|LX100 at f1.7 Hand held above my head|
This is the Camera Ergonomics blog where I have a lot to say about the operation and user experience of many cameras. Now it is time for my analysis of the LX100.
I will present this in the form of a series of 6 (or maybe more, we shall see) posts each dealing with one aspect of the matter.
Many reviewers and users have expressed positive statements about the LX100 ergonomics.
I am not one of them and I will explain why in this series. Much of the discussion and analysis will deal with the differences between the “traditional” (or more correctly with modern cameras, hybrid traditional) and “modern” control systems and their relative efficiency on modern electronic cameras.
|LX100 at E24mm focal length. The lens protrudes even further at E75mm|
In their promotional material for the LX100 [http://panasonic.net/avc/lumix/lx100_interview/] Panasonic designers reference the LC1, an advanced fixed zoom lens digital camera. To quote the same material ….”We began developing the new model (the LX100) by inheriting the DNA of the LC1”.
The table shows that the LX100 is much smaller than the LC1 even though it has a larger sensor. Just for fun I included the Sony RX100(3) which is even smaller, albeit with a smaller sensor and some ergonomic compromises.
|Lumix LC1 of 2004|
Matsushita/Panasonic entered the digital still camera market in 2001 with the “Lumix” brand. The LC1 was released in 2004. With reference to the photos you can see similarities between the control layout of the LX100 and the LC1 but there are plenty of differences as well.
The “Traditional” control layout reprised in hybrid fashion in the LC1, LX100 and several Fuji X cameras has its origins in the mid part of the 20th Century.
Look at the photo of my Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, 50 years old and still working. This is a single lens reflex camera but its controls are essentially the same as the rangefinder leica M3 of 1959.
The lens has a fixed focal length and is manually focussed with a ring on the lens.
Aperture is set with a second ring on the lens using marked f Stop indicators. There are marked distance indicators allowing depth of focus to be displayed right on the lens.
Shutter speed is set with the marked dial on top of the body. Film speed (ASA/DIN/ISO) is set by lifting and turning the shutter speed dial.
And that’s all there is for exposure and focussing controls.
The user interface is very basic and simple. It also has many ergonomic limitations which I will discuss in subsequent posts in this little series.
This control layout is appropriate to a mechanical camera from the mid 20thCentury. The focus ring drives the focussing helical drive by direct mechanical connection. The aperture ring actuates the aperture diaphragm by direct mechanical connection. The shutter speed dial has a direct mechanical link with the control mechanism for the focal plane shutter.
I make four observations about this control system as used on the Spotmatic:
1. The User Interface Modules [UIM] in other words the dials, rings etc are locatedwhere they must be in order to make their direct mechanical connections. Contrast this with a modern electronic camera which can locate UIMs anywhere on or even off the camera as all linkages are electronic.
2. They are “Set and See” type UIMs. This name is self explanatory. The user sees the f stop, shutter speed or distance marked directly on the UIM and changes the setting right there.
Although the Spotmatic uses Set and See controls for Capture Phase actions they are actually more suitable for Prepare Phase actions (in the minute or so just before image capture) because the user can see the settings while looking at the outside of the camera. But those same set and see modules are invisible when looking through the viewfinder in Capture Phase of use.
3. There is no auto exposure facility, no auto exposure modes, no menus, no drive mode, no focus mode, no auto focus mode, no other modes, no “functions” in the modern electronic sense and no function buttons. Electronics are elementary consisting of a swing needle exposure indication powered by a small button battery.
4. Adjusting exposure on the Pentax Spotmatic is quite slow. The fingers of the left hand can rotate the aperture ring easily enough (before or after the same fingers have been used to turn the focus ring) while the right hand supports the camera. But the shutter speed dial is a more difficult proposition. The dial requires both the index finger and thumb of the right hand which has to release grip on the camera in order to turn the dial. To make matters worse access to the dial is impeded by both the film wind lever and the shutter button. Ergonomically the procedure is clumsy as the camera has to be supported first by one hand and then the other.
A better ergonomic design can allow the user to adjust all the primary and secondary exposure and focussing parameters while looking continuously through the viewfinder and without having to change grip with either hand.
Next: The modern control system
|LX100, 1/125sec, f2.8, ISO 640 Focal length E60mm|
Someone posted a question about this on a user forum. I had been wondering myself how these cameras would cope with moving subjects indoors so I did a little test.
I asked an adult to walk towards the camera at a steady pace and slightly across the lens axis. I had the subject do several walks for a total of about 200 exposures per camera.
Light levels were variable with some light coming from outside, some from artificial sources.
Exposure ranged from 1/40-1/125 second at f2.8-3.5, ISO 500-2500.
This type of situation is actually quite a severe test of a camera’s ability to follow focus as the light levels are much lower than outside and the subject very close to the camera which means that the change in focus from one frame to the next is considerable.
For both cameras I used JPG Fine capture as this gives a better frame rate and buffer than RAW capture.
Settings for both cameras were:
Exposure Mode, Programme for the first set of photos and Shutter Priority at 1/125 second for the second set.
AF Mode, 1 Area Readers please note that after several trials and experiments with a succession of Panasonic cameras over several years I never use Tracking AF mode with moving subjects. In fact I have yet to find a use for Tracking AF Mode. Video perhaps.
AF box size 4/15 located to focus on the subject’s face.
Auto ISO. Note that neither camera will raise ISO above 1600 until the shutter speed falls to extremely low levels.
* The LX100 ran steadily in each set of exposures at about 5 frames per second.
* Frame rate for the FZ1000 was inconsistent. In some sets of exposures it started at about 3fps then speeded up to about 6 fps. In other sets it started fast then slowed sharply.
* High ISO JPGs from the LX100 looked more natural than those from the FZ1000.
* In Programme AE Mode the FZ1000 set shutter speeds down to 1/40 second which was way too slow for a moving subject and was the reason for many of the unsharp frames in the P run.
I viewed each frame at 100% on screen and rated it sharp, slightly soft (but probably OK for a small print) and clearly unsharp.
* You can see that neither camera proved to be a stellar performer in this situation.
* Most of the unsharp frames in the P run for the FZ100 were due to an excessively slow shutter speed.
* The percentage of FZ1000 frames rated sharp improved markedly when I controlled shutter speed. However this put the ISO up to 2500 with consequent degradation of image quality due to the high ISO JPGs which I do not find appealing at all.
* Overall I rate the LX100 as being slightly more suitable in this situation as it can use a wider aperture, giving faster shutter speeds and has better high ISO JPGs.
I have used the LX100 indoors several times with grandchildren and pets. There is no way it can keep up with the 22 month old when he is running around, but I am willing to bet very few cameras can manage this task consistently.
It is fine however when the children, pets, whatever, have paused for a moment before rushing off in another direction. I have found I get best results with either camera by setting AF Single and Drive Mode Single and waiting for these moments.
Evolution of the modern control system. Mode Dial and Control Dial
I have used The Canon Camera Museum to trace the evolution of the modern control system as Canon was at the forefront of camera technology throughout the relevant decades (but is no longer) and because the museum is an excellent chronological resource for descriptions of successive models.
Throughout the second half of the 20thCentury Cameras acquired an increasing level of electronic control. This enabled auto exposure, autofocus and the myriads of modes and functions which the modern camera brings to the user experience. The makers had to find new types of interface which could allow the user to access these new features.
In 1986 the T90 introduced the projecting handle with shutter button top left and forward on the handle with a Control Dial behind the shutter button. This configuration continues in Canon and other DSLRs and ILCs today. It provides the right hand with a good purchase on the device and allows the right index finger to operate both the shutter button and control dial without having to shift grip with the other fingers. The T90 had a Mode Button top left and an LCD top right so the user could see the effect of various actions with the buttons and dials.
The first EOS camera was the 650 of 1987. This was very similar in layout and ergonomics to the T90 but it had the new EF mount and autofocus. There was an exposure compensation button behind the Mode button.
In 1990 the EOS10 replaced the buttons on the left of the prism hump with a Mode Dial. This appears to have been the first Canon SLR with a Mode dial. For the first time it became possible to congregate many Prepare Phase settings in one location, easily viewed and easily adjusted. This represents efficient use of a set and see dial.
I used an EOS 10 for several years and found it to have generally good ergonomics. The same could not be said of its autofocus accuracy but that is another story.
Since 1990 most SLRs, DSLRs and mirrorless ILCs have taken Canon’s lead in user interface design with various modifications.
The photo shows a Canon EOS 300D of year 2000 with most of the modern control features in place.
Advantages of the Mode Dial/Control Dial system
* It enables the user to see and access many modes and functions in one place. My Panasonic FZ1000 has 10 of these on the Mode Dial. Most modern cameras which lack a Mode Dial still have those modes and functions which must be accessed in some other, generally less direct way.
* Adjustments in each of those modes or to any of those and other functions are made with the control dial. If this is well positioned it can be operated without disrupting grip on the camera with either hand and without having to take the eye from the viewfinder.
Of course if the dial is badly positioned or designed, a circumstance seen all too often on recent cameras, it becomes an impediment to operation.
* The user will soon become accustomed to moving the finger (index or thumb depending on the specific camera) on the control dial to turn one way for “value up” and the opposite way for “value down”.
* The key UIM in Prepare Phase is the Mode Dial which is a set and see type which is optimal for this phase of use.
* The key UIM for Capture Phase is the Control Dial which is optimal for this phase as it is easily adjusted by feel, without the user having to look at it.
Summary The modern [Mode Dial + Control Dial] interface evolved to meet the requirements of increasing electronic operation, increasing complexity and increasing numbers of features, modes and functions on a modern camera.
If well designed it enables the user to quickly adjust all the primary and secondary exposure and focus parameters with the eye to the viewfinder and without having to shift grip with either hand.
It acknowledges the distinction between Prepare Phase actions which are carried out while looking at the top or rear aspect of the camera and Capture Phase actions which are made while looking at the subject through the viewfinder (or at the subject shown on the monitor).
So why have some manufacturers of some modern cameras gone back to a kind of hybrid version of the traditional user interface, with aperture controlled via a lens ring, shutter speed controlled via a dial on the camera top and in the case of the LX100 an exposure compensation dial on the camera top ?
I will investigate this in the next post.
|Each of the three photos reproduced in this post was made with an FZ1000 while strolling through Queensland rainforest. I used the same camera with the same lens with no tripod. I did not have to change lenses or use any accessory equipment.|
This photo of a golden whistler is not of high photographic merit but the fact that I was able to make any kind of photo is notable. The bird perched on that branch for about 3 seconds. In that time I was able to bring up the FZ1000 to my eye, zoom out to E400mm, frame, focus and shoot.
This evening I have been reading a very favourable review of the new Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 lens for the Micro Four Thirds System. Apparently the lens is excellent. Even better it comes with a dedicated 1.4x teleconverter which extends the focal length to 210mm at f4.
This is a wonderful thing is it not ?
But wait: sitting on the desk in front of me is a Panasonic FZ1000, my choice for camera of the year 2014.
Here is a little table comparing some basic specifications of the FZ100 with the Olympus kit which would be needed to achieve approximately the same angle of view and maximum aperture:
|Kit price retail Sydney AUD
|Olympus EM1 with 12-40mm f2.8,
I am perfectly happy to concede that in some situations the Olympus kit might be capable of making pictures which are in some way better than those I can produce from the FZ1000.
|In another part of the forest was a cultivated garden. I had no trouble photographing the flowers using the close up options which are built into the FZ1000. I needed no macro lens or tripod.|
But I can also assure you that with many subjects and in many circumstances the FZ1000 makes absolutely fine pictures capable of enlargement up to A2+ with no problems at all.
I can also assure you that I will have the FZ1000 out and taking pictures while the Olympus owner is still busy mounting the most appropriate lens. Or removing a lens in order to mount the teleconverter. Then remounting the lens. All while finding some place for the three lens caps and hoping none gets dropped or misplaced.
