Technology Marches On

Captured on a GF1 with 14-45 lens. Colour and saturation adjustment in Nik Viveza followed by B&W conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro.
Captured on a GF1 with 14-45 lens. Colour and saturation adjustment in Nik Viveza followed by B&W conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Yesterday, for some reason I was looking back at some images I shot a year ago in Norway, including the one shown above. At the time my lightweight travel camera was a Panasonic GF1 which soon after I upgraded to a GX1. At the time I was very happy with this camera and the quality of images I could capture but as soon as I had upgraded to the GX1 I literally forgot about my GF1 and image back catalogue. It’s almost as though I had written off the images despite having captured some great shots.

Comparing the quality of the GX1 with the GF1, the GX1 images are larger by about 4Mpixels and have lower noise at all ISO levels. Other than this there is nothing at all wrong with the GF1 images and they look really nice printed large. Is this really the basis for an upgrade? I am now asking myself why did I “write off” this camera – I think it must have been some subliminal mind trick from my daughter who was the beneficiary of the GF1.

Interestingly, I recently purchased a Sony RX100 as my pocket camera. This has around twice the pixel count when compared with my LX5 that it was intended to replace and has great low light and noise performance. Bearing in mind the GF1 to GX1 upgrade, I am now asking myself if this was a good move. Sure the RX100 is a great camera but then the LX5 is incredible and large detailed prints are also easily achievable. Further, I love using the LX5 in a way that is hard for the RX100 (actually any camera) to compete with. I suspect this is why I have hung on to the LX5 and am unlikely to sell it.

Now given all my waffling above, the question I want to answer is how long should we been keeping a camera? At what point should we look to upgrade? Does anyone have a view?

13 thoughts on “Technology Marches On

  1. I upgrade when new gear fulfills a specific need better than what I have. Just being generally new and improved isn’t enough. At this point, I think my upgrade schedule will slow substantially. I really can’t imagine needing more resolution than my 1Ds3 provides, and the 1Ds3 & 1D3 offer all I could ask for in responsiveness and handling for my event & portrait work. High-ISO performance can always get better, but it’s already as good as I need. For travel, the LX7, G3 and GX1 fulfill my needs beautifully. I mostly use them in good light, their ISO 1600 is pretty clean, and 16MP gives me fine detail in the largest print size I routinely make – 16″ x 24″.

    The upgrade from the 1Ds2 & 1D2 to the Mark 3 versions was pretty compelling. the 1Dx & Mark 4 are much less so. Likewise, LX5 to LX7 brought significant speed improvements for street shooting. And, the G3 & GX1 offer bigger printability than the LX5/7. Really can’t think what would make be buy an LX9 or G5, though. As you’ve alluded, the lure of more pixels fades when you examine actual prints and see what can be done with 10-12 good megapixels.

      1. Thanks Jacques, you do raise some good points. I especially like the idea of only upgrading when the new gear fulfills a specific need. That was my stance just before Christmas and now I bought a Sony RX100. I didn’t need the 20Mpixels but that together with the low light performance convinced me I had to have one. I now find I didn’t really need one. I think the camera companies are getting better at marketing to us and they have managed to increase the rate at which we turn over our equipment.

  2. I think that if you are happy with the results from the gear that you are currently using then why update, unless it is for a good & valid reason. My in the pocket camera is an LX5 which when used gives me an excellent result & quite frankly I think that this will remain in my use for years to come.

    However, as far as my DSLR goes this is my story. Several years back I entered the world of digital using a Fuji bridge camera (blowed if I can remember the model at this time) which had Live View. After a while I realised that I had to move to a camera which enabled the use of different lenses so moved up to a 30D but I missed the Live View very much. However, I lived without it for 3 to 4 years & then my eyes were going down hill & I was having a job accurately focusing manually. So I then had reached a good & valid reason point so then it was time to change camera to a Live View & full frame so got a 5d Mk11.
    Although I had a good reason to upgrade it turned out to be very beneficial for me as my photography came on in leaps & bounds so all in all a win-win situation.

    To finish, staying with your gear is beneficial because you know exactly how to get the best out of it, but changing your gear can also be beneficial as obtaining better gear (particularly lens upgrades) can move your photography on to another level. So at the end of the day it has to be a personal choice based on the death of your pocket.

  3. Hi Robin, I would have upgraded to LX7 if I could get to keep my filters and tube accessories during Black Friday last year. Where else can you get a 24 mm at 1.4 at the special price of US$299? I am still looking for a faster AF camera and have been looking at some dslrs and m43. But wow the price of a fast 24mm is staggering! Now if only RX100 has a 24mm and a fast auto focus …

    Rgds, Chew


    1. Yes the LX7 and the LX5 before it are amazing value for money. I much prefer using one of these to a DSLR. I had to do a shoot of a house interior about a year ago and couldn’t get even lighting due to the ultra wide angle lens and problems triggering my flash units. In the end I shot all the difficult rooms with the LX5 – no flash required because of the fast lens and I hand held the camera. The results were much nicer and the client never new what camera was used.

