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The independent source for study and review of camera ergonomics.
    0 0

    The Sony RX10Mk4 has an excellent 25x zoom lens which compares favourably with primes at every focal length.



    One of the  bugbears of modern photography is sample variation in lens quality.

    I am aware from my own experience and from published reviews and reports that all types of camera lenses fixed and interchangeable, budget and premium, from all makers, are subject to bad copies and variable production quality.

    I assume the reason for this might be that under pressure to get product out the door at a low price point the makers are unable to test each item before it is shipped. If they did test each lens the process itself would be expensive and the number of rejects would make the exercise even more expensive, thus increasing the price of each item.

    Therefore lens buyers like you and me find ourselves involuntarily co-opted into  lens testing whether we like it or not.



    The chart referred to in the text. With a good lens I can read every word on the chart at most focal lengths and the best apertures. Note: reproduction on this blog leads to substantial loss of detail from the original.


    How can I tell  If the lens on is of good quality ?


    Look at it    Inspect for general condition including any dings, marks, scratches or defects.  In particular look into the lens using  bright collimated light.  Direct sunlight works fine but a torch with focussed beam is also good. Carefully clean the front element and rear element if accessible before doing this. This is a good way to see if there are any foreign bodies lurking inside there. Note that one or a few small dust spots inside a lens will usually have no detectable effect on optical characteristics and can be ignored.

    Check that the lens mount if accessible is secure and not loose. Check the lens cap and hood.


    Shake it  Lenses with a built in optical image stabiliser will usually rattle when shaken while powered off. The rattle should cease when the system is powered on.


    Passive operation  Check that the zoom, focus and aperture rings turn smoothly without crunching noises, binding or excessive free play. Check that an interchangeable lens mounts easily on a compatible body without binding or excessive free play.


    Active operation  Check that autofocus, manual focus and stabiliser functions are working properly. Check that all lens based controls are operating properly.


    The cork board. With a good lens I can read all the fine print everywhere on the board including the edges.
      


    Optical  I use two different chart style test subjects for indoor-close-to-the-camera testing and a specifically chosen scene for outdoor distant-from-the-camera testing.  After that I go forth and take lots of photos in a variety of conditions.

    I have found that some lenses can be quite sharp close in but not at a distance from the subject so I test for both.

    For each of the chart/landscape tests I have the camera on tripod, timer delay, low ISO, autofocus, stabiliser off, RAW + JPG finest available.

    I set Aperture Priority autofocus and shoot at the widest aperture available at each focal length then stop down 1/3 for each subsequent exposure up to f5.6 or f8 depending on the sensor size of the camera in use.


    Anybody can set up standard test subjects similar to these. Most do not and end up plaintively posting on user forums “should my lens be sharper than this…” and similar querulous enquiries.


    This type of testing does not give me a “universal” result which can be expressed as line pairs per image height or something like that.


    However having used these test subjects for some years I have a very good idea what to expect from a good lens with each subject.


    The first test subject is 9 pages (each the same, via photocopy) of classified advertisements from a local newspaper pinned to a 120x80 cm piece of plywood with a backing border for rigidity.  This becomes a type of chart. I have learned from experience that a very good lens will allow me to read all the words right to the edges of the frame at most focal lengths and apertures. Any decentering is easily seen as unsharpness on one side of the frame.


    The page chart also allows me to evaluate contrast, distortion, color fringing and other aberrations. It can tell me how the lens responds to stopping down from the widest aperture. Some need the aperture to be closed down one or two stops for best optical performance but others show  loss of sharpness when the aperture is closed down, even a little. I have encountered several lenses from Panasonic which exhibited this behaviour.

    I can also use the chart to assess if shutter shock is present.

    Almost any camera/lens combination can deliver decently sharp results in the center of the frame. If the frame centers are not sharp  I run a separate check for focus accuracy and consistency. DSLRs are more prone to inaccurate focus than other camera types. Some offer fine focus adjustment for each lens to correct for this.


    Next I photograph the cork board on which are pinned a variety of bits and pieces with variable font size, variable contrast and lightness. A good lens will allow me to read the fine print at the edges of the frame at the optimum aperture and focal length. Higher quality lenses are better able to resolve low contrast detail.



    This is the landscape scene . It has lots of fine foliage, architectural elements and industrial features. I can stand in one place and find plenty of detail to test focal lengths from 24-1200mm.


    Then I go out and photograph the landscape scene. As this changes in appearance with different atmospheric and lighting conditions and different work underway at the marina it can only compare one camera/lens with another at the same time. However that can be very revealing and useful.

    While I am outdoors and the sun is shining I take a variety of photos against the light with the sun in frame and varying amounts out of the frame. I note the type and degree of the flares which result.

    Then I photograph backlit foliage to see if this will provoke chromatic aberration, purple fringing or some type of flare which it often does. Some lens/sensor/processor combinations are much worse than others in this regard.

    I also check if the camera can focus reliably when presented with backlit foliage or other types of multiple bright lights. Some do very badly in this situation.

    After evaluating all the resulting photos on screen I have pretty good understanding of the capabilities of the tested lens(es). I know the lens strengths and weaknesses and  best and worst characteristics.


    Comment   I have found excellent and execrable lenses at every price point in the range and from every maker. I have found zooms that are better than primes and vice versa. I have discovered cheap kit lenses that test better than high priced premium optics and vice versa.

    I have learned the hard way (nobody gives me anything to test) that the only way to evaluate a lens is to test it myself.

    If I get a bad copy and there have unfortunately been many over the years then all the published MTF and LPPIH charts and test information tell me absolutely nothing.


    Recommendation   I strongly recommend that camera/lens buyers systematically test all their lenses. With practice it can be done in a day.

    Some hints:

    Pictures of brick walls do not provide the required information neither do pictures of a pet cat or random snaps of the back yard.

    A systematic process is required and is easy enough to do.










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    The mockup camera has been shaped to fit the hand


    The essence of  camera ergonomics is the number and complexity of actions required to control the device.


    Other important factors include holding, viewing, haptics, functional anatomy of hands and fingers and design details.


    This exercise envisages a camera with a comprehensive user interface suitable for an expert/enthusiast user.


    There are four phases of camera use, Setup, Prepare, Capture and Review.


    The three main elements of Capture Phase are Holding, Viewing and Operating.


    Each Phase of use requires completion of tasks by means of actions which can be observed and evaluated for number and complexity.


    For each Phase of use a schedule of tasks and requirements can be drawn up and used as the basis of a method for scoring ergonomics (see below).


    Individual likes and preferences are a separate aspect of the user experience which are not helpful for evaluating ergonomics as they are specific to the person and subject to change.


    Evaluation and scoring


    There are three elements of the scoring process: 

    1. The schedule for each Phase of use

    2. An explanatory narrative

    3. Subscores and final score. In each subsection the maximum score will be gained if a camera allows the user to efficiently perform all the tasks, has an optimal user interface and none of the negative factors.


    Total maximum score is 100.  The distribution of subscores represents my judgement about the relative importance of each Phase of use to the overall user experience.


    All cameras are scored using the same criteria.


    I rate changing lenses as just about the most ergonomically disruptive task which any camera user has to carry out so in the interests of reasonable comparison interchangeable lens cameras are scored with a standard zoom lens mounted.


    Scoring schedule


    Setup Phase  [Maximum score 15]

    This is conducted at leisure preferably with the owners manual to hand.

    Tasks  Make main menu selections, allocate My Menu and Quick Menu items, select Function button and dial assignments, set up custom modes and other functions such as Wi-fi, Bluetooth etc.

    User Interface   Menu headings and subheadings are logical, coherent and easy to read and  navigate. Like items are grouped together in ways meaningful to the user.

    Most controls enable user selected function.

    Negatives  Menus confusing and  contain mystery items. Like items scattered about, unlike items grouped together. No My Menu, no Quick access menu with user selectable items, no Custom Modes. Setup Phase controls located where Capture Phase controls should be.


    Prepare Phase  [Maximum score 15]

    In the minute or so after confronting a new photographic situation the user will want to reconfigure camera settings.

    Tasks  Set Main Mode,  Drive Mode, Shooting Mode, Focus Mode, Autofocus Mode, Stabiliser, Custom Modes, shutter type, electronic level and others.

    User Interface  There are dedicated, well positioned controls for the most frequently changed Modes.  There is quick access to other Modes and settings  by buttons and other controls with user assignable function.

    Negatives  Any Prepare Phase items only accessible via the main menu, function of controls not user assignable.


    Capture Phase, Holding  [Maximum score 20]

    Tasks  Hold the camera in a relaxed but secure grip with both hands, right index finger on the shutter button. Maintain a stable grip while carrying out the tasks of “Operating” below.  Carry the camera ready for immediate use.

    User Interface  There is a built in handle of anatomical shape, inverted L type is optimal, with the shutter button in optimal location and a substantial thumb support.

    These work together to allow the user’s hand to adopt the “half closed relaxed” position while holding and operating the camera.

    Negatives  Absent or poorly shaped handle. Handle only available as an accessory. Thumb support inadequate.


    Capture Phase, Viewing  {Maximum score 20]

    Tasks   To clearly view in all conditions via the viewfinder or monitor the subject with 100% accuracy and primary and secondary information displays.

    User Interface  The user has a continuous real time subject view without lag or blackout with single or continuous shooting.

    The viewfinder and monitor provide the same information presented the same way to allow a seamless segue from one to the other.

    If desired the viewfinder can present a live subject view without information overlays.

    Primary camera data is displayed clearly outside the preview frame. This includes aperture, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, white balance, battery status, capture mode in use, remaining exposures on the memory card.

    Secondary camera data/displays can be superimposed over the preview frame by user preference. These could include active AF area position and size, grid lines, zebras, histogram.

    Viewfinder and monitor brightness can indicate exposure status.

    Negatives  There is no built in viewfinder, the monitor is not fully articulated, camera data is only available superimposed over the preview frame, viewfinder and monitor display differently, viewfinder lag and/or blackout is present.


    Capture Phase, Operating  [Maximum score 25]

    Tasks   While looking continuously through the viewfinder the user can without shifting grip with either hand adjust the following parameters. Not every exposure requires each of these to be changed but the camera should be configured so it is possible to do so.

    * Primary exposure parameters: aperture, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity.

    * Secondary exposure parameters: exposure compensation, program shift, autoexposure lock, white balance.

    * Primary framing and focus parameters: zoom, initiate/lock autofocus, manual focus.

    * Secondary focus parameters: change position and size of active AF area, manual focus over-ride, autofocus lock.

    User interface All Capture Phase controls are shaped and positioned so the camera can be controlled by feel.

    Dials and other controls should have logical and consistent actuation for value up.

    With practice the user can train his or her finger memory to drive the camera like a motor car without having to look at the controls and  without having to think about each separate action.

    Negatives   The user has to interrupt the capture flow by changing grip or looking away from from the viewfinder in order to change one of the listed parameters.


    Review Phase  [Maximum score 5]

    Tasks   This varies with individual preference but as a minimum I suggest:

    Recall the last 1-9 shots and select one,  zoom into and scroll around the review image,  jump from one image to the next or previous at the same level of magnification and same position in the frame,  delete one/many.

    User interface  There are controls which allow the tasks to be efficiently completed.

    Negatives  Auto review cannot be disabled, limited scrolling options, essential file data not able to be recalled.


    The half closed relaxed hand position


    The ideal camera (ergonomically)

    This mockup brings together many of my ideas about the configuration of a camera with good ergonomics. To the casual observer it may look like just another mid sized bridge model or perhaps a small ILC with standard zoom. But good ergonomics is often about getting many details right. These can best be appreciated by holding the device and feeling the controls.


    The overall shape of the camera is no accident. After several years, many actual cameras and 15 mockups I have come to realise that this shape is able to provide the best holding, viewing and operating experience.


    The shoulders are high to maximise the available height for the handle and to accommodate the thumb stick.


    The handle has been shaped to fit into the half closed relaxed right hand. The shutter button, front dial and main control buttons are located where the fingers want to find them. The shutter button, front control dial and two adjacent top buttons form a quad control set for rapid adjustment of several Capture Phase parameters using just the index finger.


    The thumb stick and rear dial are located where the thumb wants to find them.


    Lens controls are wide and circumferential so they can be easily located by feel and operated with the camera in landscape or portrait orientation and left hand over or under holding style.


    The mockup is rated comfortable to hold by male and female adults and children from age about twelve.  Large hands move down the handle, small hands move up. Most adult hands can achieve a full five finger grip.


    The controls meet all the requirements of the scoring schedule above.


    Mockup camera, rear


    Are the scores useful ?

    I have to date bought, used tested and scored 27 camera models of various types from several makers.

    You can see the list below.

    I think the scores are a useful summary of my overall experience of using each camera.


    Mockup camera, handle shape


     

     


    Camera ergonomic score summaries
    Updated 13 January 2018  with Sony RX10Mk4


    Camera

    Setup Phase

    Max 15

    Prepare Phase Max 15

                  Capture Phase

    Review Phase Max 5

    Total Max 100

    Holding Max 20

    Viewing Max 20

    Operating Max 25

    Sony A3500


    5

    5

    12

    7

    8

    2

    39

    Nikon 1 V2


    7

    6

    12

    10

    8

    3

    46

    Panasonic LX10

    10

    10

    5

    6

    8

    5

    46

    Panasonic GM5

    10

    10

    4

    10

    12

    2

    48

    Nikon P900


    10

    6

    13

    11

    8

    2

    50

    Sony RX100 Mk4

    8

    12

    7

    9

    11

    5

    52

    Panasonic LX100

    10

    8

    11

    10

    10

    5

    54

    Fuji X-T1

    10

    9

    9

    13

    10

    4

    55

    Canon SX60


    10

    9

    16

    11

    6

    4

    56

    Panasonic TZ110(ZS100)

    11

    12

    4

    10

    14

    5

    56

    Panasonic TZ70(ZS50)

    11

    12

    6

    10

    15

    2

    59

    Panasonic TZ80 (ZS60)

    11

    12

    7

    10

    15

    5

    60

    Panasonic TZ90 (ZS70)

    11

    12

    7

    12

    15

    5

    62

    Nikon B700

    9

    9

    18

    10

    14

    2

    62


    Panasonic G6


    11

    10

    14

    14

    15

    3

    67

    Panasonic GX80/85

    11

    12

    11

    12

    16

    5

    67

    Canon G1X Mk3

    11

    12

    10

    15

    15

    5

    68

    Panasonic GX8

    10

    12

    12

    18

    14

    5

    71

    Panasonic FZ80

    10

    12

    16

    11

    17

    5

    71

    Sony RX10Mk4

    9

    14

    12

    16

    16

    5

    72

    Panasonic G7


    11

    12

    18

    18

    17

    5

    81

    Panasonic G80/85 unmodified

    11

    12

    18

    18

    17

    5

    81

    Panasonic FZ300#

    11

    12

    18

    18

    18

    5

    82

    Panasonic GH4

    11

    13

    18

    18

    19

    5

    84

    Panasonic FZ1000

    11

    13

    18

    18

    20

    5

    85

    Panasonic G80/85 modified*

    11

    13

    18

    18

    20

    5

    85

    Panasonic FZ2500

    12

    13

    18

    18

    20

    5

    86

    Panasonic GH5

    14

    14

    17

    19

    21

    5

    90


    * Panasonic G80/85  4way pad (Cursor buttons and Disp button) modified by addition of shaped Sugru pads to improve haptics. This makes the Cursor buttons, Menu/Set button and Disp button much easier to locate and operate by feel. It is particularly beneficial for users who prefer to move active AF area with the [Direct Focus Area] function.

    # Panasonic FZ300 with epoxy dab on the Disp button to make it easier to locate by feel.

    Canon G1X3 slightly modified with a dab of epoxy resin on the * button to make it easier to locate by feel and a slightly modified lens cap to make it easier to remove.

    Sony RX10Mk4 with a dab of clear epoxy resin on the AEL and Fn3 buttons to make them easier to locate by feel.






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    M50 with 15-45mm kit lens


    I have a long history with Canon cameras. My first was an EOS 630 in 1990. That was followed by several EOS SLR film models then several EOS DSLR digital models. Along the way I owned some Powershot G series compacts and a few bridge models.


    I have a Powershot G1X3 and recently acquired an EOS-M50 with the kit 15-45mm lens.


    Several years ago I became disenchanted with the unreliable autofocus on Canon’s DSLRs and the relentless mediocrity of their Powershot offerings.


    I branched out to try ILCs and fixed lens models from several other makers.


    Then in 2013 Canon introduced their proprietary dual pixel (on sensor) phase detect autofocus (DPAF), first seen on the EOS 70D.


    This promised to solve all Canon’s AF requirements with one clever technology. It would work well with single shot, Servo AF and video. Better still it would work with millions of Canon’s existing EF lenses.


    Initially DPAF did not appear to be a huge leap forward but Canon has been refining the technology to the point that it appears to be very effective on the latest models.


