Panasonic Lumix Launch Event

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

Panasonic organised a launch event at the Funan Digitalife Mall over the last weekend to launch their Lumix LX100, GM-5 and GH4 in Singapore. YS and I dropped by to get a hands-on on them, including the highly-anticipated Lumix LX100 (pictured above.)

I have been a long-time user of the old Panasonic LX3. It’s a great little compact camera with good image quality, manual controls and a fast zoom which starts at 24mm (equivalent) at f/2.0. It made for a great travel camera or for social settings when I don’t want to lug a heavy DSLR around.

YS: I myself had the LX2, which was before the LX3 really defined the LX class. It still was a pretty decent camera, at a time when Panasonic cameras had relatively noisy sensors. Remember them?

CK: I skipped the LX5 and LX7 when they came out as I didn’t think the changes are significant enough (more megapixels, slightly longer reach, etc.) But when Panasonic announced the LX100 with a Micro Four Thirds sensor, a fast 24-75mm lens which starts at f/1.7, 4K video recording and even an EVF, I was excited to get my hands on one to test it out. This launch event gave me that opportunity.

Following the previous LX models, the LX100 features knobs and dials for the controls, something of a trend right now with the likes of Fuji adopting it in their cameras. In fact, the top of the camera looks somewhat like a Fuji XE2. The body is bigger than my LX3 to cater for the bigger sensor and lens, but the overall size is still pretty compact. Due to the magnesium alloy body, the LX100 feels very solid in the hands.

YS: I would say it is more of a slow evolution: The LX7 after all added an aperture ring, so the extra dials seemed like the next logical step. Not one I am too fond of, however.

The camera is definitely larger than the LX7 that came before it, and I would even say it is no longer jacket pocketable, unless you like having a large bulge in your jacket. However it is still plenty small, and I would compare it to something like a Canon Powershot G camera.

CK: Like most modern Micro Four Thirds cameras, the LX100 focusses pretty quickly, though I still think the Nikon 1 series is slightly faster on this aspect. Having used to the big and glorious EVF of the Fujifilm X-T1, the LX100’s EVF looks small but refresh rate is pretty decent. It is definitely very usable, more so than the one on the Sony RX100 III, I’d say.

From the LCD, image quality is excellent, and high-ISO performance is pretty decent too. We weren’t able to use our own memory cards on the camera as there is a long queue of people clamouring over it and we didn’t want to hog it for too long. Hope to get a review unit from Panasonic soon, so that we can do a more in-depth review.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 will sell for S$1199 here, and there’s a current promotion with an additional 16GB SD card, original case, battery and $50 shopping vouchers.

YS: That’s a pretty decent price. I think for many enthusiasts this could be the one camera for all their photography needs. The wants, however, is a different thing altogether.

CK: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 was on display at the event, filming a water-drop setup to demonstrate still-image extraction from 4K video. Basically, a video of a drop of ink landing onto a bowl of water is captured as a 4K video, and the desired frame is extracted in-camera to obtain a still image. This might change the way photojournalism is done in future, where the photojournalist simply shoots video and select a frame later.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

The Panasonic/Leica CM1 phone was also on display at the event, but unfortunately it’s housed behind a display case and we can’t get our hands on it. It’s less bulky than I thought, though it housed a 1″ sensor for its camera.

YS: I am pretty sure it’s a mockup. As far as I know, it’s still only going on sale in France and Germany, sort of an experiment.

Panasonic/Leica CM1 Phone
Panasonic/Leica CM1 Phone

Finally, I also spent some time with the GM5, the followup to the GM1. The camera is actually smaller than the LX100, though once you add proper lenses to it it will no longer be quite as small.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5

The changes to the GM5 are minor, but they improve the camera handling a lot. Having a proper rear command dial makes settings easier to change, and the slightly larger frame makes it better to hold. The EVF is a real tiny affair, but it is serviceable. I really liked the GM1, so we shall see if I end up getting something silly one day. Christmas is not too far away after all!

