LX7

Panasonic GM1 First Thoughts – part 2

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GM1 paired with the Olympus 9-18mm lens
GM1 paired with the Olympus 9-18mm lens

In my previous post I looked at the size of the GM1 in comparison to the LX7. In this post I will look at my thoughts around image quality. Right up front I should say that this camera is in another league when compared to the LX7, but then you would expect it to be. And to be entirely fair to the LX7, I have been producing some very detailed and high quality A2 prints from it recently.

In the following image you can see a shot of cracked paintwork which was captured on the GM1 with the 12-32mm kit lens at 18mm with the ISO set to ISO 125 which is the expanded ISO, base ISO being 200. It’s very difficult for you to see the image quality in this other than perhaps the colour rendition.

2014-05-10 RWhalley_GM1_2014_05_1000351

The next image shows the central part of the frame zoomed to 100% magnification.

Image section at 100% magnification
Image section at 100% magnification

This is an exceptionally sharp lens and camera combination and I would put it on a par with the Olympus EM5 paired with the Panasonic 14-45mm lens (which is excellent). What I have noticed though is that the lens starts to soften in the corners as can be seen in the next shot.

Corner section of the image at 100% magnification
Corner section of the image at 100% magnification

This softening isn’t too bad but you can also see some light fall off. I was finding that when shooting something near to me I was needing to stop down to about f/6.3 in order to bring the corner sharpness up to a level where I could add additional sharpening later. Being fair to the 12-32mm lens, it is an excellent performer and is never going to compare with the likes of the Olympus 25mm or 45mm primes. If you are shooting more distant subjects or those that don’t demand exceptional corner sharpness, it is ideal.

What is also noticeable about the images above is he colour rendition in the GM1. I have found the images on a par with the Olympus EM1. The RAW files are a pleasure to work with and I seem to be able to achieve great results.

Now one area I don’t usually like is shooting at higher ISO. If I have to push my camera to anything over ISO 400 I start to fret that I am losing image quality. So occasions where I have to shoot handheld in low light are something that I hate. Take a look at the following image where I had to shoot at ISO800.

 

Low light image shot handheld at ISO800. Processing in Nik Silver Efex Pro
Low light image shot handheld at ISO800. Processing in Nik Silver Efex Pro

Now take a look at a section of the unprocessed image at 100% magnification.

Section of the image at 100% magnification prior to processing.
Section of the image at 100% magnification prior to processing.

I have applied a very small amount of noise reduction to the image but it’s hardly noticeable. The low light performance appears to be on a par with or even slightly better than my Olympus EM5, something that surprised me as Panasonic have always produced images that are noisier than their Olympus competition. I would certainly have no problems printing this image at A2.

One odd thing that I noticed about the camera when shooting in low light was that it performed better with the 12-32mm lens than any of my primes. Neither the lens nor the body have any form of image stabiliser but I could consistently shoot clearer images. Use the 25mm and the shake would be very evident. I can’t explain that one.

In summary, put a good lens on this camera and it really performs in terms of image quality. And if you only have the 12-32 lens, it’s still a good performer if you are not ultra fussy about corner sharpness or know how to overcome this. It really is a superb quality pocket camera.


As someone has kindly pointed out since I made this post, the 12-32 lens is stabilised, so that sorts out my confusion. I even have to admit to having looked at the front of the lens to see if I could see OIS and I completely missed it. Time for new glasses I think.

 

Panasonic GM1 First Thoughts

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As regular readers will know, I recently splashed out on the purchase of a Panasonic GM1 camera. If you are not familiar with the GM1, it is possibly the smallest Micro 43 system camera that you can buy. My thinking was that I would use it as a backup to my main Olympus EM5, a lightweight travel camera, possibly pairing it with my GX1 infrared or as a replacement for my LX7 compact camera. The LX7 is a lovely camera and I really enjoy using it but there are times when I want better quality and a higher pixel count than its 10Mpixel sensor will give me. If the GM1 is a nice pocket camera it might replace the LX7.

So, I have been using the GM1 for a couple of weeks now and am starting to get a feel for how its specification translates into real life shooting. I know quite a few of you are keen for me to share my experience (as you keep writing to me) so here we go. First off, let’s compare the size of the GM1 to the LX7 which is a compact camera and which fits quite nicely into my pocket.

The GM1 that I purchased came with a 12-32mm f/3.5 – 5.6 lens. The neat thing about this lens is that is collapses down when not in use. This makes the lens and camera together roughly the same depth as the LX7 which also has a lens that retracts. Here you can see the two cameras side by side from above with UV filters in place. Notice the depth of the GM1 body (which is on the left) is less than the LX7 although the lens is deeper.

GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left
GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left

When viewed from the front you can see the GM1 is actually smaller than the LX7 both in terms of width and height.

GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left
GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left

This is even clearer to see when the camera is viewed from the rear (GM1 is on the left). Despite this reduction in size the screen area is the same size as the LX7. I know this as I fitted a screen protector from the LX7 to the GM1.

GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left
GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left

Once both cameras have their lenses extended for use they are still roughly the same size.

GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left
GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left

One aspect of the GM1 that some users may find annoying is that there is no hotshoe to fix an external viewfinder to so you are limited to the screen display. Personally I haven’t found this an issue and the screen has been easy to see even in quite bright conditions.

What I really like about the GM1 is that ability to attach other high quality Micro 43 lenses to the body. Here you can see the Olympus 45mm prime in place.

GM1 with an Olympus 45mm prime
GM1 with an Olympus 45mm prime

And also the Olympus 17mm Pancake lens.

GM1 with an Olympus 17mm prime
GM1 with an Olympus 17mm prime

With the pancake lens in place the camera is a very small package that fits easily into your pocket.

But size isn’t everything, even with small cameras. You need to know how the camera handles. So far I have tried the GM1 with the 12-32mm kit lens, Olympus 9-18mm wide angle, the primes you see above, the Olympus 25mm and Olympus 60mm macro lens. The 60mm macro lens is actually quite large and is possibly where the camera starts to feel unbalanced but is still perfectly usable. Using the camera with the 12-32 is very enjoyable and is probably the ideal partner for it.

In conclusion, this camera is a good substitute for my LX7 in terms of size although the 12-32 lens (equivalent to 24-64mm) is less flexible than the LX7 which has a 24-90mm equivalent lens.

In my next post I will look at the quality of the GM1 in comparison to the LX7.

The Need for Enjoyment

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Reflections in Leadenhall Market. Panasonic LX7 compact camera.
Reflections in Leadenhall Market. Panasonic LX7 compact camera.

So, here I am in London with a couple of friends for the day and our sole purpose is to enjoy ourselves taking pictures. But I wasn’t. Not because this isn’t a great city or I wasn’t happy being with my friends, I just wasn’t inspired. I was taking photographs but I wasn’t creating photography. My mojo had gone and I just couldn’t stay enthused.

I was used to this dip happening around early afternoon but today I just hadn’t got into gear and now it was mid afternoon.

What snapped me out of this was finding a puddle in Leadenhall Market. The market itself had been decorated with flags and whilst pretty wasn’t very interesting. It was only when I found a puddle that showed their reflection that I began to feel interested. I ended up slaving over trying to create the image above for around half an hour without much luck.

Ultimately I decided to put away my main cameras and just work with the little Panasonic LX7. This is where everything just clicked into place and I started to create photography. That little camera is a joy to use. I love the control it gives me and the quality is very good. I have since printed some of my shots at A2 and they look super (but more on that at a later date).

After this switch of equipment I started to feel enthused again and everything came together. I even switched back to shooting with my other cameras to vary things and it worked well. This just goes to show the importance of enjoying yourself when taking photographs.

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.

Opportunity or Rip Off

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Image

I have now been a Panasonic LX5 user for around 18 months and have been incredibly impressed by this little camera. I love its small size, its RAW files, its fast super sharp lens and its great little sensor. And whilst it’s only a 10Mpixel sensor I can easily create A3+ prints that look stunning. I was therefore very excited the other day when I read on the Online Photographer Blog that the LX7 is being released.

At the mere thought of the LX7 my mind went crazy with all the improvements that might be incorporated. Whilst the sensor and lens combination are great at A3+ I would ideally have liked a 14Mpixel sensor. Perhaps also a tilting LCD display and a built in EVF. Perhaps the lens will have its zoom range increased to 24-120 like the legendary Sony R1.

 I was however a little taken aback when I read the spec to find out it was quite like the LX5. Admittedly the lens is even faster and supposedly sharper, whilst the sensor is better at producing clean, noise free images. This wasn’t however the huge step change I had hoped for and I now wonder if some of the other manufacturers e.g. Sony with their RX100 20MP wonder are pulling ahead.

Having spent some time reading the specifications I doubt I am going to spend the £450 necessary to upgrade my LX5 which on paper looks to have a similar spec. Perhaps when I come to use one I will appreciate the great lens and sensor sufficiently to want one – but I can’t help thinking I might be getting ripped off.