Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Panasonic LX5 is now official - is it any good?


Clouds, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I wrote a little bit about the Panasonic LX5 yesterday, when it wasn't yet official. Now it is, and all specs were confirmed.

The biggest open question (or worry) is the new LX5 jog dial, which replaces the joystick on the LX3. (You can see the back view here.) It may be a faster way to change the exposure compensation, aperture and manual focus, but I'm still hesitant. The joystick on the LX3 is such a versatile tool. On the other hand, it may well be that the jogwheel is much more natural and faster in practise. Well, this is something that can only be learned by trying it out.

Dpreview seems to have a good impression of this: "It's the addition of the click wheel and the GF1-style handling that was most striking or, more accurately, wasn't - I spent around twelve hours shooting with the LX5 without particularly noticing the user interface. The loss of the joystick meant I found the 'quick menu' slightly less quick to use but this was more than made up for by the ability to change aperture or exposure compensation without shifting my hands out of the shooting position. Based on what I know of the LX3 and what I've seen of the LX5, it will be a difficult camera to get near, when a production example becomes available."

Pocket Lint seems to be a little bit disappointed, writing "Most the manual fun was just too far from your fingertips."

Well, on the LX3, you can store your favorite settings in C1 and C2-1...C2-3, and then you can just forget about them, no need to browse through menus. I must admit, however, that the jog dial seems to be a step backwards. On the LX3 the joystick was really easy way to control exposure, aperture and manual focus, in addition to accessing various menu settings.

But what about the sensor? It seems that sensitivity and dynamic range are only modestly improved, but there is quite a lot of more processing power in the camera (triple processors), which seems to indicate that the camera can get the maximum out of the sensor. On the LX3 I have been very satisfied with the jpeg images, so this probably applies to the LX5 as well. But will ISO 800 or 1600 be acceptable? Maybe ISO 800 - but ISO 1600, I don't think so.

Also, first impressions indicate that autofocus speed has indeed improved. Well, this is nice, although the LX3 was good for my purposes already.

But is the LX5 good enough to switch over from the LX3? I don't think so, but I can't say yet for sure.

Update: One more thing - the 1:1 aspect ratio is now included in the settings on the barrel, in addtion to 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9. Some wonder why to have this on the barrel, but for me this is one of the most used features. And because the sensor is multi-aspect, you get "bigger picture" than by cropping afterwards.

Update 2: Beautiful "Iceland gallery" of photographs taken with the Panasonic LX5 (a Panasonic web site).

9 comments:

Andreas said...

From the review samples at dpreview I declare ISO 800 usable, maybe with a little noise reduction (image of the chain), and ISO 1600 not really.

The interior group shot at ISO 1600 is not too bad, but the sundown with its soft gradients is horrible. On the other hand, if you shoot RAW and use Noise Ninja or Topaz Denoise (my current choice), I suppose there should be some headroom.

Markus Spring said...

Juha, that LX5 will be an interesting camera, no doubt. The amount of improvements over the LX3, besides the longer focal lenght, will be debatable. That sensor size was never designed for low light photography, but with the fast lens at least one can compensate a little bit for that drawback.

The images in the Iceland gallery (what a bullsh*t user interface) could have been made with the LX3 as well - decisive here is the eye and the vision of the photographer.

One good thing at least will come with the availability of the LX5: the price for the LX3 will go down :)

Anonymous said...

Juha,

I agree with Andreas, ISO 800 looks good. And now with noise control software you can make even ISO 1600 look a lot better.
I use free dcraw.exe -n to control sky noise (samples at http://www.flickr.com/photos/48741736@N03/ ) in my point and shoot. I also shoot DNG format if I need to do that.

The only thing I wish the LX5 had was a little more zoom, 4x or 5x. I was also expecting F1.8 for a little bokeh.

In any case, your LX3 does a great job and what a great one it is. But then again, your images always come out great. You can make great images even with a "Camera obscura" :)

Art

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Juha Haataja said...

@Andreas and anonymous: Yes, ISO 800 indeed looks promising for a jpeg-only workflow. In fact better than I thought possible. Tempting, tempting... At least, if my LX3 gets broken, there is a worthy replacement on the market.

@Markus: Yes, indeed, it is the skill of the photographer and not the camera. (And I agree about the interface, only a marketing-type person get invent something like that.)

doonster said...

I'm not a huge fan of the current joystick, so maybe th new set-up would work a bit better for me.
More worrying is the replacement of the focus button on the top that I use a lot with a video button for which I have precise zero use. If that can't be re-programmed it's a deal breaker.

Juha Haataja said...

@doonster: The "top" button of the four button around "menu" is now dedicated to focus, which seems like a workable solution. (And the right button is ISO.) And it may even be possible to remap the video button.

Sam Taha said...

Juha, I share exactly the same concerns as you. I have the LX3 and love it, and using the joystick to me is much more natural and comfortable than a wheel (i have a D90 so I also know what it's like). I wish they kept it. I think the fact that the wheel only turns right and left seems limiting compared to a joystick that goes different directions. I also can't find any BIG new features that warrant an upgrade; most are just small incremental features here and there. I'm a bit disappointed that after such a long wait, this is all they came up with.