This is not a shot at Olympus. I sold a similarly specified and priced Panasonic kit based on a GH4 soon after buying the FZ1000 because I could not find a reason to keep it.
I saved a heap of money, cut my kit weight in half and simplified the process of picture taking every time I go out with a camera.
I think that when substantial numbers of camera vendors and amateur/enthusiast buyers come to understand the versatility of superzoom cameras like the FZ1000 they will wonder why anyone would buy an interchangeable lens kit (ILC).
|This general shot of the rainforest floor is a bit rough. It was quite dark in there requiring ISO 1600 for a hand held shot. I could have made a cleaner photo with almost any camera mounted on a tripod. My point is that for a better photo I needed a tripod, not a different camera.|
If there is any logic to this I guess the ILC will likely remain dominant in the professional arena but “all in one” superzooms will come to dominate the amateur/enthusiast/semi pro sector of the market, which makes up by far the greatest number of units sold.
I think the camera makers understand this and I think that is why they are pushing upmarket with their ILC offerings.
Nikon really wants you to buy a full frame DSLR.
Olympus is claiming a place at the professional table with offerings like the kit described above.
Canon has either lost its corporate way or is planning something really ground breaking. I hope it is the latter.
Apparently Panasonic is doing well with its professional standard hybrid still/4K video kits based on the GH4.
Samsung, Fuji and Sony are rolling out upmarket camera bodies and lenses, testing their acceptance at the upper enthusiast/professional end of the market.
We shall see how this plays out.
By the turn of the century the modern [Mode Dial + Control Dial] control system had become dominant among interchangeable lens cameras [ILC], advanced compacts and superzooms.
But soon a little counter movement started to emerge.
The Panasonic LC1 of 2004 was an advanced fixed zoom lens camera which featured a return to retro in the control layout. There were three labelled rings on the lens; for zoom, manual focus and aperture each with an inscribed scale. There was a traditional shutter speed dial on the top plate to the right of the EVF housing.
Why did the product development team return to traditionally styled controls with the LC1 ? Of course I don’t know but this extract (below) from the promotional material at product launch in 2004 might give us some clues.
LAS VEGAS, Feb. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Once again Panasonic revolutionizes the world of digital photography with the new DMC-LC1 Lumix camera. The DMC-LC1 has a digital brain but the heart and soul of a finely crafted 35mm camera, right down to its controls. A true breakthrough in digital camera craftsmanship, the 5-megapixel DMC-LC1 brings a traditional photographic experience to the digital world, evoking the look, feel, precision, and responsiveness of a 35mm camera. Zoom, focus and aperture are manually controlled by ring settings on the lens; shutter speed is controlled by a dial located on the top of the unit.
This appears to speak to the user who for whatever reason, hankers for the idea of a“traditional photographic experience”. It is not clear from the promotional material precisely why some users might feel this way, nor indeed what exactly might constitute this traditional experience. It seems to me there is some kind of inference here that the modern controls [Mode Dial+Control Dial] are thought by someone to be in some way inferior or less precise or less responsive, or less something than traditional controls.
So was the LC1 a huge success ? Apparently not, as no LC2 ever appeared.
But the L1, a four thirds sensor DSLR appeared in 2006, also featuring traditional style controls.
Again, there was no L2 suggesting the L1 did not fare well in the marketplace.
It was followed by the L10, another 4/3 DSLR this time with modern controls. But by this stage it was clear that the 4/3 format DSLR was doomed. Panasonic abandoned 4/3 in favour of the new Micro 4/3 line which began with the G1 of 2008. This had modern controls as have all subsequent G and GH models.
In more recent years Fuji has joined the retro movement. The X100 of 2010 has rings for manual focus and aperture on the lens plus dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation on top.
The X-T1 of 2014 takes the theme even further with dials for sensitivity (ISO) shutter speed and exposure compensation on the top plate. There are rings for aperture and zoom on most lenses.
Now we come to the LX100 In the promotional material some of which is reproduced below we see reference to the same kinds of sentiments as those which accompanied the release of the LC1.
Please describe your experience in developing the new model.
The LX Series, which was developed in 2005, has maximized the potential of our lens and digital technologies. The LX7 is a compact camera with an F1.4 large-diameter lens, that was highly praised by our customers. From there, addressing the need for a large-scale sensor was our first challenge.
Another task was how to add to the fun that users have when shooting. We got the first hint of this from the LC1 that we released in 2004. This camera, which had an aperture ring and shutter speed dial, is still in use by some of our customers. We began developing the new model by inheriting the DNA of the LC1.
As the LX100 model number suggests, it's the highest model of the LX Series. It's a completely new type of camera that also incorporates the best features of the LC1. Kind of a dual concept.
What type of customer do you see using it?
In addition to people who like photography as a hobby, we've come to recognize a segment that really appreciates the mechanics of a quality camera. The camera offers this user both visual and tactile excitement. So, one of our goals was to create a sort of "tool" that goes beyond the ordinary camera form.
And some more extracts from the same material:
Why did you decided on analog-like operation?
The allure of the LX100 is how it renders images with the 4/3-inch sensor and F1.7 large-diameter lens. In order to create a tool that maximized this attraction, we went with analog-like operation.
To create highly original images, we think it's better to control the camera manually instead of using automatic functions. It brings more personal enjoyment to the shooting experience itself.
The aperture and shutter speed are the most basic parameters for setting the exposure. The LC1 gave users free control of these factors, which was highly acclaimed.
In the LX100, we concentrated on the exposure and focus by adding features like an aperture ring, shutter speed dial, exposure correction dial, control ring for MF operation, and viewfinder. We returned to the photographic basics to create a truly enjoyable
Adding a mode dial simplifies the access to scene modes and custom settings, which makes it more functional. But we think the feeling of being able to operate the camera yourself is what makes the LX100 so much fun to use.
This is an extreme example, but there's something enjoyable about physically turning rings and dials. Is it fun to hold? Is it fun to operate? The mechanical perspective is important. So we repeatedly asked user opinions and built these features into the LX100. It's something we hope people will experience for themselves with the LX100.
To sum up the designers’ statements about their latest baby it seems to me the consistent theme which comes through is their desire to make a camera which will ….”add to the fun that users have when shooting”…..
That sounds like a very good idea to me.
The issue with which I find myself struggling is the proposition that providing the camera with “traditional, analogue style controls” will achieve that laudable ambition.
Do the Panasonic designers think their many cameras with modern style controls are notenjoyable to use ?
I note in passing that pro zooms from Canon and Nikon do not have an aperture ring and pro bodies do not have a shutter speed dial. This gear uses a version of the modern control system, mostly without a mode dial, presumably because professional photographers have no need for some of the modes which usually appear on such dials.
There are also some statements the meaning of which is quite unclear to me. For instance they say “we think it is better to control the camera manually instead of using automatic functions”, as if a modern camera using the [Mode Dial + Control Dial] interface did not allow the user to “control the camera manually”.
The designers say they ….“repeatedly asked user opinions”……. To this I would make three comments:
1. Which users were polled ? I have purchased and used many Panasonic cameras and lenses over the last few years and they have never sought my views. I look at Panasonic camera user forums and have never seen any solicitation from Panasonic for user feedback.
I have been commenting on the ergonomics of Panasonic cameras on this blog for several years without the slightest hint of response from the maker.
So the reader has no way of knowing which users were asked to offer their opinions, which questions were asked, what answers were given and what interaction occurred between the users and the questioners.
2. Those who would offer the world a new design of some equipment or a new political policy should in my view be thoughtful about the ways in which consumer feedback is used to design that new offering.
People’s likes, wants and preferences are idiosyncratic, transient and often poorly articulated. That which a person “likes” this week may be ancient history next week.
Maybe Panasonic’s research people are hearing a yearning from some users for a “back to basics” camera or something of the sort.
Modern cameras have become remarkably complex devices, bristling with menus, options, modes, functions and capabilities never even imagined in the old days.
I would not be the first person to wonder if all this complexity could be simplified at the user interface.
The problem is that the genie will not go back in the bottle. Once invented, features will not be un-invented.
If a manufacturer released a modern Pentax Spotmatic with a similarly spartan feature set and control layout, all six people who bought it would most likely be very disappointed as by modern standards it really is a most limited device.
Merely replacing the [Mode Dial+Control Dial] interface with the [Aperture Ring+Shutter Speed Dial+Exposure Compensation Dial] doesn’t simplify anything. Indeed as I discuss in a later post this interface brings its own complexities and confusions.
3. If the traditional [aperture ring/shutter speed dial and +/- dial] style of user interface is the answer, what was the question and who asked it ? I really cannot figure this out from the Panasonic promotional material.
Tradition vs Functionality Panasonic does appear to acknowledge that there is a loss of functionality in moving to the traditional controls: One of the quotes above is … “Adding a mode dial simplifies the access to scene modes and custom settings, which makes it more functional”
Has Panasonic deliberately offered its customers a camera which is “less functional” ? Why would they do that ?
Do they believe a camera can be “less functional” but also “more enjoyable” to use ?
What are they not saying ? I notice that most of the promotional language favouring the (hybrid) traditional user interface is couched in emotional language. …..”is it fun to hold ?”……..”is it fun to operate ?”……. and so forth.
They are not saying the traditional interface is more efficient.
They are not saying it is easier to use.
They are not saying it is faster to operate.
They are not saying that a well implemented modern style camera (like most of Panasonic’s recent offerings) is “not fun” to hold and operate.
In fact they are not offering or claiming any tangible benefits over the modern control system at all [such as it works faster or requires fewer, less complex actions or is easier to learn].
In the next post I will look at comments from reviewers and users about the LX100 user interface.
Basically, a lot of positive words about the user experience. I will briefly and selectively quote some of these, concentrating on comments about the controls and user interface.
I will annotate these comments in italics with my own thoughts and observations. You will see that in many cases the reviewers are commenting favourably about the LX100 user experience with its “traditional”, “analogue” rings and dials. What they mostly do not opine is that the “traditional” user interface works better than a well executed modern control layout.
DPReview, Richard Butler: ……..”easy access to the aperture value”….
My thoughts: Access to the aperture value or shutter speed value can be just as easy or even easier with a well designed modern interface. Good ones require that only one finger be moved a short distance to adjust either the aperture or shutter speed.
….”ability to quickly dial in exposure compensation”…..
My thoughts: Some modern cameras including Panasonic’s own FZ1000 make setting exposure compensation even easier, using the zoom lever in front of the shutter button. This requires a small movement from just the right index finger with no disruption to the grip. In addition the [+/-] setting can be configured to self cancel when the camera is switched off.
CameraLabs, Gordon Laing: …….”the controls raise the experience further, especially the aperture ring with its soft clicks”……..
My thoughts: The LX100 aperture ring has clicks and on a modern camera the control dial has clicks. So …………..?? How does one of these “raise the experience further”.??
….”it is in short very satisfying to hold and operate and a definite step up not just from the smaller models out there but many of the larger ones too”…..
My thoughts: Granted plenty of small and large cameras have poor ergonomics, that is why I started and continue this blog. But Mr Laing makes no case that the traditional controls on the LX100 are in any specific, tangible way better than a well designed set of modern controls.
Trusted Reviews (no author cited): ……”the level to which the LX100 lets you feel you’re getting your hands dirty with the mechanics of photography is simply fantastic”…….
…..”this manual handling is really the star of the show”……
My thoughts: These comments appear to reprise some of the Panasonic designers ideas, quoted in part 3 of this little series. There seems to be something about this idea of “manual handling” which appeals to some reviewers.
There is of course, no more “manual handling” on the LX100 than any other recent electronic camera. I can only imagine that there is something about the LX100 controls which reprises the glory days of film photography when the camera itself was as much a work of craft as it was a tool and the process of using a camera was a craft.
I am very familiar with this craft, having used manual (really manual that is) SLRs, medium format and large format field cameras over a period of many years.
But the technology of image capture changes and camera design needs to evolve in an adaptive fashion, not try to turn back the clock.
