Photographing South-East Asia, 2011

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As some of you may know, I’ve been fortunate enough to go on a few longish trips to SE Asia in the past few years. I love this part of the world and it is a great place for photography. My biggest and most travel-oriented trip was Summer 2011, when I practically brought the kitchen sink along. Tired of being stuck with the perspective of one lens (generally my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8), I brought a variety of cameras and primes. I actually got good use out of a lot of them, but the heat and weight made it at times very tiring. So for the next trip I had a rethink.

So to save my back and increase my sanity, less came with me in the second trip. I was partly helped by having a new and smaller DSLR (the D5100) that had a better sensor than my D300 and also decent features. So here is what I took and, more importantly why I took it. The fact you want to use something you own is a poor excuse for bringing it ‘on the road’ and bringing something ‘just in case’ may make sense for a band-aid, but not in the world of camera gear. I’ll also add, with the benefit of hindsight whether I found it all that useful.

(I actually wrote this two years ago and have been slow to get it polished for publishing, but never mind, here it is!) For the gear in Summer 2012, please see here. I’ll make a post about 2013’s trip, too, but want to get this out the proverbial door first.

The Summer 2011 Trip

Cameras

D300

To have a weather-sealed body, as sometimes out in the rainy season. on beaches or boats. Also, to have autofocus with my new ‘street-shooter’, Nikon’s venerable 24mm f/2.8 AFD. Right, that’s AFD, no autofocus motor and pretty much useless in any kind of hurry on a smaller body, which I generally prefer to have in my backpack. I also hadn’t always been happy with my D3100 in Europe, not being sure exactly why, but perhaps it’s relatively flimsy feeling, tendency to overexpose and the smaller viewfinder ended up with me wondering if it alone would do this trip justice, though I definitely prefer it’s weight.

* In hindsight… now I have it, I prefer to use the D5100, as it reduces a lot of weight and I can make do with its small viewfinder.

Nikon D3100

Originally intended as my backup, it got used most days and especially when doing a lot. It is light, reasonably fast and good at focusing. It is for me a world away from a compact and can mount some serious glass, like the Tamron 17-50mm I brought along for it. Probably I should have gotten the better D5100 for this trip, but it had just come out and was really expensive, plus I’d only just gotten the D3100 in February.

* This camera is inadequate as a main tool for me, mostly because of the poor dynamic range, but also the lack of bracketing for HDR and poor video abilities. Yet it does score highly for lowish weight and low light abilities. Newer models are a lot more satisfactory.

Panasonic Lumix LX5

Sometimes you are just heading out for dinner, going for a stroll. you don’t necessarily want a backpack even and this will fit in the pouch around my neck. Also, it’s no slouch, with its 1.1/7″ sensor, it has pretty good dynamic range and low-light ability, for a compact at least.

* A handy little camera, rendered somewhat obsolete by my m43 bodies, which have much better sensors and are still pretty small.

Panasonic Lumix TZ7

This was my pocket superzoom. At 25-300mm, it could compliment whatever else I brought along, especially the LX5 or a D300 restricted to a prime lens, as well as taking decent 720p video. The image quality is way below what I would really want, especially as you zoom in, but it can be nice as a memory-catcher. Having such a range is a lot of fun to have, especially compared to the fast-and-wides I started off with. It really does need good light, even with its VR, due to the dark lens and poor high ISO (more than 200 is pushing it, but I did use it up to 400, just to get the shot).

* Another handy camera, yet the low IQ means I got few keepers, especially above ISO 100. I find the P510 does much better here and without adding too much weight.

(more…)

Advertisements

Relook at the Panasonic LX5

Life With the LX5

A while ago, I wrote a review of the LX-5, in which I tried to be fair in my assessments of whether it really stands up in the world of cameras we have today. After 1 1/2 years, I am still keenly using it, perhaps more than ever, as a take-around camera that fits nicely into my bag, certainly the best such camera I’ve ever had and probably one of the best in it’s class to this day. My first review was about six months ago and writing it got me to consider how I really feel about it as an ‘imaging machine’, that is, a vehicle for the sensor it contains. As you use a camera for longer, you get to know it a lot better and it tends to grow on you, (or not, as the case may be). In this case, my feelings about it have pretty much stayed the same, in that generally the sensor and imaging engine are some way behind the camera body itself, with all it’s useful dials, but that you do get a good enough image to work on later and really bring out it’s qualities. In a sense, a digital camera will never be ‘good enough’ for long. That being said, since the cameras of tomorrow will be replaced too, it is worth making the most of the camera you have today.

