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.
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.
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.
With Christmas approaching my mind has turned to some of the new compact cameras on the market. Why this should happen I don’t exactly know because I remain a huge fan of the LX5. What this has confirmed to me however is that whilst there are some very nice cameras on the market, none make me want to switch from the LX5. I have however been able to compile a shorts wish list of features in my ideal compact camera – I have of course been careful to keep them realistic:
24-140mm high quality lens. The LX5 currently has a 24-90mm equivalent lens which captures detail wonderfully and is very sharp. I would like the same level of performance but extending to 140mm at the long end.
Faster maximum aperture. The LX5 offers an f/2.0 aperture at 24mm and f/3.3 at 90mm. The LX7 has improved on this as have other cameras. I would really like a f/1.4 to f/2.2 lens. Actually I really want f/1.4 across the entire zoom range but I think that will be prohibitively expenses so will settle for f/2.2 at the long end.
It would be nice to have some high quality lens adapters that extend the wide end of the zoom to 20mm and long end to 200mm. I want high quality adapters that don’t degrade or distort the image and which don’t look like blood has been spilled onto the image because chromatic aberration is so bad.
20Mpixel sensor. The LX5 and LX7 are both 10Mpixel which the Sony RX100 already has 20Mpixels. I think this will soon be the new benchmark for smaller cameras.
Optical viewfinder, ideally with electronic information displayed shown.
GF1 body in miniature. The GF1 still has to my mind has the best body design of all the Lumix cameras. It might be a little large for a compact but providing the camera fits in my pocket I don’t mind so long as it’s not too small to handle easily when your hands are cold.
Great low light performance up to ISO3200. I don’t like to push my LX5 beyond ISO400 and although I have noticed improved performance in the LX7 RAW sample images I have downloaded, it can’t manage clean, crisp shots at anything near to this ISO.
Built in ND filter and the ability to attach further filters such as ND graduates.
Touch screen. I never thought I would use this but having owned a GX1 for around a year now, I miss the touch screen focussing each time I use another camera. It’s so simple to tap the screen at the point I want to focus and I really think this is an invaluable feature.
Ability to create RAW conversion profiles in software and load these to the camera for in camera JPG processing. This should allow a RAW file to be processed on a computer with noise reduction, sharpening and lens calibration and then upload these settings to the camera. The camera would then use these settings to process future images shot at the same ISO when shooting in JPG.
All the same great features and functionality as are already in the LX5.
Hopefully someone from Panasonic will read this and plan the features into the LX9. And of course this is only my list; you might have more improvements of your own to add.
If you look back over my posts you will find quite a lot of comments about the need to shoot in RAW format and how I use RAW all the time. I have however been reminded by a couple of readers that not everyone does or even wants to shoot in RAW. So what should they do?
I have lots of concerns and reasons why I don’t shoot in JPG but one of the main reasons is the lack of post processing control. This is especially true of Noise Reduction and Sharpening which are applied to JPG’s in camera and which are key to determining the sharpness and detail in the finished image. If you are an LX5 and/or GX1 users I can tell you how to address this and my advice will probably apply to other cameras in the Panasonic Range as well as possibly other manufacturers.
There are two basic problems to my mind with the JPG’s from the LX5 and GX1 (and also the GF1 if I remember correctly). They have too much noise reduction and too little sharpening. If I had to shoot JPG I would be turning off noise reduction and sharpening in camera. I would then apply noise reduction as a separate step once I had the JPG on my computer before I did any image manipulation. I would then sharpen the final image to a level at which I am happy. Working in this way will help preserve your images and minimise loss of detail.
The way to switch off the noise and sharpening is through the Film Mode in the LX5. This is found in the Menu under the Record settings and is on the first page. Here you have the option to configure a new Custom film setting for which you can specify Contrast, Sharpening, Saturation and Noise Reduction. The GX1 is very similar to this.
If you want to shoot JPG but want to achieve sharp details, check your camera manual and give this approach a try.
I was going to use today’s post to tell you a little more about how I used the Topaz Detail 2 software to emphasise the detail in my LX5 images to produce enlargements. On Friday however I attended a Topaz webinar about Detail 3 which is due for release shortly. Detail 3 seems to be a big leap forward on Detail 2 (which is already very good) so I will wait until I have the new software to explain more. Instead I want to share some information about a trip out yesterday.
These days my opportunities to shoot tend to be when I am out in the landscape walking so my main camera for this is the GX1. Every month or two however I have the opportunity to get out with other photographers and spend a day or two just photographing. For these trips I tend to supplement my usual GX1 and LX5 cameras with a 5D MKII. I do like to use this camera and the results are superb. The downside is that it’s heavy and walking around with two full camera systems on your back for a long period of time is hard work.
For this weekend’s trip I decided I would only take the GX1 and LX5 with me together with some ND graduated filters (“P” sized HiTech) and a lightweight Velbon tripod (that I discussed a few posts back). The GX1 was a replacement for my 5D and the LX5 was a sort of point and shoot experimental camera with which to explore ideas. The GX1 and 3 lenses weighs less than the 5D body but the big surprise was how much I used the LX5; I literally couldn’t put it down.
What a joy it was packing such a limited amount of equipment. There was far less than usual and everything I needed fitted in a small Low Pro slingshot bag. This allowed me to walk around all day on the beach, easily access my equipment and not need to put the bag down on the sand. In the past this has been a problem with the bag ending up with sand in it, not to mention the neck pain due to hanging a heavy camera round it.
In the end I enjoyed the photography much more than usual as I was free to more around with ease due to the small camera size. I felt very fresh through the day so was more prepared to put up with the very cold conditions. I was also able to shoot quite late into the day without the need for my tripod. I was even shooting handheld with the LX5 well after the sun had set (not that you could see the sun yesterday afternoon) but I will speak about that another day.
Lightweight only days are definitely going to be a feature of my future trips and I’m now wondering if it’s worth retiring the 5D.
In my previous blog I shared my process for making large prints with the LX5. I didn’t however explain about two of the other pieces of software that I also experimented with. The first of these that I want to tell you about is Photo Ninja which is a RAW converter. If the name reminds you of Noise Ninja, that’s because it’s by the same people.
Anyway, the reason I wanted to try out the converter is because many people are raving about the detail and quality of the images created. And to be honest, I have to agree. There was a huge amount of detail rendered and I didn’t have to work that hard to make the image sharp and of a high quality. Here you can see a small screen sample of an LX5 image shown at 100%.
No this hasn’t been sharpened other than a little RAW sharpening applied in the converter as I would in Lightroom.
I think the slider that really did the magic for me was something called “Detail”. When I used this the details just seemed to pop out but in a very natural way. It also did nothing to damage the colours which also rendered very well.
There were two interesting points to this experiment however:
I didn’t have to spend much time learning in order to produce excellent images and with a little practice I expect I could do better.
After I resized the image and did the same in Lightroom, I applied the Topaz Detail filter to both images. I expected the image from Noise Ninja to be better but it wasn’t. Both images were pretty much on a par. This suggests to me that Lightroom is also doing an excellent job of extracting details but you just don’t get to see it until you use an enhancement tool like Topaz Detail.
Will I switch to Noise Ninja? Probably not. I found the process of waiting for it to render images after each adjustment a little too time consuming. This is supposed to be lightweight image editing after all.
If you are interested in the link to Photo Ninja, here it is…