    I first encountered DPAF in the Powershot G1X3 and found it to work very reliably for both still and video photography.


    I was not attracted to any of Canon’s early offerings in the EOS-M line but the M50 has the latest Digic8 processor and the latest version of  DPAF together with a built in EVF and a fully articulated monitor so I decided to buy one (nobody gives me cameras) and try it out.


    Spoiler alert: In the event I found the M50 a bit disappointing. Not bad, just not as capable as it could have been.  




    Who is it for ?


    Canon tends to target each camera model to a very thin slice of the market.

    The M50 appears to be aimed at snapshooters who want to move up from a smartphone in the expectation of making better pictures. The layout of the menu system and user manual, the limited control set and the high level of  wireless connectivity could all appeal to this user group.


    But here is the thing: I keep wondering why the camera is there at all. All that wireless connectivity would be easier to implement just with a smartphone, the latest versions of which make pretty good pictures.


    Maybe vlogging is the answer to my question. The M50 is well specified for this.


    Nevertheless the photographer who advances beyond the snapshooter/beginner level will I suspect, soon feel frustrated by the inherent limitations of the M50 and start looking for something with more appeal to an enthusiast camera user.


    But in the little world of EOS-M the only current model likely to appeal to an enthusiast is the M5 which is already starting to show its age with a slow processor and many performance limitations.


    Specifications

    You can read all the details elsewhere but on paper it looks pretty good.


    Good autofocus, built in EVF, fully articulated monitor, well implemented touch screen, extensive wireless connectivity, 27mm diagonal (APS-C) sensor, 24 Mpx, 4K video, interchangeable lenses, the latest Canon processor and much more.


    But there are many items missing from the M50 which can be found on competitors models in the same price range.


    There are no zebras, no blinkies, no in camera panorama, no custom modes on the Mode Dial, no lens hood supplied in the box, no USB charging, no silent operation in P, Av, Tv or M Modes, the EVF and monitor are adjustable only for brightness not contrast, saturation or color balance, if Eco mode is ON, the AF area can only be moved via the touch screen so you must have the monitor facing outwards, there is no separate back button AF, only one control dial, no drive mode or focus mode dials and no DPAF with 4K video.




    Image quality


    The M50 is said to use the same APS-C (27mm diagonal) sensor as numerous current Canon models.  As such it should be a well known entity. My only previous experience with this sensor is in the Powershot G1X3.


    There are several positive reviews about this sensor but I have been somewhat underwhelmed by it.  When testing the M50 I compared it side by side with a Panasonic Lumix G85 fitted with the kit 14-42mm lens.


    At low ISO sensitivity settings I was unable to get any more detail or dynamic range out of RAW files from the 24Mpx M50 with the 15-45mm lens than I could get with the 16Mpx G85 and 14-42mm lens.   That is still a lot of detail but the larger (27mm diagonal) sensor in the M50 should be better than the smaller (21.5mm diagonal) sensor in the G85 but at least with the 15-45mm lens I did not find that to be the case.


    At high ISO settings in the 3200-6400 range my tests showed the M50 to have about 0.7 EV steps moreluminance noise than the G85 when I compared the RAW files at the same output size after conversion in Adobe Camera Raw.   I used the full sized CR3 Canon RAW not the compressed C-RAW.


    I found that JPGs from the M50 were not quite as sharp as the RAW files even with Picture Style set to [Fine Detail].


    I also noticed that the M50 JPGs sometimes appeared to lack local contrast (clarity in Adobe speak) and vibrance (an Adobe term for rendition of subtle colors)  compared to those from the G85.


    Lens

    My copy of the 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 lens appears to be of decent but not outstanding quality.

    Resolution in the center at the wide end is excellent but the corners are a bit soft. The long end is not as sharp and  my copy is a bit decentered making it a little bit soft on one side.


    I noticed considerable corner shading in RAW files particularly at the wide end of the zoom. This is correctable in a RAW converter of course however other camera makers adopt the practice of correcting corner shading in camera post capture with both RAW and JPG files.

    Overall the lens does a good job. I suspect most M50 users will not be aware of any problems.


    Performance


    Before I get to timings I just want to mention two things which I do not recall having seen reported by any other reviewer. Maybe I missed them.


    First, there is no EVF or monitor blackout after each shot either with single shot or continuous drive.


    This is actually a really big deal and is presumably enabled by the new Digic8 processor.


    Absence of EVF blackout is one of the holy grails of camera performance, available in very few models and yet:


    a) Here it is in the humble little M50 and

    b) Most reviewers appear not to have noticed.


    I am surprised by both those things.


    Second,  the M50 (and I believe all EOS-M models) has a focal plane shutter which always operates in electronic first curtain (EFCS) mode. This is presumably Canon’s answer to the shutter shock problem which bedevilled the Micro Four thirds system until recently. If so it appears to work because I saw no evidence of shutter shock in any of my test photos.


    Anyway moving right along,


    Overall the camera feels responsive to user inputs and operates briskly in most circumstances. The only exception to this is that buffer clearing is slow and many settings cannot be changed while the camera is writing to the card.


    Shot to shot time with single shot drive, one shot AF and AF+AE on each frame is 0.4 seconds which is about average for this type of camera.


    Autofocus is generally fast and accurate with one shot,  servo or video. I did however notice on several occasions that the camera focussed on the background when I thought I had positioned the AF area over a foreground subject element. Maybe I should have used the smaller of the two available AF area sizes and been more careful to keep the edges of the AF box away from background features.


    The M50 had no difficulty holding focus on a person walking towards and cars driving towards or away from the camera with a high percentage of frames in sharp focus. With JPG output (no RAW) the frame rate in [High Speed Continuous] was 7 frames per second which is quite brisk with the added benefit of no blackout between frames.


    So we have a bit of a mixed bag in the performance department. Some things like the absence of EVF blackout suggest a fast processor. Others like the slow buffer clearing suggest a slower processor.


    Odd that…….


    Ergonomics


    I will post the ergonomic score separately but for now I just note that the M50 is decently serviceable provided one has modest expectations of the user interface.

    The experience of holding, viewing and operating this camera is not bad but not wonderful either.

    Some competitors models in this price range achieve a considerably higher ergonomic score.


    Video

    My knowledge of video is rudimentary. However those who understand video have reported that the M50 delivers good 1080p video. It has the fully articulated rear screen and a microphone jack so it would be quite suitable for vlogging.


    All the reviews which I have seen indicate that although the camera has 4K video it is poorly implemented, making it difficult to use.


    Summary


    Desirable features  

    * Reliable AF which works well for single shot, servo AF and video.

    * Well implemented touch screen.

    * Comprehensive wireless connectivity.


    Neutral features (could be good or bad depending on your priorities)

    * Small size of body and kit lens. This is good if smallness is important to you but the penalty for that smallness is substantial.

    There is insufficient real estate on the body for a comprehensive set of controls and IBIS is not available.

    The lens has to utilise a collapsing design to get the size down and unlocking the mechanism every time the camera comes out of its bag can become a bit tedious.

    The widest aperture ranges from f3.5 to f6.3 which limits low light capability.


    Less appealing features

    * Limited specifications and capabilities.

    * Limited control set.

    * Sensor noise at high ISO settings.

    * High EVF contrast, not adjustable.

    * 4K video not really useful.

    * Very limited EOS-M series lens selection.


    Conclusion

    The EOS-M50 is an interesting addition to Canon’s growing stable of M class mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. It has some features and capabilities which set it above the more expensive M5. But it is also missing several features which have become commonplace on other maker’s models in this price range.


    The controls and menus are a curious mix of some Canon DSLR features and some Powershot features. The result is serviceable but as I use the camera the interface does not feel altogether coherent.

    It seems to me that there could be  considerable potential in Canon’s technology which is not being fully expressed in the M50.


    I have no doubt that Canon’s product development people know a lot more about marketing than me (which is not saying much) but from the perspective of an enthusiast amateur photographer I find the M50 limited in features and limiting to the user.

    Maybe the M50 is more interesting for what it suggests about Canon’s next move in the mirrorless ILC space than for the camera itself.


    Recommendation

    If you want a slightly-above-entry-level mirrorless interchangeable lens camera and for some reason it absolutely must have the Canon brand then the M50 might be worth considering.

    You might want to wait though to see what Canon does with their follow up to the M5. That will be more expensive but have a more comprehensive feature and control set which could be a better choice in the long run.




    0 0



    May Gibbs, EOS-M50


    Overall  the M50 presents the photographer with a user experience which is neither especially engaging nor egregiously annoying.


    Setup Phase

    Menus have a clear graphical interface and are easily navigated.

    You can select either the “Guided” or “Standard” menu display. Obviously the guided display with its pictogram style is intended to make camera setup less daunting for new users but I found the standard version more direct and easier to work with.

    There is a My Menu which is easily configured to individual requirements. Like items are mostly grouped together.

    There is extensive Wi-fi capability.

    There is a Quick access menu with a level of user item selection.

    So what is there is decently well implemented. But the M50 loses points because of missing features already detailed in the previous post.

    I also had some issues with button function assignment. For instance I wanted to set up AF-ON to the AE-Lock [*] button but all the available options linked the * button to the shutter button in ways which did not meet my requirements.

    Setup score 10/15


    Prepare Phase

    The tasks of Prepare Phase can be carried out decently well but most require more actions each more complex than would be the case with a camera having more direct controls.

    For instance focus mode, autofocus mode, drive mode, stabiliser and many others are all accessible indirectly.

    The camera can be reconfigured for changing photographic circumstances but there is quite a bit of button pushing involved.  This camera would have benefited greatly from one or two Custom positions on the Mode Dial.  

    Prepare Phase score 9/15


    Capture Phase, Holding

    There is a small but reasonably well shaped handle which provides a comfortable grip and easy operation of the shutter button and front dial.  However the handle could have been deeper for an even better grip and if the lens were further to the left (as viewed by the user) the handle could have been fatter. Thee small changes would have permitted the inclusion of a rear dial on the top plate. The top plate could have been higher to raise shutter button height and provide more grip for the fingers.

    The thumb support is well shaped and positioned for a secure grip.

    The camera can easily be carried by the handle.

    So holding arrangements are decent but could easily have been better with a few small design changes.

    Holding score 14/20


    Capture Phase, Viewing

    On paper the viewing arrangements look pretty good. There is a fully articulated monitor and a built in EVF with enough pixels for good image preview quality.

    But the implementation is quite a let-down.  One of the main arguments in favour of the mirrorless camera type is the ability to see with considerable accuracy what the picture will look like beforeyou press the shutter. Unfortunately the M50 does not permit this.

    The EVF has high contrast and saturation but only brightness is adjustable. So WYS is not WYG especially when subject brightness range is high.

    It is not possible to configure the monitor and EVF to look the same in style or image characteristics.

    The level gauge is very nice and easy to use, better than the one in the G1X3.

    The best thing about viewing in the M50 is the absence of EVF or monitor blackout.

    Viewing score 12/20


    Capture Phase, Operating

    The main task of operating is to adjust all primary and secondary exposure and focus parameters while looking through the viewfinder and without disrupting grip with either hand.  The M50 substantially enables this by permitting multiple functions of the single dial. For instance in M Mode repeatedly pressing the exposure compensation (up) button cycles function of the dial between aperture adjustment, shutter speed adjustment and exposure compensation.

    This does involve shifting grip with the right hand but not to a great extent.

    Position of the active focus area can be quickly moved with monitor or EVF viewing via the very good touch screen interface.

    Some thought has gone into haptics. The dial around the shutter button is well positioned (Olympus/Panasonic style) and easy to turn. The Exposure Lock and AF position buttons (on the thumb support) have little ridges above and below to make them easy to locate by feel.  The outside edge of 4-way controller is raised above the camera body with an extra little lip with a sharpish edge at each of the four positions which are easy to locate and operate by feel.  

    So operation of the M50 turns out to be better than its modest specification might lead one to expect.

     Operating score 16/25


    Review Phase

    The M50 enables smooth completion of all the essential tasks listed on my schedule for review phase.

    Review score 5/5

    Total score 66/100


    Comment

    Neither very good nor very bad pretty much sums up the EOS-M50.

    There are some nice ergonomic features like the touch screen and some of the haptics. But I suspect the missing features, capabilities and controls will prevent this camera from appealing to most enthusiast photographers.





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    How not to do it. Sony RX10Mk4. This camera has state-of the-art technology and performance but a mediocre user interface.

    Way back  in the good ol’ days of SLRs and film, top plate LCD displays served a useful purpose.

    It was not feasible to display much data in an optical viewfinder and there was no monitor screen on the back of the camera.


    With digital capture came the rear monitor screen on which a great deal of information could be displayed, or not if the user did not want it.


    So the top plate LCD became redundant and disappeared from the majority of consumer level DSLRs.  But top level models retain the LCD panel for reasons which escape me. Maybe professional photographers became accustomed to having it there.


    Now we have mirrorless cameras, some with a fixed lens, others with interchangeable lenses. These cameras have an electronic viewfinder which can display all the information available to the monitor, or not if desired.


    Either the EVF or monitor can display all the information which might be allocated to a top plate LCD panel, in a presentation which is easier to read with  user selectable content.


    No longer is there any logical or ergonomic reason for designers to include a top plate LCD settings display.


    But what do we now see ? Curioser and curioser, the redundant top plate LCD panel is making a comeback to some recent released mirrorless camera models.


    My Sony RX10 Mk4 has one (as do the previous three versions of the RX10).


    The Panasonic G9 has one.


    The Fuji X-H1 and GFX50S each have one.


    And, wonder of all camera design wonders, it appears from the teaser photos that the about-to-be-announced-on 23 August-and-possibly-actually-released  all new Nikon mirrorless full frame camera also has a top plate information display.


    Why ?


    What is going on here ?


    I really don’t know.


    Are camera owners and users demanding a return of the top plate information display ?


    Digital Photography Review recently conducted a poll of readers asking “ What are the most important things you’d want from a Canon or Nikon mirrorless camera ?”

    DPR closed the poll after a few days with 3783 responses.


    I think we can assume most respondents were camera owners and users who have given some thought to exactly which features they consider important in a mirrorless camera.


    The features most requested were as expected, things like compatibility with existing DSLR lenses, high quality EVF and focus system and in-body stabilisation.


    A top plate settings display was the LEAST requested item, nominated by just 0.3% of respondents.


    Maybe that tiny percentage of users is incredibly influential, who knows?


    From an ergonomic perspective the top plate settings display is worse than useless.


    1. It is not useful.


    2. It displaces controls which are useful from the top of the camera.


    Getting it right: Panasonic G85 with twin top control dials, drive mode dial on left side of EVF hump. This camera is a pleasure to operate.


    My I explain:


    The information usually most prominently displayed on top plate displays includes aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation. These are primary and secondary exposure parameters which the user needs to be aware of during the Capture Phase of use.


    That is: when the user is looking through the viewfinder or sometimes looking at the monitor. In either case the top plate and its display are not visible.


    So the top plate display provides information about exposure parameters when the user does not need it, in Prepare Phase of use when looking at the top of the camera, but does not allow the same information to be seen by the user when he or she does want it, during Capture Phase of use.


    Top plate displays usually also present information relevant to Prepare Phase of use, including remaining shots available on the card, flash compensation, battery status, white balance and others depending on the make and model. But these are often small and difficult to read and are more easily seen in the EVF or monitor.


    If the top plate information display were merely useless like the Fn7 button on the front of the Panasonic GX8, that would not be so bad.


    But it is worse than useless because it occupies prime camera real estate and forces controls which are useful off that location.


    The prime and best occupant of that particular piece of camera real estate is the main Mode Dial. This is extremely useful on a modern electronic camera providing quick access to many major functions.


    But most cameras lack sufficient space for both an LCD panel and a Mode Dial so the Mode Dial gets bumped off to the left side of the EVF hump.


    But wait…. The Drive Mode dial wants to be there…..tough luck.


    So the Drive Mode Dial either disappears altogether or gets stacked beneath the main Mode Dial which is not an optimal arrangement or gets sent some other place where it is difficult to see.


    All of which brings me back to my original question.


    Why are designers fitting new mirrorless cameras with top plate information displays ?


    I have no inside knowledge whatsoever of the way camera designer’s minds work so I must guess.


    And my best guess is that the top plate panel is there for marketing reasons:


    * Ten years after the first mirrorless ILC (the Panasonic G1 of 2008) the most popular type of interchangeable lens camera is still the DSLR.


    * Camera makers want you to switch from a DSLR to a Mirrorless model. When the Canon and Nikon full frame mirrorless models come out that push will be on in earnest. Neither Canon nor Nikon will want to be burdened with the cost of running two completely different product lines for very long.


    AND at the same time they want to upsell you to a top level model because they make more profit per unit on the more expensive models.


    * Upper mid and high end DSLRs (but not entry and lower end models) have top plate LCD panels.

    Therefore  the designers have taken to fitting their upper/mid and high end Mirrorless models with top plate information panels.


    Not because these panels are useful or ergonomically desirable but because the makers want to make their MILCs look and operate just like the (currently) more popular DSLRs.