I could go on quoting reviews but there are more in the same general vein. Reviewers just love the aperture ring but avoid saying exactly in what specific way this is an improvement on a well designed Mode Dial+Control Dial system.
Maybe the profusion of badly designed Mode Dial+Control Dial designs strengthens the case for a traditional layout. But hey, we now have several badly designed aperture ring+shutter speed dial designs on the market (check out the Nikon Df for instance for confusion at the user interface)
What are the reviewers not saying ? I may have missed it but I do not recall any reviewer saying he or she liked, enjoyed using or had anything positive to say about the shutter speed dial.
I don’t know of course, but my hypothesis is that most LX100 users are more likely to set set P or A Mode than S or M Modes.
In use that shutter speed dial present some ergonomic issues. It requires two fingers to operate which means shifting grip on the camera with the right hand.
It is also unable to indicate and set most of the shutter speeds which the LX100 can use.
What about the users ? I have now seen many reports on user forums, sufficient I think to form some impression of the current state of self reported user satisfaction.
I have been surprised to find very few comments about the user experience or ergonomics.
Most user reports and comments have been about image quality and various technical issues such as DXO Mark scores and auto ISO implementation.
Some users have commented that they like the ability to see the chosen aperture before looking at the viewfinder (and if that is f2.8 or smaller it will be correctly indicated).
Some have said the like the handling, but without specifics.
Several have reported that it is too easy to bump the [+/-] dial off its mark. Some have reported the aperture ring turns a bit too easily.
As with the reviewers I have seen very little comment about the shutter speed dial except some users have pointed out its fundamental inadequacies as I noted above.
|Photo courtesy of Sony Corp|
This is the Sony A7(2) The shutter button has been moved forward to approximately where the right index finger wants to find it. The front dial is better located but further improvement could easily be made.
In October 2013 I posted an analysis and commentary on the ergonomics of the Sony A7 camera.
I said that the designers needed to “redesign the entire upper handle and top deck of this camera”.
I explained why and described exactly what changes would make the A7 more ergonomically effective.
The A7(2) is the fourth iteration of the A7 theme, previous models being the A7, A7R, and A7S.
Sony appears to have been listening to users and reviewers who commented adversely about the control layout of the original design.
For the A7(2) the Sony designers did indeed redesign the entire upper handle and top deck.
|Hand position when holding the original A7 with index finger on the shutter button. The fingers do not take this configuration naturally.|
The result is certainly moving in the right direction ergonomically although I think further improvements could be made.
The front dial is still not quite positioned optimally in relation to the shutter button. It needs to be higher, so it is at the same height as the shutter button and angled more upright so the right index finger can locate and operate it more naturally.
|Optimal hand/finger position when holding a camera. This is the relaxed, half closed position. The A7(2) allows the hand to come closer to the desirable position.|
In addition the thumb support and rear dial are not optimally positioned. An arrangement which places the thumb at a greater angle across the back of the camera provides a stronger grip with less effort and allows the rear dial to be reached and operated more easily. The Panasonic FZ1000 (with minor caveats) is an exemplar for best practice in thumb support and rear dial design.
If Sony moved the lens axis a few millimetres to the left (as viewed by the operator) this would make room on the right side for a larger and more ergonomically shaped handle. Other Sony cameras do have the lens axis further over to the left.
I note there are still many sharp edges at the junction between the body and top plate. Presumably this is somebody’s idea of modern styling but the hands which use these cameras remain obstinately free of such angular shapes.
|This is a schematic of the changes I suggested Sony make. They have done so. Either the shutter button or control dial could be in front. I tend to prefer the shutter button but either relative position can work if the two are located optimally so the index finger can move easily from one to the other without stretching and without impinging on the third finger. |
My summary: Sony is moving its A7 series in the right direction ergonomically but still has quite a way to go.
Sony’s approach to camera ergonomics still seems quite inconsistent to me. Given that the hands which use cameras are all the same why is, for instance, the A77 such a different shape from the A7 ?
I take the view that Sony (and other makers) would serve their customers better if they paid more attention to ergonomic design and were less concerned by “styling” aspects of the shape.
|Illustration courtesy of Panasonic|
On Page 53 of the operating instructions there is a little picture with a caption “Holding the camera”.
This appears quite simple but in practice holding the camera and operating the aperture ring proves to be less straightforward particularly if you want to use Aperture Priority or Manual Exposure Modes.
One issue is that the aperture ring does not have lands and/or serrations all the way round its circumference. It has just two raised, serrated lands, the remainder being smooth. The fingers wanting to turn the aperture ring (usually the index finger and thumb of the left hand) must be placed on those lands.
Another issue is that there is very little space between the third and fourth fingers of the right hand on the mini handle and the lens.
There are four basic camera holds:
* Landscape orientation left hand under, as illustrated in the operating instructions.
* Landscape orientation left hand over.
* Portrait orientation left hand under.
* Portrait orientation left hand over.
I will illustrate some of the issues I have with the LX100 with reference to the photographs.
|Landscape orientation left hand under. This is the position the left hand and fingers must take for low f numbers. As the left hand rotates for higher f numbers the left index finger impinges on the right middle finger. In addition I find the position of the left wrist and fingers uncomfortable. A younger more flexible person might have no trouble at all.|
|Landscape orientation left hand over. I find this more comfortable. My left wrist and fingers are in a more natural position. The EVF eyepiece is small and thin. This creates two issues. First I need to get my eye a little distance away from the eyecup. Second I need to protect the eyecup from excess stray light. I do this by holding the left index finger and thumb as shown creating a sort of bionic accessory eyecup. Now I can see clearly and my left hand feels comfortable but of course I am unable to turn the aperture ring. I could get my left index finger and thumb onto the raised lands of the ring with the left hand over position but that takes away the finger eyecup effect.|
Neither of the two hold/operate positions shown above is altogether satisfactory for me.
Problems continue in Portrait orientation. Left hand over position is difficult as the fingers of the left hand impinge on those of the right hand at smaller f numbers. In addition I find it difficult to center my right eye correctly on the viewfinder.
In the photo above I am trying to use the portrait version of a left hand under hold. This looks awkward and uncomfortable and it is.
This is a more comfortable hold for portrait orientation. The left hand is supporting the camera from beneath. The left thumb is forming a little accessory eyecup and eyeline guide. The camera is steady and I can see clearly. But I am unable to rotate the aperture ring. If I bring my left index finger and thumb onto the aperture ring I am still unable to rotate it as my fingers fall onto the smooth parts of the ring.
This little series of photos illustrates some of the problems I am experiencing as I try to form a working relationship with the LX100.
Most of the time I find the camera works very well in Programme AE Mode [Aperture ring and shutter speed dial both on A] and that is what I generally use.
Much of the promotion of and enthusiasm about this camera has been centered on the aperture ring.
I find it ironic that I am finding the most ergonomically effective way to use the camera for general hand held photography is to allow the camera to set the aperture automatically thus rendering the aperture ring without function most of the time.
|LX100 at E75mm|
Operation of the LX100 in Capture Phase of use is controlled by rings and dials. These adjust primary and secondary exposure parameters.
Aperture ring on the lens This looks like a traditional aperture ring but isn’t. Like all traditional looking set and see modules on modern electronic cameras it is really just an electronic actuator. The designers put it on the lens because it is meant to emulate the aperture ring of a classic camera but it could be anywhere. Most of the time it indicates the actual f stop which the camera will use.
However the lens is a variable aperture zoom so if you set f1.7 at focal length E24mm then zoom out to E75mm, the camera will automatically change the aperture to f2.8.
So now the markings on the aperture ring are giving you incorrect information. The correct reading is indicated in the viewfinder or on the monitor.
Exposure Compensation Dial This gives correct indication of exposure [+/-] status in P, A, and S Modes but not in M Mode where +/- is not available.
Shutter Speed Dial Again this looks like a traditional shutter speed dial but of course it’s not and it may indicate the actual shutter speed which the camera will use but quite often it will not.
If you want to set a shutter speed in whole steps between 1 and 1/4000 sec you can do that directly on the dial which can indicate the selected speed correctly, unless you are using an automated mode like [iA] or Panorama Shot which will ignore any setting indicated on the dial.
But the LX100 is a modern electronic marvel which can set many more shutter speeds including intermediate speeds in 1/3 steps, speeds faster than 1/4000 and many speeds slower than 1 second, up to 60 seconds.
To select one of these speeds not shown on the dial you have to set the nearest speed on the Shutter Speed dial then rotate the rear Control Dial to bring up the desired speed, and you have to be looking in the viewfinder or at the monitor to see what is happening.
My understanding of this is that traditional controls are adequate to set and display primary exposure parameters on a traditional mechanical camera with limited available settings. But a modern electronic camera has many more available settings particularly for shutter speed which the traditional shutter speed dial is unable to set or display.
I will examine the controls which adjust FStop, shutter speed and ISO (the three primary exposure parameters) and exposure compensation (probably the most often used secondary exposure parameter).
My current “other” camera is a Panasonic FZ1000. On this camera each of the three primary exposure parameters is controlled by rotating the rear dial. Rotating the dial right always increases the parameter value. Rotating left always decreases the value.
Exposure compensation is controlled with the little lever in front of the shutter button. The same rule applies. Push left to decrease the value, push right to increase the value.
With this camera I never have to think about which finger moves which ring or dial in which direction. Right is up, left is down.
It matters not whether I am holding the camera in landscape or portrait orientation, the fingers of my right hand are always in the same relationship to the camera and its key controls.
My fingers soon learn what to do and the process of operating the camera becomes automatic.
F Stop: rotate left for up, right for down.
ISO: (if allocated to the control ring on the lens as I have it): rotate right for up, left for down.
Shutter speed: rotate the front of the dial left for up (or the rear of the dial right for up) and the front right for down (or the rear left for down). Are you confused already already ?
You might want to look at that dial to see which way it needs to turn. But then you can’t look in the viewfinder. Of course you can turn the dial while looking in the viewfinder and check the shutter speed display under the preview image. Some users with good stereo spatial memory might have no problem with this but I have been using the camera for several months now and I still can’t remember which way to turn that shutter speed dial.
Part of the reason for this is that the shutter speed dial requires the index finger and thumb for reliable operation and if one finger goes right the other one goes left.
Exposure Compensation: Turn the rear of the dial left for down and right for up. This is easier to remember as the [+/-] dial can be turned with just the thumb on the rear of the dial so I don’t have to remember which way the front of the dial goes.
You see the problem here. There is no consistent turning direction which can be embedded in finger memory.
The result is an ergonomic kludge The aperture dial will often indicate the actual f stop which the camera will use, but sometimes not.
The Exposure Compensation Dial mostly indicates the setting which the camera will use but sometimes not.
The Shutter Speed Dial can only set and display a fraction of the actual shutter speeds available to the camera. Furthermore the method for setting “off dial” speeds is ergonomically clumsy, involving two dials.
There is no consistent direction of turning the rings and dials for “value up” and “value down”.
Surely there must be a better way.
Oh…………. right, it has already been invented in the form of a well realised modern control system.
The [Mode Dial+Control Dial] system can easily be scaled down from FZ1000 size to LX100 size as
I have demonstrated with my “LX102” mockup described here. I will return to this mockup in a subsequent post.
In my view the LX100 controls are a step backwards which Panasonic has elected to use for some reason which is not terribly clear to me at all.
Maybe the reason is about marketing and maybe that will work for Panasonic.
But it looks to me like a triumph of fashion over function.
|After editing in Adobe Camera Raw|
I have been using the LX100 a lot lately. It makes a very good street/candid camera. I made the shot above in Programme AE Mode, with autofocus. The camera is very fast and responsive which allows it to be used in many close in situations.
|Same capture. JPG straight out of camera with i-Dynamic set to Auto.|
|This is the same file as the one at the top showing the appearance as it came out of Adobe Camera RAW with default settings.|
To get from the appearance above to that at the top required some work in ACR. I adjusted rotation, perspective, exposure, color, highlights, shadows, contrast, blacks, vibrance and clarity. I could have made the dark tones lighter and the light tones darker but that gives the photo an un-natural appearance.