That wraps out our coverage of the cameras on show. We will be trying to get a LX100 for review, so stay tuned!

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Three Guys’ Picks and Pans of 2013

Introduction

Well, 2013 was a quiet year, mainly with the two giants not releasing much, and everyone struggling to stay relevant in times of weak sales brought about by competent cameras that reduce the need to upgrade and convenient cameras in the form of smartphone cameras that make it easy to share photographs. Still, it was not all bad, and we have a list of last year’s most notable products. Read on and find out what they were! Continue reading Three Guys’ Picks and Pans of 2013

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Wither the Best Camera?

As the year wind down to a close, here is one guy’s confession about the year of 2013 in cameras.

Christmas Eve countdown celebration at Orchard Road - the weather sealed Sony A7 and kit lens was severely tested in the foamy frenzy.
Christmas Eve countdown celebration at Orchard Road – the weather sealed Sony A7 and kit lens was severely tested in the foamy frenzy.

David: When I bought the Leica M9 sometime in August of 2012, I thought I’m done with cameras – this would be the ultimate rangefinder camera that will carry me for many more years, a culmination of my years of rangefinder experience with the venerable Leica M6 (and for a short while, the meter-less Leica M3), the pinnacle of photographic experience never reached since regrettably selling both my film Leicas thanks to the lure of digital photography. And even though in my history of photography since 2002 I have used quite a few digital cameras, the window finder way of seeing and shooting, along with the habit of using cameras only in manual exposure mode, remain with me even till today.

My Leica M9 setup - shot with a X100
My Leica M9 setup – shot with a X100

The M9 was supposed to set that straight – to restore parity to my photography with my own favoured and preferred way of seeing and shooting. And it did – over 15,000 exposures later. It’s much more than that in reality – my Lightroom crashed a few months ago and I didn’t backup the catalog, so I’m still rebuilding the catalog from past work, but even halfway through the rebuilding process, M9 exposures alone are more than 15,000…..

With the M9, I travelled to Japan and even had my own exhibition in 2012, and was also exhibited at the Leica Singapore gallery in a joint exhibition in 2013.

So even though I flirted with a succession of cameras since I bought the M9 – namely a Ricoh GXR, the Ricoh GR and briefly with the Olympus OMD E-M5, none came close to replacing the M9 as my main go-to camera, though I must say the Ricoh GR was a thoroughly enjoyable camera and excelled on the streets.

Japanese buskers performing along Orchard Road
Japanese buskers performing along Orchard Road – Sony A7 with CV 50 f1.5 ASPH II
I call this intersection, Singapore's own Shibuya Crossing
I call this intersection, Singapore’s own Shibuya Crossing
Double rainbow sighting after I bought my A7 - this was in fact the second rainbow occurrence I sighted after getting the A7. A sign?
Double rainbow sighting after I bought my A7 – this was in fact the second rainbow occurrence I sighted after getting the A7. A sign?

OK, here’s the confession: In November of 2013, I broke down and got the Sony A7 with 28-70 kit zoom, despite my reservations about the Sony brand, intrigued by the possibilities of mounting my Leica and Voigtlander rangefinder lenses on it as a second body. I’ve never been a person who likes to change lenses, and always preferred shooting with 2 bodies. The Sony A7 was an interesting proposition. I had not put my name anywhere nor placed any deposit but when I called MS Color in the initial frenzy of the launch – there was one set available. Someone had decided to let go of his reservation.

Migrant workers at Orchard Road instead of Little India after the riots of 8th Dec.
Migrant workers at Orchard Road instead of Little India after the riots of 8th Dec.

I had never owned a Sony camera personally, nor bought anything from MS Color in over 12 years. That day, both records were broken. And one month later, the M9 has hardly come out of the bag.