    Anyway that’s what it looks like to me.


    Summary

    Camera users have voted against the use of top plate information panels on their mirrorless cameras.

    My ergonomic analysis concludes that such panels on mirrorless cameras are worse than useless.

    I use my Sony RX10 Mk4 often but never look at the top deck information panel when I am operating the camera. On the occasions when I have looked at that panel to see what it displays I have found some of the icons so small as to be unreadable.


    Conclusion

    The top plate information panel is a relic of the past and an ergonomic absurdity on a modern mirrorless camera.

    I really wish that camera makers would sell mirrorless models on their considerable merits and not resort to making them look like DSLRs for what appear (to me anyway) to be mis-conceived marketing reasons.







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    Lumix G85

    When I started working on  this comparison the two cameras, each with standard kit lens were selling for about the same price in Australia.


    Since then the M50 has been discounted while the G85 price has held, presumably indicating the popularity of this model.


    The Lumix G85 is the latest and best of Panasonic’s G series models. It was announced in September 2016 so is almost 2 years into its product cycle.


    The EOS-M50 was announced in February 2018 so it has been on the market only 6 months.


    Panasonic has released 30 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera models since the G1 of 2008.


    Canon’s first MILC was the EOS-M of 2012. To date Canon has appeared to treat the MILC segment of the market as a low priority with only 7 EOS-M models released  and most of these pitched to the entry level buyer.


    For this comparison I fitted the M50 with the standard 15-45mm (equivalent to 24-72mm) f3.5-6.3 collapsing zoom lens and the G85 with the 14-42 mm (equivalent to 28-84mm) f3.5-5.6 standard kit zoom.


    Price

    Retail prices vary considerably with various deals and offers but at the time of writing the EOS-M50 was selling for around AU899 with the 15-45mm lens. The G85 with 14-42mm lens from the same vendor was AU1204. I noticed that the G85 body only from this vendor was AU1168 which priced the lens at AU36, making this one of the best lens deals I have ever seen.


    M50 on the left, G85 on the right


    Size and mass

    You can see in the photos that they are similar in size. The M50 is actually smaller and lighter even though it uses a larger sensor. The M50 fits into a smaller carry bag.



    The downside of the M50s smaller size is that there is insufficient space for an in body image stabiliser (IBIS), a full handle and a comprehensive set of external controls. 

    Who are they for?

    I would locate the M50 in the upper entry segment of the market.

    The G85 has more external controls which would likely appeal to enthusiasts.


    Specifications and features

    You can read all the details elsewhere but in summary the G85 is more highly specified for stills and video capture, has more features, more capabilities and more hard controls.


    Sensor

    You might expect the M50 with its larger sensor (27mm vs 21.5mm diagonal) and more pixels (24 vs 16) to be superior here but that is not what I found.


    At low ISO settings the G85 delivered slightly more detail due I suspect, to the higher quality of the kit lens.


    I saw no practical difference in highlight and shadow detail or recoverable highlight information from RAW files.


    At high ISO settings in the 3200-6400 range the G85 actually produced less luminance noise than the M50 on my tests using Adobe Camera Raw and matched output file sizes.


    The M50 on the right fits into a slightly smaller carry bag


    Lens

    I have used other copies of the Lumix 14-42mm previously and found all of them to deliver excellent optical and mechanical performance as did the one used in this test.


    The Canon 15-45mm was less convincing particularly at the edges and at the long end of the zoom. It was not a bad lens just not excellent.

    I also found the Panasonic files cleaner with less color fringing at high contrast edges.


    Autofocus

    This proved one of the more interesting aspects of the comparison.

    Panasonic has  persisted with contrast detect AF without any additional phase detect function. This uses a technology known as DFD to improve the speed and precision of  CDAF.


    Canon took a completely different and I suspect, technically more challenging course to develop their proprietary on chip dual pixel phase detect system (DPAF) which has been refined to the point that it works really well in the M50 on still or moving subjects, for still photos or video.

    Both systems work very well. The Panasonic is slightly faster in average light levels and slightly more sensitive. It will focus on brush marks in paint and fine textures.


    But the Canon system goes straight to the point of focus without the back-and-forth “wobble” of the CDAF system in the Panasonic and the Canon is quicker in video.

    One occasional problem I noted with the Panasonic was a tendency to misfocus when presented with multiple small bright light sources, particularly sunlight reflected off foliage on a bright sunny day, a condition quite common in Sydney where I live.


    Both systems are highly refined and effective in most conditions but overall I found the Canon system to be slightly more confident and reliable.


    The downside of the Canon DPAF system appears to be its adverse effect on sensor performance. The 27mm (diagonal) 24 Mpx sensor in the M50 was, on my tests, outperformed by the ageing 21.5mm 16 Mpx sensor in the G85, particularly at high ISO settings.


    In other tests I found the M50 was only just slightly better at high ISO settings than cameras using the much smaller 15.9mm 20Mpx Sony “One inch” sensor. In fact these cameras including the Sony RX100Mk4 and Sony RX10Mk4 were better in low light as they have a wider aperture lens.


    Performance

    The G85 is a quick performer in every respect.  Shot-to-shot times are very short, AF is very fast, the camera responds to all user inputs very quickly and most camera functions operate normally while images are clearing the buffer.


    The M50 is also a responsive camera with no serious faults. Most functions lock up while the buffer is clearing which could sometimes be an issue.


    The M50 functions with no EVF blackout using single shot or burst drive.


    The G85 does have significant blackout between frames which restricts this camera’s usefulness for sport/action type work.

    So both perform well but there are significant areas where both could improve.


    Ergonomics

    The G85 was convincingly better here with more and better designed external controls, much better EVF, better handle and better user interface.

    I did find however that the M50 had a slightly more responsive touch screen with more user control options. This was more user friendly for moving the active AF area than the similar but not quite as well implemented system in the Panasonic.


    Lenses and system

    Purchase of an interchangeable lens camera represents entry into a system, not just a single product.

    And in this case the Micro Four Thirds system (M43) is vastly more developed than the EOS-M system from Canon.


    There are now many lenses from Panasonic, Olympus and other makers for the M43 system. . I counted 57 M43 lenses available from a major retailer in Australia. These cover everything from consumer kit zooms through to the most exotic wide aperture primes, ultra wide and long zooms and primes and everything inbetween. This is a mature system with something for everyone from beginner to professional.


    Canon currently offers only six EF-M lenses although you can get an adapter so EF lenses can be mounted. It seems to me however that this somewhat defeats the purpose of the EOS-M project which was presumably to offer a smaller and lighter kit than is possible with the standard EF system.


    Indeed I wonder about Canon’s commitment to the M system. They are about to introduce an entirely new full frame mirrorless system (or are crazy if they don’t) which will no doubt devour a great deal of their R&D budget.


    This will mean they will have:

    * DSLR full frame EF

    * DSLR crop EF-S

    * MILC full frame EF-???

    * MILC crop  EF-M


    That is four systems. I cannot imagine they will want to continue that many different systems in a falling camera market.  It seems to me something will have to go.

    With nothing much in the way of legacy DSLRs, Panasonic fully committed to the Mirrorless M43 system in 2008 so they have to manage only one ILC lens mount and system.


    Summary

    The G85 is a bit larger and heavier and somewhat more expensive but is a much more capable and appealing camera particularly for anyone who is or is planning to become a photography enthusiast. In addition the M43 system has much more to offer than the Canon EOS-M system.

    No contest really.









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    LX100 in Amsterdam


    The LX100 was announced in September 2014 and soon attracted great interest from enthusiast photographers.


    The design was a complete departure from previous LX models making me wonder why the Lumix marketing people used the same prefix. Maybe they were trying to capitalise on the near-cult status of the LX series generated by a group of enthusiastic users.


    In his conclusion to the 2014 DPR review of the LX100 Richard Butler wrote

    I'd consider it one of the best photographers' cameras on the market and probably the best zoom compact ever made.”


    Praise indeed for the little LX100.


    I used one frequently until recently, making thousands of photos in many locations around Australia and far distant countries.


    There has been much discussion about the LX100 on user forums. The long-ish product life has given owners the opportunity to experience and write about the joys and tribulations of  using this camera. 

    As with previous LX models the LX100 also attained near-cult status among enthusiast users.


    A replacement model has been eagerly awaited by users for at least the last two years. It appears their wait will be over on 23 August when the new model is due to be announced.


    This little post seeks to bring together the main complaints expressed by users about the LX100 in public forums together with a wish list for the Mk2 collected from forums and my own preferences.


    I will then compare this list to the published specifications of the new camera after it is announced.


    Before I get to the complaints it is worth saying that as best I can tell from posts on user forums the majority of users have been very happy about the concept of the camera.


    The LX100 is basically a compact alternative to the classic full frame interchangeable lens camera with 24-70mm f2.8 lens which usually forms the basis of a professional or ambitious enthusiast’s kit.  
    The idea is to offer most of the imaging capability of the full frame combination at a fraction of the size, mass and cost.


    In my view the LX100 achieves this and more due to the versatility of the multi-aspect ratio sensor.


    So the concept is sound and has stood the test of time.


    However the camera is not perfect giving Panasonic plenty of opportunity to improve the follow up model.


    The list of complaints is in two parts:


    Complaints about specifications

    Of course there are always a few people who want a camera with a 20-500mm lens which fits into a matchbox and costs $25. If we ignore these the main serious complaints about specifications are:


    * The fixed monitor screen.  Users have almost universally asked for a fully articulated screen, like that seen in other Panasonic cameras including the G85.


    * The 16 Mpx sensor of which only 12.7 Mpx are available. This is because the multi aspect ratio sensor requires a reduced image circle of 19.2mm (standard for the 4/3 sensor is 21.5mm).

    In fact excellent photos can be made with 10-12Mpx but still, users have called for the 20 Mpx sensor to be used in the next model.  If the same lens is used this would give about 15.9 Mpx in 4:3 aspect ratio.


    * Many users have asked for a larger, higher spec, OLED type EVF with a better eyepiece.


    * Thumb sticks for fast, positive movement of the active AF area are becoming standard fare on modern cameras and some users have requested one of these on the LX100 Mk2.

    I would very much welcome one of these if it is optimally located and designed, with 8 way operation.


    * One thing which few users have asked for but which I would very much like to see is a return to the standard modern Mode Dial + Twin Control Dials for the main operating interface. 

    Some users say they like the Aperture Ring + Shutter Speed Dial + Exposure Compensation Dial utilised by the LX100 but my ergonomic analysis and personal experience is that driving the camera with this arrangement requires more actions each more complex than is the case with the modern control layout as seen on the G85 and many other cameras.

    In effect, the layout used on the LX100 moves changing aperture and shutter speed back from the Capture Phase of use (where they should be) to the Prepare Phase of use, just like my ancient Pentax Spotmatic of 1964.  That in my view is not progress.


    Complaints about faults

    Any camera could have some kind of fault but some in particular have been frequently reported by LX100 users.


    * Dust inside the lens and/or on the sensor has been reported frequently. Panasonic really needs to deal with this.


    * Focussing problems have also been frequently reported. These appear to be of two kinds. One is that the camera will not focus reliably at far distance.  The other is that the camera will mis-focus when presented with multiple bright lights such as reflections of strong sunlight from foliage.  Panasonic needs to fix this also.


    * My first LX100 suffered complete failure of the main circuit board, eventually fixed by Panasonic under warranty after a three month wait.


    My wish list

    Assuming Panasonic’s product development people decide to stay with the same basic concept, 4/3 sensor size and lens, I would like to see:

    * A fully articulated monitor

    * A larger, higher spec EVF with more effective eyepiece

    * The 20mpx sensor as used in the GH5 and G9

    * A thumbstick for moving AF area

    * A more accessible control lever (or whatever) for the multi-aspect ratio sensor

    * A standard modern Mode Dial + Twin Control Dial operating system

    * Improved and debugged autofocus system

    * An auto ISO system just like Sony’s [Auto ISO Min SS] which changes minimum shutter speed when focal length changes

    * A larger and better shaped handle and thumb support

    * Much improved resistance to dust incursion preferably using a fully weather resistant design.


    All this will make the camera a bit larger. So be it.


    I have expressed my thoughts about a premium compact camera in the mockup shown below. This is 9mm higher (to accommodate the larger viewfinder and monitor), 4mm wider and the same depth as the LX100.


    It has a fully evolved Mode Dial + Twin Control Dial + Thumb Stick layout just like an advanced ILC but is still small enough to be carried in a belt pouch.


    Advanced compact mockup top

    Advanced compact mockup front

     

    Advanced compact mockup rear





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    LX100 Mk1  We can expect a bit more detail from the Mk2 but any increase in dynamic range or reduction in high ISO noise seem unlikely


    The LX100 Mk2  which was officially announced yesterday has been one of the most eagerly awaited model updates in recent compact camera history. The four year product run of the original LX100 has produced several thoughtfully considered wishes by users for the updated model.


    I detailed these in the previous post.


    So on the basis of published specifications, what have we got with the LX100Mk2 ?


    Sadly, not much with several key requests by owners remaining unmet.


    I suspect the LX100Mk2 might be the victim of a restricted R&D budget, the problem being exacerbated by the profligate number of different Panasonic models and body styles currently on the market.  I will post a comment on this soon.


    As to the specifications Panasonic has apparently and I think  rightly decided the original concept was a good one so exactly the same body and lens are carried over.


    I have no problem with this but there has been no mention in the initial promotional material of any strategy to manage the widely reported issue of dust ingress into the lens and onto the sensor.


    The sensor and processor have been upgraded, apparently to the ones used in the GX9 which is pretty much as expected.


    I did notice that the effective image circle of the lens appears to have been slightly increased from 19.4 to 19.8mm. This is based on the image circle diagrams for the LX100 Mk1 and Mk2 published on the Digital Photography Review website and the published pixel counts.


    In the 4:3 aspect ratio the Mk1 provides 12.697 Mpx which is 79% of the total 16Mpx available for imaging.


    In the Mk2 the 4:3 ratio provides 16.82 Mpx which is 84% of the total  20Mpx available for imaging.


    There are also software upgrades as you would expect with the GX9 processor.  These endow the Mk2 with a number of functions which have been available on other Panasonic cameras for several years.


    There is no information yet as to whether the well reported autofocus issues with the Mk1 have been rectified.


    The two big disappointments are to do with the EVF and monitor.


    The EVF is carried over from the Mk1. Many users have asked for an improved EVF and also an improved eyepiece and eyecup. As Panasonic has better units available I find their use of the old EVF very disappointing.


    The Monitor has gained touch function which is welcome but remains stubbornly fixed which is most unwelcome and will make a lot of potential upgraders think again.  Panasonic has several articulated monitors available so their failure to include one on the Mk2 is most disappointing, particularly as the LX100 is Panasonic’s top tier advanced compact.


    Lastly there is no thumb stick for moving the active AF area. I assume the idea is that the touch screen will be used for this role and that may prove to be satisfactory. We shall see.


    Notwithstanding the disappointments I have pre-orderd an LX100Mk2 and will review it in due course. Nobody gives me cameras to review so I have to wait until it is available for sale in Australia.


    I will also post a comparison between the Canon G1X3, the Sony RX100(4) and the LX100(2).



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    Dolce vita   Bondi  LX100 

    In the heyday  of camera sales, around 2010-2011, many camera makers including Panasonic offered a plethora of models with annual updates.


    Following the crash in sales especially of fixed lens models over the last few years some makers have drastically pruned their catalogue to concentrate on what they consider to be their core product offerings.  In the process companies like Olympus, Fujifilm and Nikon have pretty much abandoned compacts altogether, unless by some stretch of imagination you think the P1000 could be called “compact”.


    This leaves Canon, Sony and Panasonic still offering a comprehensive catalogue of models in almost all categories.


    With the least sales of this trio, can Panasonic afford to continue offering so many models ?


    The LX100Mk2 was announced yesterday with barely enough changes to justify it being marketed as a new model. I suspect this lack of progress may be the result of Panasonic having insufficient R&D funds to upgrade all the models it produces.


    A major Australian camera vendor currently lists for Panasonic 12 fixed lens models and 8 interchangeable lens models, not counting various lens kits as a separate model.


    For the maker this must be burning up a lot of R&D money plus a lot of expenditure on inventory maintenance and manufacturing complexity.


    For the buyer the number of models is confusing with very little to differentiate many of them.


    I think that a smaller number of models each with better design and performance would be the best way forward for all concerned.


    So I have put together a few suggestions for Panasonic’s product development people.


    I have no idea if any of them read this blog but anyway………


    The product proposals which follow are based on some underlying ideas of mine.


    I think the future of camera photography lies with fixed zoom lens models.


    This does not include the previously common small snapshooter’s compacts most with no EVF. This market has been taken over by smartphones.


    I think that in the near future when small sensors have become good enough for just about any photographic purpose, interchangeable lens camera models (ILC) will become irrelevant for the majority of photographers.