The downside of lifting dark tones so much is the level of luminance noise in the lifted tones. I find this much less obvious in a print than on screen.
I think the LX100 has done a good job with the JPG but the version edited in ACR is better.
The LX100 is able to cope with subjects like the one above having very large brightness range, especially with RAW capture and thoughtful editing.
|LX100, 1 Area AF, center, AF box size 4/15|
A few days ago I made a sequence of photos of a group of people moving across in front of the camera. (not the photo above) I decided to use Manual Focus and set up prior to the sequence of shots. I focussed on a part of the scene which was about the distance from the camera which I estimated would give me sufficient depth of focus at the aperture in use.
Had I allowed AF to operate the camera would have focussed on the closest person which was not what I wanted.
So I set the LX100 to manual focus and used peaking to find the in focus point.
I made the series of exposures and on review found them all out of focus even at the distance which I thought was in focus.
Back at home I did some experiments comparing accuracy of AF with MF. For manual focus I tried
Peaking on and off, high and low.
With a range of different subjects at different light levels I found the AF frames were usually sharper than the MF frames.
In the process of focussing manually several hundred times I discovered that the peaking effect is not peaky enough for consistently accurate focus. I had to turn the focus ring a substantial distance to pass from one side of the peaking display to the other. The on screen analogue style virtual distance display moved a considerable distance during the to and fro process as I was trying to find the peak of the peaking.
I had no better luck with peaking switched off.
I found no significant difference in accuracy between the high and low peaking settings.
Conclusion In my hands AF is more consistently accurate with most subjects than MF. It is also much faster.
A better Way: AF + AF Lock
For those times when I want to set and lock focus for a sequence of exposures I use the following:
1. In the Custom Menu Page 1/9 set the AF/AE-Lock button to AF Lock.
2. Next tab down set AF/AE Lock Hold to ON.
3. To focus place the AF box over that part of the subject required to be in focus and press the AF/AE-L button.
4. The AF box changes from white to green and a little green dot appears top right on the image preview indicating focus is achieved.
5. Many frames can now be shot each at the same focussed distance.
* Focus is cancelled if the zoom lever is moved.
* Manual focus can be activated simply by turning the lens ring. This cancels focus lock.
I find this method is usually faster and more accurate than trying to focus manually.
Sometimes autofocus gets it wrong
I have found that Panasonic cameras, including the LX100 which use contrast detect autofocus have an excellent record of AF speed and accuracy. But there are still some subject types which can give problems with any of these cameras.
* Obviously a featureless flat surface provides no contrast on which to focus.
* The AF system is not responsive to a subject with horizontal lines (in landscape orientation) if there are no vertical lines or texture.
* Multiple small lights like those used in Xmas decorations are often rendered out of focus.
* Other types of lights in the AF box can unsettle the AF system although less frequently than the small spherical decorative ones.
I suspect the problem here is that local flare around an in focus light source is difficult to distinguish from a slightly out of focus rendition of the same subject element.
* Dense, fine foliage seems to present a problem for the AF system in my experience.
I find I can usually manage subjects such as those described above by:
* Being aware of potential problem subject types.
* Selecting a more AF friendly part of the subject (with clearly defined shapes or vertical lines) and using the AF Lock/Hold strategy described above.
|LX100. High subject brightness range, high level of perspective correction.|
This was to have been a five part series but looks like it it will run to 7 or 8 parts. So be it.
I identify four phases of camera use. These are Setup, Prepare, Capture and Review.
For each phase there is a set of typical tasks the completion of which requires actions.
The camera has user interface modules (UIM) which allow the user to perform those actions.
Prepare Phase is that period of a few minutes prior to taking photos when the user configures the camera for the present circumstances.
Capture Phase is when the user is in the process of taking photos.
The table below lists typical tasks likely to be required in each phase. Some tasks could be regarded as part of either phase, depending on circumstances.
|Exposure Mode: Auto, P, A, S, M |
|Primary exposure parameters
ISO, FStop, Shutter Speed
|Other Modes: Focus, Autofocus, Drive, Flash, Metering, Silent. |
|Secondary exposure parameters
Exposure compensation [+/-]
|Settings: Quality, Size, Shutter type, Stabiliser, Burst, Aspect ratio, Macro. |
|Displays: E-Level, Info, Histogram,
|Secondary focus parameters
Set position and size of AF/MF box
Of course, most photos will require change to only a small number of these parameters but the capability to change any of them needs to be built into the user interface.
The user of a modern camera could be very busy in both phases if all the available features and functions of a modern camera are fully utilised.
It behoves the designer therefore to optimise the design of UIMs for efficient operation in both phases.
Prepare Phase actions are typically carried out with the camera held away from the face so the top and rear aspects of the device are visible and accessible to the fingers.
Capture Phase actions are optimally carried out while looking through the viewfinder. UIMs are operated by feel without disrupting grip with either hand.
For Prepare Phase: include set and see modules (often rings or dials), Programmable Function Buttons and a user selectable Quick access mini menu.
For Capture Phase: include Control Dials, Rocker Modules and rings. The function of modules for Capture Phase is determined by context. For instance in Aperture Priority Mode a control dial changes aperture. In Shutter Priority Mode the same dial controls shutter speed. Optimally the dial always turns the same way for “value up” and the opposite way for “value down”.
Set and see modules are not optimum for Capture Phase as the camera has to be taken down from the eye to see them, disrupting the flow of picture taking. Of course the data generated by set and see modules is usually replicated in the viewfinder (and monitor). But the opportunity cost of this is a duplicated interface.
A set and seemodule allocated to a Capture Phase task could have been more efficiently used for Prepare Phase.
The LX100 has three set and see modules allocated to Capture Phase tasks. These are the Aperture Ring, Shutter Speed Dial and Exposure Compensation Dial.
Many reviewers and users have written positively about this arrangement. I am not one of them. In this series of posts about the LX100 controls I present a dissenting view.
This will continue in the next post of the series in which I will summarise some findings from my time and motion studies of camera operation.
I have used many cameras over the years. In recent times I have been thinking a lot about the user interface and trying to analyse why some design features work better than others, particularly after long association.
I decided last year that I would never again buy any camera without a decent quality built in electronic viewfinder. Not one which has to be popped up and pulled out either.
I will revisit the arguments for viewfinder-vs-no viewfinder and optical viewfinder-vs-electronic viewfinder in another post.
Today I want to share some thoughts about the optimum location for a viewfinder.
I have used cameras with viewfinder at the top left position, with flat top and also at the inboard position on the lens axis, with hump top.
I have been moved to post this after realising that the more I use the Panasonic LX100 camera the less enthused I become about that camera’s top left EVF position.
This is not about the EVF itself, which is quite decent, but about its location on the camera.
Advantages of top left position
* The overall height of the camera can be lower than is possible with the hump top style. Even when the lens barrel diameter is as great as the height of the body a top left EVF can be fitted.
* Some right eye users might feel it better suits their viewing style.
* Some left eye viewers might find it gets the user’s nose away from the controls on the right side of the monitor.
Disadvantages of top left position
* If a full eyecup is available and fitted it protrudes above and to the left side of the body. I had a Lumix GX7 with such an eyecup which was forever getting snagged as the camera went in and out of its carry bag. The practical dimensions of the camera increased by the amount of the protrusion, so a larger than expected carry bag was required. In addition the likelihood of damaging or losing the eyecup increased. Both these issues are magnified by the location of the eyecup right at the bottom of the carry bag, (assuming handle side up insertion into the bag) which is usually narrower than the top.
* If a non protruding eyecup is fitted as on the LX100 or the GX7 without the accessory eyecup, I have found three issues:
1. Stray light often enters the eyepiece, interfering with image preview. Possibly because of this I find myself squinting more when I use a camera with top left viewfinder.
2. If I press my eye up to the eyecup to exclude stray light my eye ends up too close to the eyepiece for clear viewing.
3. I find it more difficult particularly in portrait orientation to bring my eye directly to the center of the eyepiece optical axis.
My workaround for all three problems when using the LX100 is to form a makeshift eyecup with the index finger (landscape orientation) or thumb (portrait orientation) of my left hand.
Advantages of the over lens position
* A full eyecup can be fitted permanently. This greatly reduces the chance of stray light entering the viewfinder, and if the eyecup is well designed it automatically places the viewing eye at the optimum distance from the eyepiece and on the optical axis of the eyepiece, in landscape or portrait orientation.
* As the eyecup is not right on the corner of the camera, it is not so prone to snagging and damage as it goes into and comes out of the carry bag.
* I find I squint less when using a viewfinder on the lens axis and am also more easily able to keep the non viewing eye relaxed and open.
* With a long lens fitted I find the lens/camera combination better balanced with the viewfinder on axis with the lens.
* It is possible and usual to place the viewfinder, hotshoe and inbuilt flash in a fore and aft relationship on top of the camera, making space for more control modules than can be fitted with the top left viewfinder position.
Disadvantages of the over lens position
* Overall camera height is greater.
* Some left eye viewers might find their nose impinging on control modules on the right side of the camera back.
* If the user is to be able to look approximately straight ahead when previewing the scene, the viewfinder eyepiece needs to protrude back 15-20mm from the rear face of the monitor.
This requirement can also be seen as an advantage:
Cameras without this rear protrusion require the user to turn the head to one side in order to get the eye close enough to the eyepiece.
When I am using the Lumix FZ1000 which has a 20mm rear eyepiece projection, I can look straight ahead in landscape or portrait orientation, preview the EVF image with my right eye and leave the non viewing (left) eye open to scan the wider scene if desired.
If a compact camera is to have a built in EVF and retain a low profile then the EVF must be located at or near the top left corner of the body.
But if the camera is allowed to gain a little height, I rate the optimum position for the EVF as being over the lens and on line with the lens axis.
Working through this series of posts on the LX100 controls I now consider the actions required to complete the task of changing various modes starting with exposure mode.
The standard exposure modes on a Panasonic camera are [iA], P, A, S, M.
I usually regard changing exposure mode to be a Prepare Phase task. However it could also be considered a Capture Phase task as one may want to change exposure mode in the middle of capture proceedings.
I do this routinely when using the Panasonic FZ1000 camera. I use A Mode at the wide end of the zoom range and S or M Modes at the long end to ensure adequate shutter speed.
But I sometimes want to switch from P to S exposure mode with the LX100 and for the same reason, to ensure adequate shutter speed for the conditions.
This means changing exposure mode needs to be carried out quickly and efficiently with minimal disruption to the capture workflow.
This camera has a Mode Dial+Control Dial control system.
The exposure modes are on the Mode Dial. To change from any mode to any other mode I just turn the dial. I quickly learned the sequence in which the modes appear on the dial and can easily change modes while looking through the viewfinder.
There is a brief confirmation of the mode selected in the form of an icon at the top left of the live view screen (EVF or monitor).
Changing exposure mode always involves doing the same thing so my fingers soon learn what they need to do.
This camera has an Aperture Dial+Shutter Speed Dial system.
Changing exposure mode involves different actions depending on which mode is set initially and which is required.
So if we start with P Mode, switching to A Mode is easy, just turn the aperture ring.
To get from P Mode to S Mode we do a different thing which is turn the shutter speed dial.
To go from A Mode to S Mode requires moving both the shutter speed dial and the aperture ring. The aperture ring always moves right (at the top) but the shutter speed dial could go either way depending on the actual shutter speed required.
To go from P to M also requires moving both controls.
Access to [iA] requires yet another different thing namely a press (preferably a long press to prevent accidental activation) on the [iA] button which is squeezed into a little space between the on/off switch, shutter button and exposure compensation dial. This disables the aperture dial and shutter speed dial but leaves the exposure compensation dial active.
