First Impressions on the Lumix LX5

dog nose, dog in car

I’ve been wanting to purchase the Panasonic Lumix LX5 for quite some time now. I have written about it as being one of the best cameras for an “on the bike” point and shoot. Why this camera when there are so many point and shoots to chose from? A few reasons for me:

  • Image quality
  • Physical size
  • 24mm Leica Lens that stops down to 2.0
  • Hot shoe
  • Full Manual settings
  • Retro Look
  • RAW image recording
  • IMAGE QUALITY from a point and shoot camera
  • Price (found it on sale for $260)

I know I wrote image quality twice. That is the most important factor for me although price was very important too as things are tight and I have a lot of projects going on these days that require money. There are some other small cameras out there that look enticing like the Sony NEX, but price is an issue. Basically I want the largest sensor in the smallest package available.

By image quality, I definitely don’t mean something that will take good pictures – that is the job of the photographer. I have captured great looking images on everything from a phone to a large format camera. Image quality to me has more to do with resolution, sharpness, color and file size. What I am looking for is a good sensor and a great lens. The LX5 fits the bill.

This camera won’t take the place of my slr for professional shoots, but it will be my “on the bike camera”  for my usual rides. If I was doing a slow bike tour, I would probably take the slr, but for training, races and bikepacking I wanted a small camera that can produce good quality, usable images. And I want something I can have on me all the time. I can stick this camera in most pockets no problem.

Since I have been shooting professionally since 1990, I was also looking for something that had the feel of a camera. The looks of the LX5 are pretty sweet to me. I love it’s retro looks.

Panasonic Lumix LX5

It is a little larger than other P&S cameras, but it does have a grip and usable hot shoe. I’ll take those. As you can see, it has a Leica lens that stops down to 2.0 letting in a lot of light and allowing me to shoot with a very shallow depth of field. The lens is one of the reasons the files off this camera are so nice.

I am not going to do an official review with charts, graphs and measurements. Rather let me share with you my real world experiences and opinions after my first weekend of use. My next post will cover my first ride with this camera and how it was to use with big gloves on.

At first glance

After the battery was charged I immediately started shooting and figuring out how to work this camera. I am experienced with cameras but not with a Panasonic. The manual was basically worthless but overall, the camera was easy to figure out and the things I usually adjust on the fly were easy to get to without going deep into the menus. In manual mode I can change the aperture and shutter speed with the dial on the rear. I can get to the ISO by pressing the ISO button on the rear too. By going to the Quick Menu button, I can easily change:

  • Film modes
  • Flash settings
  • Burst shooting or single shot
  • Metering modes
  • Focusing modes
  • White balance
  • Image size
  • Video recording quality
  • LCD mode (brightness levels for the rear LCD)

I can also change aspect ratio and focusing modes (AF, macro and manual) with switches on the barrel of the lens. Seems easy to me. So far I am able to change settings I need without getting deep into the menus and I like that.

panasonic lx5 rear

 

On the top I can pop the flash up, change modes, turn the camera on and off, control zoom, take the picture or shoot a video. Nice.

panasonic lx5 top

The lens cap comes off like the slr lenses I usually use. It would be a bit more convenient if it would retract when I turned the camera on like other P&S cameras, especially when I want to shoot one handed from the bike. Plus, I have been known to loose lens caps. My bad. But the cap stays on pretty well even well I pull the camera out of my pocket.

My first shots

I had the laptop open so I decided to check out the macro capabilities. The lens was ON the computer and it focused that close. Pretty sweet. Shot at 2.0, the depth of field is super shallow.

lx5 macro focusing

 Apple keyboard in low light shot at ISO 800

This image has some noise in it, but the noise has a very film-like look to it (click on it to see the full res image). It reminds me of the faster film I used to shoot sports with back in the day. I did find that at 800 ASA and above there was noticeable noice. 1600 and above the noise was pretty gross. Lightroom’s noise reduction does handle it pretty well though. Overall the images were nice, but a little noisier than I expected. The cool thing is how darn close I can get to the subject and be in focus.

Here’s a crop of a shot to show some noise. It was shot at 400 and noise will always show up in shadowy areas, but I was a bit surprised at the amount of noise. The second image shows how it can be handled in Lightroom. This was also shot in RAW. If I shot it as a JPG, the in-camera processing processes noise quite well, but does add JPG artifacts and sharpening that’s a bit too “crispy” for my taste. Remember I have been a professional shooter for years, so I am very picky. So let me just say, the images I have shot thus far are great overall. Better than any P&S I have used. And the noise is very film like, almost organic compared to noise from other cameras.

 

 Unprocessed image showing some noise, shot at 400 ASA.
Keep in mind, I shot this just to see noise as this type of shadowy area is tough for any camera. This is also a tiny crop from a much larger image, so in that respect, it’s not all bad.

Now here’s the processed image.