    Already we have models like the Sony RX10Mk4 which is almost at the stage of being good enough for anything.


    It is hugely liberating to know that one does not have to buy, carry and mess about changing various different lenses.


    For the present, however there is a place for a carefully chosen catalogue of ILCs.


    Is there a place for cameras which use the previously ubiquitous “1/2.3 inch” (diagonal about 7.7mm) sensor ?   Some will say “no” because it can be difficult to get good image quality from this sensor size especially in low light.


    However the small sensor allows camera designers to fit a really long superzoom lens into a compact, easily managed package and I think that will have enduring appeal to many different kinds of photographers who want to capture birds, wildlife and such like on a limited  budget.


    I think every camera should have a built in EVF which is always ready for use without having to be raised.


    So here is my suggested camera line-up for Panasonic.


    Fixed lens models


    * One waterproof/shockproof  take-it-underwater, take-it anywhere model.


    * One model using the 7.7mm sensor. This should most logically be a bridge type superzoom with a proper handle and hump top housing an EVF. In terms of Panasonic’s existing models it would combine the best features of the FZ300 (wide aperture lens) and the FZ80 (60x zoom range). It would be a high performance model with capability greater than the FZ300.


    * One ultra wide angle compact using the “one inch” (15.9mm diagonal) or similar sized sensor and a lens in the range 15-20mm (full frame equivalent).  Before Nikon aborted its DL trio of compacts the one which attracted the most interest was the ultra wide angle variant.   This makes sense ergonomically. It is much easier to pull a compact out of the camera bag than it is to dismount and stow the standard lens, then remove the wide angle one from the bag and mount it.


    * One high capability, high performance bridge model with the 15.9mm or similar sized sensor to match or better the Sony RX10Mk4 which has no direct competition at the moment.

    Neither the FZ1000 or FZ2000  provides serious competition for the RX10Mk4.


    * One travel zoom. This is a popular category which I think would be better served by one really good model than the three or four on offer right now, (TZ80, TZ90, TZ100, TZ200), each of which is compromised as to the lens quality, sensor, or ergonomics. I think a focal length of around 200-300mm equivalent is plenty for this category.  The current TZ200 would be a good starting point for the shape and style of this camera.


    * One advanced compact. As envisaged by me this would sit above the current LX100 in specifications and capability and would be a genuine alternative to the traditional 24-70mm f2.8 zoom on a full frame ILC. My advanced compact concept mockup (see attached photos) illustrates what I have in mind.


    My concept mockup for an advanced compact


    Interchangeable lens models


    Panasonic has gotten itself into a complete mess in this section of the market with a muddled profusion of models which do not appear to form a coherent offering at all. There appears to be a mish-mash of legacy ideas and aimless pot-shots at the market with no overarching conceptual direction that I can discern. There are models without an EVF and various interpretations of both flat top rangefinder-style and hump top DSLR-style models all jumbled together in confusing fashion.


    I think the previously popular category of “entry level ILC” would be better served by a well specified travel zoom (see above).


    I would like to see just two Micro Four Thirds ILC bodies from Panasonic:


    * Enthusiast level, very much in line with the current G85 model in shape, size and operation.


    * Professional level, very much like the current GH series. This level could have a number of capabilities determined by firmware packages.


    Panasonic is currently pushing the notion that the G9 is mainly for stills photographers and the GH line for videographers. This just seems ridiculous to me when the GH line could easily enough be configured for either mainly stills, mainly video or both.


    Summary

    The basic thrust of this post is a request for fewer models each with a more clearly defined market position and each offering a higher level of capability than existing models.


    The total number of bodies would decrease from 20 to 8.


    Hopefully this would free up more R&D funds for each model and provide us photographers with better cameras.





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    Western Distributor, Sydney Not made with a FF MILC
    The Canon G1X3 compact was good enough



    Is FF MILC a hoax ?


    This month heraldsone of the more productive seasons in recent history for announcements of new models which actually are new.


    The photography internet is buzzing with news, reviews and comment about the new “full frame” mirrorless models from Nikon and Canon.


    What does “full frame” mean ?


    In the latter part of the 19th Century a new type of movie film was introduced. This was 35mm wide with sprocket holes on each side. The image frame size was 24x16mm with the long side across the run of the film.


    Then in the early part of the 20th Century the same film was used for still photography. The frame size was increased to 24x36mm this time with the long side along the run of the film. Still cameras using this “35mm” format appeared from about 1913 and became well known when Ernst Leitz 
    Camera (Leica) adopted the format.


    In the early days when “real” photographers used large format and medium format cameras, 35mm was known as “miniature” format and the even smaller 16mm (also using movie film) was the “sub-miniature”  format.


    Fast forward ninety years to the early days of digital photography and we saw camera makers wanting to control their R&D costs and keep prices down for consumers. Cameras which replaced the 24x36mm (diagonal 43mm) film format with a digital sensor “full frame” were prohibitively expensive so the “crop format” was introduced. Canon crop format, also known as “APS-C” as the size is similar to the short lived format of that name, uses a sensor 27mm on the diagonal, Sony and others use a 28mm diagonal.


    Thus over the last hundred years the “miniature format” has come to be known as “full frame”. 


    The thing which intrigues me is that Sony, with virtually no history in 35mm film or DSLR production and without a huge inventory of legacy lenses to consider chose a 100 year old format for its entry into the “full frame’ mirrorless world. 


    Why not use a circular sensor which could incorporate a multi-aspect ratio function providing landscape or portrait orientation without having to turn the camera through 90 degrees ?

    Canon and Nikon are forced by their own history to use a sensor size and aspect ratio which is compatible with their legacy lenses so their decision to stay with the old 24x36mm format is understandable.


    So  Sony, Leica, Nikon and Canon each for their own reasons has elected to stay with the old “35mm” format which looks to me like a giant lost opportunity for Sony at least.


    Anyway, on with my little story:


    Sony, leading the way as usual with new technology, started the trend to  full frame mirrorless ILCs with their A7 and A9 models.  The first generation A7 models in 2013 were a bit of a disaster with poor reliability, shutter shock, some dodgy lenses, poor ergonomics, poor battery life and a host of other problems. But Sony iterated quickly and enough customers liked what they were doing to make the enterprise viable.


    Now in their third generation the Mk3 versions of the A7 series are mostly well regarded products with a lot to offer serious enthusiast and professional photographers.


    Sony has never been very good with camera ergonomics however leading to ongoing issues with the user experience.


    Nikon (pronounced Nykon or Nikkon or Neekon depending on where you live) recently revealed their all-new Zee (or Zed, also depending on where you live) full frame MILC duo to a somewhat mixed early reception.  There have been grumbles from reviewers about the single card slot, the very small buffer, the AF system configuration and operation and various other matters.  As Nikon’s future as a camera maker depends heavily on the success of the Z program one might have expected they would resolve some of these issues in the planning stage.


    Canon has just joined the party with its all new EOS-R model and brand new lenses. As usual Canon has approached this new product type with a decidedly pedestrian, not-far-above-entry-level model. 


    It does threeframes per second  with AF-C in focus tracking priority mode……Wow ???

    It looks to me as though the EOS-R is seriously lacking in processor power, just like all the EOS-M models to date.


    It also appears Canon thinks the EOS-R will keep users happy despite lacking IBIS and without a thumb-stick for moving the AF area.


    Good luck with that given that the Sony A7/9 and Nikon Z6/7 do have these features as do the current top tier Panasonic M43 models so I think it highly likely these features will be included on any Panasonic full frame model.


    Both Nikon and Canon have been forced to invest in a completely new lens mount for their FF MILC enterprises, presumably making this an expensive R&D project for both companies. In addition they have to figure out what to do with their legacy DSLR camera line up.


    But wait: now we hear that Panasonic is about to make a foray into the full frame MILC arena with an announcement on 25 September.  No details have yet been leaked.

    Oh my goodness, it appears we will have five makers battling it out for a share of the FF MILC market. 


    Leica has been there with the SL since 2015 and to be strictly accurate Leica put the first mirrorless FF ILC, the M9,  on the market in 2009, but that had an optical viewfinder not an EVF.

    Why has there been an apparently sudden rush to produce full frame MILCs ?


    Well, it might appear sudden but my guess is that these projects have been in the R&D works for several years.


    Here are some of my thoughts on the FF MILC initiative:


    1.  Each of the FF MILCs which have been released by Sony, Nikon,  Canon and Leica has numerous problems regarding specifications, capabilities, performance or ergonomics which are sure to disappoint some potential users who are not already rusted-on brand faithful supporters. 


    Note that image quality is not likely to be a problem with any of them. The image quality available from each of these full frame models will far exceed the requirements of most users.

    Any significant differentiation between the brands and models will be in the user experience.

    This being so I think it is rather disappointing that there is some kind of user experience problem with each of them


    2. Of greater interest perhaps is the next question… Who needs them ?  This question devolves itself into two parts:


    2a. Who needsfull frame ?   

    Professional sports photographers, and maybe portrait photographers who need to blur out busy backgrounds.

    There may be a few minor additional reasons but blurring out cluttered backgrounds is the main one.   

    Nobody else needsfull frame.


    I fully understand that enthusiast photographers want the best gear they can afford because that is their mind set.


    Some of these people might think they need full frame to make “better”  photos.  But I think they are chasing rainbows.


    I have been using cameras to make photos for 65 years. I have been through the whole cycle of wanting better image quality and buying ever larger cameras to achieve this. The apogee of this cycle was the 4x5 inch view camera which I dragged around for several years causing permanent back damage in the process.


    Then I had an epiphany and realised that the best camera for me was the one which gave me “good enough” quality for my personal needs. I was greatly impressed by an exhibition of aerial  photos by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.  These had all been taken with the same 35mm film cameras which I owned and looked just fine when exhibited at poster size, greater than 1 meter on the long side.

    In the digital era I have come to realise that my cameras which use the so-called “one inch” (15.9mm diagonal) sensor are giving me even better image quality than I ever achieved with 35mm film.


    2b. Who needs a mirrorless ILC ?


    Nobody, really.

    MILCs do not make better pictures than DSLRs.


    Professional sports photographers are going to continue using their DSLRs because for the moment at least, these things have better continuous AF performance than MILCs.


    However some people might prefer the mirrorless variety as it does provide some actual or potential benefits to the user experience.


    These are, smaller body depth (there being no flipping mirror), easier design of ultrawide lenses, no viewfinder blackout (only available on a few models thus far), global shutter (coming, sometime), option for silent operation when looking through the viewfinder, better WYSIWYG experience when looking through the viewfinder, ability to configure the viewfinder and monitor to look the same for a seamless transition from one to the other and no need to calibrate lenses for focus accuracy..    


    3. So why are the main camera makers moving, herd like,  to full frame MILCs ?


    I suspect the answer to this in one word is “survival”, they hope.


    Let me recap here briefly:


    Only a very small number of photographers actually need full frame cameras.


    Nobody needs a FF mirrorless camera although some might prefer the user experience enabled by the better models.


    So the push for FF MILCs is not being driven so much by the consumers as by the makers.


    I think there are two reasons for this:


    The first is that in a few year’s time the only people left on the planet still using cameras to make pictures will be enthusiast amateurs and professionals.  These people will pay serious money to get what they consider to be the best possible gear. For many buyers a camera will be a vanity purchase.


    So the makers oblige by pushing their entire product lines up market. The customers are happy enough, we hope,  and the makers get more profit per unit which they desperately need.


    Second, either about now or in the near future MILCs will be less expensive to manufacture than DSLRs as  MILCs have fewer parts in total and fewer moving parts requiring accurate alignment.


    So on both counts the makers hope to make more money per unit than they are now doing.


    They need this in order to survive in a falling market.


    What about image quality ?


    I have been using smaller sensor, meaning smaller than “full frame”  cameras since the beginning of the digital era.


    I discovered 14 years ago that I could make high quality poster size prints about one meter on the long side from an 8Mpx  Canon EOS 20D which used the Canon 27mm “crop  sensor” size.


    Since then I have come to realise I can get excellent very large prints from micro four thirds cameras which have a sensor diagonal of 21.6mm and cameras which use the so-called “one inch” sensor with a diagonal of 15.9mm.


    What about Panasonic ?

    The strong rumor is that Panasonic will move into FF MILC territory soon. Why on earth would they do that ?


    They are already making excellent Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras which produce top quality results.


    I have no inside knowledge of course so I have to guess that their decision is likely motivated by the same desire for survival as the other manufacturers.


    The thing which matters is consumer perceptions which drive consumer behaviour and the pointy end of that is what people buy.


    If significant numbers of potential buyers think or believe for any reason, rational or otherwise that full frame is “better” or just want full frame for the heck of it then the maker had better be able to offer full frame or lose that sale to some other mob.


    It has nothing to do with image quality or even anything to do with making photographs.



    7 September 2018 update:  My main interest is in stills not video so the really obvious reason that Panasonic might want to move to a larger sensor slipped my mind at first. It is of course, 8K.

    Consider:

    1080P (2K if you will, although its not called that)  has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels for 2.07 Mpx.

    4K is 3840x2160 for 8.3 Mpx

    8K is 7680x4320 for 33.2 Mpx

    There have been plenty of rumors that Panasonic wants to hold/and/or extend its lead in video by moving to 8K and for that they need a sensor which gives 33.2Mpx in 16:9 aspect ratio.  With current technology that is likely too many pixels for the M4/3  21.6mm sensor. Hence the requirement for a larger sensor.

    Of course nobody actually needs 8K. Our TV set at home is 1080P and it looks just fine. Even 4K is over the top for most of us.

    However as I said above, the manufacturers are pushing these larger sensors for their benefit not yours or mine.

    7 September another update. My brain is a bit slow today, maybe every day, whatever. 
    It's about the 8K thing.

    It occurs to me that if a camera can shoot 8K preferably without rolling shutter effect, which implies  a global shutter or at least a very fast e-shutter scan speed then the difference between stills and video pretty much disappears. The user can just press the button and subsequently select stills or video as desired.

    If Panasonic can deliver a product which does that it will make existing models including all the recently announced FF MILCs look like antediluvian relics from a bygone era.

    At the top I of this post I put the provocative question “Is FF MILC a hoax”?


    No, well not deliberately.

    FF MILCs are no more a hoax than are medium format digital cameras, another category which hardly anybody actually needs.


    You may notice in all the promotional blurb about FF MILC s that the manufacturers carefully do notsay that their new wunderkamera line  makes better pictures than previous models.


    They are also not saying something like …”we offer you these products which we think are really good (and they mostly are with certain reservations) and if you the consumer are gullible enough to spend $5000 on a camera when a $2000 one would do the job just fine, then we have a product for you.”











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    Breakfast   Panasonic G85



    Warning - Complete guesswork here   


    Panasonic is due to  make some kind of big photography related announcement on 25 September.


    There has been much speculation on the internet as to the substance of this with several writers opining that a ‘full frame” camera (whatever that means) is on the cards.


    Not to be outdone here is my totally wild guess as to what might be forthcoming from Panasonic.


    1. Panasonic is heavily into video with rumors of an 8K camera to come. So I think 8K (7680x4320 px in 16:9 aspect ratio) is the first thing this new product (if the announcement is about a product) will bring.


    2. It will fully integrate stills and video capture in seamless fashion. The user will just press the button and start recording. The resulting frames can be used as video or single photos at will.


    3. It will have a multi-aspect-ratio sensor like the LX100.


    4. There will be no mechanical shutter. The camera will use a global shutter or very fast scanning e-shutter to minimise rolling shutter effect.


    5. If the pixel pitch is the same as existing 20 Mpx M43 sensors then the image circle will need to be about 29.4mm, say 30mm.

    This compares to 43mm for traditional 24x36mm full frame, and 27/28mm for APS-C.  An image circle around this size would allow the deployment of smaller, lighter lenses than are required for the full 24x36mm format.


    6. The M43 lens mount has an internal diameter of about 38mm which is larger than it really needs to be for the M43 sensor, so  the larger sensor could fit into the existing mount, using the ratio of  inner mount diameter to image circle (1.25) on the EOS R as a guide.   However the data connection pins appear to be  in the wrong place for a larger sensor.  There is a rumor that they will use a wider lens mount with shorter flangeback distance. If there is no focal plane shutter or even with one, that could be done and an adapter could be used to accept existing M43 lenses.

    7. If Panasonic can actually do all this they will have built a category creating new product which will make all existing cameras look like throwbacks to a previous era.


    I think the recent full frame mirrorless interchangeable lens offerings from Sony, Nikon, Canon and Leica are all boring, based on an imager size over 100 years old and lacking an adventurous approach to the whole business of imaging.  Some of the lenses are huge, heavy and expensive. The focal plane shutters are noisy and limit continuous shooting performance.


    As camera sales continue to fall the big players have become cautious and risk averse which is understandable and might be successful in the short term. But I think that in the longer run he (or she, or they) who dares wins.


    We shall see.




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    Hitch hiking on the mirrorless bandwagon ?

    Three weeks ago I posted some wild guesses about Panasonic’s Lumix brand entry into the hotly contested full frame mirrorless ILC market.


