Fifteen days with a Lumix

If this blog has any regular readers they will know that when it comes to cameras and photography I crave simplicity. If I could trust a point and shoot I would use a point and shoot. For over a year I shot on a Canonet QL19 because it could fit in my coat pocket and kept in ‘A’ it would produce great results. If film didn’t cost so much to process I would still be using it now. But there aren’t a huge number of digital alternatives to the old high end rangefinders or compacts but things have been getting better. A couple of weeks I took the plunge and rejected the G12, the P7100 and X10 (boys toys don’t have nice names they have numbers and come in black) and bought a Lumix LX5. So, how’s it been?

In a nutshell this camera does everything I actually want a camera to do and it does it really well. It shoots well up to ISO1600 (grainy but spot on for black and white) and with a bit of nudging in Photoshop ISO3200 works fine too. I haven’t taken it to 6400 or 12800 though because it appears what I’ll be getting back would look like a child’s crayon drawing. It’s nice and light which makes it easy to carry and it fits well in a coat pocket. You can also shoot it very discreetly. All of which makes it perfect for street photography or for getting quick pics of your kids.

I like the PASM modes and have found that in P you can trust it in reasonably clear conditions but darker and with Auto ISO it will start to want long shutter speeds and not want to go above ISO 400. The way round this is to fix the ISO and then either go with P or adjust to fully manual. Manual and semi-auto shooting works fine too. The camera provides decent raw files (after processing mine are coming out about 7M) and back up jpegs. Write times seem more than reasonable to me and I’ve yet to hear the camera groan from rapid firing. This may happen but I’ve not really tested this part. The other useful thing is that the shutter responds pretty much instantly – my last digital compact had a distinct pause before firing whereas with the LX5 you can respond rather than anticipate.

The lens covers 24mm-90mm which gives a neat range of options without being into the superzoom range. Pretty much anything happening in front of you can be given a lovely context at 24mm and at 90mm you can get the boy picking his nose on the other side of the street. It also starts at f/2 which means you can handhold virtually all the time. There is a flash but I haven’t used it although it does pop out nicely.

For me, then, it definitely meets what I had in mind when I bought it. I’m hoping there’s further development in this area rather than the micro interchangeable systems that each manufacturer seems to be building up as part of their arsenal but the good thing about the LX5 is that I can safely ignore a few iterations of it as, frankly, now I’ve got a portable, decent quality, discrete, high ISO, quick shooter I’m not going to be on the look out for a replacement for a while.

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