For a month my new Sony A7 went with me wherever I go, high ISO ready for any situation, including personal memories of favourite people like this one.
For a month my new Sony A7 went with me wherever I go, high ISO ready for any situation, including personal memories of favourite people like this one.
Dancing queen - manually focusing using peaking was no problem for the A7.
Dancing queen – manually focusing using peaking was no problem for the A7.
Off centre focusing using M mount rangefinder lenses on a full frame sensor since the M240 - it was a breeze on the A7, and a welcome capability to complement the M9
Off centre focusing using M mount rangefinder lenses on a full frame sensor since the M240 – it was a breeze on the A7, and a welcome capability to complement the M9

There will be a full review of this full frame tiny wonder at this site for sure, (and hopefully we can get our hands on the 36 megapixel A7R too for evaluation) but right now, I’ll say this – if I didn’t have any Leica, the A7 would be my main camera, such is the ease of adapting lenses, particularly Leica lenses to it. Yes I know there are still corner smearing and colour cast issues with wide and ultra wide angle lenses, but my widest M mount lens, my most used 35mm Summarit had no major problems with it, and to me, that’s enough. Curiously though, because of the fact I love shooting with 2 bodies, I have been using the excellent Cosina Voigtlander 50mm f1.5 ASPH version 2 lens on the A7 and I’ve gotten so used to the 50mm field of view that I miss the 35mm much less now.

Helping the kids - shot with the Sony A7 and CV 50 f1.5 ASPH
Helping the kids – shot with the Sony A7 and CV 50 f1.5 ASPH
The kit lens of the Sony A7 isn't too bad, and definitely handled most situations with aplomb.
The kit lens of the Sony A7 isn’t too bad, and definitely handled most situations with aplomb.
The A7 met the prime minister of Singapore and his wife strolling down Orchard Road in an impromptu visit.
The A7 met the prime minister of Singapore and his wife strolling down Orchard Road in an impromptu visit.

The Sony A7 is the Leica M240 that I couldn’t afford (not new, anyway. My M9 was a second hand unit too) – 24 megapixels capable of ISO up to 51200 and more, high resolution EVF with excellent peaking modes for manual focusing, off centre focus magnification placement, weather sealing, small, lightweight and more importantly, allows me to use my M mount lenses. In those respects, it is more than the M240, and a perfect complement to my M9. Not to mention the great wireless options on the A7 – the picture below was uploaded directly from the camera (at the time of writing, this image was shot about a hour ago) to Flickr by connecting to a wireless hotspot:

Cute Whisky - this image was uploaded directly to Flickr from the Sony A7.
Cute Whisky – this image was uploaded directly to Flickr from the Sony A7.

To be honest, I still focus faster with the rangefinder patch of the M9 compared to peaking and I do find the images of the M9 at base and low ISOs superior still due to the lack of the AA filter, but the A7 opens up new avenues (or re-open old ones to be precise) in the area of high ISO shooting, something I was used to with Japanese DSLRs all these years.

What's in my bag mostly now - the Sony A7 with the CV 50 f1.5 and the Leica M9 with the Summarit 35mm f2.5
What’s in my bag – the Sony A7 + CV 50 f1.5 and the Leica M9 + Summarit 35mm f2.5

I’m done with cameras with these two. I think.

 

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The Switch

Nikon D300 and New CameraPhotography, as I have always said, is an endeavour that blends the technical with the artistic. There are very few other arts that have as much science in it as the art. Not surprisingly, it is one that attracts a wide range of people, from those who spend more time gazing on MTF charts and shooting brick walls than actually doing photography, to those who pursue the next big thing, even if it is nothing more than the Emperor’s New Clothes. Cold clinical rationalism to pretentious subjective irrationality. Photography has it all. Continue reading The Switch

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A Quick Guide to the Use of the Manual Exposure Mode

Mode Dial, Nikon F80The manual exposure mode on a camera was of course, the only way to set exposure on a camera then. With smart metering systems coupled with the auto exposure modes available nowadays, what does one do with the M mode? Well, here are some pointers.

