Friday, 26 August 2016

Trouble in cameraland

Oh dear. The main Melford camera, a Panasonic LX100 bought almost exactly a year ago, has developed an annoying problem. Except at full aperture, images show small shadowy specks here and there.

Here they are, showing up clearly at f/16 against a shot of a white blanket (with a hair showing too, in the bottom right-hand corner):

This is very noticeable on shots that include a lot of sky, if taken on a sunny day. Indoors, or when shooting dark subjects, or highly-textured subjects, it's there but not nearly so obvious.

These specks or spots can easily be removed with my photo-editing software, but I don't want them in my pictures in the first place. Research on the Internet has quickly revealed that the LX100 has a design fault: despite the lens being fixed to the camera and not removable, tiny particles of dust and dirt can get drawn inside whenever the lens extends, as happens when switching the camera on, or zooming. These find their way onto either the sensor or the light filter in front of it.

There is no cure, except to open the camera up and blow the dust away. I have seen a YouTube video showing what to do. Given the right preparation, simple tools, and a lot of self-assurance, it can be done by any ordinary person. I may do it myself, but I'm not ready to yet. I need to psych myself up to the task.

Meanwhile, the little Leica D-Lux 4, the LX100's long-serving predecessor, and my stalwart workhorse from June 2009 to August 2015, has come out of semi-retirement. It had been on standby in the boot of my car. As my emergency camera, it saw some action in April this year, after I slipped on some seaside rocks and in the process crunched the LX100 onto a ledge. The D-Lux 4 galloped to the rescue that afternoon, to record a sore-headed Lucy (I'd knocked my head and wasn't feeling my best) and a sorry-looking Panasonic camera (a bit sand-covered and splashed with salt-water, and with its front lens rings detached)

The Panasonic was robust, and after careful cleaning-up it was OK. It carried on nobly. In the year since purchase I have taken very nearly 15,000 shots with it, most of them excellent. But now there is this dust-on-the-sensor issue.

My first step must be to see whether the LX100 is still under guarantee, and if so, I'll send it away and (presumably two months afterwards) will get back with the dust cleaned up. If I'm just out of the guarantee period, as I suspect I am, then I will attempt to do the job myself. If my surgery goes well, I will be back in action with it. If not, then I will have a crippled camera.

For now, though, the little Leica is back in harness. I'm not at all displeased. I admit this is quite an 'ancient' camera, as modern digital cameras go. It was launched in October 2008, and camera technology has moved on quite a bit since then. But it has all the essentials for rewarding photography: a great lens, a decent sensor, easy-to-use controls, and dependable results that need little adjustment on the laptop. It's a simpler, smaller, lighter, camera than the Panasonic. The Leica has been my best camera ever. I have taken 62,900 shots with it over the last seven years. I am sure that if need be it could go on indefinitely.

I changed to the LX100 simply to obtain a newer camera, as I had important holidays in mind. Buying it also gave me a faster lens and a larger sensor, and therefore better pictures in low light, with the occasional downside of flare in very bright light. Those things apart, the LX100 isn't a radically different camera. Close up, or at middle distance, the results from each camera are much the same. So going back to the Leica D-Lux 4 for a while won't be a culture shock, nor will it feel like a retrograde step.

Here they are, lined up together in the caravan in April this year, after the Panasonic had been cleaned up after its seaside ordeal:

Wish me luck on either the guarantee, or the alternative surgery.


  1. Might a friendly camera shop do the repair for you? I realise that little independent camera shops are becoming a rarity but I've seen a few in my travels and they would have more confidence to perform the necessary surgery.

  2. I should have added... Good luck, whichever solution you choose.


  3. Thanks, Angie.

    I'm five days out of warranty. The official Panasonic local Service Centre is at Horley, about half an hour away, so I'll give them a ring and arrange a repair. The camera is too new to mess it up by tackling this myself!

    Thank goodness I have the little Leica...


  4. Better news. I may be five days out of the standard warranty, but as part of the purchasing deal (which included a £100 cashback) I got a five-year extended warranty. So I will pop into Park Cameras next week, armed with all the necessary paper documentation and printouts, and get the ball rolling on a fix under this extended warranty.

    I'm sure I will have to wait a long time for the camera to come back, but at least there should be no cost involved.


    1. Phew! Always a dilemma with high labour costs as to wether to buy expensive, hope it keeps working or cheaper and sadly know that the loss is not so great and a new one can be bought. I used to always have a sort of idle wish list of cameras I would like to try in the days of film, there are none on the digital list but yours did seem an obvious good step to take... Good luck.

  5. Phew! That's very good news indeed.


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