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My Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

Back in february I bought the camera I had had my eyes on for over a year. It was a bit too expensive to consider it seriously, but then suddenly there was a discount of 75 euros and I grabbed the opportunity. A Panasonic DMC-LX5 was finally mine.

I had been using a relatively cheap Sony CyberShot DSC-P10 camera for years, after my first digital compact, a Canon PowerShot, broke down with the infamous E18 error (which earned its own web site http://e18error.com because so many people suffered by it). The Sony camera was meant to be temporary because I did not have money for a good replacement… but the money never came. I needed a better camera badly. What I really wanted was better light sensitivity and better wide-angle.

The LX-5 offers all of that and much more, with its f/2.0 24mm Leica lens, fast power-on and AF, full metal body and a battery that should last 400 photos on a single charge. Read more about its features, strengths and weaknesses (if any) at the PhotographyBLOG. I realize that this camera is not “new”, and lots of other types have entered the market and are competing with it, but I wanted a camera that is easy to carry, enables me to point-and-shoot while keeping the possibility for manual overrides, is sturdy and offers excellent picture quality in low-light circumstances. I don’t care for replaceable lenses or GPS geo-tagging, or superzoom lenses.

I discussed cameras with collegues and friends who shoot a lot of pictures, and the outcome was that I would best by either the LX5 or a Canon PowerShot S95… the latter because it has quite similar specs to the LX5 but also because there is custom firmware for the Canon line which lets you do a whole lot more with your camera: the Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK).

In the end I decided against the Canon, the main reason being resentment about the E18 error which killed my first digital camera 1 day after end of warranty.

Why did it still take a year to buy the camera? I guess it was the price point. But I was following several photography related blogs and my enthousiasm was fueled by viewing the results of shooting with a LX5. That basically pushed me that final step. Special mention to Juha Haataja’s Light Scrape blog! I was fascinated by Juha’s stills, his comments about his daily encounters with the world and his overall philosophy with regard to what makes a good picture.

I took the camera with me (of course) during my holiday in Brittany, France. Back home and behind a computer I could evaluate the results. At first, I stuck mostly to the camera’s defaults (using Intelligent Auto or “iA”) because I still needed to get acquainted to it (for some reason, I never took the time to get to know the LX5 during those first months that I owned it – too busy with Slackware I guess).  But I quickly began to experiment, with the User Manual as a guide… luckily I downloaded that to my E-reader.

I don’t know if it is the result of my fiddling with the manual controls (or even fiddling too little) but I feel that some of the JPEGs, especially those taken in bright sunlight, seem a bit “ovet-processed”. Or perhaps that is just because I have been working with a mediocre camera for so long. I discussed this with Pat (who owns a Canon PowerShot and uses CHDK) and he suggested that I should try shooting JPEG+RAW and look what difference it would make when I do the image post-processing on my computer. So, that is what I am going to do in the next couple of weeks. I compiled an updated package of RAWtherapee, an open source RAW editor with support for the LX5′s RAW image format and I am going to play with that once I have shot a couple of RAW images.. If anyone knows equivalent or better alternatives to RAWtherapee (free software!) I would like to hear from you.

Here’s a couple of sample images from that first holiday batch (all JPEG). Let me state that I am very happy with the camera. The LX5 has a good grip, and the controls are easy to operate. The camera “radiates” quality. I could shoot pictures in awkward positions without fear of letting it slip. Its low light qualities are great, and I am curious to find out about all the possibilities of the manual controls. So far, it has enabled me to take pictures in situations where I would have failed with the old Sony. Despite my earlier comment about possible JPEG over-processing, I am impressed with the quality of the pictures.

Tell me what you thnk of them. Can the camera do better? Can I do better?

Eric

 

 

 

Comments

Comment from crond
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 04:54

” Can the camera do better? Can I do better? ”
Dont have idea about the first one. But, the later one, with out any doubt, YES…

In one of your other posts, you mentioned about some money shortage to do home repair. And in this post, shortage to get a camara.
I have a doubt now. Whether,
1. IBM is paying too low ?
2. Cost of living is too hight there?

anyway, the first pic is my fav, and is my wallpaper now. A very nice location to have a morning milk with beloved one

Comment from weput
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 05:47

Well eric,
I don’t see them overprocessed at all.

The problem is the high dynamic range. Sensors do not process light as the human eye and have to compensate when the image is too constrasty because of hard light.

Note that I’m not saying the camara is doing HDR.. it is just that you have picked scenarios with strong lightning conditions that generate dark shadows. check the one with the car and the bushes for example…

on iA the camara selects fstop, shutter speed and iso sensitivity to acomodate the hole thing… which may be too dynamic.

Comment from alienbob
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 09:22

On Twitter, Nathan Smith suggested I should take a look at Darktable (http://www.darktable.org/about/) as an alternative to Rawtherapee.

Eric

Comment from alienbob
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 09:37

@crond… I am the only one in the family providing the income, and I have not had a pay raise for many years. The cost of living is getting higher and the Netherlands are in the middle of a serious depression.
I have to watch out where I spend the money. We are at the point where the house needs repairs and other work in many places, so we are saving the money for that jind of things. And then the fun stuff is no longer a priority unfortunately.

Eric

Comment from alienbob
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 09:44

@weput

Yes, the effect of the high dynamic range is something I have to get used to. This camera is able to do so much more in that area. I like the dramatic effect of having the sun behind my subjects and I may indeed have to tone down the highlights using a RAW editor.

