Tag Archives: Lumix

LX5 RAW File Quality

Click to access the detail in this full sized image from the LX5.

I think I have commented before that I like to review the web logs for my site to see what searches people used to find me. Well I am seeing quite a lot of people searching for details about the quality of the RAW files for the LX5. When I see searches such as this which I haven’t particularly addressed I feel I must provide an answer so here goes.

The first thing that occurs to me is the vast number of variables that go into something like RAW file quality. There is the dynamic range, signal to noise ratio, etc. etc. etc. and my head hurts so I stop thinking about it. It then occurs to me that people really can’t be all that interested in the technicalities or they would just go and look up the LX5 on the DXO Marks web site and feel disappointed. No, what I think people are really looking for is some sort of real world indication about how good a camera the LX5 is when you shoot in RAW format and this actually encompasses lost of factors such as the sensor, the lens, post production etc.

Now this is a little difficult for me to comment on as I am biased, thinking the LX5 is a phenomenal camera. So I am going to do something a little out of the ordinary and show you an image shot in RAW format, converted and saved as a JPG and provide the RAW file for you to download and play around with. I’m also going to point out a few of the things that impress me about the images captured on my LX5 in RAW along the way. And just to be absolutely clear, this isn’t what I would class as being a good image, just an example of a RAW file and since I took this my understanding of how to get more performance out of the LX5 has improved.

The first thing I will point out is that there is quite a lot of latitude in the RAW files in terms of exposure. I usually overexpose my images slightly but I didn’t bother with this one. If you are loading the RAW file you will find you need to increase the exposure slightly. I also didn’t bother using a ND Graduated filter which I would normally use for shots such as this but the scene seemed to have reasonable contrast levels so I didn’t bother.

Now for my favourite part, the detail and sharpness. Look at the foreground stone wall and the grass to see how well defined it is at 100%. Now look at the distant hills and you can see the rock in the rock face at 100%. Finally take a look at the detail in the barbed wire. This is impressive stuff from such as small camera.

The final acid test is if you scaled this image you would be able to print it at A3+ size without a problem. You would need to sharpen it but it would produce a very crisp detailed print. I suspect you would probably get away with printing it even larger.

I won’t go on much more other than to say make sure you click on the image above to see it at 100% (it’s about 7Mb) and download the RAW file (about 12Mb in DNG format) to play about yourself.

Lightroom Lens Correction for Micro 4/3

The Lens Correction module in Lightroom can automatically correct common distortion problems. These are typically evident in wide angle architecture shots such as this one of New York Grand Central Terminal shot with a Panasonic Lumix LX5.

This is just going to be a short blog today but I’m sure it’s going to answer a question quite a few Lightroom users have. If you shoot in RAW format then you will be using a RAW converter to convert your images to a picture format such as TIFF or JPG. This is one of the common uses for Lightroom which has the excellent “Develop” module (see my Lenscraft website for free membership and tutorials). One of the features of this module is that you can load in lens calibrations for your camera which will apply an adjustment to correct any lens distortion.

It is possible to create your own lens profiles using a lens calibration chart and some free software that can be downloaded from the Adobe website but this is quite tricky and time consuming. Adobe has therefore taken the approach of shipping Lightroom with some standard Camera and Lens profiles that can be selected. These generally correct the major distortions such as Barrelling and Pin cushioning. There are then further manual adjustments you can make to tweak your image. If however you are a Panasonic or Olympus Micro 4/3 user you might have wondered why these cameras are missing from the lens calibration menu.

The answer is simple, Adobe has built the profile correction into the software and it is automatically applied without needing to select the camera and lens. When I first read this I was a little sceptical but I managed to hunt down the confirmation on the Adobe web site with the answer coming from one of their senior engineers.

So all you Micro 4/3 Lightroom users out there, if you are still not happy all the lens distortion has been removed, turn to the manual adjustment sliders. If of course you have a compatible lens calibration chart, the software from Adobe and a lot of time and patience you could always create your own.

LX5 Essential Accessories

Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Shot with an LX5 and processed in Lightroom with Nik Dfine and Silver Efex Pro 2

I don’t normally like carrying too many accessories for my photography because they can be a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand they help you do things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible but on the other they add size, weight and can hinder your work. There are some accessories however that I do consider essential for the LX5:

  1. Screen protector – I don’t think this one takes much explaining other than to say the rear screen can scratch easily. I use a 3 inch thin plastic screen protector that was made for a mobile phone as they are cheap and do a great job.
  2. JJC lens cap – Where the LX5 lens meets the camera body there is a threaded ring. Unscrew this ring and you can screw on the JJC replacement lens cap. The lens cap is never removed but as you switch on the camera the lens extends through the lens cap which splits into three. When the lens retracts the lens cap closes to cover it again. This has protected my lens on countless occasions and also reduces lens cleaning. This is a great accessory for street photography.
  3. Filter Tube – In the previous point I explained how the filter cap could screw to the lens of the camera. The filter tube follows the same approach and screws to the camera with the lens extending inside the tube. The other end of the tube is threaded and can accept a filter ring to which you can then attach filters. For Landscape Photography the ability to attach an filters such as an ND Graduate is essential. The only downside is that you can only attach either the lens cap or the filter tube but not both together.
  4. My final accessory is really optional and is noise reduction software. If you are keeping below ISO400 with the LX5 and not printing larger than A3, you probably don’t need this but as the ISO creeps up it can become essential. Even if you use only low ISO settings you may be a bit of a perfectionist as I am (I often clean images even from my 5D MkII to remove noise because I am that fussy). I actually use 2 software packages for noise reduction at present, Nik Dfine and Topaz DeNoise. DeNoise is probably the best to my mind but you might have your own preference.

