameras in terms of colour and lens sharpness but the Sony just blew me away.
  • Ability to throw the background out of focus. This is better than the LX5 and many other cameras due to the larger sensor.
  • Macro capability. The RX100 isn’t that great hear but it’s much better than the Canon G1X which was another camera I considered. I also have the option of fitting a close up lens (52mm screw in) which I already own from years ago.

My suggestion if you are thinking of changing your camera is to work out the features that are essential to you and place them in order of priority. You can then rank the various cameras against these.

There were some aspects of the RX100 that I wasn’t happy with and perhaps I will have to learn to tolerate:

  • Because of its small size and shape it isn’t as easy to grip with 1 hand as the LX5. I think however that a leather half case will resolve this if I can manage to take out a second mortgage to pay the inflated price of the Sony case (but it’s really nice).
  • The wide angle 28mm is limiting. I would have liked the zoon range to be 24mm – 120mm.

And if you are wondering, no I’m not selling the LX5, at least not for a while yet as it’s still a great camera and there is just something about it that I can’t put my finger on.

Upgrading my LX5

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This image has nothing to do with my upgraded camera other than its the type of image I will be shooting. The weather has been so poor that I just haven't been able to shoot much. Very frustrating.
This image has nothing to do with my upgraded camera other than its the type of image I will be shooting. The weather has been so poor that I just haven’t been able to shoot much. Very frustrating.

I have mentioned here before that this will be the year that I finally upgrade my beloved LX5. Not because it doesn’t perform but because it’s being surpassed by new technology that has a lot more to offer me. My intention however was to earn the cost of the upgrade by selling Microstock, something I had promised to blog about in the future.

Well I have been signing up for Microstock and starting to submit images but I will talk about this in the future. What I want to share today is that I have already taken the plunge and purchased a new compact camera. The funding came from an unexpected source; I had sold some camera equipment on eBay last October but I was so busy at the time I had forgotten to withdraw the funds. What a great surprise, especially as it has enabled me to purchase a new Sony RX100.

The new camera arrived on Saturday so I haven’t been able to shoot any useful material (certainly nothing I would be happy to publish) so you will have to make do with a completely unrelated image. Hopefully I will be able to capture some example images this coming weekend if the weather allows.

Initial impressions of the RX100 are very good although I think I will need to adjust my shooting approach from the LX5. The camera is well built with the exception of the battery door cover which feels quite flimsy. Quite surprisingly the camera is smaller than my LX5 and fits in my pocket much more easily. Perhaps it’s even a little too small which is making it tricky to shoot using only one hand.

Whilst it’s a little early to say, the image quality appears to be very good. I do need to remember to stop down a little further than f/3.5 I am used to using with the LX5 however as the depth of field isn’t as great. The RX100 has quite a large sensor that’s not much smaller than a Micro 43 sensors. I still find it hard to believe however that Sony has managed to squeeze this into such a small body and give it 20Mpixel.

At the moment the RX100 is looking like an impressive package although I need some time to really put it through its paces. I will report back in the future, but to me this is the future of Lightweight Photography.

LX5 Settings for Portrait Photography

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I like this image. It has nothing to do with the blog that follows for reasons I will explain.
I like this image. It has nothing to do with the blog that follows for reasons I will explain.

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.

My Lightweight Microstock Experiment

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GX1 stock image - Suitable for MicroStock?
GX1 stock image – Suitable for MicroStock?

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.