    Well their planned entry anyway. In fact they made an announcement of intent to make an announcement about actual products next year.


    Presumably this early pre-announcement was to give potential Lumix buyers pause about buying a Sony, Nikon or Canon product.


    My post was really a wish-list of features I wanted the new full frame Lumix system to have.


    The reality, or at least pre-announced probability was considerably less interesting.


    I hoped to see:


    1. 8K video, not because I think anyone actually needs 8K video but because it could potentially close the gap between stills and video allowing an output which could be used for either purpose.

    Anyway it appears they are aiming for 8K in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.

    So I was right but a bit premature on the 8K thing.


    2. There is no multi aspect ratio sensor. The working prototypes on show had bog-standard, 100 year old 24x36mm sensors. Boo.


    3. No global shutter either. Boo again. All the MILCs still have focal plane shutters. I hate these things. They are noisy, they sound like little jack hammers in burst mode, they slow down the response of the camera to pressing the shutter button and they carry the potential risk of shutter shock.


    4. They chose the established Leica L Mount. I understand the logic of this but now we have M43 and L mount each with a flangeback distance of 20mm making it impossible to fit an adapter from one to the other.


    5. The prototypes  on display had monitors of the swing-up-swing-down-swing-up at 90 degrees type, just like some other cameras including current Fuji models. Boo, double boo.

    Having used just about every type of articulating monitor there is I am firmly of the view that the fully articulating type as seen on the Canon EOS-R and various others including the Lumix G9 and GH5 is the most satisfactory over all and the best for vlogging.

    I am well aware that some camera users do not share this view. So be it.


    6. I really wanted Panasonic to think out of the box and produce a category creator product. Sadly this has not been the case.


    Instead we have just another me-too trying to jump onto the ever shrinking bandwagon of full frame mirrorless.


    I think I understand what they are trying to do. History shows that the brand(s) which get control of the high ground of professional photography also get the lion’s share of the consumer market. The reason for this is simple.   Buyers look at what brand(s) professionals use and say to themselves “I will get one of those”. This makes perfect sense to the consumer bewildered by all the confusing claims being made by competing manufacturers.


    For many years Canon and Nikon  have commanded the professional market.

    Many others have tried but failed to break in to that market and in due course their sales have  dwindled, in some cases to the point of extinction.


    A further problem is that the number of professional photographers is declining as news media come to rely on multiple alternative sources for their images.


    So I think Sony and Panasonic have an uphill battle ahead of them with Panasonic having the hardest task coming in last to the FF MILC market.


    That is why I still think they need to come up with products which are outstandingly better in every way to those from the market leaders.


    I wish Panasonic well with the Lumix S venture but I have difficulty imagining why a Sony, Canon or Nikon user would jump ship based on products and support levels currently announced.


    My intentions ?

    I do not care for any of the full frame digital cameras, mirrorless or DSLR. Cameras with one of the smaller formats have plenty of image quality and capability for my needs and are smaller, lighter and less expensive.

    Why buy a bus when a compact car will do the job just fine ?



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    Godafoss, Iceland.  Lumix LX100
    You really don't need full frame or medium format to make good pictures


    “Curioser and curioser”  said Alice as she grew much larger after eating the small cake labelled “eat me”.


    As I  think about this year’s Photokina offerings it seems to me that the whole thing is rather like Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland with most of the participants apparently having over indulged in magic booster cake.


    The theme of this year’s show is BIG….BIGGER……More BIGGERER………


    All shall grow until their heads like Alice’s bang into the ceiling.


    If cameras are about photographs and imaging the point of all this bigness escapes me completely.


    Only  a very small number of professional photographers could in all honesty convince themselves that they actually need most of the products on show this week in Cologne.


    Reviewer Lok Cheung described this, correctly in my view, as a “crazy” Photokina.


    I think these new cameras have very little to do with photography and a great deal to do with marketing and in particular the desire of camera companies to entice their customers upmarket where  profit margins are attractive.


    In the process decent cameras which make good pictures at moderate prices have been sorely neglected.


    The old aphorism “perfect is the enemy of good” certainly applies here.


    Let’s go through some of this year’s offerings in alphabetical order:


    Canon 

    Canon sells more cameras than any other maker so it appears they are better at  marketing than the other players.


    But I still have difficulty understanding their product strategy.


    Having owned and used a G1X3 and an EOS-M50 I can say with some confidence that the 27mm diagonal (APS-C) sensor in these cameras is easily good enough for the vast majority of photographic purposes. If Canon upgraded the EOS-M5 with a fast processor, a much higher level of performance and a few really good lenses I think they would have a winner good enough for enthusiast and many professional uses.


    Professional sports photographers are still going to use one of the top line DSLRs for their fast Servo AF and ability to blur busy backgrounds.


    So where does the EOS-R fit into all this?  The camera itself is a bit weird with no Mode Dial, a strange touchy/stroky bar thingy for the right thumb, no thumbstick to position the AF area,  no IBIS,  a dial-like ON/OFF switch taking up space to the left of the viewfinder and an amazing AF Servo rate of three !! frames per second in tracking priority mode. (that’s the one where you want the subject to be in focus….duh…..)


    At least it has a monitor which can be turned to face forwards.  Or not, if you wish.


    It seems to me that the EOS-R is Canon’s way of pushing into a higher profit full frame system those enthusiast photographers whose needs could easily be met by a decently implemented version of the crop sensor M5 plus some really good lenses. 


    But Canon’s product development strategy would suggest it doesn’t want to go there and doesn’t want its customers to go there either .


    The whole exercise appears to me to be mostly about Canon’s needs not those of consumers.


    At the same time Canon announced the Powershot SX70 which has the SX60 body and lens with a higher pixel sensor and a new processor, both probably the same as those seen in the SX740.  


    I bought an SX60 some time ago and was most disappointed by its image quality, controls and performance. Many contributors to Canon user forums have observed that the SX50 which was released in 2012 (!!!) makes better pictures.


    I actually think that compact superzoom cameras like the SX60/70 could be much more appealing than is now the case if the makers wanted them to be so.


    The SX60/70 is just the right size for comfortable carrying, holding and operating. It has a very well designed handle. The overall concept and zoom range are very appealing. If cameras like this were fitted with a high quality lens (which the SX60 decidedly does not have) and a better quality sensor and processor they could become a very attractive option as a one-camera-for-all-purposes option for many users.


    But we can’t have that can we ?  Oh no. The profit margin per unit is too low. At least it is at the present price point. But if the makers put really good lenses, sensors and processors in these cameras they could charge substantially more, keeping users and makers both happy.

    But then the users wouldn’t need those high priced mirrorless interchangeable lens models would they ?     And we can’t have that either. Oh no.


    I can see and appreciate the dilemma for all the camera makers, not just Canon.


    But in their desire, maybe need, to keep profits up with high value products they are neglecting development of more useful, consumer friendly good-enough products for people with modest ambitions and budgets.


    Fujifilm

    Apparently Fuji is on a roll with its 50 Mpx medium format models which are reported to be selling well.

    This I take as proof positive that the camera market is no longer a rational place, assuming it ever was.


    I can see that there might be a few photographers in the style of say,  Annie Leibovitz who could make use of these high megapixel cameras to produce huge highly detailed  billboards.


    But I bet that most affluent enthusiasts who buy one of these things don’t need it at all and cannot really make use of its imaging capabilities.


    But wait, there’s more. Yes folks,  if for some unknown reason you thought 50 Mpx was not enough, Fuji is going to develop a 100Mpx model.


    If the 50Mpx models are like a bus then the 100 Mpx model will be like a double decker bus.


    All this in a world where a compact hatch model will get you there just fine.


    Actually Fuji also makes budget cameras which are reported to make good pictures so one could say they take an ecumenical approach to the whole thing.


    Leica

    The wonder of all wonders in the camera world is that Leica has survived and apparently prospers despite a few corporate near death experiences a few years ago. They have managed this by supplying a mis-matched range of wildly overpriced models which nobody actually needs.

    And now comes the S3. For those who are unaware, the S3 is a medium format digital SLR camera which is huge and ridiculously expensive. Yes, a DSLR when everybody including Leica (!!) is going mirrorless. It updates the S2 which was released in 2008, with a new 65 Mpx sensor.


    Just out of idle curiosity I went to the website of the Leica shop in Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building and priced the S2, lenses and accessories.  The S2 body only is listed at AUD27,500.

    If one was to invest in a selection of lenses from 30mm to 180mm the total cost would be, depending on exactly what was selected, in the vicinity of AUD80,000.

    That’s about 100x more than you need to spend to get a camera which makes really good pictures.  

    Oh well I guess that proves there is a market in the camera world for the conspicuous consumption of prestige products.


    That is not a trivial observation.


    I think the whole camera market is headed in the direction of high priced, prestige products.


    Anyway that is what the makers want to sell. We shall see if the buyers want to play.


    Nikon

    Some of us will have to stop saying “nikkon” and start using the pronunciation used by Nikon execs themselves which is “nycon”.


    Although it was released prior to Photokina I have to mention the Coolpix P1000.


    I began this post with a reference to Alice in Wonderland and her alarming growth spurt.


    Well it seems that Nikon’s product development people have embraced the whole Wonderland super growth experience with the P1000.


    I  have bought, owned and used the B700 and P900 models so I am quite familiar with  Nikon’s recent bridge camera offerings.


    I think the B700 has real prospects. It has decent image quality, a decent lens with a very useful zoom range, is compact and nice to hold.  It  is however seriously let down by a sluggish processor leading to poor performance and many frustrations with the user experience. With a (much) faster processor and a complete rethink of the way all the controls engage with the user a successor to the B700 could be a really attractive all purpose camera.


    I found the P900 a much less engaging proposition. Although the lens reaches out to an effective 2000mm I found that over about 1200mm the process of making pictures got very difficult. It is difficult to locate one’s subject and keep it in the frame, lens  quality declines at the long end, autofocus is sluggish and unreliable and performance is poor.


    I see the P1000 as just a revamped P900 with an even longer lens which in the real world will prove very difficult to use and in fact I think it will be difficult to find a use for it, once new owners get over the WOW-look-at-that initial excitement.


    If I was to give an award for the silliest camera of the year (and I might do that) the P1000 would be a short list candidate.


    Of course the main event for Nikon this year is their entry into the full frame Mirrorless ILC market with the Z6 and Z7 models. You can read and view endless analysis of these cameras elsewhere. The main issues I have with them are the same ones I have with the Canon EOS-R.


    They are underspecified models whose place in the market is not altogether clear. From Nikon’s perspective I guess they represent an entry to the FFMILC arena. Better late than never, I suppose.


    From a consumer’s perspective things are not so clear. As with Canon,  professionals and particularly those doing sport/action will stick with their high end DSLRs.


    Enthusiast amateurs (if they elect to stay with Nikon) will pretty much be forced into the FFMILC stream whether they like it or not. 


    As with Canon,  Nikon’s product development record is clearly designed to encourage the  faithful to move up from APS-C to full frame.  And more profits for Nikon, they hope.

    Hmmmm……


    Panasonic (Lumix)

    I put the “Lumix” in there because Panasonic has been trying, in half hearted fashion it seems to me to promote the LUMIX brand for its cameras for many years without much apparent success.


    Anyway the big event for Panasonic this year is of course the L Mount consortium announcement with Leica and Sigma.


    Panasonic, Lumix, whatever, has announced with much fanfare,  that it will announce two new FFMILCs next year, the Lumix S1 and S1R.  Let’s hope they actually deliver.


    I for one am fed up with camera companies announcing proposed future announcements.


    Some reviewers who have had their hands on all four (Sony A7Mk3, Nikon Z6/7, Canon EOS-R and Lumix S1) FFMILCs have indicated they feel the Lumix models have the best ergonomics, best handle and best control layout so that is something in favour of the new Lumix adventure.


    Whether the new models will entice anyone up from M43 or across from the other brands remains to be seen. I am skeptical but we shall see.


    Just to demonstrate they have not forgotten about Micro Four Thirds, the Lumix guys announced another announcement for some indeterminate future time of a 10-25mm (equivalent to 20-50mm) constant f1.7 zoom lens for M43. Looking at screen shots of the presentation slides this appears to be a giant lens which will no doubt be very expensive.


    Maybe it will find a place in a professional videography kit.  On reflection I think that is most likely what it is all about.


    I am more concerned by the things which Panasonic did not announce this year.


    * There is still no bridge model to compete with the Sony RX10Mk4.


    * The LX100Mk2 is underdone for a camera which is going to come on at almost double the price of the outgoing Mk1 version. The lack of an articulated monitor and updated EVF are particularly disappointing.


    * No update for the G85.

    Ricoh

    Look, Ricoh still makes cameras. Well, someone does and they have a Ricoh label.


    This year we have another announcement of an announcement of the proposed development of the GR3 which appears to be a mild update of the GR2. Eagle eyed Ricoh aficionados have apparently spotted some minor wandering of various buttons.


    If this thing had a built in EVF it might have considerably wider appeal than is presently the case.


    Sigma

    Sigma gets a mention because it has signed on to the L Mount triumvirate with various announcements about the possibility of further announcements about possible products maybe including a camera and probably some lenses.


    Sony

    Sony had an uncharacteristically quiet time at Photokina this year. Their contribution was yet more announcements about the likelihood of further announcements about 12 more lenses for the E mount.  Full frame ? Crop frame ?  Who knows ?


    Zeiss

    Zeiss is a long established company with a record of optical excellence. My Sony RX10Mk4 has a Zeiss branded lens which is very good indeed.


    Now they have decided to put their esteemed name on  a digital camera, the first to wear the Zeiss brand.


    The ZX1 is certainly the most unusual, innovative and maybe courageous offering shown this year. 

    Everything about it breaks from the usual camera conventions. It challenges the concept and operation of the camera genre on many levels.


    It runs on Android, has a huge touch screen but no memory card and can run a version of Lightroom in camera.


    It sure is different. We shall see if buyers are prepared to put their money down for such an adventurous product.


    This is the camera ergonomics blog so of course the thing which attracted my attention was the shape of the thing and particularly the handle if that is what you could call the odd looking hump on the right side.


    It reminds me of two other cameras. 

    First is the Sigma dp(x) Quattro series of four fixed lens models each having a very unusual shape. These were not exactly a great hit with buyers and seem to be unavailable in Australia although I see they are on special order at B&H in New York.


    The second is the Leica TL you know, the one Leica billed as having been milled from a solid block of aluminium.  Or unobtanium. Or something. Expensive.  I was recently watching a video review of the Leica CL by Chris Nicholls. In the process of comparing the CL with the TL he said that the TL was a camera one either loved or hated and no-one loved it.


    Well, the Zeiss ZX1 looks rather like that.


    The “handle” is super smooth and shaped like no human hand. There is no thumb rest.  How does anyone get a grip on this thing ?


    What is the point of all that innovative technology if the would-be user can’t hold the device safely ?


    I would say this one is definitely “courageous” in the “Yes Minister” sense of the word.


    We live in interesting times……………..













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    Paddys Markets  Lumix LX100  13Mpx
    Photokina this year brought a virtual tsunami of new products, some with ultra high pixel counts, one with an ultra zoom lens.


    Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Lumix and Sony each showed one or more product lines tempting potential buyers to move up market to something bigger, supposedly better and certainly more expensive.


    So great has been the allocation of R&D resources to these new high value products and systems that development of decent cameras in a lower price bracket has slowed or in some cases possibly stopped altogether.


    The lure of these new full frame and medium format cameras is the hope that users will be able to make better pictures with these products than they could  with smaller sensor cameras at a lower price point.


    Note that the camera companies very carefully do not actually claim that you will make better pictures with their latest product(s). They know perfectly well that good photos are made in front of (the subject) and behind (the user) the camera, not so much in the camera.


    They tempt enthusiast photographers with more pixels, faster frame rates,  better numbers for dynamic range, high ISO noise and color reproduction.  They aim to profit from the common malady suffered by enthusiast photographers known as G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome).


    Reviewers, many of whom are given cameras on loan to review play up to this. They say ….”camera A makes really good pictures but camera B with a larger sensor (more pixels, whatever) makes even better pictures because it has more dynamic range (less high ISO noise, whatever)”


    The implication is you should buy camera B which by the way is more expensive, larger and heavier and delivers a greater profit margin to those who make and sell it.


    My thesis in this post is that you might like to think twice about buying camera B if camera A will do the job which you require of it.


    May I digress briefly with a transport analogy:


    If I want to drive four people across the city (Sydney, as it happens) a very suitable vehicle is my little Honda Jazz. It does the job with no problems whatever at a modest cost.


    Would a seven seat SUV be “better” for this job ?  Of course not. It’s overkill.


    What about a bus that can take 50 people ?  No ? Even more ridiculous overkill.


    There are in fact thousands of seven seater SUVs running around town transporting one or two persons at a time.   This makes no sense but there it is.


    The camera market is like the car market in some ways.


