LX5 Compact Camera Outperforms 5D Mk II SLR

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It sounds absurd doesn’t it that a little pocket camera costing a few hundred pound could outperform a DSLR costing almost 10 times as much? But that’s exactly what happened to me recently.

I happened to be driving through Somerset with the best part of the day free so I decided to take a detour and visit Wells Cathedral to take some photographs. I had seen some very impressive images of the inside and knew that the Cathedral encourage photography (providing you pay a few pounds for a permit). The only limitation I had to contend with was the low light levels and how to shoot without a tripod.

I decided I could use my 5D with a high ISO setting because of its low noise levels but I would take the LX5 along in my pocket as a sort of backup. With shooting underway, I found I was taking most of my images at either ISO800 or ISO1600 with my lens set to its widest aperture and the image stabiliser turned on. At these settings I was still only achieving a shutter speed of between 1/15” and 1/30”.

As I progressed with my shooting I started checking the LCD at 100% to see if the images were sharp. Unfortunately many of them weren’t, exhibiting quite a bit of noise from the high ISO and some camera shake. I decided to experiment a little with the LX5 and quickly found my favourite low light setting of ISO200 to ISO400 and f/2.8 was giving a shutter speed of between 1/5” and 1/15”. The resulting images did however appear sharp on the camera LCD.

Back at home when reviewing the results I found only about 1 in 5 of the 5D images were acceptably sharp whilst only 1 in 5 (or less) of the LX5 images exhibited camera shake and noise levels on all were acceptable. The problems I seemed to be encountering with the 5D were:

  • Camera shake was evident even though the image stabilizer was on. It seemed much easier to hold the LX5 steady whilst taking the photograph.
  • Because I could shoot with the LX5 lens almost wide open (f/2.8) I was able to maintain a lower ISO setting which resulted in quite good noise control.
  • The lens on the LX5 is f/1.8 and performs very well at this level. Stop it down just slightly to f/2.2 and the performance is excellent. With the Canon lenses (even though they were L series) I need to stop down at least 1 stop to gain good performance.
  • The Canon 5D is a full frame sensor so when used with wide apertures I was achieving very limited depth of field, certainly not enough for the compositions I wanted to shoot. Contrast this with the LX5 which has a small sensor so even at f/2.8 I got great depth of field.

So what of the pixel count difference?

Well the LX5 is 10Mpixel and the 5D 21Mpixel. This means I can realistically print the LX5 ISO400 images at A3+ after a bit of resizing. The 5D produces an image of this size without resizing but what use is that if the images are blurred through camera shake, lack sharpness because of noise or simply don’t have enough depth of field?

Finally I should point out that the LX5 was a joy to use in this environment where as the 5D was heavy, tricky and restricted my photography.

So now you know how it’s possible for the tiny LX5 to outperform the much higher spec and more expensive 5D. The message is know your equipment, where its strengths lie and what its weaknesses are. Shoot in the right way and you can achieve some spectacular results with equipment others don’t take seriously.

3 thoughts on “LX5 Compact Camera Outperforms 5D Mk II SLR

    The Hungry Architect said:
    May 22, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Interesting! I shoot with a 5d mkII and have recently been photographing architectural models with a Canon 25-105mm f/4 IS lens and I’ve found that the image stabilizer CREATES blur! The lighting setup is quite dark so I’m usually at about a 2-3s shutter speed at f/9 iso100 range.

    I watched in the viewfinder a few times after I focus, the lens drags around ever so slightly with IS turned on. I found all my images to be less sharp than I was wanting so I turned IS off and they were instantly sharper. I generally just keep IS off unless I’m shooting above 1/50. Then again, maybe i’m doing it wrong…

    Great work though, nice blog.

      thelightweightphotographer responded:
      May 22, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      Thanks for the comment and pleased you like the blog. Interesting taht I’m just cleaning up my old archive of images and have needed to delete around half of my 5D images from one shoot. I just can’t seem to get a sharp shot when the shutter speed falls to 1/25″ even at 24mm. My GX1 performs much better but then its a far lighter camera. Hope to have some more interesting blogs for you in the future.

        The Hungry Architect said:
        May 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm

        Very interesting. I find my 7d out performs my 5d in terms of speed. My method of getting a sharp image for a 1/10 – 1/30″ range is just to put it on continuous and take around 10 photos… it’s bulky but usually does the trick in a pinch without a tripod. Or I crank the ISO, desaturate, tweak contrast and call it a moody B&W hehe.

        Looking forward to more posts

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