Sensor/processing limitations are handicaps unique to digital cameras, as all film cameras could be the same at the ‘imaging’ level just by changing film, lens quality aside. Yet then again thanks to post-processing, whether done in the camera or externally, many aberrations can be corrected for and new effects obtained. For this every reason, I prefer digital. Meanwhile, despite the need to often post-process with this camera, which I consider a Raw camera and not much of a ‘Jpeg camera’, as people say Olympus models especially are, I’ve gotten more and more use out of it simply because of its convenience.

The best camera is the one you have with you

Thanks to the lens, I am often surprised by its sharpness. The ability to change aspect modes and picture styles (creative styles, as Panasonic calls them) make for some creative possibilities, including a well-implemented bracketing function opening the way for HDRs. After being through a range of compacts, none of them having this combination of manual controls, wide, bright lens and decently large sensor (for a compact!), it is still an enjoyable camera to use. On the street it’s almost unnoticeable. Whilst people tended to notice me more with a DSLR, it certainly looks more like I am taking snaps with this one. People would pose, too, in a playful manner, rather than just trying to ‘look their best’ when faced with the relative heaviness of a DSLR. There is something to be said for light-hearted photography and sensors aside, the smaller cameras will definitely always have their place (though better sensors will make their IQ more equal in time). Bending the camera down to the smallest details for an almost-touching macro is no trouble at all here and you can shrink the DOF, especially at the maximum f/2, whilst still retaining much more in focus than on a larger sensor. Conversely, despite the diffraction issues when stopping down (I wouldn’t go above f/5.6 with this), for landscapes, the sharpness of a small sensor paired with a good lens can produce some memorable results, as anyone with a good compact will know.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Small World

Still, with all the convenience of having this small size, you do pay another price, which conventional reviews of such ‘high end compacts’ tend to disguise under the proviso that you shouldn’t expect too much from their relatively tiny sensors. High ISO above 400 is a bit of a joke, though especially in B&W you can get some usable results at 640-800, especially if you shoot in Raw. Well, Jpeg at this point is so bad in this camera, with smudgy-wudgy noise-reduction, that really you should only shoot Raw at 400 and above of you don’t want to drown in the smudginess. I prefer to shoot at 200 and under, letting the stabilisation take care of camera shake (as much as it can, it’s not so powerful as the name would suggest).

I suspect that Canon does better in this point, samples certainly suggest that, but here’s the thing. The LX5 has been around for about a year and a half and is still going strong, if not quite as strong as Panasonic may have hoped. In that time, Canon has been through the S90, S95 and now the S100, meanwhile Nikon has had the P7000, incrementally updated with the P7100, which mostly  fixed some problems of slow operation speed in the former model. Whilst the S100 is probably the most advanced of the selection, you have to hand it to Panasonic for producing a design that would last so long in a competitive marketplace. Had I opted for one of  her rivals back in 2010, I would have either upgraded by now or be missing out on more ‘complet’ models. So even if I’ll never know if I made the best choice, I’m sure glad I made a good one.

I’m still learning how to get the most out of the LX5 and if it’s most serious competition right now is the S100, it still has some advantages. The lens is generally regarded as sharper across the frame, despite a shorter reach (I do find 90mm a bit short in many cases, though no more so than on a DSLR kit lens) and as you zoom in, it is much brighter. The S100 has 1080p video, a big advance in my book and also much better high ISO from the camera. Knowing Canon vs Panasonic colours, I am pretty sure Canon will do a better job here and that in fact it always has done, right back to the S90 and before, yet to an extent if you shoot in Raw this can be solved, as I mostly do anyway. I even got a ‘custom colour’ pack from Kiss, which allows my LX5 Raws to be colour interpreted like any camera out there, from Leica to Nikon, which I do tend to use, despite the extra trouble. I wish the LX5 didn’t need so much processing to look ‘right’ to me and I know I’m not alone here.  Still, it is good to know the files can take the transformation without posterising, or falling apart.

Conclusion

Although the LX5 is small, since I bought it, CSC have improved a lot, in features, speed and quality. with a zoom lens mounted, they are all a lot bigger than this, but their image quality, especially in worse light, is worlds ahead. Even Panasonic wonders if it is worth making a similar LX6. I feel that there is still a place for the high-end compact, though would prefer a CSC overall. The sensor is a major limitation, yet with careful post-processing, a lot can be made up for and it is brilliantly designed. The problem I have with CSC’s is actually picking one. I have narrowed my choices down a bit, but they iterate a lot and improve quickly. It is hard to know when to ‘jump on board’. So for now, the LX5 is my carry-around, or at times even pocket camera, which it works excellently at. and I am still learning my way around it.
So the LX5 may be getting longer in the tooth in the fast-changing world of compacts, but it’s still going strong, still in my bag and still out shooting. So there! I’ll close with a couple of  wonderful videos from renowned pro Charlie Waite taking it for a spin. It may be a bit of an advertisement, but the inspiration offered here can help whatever the camera and it does show some of the flexibility the small form factor brings. Despite the poor high ISO performance, I like using it for street and walkabout photography for just this reason. Take it away, Charlie!