    For the great majority of tasks which most photographers require their cameras to perform almost any modestly priced mid range model will do the job just fine.


    Most  photographic assignments do not need a dynamic range of 15 stops or invisible luminance noise at ISO 12800 or 50 million pixels on the sensor.


    For challenging assignments mid price cameras can do the job perfectly well with a little ingenuity. 

    Extremely high subject brightness range can be tamed by exposure bracketing then in-camera or post capture processing. Extremely low light levels can be managed with image stabiliser capability or simply a tripod, or resting the camera on a wall or similar. Even 8-10Mpx files can be used to make very large prints with appropriate image editing.


    How many pixels is enough ?

    What is the resolution of the monitor screen you are now using ?  Mine is 1920x1080 dots. That is 2, yes, 2, megapixels. Pictures and text look very sharp and clear on this monitor.


    Our household TV screen has the same resolution although it is much larger, 102x58 cm.  Photos displayed on this screen look sharp and clear provided they were technically good in the first place.

    So you need 2 Mpx for sharp pictures. Any more is a bonus.  A sensor with 8 Mpx can do a fine job, 16 Mpx is more than enough even for huge prints.


    What size sensor is big enough ?

    I have made excellent A2+ sized prints from cameras with the tiny so-called ½.3inch sensor.There is no fixed standard for this sensor size but most of them are around 4.5x6.2mm for a diagonal of about 7.7mm.  But I have also seen too many mushy, grainy results from cameras with this sensor size.

    For reliably pleasing results in a range of conditions including low light I have found the so-called “one inch” sensor which is actually 8.8x13.2mm for a diagonal of 15.9mm does a good job.


    Current 16 and 20Mpx versions of the Micro Four Thirds sensor (17.3x13mm, diagonal 21.6mm) can deliver excellent results in any conditions with appropriate lens selection and usage practices.


    The only intractable issue with small sensors which is locked into the characteristics of optics is depth of focus. This means that achieving out of focus backgrounds is more difficult with small sensors than larger sensors.  So if you want backgrounds out of focus, the bigger sensor is better.


    Conversely of course if you want everything from foreground to background in focus, the smaller sensor is better. The photo at the top of this post was shot at f1.7 on a sensor with effective diameter about 19.2mm (the LX100 uses a cropped M43 sensor). 


    Summary

    Buying a bigger camera in the expectation of better pictures is an exercise in futility for most enthusiast photographers.  Be careful what you wish for.




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    Feeding time at the zoo. Sony RX10Mk4

    As I looked through the list of new and refreshed products announced at Photokina this year I realised that I have no interest in buying any of them.


    Why ?


    1.1  I hate the whole clumsy, clunky business of having to change lenses. I did this for 50 years and never want to go back to it. I have found the process of changing lenses to be the most ergonomically disruptive aspect of camera use that I have encountered in my 65 years of making photographs. 


    So I have no interest in any of the interchangeable lens models being proudly displayed by the various makers.


    1.2  I hate lens mounts. They are the curse of modern camera design. The argument for lens mounts is that they enable interchangeable lenses. What is less often mentioned is that they substantially make multiple lenses necessary.


    Fixed lens models can utilise zooms of highly efficient optical and mechanical design which can be much smaller or have a wider aperture (or both) than lenses separated from the body by a mount.

    By removing the lens mount Canon was able to fit into the G1X3 a lens of the same focal length range as that on the M5  with a slightly wider aperture. My copy of the G1X3 lens is sharper all round than the ILC 15-45mm.
    The size difference is obvious.

    Same story with these Lumix models. On the left the G9X with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens. The LX100 Mk2 on the right uses the same sensor but cropped to about 90% of the linear measurement. The lens aperture on the LX100Mk2 is two stops wider than that of the 14-42mm even though the package is much smaller.

    2. I hate focal plane shutters. They are loud, they sound like  little jack hammers in burst mode, they limit camera performance and can produce shutter shock in some situations.


    Most of  the interchangeable lens models announced still have a focal plane shutter. (some of the medium format models offer lenses with a leaf shutter)


    If the sensor makers have not yet gotten global shutter technology ready for the consumer market I will go for cameras which use a leaf shutter in the lens. These are almost silent and have very low inertia.  Thus they can respond very quickly when the shutter button is pressed  and as far as I am aware have not been reported to produce shutter shock.


    3. I have no interest in single focal length lenses be they fixed to the camera or interchangeable. Zooms are now so good I use them all the time.   So I am not interested in any camera which has a single focal length lens.


    4. I will not buy any camera which lacks a built in EVF.   I live in Sydney and travel around Australia and have found cameras without a built in viewfinder pretty much useless in bright sunlight.

    I also have long ago given up using optical viewfinders. These simply do not have the WYSIWYG capability of a good EVF.


    5. I hate big cameras. They are heavy, they attract sometimes unwanted attention to themselves and they are generally expensive.


    6. I hate the appearance of pictures made with on-camera flash. So for low light/indoors work I want a camera with a wide aperture lens.


    I prefer bridge cameras and compacts.    These form the basis of my two camera kit as described below.


    I base my camera kit on an indoors/low light-vs-outdoors/action paradigm.


    For my purposes the best type of camera for indoors/low light is an advanced zoom compact.  Some of these have a wide aperture lens giving good low light capability.


    My picks in this category are:


    * One of the Sony RX100 variants. I have the Mk4 which does a good job. The Mk5 is also reported to perform very well although the high speed sensor seems like overkill for this type of camera and better suited to the RX10Mk4 (see below).


    * Panasonic Lumix LX100, original or Mk2. I sold my LX100 and pre-ordered a Mk2 which has not yet arrived. The Mk2 is a Mk1 with the sensor and processor from the GX9 plus a touch screen.

    Nothing else really appeals. The G5X might if Canon ever decides to release a Mk2 version with a faster processor and better lens than the original.


    I have a G1XMk3 which is a decent camera but not best suited to low light/indoors work due to the small aperture of the lens which is 1.5-2 stops slower than that on the LX100.


    For outdoors/actionI prefer an advanced bridge model.  The list of suitable candidates here is even shorter.


    * I prefer and use the Sony RX10Mk4. This thing delivers super-camera performance, has an excellent lens and good image quality. It is best suited to outdoors work but is not bad indoors due to the decently wide lens aperture. The only aspect of the RX10Mk4 which I find less than fully satisfying is the ergonomics which could easily be improved with some minor changes to the design and user interface.


    The RX10Mk4 can handle just about anything outdoors from landscape to birds in flight.


    * Next best I rate the ageing Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 which is still a very good camera but the performance, lens focal length range and continuous AF capability are not quite up to that of the Sony.


    Unfortunately R&D in both these types of camera appears to have stalled in recent times with a sharp decline in the rate of new models.


    This is a big disappointment to me. It seems the camera companies have (almost) all decided that their fortunes lie in the full frame mirrorless ILC sector in which I have no interest at all.

    I can make excellent big prints of any desired size from cameras which use the so called “one inch (15.9mm diagonal) and “four thirds” (19.4mm diagonal when cropped as in the LX100) size sensors.


    You may read pontifications from armchair experts claiming that only a “full frame” sensor can deliver good pictures. This is complete nonsense and likely a case of someone trying to justify having spent more money on a camera kit than was necessary.


    To camera kit in Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 25i bag. The compact pictured is a Canon Powershot G1X3 which will be replaced by a Lumix LX100Mk2 when that finally arrives, having been pre-ordered three months ago.  This kit is compact, light and easy to carry and I never have to change lenses.




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    Silver Gull. Sony RX10 Mk4, a good camera for birds in flight.


    One of the most remarkable things about the new crop of full frame mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (FFMILC) announced at this years Photokina has been the persistence of the 100 year old 24x36mm imaging sensor size.


    The makers of these cameras want you to believe that they have brought forth a revolution in photography. Nonsense. At best we are witnessing a process of evolution.  

    Even the otherwise avant garde Zeiss ZX1 uses this sensor, presumably because that is all they could get from Sony, probably the maker of the sensor and possibly the camera.


    But if any camera maker was to ask me what kind of sensor I actually want  I would say “DOMAR”  

    That is the acronym of “dual orientation multi aspect ratio.”


    Here is the thing: I do not understand why 18 years into the 21st Century photographers still have to turn their camera over to shoot portrait orientation.


    I want a camera which I hold always in the same position, corresponding to landscape orientation with most modern digital models.


    I want a camera in which I can easily and quickly, by turning a dial or lens ring or sliding a lever, change from landscape to portrait orientation and from 1:1 to 5:4 to 4:3 to 3:1 to 16:9 aspect ratio while looking through the viewfinder and without having to move the camera at all.


    How might this be achieved ?


    Consider that a camera lens projects a circular image onto the focal plane.  No camera known to me fully utilises this.


    But a circular sensor the same size as the image circle of the lens could be a DOMAR.


    Like this:


    DOMAR circular sensor



    If there are technical problems manufacturing a circular sensor the DOMAR concept could be achieved with a square sensor.  The image circle of the lens is smaller than the diagonal of the sensor.  There is no need to flip the camera over for portrait orientation and multi aspect ratio capability is readily achieved in either landscape or portrait orientation.


    DOMAR  square sensor



    Either of these DOMAR sensors would probably fit best into a camera with a fixed lens, there being no discrete lens mount to interfere with the DOMAR implementation.


    Combine a DOMAR sensor with a full global shutter and we might be seeing something a bit more revolutionary. These are features which really would benefit camera users.



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    Hovering birds like this kestrel are reasonably easy to photograph


    The Sony RX10Mk4 is the best camera I have yet used for capturing birds in flight. It is fast and  responsive with the ability to follow focus on a moving subject at 24 frames per second for stills. In other words it can shoot stills at video speed with each frame separately focussed.


    That gives it the fastest AFC performance of any camera at the time of writing this post.


    Some contributors to user groups have opined that the RX10Mk4 is “too expensive”.


    Forgive them for they know not that of which they speak.  Where else can you get a 24-600mm (equivalent)  lens with very high quality right across the focal length and aperture range ?


    Right now you can buy an RX10Mk4 from a large Sydney camera retailer for AUD2123.

    From the same source, Sony’s pro level full frame sport/action camera, the A9 with  100-400mm and 24-105mm lenses will set you back AUD9907.


    I think the RX10Mk4 is one of the great camera bargains of the 21st Century with a level of capability and performance way beyond that of any previous bridge camera.


    Many contributors to Cybershot user forums have reported very favourably about the high level of follow focus capability offered by the RX10Mk4.


    Would the A9 with the heavy artillery lens kit be better ?  I don’t know and am never going to spend ten thousand bucks to find out.


    I do know however that the RX10Mk4 is pretty darn good and certainly good enough for BIF which is one of the most difficult challenges you can present to a camera.


    Large birds like this pelican are also reasonably easy to photograph. The fly straight and are big enough that you don't have to be very close.


    Expectations

    In general photography one expects most photos to be at least technically acceptable.


    Nothing like that is possible with BIF.


    My experience is that depending on the species of bird as many as 50% of frames miss the bird altogether.  It is VERY difficult to keep flying birds in the frame.  So you need to give the bird lots of space in the viewfinder and expect to crop a lot later.


    Expect a low percentage of keepers with BIF even with the best possible equipment and technique. 


    At first you will probably call any bird reasonably sharp and with both wings in the frame a keeper. 

    But after some practice you will get more picky and want to keep only the really good shots.


    As a general guide I rate about 2% of frames as keepers.


    Don’t be discouraged by this. At 10fps it only takes 10 seconds to make 100 frames. In a BIF session 

    I not uncommonly shoot 500+ frames. If I get 10 decent BIF shots in a session I regard that as a very good result.


    Trying to do BIFs in low light is an exercise in frustration. I find it is not often successful.


    Camera settings

    As a general principle I want the camera running automatically. BIF places heavy demands on both camera and photographer so the more things operate automatically the better. There is no opportunity for the user to check camera settings in the middle of a shooting sequence.


    Here is a list of the settings which I use and the button to which I allocate the function. Other users have different ideas about the best settings and button assignments. The permutations and combinations are almost limitless.


    * Lens focal length. I find 300-400mm (equivalent) often useful. 600mm is usable but requires a lot of practice just to keep the bird in the frame. Any longer will not be useful for most birds in flight.


    * ISO (C1) Auto.


    * ISO AUTO MIN SS (C2) Faster.


    * P Mode.


    * Focus Area (C3) for bird-against-sky I use Wide.  This is to allow the camera to focus on the bird anywhere in the frame.

     For bird-against-background I use Flexible Spot L in the center of the frame.  This is because [Wide] will focus on background trees, foliage and similar.


    * Function Button items: AWB, DRO Auto, Center Lock-on AF OFF, Shutter type Auto, Creative Style -2, 0, 0, Metering Mode Multi, Grid lines OFF.


    * Steady shot (cross keys left) ON.


    * Drive Mode (cross keys right) Continuous Mid (10fps). Why not continuous High (24 fps) ?    This after all is the RX10Mk4’s party trick which no other camera can do.


    There are two reasons I stay with the 10fps speed.


    First, 24 fps generates so many frames so quickly they become a burden when time comes to review them in post.


    Second, I get a slightly higher keeper rate at 10fps.


    * Quality (cross keys down), I have tried both RAW and JPG X-Fine. JPG allows you to shoot more frames in a burst but RAW allows more control of highlight and shadow detail, sharpness…etc in post processing.


    * Disp (cross keys up) Clear the screen. Level gauge off, on-screen data OFF, grid lines OFF.


    * I activate AF with the shutter button. I do not use back button focus. Others like to use the AEL button to initiate focus. But I find that the process of capturing BIF is demanding enough without having to remember to press two buttons.


    * Focus Mode rotary controller. That is the sneaky little dial bottom left on the front of the camera which I frequently forget to change because it is out of sight and therefore out of mind. Turn it to C.


    MR Mode on the Mode Dial

    When you have all the settings in place go to Menu>Camera1> Camera1/Camera2 Memory and assign the settings to position 1, 2 or 3 at MR on the Mode Dial.

    This enables you to make most of the required settings in one move.


    * Use a big, fast memory card and a spare and have a couple of spare batteries ready.


    The user experience

    At first the process of trying to photograph BIF can feel incredibly frustrating.

    Medium sized birds operate on a time scale about 10x faster than humans. They will often be in and out of the viewfinder in about 0.1 seconds.


    If you are accustomed to photographing static, co-operative subjects you will have to develop an entirely different approach.  This is sometimes unkindly referred to a “spray and pray”.


    There is in fact a good deal more to it than prayer.  The essence of the technique is to start pressing the shutter button down beforeyou have the shot lined up. If you wait until the bird is framed up nicely you will never do BIF.


    Always view through the EVF. This allows you to hold the camera securely and gives the best view of the subject. If you have your right eye at the EVF you can use your left eye to simultaneously scope a wider view of the scene ahead.


    This is a brief summary of a few tips I have picked up over the years.


    * Learn about the habits and behaviour of birds, where and when to find them.

    At many locations birds often have a circuit. If you stand still for a while and observe this will become evident.


    * Birds like to launch themselves into flight upwind. If you can get up-wind and up-sun of the bird(s) photo ops can arise.


    * Don’t chase birds around. Stay still. They will come back in a while. The carpark adjacent to a known bird area is often the best place for bird observation believe it or not.


    * Start with birds perched to get accustomed to the idea of shooting fast.


    * Graduate to water birds at your local park. The ducks will come up looking for a feed and are easy to photograph as they swim along.


    * If you live near the sea move on to gulls. These are often numerous, fairly large as birds go, they will come in close to humans and their flight patterns are somewhat predictable.


    * Birds which hover are reasonably easy to photograph. Some will come down quite close if you are in the right spot.


    * Practice………………….a lot………………..





     









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      This subject provides a challenge for any camera with high brightness range, movement, light sources in frame and lots of detail. No problem for the LX100M2 hand held at f2. I included the sign for the Leica shop which you can see in the top right quarter of the frame. I could go up there and buy a Leica Q for the price of five LX100M2 s but have resisted the urge. Image quality from the LX100M2 is good enough for me.



    Fixed lens camera production  declined massively from 108 million units in 2010 to 13.3 million units in 2017, just 12% of the 2010 figure.


    In the same period interchangeable lens camera production declined slightly from  12.9 million in to 11.7 million. (source Lensvid, using CIPA data)


    Vlogger Tony Northrup recently said “Smartphones are the only compact cameras”.  In the same video he also opined that the Micro Four Thirds system would die, presumably with the aim of attracting traffic to his site by making provocative predictions.


    It seems to me there are three groups of photographers:


    * Snapshooters. These are the great majority of humans who make photos. These people once used simple compact cameras, first film then digital. Now they use smartphones and social media.


    * Enthusiast amateurs. In this much smaller group are people who are interested in the process of making photos and the quality of the results. This is the group which will buy most cameras.  The question for the product development people is “what kind of cameras will this group buy” ?


    * Professionals. This is numerically by far the smallest group, but professionals  have considerable influence on manufacturers product development decisions. Professionals use high end cameras, usually of the interchangeable lens type.