      Keep your eye on the price of the GX1 if you are considering a M43. There are lots of rumours about a GX2 and the prices are dropping fast. If you can find a good one the G3 is also a super buy but new ones are rare now. Unfortunately you need to go for prime lenses if you want a fast lens at a sensible price.

  4. Thanks Paul, it sounds like you have a very similar philosophy to Jacques in the comment above. I do agree with what you say but then that’s my head talking. Given half a chance my heart takes over and I seem to want new cameras or lenses and I end up on a shopping trip. I always want the latest, lightest camera and then I find selling the old one difficult.

    I guess I need to be clear with myself on what the reasons are for wanting something new. I like your examples as they are clear reasons to upgrade. My own reasons go somethig like – oh look there is some noise in the shadows and the corner of the image is a little soft. Hmmm! must get a better lens and a camera with a cleaner sensor so that the image quality is “perfect”.

    1. You are a manufacturers dream customer by the sounds of things Robin!!!! LOL!!!
      The biggest problem with all of us is that we are our own biggest critic & tear our images apart looking for the slightest fault with the image. However, when I find a fault I do my best to dial it out using the software that I have & try to avoid dealing with it by hitting my wallet – give it a try & you will save a fortune4.

  5. Well at least your purchases buy you great persnonal insight:-)
    And thank you, because now you made me doubt mine;-( I just bought the NEX 5r, with filters, a Raynox macro lens, and the Sigma 19 and 30mm to replace my LX5 and I´m still in doubt whether to cancell the order…. This after it took me months to figure it all out. The reason for my purchase is that I wanted more zoom reach, I will buy the Panasonic FZ200 for that, and better photo quality, nice bokeh, better low light performance and faster action, for which I chose the NEX. I don´t know if it´s me, or my LX5, but my pics are loaded with yellow blotchy noise. Just yesterday I took a picture of my dog next to the vertical blinds, daylight,100 iso, and those blinds were yellow blotchy all over. I do find the camera very special but that is just a bit too much.

    1. So you went for the Nex5r in the end. Great camera. I had some good results from mine but the only problem was the lack of lense choice for landscapes. Your LX5 still doesn’t sound right to me. I know you sent me some samples once but happy to take a look again to see if I can spot the problem.

  6. I too have a GF1. I bought it just before it was replaced by the GF2, and got a great deal (£500 with the 20mm lens). I had decided to spend plenty of time with just one focal length, learning it properly, and improving my composition.

    The quality was more than adequate (though I did invest plenty of time in learning how to get the most out of the RAW files, which [to my eye] give much nicer colours and definition than Panasonic JPEGs).

    I’ve invested in a few more primes since. For the most part, I’m very pleased with my prime lens collection, but there’s still this nagging desire to improve my compositional skills still further by sticking with one lens.

    The GF1 had two big issues for me – 1) the crap viewfinder, and 2) the noise above ISO 800.

    I don’t really like the lumpy VF that you can get for the GX1 – never mind the aesthetics, it gets in my way when putting the camera in the bag, and I don’t want to keep removing it.

    Nor do I think that the GX1 is that great at high ISO either; sure it’s better than the GF1, but the difference is significant enough for me. Most of the shots where I’d need the ISO would still come out crap. Far better to spend the cash on a decent flash and to learn how to use that creatively, I feel.

    I bought an X100 to address the high ISO problem, and it is significantly better. The JPEG files are really nice too, so I often find myself just shooting in JPEG. There are plenty of shots you can’t take with the X100 though, so I still use the GF1 a lot too (often with the 14mm or 45mm prime attached).

    Would I be a better photographer now if I’d just stuck with the 20mm? Who knows, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d taken more images that I love if I’d stopped spending after that first £500! I might have spent more time doing photography…

    1. Thanks for the comment Graham. I agree with your points on the limitations of the GF1 but its still a great camera. Whilst the GX1 viewfinder is much better I agree that it gets in the way. This is one of the reasons I tend not to use mine as it makes the camera a little too bulky. It also means that I can’t use the touch screen focussing which is another feature I’m finding it hard to live without. I keep tapping the back of the LX5 and RX100 when I use them in an attempt to reposition the focus point. I like your approach also to using just a selection of primes. I have to admit that the camera I enjoy using most is my XPan which has a 45mm lens on it 99% of the time (because I can’t be bothered to change it and its near perfect). Perhaps you would have taken more images if you had stuck with your initial investment but I often find new equipment makes me more creative, at least that’s what I feel. One of the problems though is if you have too many camera and too much choice. You never know which to use.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.