Several reviewers have presented the view that changing modes on the LX100 is really easy. Indeed changing back and forth from P to A is easy.
But other changes are more complex, some involving a double action which I find is not easily learned as the ring/dial turns go in different directions.
To change exposure mode on the LX100 I have to stop taking photos, put the camera down from my eye, think about which ring/dial has to turn which way, make the turns while viewing the ring and dial to make sure I get them right, then resume taking photos.
To this the reader might say “So what ? If the process makes you think about what you are doing surely that is a good thing ?”
To which I would answer "perhaps" but there is a more efficient, streamlined way of completing the same set of tasks so why not use it ?
There is not much difference between a [Mode Dial+Control Dial] system and an [Aperture Ring+Shutter Speed Dial] system with regard to changing other modes. Both generally involve allocating some functions to buttons and some to a Quick Menu.
Larger cameras with more available real estate can find space for set and see modules for Drive Mode and Focus Mode, which is handy.
The Lumix LX100 is an interesting camera which attempts to pack most of the features of a fully specified Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC) into a compact form.
The designers opted for an Aperture Ring + Shutter Speed Dial type of control system which has implications for setting up and using the camera.
There is no Exposure Mode Dial and no Main Control Dial on top of the camera.
Modes and features usually found on an Exposure Mode Dial must be reached by other means.
This little series of four posts on setting up the LX100 is intended to be informative not prescriptive. I will describe some of the options available, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each, as I see them, then describe my practice with reasons.
Users with different priorities will come to different conclusions about preferred settings and ways of operating the camera.
The LX100 lens is a high tech item with multiple aspheric elements. I imagine it would be very expensive to replace so I would not want to damage the front element.
Many smaller compact cameras have a built in multi blade type lens cap which operates automatically. The LX100 takes a different approach mainly I suspect because the lens is too large for the built in style cap.
The options are basically either the Panasonic LFAC1 petal type cap or the standard clip on lens cap supplied with the camera with or without a protect filter.
I have not tried the LFAC1 but I suspect it may not fit over a protect filter threaded onto the front of the lens. Also I am reading reports on user forums that the petals of the LFAC1 may not be very durable.
My approach is to fit a screw in 43mm B+W XS Pro 007 Clear MRC Nano filter and use the standard clip on lens cap. Any other slimline protect filter would do but I recommend a top of the line version for best performance particularly as there is no lens hood supplied nor does there appear to be any obvious means of fitting an aftermarket one.
This means I have to remove the filter and put it somewhere every time I take the camera out of its bag.
There has been much discussion of this topic on user forums from owners seeking the perfect carry solution.
The LX100 has twice the box volume (width x height x depth) of the Sony RX100Mk3. This means the LX100 will not fit into most pockets so it needs a carry bag of some kind.
Some users have explored options for the smallest bag or pouch into which the camera will fit. Others including me have been more inclined to find a somewhat larger bag which allows the camera to be easily moved in and out and which can accommodate spare batteries, SD cards and maybe the (supplied) accessory flash unit.
There are also those who expect the carry pouch to be worn on a belt at the waist. Others prefer an over the shoulder style.
I am currently using a Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 5. This is slightly larger than required but provides a separate compartment for two spare batteries, a place for plenty of SD cards and the option of belt or shoulder carry style. The flap has a magnetic catch so the zip can be left open when out and about with the camera, allowing quick access.
I use the bag over the shoulder as I find it rather too bulky for the waist. Also the belt strap is sewn in so to disengage the bag the belt must be substantially removed from one’s trousers.
I have also used the Lowe Pro Dashpoint 30 which is the same size as the TTMM5 but lacks the pouch for the batteries.
Others have reported that the Hama Odessa 90 is suitable.
At least one spare [BLG-10 PP or BLG-10 E] battery is desirable for a day out with the LX100. I carry two but have thus far never had to use both.
I do not do video so I have no advice to offer about setting up for video. There are websites which concentrate on video however and the LX100 Operating Instructions have comprehensive information about video options.
Readers familiar with the typical Panasonic user interface and menu system will have no trouble setting up the LX100. But newcomers to the Panasonic way might find the process initially rather daunting as there are so many options available.
I hope the remainder of this post and the next three posts will be of assistance.
Now we come to a critical decision which determines how the camera works and what is possible and/or necessary through the rest of the setup process.
The LX100 like other cameras which use contrast detect AF directly on the imaging sensor can place the AF box anywhere on the frame and select any AF box size in 15 steps from very small to very large.
The LX100 like other recent Panasonic high end cameras can also set custom shaped AF areas. I suspect these are a techno-frolic by the designers, included because they can rather than because anybody said please can we have strange shaped AF areas.
For now let us just stay with [1 Area] Autofocus Mode which I have found to be the most useful and which I use 99% of the time.
Oh, yes while on that subject the default option for AF Area is [49 Area]. I strongly recommend against this option. This has the camera decide where to focus which may not be where you want it to focus at all. The lens has a wide aperture with shallow depth of focus at the smallest f Stops, so this really matters.
There are three approaches to changing the position and size of the AF Area (AF Box).
Method 1. The default which you will find when first using the camera, works as follows:
* Step 1, Press the left cursor button [AF Mode] on the Cursor button/Control Dial module on the back of the camera. This enters AF Mode.
* Step 2, Press the Down cursor button to enter [AF Area] function. The AF box turns yellow with four yellow bounding arrows.
* Step 3, Press any cursor button(s) to move the AF box around the frame.
* Step 4, Rotate the Control Dial to make the AF box smaller or larger.
* Step 5, Press the Disp button (while the AF box is yellow with bounding arrows)
Once, to recenter the AF box,
Twice to reset AF box size to default which is size 5/15.
The advantage of this default system is that you retain ISO, WB, Drive Mode and AF Mode on the cursor keys.
The disadvantage is that you do not have direct access to moving the AF box. You must do a double press, using two different keys to get into the AF Area function. This is slow and a disruption to the capture workflow when you want to move that AF box quickly onto a specific part of the subject.
Method 2. Assign [Focus Area Set] to a Function Button. Go to the Custom Menu Screen 7/9 then to [Fn Button Set]. Follow the prompts. The only Function button adjacent to the Cursor buttons/Control Dial module is Fn 1, so that is the obvious one to use.
* Step 1, Press the Fn 1 button. The AF box goes yellow with bounding arrows.
* The rest is as for Steps 3, 4 and 5 above.
The advantages of this system are that the default functions of the cursor buttons are maintained and access to moving the AF box is one step faster than the default approach.
The disadvantage is that it is not as fast as the next method and Fn 1 is unavailable for other functions.
The opportunity cost of assigning any function to a button is that you cannot assign any other function.
Method 3. Set [Direct Focus Area] ON at Screen 3/9 of the Custom Menu.
* With Direct Focus Area the AF box changes to yellow with bounding arrows and moves immediately when any cursor button is pressed.
This is the quickest way to change AF box position and size.
The disadvantage is that access points must be found for ISO, WB, Drive Mode and AF Mode.
One of the advantages of a highly configurable camera like the LX100 is that you can virtually design the way the camera operates to individual preference. The challenge is that such choices must be made from a dense multitude of options.
For the owner without previous experience using an advanced Panasonic Lumix camera, I would suggest starting with the default settings then experimenting from there.
Some users, perhaps with previous experience of DSLRs say they routinely use the focus (with the center AF area) and recompose technique for off center subjects. Presumably these users have become accustomed to that technique, which I also used with SLR then DSLR cameras.
With the new mirrorless cameras the AF position and size can be changed so quickly and the operation of off center AF is so effective that I no longer use the focus and recompose technique at all.
My practice is to set Direct Focus Area ON.
I have ISO on the Lens Control Ring, White Balance and Autofocus Mode in the Q menu and Drive
I find this very logical. I want to move the AF box in Capture Phase, as I am in the process of taking pictures so I set that up for the fastest possible access with the least possible actions.
I may want to change ISO in Capture phase so that is on a quick access module.
I infrequently need to change Autofocus Mode so that is appropriately allocated to the Q menu.
I more often want to change Drive Mode so that is on a Fn Button which is more quickly accessed than items in the Q menu.
The lens control ring is smooth, not clicky. User assignable functions, Custom Menu, Screen 8/9 are:
* [DEFLT Normal], which on my camera appears to be exactly the same as Step Zoom
I have found there is an ergonomic issue with the lens control ring. It is easily bumped accidentally when changing aperture or aspect ratio or focus mode. The ring turns easily and gives no feedback in the form of clicks to indicate it has been turned.
Several of the functions assignable to the lens ring don’t make a lot of sense to me.
Zoom is more easily controlled with the zoom lever in front of the shutter button.
I won’t put white balance there as the ring is so easily bumped.
Filters already have a dedicated button in front of the Exposure Compensation dial.
That leaves [OFF] or [ISO Sensitivity].
I have [ISO Sensitivity] there at the moment but am seriously considering the prospect of disabling this ring as I quite often notice I have bumped the ISO setting off Auto which is what I use for the majority of my photos. I could put ISO on the Q Menu. Or a Fn button, but then I would have to move something off that Fn button onto the Q Menu, probably Drive Mode.
You see how this works. It’s a game of consequences and opportunity costs.
You have to decide what function to allocate to each control module and every decision sets off a little chain reaction.
Next up, Q Menu and buttons
Several buttons on the LX100 can have user selectable functions.
AF/AE-Lock Button Custom Menu Screen 1/9.
There are four options for this versatile button within easy reach of the right thumb. These are AE Lock, AF Lock, AF/AE Lock and AF ON.
The option you select will depend very much on your style of camera use and your experience with the use of this particular button. I recommend spending some time experimenting with the effect of each option and also the way in which the AF/AE Lock button and the AF/AE-Lock Hold function interact.
In the past, particularly with Micro 4/3 cameras and the FZ1000, I would set AF-ON to separate AF (on the back, AF/AE-L, button) from Auto Exposure and capture (on the front, Shutter, button). When AF-ON is set as the selected function the AF/AE-Lock Hold tab is greyed out.
This enables activation of AF Single and also AF Continuous from the back button. But I found little use for this on the LX100 which is not the type of camera which finds much use for sport/action.
So I now have the button set to AF-Lock. I also have AF/AE-Lock Hold (next tab down on Screen 1/9 of the Custom Menu) set to ON.
When I want to make a series of exposures of a subject each focussed in the same place, I move the AF box to the part of the frame I want in focus then press the AF/AE Lock button. This locks focus on the chosen area and holds focus while a series of photos is made.
iA Button This is easily bumped inadvertently when switching the camera on and off. So go to the Custom Menu, Screen 8/9 and scroll down to the [iA Button Switch] tab. Set [Press and Hold]. Now an accidental bump will not activate the button which has to be held down for a little less than one second to activate.
Video Button If you shoot video leave this active, obviously. Users who only shoot stills can disable the button to prevent unintentional activation, Custom Menu, Screen 8/9. Unfortunately the button cannot be re tasked and neither can the Filter Button which I find disappointing as I have no use whatsoever for the filters.
I discussed operation of the Cursor buttons and Direct Focus Area in the previous post.
Playback and Disp buttons have set functions.
Now we come to the Function Buttons
The function of each of the three Fn buttons is user selectable from a long list of options on Page 38 of the Operating Instructions for Advanced Features.
This might appear a bit daunting at first as there are about 64000 combinations available.
So, I suggest you first look at the default function for each button.
Default for Fn1 is [Preview], Page 88 of the Operating Instructions. I definitely recommend using Fn 1 for a more useful purpose as I do not find [Preview] even slightly useful.
Default for Fn2 is Wi-Fi. This cannot be allocated to the Q menu so if you want Wi-Fi it has to be on a Fn button and Fn 2 is as good as either of the others.
Default for Fn 3 is [LVF/Monitor Switch]. I definitely recommend going to the Custom Menu, last tab on the list, Screen 9, [Eye Sensor].
Set [LVF/Monitor Switch] to LVF/Mon AUTO.