    I rate myself an enthusiast amateur and this blog is directed to that audience.


    Right now Canon, Nikon,  Panasonic and Sony all appear to have decided that enthusiast amateur photographers want highly specified, near pro-level full frame (43mm diagonal sensor) mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Fujifilm appears to have made essentially the same decision but with the smaller (28mm diagonal) sensor.


    I want good picture quality but  have discovered that I can get it without any kind of interchangeable lens camera at all.


    I currently use a two camera kit. One is a bridge type for long lens, outdoor sport/action work. The other is an advanced compact with large aperture zoom lens for indoor, documentary and street photos.


    Some reviewers and vendors lump all fixed lens cameras into one group labelled “compact” or “point and shoot” which does not help potential buyers at all.


    As I see it, there are basically two types of fixed lens cameras.


    1. The so-called bridge type.   Typically a bridge camera looks like an ILC with a lens, has a substantial handle and thumb rest and a built in EVF in a hump (ILC style) on top of the body. The lens typically has a power zoom with a very big focal length range.


    I have no interest whatsoever in any of the numerous models without a built in EVF. These cameras are VERY difficult to hold still at the long end of the zoom without the stable hold made possible by a built in EVF.


    I suppose that the term bridge came into use when this camera type was seen as a kind of halfway station between a “proper” camera, presumably a DSLR at one end of the spectrum and a consumer compact at the other end.


    But these days some bridge models are so advanced they can function as an entire camera system in one package. These are the models which interest me and which I use extensively.


    2. Advanced compacts. This is a miscellaneous group designed to appeal to the enthusiast buyer but also be of small size for easy portability.  Some users say they like a camera to be “pocketable” but I think a pocket is just about the least camera friendly place I can imagine and a great way to ensure dust, lint and other bits of unmentionable stuff find their way into the works.


    If an advanced compact is to interest me I need to see certain key features. At  minimum these are:


    * A high quality zoom lens. Modern zooms are excellent. I see no point in restricting myself to a single focal length when I can have the versatility of a zoom.


    * A built in EVF which is always ready to use. I find the Sony pop-up-pull-back-push-in-push-down system gets tedious after a while and the absence of an eyecup lets in a lot of stray light.


    * A decent set of controls which allow me to drive the camera efficiently.


    Let’s see what fixed lens models meeting my criteria are on the market in November 2018. For this exercise I just trawled through items available from a major Australian camera retailer.  I found a total of 55 fixed lens models listed, only a small percentage of which met my buying criteria.


    Bridge models

    Some models come with a 7.7mm diagonal sensor, others use the larger 15.9mm diagonal sensor. All the sensors are probably made by Sony.


    Canon:  SX60, SX70 (7.7mm).



    Nikon:  P900, P1000 (7.7mm)

    Lumix: FZ300, FZ80 (7.7mm),  FZ1000, FZ2500 (15.9mm),


    Sony: HX400V and variants H400, HX350 (7.7mm), RX10Mk3, RX10Mk4 (15.9mm).


    Advanced compacts

    In the compact sector there is a range of sensor sizes from 15.9mm diagonal, through 19.4mm (the cropped M43 sensor in the LX100Mk2) and 27mm. Sony probably makes all the sensors except the 27mm chip in the G1X3 which is made by Canon.


    Canon: G5X (15.9mm), G1XM3 (27mm).


    Lumix: TZ90 (7.7mm), TZ110, 220 (15.9mm), LX100M1/ 2 (approx. 19.3mm).


    Sony: HX90V, HX99V (7.7mm), RX100 Mk 3, 4, 5, 5A, 6, RX10 Mk3, 4 (15.9mm),


    My selections

    The bridge camerawhich I use most often is the Sony RX10Mk4. This is a super high performance model which is good for almost any photographic purpose.


    I wish Panasonic would produce a Lumix FZ competitor for the RX10Mk4. 


    The FZ1000 was class leader when it was released in 2014 and is still available but cannot keep up with the speed of the Sony.


    The FZ2500 has a soft-ish lens and is not competitive with the RX10Mk4 for still photos. It appears to be a version of the HC-X1 professional video camera in a traditional still camera body shape.


    Sony has no real competition in this sector at the moment.


    My advanced compactof choice is the newly released Lumix LX100Mk2. This model is not perfect but beat the Canon G1XM3 and all the Sony RX100 models for a place in my camera bag.


    Reviews

    I have extensively reviewed and reported on the RX10Mk4 on this blog and will be starting a review series on the LX100M2 shortly.


    Are fixed lens cameras obsolete ?

    You might think so if you believe the nonsense being spouted by some self appointed photography experts who will assure anyone watching their videos that anything less than a full frame ILC is incapable of making decent pictures and  not worth buying.


    I think that when the excited chatter about new full frame mirrorless ILCs dies down a bit  then buyers will come to realise a few basic truths, such as:


    * Full frame ILCs, DSLR or MILC are big heavy expensive things and some of the lenses are even bigger and more expensive, particularly as you move  up to long focal lengths.


    * Smaller, less expensive but no less sophisticated cameras with fixed zoom lenses can make excellent photos in a wide variety of conditions sufficient for  99% of requirements when used thoughtfully.


    These truths lead me to believe that in due course the main camera types which enthusiast amateur photographers will prefer are the bridge and advanced compact.

    In my view some of them are good enough right now but the camera makers don’t want you to realise this.


    They would much prefer to sell you an ILC, preferably full frame and four lenses for about $12000 than one very capable bridge model for about  $2200.


    I have been using the LX100Mk2 extensively in the last week and found that it is capable of making excellent photos capable of very big enlargement in a wide range of conditions. Anybody who thinks they need more imaging capability than this camera can deliver might like to consider very carefully just what their imaging requirements actually are and how much some modern advanced compacts can achieve.





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    The LX100M2 is a very good street camera allowing many frames to be made in rapid sequence.


    I have been running my new Lumix LX100M2 through my usual tests since it arrived a week ago. I had previously owned and extensively used two copies of the original (Mk1) version of this camera.


    Three were three issues which I encountered with the Mk1 version which I hoped would be rectified in the Mk2.  


    1. Focus issues.

    The one which bugged me most was misfocusing when the camera is presented with multiple specular light sources. This is a known potential issue with cameras which use contrast detect autofocus. I found it particularly bad when I asked the LX100 to focus on foliage reflecting bright sunlight.  In this situation almost every shot would misfocus.


    So I made several hundred exposures deliberately forcing the Mk2 to focus on subjects which I know would have unsettled the Mk1.


    To my great relief I found a misfocus rate of less than 1 in 50 frames.


    So the problem is much reduced although not entirely eliminated. For instance one shot of a motorbike with lots of shiny chrome reflecting the sun did misfocus.

    With subjects not having multiple specular reflections the single AF accuracy rate was around 98%.


    2. Viewfinder eyepiece issues.

    I have no problem with the EVF panel itself nor with its optics, although a larger window on the world would be welcome. I do not experience the “tearing” issue often cited as a problem by some reviewers.


    It is the eyepiece which bugs me. It is small, thin, hard and rectangular. It is uncomfortable in use and lets in stray light in bright conditions.  Does anybody have rectangular eye sockets ?


    There appears to be no accessory eyepiece available.


    Unfortunately the Mk2 uses exactly the same viewfinder unit as the Mk1.  It is serviceable but could be considerably improved.


    3. Monitor issues.


    The Mk1 had a fixed panel without touch capability.


    The Mk2 has a fixed panel with touch capability.


    Sigh……..Problem half fixed…………….


    At least the touch capability works well. I use it to move the active AF area when viewing via the monitor or the EVF.


    And the screen can be viewed decently well with the camera held high or low so all is not quite lost.


    About the lens

    There are many reports in online forums of compact camera lenses from all brands having inconsistent optical quality.


    So it is with some relief that I can say I am happy with the lens on my copy of the LX100Mk2. It is very sharp at all focal lengths and apertures in a large central area of the frame. Edges are not quite as sharp wide open but clean up well when the aperture is decreased one or two stops.


    The only issue which could affect picture quality in some situations is that my copy of the lens is soft with double imaging in the lower left corner at 70 and 75mm equivalent focal lengths.


    About the pictures

    The LX100M2 makes excellent pictures in a wide variety of circumstances..


    It delivers very good rendition of colors, tones and detail in highlights and shadows.


    It can make very good pictures indoors or outdoors, in flat light or when subject brightness range is very high. It is a very good low light camera due to the wide aperture lens.


    The Raw files can tolerate considerable manipulation in Adobe Camera Raw without developing nasty artefacts such as the grey fringing I encountered with the Canon G1XM3.


    There is barely any sign of color fringing or distortion, even in Raw files. Presumably these things are corrected in camera.


    Even Raw files emerge from the camera looking quite sharp. Very little sharpening in Adobe Camera Raw is required.


    Images from the Mk2 have a pleasing appearance with very good local contrast.


    They make very nice prints.   Pixel peepers who are phobic about a bit of grain might protest but in fact the grain is generally invisible in prints.


    About the user experience

     This is an ideal camera for street and documentary photography. It is small, discreet, fast and very quiet even with the mechanical shutter operating.


    It is decently easy to hold although I would prefer a larger handle. All the controls except the aperture ring and shutter speed dial are located so they are easy to operate while continuing to make photos.


    It is easy to move the AF area quickly when viewing on the monitor or viewfinder.


    I really appreciate the multiaspect ratio sensor and change aspect ratio quite frequently.


    I generally use the triple A setting which is A on the aperture ring, A on the shutter speed dial and auto ISO. This is equivalent to P on a camera with a mode dial. This usually gives an appropriate firing solution (aperture x shutter speed x ISO) for general photography.


    This allows me to concentrate on the subject and not be distracted by having to mess about with camera settings.


    Performance

    The camera is very fast and responds quickly to all user inputs. Autofocus is very fast. EVF blackout after each shot is brief.


    The camera can effectively follow focus on moving subjects such as children playing for instance.


    Initial impressions summary

    I will be reporting on this camera in more detail over the coming weeks but for now suffice to say that my initial impressions are favourable.

    The LX100M2 has taken its place in my camera bag.




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    LX100M2   a good camera for street pictures


    There are some practical steps you might want to take on receiving your new camera.


    * Pull on powder free disposable gloves and photograph the camera from several angles before anybody lays a hand on it. This is to ensure you have photos of a clean product for subsequent resale.


    *  Fit a high quality 43mm protect filter on the lens. I recommend and use B+W multiresist or high level  Hoya brands but no doubt others are suitable.   Contributors to camera forums argue endlessly about this but I have never found a high grade filter to degrade image quality and the filter is much easier and safer to clean than the front element of the lens.


    * Buy a spare Lumix BLG-10E battery and a Lumix or  generic battery charger. USB charging has its advantages but when you want to use the camera while charging a battery a separate charger is required.


    * Prise off those nasty, irritating triangular strap connectors and their plastic protectors and secure these in a small zip lock bag for subsequent resale.


    * Leave the dorky neck strap in the box and buy a cheap generic wrist strap which is much better suited to the camera’s compact dimensions.


    * A sensible option might be to fit a generic monitor screen protector, provided it is compatible with the touch function.


    * I use and recommend the Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 5 carry bag. This is a bit oversize for the LX100M1/2 but provides plenty of room for a microfiber cloth, spare batteries and cards.


    The LX100M2 is a far cry from the basic little compacts which were so popular just a few years ago. It is a sophisticated, fully featured model suitable for advanced amateur or professional use.


    It has an extensive range of features and capabilities which make it a very versatile photographic tool.


    The camera can be configured to individual user preference. This is done in the Setup Phase of use and mainly involves making settings in the menus.


    The new user should download the 308 page “Operating Instructions for Advanced Features” from any Panasonic website, by following the prompts from “Support” for the product.


    This is one of the better PDF user guides with clear text and diagrams, mostly clear explanations and easy jump navigation.


    The LX100M2 menu system is one of the best I have seen on a camera. The graphical user interface is clear and easy to read, navigation is straightforward, the menus and submenus are clearly and logically laid out.


    The custom menu is now subdivided  into Exposure, Focus/Release,  Operation, Monitor/Display and Lens/others subheadings which make sense to me as a camera user.


    There is a My Menu which can be populated with user selections.


    Menu Resume allows the user to quickly recall a previously used item.

    In this post I will run through the menus making reference only to those items which I think require explanation beyond that available in the Operating Instructions.


    Setup Menu


    Custom Set Feature  Most Lumix cameras have a Mode Dial but for reasons unknown to me  Panasonic’s product development people decided  not to use one on the LX100 Mk1/2.  If there is a Mode Dial one or more positions on the dial can be allocated to Custom Modes which can be configured by the user.  This provides a fast reliable way to quickly change a group of several functions when required.


    With the LX100 models the designers have tried to retain the Custom Mode facility but without the Mode Dial.


    So the Custom Mode has to be accessed via the Setup Menu, which rather defeats the whole point of the feature.

    [Utilise Custom Set Feature] can be allocated to My Menu which speeds access a bit.


    I have my tripod settings grouped onto C1 (ISO 200, Stabiliser off,  2 Second timer, bracketing off)  and C2 (same as C1 but with bracketing on).


    The actual procedure for allocating a set of values to a Custom Mode is well enough described in the Instructions.


    Unfortunately you cannot see by looking at the camera if a Custom Mode has been set.


    Monitor display speed/LVF display speed   Set these to 60 fps. If 30 fps is set the preview image becomes very jerky when panning and viewfinder blackout after each shot is prolonged.


    Monitor Display Note !! Look in the viewfinder and this item changes to [Viewfinder].

    The LX100M1/2 and most Lumix cameras allow the user to adjust both EVF (LVF) and monitor for brightness, contrast, saturation, red tint and blue tint.  I find the monitor looks good at default settings but the EVF can require some adjustment over the first few weeks of use to achieve settings which look good to my eyes.


    Monitor Luminance  I leave this on A (Automatic) which seems to work well enough.


    Eye Sensor  I se this to LOW and LVF/Monitor Switch to LVF/MON AUTO.


    Level gauge adjust  My copy needed adjustment on receipt. The instructions are clear enough.


    Format  Allocate this to My Menu so you can access it more quickly.


    Rec Menu


    Picture Size  I see no point in setting anything less than the maximum which is L.


    Quality   If you elect to shoot JPG use only the highest setting.   The lower setting seems pointless to me. If you shoot Raw be aware that the camera automatically generates a low res JPG with the Raw file so a review image can be displayed. This will not enable sharpness to be properly evaluated in camera.  Shooting Raw+JPG overcomes this problem.

    AFS/AFF/AFC


    This camera presents the user with several places for controlling focus.  These include:


    1. The  MF/Macro/AF lever on the lens barrel.


    2. The AFS/AFF/AFC selection in the Rec Menu.  I move this to My Menu for easier access.

    AFF is not the same as AFC. If AFC is used the camera continuously hunts looking for best focus. In AFF the camera finds focus then stops focussing but will refocus if it detects a change in subject distance.

    My practice is to use AFS or AFC as I like to have control over the camera’s behaviour.


    3. The AF Mode accessed from the left cursor button.


    4. The AF/AELock  button on the back of the camera. More about this later.


    Photo Style    Lumix cameras including the LX100 models permit extensive user configuration of JPG output. Note that Photo Style adjustments do not affect Raw files.

    You can select any one of the preset styles or make your own custom style.

    I use a custom Photo Style with Contrast 0, Sharpness +2, Noise Reduction -5, Saturation 0.


    Color Space There have been great arguments about this on camera forums, mostly above my head. I just set Adobe RGB.


    Metering Mode  I reckon I would need a very good reason to use any setting other than [Multiple].  Some users say they prefer spot but I might find that useful only when I am doing contemplative work, preferably on a tripod to be certain of placing the spot exactly on a mid tone are of the subject. And I don’t use it even then.


    i Dynamic  I leave this on Auto so if I am using JPG capture it will operate automatically.


    ISO Auto Upper Limit   Take your pick. Some people are unreasonably averse to a bit of grain in their photos which leads to them missing shots by setting the upper ISO limit too low. I use 6400.


    Min Shutter Speed   This camera does not shift minimum shutter speed as the lens zooms so you might want to experiment with the minimum (slowest) shutter speed you can readily manage hand held at the wide and long ends of the zoom.

    I set 1/15 which I can manage reasonably well hand held with the OIS on. Of course the OIS cannot compensate for subject movement.


    Stabiliser   I put this on Fn2. As far as I am aware, all camera makers including Panasonic  advise users to switch the stabiliser off  if the camera is on a tripod.


    Burst Rate  I set M because this is the fastest rate at which the camera will provide AF and AE and EVF preview on every frame.  You can change the burst rate setting from the down cursor key by scrolling to the burst rate then pressing the up key for more settings.


    Panorama Settings  As there is no Mode Dial you access panorama via the Drive Mode on the down cursor key. For hand held auto panoramas I hold the camera in portrait orientation handle side up using the bottom of the four options for Direction and Standard Picture Size.

