It isn’t fair to judge a new camera after only a few hours of working with it. I find that it takes a while to get used to any new equipment.
In April 1990, I was given the loan of a Nikon F3 SLR. After a month of putting it through its paces, I knew I had to have one. Yet, I wasn’t fully comfortable with the camera for at least 6 months.
As mentioned in the previous post, last week Eric Rosenthal loaned me a brand new LX100. So I brought it out for some tests.
I found this to be a very powerful tool. It looks and feels much like a traditional rangefinder, yet has many electronic features.
While making a basic photo with the LX100 is straight forward, the camera’s multitude of buttons, dials and layers of menus needed to access the camera’s various modes, color profiles, filters, and features, plus video and panoramic options isn’t intuitive. In fact it’s intimidating.
To really give the LX100 a fair treatment, I’d need several weeks to properly figure it out and become comfortable with its operation.
However, I was able to make a variety of interesting photographs of which a few are presented here. Other than scaling the Jpgs, I’ve not altered the images in post processing in regards to color, contrast, gamma, or other visual effects.
So is the LX100 a good camera for railway photography?
If you desire the ability to manually control a digital camera, and prefer traditional dials over toggle switches, along with a built in view finder in addition to a rear screen, the LX100 is a great option.
The camera reacts quickly. It has a ‘burst’ feature that allows you to take three images in rapid succession. It can make RAW and JPG file simultaneously. The lens is fantastic and the sensor is amazing, so the images are exceptionally sharp.
On the downside, it uses a fixed lens that is limited to a 24-75mm range (in traditional 35mm film camera terms). Its menu navigation is counter-intuitive. For a small camera it is pretty heavy. And, it’s relatively expensive, B&H Photo in New York advertises it for nearly $900, which is three-times what I paid for my LX7 a few months ago.
What can I do with it? How comfortable is it to use? How do the photos look?These are some of the questions that I have of any new Camera. The LX100 has been eagerly awaited and only recently released.
Last week Eric Rosenthal, my digital photography guru and new equipment advisor, lent me a brand new Lumix LX100 to play with. Unfortunately, I’m facing a series of tight deadlines, so I really only had a few hours to put the camera through its paces.
This wasn’t enough time with the LX100, and I could have spent days working with it! The LX100 is a versatile piece of equipment with lots of features, so I had only begun to play with it when it was time to get back to work.
As regular followers of Tracking the Light are aware, for nearly five years I’d worked with a Panasonic Lumix LX3 (among other cameras). In May I sampled the newer LX7 and in June I bought one. The LX3 was a great camera (I exposed more than 64,000 images with it, before the LX3 expired following a series of mishaps), and the LX7 is a worthy successor. (I’ve never seen an LX5, which was briefly offered as the replacement for the LX3).
The LX100, while kin to the earlier Panasonic Lumix LX cameras, is a different machine. It is not only more advanced, but it is better built, it features a heavier body, a larger lens (more glass) and a more modern sensor, and so in the hand it feels more like a traditional rangefinder camera.
What I liked the most about the LX100:
1) It has a built-in viewfinder, so unlike the earlier LX-series cameras you need not rely on the rear display screen to compose photos. The viewfinder comes on when you put your eye to it. It has a diopter, so you can adjust it to suit your vision (I wear glasses and for me this is an important feature). The viewfinder is especially valuable for composing photos of moving trains in daylight.
2) The LX100 uses traditional rings and dials, which allow you to set the aperture, shutter speed, focus and zoom-lens manually. While you can manipulate these settings by navigating the camera’s menus, for the most part you don’t need to. This makes it work more like a traditional camera. Again, for making railway photos this is important to me because I can make adjustments quickly and intuitively without having to stare at the display screen in bright daylight and/or when your subject is rapidly rolling into view.
3) Like the LX3 and LX7, it has the option of making both RAW and JPG files simultaneously, which in my mind makes this a tool for making publication quality images.
4) It has an outstanding Leica lens which allows for very sharp images, and at f1.7 allows lots of light, which again is important for making railway images, especially in low-light situations, and allows for shallow depth of field, when that is desirable. Also, the lens stops down to f16, which gives it greater versatility.
5) The LX100 uses a sensor that is larger and more advanced than that on the LX7, and this allows for higher quality images while is specifically designed to make more effective use of the camera’s built-in aspect ratios (the dimensions of the image frame). Like the LX7, it has a switch to select the following standard aspect ratios: 1:1 (square), 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9. I found the average RAW file was about 16.5 MB. (I’ve discussed this feature in previous posts).
But how do the images look? Below are a few rough comparison images made using the LX100 and my LX7. All images were made hand-held. I did my best to approximate the focal length of the lens, and to use comparable shutter/aperture settings. These images are from the in-camera Jpgs and now the RAW files (which are substantially larger). I did not post-process the images or alter them for color balance, sharpness, contrast, or cropping. But I did scale them for internet presentation.
However, WordPress, which is how Tracking the Light is presented, tends to compress images and I find that they never look as good on this site as they do directly on my computer screen. So take that into consideration.
For the most part, I was trying to match the camera’s output as closely as possible for the sake of appearance. I set both cameras at their respective ‘Standard’ color profiles. (Both cameras have several color profiles to select).
Since the LX100’s lowest ISO is 200, and the LX7’s is 80, this presented a bit of a quandry. If I set both cameras at 200, the LX7 images would have a quality disadvantage, while if I set the LX7 at 80, I would need to use a slower shutter speed or a smaller f stop to make an equivalent exposure. (The caveat is that the LX100 is a more versatile camera by virtue of its superior sensor. Simply, it can do more because it has greater range.)
The LX100 has a multitude of features, modes, filters and etc, which I’ll discuss in a follow up post.