The picture with my car and the derelict house is indeed exactly what I meant with overprocessing. In fact, when I first saw this image on my computer screen I was immediately reminded of typical scenes in the Crysis games… it almost looks like an in-game rendered scene instead of a natural picture.

Eric

Comment from weput
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 12:37

Then you are ok
it is just a perception issue. If it is precisely what you intended, nothing to say.

about software… what about digikam? it does a decent job and comes with kde

Comment from KookieMonster
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 12:46

Dear Eric,
I have also looked a while for open source software for my photography needs, and I have to say that darktable works best for me. Early versions where slow, but with version 1.0 and onwards, it’s fast and rather easy to use to manage my workflow.
RawTherapee is good also, but my experience is more limited there.
Best regards.

Comment from Robby
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 14:22

Hi Eric, I think your picture quality and composition is pretty good. The Panasonic is definitely a great camera.

I’m in the same boat with money – I’ve still got my Minolta Dynax 9 ( probably the best camera ever made ) but it’s 35mm and I’d like to switch to digital, but can’t get my camera sold to buy something else ( I like the Pentax K5 ). Grrrrr ….

Comment from master-passeli
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 14:24

i’m a bit surprised that no one has recommended rawstudio as an alternative for rawtherapee. I have been using it some years on slackware and it does very good job with raw files.

Comment from alienbob
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 14:40

Thanks for the positive remarks Robby. I am certain I have a lot to learn yet!

I do not think anyone will want to buy a 35mm camera these days, even the pro’s will want a DSLR. I feel your pain.

Cheers, Eric

Comment from alienbob
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 14:43

Hi master-passeli

Rawstudio? I had not heard of that one before but then again, I am the newbie in the field here ;-)

I have built darktable packages for Slackware 14 (aka -current) and will upload them soon. It fails to build on Slackware 13.37 so I think it needs more dependencies there (on -current I just added lensfun).

I will also check on rawstudio and build packages for that. The more choice the better it gets!

Eric

Comment from weput
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 16:01

Eric,

What about digikam?

it builds on top of kde and does a fair job with filters and stuff.

Comment from alienbob
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 16:12

Hi weput

A couple of years back I wrote a pretty nasty comment after the release of Digikam 1.3.0: http://www.digikam.org/drupal/node/522#comment-19267

I intended not to compile any digikam package anymore… but perhaps they have gotten their act together. After all, we are many KDE releases further than in 2010. If it is able to process RAW files, I will give it a change for sure.

I also looked at the rawstudio homepage for the software dependencies and I see that this needs GConf. This was added to Slackware-current so I guess I will take the easy route and build a package just for Slackware 14 (aka -current) since that is what my laptop and workstation are running anyway.

Eric

Comment from init
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 18:42

RAW is better :) will be better if you order strong tripod

Comment from titopoquito
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 19:57

I think the pictures look quite good, and like weput already wrote you have some high contrasts in there that sometimes work out pretty well and sometimes not :) Look in your camera handbook to see if it has some feature to show blown out parts of the image, i. e. where there is pure white color. Most better cameras nowadays have that feature and it is one of the easiest ways to see on the scene if you have overexposed the picture. In most cameras I know the overexposed parts are shown as blinking black/white, so you can adjust exposure compensation as you need.

+1 for digikam or ufraw (on Linux I like the latter one best, but the Nikon software I use is one of the few reasons to still have Windows on a partition).
For anorama pictures composed of some single shots there is hugin available at SBo that does a very good job at this task. It can be used to change some perspective distortion as well. The example pages give you some ideas what you can do with it.

I have one other point of view to share though. If you have very special pictures it might be worth to do a lot of postprocessing, but over time I myself have lost a little bit the interest in that – either an image works out right away (maybe a little postprocessing, but not much) or not. Converting RAW files can be very funny, but also very very time consuming. This way I throw away more images than in the past, but I have much more time to go out and shoot other pictures and experiment with different exposures, motives, picture composition … just my 2 cents here.

Comment from Alan Foos
Posted: October 24, 2012 at 12:09

Have had the LX 5 for six months, great camera. Your pictures are great, too, though I’d redo the old house sans the auto. The RAW format is a good idea, then you can import that into Photoshop, save as a DNG on the way, but I don’t bother, just resave as a PSD in photoshop and start doing Photoshop things – that’s what you want to learn, just spend lots of time watching CS6 tutorials on Youtube. PS / CS6 does not do HDR that well, Photomatix is the way to go, but Nik’s HDR Efex 2+ is as good plus it works as a plugin directly with Photoshop, so get Efex 2+, which also is more efficient at souping up single RAW images. Nik’s Viveza is perhaps a bit redundant, but it’s also a nifty plugin for more efficient touching up of single RAW images. All Nik products can be launched standalone with a little TSR window that floats along with CS6, or within CS6 in the Filter menu. Hope I helped. My endeavors so far this year are all found at http://alan-foos.artistwebsites.com.

Comment from Robby
Posted: August 5, 2013 at 17:42

Wow, almost a year after this post, I’ve managed to scrounge enough money together to get a Nikon D5100 + 2 lenses. Very happy with the kit. But it’s going to take a while to get into the digital bit.

Comment from Luis
Posted: December 5, 2013 at 17:11

My LX3 basically died and it costs more to fix it than to buy a new camera. I have several batteries, a charger, a car charger, cables, filters, adapters for lens shade and a few other items. If anyone needs them, including the camera (For Parts?) you can have them for free. Let me know

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