On a final point of interest, many photographers would consider the LX5 to be an accessory for their main camera. If you are one of these people think again and try a day out with just the LX5 and a couple of accessories.

LX5 Dynamic Black and White RAW Problem

Black and White conversion from an LX5 RAW file. This is the Imperial War Museum in Manchester.

If you are a regular visitor to the Lightweight Photographer site you may be aware that I like to solve people’s photographic problems if I can. One of the problems that seems to crop up with some regularity on Forums is that when shooting with the LX5 using the Dynamic Black and White setting the images come out in colour but the colours look odd. Here is an example below.

Dynamic B&W mode on the LX5 produces RAW files with an odd colour

The answer is relatively straight forward in that the user is shooting in RAW format. As RAW captures the image data but doesn’t apply any processing the images from a colour sensor will be in colour. If you want the Dynamic Black and White appearance for your image then you will need to capture your images in JPG format or at least RAW and JPG.

But why then the odd colour?

Well it helps add punch to the image when it is converted. The approach chosen by Panasonic is to bump the colour temperature up the maximum, shifting it to the warm end of the colour spectrum and reduce the tint settings for the RAW file (-95) so that the image is also shifted towards green. The internal processing of the camera then applies a digital filter and the result is a higher contrast image with greater tonal separation than a straight conversation. Here is the resulting file Dynamic B&W file.

Dynamic B&W setting on the LX5

Don’t however be lazy; lightweight yes but never lazy. Processing your colour images into Black and White will give you much greater creative control. The example at the top of the page was a conversion using Nik SilverEfex Pro 2 and took me around 3 minutes. I think that’s a good investment of my time.

How Much Depth of Field with the LX5

New York skyline at night. Shot hand held with an LX5 compact camera using ISO200 and f/2.8.

I recently posted an article discussing how micro 4/3 cameras could achieve good depth of field at relatively wide apertures. This also stressed how the common advice to stop down the lens to a small aperture was misleading and probably resulted in poor lens performance and loss of image sharpness. Well, now it’s the turn of the LX5.

The LX5 is a compact camera with an oversized sensor and a great Leica lens that’s the equivalent of a 24-90mm lens on a full frame camera. Despite its oversized sensor, this is still much smaller than the Micro 4/3 cameras, which gives the LX5 a much greater depth of field at the same aperture.

I can only describe the lens on the LX5 as extraordinary in terms of sharpness and its ability to resolve detail, even in distant subjects. It has an aperture of f/2.0 at its widest to f/8.0 at the smallest. The f/2.0 can only be achieved with the lens set to the equivalent of 24mm. At the other end of the zoom range the widest aperture is f/3.5.

From my observations when using the LX5, the camera produces good images at any aperture and is certainly usable wide open (f/2.0). If I stop the lens down it start to hit its sweet spot by f/2.8 and performance begins to drop off after f/4.5. The question then, is how much depth of field do you get with f/2.8 and the lens set to 24mm (I am assuming here that you like I spend most of your time photographing landscapes)

To answer this question I am not going to resort to a depth of field phone app as I did before, but use a feature built into the LX5 which not only shows me the depth of field but allows me to set the hyperfocal distance. In case you’re not familiar with the term hyperfocal distance, this is the theoretical focus point that gives the maximum depth of field for your aperture/lens right the way to infinity. Here are the steps:

  1. Select the Aperture Priority mode (A) on the top dial of the camera.
  2. Switch the camera to manual focus using the switch on the side of the lens. When you are in Manual Focus, MF will appear in the bottom right of the screen.
  3. Press the rear adjustment dial on the back of the camera (top right) until the MF is highlighted. This is the dial that allows you to adjust the aperture and if you keep pressing it in you will cycle through aperture adjustment, exposure compensation and manual focus settings.
  4. Rotate the dial to the left and right. As you do this you will see a depth of field guide appear on the bottom of the camera screen with a solid yellow line that moves left and right. This line represents the zone of focus at the aperture and focus length selected.
  5. Move the dial left and right until the yellow line just touches infinite focus on the right hand side. You have now set the focus to give the maximum depth of field at your aperture and focal length.

To give you some idea of how much depth of field you can achieve at 24mm and f/2.8, you will find the closest point in focus is just over a meter away and the zone of sharp focus extends to infinity. Now the other benefit of shooting at f/2.8 is that you will achieve a very fast shutter speed and can hand hold even in poor light as well as reduce the risk of camera shake.