Now the monitor will display when you look at it and the viewfinder will display when you look in there. And you can use the Fn 3 button for something else.
The idea is to allocate more frequently used items to a Fn button (quicker access) and less frequently used items to the Q Menu (at least one more button press is required for access).
Nobody can tell you what are your personal preferences and if you are a newcomer to this style of camera you will probably not yet be aware of them yourself.
Experiment is required. Trawl through the list of available Q Menu functions on Page 35 of the Instructions and available Fn button functions on Page 38. Highlight those you think you might prefer, decide priorities, make settings and run trials.
You may very well find that some function which you thought would require rapid access can better be left in the Main Menus and conversely something you thought could happily rest in the Main
Menus would really be more useful on a quick access button.
Note that Focus Mode on this camera has been given a split presentation. The lever on the left side (as viewed by the operator) of the lens barrel has half the items namely AF/AF Macro/MF and the other half of the items namely [AFS/AFF/AFC] must go elsewhere, in my case on Fn2.
This seems a strange arrangement to me. Why not put them all on the lever or all on a button ?
Go to the Custom Menu, Screen 8/9 [Q MENU] and set [CUSTOM].
Pages 34-37 of the Operating Instructions explain how to set and use Custom Q Menu items.
You can allocate up to 15 items to the Q Menu but only 5 can be viewed at any time on the item bar.
If there are more items, horizontal scrolling is required. I find that if I have any more than 5 items I forget what’s there because I cannot see the hidden items on the first screen.
For the record I have 4 items on the Q Menu
* Silent Mode (never used yet as the camera is so quiet even with the mechanical shutter).
Next: Setup and Rec menus
The first Menu to tackle is Setup even though it is the fourth of five menus listed.
As usual, please regard my comments as informative not prescriptive. Each individual has his or her own ideas about the way they want a camera to work. The LX100 offers many options so the camera can be configured to personal preference.
As we go through the menus I will refer only to those items about which I think I can offer helpful information not readily available in the operating instructions.
Procedures for Wi-Fi are well covered in the operating instructions.
BeepThere are three submenus, Beep Volume, Shutter Vol. and Shutter Tone.
The settings are largely self explanatory however I just point out that the shutter sound is made up of both a real sound (in the case of the mechanical shutter) and an artificial sound. The Shutter Vol. tab just affects the artificial sound.
With this artificial sound switched off the mechanical shutter is very quiet, often inaudible if there is a moderate amount of noise in a room.
Live View Mode This appears to be a refresh rate option, but it is not clear whether it applies to the EVF, Monitor or both. The options are 60fps and 30 fps, with the higher rate said by Panasonic to give smoother panning at the cost of slightly higher battery drain.
I set 60 fps and still get good battery life.
Monitor Display [NOTE: This changes to Viewfinder when you look in the viewfinder, upon which adjustments apply to the EVF]
Both are highly adjustable.
After considerable experiment I currently have the following settings.
Each individual has their own preferences for the displays. The amount of adjustment on offer should keep everybody happy.
Some early reviews of the LX100 made negative remarks about the EVF as being over contrasty and saturated with blocked up shadows. At default settings I would agree. However I suspect some of these reviewers simply failed to realise that the EVF is adjustable.
Monitor Luminance You get three manual settings and Auto. I just set Auto. There are so many things to adjust I don’t need another one.
Sleep Mode I just leave this at 5 minutes which I think is the default.
USB Mode I have never used this so I have no advice. Likewise TV Connection although the options appear self explanatory.
Menu Resume This is handy. There is, unfortunately, no user selectable “My Menu”. However Menu Resume is a reasonable second best. Set Menu resume ON and the camera will jump to the last used menu item when the Menu/Set button is pressed.
Menu Background There are several options here. I use the second one from the top.
Menu Information When ON, this displays a moving banner of information about the current menu item across the top of the screen. I suggest you leave this ON until you are familiar with all the menu items then switch it OFF to declutter the screen.
Version Disp Shows what firmware version is installed.
Self Timer Auto Off This is very useful. When set to ON the self timer will be automatically turned OFF when the camera is powered off. This is for all those people like me who forget to turn off the self timer.
Now we come to the Rec Menu
Here you make decisions which determine the appearance of JPG images coming off the camera.
You can scroll across the options at the top of the screen. These are presets such as Standard, Vivid, Natural, Mono……………etcetera.
Or you can scroll down from any of the presets and adjust individual image parameters, creating a
Custom Photo Style. I have created one of these under the [Standard] tab, as below:
The rationale behind these is that the Standard JPGs tend to produce mushy looking details apparently due to a high default level of noise reduction. In addition JPG colors are often exaggerated and contrast high.
Even at these settings the JPG colors are rather exaggerated and sometimes inaccurate. Some people like that. For me these settings are a work in progress.
You can set L [approx. 12 Mpx], M [approx. 6.5 Mpx] of S [approx. 3 Mpx].
I see little reason to set anything less than L. It’s not as though there is an over abundance of pixels even at L.
This is a good one to locate on a Fn button or the Q Menu. The camera can capture JPG, RAW or both.
Note that if you want to evaluate sharpness on the monitor or in the EVF when reviewing images it is desirable to shoot JPG (fine) + RAW so you have a high resolution JPG to review. If you just shoot RAW the camera creates a very low res JPG for the EVF and monitor.
AFS/AFF/AFC (AF Single, AF Flexible, AF Continuous) Page 114 of the Instructions.
There has been some discussion on user forums about which setting is best.
With AF Single if the shutter button is half pressed the camera focusses and locks focus while the shutter button is held half pressed. The AF box goes green, a green focus dot appears top right on the screen and there is a quick double beep focus confirmation.
With AF Continuous a half press on the shutter button brings up the green AF box, green dot upper right and quick double beep but focus does not lock. Instead the camera keeps continuously refocussing. With a still subject you can see this most easily at the edges, where the preview image appears to pulsate. In a quiet room you can hear the focus motor running continuously, hunting back and forth.
AF Flexible works like AFS when the subject is still. But if the camera detects subject movement it will switch to focus behaviour which is similar to but not the same as AFC. The camera will refocus then stop. If movement continues the camera will again refocus and stop. The refocussing is intermittent.
You can demonstrate this for yourself by moving the camera towards and away from the subject to simulate subject movement.
I use either AFS or AFC which is probably because I like to feel as though I am in control of proceedings.
Other users have reported they use AFF and are happy with that.
I can only suggest you experiment.
There are three choices, Multiple (a.k.a. Nikon Matrix, Canon Evaluative), Center Weighted and Spot.
Cambridge in Colour also has a section on metering.
My practice is to use Multiple Metering all the time and to apply exposure compensation if the subject requires this.
One sure fire way to get a lot of incorrect exposures is to routinely use Spot Metering. That should be kept for special circumstances and even then requires very careful management.
The choice is between S(uper) H(igh), H(igh), M(edium) and L(ow). Pages 142-144 of the Operating Instructions.
Super High is only available with the E-Shutter selected.
The fastest rate which allows image preview and focus on each frame is M, which is nominally 6.5 frames per second, but on my tests actually provides a variable rate depending on the subject, Quality (JPG/RAW) and exposure settings.
SH or H might be useful for monitoring a golf swing, for instance. M is most useful for catching moving subjects such as children, together with AFC.
Note the list of exclusions and possible causes of slow frame rate listed on Pages 142-144.
The camera can fire a series of shots in pre set exposure steps, usually on a tripod to ensure each frame is exactly in registration with the others. This is to facilitate subsequent blending of the frames in Photoshop or similar image editor.
Unfortunately as per long standing Panasonic practice the camera will not allow Timer Delay and AEB to be combined.
So you have to physically press and hold the shutter button and hope the camera does not move during the exposure sequence OR use a cable shutter release OR actuate the shutter via a smart phone.
1. Single/Burst If set to Single you have to actuate the shutter for each exposure of the sequence.
If set to Burst you have to press and hold down the shutter for the duration of the exposure sequence.
2. Step This ranges from 3 shots each 1/3 stop apart to 7 shots each 1 stop apart. There should be enough here for just about everybody although I have read complaints from some users wanting more, for what purpose I cannot imagine.
3. Sequence Take your pick.
I set Burst, 5 exposures at 1 stop intervals and -/0/+ sequence.
I have to confess however that I hardly ever use AEB as I am not a fan of the results produced by the Merge to HDR function in Photoshop. I find it much easier and the final image usually more satisfactory if I simply use RAW capture and Adobe Camera Raw.
This provides a way to tweak the tone curve of JPG images prior to capture. I have never thought the feature necessary or useful and have never seen a post about it in user forums.
I suspect Panasonic’s engineers included it because they can.
however is definitely useful for JPG images especially when subject brightness range is high and there is a risk of blown highlights.
i-Dynamic uses less exposure than normal (to protect the highlights) then applies a tone curve correction to bring up the low and middle tones.
You have to choose between Auto, High, Standard, Low and Off.
I set Auto and leave it there permanently. My tests have shown that the effect is the same as High when it needs to be.
Having tried this at various times I am yet to be convinced that i-Resolution has something beneficial to offer. (JPGs only).
Simultaneous record w/o filter Pages 89-99 of the Instructions.
Did someone request this? Who knows ?
The menu item is greyed out until you press the Filter button. If the feature is On the camera captures two versions of the photo with one exposure, one version with the effect, the other without the effect.
Note that because the LX100 lacks a Mode Dial the filter function works differently from that on a camera with a Mode Dial, for instance the FZ1000.
On the FZ100 the filter effect is easily switched on and off simply by turning the dial.
On the LX100 pressing the filter button enters the filter menu but pressing the button again does not exit the menu. You have to scroll back to [No Effect] in the filter menu to make pictures without the filter effect.
i-Handheld Night Shot Page 78 of the Instructions.
This fully automatic (JPG only) function only works in [iA] Mode and the menu item is only accessible in [iA] Mode.
If set to ON the hand held camera detects both low light levels and camera movement. It makes multiple captures in quick succession then combines the in camera with the hope that by so doing the effects of camera shake will be reduced.
I have never used this function but maybe someday…………
i-HDR Here is another fully automatic, [iA] Mode, JPG only function which, if high subject brightness range is detected fires three exposure bracketed shots in quick succession and combines them in camera.
I have tested this function and it works, producing decent results.
I think [iA] users could probably leave [i-Handheld Night Shot] and [i-HDR] set ON permanently. They only self activate when required. Both are automatically disabled when one of the P, A, S, M Modes is engaged.
HDR Page 112 of the Instructions.
This is like [i-HDR] but it works in the P, A, S, M Modes when JPG Quality is set (not JPG+RAW).
Three exposure bracketed shots are taken in quick succession and combined in camera to output one file.
Setup options include the amount of bracketing (Dynamic Range), Auto Align (On/Off) and feature On/Off.
I have tried the feature. It works. I use the maximum DR setting available (+/- 3 EV) and Auto Align ON.
Having said that I mostly use RAW capture which in most cases allows me to get an even better result. But for the user who just does JPG capture, HDR could be useful.
Multi Exp Page 159 of the Instructions.
This works with RAW or JPG capture. The instructions are explicit and seem easy enough to follow.
I have yet to find a use for this feature. Maybe I lack the requisite imagination.
Time Lapse Shot and Stop Motion Animation are well described on Pages 153-158 of the Instructions. I have no experience with these features.
Panorama Direction Pages 150-152 of the Instructions.
This is the place to set Panorama sweep direction. To activate the Panorama function enter Drive Mode, which is best allocated to the Q menu or a Fn button. I have it on Fn1.
If the Panorama Symbol is greyed out in Drive Mode this indicates an incompatible setting elsewhere. This could be RAW or JPG + RAW Quality or HDR in the Rec Menu.
There are 4 options for sweep direction, left/right and up/down. Each works in landscape or portrait orientation, giving a total of 8 sweep options.
Some practice is recommended. Follow the arrows as indicated on screen.