When to use the manual exposure mode:

  • Keeping the exposure constant in varying light conditions – especially useful when stitching or doing time lapse videos.
  • Preventing improperly exposed photos in conditions that are giving the camera’s exposure meter fits.
  • Balance the ratio between ambient and flash light in flash photography, especially when indoors.

When NOT to use the manual exposure mode:

  • When you are trying to feel like a photographer but all you are doing is matching the exposure settings to the exposure readout given by the camera, thereby achieving the same result as setting the camera on an auto-exposure mode, but taking longer to do so.
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Kit Lenses Aren’t All That Bad

I recently came across a piece by Marco Arment, developer of the popular Instapaper app titled “SLRs aren’t worth it if you’ll only use the kit lens“. In the blog post, Marco wrote:

I’d go further and suggest that you shouldn’t buy an SLR if you only ever plan to use its kit lens or an inexpensive zoom lens. Kit lenses and low-end zooms produce blurry, distorted, drab images — they can look decent on blogs or phones, but the flaws become apparent when you see them on big Retina screens or printed at larger sizes.

While I fully agree with Marco that one should definitely not buy a DSLR if you have no intention of using anything other than the bundled kit lens, I have to disagree with the blanket statement that kit lenses “produce blurry, distorted, drab images”. Not all kit lenses are as bad as he described. Not to start another Nikon vs. Canon war, but from what I’ve heard from their respective users, Canon’s kit lenses are indeed unspectacular. Whether they really produce blurry and distorted images I can’t really comment as I’ve not used them myself.

Continue reading Kit Lenses Aren’t All That Bad

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One Guy’s Thoughts: The New Ricoh GR

The new Ricoh GR, with almost the same dimensions as the GRD IV, with a much bigger APS-C sized sensor inside.
The new Ricoh GR, with almost the same dimensions as the GRD IV, with a much bigger APS-C sized sensor inside.

Ricoh stunned the world this week with the announcement of the impending availability of the world’ smallest APS-C sensor compact camera, the Ricoh GR, and naturally most of the major news sites went gaga over the next few days with previews of the camera. I’m not going to rehash many of the points already mentioned and dispense with the superlatives that have been associated with this new camera. As the owner of a Ricoh GXR system with the 28mm module with a APS-C sensor, I already knew the potential of a small camera system equipped with a APS-C camera, even if most previews and writeups of the camera seem to conveniently forget the fact the GXR with 28mm module actually exists.

The back of the new Ricoh GR - they managed to squeeze in one more extra external control!
The back of the new Ricoh GR – they managed to squeeze in one more extra external control!

What I’m instead going to write about here is the raison d’etre of such a camera – I’ve read previews and comments online commenting on the commercial viability or even photographic need for such a camera, with some also alluding to the fact that the Nikon Coolpix A was already on the market, and the Ricoh was merely copying the design. A few previews tried to dissect the camera based on specs, measuring auto focus speed and comparing with the Nikon Coolpix A. Some bemoaned the lack of a built in viewfinder, and some questioned the “slow” aperture of f2.8 for the lens. All have missed the point. Continue reading One Guy’s Thoughts: The New Ricoh GR

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On Fujifilm’s new X100S…

X100S
Image Courtesy of Fujifilm

David: News of Fujifilm’s new X100S, a seminal update to the venerable game changer (IMHO) hit the web a few hours earlier than the NDA scheduled due to a uhmmm… accidental leak on Fuji’s UK website (riiiigghhht), but rumors of it have been floating around the net a few days before, so it wasn’t a complete shocker to me.

But what a camera…. what an update. Rather than go through all the specs laboriously one by one (other sites do it better, e.g. Fuji’s own X-series website), as a X100 fan and active user, I want to highlight the key features of this update which may have eluded those of you unfamiliar with the X100. This is NOT a news update, but think of it as my ode to one of the most enjoyable cameras I’ve ever used. So, here goes…..

Continue reading On Fujifilm’s new X100S…

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