Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The P7000 vs LX5 vs G12 vs S100 vs XZ-1 question - perhaps the answer is OM-D E-M5

We went for a walk in the Pirttimäki forests today, and had a little bit to eat at the cafe. The north wind was cold, but otherwise the day was perfect for being outdoors. However, I broke today my pledge to not drink coffee, and had a (large) cup in the cafe. It tasted very, very good.

But maybe I'll take the opporturnity to make a new tradition: drink coffee on May 1st each year, and tea the rest of the time.

I do like tea, but not all kinds of tea. After studying the matter for three months I know something about the different types of tea. Loose leaf green tea is mostly good, as is white (at least some types of white). But tea to which (artificial) flavors have been added is mostly bad.

The photographs were taken in the harsh sunlight at noon, which is not really good for photography, even though it is good for the photographer.

But lets take about camera gear. I have avoided this topic, but I decided to write a bit about my current thoughts.

PB asked yesterday a question about the Panasonic LX5:

If you could, what camera would you buy now? And why?

I presently use a Nikon P7000, I'm thinking of moving to a camera that (1) is a bit smaller and (2) opens a stop or more wider than the f/2.8 the P7000 does. The LX5 is an obvious option. Would you continue to recommend it?

I haven't followed the recent developments in advanced compact cameras closely, but maybe I can provide some insight into the question of which camera to buy.

Personally I don't have experience of other cameras than Panasonic LX3 and LX5, both of which are certainly worthwhile cameras, or at least were when they were introduced. And they still are very usable cameras.

As I wrote in the posting in which PB posed the question, I think the LX3 build quality is better than with the LX5. But the LX5 works still rather well, with over 68,000 photographs taken so far, even though the jog wheel and the zoom switch cause occasional hiccups. And the handgrip isn't as firmly attached to the camera body as with the LX3.

I do like the f/2.0 max aperture of the LX5, and also the fact that I have been able to use ISO 500 during the dark winter months without too much problems with image quality with jpeg files from the camera. However, I'm not a pixel-peeper, and I don't pay much attention to noise. You might not want to go up to ISO 500, or maybe use RAW instead of jpeg.

Another thing is that I like the wide (24 mm equiv.) lens of the LX5. This may be another showstopper with other cameras, but if you are satisfied with 28 mm equiv. then there are alternatives to the LX5.

Also, as a third important factor for me, is the aspect ratio switch of the LX5. I like to use the square aspect ratio, occasionally using others as well, and the physical switch is really good to have.

So, returning to the "P7000 vs LX5 vs G12 vs S100 vs XZ-1 question", I think all of these cameras have their strengths, and some weaknesses. The Canon S100 is the most pocketable, which may be what you want. And the Olympus XZ-1 has a larger max aperture than the LX5. Any one of these cameras is a great tool.

But... what I'm most interested about these days are the mirrorless cameras, also known as compact system cameras (CSC). And especially interesting is the Olympus OM-D E-M5. Dpreview have just published their detailed review, which is interesting reading indeed.

The only showstopper for me is the fact that to be able to do the same things as with the LX5, I would need to carry three or more lenses with the camera, pushing the size of the system quite a lot. The LX5 is easily carried in a coat pocket, which is what I want in a camera.

On the other hand, putting a prime on the E-M5 would be an interesting combo to use, to develop an intuitive approach to photography: a simple tool for a simple purpose. Who needs a zoom lens anyway?


John - Visual Notebook said...

Another camera to consider would be the Sony Nex series. I recently picked up the Nex-5n - it's a really fine camera with an APS-C sensor. Of course, it runs a bit more than the cameras you mentioned with the exception of the OM-D, but I think it's worth it.

Peter R said...

Interesting comments about alternative cameras. I have a LX5, a couple of m4/3 CSCs (G1, GF3) and selection of pancake and zoom lenses. If you are not a pixel-peeper, the LX5 is easily good enough as a compromise between size and picture quality.