On Micro Four Thirds camera this is a big deal because the spring loaded focal plane shutter on many of these cameras causes unsharpness due to shutter shock. With Panasonic M43 cameras such as the GH4 I routinely use the electronic shutter for all general photography.
However the LX100 uses an in lens diaphragm type mechanical leaf shutter which is very quiet and never causes shutter shock. Even better it uses electronic commencement to each capture, completely eliminating shutter induced vibration prior to or during exposure.
So with the LX100 the mechanical shutter can be used all the time with no ill effects.
The only reason I can think of for using the electronic shutter would be to access the ultra fast speeds, from 1/5000 to 1/16000.
Some owners might be concerned about wearing out the mechanical shutter. Panasonic does not, as far as I am aware, provide a service life estimate for the leaf shutter.
Flash Pages 180-186 of the Instructions.
The problem with this camera’s flash is that it is not built in. This is sufficient disincentive for me that I never use the flash and never put it in the carry bag.
This is a pity as the flash appears to be quite capable including the ability to operate as a commander for multiple wireless off camera units.
This determines the upper limit which the camera will set in Auto ISO. I use 12800 as 25600 is really not useful in my view.
Aperture and shutter speed are available in 1/3 stop increments, so I set ISO to whole stops. 1/3 stop ISO settings seems like overkill to me.
This allows manual ISO settings down to 100 to be set. Auto ISO will still use 200 as the lowest setting however.
There has been some discussion on user forums about aspects of image quality at ISO 100. However DXO Mark has posted results showing ISO 100 to have slightly better signal to noise and dynamic range figures than ISO 200, so I see no reason to avoid ISO 100 in bright light or on a tripod.
Long Shtr N(oise) R(eduction)
The camera has a set of algorithms such that at some settings of ISO and long shutter openings, noise is automatically removed in a process which requires twice the original exposure time. This means that if the exposure is, say 20 seconds the NR function requires another 20 seconds before the camera is ready for the next exposure.
i-Zoom and Digital Zoom (Electronic virtual zoom functions)
These are both JPG only digital zoom functions. i-ISO is activated when either is used.
I-Zoom allows virtual zoom to focal length E150mm and retains control of the AF box.
Digital Zoom goes out to E300mm but uses a fixed large AF box. There is obvious deterioration of picture quality even on the monitor at the limit of Digital Zoom.
I have not used either of the electronic virtual zooms on the LX100. However I experimented with them quite extensively on the FZ1000 and found that shooting RAW and cropping gave better results.
There has been some discussion about this on user forums. The usual advice given in photo books and tutorials is to set Adobe RGB as this provides a larger color gamut. However the sRGB setting may be better for images which are not destined for high output printing, which I imagine would be the great majority.
Allocate this to a quick access portal. I have it on the Q Menu.
My usual practice is to leave the stabiliser on the top setting (Normal) for all general hand held photography and to switch it OFF when the camera is on a tripod. There is also a Panning setting which I have not used as the camera is not one which will generally be used for sport/action.
Face Recognition and Profile Setup appear to be for gimmick tragics. Those camera users who can never have too many features and frills no matter how dubious their merit.
No wonder people yearn for a camera without all this fairy floss.
The Custom Menu appears to be the repository for a large bunch of features and settings which don’t fit readily into one of the other menus.
As usual I will not dwell on features which I think are well described in the Operating Instructions for Advanced Features or which appear to be self explanatory.
The first item is Utilise Custom Set Feature closely followed by Cust Set Mem. Page 60 of the Instructions.
On other Panasonic cameras Custom Modes are located on the main mode dial. Here they are easy to access and you can see at a glance if a Custom Mode is in play.
But the LX100 has no mode dial. So Custom Mode access has been relegated to the Custom Menu and you cannot tell by looking at the camera if a Custom Mode has been set.
There are two ways to access the Custom Mode feature reasonably quickly.
The first is to bring up the [Utilise Custom Set Feature] tab in the Custom Menu then with [Menu resume] ON the camera will jump back there when the [Menu/Set] button is pressed.
The second is to allocate [Utilise Custom Set feature] to a Function button. It cannot be allocated to the Q menu. There are only 3 Fn buttons so you want to consider this option carefully.
The process for setting Custom Modes is well enough described in the Operating instructions.
This activates the E-Shutter and switches off all beeps. Someone accustomed to the noise of a DSLR will wonder if the camera is operating at all. Operation is not entirely silent however. An ear pressed to the lens will hear the OIS module, focus motor, aperture motor and zoom motor.
I find that in most settings the mechanical shutter is inaudible to bystanders, so full silent mode is rarely necessary. Just switching off the beeps gives a very quiet camera.
AF/AE-Lock/Hold was discussed in Part 1 of this setup series.
The next 14 items are about focussing. Like other recent model Panasonic cameras the LX100 has a very advanced focus technology with so many options that the new owner is confronted by mind boggling complexity. Here follows my attempt to navigate a pathway through the tangle of options.
This is the standard operation you expect from any camera except the antediluvian Leica M series which just does manual focus. Half press shutter button activates autofocus. But you can disable this in favour of one of the options below or AF-ON at the AF/AE-L button. This latter separates AF from AE and Capture.
When in doubt, just leave [Shutter AF] at the default which is ON.
This one is slightly disconcerting. Half press fires the shutter instantly. Presumably one for the hyperactive user.
This has the AF system hunting constantly for focus before you touch the shutter button. In my experience it’s not all that quick and uses up battery to no particularly useful purpose.
This activates focus when you look in the viewfinder.
Quick AF and Eye Sensor AF are presumably intended to speed up AF acquisition. Fair enough but I never use them preferring the camera to focus when I instruct it to do so.
Pinpoint AF Time and Pinpoint AF Display
Panasonic has included pinpoint AF on its cameras for several years. It is selected via the Autofocus Mode portal. I have this on the Q Menu. It can be useful for focussing on a bird in a tree or similar situations where you want the camera to focus on a specific small subject element.
I rarely use it these days as ordinary [1-Area] AF on the latest Panasonic cameras now provides very small AF box sizes.
But pinpoint is there and it works as advertised. When the shutter button is half pressed (or AF/AE-L button is pressed if it was set up to focus) two things happen.
The camera focusses, a bit slower than regular [1-Area] but decently quick, and a magnified preview image pops up on the screen for a variable time, so you can check that your chosen subject element is really in focus.
The display can be [Full Screen] or [Picture in Picture]. Take your pick. I use PIP.
Display duration can be Long, Mid or Short. Mid is about 1 second which I find usually enough time to check focus.
Low light AF on all the recent model Panasonic cameras including the LX100 is so good the assist lamp is not required. In addition it will annoy anyone in front of the camera.
I discussed this at length in Part 1 of this series of posts. I set Direct Focus Area ON.
There may be some theoretical advantage to the [Release] setting when burst and AFC are in use, however I have never managed to convince myself of this.
So I just set [Focus] in the hope that this will encourage the camera to find focus before firing the shutter.
Recent Panasonic cameras including the LX 100 have a very sophisticated focus technology which allows MF in AF and AF in MF.
My practice with other cameras including the GH4 and FZ1000 has been to set [AF+MF] ON.
With the LX100 if [AF+MF] is ON you can AF with half press of the shutter button (or the AF/AE-L button if so configured) then turn the lens ring to touch up the focus manually.
The problems I have with the LX100 are
1. The lens ring is easily bumped while operating the aperture ring or the aspect ratio lever or just holding the camera with the left hand.
2. My experience is that manual focus on the LX100 is less reliably accurate than auto focus. The peaking seems not peaky enough at any setting.
Anyway the consequence of all this is that I set [AF+MF] OFF.
MF Assist, MF Assist Display, MF Guide
When manual focus is activated the camera displays an enlarged image of the subject to assist finding best focus.
MF Assist] determines which control will activate this display. The choice is between the lens ring, the left cursor button, either or OFF.
Trying to sort this out has me persuaded that the user would be better served by fewer options.
You can spend hours playing around trying to figure out what effect all the permutations and combinations of options have on the user experience.
For me the most natural setting appears to be [Lens Ring] since that is where my fingers go when I want to focus manually.
[MF Assist Display] is FULL or PIP. Either works but I find PIP less disruptive to the viewing experience.
The [MF Guide] is an analogue style display near the bottom of the screen with flower (near) and mountain (far) symbols. This provides some assistance to the user in determining the direction in which the lens ring must be turned.
Unfortunately it cannot be used to preset a focus distance by scale and is not accurate enough to set infinity focus.
Peaking Page 130 of the Instructions.
This is an electronic color display which shows where edge contrasts are highest. It uses the on sensor contrast detect focus system. In my experience its usefulness as an aid to improving manual focus accuracy and /or speed is variable.
On the FZ1000 it has worked well for me.
I have had less success on the LX100 with variable accuracy at any detect level setting or color. It seems to me that on the LX100 the peaking display is not peaky enough.
You can set the [Detect Level] to High or Low or switch the feature OFF. The Instructions say High is more accurate but I have had difficulty convincing myself of this.
You can also set any of 3 colors for each of the High or Low detect level settings. Selection is a matter of preference not function.
I have no idea why peaking seems to work less well for me on the LX100 than on other recent Panasonic cameras.
Unfortunately manual focus without peaking is not much fun either, providing similar difficulty assessing the best in focus point.
Some users really like having the histogram on screen as an aid to correct exposure, in particular to prevent highlight clipping.
You can move it over to a corner with the cursor buttons. Set histogram ON and it will appear with a yellow bounding box and yellow directional arrows. To move it to a different location go to the Menu, switch histogram off, then on again and the directional arrows reappear.
The problems I have with the histogram are:
1. It is a big intrusive thing parked on the preview screen no matter where it is positioned.
2. I find it routinely impossible to figure out whether highlights are just at or beyond the clipping point.
3. Peering at the histogram is a distraction from the capture process.
So I always have Histogram off and Zebras, which I find more useful, On.
This is more useful. The choices are Thirds, Union Jack or one vertical one horizontal line.
I use the latter with the two lines intersecting at the center. This has a low clutter factor and high usefulness for evaluating vertical and horizontal lines in the composition. The lines can be moved about with the cursor buttons and repositioned on center with the Disp button.
This flashes overexposed highlights at image playback. Always set this ON, especially if using JPG capture. You may be able to reshoot with negative exposure compensation to bring in the highlights.
This is a recent introduction to Panasonic still/video hybrid cameras like the LX100. The zebra pattern lets you know at image preview whether highlights (or some other tonal value) will be blown out at the current exposure settings.
There are two zebras so you can set one for, say, highlights and the other for, say, Caucasian faces or some other subject which you know you will be photographing.
I use the feature for highlights. After much experiment I am currently using a setting of 105%.
For RAW capture I can usually pull in highlights in Adobe Camera RAW even if the zebras are flashing.
For JPG capture I click in negative exposure compensation until the zebras just stop flashing.
This is one of those features I wish they would leave off the list to declutter the menus. Anyway it is there for those users who want to see in preview what the picture will look like in monochrome.
This one is a bit confusing until you figure out how it works.
Constant Preview only works in Manual Exposure Mode. When set ON the live view screen (EVF or monitor) gains up or down to preview how over or under exposure will affect image brightness.
When set OFF the screen stays the same brightness regardless of the exposure setting.
The feature is automatically disabled if a flash is fitted and switched on. This makes sense as you need to be able to compose the picture at normal screen brightness.
In P, A, and S Modes Constant Preview is inactive but the live view screen will gain up or down to reflect settings on the Exposure Compensation Dial.
You don’t want it. When ON and the Disp button has selected the relevant screen, this huge meter display camps all over the lower half of the screen. Panasonic should get rid of this useless feature.
When ON, this pops up a set of totally confusing symbols in the lower right quadrant of the screen when the aperture ring or shutter speed dial are turned. Switch it OFF.