The Panasonic Lumix LX5 Review

Notesee below for comments on the changes from the September 2011 2.0 firmware release.

The Panasonic Lumix LX5 is a very capable camera, especially for it’s size, offering unusual speed and low-light capability  as compacts go. Having such a bright lens, even reasonably so at the long end (f/2-3.3) and decent high ISO up to 400, in a pinch maybe 640, raw files and an excellent 18mm wide adapter makes for a sophisticated little machine. You can get some excellent photo quality from the sharp lens and even if the length is restricted, at 90 vs 60, it’s a bit better here than the LX3 and the wide angle is more than usual on such cameras, starting at 24mm. Having features like the step zoom, auto memory of zoom and great bracketing help a lot with creative uses of it. On paper, it’s the perfect little camera.

In use it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations, for me at least. I personally find the small, plasticy controls a bit fiddly to use, often needing to delve into the menus for other commands. I also don’t find it as intuitive to use as my DSLRs, or a simple point and shoot, even after a year or so on having it, which suggests there is still a gap in the market for anyone who can make a better alternative for photographers. The ability to customize the function button helps a bit here, as does the dedicated ISO control and others. Coming from a DSLR, using the same control wheel for aperture and exposure compensation is annoying; a second control dial would be helpful. Also, the LCD screen is subpar, as is the low resolution EVF available, though some users find this very handy anyway, which means you won’t really know what you’ve shot until you have a computer in front of you. Another issue is the depth of field- even on low settings, due to the small sensor, just about everything is in focus unless you go really, really close to things, which makes it less interesting for portraits than I’d like.

It is great to have such a sensitive machine, virtually being pocketable. Yet the ergonomics make me think a small M4/3 camera would be preferable. Until they make an attractive one with built in evf, this helps me sit on the fence reasonably comfortably. get used to the quirks and you have a fine little photo-taking machine.

As a side-note, I use this along with the TZ7 when I want to travel light and not miss a shot. This comes out whenever the light dims, or for wide-angle, as the quality is so much better and then when I want to I can zoom into 300mm with the TZ7.

I think overall this is a nice little machine, but I wonder how long it can keep it’s head above water with mirror-less developing and increasing competition from similar cameras from Olympus for one. It’s unique features of having 24mm on the wide end and switchable aspect ratios don’t really make up for the lack of a second control dial and the fiddly nature of the one it has. Panasonic seems to have a habit of packing in features and forgetting how real photographers might want to access them comfortably. This makes this a less than perfect camera, but at it’s price point and size, certainly one of the best ones out there right now.

One more thing- Panasonic is issuing a firmware update in September which should improve the AF speed (which in some modes is already very good), make the LCD image more contrasty and also improve the interface. I for one am pleased they take the camera seriously enough to do this, which should help keep up with the Joneses for another year or so.

Pros

* Very sharp, bright lens, especially at wide angles (ranging 2.0-3.3)
24mm start
* Fast operation and AF thanks to Venus Engine Full HD (which perhaps will even improve in firmware 2.0)
* Fully-featured enthusiast model, including hotshoe, bracketing, various controls.
* Excellent wide angle adapter giving a rare (in the world of compacts) 18mm equivalent
* Rubber grip makes handholding easy
* Power OIS works well
* Very good 720p video even in low light
* Step zoom makes it easy to fix an angle of view and stick with it, like using a prime lens
* Small and light, yet fully featured controls (though see below for caveat), make for a great backup for anyone who wants a small, bright, wide portable lens.
* Decently fast writing of Raw files

Cons

* Poor high ISO above 400, which itself is pushing things
* Short lens compared to the competition (90mm vs 112mm and beyond)
* No small external flash available makes the hot-shoe somewhat redundant
* No EVF and the available one very low resolution
* Poor LCD display (though perhaps the firmware update will help here)
* Fiddly controls
* Only one control dial (and a small one at that)
* No 1080p video
* Mono audio and no provision for external mics
* Dated, unattractive interface operated by button rather than scroll wheel makes finding the settings you want a chore more than a pleasure
* Not looking so good with competing cameras offering brighter lenses and more photographic controls.
* Sometimes gives unnatural colours, especially for skies, which seems to be a Panasonic issue generally
* Jpeg engine gives worse results than competition, this is essentially a Raw camera for many.

