Friday, 28 August 2015

A testing time

As you might easily guess, I've been devoting a lot of time to my new Panasonic LX100 camera in the last few days. It's vital to find out how it works, and configure it to my own needs.

Getting a new camera is a very important event for me. It's my tool for making lots of pictures - pictures that illustrate what interests me most in life. Photography is my main creative outlet. But I'm stymied unless I rapidly find out how to operate this new device, and discover what it can do well - and what it can't. Hence the concentrated learning process.

Thankfully I've had very few social commitments, and just routine stuff to attend to. This has given me ample learning time. However, the weather has not played ball. It's been frustratingly dull and wet outside - although that's both good and bad.

Good, because I can concentrate on the camera without guilt. I mean, I can't do gardening in heavy rain. Of course I can't. For one thing, my lovely new wellies would get all muddy! Yes, yes, I know: proper gardeners would think nothing of it. But one essential thing you must know about me is that I am not a proper gardener. Only a fair-weather one. And only if I feel so inclined. And I feel stubbornly righteous about that. Why should I be a slave to gardening? What's wrong with cooing over a new toy?

So the lashing rain washes all my guilt away. But the rain is also bad, because I've been itching to get out and around, and see what the Panasonic can do in sunshine. Most of my impressions so far of its performance are based on indoor experiments. Which is only half the story.

Nevertheless, I have taken plenty of  indoor test shots - over 600 in six days. I've set up test scenes and popped the LX100 onto a tripod to take pictures from the same position, but with different adjustments. Much as they do (in a more technical fashion) on any of the main photo review websites. This has involved many hours looking closely at the laptop screen, to determine the precise effect of each adjustment, and to note which ones really do make a difference. I've now arrived at a (provisional) configuration that will suit my style of photography, and the state of my eyesight.

All those careful indoor comparison shots have revealed how to optimise sharpness or tonal range in different lighting conditions. But it's a sterile, artificial procedure. The very best test method - and the one that's most fun - is to get out on a fine day and blast away in public on real scenes. That shows you how easy the camera is to operate out on the street, and what kind of shots are the most successful with it. I've only had two chances to do that so far, neither of them on sunny days.

One chance came today. I needed to go into to Brighton for a fringe trim. That done, I wandered past the Royal Pavilion, and then over to the Museum and Art Gallery. On a bright day, the domes and minarets of the Royal Pavilion would have been worth a shot or two, but the light was flat and uninteresting. I made do with the spotlit interior of the Museum and Art Gallery. Here are some of the pictures I took. All were taken in subdued light, unless a spotlight was actually shining on the subject. Click on them to enlarge them.


Here are two shots of the same subject, comparing my old Leica D-Lux 4 from 2009 (top) with the new Panasonic LX100:

I had ramped up the brightness of the Leica's shot on the laptop, so it therefore looks more colourful - at the expense of blown highlights. I've hardly touched the Panasonic's result, but if you look closely, you can see more detail, and subtler colours.

Here's another pair of shots to illustrate the same thing, although this time there's less difference in the level of detail captured. Mind you, the Panasonic was further away than the Leica, and so it's done well to ever-so-slightly turn out the better shot:

It's not surprising that you have to zoom in to see a difference. The LX100 is, after all, no more than an evolution of the D-Lux 4, what it has become with six years' further technical development. So naturally there's an improvement. But the results are still typical of a compact zoom camera. That's OK. It's entirely what I expect. And I know that any SLR will perform significantly better than this. But then, think of the weight and bulk of an SLR - no putting one of those in my red handbag! But the LX100 will go in, and because of that I will never miss a shot.

Next post: something quite different.


  1. Lucy, who is represented by the ceramic bust with 198 at bottom of the shot? A mutual friend will be very interested to know.

    Looks like you have made a very good choice.

  2. I greatly admire your diligence, even though photography is your favoured pastime. Almost two years after I bought my camera and I'm still discovering things about it.

  3. Many years ago as my eyesight started to fade I bought two cameras at almost the same time.

    One was to be my toy through retirement, a Leica M6. The few pages which came with it started by saying what an excellent choice I had made, what precision and craftsmanship had gone into building this jewel like machine which would give me a lifetime of joy... Then there were a couple of pages pointing to the obvious shutter speeds, focus, apertures, the button to make it quietly click and a reminder of where the film went in.

    The second was a work camera, Nikon F5, it came with a four hundred page book which I read from cover to cover, it was a horrible camera but voted one of the best in the world! Never did find out how everything worked...

    They both went to buy digital which my clients said they "needed", Nikon got 15% of its cost, the Leica 80%. I should have kept the Leica and never touched digital...

  4. Coline, that M6 was an investment and never likely to fall in value, because it would become a sought-after collector's item.

    I don't know who it is, but another visit to the Museum should find that out. If the Museum has an online catalogue of its exhibits, then it should be easy to find it in there. It's part of a large collection built up by a local man whose name eludes me. It has a room to itself on the ground floor.



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