LVF (a.k.a. EVF) Disp. Style and Monitor Disp. Style
At last we come again to something useful. You can set the EVF and monitor to “SLR” style (my term, not Panasonic’s) with the key exposure parameters displayed on a black strip beneath the preview image, or “Monitor style” (again, my term) with the same key parameters overlaid on the lower part of a larger preview image.
Some people say they like monitor style as a larger preview image is possible. But it irritates the heck out of me because I am frequently unable to properly see the readouts for aperture and shutter speed as they get lost in the image preview.
This is an example of the figure/ground phenomenon in cognitive psychology which I learned about in Psychology 1 in 1960. You might think that camera makers would have caught on to this by now but …………..
My strong recommendation is to set SLR style for both monitor and EVF.
Here, in my not so humble opinion is yet another useless feature. When the Disp button is cycled with this feature ON, a screen appears with information about camera data. But it is not a control screen. You cannot select and change any of the parameters. It is just information which is available elsewhere.
Rec Areaand Remaining Disp.
Select for still or video capture.
When ON, image review will appear for the set time after each still image capture. Most of the time I find this an irritating impediment to the capture flow.
However Panasonic fixed zoom cameras have another, even more annoying feature. If the Playback button is pressed after image capture to check focus, exposure, whatever, then some several seconds later the lens retracts to closed position then resets to the default position (which is the widest setting if zoom resume is OFF). At least that happens quite often but not always. It’s weird.
So if you had carefully set up composition and focus on a scene you lose all that and have to start over. I find this totally infuriating and have never seen any explanation from Panasonic as to the reason for this camera behaviour.
Anyway the lens retract problem can be avoided if Auto Review is set to ON.
I have no idea why but that’s how it works.
Panasonic should fix this nonsense with a firmware update.
Fn Button Set
I dealt with this in Part 2 of this series.
You can select continuous or step zoom. Take your pick.
I covered this in Part 1 of the series.
When OFF zoom resumes to the default position on startup which is the wide end.
When ON zoom resumes to the focal length in use when the camera was switched off or timed out.
I dealt with this in Part 2 of the setup series.
Press and hold, otherwise it gets bumped accidentally.
I don’t do video so have it OFF. Unfortunately as with the filter and iA buttons it cannot be reprogrammed to individual preference.
For me that is 3 wasted buttons on this camera.
As discussed in Part 2 of this series:
LVF/Monitor Switch [LVF/Mon Auto].
And that is your lot for this LX100 setup series
|Cameras and bags referred to in the text below|
The LX100 is an interesting and in many ways very good small camera.
However having used one for several months I have come to the view that the size of the LX100 is not optimal.
By this I mean it is not really compact in the sense that the original Sony RX100 is compact. But neither is it a full featured camera like the fixed zoom lens camera (FZLC) mockup or the FZ1000 in the photo above.
There is a nexus between the ergonomics of carrying and the ergonomics of operating. I think the
LX100 misses out both ways.
The original Sony RX100 is remarkably compact for its specifications and capabilities. It fits in a small pouch which can slip into a ladies purse or handbag or into a jacket pocket.
In the photo above it is shown in a Malopero pouch which is actually larger than it needs to be.
In a thin drawstring pouch it will even fit in a trousers pocket. Some users put their RX100s into a pocket without any protection, with the consequence that the camera fills up with bits of dust, debris and all kinds of other stuff which accumulates in pockets. Yuk. Very bad for the camera.
The RX100(3) is 5mm deeper than the original but still fits into much the same places.
The RX100(4) mockup represents my realisation of the ergonomically ideal compact camera. It has a built in handle, proper control dial on the top plate, JOG Lever to move the AF box, fully articulated monitor, large buttons and a fixed EVF which is always ready to use (it does not need to be popped up and out).
This is 1.5mm wider, 3.5mm taller and 2mm deeper than the RX100(3). The dimensions are just sufficiently larger that it requires a larger carry pouch.
In the photo it is shown with a Lowe Pro Apex 30 AW with the tongue removed. This pouch is somewhat overbuilt and over protective but it does have a built in raincoat.
Already this pouch is too large to consider fitting into most pockets. A largish handbag yes. But a pouch this size probably sits best on a waist belt or even over the shoulder on the strap provided.
Next up we come to the Panasonic LX100. This camera has a box volume (w x h x d) 2.3 times that of the RX100(3).
A big step up in carry bag/pouch size is required. In the photo the LX100 is shown with the bag in which it lives and travels, a Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 5 (TTMM5). Some owners have reported fitting the LX100 into smaller bags. I have experimented with this but the fit is too tight for smooth one handed transfer of the camera into and out of the bag.
The TTMM5 can be carried on a waist belt but I find it a bit large and awkward when used this way.
So I just carry it over the shoulder on the supplied strap.
Now, at last, I am getting to the point of this post.
If I am committed to carrying my camera in an over the shoulder bag then a slightly larger bag is just as easy to manage as a slightly smaller one.
Which brings us to the next camera/bag combination.
The FZLC mockup shown is a realisation of my ideal small fixed lens general purpose camera. It is somewhat larger than the LX100 but it has a fully shaped ergonomic handle with the shutter button in the desirable forward location. There is a Mode Dial and ideally positioned Control Dial. There is a quad control module set on top of the handle. There is a JOG lever to move the AF box, a fully articulated monitor, full suite of large controls, built in flash and hotshoe, Drive Mode dial, large
EVF located in the optimal position on the lens axis, sculpted thumb support and plenty of space for a large aperture zoom lens covering approximately the E24-100mm focal length range with a sensor in the 16-20mm diagonal size range.
When I hold the FZLC mockup it feels as though it was crafted to fit perfectly into my hands ………..oh, right…..…it was.
And all the controls feel as though they have been placed exactly where my fingers want to find them ……..oh, right……..they were.
Incredibly nobody actually makes this camera.
Anyway the point of this post is that the fully ergonomic full featured FZLC mockup fits easily into a
Lowe Pro Apex 100 bag which is only slightly larger than the TTMM5 bag required for the LX100.
When I am out and about the LP A100 bag feels no different from the TTMM5 bag.
The ergonomics of carrying is the same. The ergonomics of operating is very different.
Last on the list of cameras in the photo is the Panasonic FZ1000 with the Lowe Pro Apex 110 AW bag into which the FZ1000 fits perfectly, as if the two were designed for each other (which is not the case, the match is serendipidous).
The FZ1000 is one of the larger fixed zoom lens full featured cameras, yet the bag in which it lives and travels is not so very much larger than the next bag size down and I can testify after using it extensively over the last 6 months it is no more trouble to carry around either.
I see the LX100 as a betwixt and between thing, neither really compact nor fully featured and ergonomic.
Others will differ of course, that is the nature of opinions.
Some people may see the LX100 as the ideal synthesis of compactness, features and ergonomics.
But my FZLC mockup demonstrates a proof of concept. You can have a slightly larger camera which is just as easy to carry but has much better holding, viewing and operating characteristics.
Now I need for some forward thinking manufacturer to produce the real thing.
A personal view, with reasons
The Advanced Photo System was introduced in 1996, towards the end of the film era. APS used 24mm wide film in dedicated cassettes. Completely new cameras and processing equipment were required to accommodate the new format.
If APS was the answer, what was the question? I was using film at the time and I must say I never figured that out. I just kept using regular 35mm film which delivered substantially better image quality.
In due course APS was pushed aside by the advance of digital and the format disappeared, at least in its film manifestation.
In the early days of digital, sensors corresponding to standard 35mm film were so costly to manufacture that cameras using this sensor size were too expensive for the great majority of camera buyers.
Camera makers faced a wipeout unless they could find a less expensive digital sensor.
So the smaller, APS-C size, or something close to that, was reborn in digital.
|APS-C Digital Sony and others |
I am just guessing here but I suspect the big two camera makers Canon and Nikon might have imagined they could return to the standard 35mm (“full frame”) format sometime quite soon.
In fact I believe that is probably still where they want to go, possible reasons being:
* The huge inventory of 35mm lenses and other equipment in circulation.
* The corporate identity of CanoNikon is so identified with the 35mm (D)SLR camera.
* The 43mm diagonal sensor can form the basis for a versatile range of cameras from compact, moderately specified enthusiast models up to high performance professional versions.
Neither Canon nor Nikon has provided their APS-C format cameras with a full selection of professional zoom and prime lenses.
In 2008 the Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC) was born. First product onto the market was the Lumix G1, a Micro Four thirds camera from Panasonic with imager diagonal of 21.5mm.
Olympus also used the M43 format.
But Sony, Samsung, Pentax, Leica, Fuji and Canon all opted for the APS-C imager size in their MILC lines.
Nikon, in an uncharacteristically daring move went for the much smaller “One inch” (15.9mm diagonal) format for its MILCs.
Samsung recently announced the NX1 (MILC) camera body together with two high performance zoom lenses, making a claim on the professional and advanced enthusiast market.
The photo at the top of the post illustrates how this plays out in terms of size.
* Canon EOS 6D with EF 70-200mm f2.8 lens
* Samsung NX1 with 50-150mm (Equivalent 75-225mm) f2.8 lens
* Panasonic GH4 with 35-100mm (Equivalent 70-200mm) f2.8 lens.
The kit price given for each refers to the approximate current price in Australia, retail, of the camera body plus the lens illustrated plus a 24-70mm f2.8, or equivalent, zoom, making the classic professional/enthusiast all purpose body + 2 zoom kit.
You can see that Samsung APS-C kit is smaller than the Canon full frame kit but not remarkably so.
In order to substantially reduce kit size you need to go down to the M43 system, represented here by the largest camera in the system, the GH4.
I have used the M43 system extensively and am able to report that it is capable of making excellent photographs in a wide variety of circumstances.
So here is the nub of the problem for APS-C.
Cameras using the APS-C sensor size, be they DSLR or Mirrorless ILC, lack the ultimate image quality of full frame but also are unable to match the compact kit size of M4/3 or smaller formats, particularly when pro style and longer zooms are added to the kit.
Sony has had success with its (erstwhile) NEX (E Mount) line of cameras, now renamed something forgettable, but most of these are fitted with a collapsing kit zoom of standard focal length range.
When I last checked Sony was offering no lenses for the E Mount equivalent to the standard 24-70 and 70-200mm f2.8 pro lenses for full frame.
Why ? If they did make such lenses they would be like the Samsung ones, confrontingly large and too big for the NEX style bodies.
When MILCs were introduced some industry representatives wanted to refer to the genre as “Compact System Camera”. The problem with this is that while the bodies can indeed be more compact than an equivalent DSLR, lens size is largely determined by sensor size and long, wide aperture zooms are always going to be sizeable on any body type.
But wait, APS-C has another problem. Most APS-C cameras are entry/mid range DSLRs or MILCs.
Most of these are sold with a kit zoom which stays on the camera permanently.
In effect this converts an interchangeable lens camera (ILC) to a fixed lens camera (FLC).
But manufacturers can make a fixed zoom lens camera (FZLC) which because it does not have to factor in a lens mount can be smaller, or have a lens with longer zoom range or wider aperture or all three of those things, than an ILC.
In addition modern sensor technology has seen the image quality of smaller sensors come on strongly in recent years.
So the FZLC can have a smaller sensor, say 15.9mm diagonal, still with very good image quality, allowing even smaller size, greater zoom range and wider lens aperture.
* At the professional/expert/enthusiast level APS-C cameras be they DSLR or MILC cannot match the image quality of full frame cameras which can also be DSLR or MILC.
* For the enthusiast/expert or even professional photographer seeking a substantially more compact kit size than full frame, APS-C is really not the answer. M4/3 does “compact” much more effectively.
* For the amateur/enthusiast user who is unlikely to change lenses a modern FZLC makes much more sense.
Conclusion I really don’t quite see where the APS-C sensor size fits into the near future camera world.
I see it as having been a stop gap size which technology and changes in the market have made redundant.
Of course if people keep buying cameras with this sensor manufacturers will keep making them.
But it seems to me there are better alternatives for every camera user group.