Before bed I shot a few more and one of Suzie watching TV. All these are in low light in my living room without the flash. That’s pretty darn good.

dog watching tv

 

Day2

It didn’t take long for the kids, the dog and my wife to get tired of my new camera. I was constantly shooting and adjusting to get used to the camera.

I’ll only show a few shots of the day.

natural light, low light shooting

I shot this at 400 ISO and then brightened the shadows which brought out some noise. This isn’t bad, because it was pretty dim, lit only by the windows.

Whenever I take Melissa to school, Suzie wants to come with. She absolutely loves to ride in the car. I open the window for her and crank the heat when it’s cold out. I shot these in full auto.

dog nose, dog in car

This was shot quickly as she sniffed the camera. That is pretty fast response for a P&S camera.

dog in car, head out window

Suzie

high iso shooting

 Shot at 800 ASA in full auto in dim morning light. I was getting Mikey ready for the walk to school. Yes, we need to change out the 1960’s floor.

walking to school child

Mikey walking to school. Shot in full auto as I walked in front of Mikey.

frost on leaves, macro focus

 The shallow depth of field is amazing as is the sharpness. There’s only one piece of the image that is sharp. See it? Oh, for those of you living in SoCal, that’s frost on the leaves. It happens when it’s cold and water in the air freezes on the grass and leaves and such.

walking to school

 Mikey in the sun. Shot in full auto while walking. The focus is pretty snappy.

kid in sunglasses

 Shot in Manual at 80 ASA. Fast focus and neutral colors. I like.
Mikey changed into his hat and shades as we got to the school so he would look cool for his friends. What a crack up!

I had the day off to take Jen to her followup appointment in Wichita. Yes, I took the camera with me. I shot some sweet pictures of the staples in her tummy, but she was adamant about me NOT sharing those with you.

 On our way to Wichita

In the waiting room, obviously bored. Easy enough to focus where I want to. I can move the focus point around. It’s not as fast as my Nikon DSLR, but it’s pretty good.

 Jen wondering why we are still waiting. The color is a little green under the florescents in auto WB.

 

 We made it in to see the doctor. Everything looked good with Jen.

Then we went to get a bite to eat.

  Jen checking out the menu.

This is straight from the camera, just resized for the blog. I left the color on standard and it’s pretty neutral here leaning toward the cool side of the spectrum. Sometimes in the shade or florescent light the color is not as pleasing as other cameras. It’s nothing that I can’t fix later, just an observation. Also, if I would shoot in auto mode and change the color mode too, It would look much warmer.

water with lemon

 Focus is right on and the sharpness is very good

tortilla chips

 I’m sure I will be delving into macro shots a lot more with this camera. That shallow depth of filed is pretty sweet.

Back at home, I shot some pictures of one of the flowers from Jen’s boquet.

raw shooting, flower image

 um yeah, pretty nice.

slow shutter speed shooting

We went to check on Jen’s yoga studio too. This image was shot hand held at 1/10 sec. Jen’s movement is blurred and you can see where the walls are sharp. Oh it’s not perfect, but the thing is I shot this without much thought. I just stopped and shot. That is why I wanted a good small camera  – to shoot things whenever I see them without lugging a big camera around. That is pretty darn good image stabilization for a little camera – 1/10 of a second is darn slow to shoot hand held. It is harder to hold a little camera still as I shoot than a larger one. I am impressed at how slow I can shoot and still get a usuable image.

Later that evening we went to see Alex play a little jazz at the music store, more low light and high ISO settings. I shot a lot playing with the ISO to check the quality. Here’s a few shots.

jazz guitar

high school jazz band

jazz guitar for teens

When shooting in i-auto I am forced to shoot a jpg instead of a RAW file. Like most P&S jpgs, it has jpg artifacts in it (the geometric looking noise). It handles the noise but adds the jpeggy look. I like the more organic looking noise of a raw file better. I must point out that I shot this at a slow speed, zoomed in and hand held in low light. Taking that into consideration, this is a good looking image from a P&S. I simply wouldn’t have gotten it from my old P&S. If I wanted something technically better, I would shoot with my big Nikon.

 

goofy family pictures

Three goofballs

So there you have it. My first days with the new Lumix LX5. So far I really love the camera. The bad things I can say about it are:

  • Auto WB can be a little off at times
  • Images can be a little noisy in low light

That’s really it for the bad so far. I will report more as time goes on. The good things are many. I love the way it feels in my hand and I am more than happy with the image quality. I end up with very usable files that can be professionally printed with no problem. I got this mainly to use from the bike in outdoor situations. I will be shooting at low ISOs and with more light so the noise issue won’t be an issue at all.

Also, this camera is fun to use and has helped motivate me to get on the bike and shoot more photos last weekend. This week I am going to start my winter workout regimen to get ready for the DK200. We have some big things happening with the Pablove Foundation that I am very excited about. Stay tuned!

Feed Your Monkey!
Eric

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