By way of an example, the night shot above was taken from the top of the Empire State Building hand held using ISO200 and f/2.8. Its pin sharp and prints beautifully at A3+. I have even passed it off at various presentations around the UK as being shot with a 5D MKII. I do always own up later as its great fun to see people’s faces when they realise it was shot with a compact camera.

Which Micro 4/3 Lens for Landscapes

This Blea Watern tarn below High Street in the English Lake District. Captured using an Olympus 9-18mm lens on a GX1 body with a 0.6 ND graduated filter. Post processing in Lightroom and Nik SilverEfex Pro.

Something I find really valuable is the Statistics module of my blog. Not only does this show me how my readership is growing but also how people have found my blog. One of the most interesting aspects of this is the section on search terms used as often these are people looking for answers to questions about Light Weight Photography. The title of this blog is one such question I have seen appear a few times.

Firstly I will qualify my answer by saying I have not done extensive testing with all lenses and neither will I present lots of evidence to support my findings. I also won’t try to find the absolute best lens for sharpness or resolution. What I will present will be some practical thinking from the perspective of a Landscape Photographer using a Micro 4/3 camera that I think people might find valuable. Life’s too short to look at details that won’t show up in the final print. I would rather be taking pictures.

The majority of Landscape images are created using wide angle and ultra wide angle lenses. It’s true that there are exceptions but I think 80% of shots are probably taken with a 28mm or wider lens (in full frame 35mm terms). In the Micro 4/3 world this translates into using a lens that’s 14mm or wider.

For my own work I tend to use a 14-45mm Panasonic lens a lot especially when walking (possibly more so than I would have thought before I checked my archives). I think this is down to the way I use the smaller camera (GX1) as I tend to get down lower and move in closer to my subject than I do when I have a DSLR mounted on a tripod. This helps me make the most of the wide angle, emphasising the foreground and I often find 14mm is wide enough.

This is a good lens in terms of contrast levels, sharpness and ability to resolve detail in subjects, even at distance. It therefore meets my criteria for a good quality lens that can be used for Landscapes. If you buy a reasonable example of this lens on the second hand market it will be a good investment. I know there are later examples of this lens when it was changed to a 14-42mm and also a Powerzoom variant but I have yet to see RAW files shot with these that measure up to the 14-45mm.

The problem with the 14-45mm is that it’s not really wide enough for some subjects and most Landscape photographers want something that is at least 20mm (in 35mm full frame terms). The options for wider lenses are however quite limited with only two current choices:

  1. Panasonic 7-14mm (equivalent to 14mm – 28mm) for which you can expect to pay around £700
  2. Olympus 9-18mm (equivalent to 18-36mm) costing around £400

The lens I went for was the Olympus 9-18mm but not because of the cheaper price. It was because it is not possible to attach screw in filters to the front of the Panasonic lens as the glass element extends beyond the end of the lens.

Do I think I have compromised by buying the cheaper lens? Not at all.

The Olympus is perfect, light and very small. It has a neat trick of collapsing down when not in use. This is also a brilliant lens for capturing sharp, detailed images with minimal distortion. It lacks the image stabiliser but that’s not really a problem for the sort of use it will be put to.

So if I had to recommend one lens to use when shooting landscapes with a micro 4/3 camera, it would be the Olympus 9-18mm.

Color Passport Update

Image

In past blogs I have discussed how useful I find the Color Passport from Xrite. Initially I used this to set my white balance in the GX1 so that the AWB setting I tend to use almost 100% of the time is more accurate. Previously this was setting the colour temperature to 4,700K and the tint adjustment in Lightroom to 0. Having created a custom white balance the colour temperature has increased to 5,400K and the tint to +8. These are significant corrections and ones that I probably wouldn’t have landed on myself.

The other thing I have used the Color Passport for is to create a custom calibration profile for the GX1. Again this is having a dramatic effect as the contrast increases, pinks have become more vibrant, orange less saturated and blues and greens look more natural. I now use this profile as the starting point for all my conversions for the GX1.

The other night I was adjusting images before sending them to my stock library. My workflow for this uses a separate package for keywording and Lightroom for the RAW file conversion. What I happened to notice when doing this was that the thumbnails in the keywording application appeared more natural than the image in Lightroom, despite having used my custom camera calibration. After a little adjustment to the calibration slider I found setting the Green Hue to -33 and the Green saturation to -11 gave me much more natural Landscape greens.

Now I don’t know if this setting will work for all images so I decided to apply it to other shots in the batch. I created a custom Lightroom Preset and applied it to a few others. Yes they improved but there was also an interesting side effect with some. Applying the preset seemed to change the histogram substantially. Histograms that lacked contrast and that were gathered in the mid tones now extended across a greater tonal range and in some instances filled the histogram. Looking more closely at these images I found the details appeared crisper (which might be expected from improved contrast) but the luminance noise appeared reduced even though I hadn’t applied any noise reduction. Whilst you might struggle to see what I am talking about at this reduced resolution, here is a comparison from the above image (click the image to enlarge).

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I will keep a close eye on this in the future, but it seems to have given a promising improvement to quality, which is all important with stock images.