Sunday, 23 August 2015

New camera

And now the second of yesterday's purchases. I've bought myself a replacement camera. My trusty Leica D-Lux 4 from June 2009 has now taken about 62,800 photos and has earned an honourable retirement. It will become my reserve camera, charged up and on standby in Fiona's boot, just in case the replacement camera ever develops some pox or malady while I'm away. For I absolutely can't be without a substitute picture-taking machine, and I don't rate cameras on phones very highly, lacking as they are in easy-to-use dials, levers and buttons, quite apart from not being the right shape for fast and secure handling.

It was time to upgrade. I'd been delaying it, and I thought I might continue to do so for some time ahead. But then I didn't want to replace laptop, phone and camera all in the same year (2016 or 2017) - that would really be too big a hit in one go. Besides, I wanted to get used to the new camera long before I set off for Shetland in 2017. I needed time to explore what it could do, and to tweak it properly. In any case, with the lovely colours of Autumn just around the corner, it was an exciting prospect to upgrade now. And to clinch the matter, the manufacturer was offering a double-cashback deal that expired on 7 September. I needed to act at once.

So what did I buy? The Panasonic LX100. A digital zoom compact aimed at enthusiasts. Which is exactly what the Leica D-Lux 4 was.

Panasonic's LX series has always corresponded exactly with Leica's D-Lux series. They are simply different versions of the same camera, having exactly the same specifications. There are only cosmetic differences, the Leica version having a more obvious air of quality and distinction. But Panasonic make both versions in the same factory, and both sport the same amazing Leica zoom lens. It boils down to this: if you want a camera with that famous Leica red dot on it, which will catch the eye and make people envy you, then buy the 'luxury' D-Lux version. If you are not into that game, then buy the LX version.

Although I liked the idea of 'owning a Leica', and had happily paid the premium necessary to secure the D-Lux 4, I can't honestly say that the red dot ever got me shots, or won me social respect, that I would have missed using the equivalent Panasonic LX camera. Occasionally some old duffer would say, 'Oh, is that a Leica?' and I'd reply, 'Why yes! But as you know, it's really made by Panasonic, and not by Leica at all.' So what then was the real point of paying for that red dot? Generations of photographers have constantly asked the same question.

At the end of the day, all you want is a device that takes good pictures that reflect your creative intention at the time. The name on the camera, and its heritage, do not matter. Its reliability, durability, ease-of-use, and ability to deliver great shots are the things to pay attention to.  

I decided that I'd save myself £250 and buy the dotless Panasonic instead. Indeed, having bought the Ruark radio recently, this seemed a prudent and thrifty notion! But I really liked the look of the LX100, and had moved on from trying to impress anyone. Except with my shots. And I expected the LX100 to give me results that were clearly better than what the D-Lux 4 had delivered. And those had been pretty good.

I'm not going to present a 'user review'. Let's just look at the new beast and say no more. In the months ahead, my posts will contain many a shot taken with the new camera, and I hope the impact of six years technological development will be obvious!

Here then is the LX100 newly emerged from its packaging, and then in my hand:

If you think it looks a bit big for a compact camera, bear in mind that my hands are not very large. Here it is next to my sunglasses, and a box of matches:

And, of course, it still fits neatly in my red handbag:

It's a little bit bulkier than the old D-Lux 4, and slightly heavier, but neither of these things make a great difference. It can still go everywhere with me. That's its real point. 

You'll have noticed all the SLR-like controls. They really do make it very easy to introduce a degree of manual control, and they encourage you to add some 'craft' to the picture-taking process, although you can set things up to make everything automatic if you want that. I've already found it pays to work in 'aperture-priority' mode, where I set the aperture I want (f/4.0 by default, with good sharpness and depth of field in mind) and let the camera allocate an appropriate shutter speed. The big ring on the lens barrel controls which aperture. But it all depends on the subject and the lighting conditions, and whether you want to throw the background completely out of focus; and things like that. 

I did carry out a quick 'resolution test' this morning, taking the same picture with each camera, using a tripod for steadiness and consistency of camera-to-subject distance:

A page from my 2000 edition of the Michelin Road Atlas of France was the subject. The Leica D-Lux 4 first, then the Panasonic LX100:

And these were the results. Take it from me that the upper shot (taken with the old D-Lux 4) is not as sharp than the lower shot (taken with the new the LX100). 

Here are the various settings for comparison:

Leica D-Lux 4
ISO 400 (I have limited the maximum ISO to 400)
Focal length (so that the top of the atlas page is aligned with the top edge of the frame) 12.8mm = 60mm in '35mm film camera' reckoning
Aperture f/2.8
Shutter speed 1/25 second
File size 1.99MB

Panasonic LX100
ISO 1250 (I have limited the maximum ISO to 1600)
Focal length (so that the top of the atlas page is aligned with the top edge of the frame) 22.7mm = 50mm in '35mm film camera' reckoning
Aperture f/2.7
Shutter speed 1/100 second
File size 2.78MB

Using the tripod nullifies the shutter speed difference. The Panasonic LX100 has a significantly larger sensor, which affects the focal length, and results in a slightly wider-angle view of the atlas page; and consequently the page seems slightly farther away.

So much for tests. What do they prove, anyway? Only what one expects.

The big thing is that I've now got a new camera, and nothing is more likely to get me walking around out of doors and looking around for things to shoot! Yes, it's all part of a Grand Plan to Get More Exercise!

How much, then?

Ah. It was quite a lot. But then I'd have spent the same money - very likely more - in late 2016 or early 2017. I've merely brought the date forward. The camera cost me £594.00, plus £59.99 for a spare battery. There was nothing else to buy. So that's about £654. Yes, ouch. But it would have been 'ouch' further down the line. Better to bite the bullet now.

However, there is good news too. I will be entitled to a cracking £100 cashback after 28 days. I can't claim that before I depart for the West Country (claiming needs the PC at home - I can't do it in the caravan, using just the phone), and the time limit is 19 October. So, immediately I get home, I must make that claim, which will reduce the overall cost to a 'mere' £554. Once Panasonic agree, that is, and pay out. (By Christmas, maybe? Who knows when)


  1. Oh dear, I hope my looking at this camera for a few days did not somehow get to you through the ether! I like the controls missing from so many digital cameras and the nice wide aperture lens. Most would think us crazy not going for a longer zoom but when all said and done that is a compromise on design I would not use.

    The last camera I bought came with cash back and it arrived as a card which could only be used in shops, it still has £10 on it and it has vanished and so has the pin number! Hope you have better luck.

    I have to admit that I had hoped that the price would have come down by now but sadly it is out of my price range for this year's trip. Love to know what you think of it sometime.

  2. Well done - newer models are not always better but you are clearly pleased with this one. Me, I just love my Canon G7X.
    All the best,


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