Note- A new firmware.

Rather than prematurely update the camera, which like the LX3 before it presumably has a 2 year life cycle, Panasonic released a remarkable firmware update that addresses some of the issues the camera had. One change is the monitor becoming more vivid and more contrasty, as well as providing settings to colour-correct it. I personally do fid it more vivid now, which shows that the dullness I experienced before was not just a hardware issue. Presumably, the former was more ‘natural’, yet a corrected and more appealing preview is welcome.

Another change is to the AF, which does seem to be faster, giving the camera a more ‘zippy’ feeling. I never found it all that slow before, but having it sped up shows me that it was actually a bit sluggish- and still is compared to my DSLRs and presumably the mirrorless generation.

The third notable addition is the ‘miniature affect’ setting, that allows for one part of the image to be in focus and the rest heavily blurred, as if it was a small toy. It takes quite a while to process this, around 3-5 seconds, so it is not for fast shooting, but it is a very classy and configurable option.What this does, for me at least, is make up for the huge depth of field the photos often have, allowing for more artistic effects, while still in the camera. They don’t show up in the Raw file, so either change to Jpeg, or do Jpeg+Raw to get it. You can change the size of the in focus area and it’s location anywhere on the frame, which is very handy and effective, though of course nothing like as good as you could achieve with intense post-processing, for playful snaps, I’ma  fan of it. Also, if you shoot movies with this on, it’ll make for a slow-motion video by a factor of 10, which could well be interesting. Also, videos are now actively stablised, which may well make a difference to them, I’ll have to see.

All in all a very interesting update, which makes the camera a fresher item or me, but doesn’t and perhaps couldn’t help a lot of the cons of the machine. The short lens, the sometimes unappealing colours, the poor high or even middling ISO are all here to stay. Yet, there is still nothing around to beat it to my mind, at least until the smaller mirrorless solutions arrive. I can see myself replacing this with a M 4/3 camera with one of Panasonic’s coming ‘x’ pancake zooms. The price will be a lot more, but so will the quality and of course if I want, I can change the lenses altogether. In the meantime, for it’s small size and price, I can still recommend the LX5.

Nonoshita Walks

The place I live, whilst being close to Toyoshiki station and across the road at which Kashiwa meets Nagareyama, is called Nonoshita. Though a lot of people live here now, it is historically an agricultural area, as can be seen from the presense of farms and farmhouses. One thing I love to do is walk in the countryside near my place. You just have to go about ten minutes and you are in a peaceful, unchanged world of farmhouses, flowers, rice fields, wild birds and gently swaying trees. Walking through this, in the sunshine, with the songs of various birds echoing around the hillsides, is a treat in itself.

For me it is like an extended garden, a contemporary version of the perfection of Eden. The practical nature of all the arrangements there drops away for me and I see the ecosystem at play, with all it’s beauty and mystery. At each step I find new, small surprises- a pheasant crying to her mate here, ducks flying gracefully through the air there, tadpoles swimming joyfully in their first days of life. it is like a poem in motion, laid out before me. It doesn’t just change every season, it changes each day, as they blend together, millions of elements making one moment quite unlike any other.

I believe when people love the Earth, they will naturally try to protect her, just as they would their own children. Which isn’t to say the Earth is like a child for us, in fact it may well be the other way around. Yet this is an affectionate, appreciative feeling, which you could direct to God or Earth or creators-sons, or whatever else one thanks for this glory. For, in the moment of apprehension, there is really no question  that there is the mark of something divine in it all and one is wrapped up in the communion with it, the joy of sharing in the wonder. We need nothing more than what we already have.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Straight, No Chaser.

A Traditional Photography Blog - dehk © 2016

ArchangelTravel

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Simple Tom

Some say I was born high. Others say i'm just simple :)

A Girl and Her Backpack

Living life and packing my backpack to the fullest!

Where's my backpack?

Romancing the planet; a love affair with travel.

clumsyfool

How a weirdo sees the world...

Stephen Liddell

Musings on a mad world

Love 2 Type

because I get off hammering the keyboard

Travel & Liking

With Alex KHOO

Little Orange World

Me, My World, Anything I Love, and Scattered Mind of Mine.

Dorkdaddy.com

misadventures in raising two... wait, no THREE well-adjusted kids in the grandest dork-tradition

Sweet Rains

"He sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matt. 5:45)

sethsnap

Photographs from my world.

Myau Myau's photo gallery

flower, garden, Japanese temple & cat