I bought the GF3 with 14mm pancake recently because it was cheap in the UK(£200). It's the same size as the LX5 but was 2/3 of the price. Better picture quality for a pixel-peeker but fewer external controls.

Sven W said...

Well, I've been pondering this very question of late, myself!

Buying a camera is a juggling match between compact size, features, ergonomics and image quality (leaving aside price).

We all want a camera that maxes out these 4 dimensions but it seems this is going to break the Laws of Physics ;)

We have to priortise. For example, if it's size then features then ergonomics then IQ, take a look at the S95 / S100. If it's IQ followed by size then take a look at the D800.

If I was an ambient light street photog, then the OM-D with a pancake prime might be a good option. Perhaps a great option.

But I like a camera with small built-in flash for fill, and a 28mm-e to 105mm-e fast zoom.

Perhaps I'll wait for the 2nd iteration of this year's crop of cameras (S100, OMD, G1X, GX1 etc).

[BTW, to squeeze out a bit more IQ from my S95, I shoot RAW and use a third-party NR tool on the high ISO images. "High" as in 800.]

Juha Haataja said...

@John: I have held a NEX camera in my hands, and it wasn't too bad, although I prefer more buttons than in the particular camera I handled.

But is the lens selection getting better? - NEX used to be far behind micro 4/3.

Juha Haataja said...

@Peter: You have quite a selection of tools. The price for the GF3 you mention is hard to imagine, I don't think we will ever have something like those prices here in Finland. Together with 14mm pancake, that is already quite a system.

Juha Haataja said...

@Sven: For some reason I wasn't at all interested in the G1X or GX1 - quite a confusion in names there! - and I still wonder for whom these cameras are intended.

Juha Haataja said...

@all: After thinking about cameras for a while, I have two scenarios:

a) If my LX5 would be broken, I would buy another LX5 - it is just so good, the lens + the overall package, despite my small reservation about durability and handling.

b) If I would get interested in complementing the LX5 with another camera, the E-M5 would be really tempting, with a weather-sealed zoom, a couple of pancakes and a macro lens. But I think I'll pass, at least for now.

Peter R said...

Juha, Regarding the prices in the UK, it seems that "old unfashionable" models are cleared at very low prices. I'm quite happy buying tools from the last generation if they're so cheap. Lumix G2s with kit zoom were also available for £200 - that was a sensational bargain.

Overall, I love my G1 best with the 20mm pancake attached. It just feels "right" somehow (......though it is quite a bit bigger than the LX5).

John - Visual Notebook said...


Indeed, the Nex doesn't have the extensive selection of lenses - but no doubt that'll change as time passes. What I like about the camera, along with the sensor size, is the grip - it fits securely in my hand. When I looked at the GX-1, I felt like it could easily slip and fall. For me, those were very important.

Juha Haataja said...

@Peter: It may be that we have some clearance sales, but I just never know of them. But I think the Finnish shops are rather conservative in pricing.

@John: Indeed, the grip is an important think. I had a Canon Digital Ixus, which didn't have any hand grip to mention, and it slipped my hands several times. And so did the LX3. But the LX5 has never been dropped, so far, maybe thanks to the better handgrip.

PB said...


Now that I'm messing around with my new LX5, are there any particular settings you prefer or keep coming back to?

I remember exposure at -2/3, the 1:1 aspect, and ISO up to 500?


-- Pr B

Juha Haataja said...

@PB: There are a lot of things you might to tweak - many of them involve setting things "off" instead of "on".

I have stored my favorite settings in the custom modes, nowadays I'm very much stuck with one version of settings but in the early days I had several alternatives which I used.

One of the most important settings is the film mode. I set mine up (as "my film 1") based on the nostalgic film mode, tweaking some settings (for example, setting nr to -1).

Oh, and I'm using aperture priority, but that is just the way I grew up.

Also, I have set i.exposure to off, as I don't like this kind of automatics.

Some things depend very much on your habits of shooting, for example how soon the LCD goes to sleep and so on.