    The camera can make very good auto panoramas but some technique and practice is required. I will post about this separately.


    Shutter Type  I use the mechanical shutter almost exclusively. There is no downside to doing so, no shutter shock and only the faintest of click sounds if electronic beeps are off.

    If you want a shutter speed faster than 1/2000 sec the E Shutter is required.


    Bracket   This is where you set up your bracketing preferences.There are lots of options. I bring Bracketing up to fn5 for easy access.


    HDR, iZoom and Digital Zoom only become active if quality is set to JPG.










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    Recharge Here   LX100M2

    The Custom Menu now has  five submenus making it easier to understand and navigate.

    As in the previous post I will only mention items about which I think I have something useful to contribute beyond that which you can find in the Operating Instructions.


    Exposure


    ISO Increments   Both aperture and shutter speed can use 1/3 EV increments so there is little point using ISO increments smaller than 1 EV step.


    Extended ISO  The standard minimum ISO setting and the lowest setting which the camera will make in Auto ISO is 200.  Extended ISO allows ISO 100 to be set. I have yet to conduct tests to see if there is any advantage in allowing this. In some previous Lumix models using the 4/3 sensor,  ISO 100 introduced some color artefacts.


    Exposure Comp Reset   If you use the exposure compensation dial then the level of compensation is whatever you see on the dial.

    But it is possible to allocate EC to a Fn button. In that case you might want to set this item to ON.  This will ensure that EC resets to zero when you switch off the camera.


    Focus/Release shutter


    AF/AE Lock button function   People have different ideas about the best way to use this button. You can set it for AE Lock, AF Lock, Both or AF-ON. I use it for AF lock. This is handy for street and documentary work when I want focus to stay put for numerous exposures while people move about in the frame often between the camera and the initial focus point.


    AF/AE Lock Hold Set this ON  so the usage above will work.


    Shutter AF  This is just the usual function in which AF is activated with a half press of the shutter button. But you can disable this and  allocate AF-ON to the AF/AE Lock button.  This is the back button focus which is more often used on sport/action rigs.


    Half Press Release  Switch this off or it will drive you mad.


    Quick AF  This is an effective way to burn up battery power for no particular benefit that I can see.  Likewise Eye Sensor AF.


    Pinpoint AF setting I set Mid time and PIP display. But this feature is more useful for bird photographers with long lenses.


    AF Assist Lamp  Turn this off. It is annoying and not required.


    Direct Focus Area  On the original LX100 without a touch screen I always set this ON to move the active AF area. But with the Mk2 you can set this OFF, use the touch screen to move the AF area and regain the normal functions of the Cursor buttons.


    Focus/Release priority  I see no sense in the shutter firing if the picture is not in focus so I set this to Focus for AFS, AFF, AFC.


    Focus Switching for Vert/Hor    I have this ON. The camera will separately memorise the last used AF area position for landscape and portrait orientation.


    Loop Movement Focus Frame   This is described on Page 188 of the Instructions but I can’t seem to get it to do anything.


    AF Area DisplayYou want this ON to see where the camera will focus.


    AF+MF  Lumix cameras allow you to autofocus then adjust focus manually if desired without having to change focus mode. Set AF+MF ON to enable this and allocate MF Assistto the lens ring. The lens ring will zoom until AF is acquired when it will switch to manual focus, with PIP (picture-in-picture)  and peaking if desired. This is a very sophisticated system which I rarely use because I find autofocus is mostly more accurate than manual focus.


    Operation


    Fn button Set  and Q Menu  See next post.


    Control Ring  That’s the one around the lens barrel.  There are several functions which can be assigned to this ring but beware, the ring moves smoothly and is easily bumped while handling the camera.  I leave it at Default which is step zoom with continuous zoom on the zoom lever. I often like to zoom in steps but sometimes not.  If you set the ring to exposure comp or white balance for instance it is all too easy to bump it off the desired setting and be unaware of having done so.


    Video Button  If you never do video it would be nice to be able to assign some other function to this button, but you can’t.


    Touch Settings  I use and recommend

    * Touch Screen ON   That allows the functions to work.

    * Touch Tab OFF. This refers to the little flyout soft Fn buttons on the right side of the screen. Having these active will drive you mad as they are too easily bumped.

    * Touch AF,  I set AF. This works when you are viewing on the monitor screen. I like to leave the shutter button half press for AE.

    * Touch Pad AF,  I set OFFSET. This works when you are viewing through the viewfinder. The AF area position is easily moved by dragging the right thumb on the monitor. This system favours right eye viewers. I am a natural left eye viewer but trained myself to view with the right eye because of touch screen systems like this one. Obligatory left eye viewers might want to explore use of the Direct Focus Area function on the Cursor buttons.


    Monitor/Display


    Auto Review  Switch this OFF to speed up operation.


    Monochrome Live View  This who like to make monochrome pictures can preview the appearance before pressing the shutter button.


    Peaking  This is to assist manual focussing. I have it ON with the Detect Level High and color blue.  However I am not entirely convinced of the value of peaking which often appears to show large areas of the frame as being in focus.


    Histogram   I think the histogram just clutters the screen and is distracting. I find the Zebras a much more useful guide to highlight rendition.


    Guide Line   I find this very useful for deciding whether I have my verticals properly upright in the center of the frame. I use the lowest of the three options with the horizontal and vertical lines running through the center of the frame.


    Highlight  This feature should probably be located in the Playback menu. If highlights are overexposed they will flash the “blinkies” in playback.


    Zebra Pattern  Zebras are very useful for stills photography to determine before pressing the shutter whether highlights will be blown out. Some experience and experiment is required to make the most of this feature.

    I use Zebra 1 set to 105% for Raw capture. I advise users to run their own experiments to determine which settings suite them best.


    Expo. Meter  More visual clutter. OFF.


    MF Guide  ON


    LVF/Monitor Disp. Set   Lumix cameras including the LX100 models allow extensive user configuration of the EVF and monitor. I set both to “viewfinder” style with camera data displayed on a black background below the preview image. This always gives me a clear view of the subject and the camera data and provides a seamless transition from EVF to monitor as both look the same.


    Monitor Info.Disp.   If this is ON the monitor but not the EVF can display a screen with a group of settings which can be adjusted by selecting one of them by touch. Press the Disp button repeatedly to bring up the screen. It is just another way to access control to a set of functions. I never use it.


    Lens/Others


    Lens Position Resume    If you want the lens to zoom to the last used position set this ON.


    Lens Retraction  For many years Lumix cameras annoyed their users by retracting the lens about 15 seconds after pressing the Playback button. So if one was in the middle of a shoot the lens had to be zoomed back to the previous position and refocussed. Set Lens Retraction to OFF to prevent this.


    Self Timer Auto Off  Set this to ON to ensure the self timer automatically cancels when the camera is switched off.   










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    Motorway LX100M2


    The LX100M2 provides a level of configuration to suit   individual users similar to that of a prosumer interchangeable lens model.


    In this post I review dial and button functions.


    The conceptual framework which helps me to make decisions about the huge number of options available is that camera use is in four Phases, Setup, Prepare, Capture and Review.


    Actions required in Setup Phase involve menus of various kinds.


    Actions in Prepare Phase involve making settings accessed by dials and buttons often aided by touch screen functions.  This usually involves changing settings in one of the modes, typically Drive Mode, Focus Mode, Autofocus Mode, stabiliser, and so forth.


    In Capture Phase adjustments to primary and secondary exposure and focus parameters need to be made easily while taking photos and viewing through the EVF without disrupting the capture flow.


    So I would not bring out to a function button some item which I will only adjust infrequently if ever. This can stay in a menu.


    Control Ring  See Pages 54 and 55 of the Instructions.  This ring moves smoothly and easily. Just holding the camera in normal use will nudge it a bit.  It can be set to control any one of several functions but I just leave it at Default (Step Zoom) so I can easily see if it has moved at any stage.


    Function Buttons  There are five function buttons with user assignable effect. Each user will have his or her own ideas about how best to utilise these buttons.   If [Direct Focus Area] is assigned to the cursor buttons then ISO, AF Mode, Drive Mode and possibly WB need to be distributed between Fn buttons, Q Menu and My Menu.        I have:

    Fn1:  Level gauge. I put the level indicator here so I can switch it on and off easily.

    Fn2: Stabiliser.

    Fn3: Q Menu.

    Fn4: Quality.

    Fn5: Bracket.


    Q Menu  You can leave the Q menu as it comes with standard options. I find it more useful to use a Custom Q Menu.

    I have on the Q Menu:

    * Photo Style

    * AFS/AFF/AFC

    * Flash adjustments (these only become active when a flash is mounted).


    My Menu I have allocated to My Menu:

    * Format

    * 4K Photo

    * Min Shutter Speed.  This works if auto ISO is set.  If a specific ISO is set  Min SS is disabled.

    * Panorama Settings

    * Utilise Custom Set feature

    * Shutter Type





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    Hand held auto pano LX100M2



    The LX100M2 is a more capable camera than you might imagine given its small size and lack of promotion.


    This post explores some of its capabilities.


    Auto Panoramas    I rated the original LX100 as the best auto panorama camera I had ever used.  The Mk2 is just as capable and the extra pixels allow it to reveal a bit more detail.  However the Mk2 requires a little more attention to good technique if the best possible results are to be achieved.

    The camera can do very good auto panoramas in bright or dull light, indoors or outdoors, backlit or frontlit, with a variety of subjects.


    As always with auto pano,  architectural oblique lines cause the most stitching problems.


    In the Panorama Settings I use Standard picture size and the lowest of the four direction options with the arrow pointing down. 


    I hold the camera in portrait orientation, handle up and swing from left to right for horizontal panoramas.

    For vertical panoramas I hold the camera in landscape orientation and sweep from top to bottom.


    Add caption


    When handholding my practice is to:

    * Pick an area of the subject on which to focus and set exposure. With the AF area in the center of the frame point the AF area at the selected subject area and half press the shutter button to lock in focus and exposure.

    The final picture is a JPG so be aware that blown highlights cannot be recovered but dark shadows can be lifted.

    * Swing the camera left to the start point of the pano sweep while holding the shutter half pressed.

    * Fully depress the shutter and slowly and smoothly swing the camera to the right until the shutter sounds cease.  It is very important to achieve and maintain the optimum speed of swing. Several, possibly many, practice runs will be required to gain familiarity with this.

    * The camera can be tilted down or up (hold the same angle throughout the swing) but must be held vertical  side-to-side.


    On a tripod my practice is the same but the camera is easier to control when panning on the tripod.

    Post capture I often run the photo through the Camera Raw Filter in Photoshop for adjustment to tonal relationships and sometimes color balance.


    It was a very dark night. The only light sources are those you see in the frame. I could see no detail at all in the dark shadow areas as I was making the shot. LX100M2 Hand held, ISO 800, 1/15 sec F1.7.
    The shadows pulled up decently well in Adobe Camera Raw. 


    Low light   The LX100M2 can autofocus in very dark conditions so is suitable for low light work. The wide lens aperture of f1.7-2.8 helps as do the RAW files which behave well in Adobe Camera Raw.  The Optical Image Stabiliser is a bonus, allowing moderate ISO settings to be used even in very low light.


    Obsessional photographers seeking grainless pictures at high ISO settings should look elsewhere.

     Those with the more practical aim of making good photos will be well pleased I think.


    Some contributors to online forums appear to spend more time pixel peeping at 100% on a large monitor screen than they spend making and displaying actual photos.


    I realised years ago that a bit of grain is no impediment at all to the creation of good prints.


    Moving subjects  In AFC and Burst Mode M the LX100M2 can readily follow focus on moving subjects. It can readily manage children running about at play. 

    On my tests it can reliably hold focus on motor vehicles approaching or moving away from the camera.


    Indoor sports  I have used the original LX100 for boys basketball with reasonable success. I find it best to lock focus at a suitable distance with AF Lock on the AF/AE Lock button and AF Lock hold ON.

    With focus locked and the shutter speed on Shutter Priority at 1/500 second I hang about near one end of the playing area and start shooting when the players come within range.

    I have managed some decent shots this way.







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    LX100M2



    Many LX100 users including me were disappointed  that the Mk2 did not get an upgraded EVF and an articulated monitor.

    However there have been some upgrades to the user interface which make the Mk2 a more engaging camera for the enthusiast photographer than the original.



    Setup Phase   Score 13/15

    The graphical user interface for the menus is very nice, clear, sharp and easy to read.

    Menu content is at the better end of the spectrum. Menus and submenus are logically arranged, meaningful to a photographer and easy to navigate.

    There are few mystery items.

    There is a My Menu with user assignable content. Menu Resume operates to make finding items easier.


    Prepare Phase  Score 12/15

    There are dedicated, well located controls for the most used modes.  Drive mode, focus mode, autofocus mode, stabiliser…etc can be adjusted quickly and easily.

    There is a Q Menu with user assignable functions and five Function buttons.

    The absence of a mode dial means that access to custom modes and auto panorama takes more button presses than is the case on other cameras.


    Capture Phase, Holding  Score 12/20

    The camera is acceptably secure in hand for a compact with a mini handle and a small thumb support. But a camera this shape can never be as comfortable or secure as one with a fully anatomical handle.


    Capture Phase, Viewing   Score 11/20

    With an uncomfortable, thin, hard  eyecup and a fixed monitor the LX100M2 has no chance of achieving a high viewing score. The EVF could be larger to advantage and there have been many requests from users for a fully articulated monitor or at least a flip up-down one.

    On the plus side both the monitor and EVF are extensively adjustable to suit individual preference.


    Capture Phase,  Operating   Score 13/25

    It is possible but awkward and difficult to change aperture while viewing through the viewfinder. In doing so I almost always bump the lens control ring causing a change to whatever function is assigned to the ring. Likewise it is possible but awkward to change shutter speed while looking through the viewfinder.

    I find it much more practical to accept that on this camera the process of changing aperture and shutter speed are best regarded as Prepare Phase activities, not Capture Phase as they should optimally be and are on most mainstream enthusiast and professional cameras.

    Other tasks of Capture Phase can be completed in a more streamlined fashion, aided considerably by the touch screen. These include zoom, exposure compensation, change position and size of active AF area.


    Review Phase   Score 5/5

    The camera does most things I expect it to do. Playback of captured images is easily and efficiently managed. It is easy to scroll from one enlarged review image to the next.

    Panasonic could improve the review experience by adopting Sony’s “jump-to-focus-point-at-100%-with-one pull-on-the-zoom-lever” feature which makes the review process even more streamlined.


    Total score 66/100.


    Comment  This is not bad for a compact and an improvement on the original LX100 score of 54.

    For comparison the Sony RX100Mk4 scores 52 and the Canon G1XM3 scores 68.

    However there some operational issues with the Canon which make the LX100M2 overall a more engaging camera to use in my view. I will discuss these further in a subsequent post.

    The appeal of the LX100M2 is enhanced by features like the multiaspect ratio sensor and the number of external hard controls.




    How could the Lumix development team improve the LX100M2 ergonomics ?

    Easy- completely redesign the exterior shape and configuration.

    The present body shape and control layout are hopelessly antediluvian, a pastiche of some famous manual cameras from the mid 20thCentury and completely unsuited to supporting the capabilities and operation of a modern electronic camera.

    Check out the top scoring cameras on my ergonomic score list. Each has a shape and control layout completely different to the LX100M1/2.



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    LX100M2


    In December last year  I posted a comparison between the Lumix LX100 (original), Canon G1XM3 and Sony RX100M4. You can read this here.


    This post is an update of that comparison with the LX100M2 replacing the LX100(original).


    The LX100M2 uses the same body, EVF, lens and controls (with minor changes) as the original. 
    Improvements come in the form of a new sensor with more pixels and better high ISO performance, a new processor, improved autofocus and a new monitor with touchscreen capability.


    These improvements are modest and have disappointed some LX100 users but they do provide the Mk2 with an improved user experience and slightly better image quality.

    In the meantime I have been using the G1XM3 and discovering that some of its little quirks can be more annoying than I first realised.


    From the left, Canon G1XM3, Lumix LX100M2, Sony RX100M4


    Image quality

    Image quality from these three cameras is so similar that only pixel peeping at high magnification can distinguish one from the other.

    The choice between them is based on features, capabilities, performance and the user experience.


    The Sony RX100  series, in this case the Mk4 which I own and tested, delivers essentially the same  imaging capability as the other two cameras but in a smaller package. 


    The RX100 cameras are very easy to carry.


    They are also the best performers in fully automatic mode with the best auto ISO algorithms in P Mode.


    If you want a compact, utilitarian device which can make very nice photos with little need for user control, the RX100 Mk 3, 4 or 5 or even 6 can do a very competent job.

    However it seems to me that if a utilitarian device is required maybe a smartphone might be even better.


    The other issue many enthusiast photographers have reported is that the RX100 models are not particularly nice to hold or operate. In addition the pop-up EVF can become a nuisance after a while.


    The Canon G1XMk3  Our family bought a G1X(original) several years ago and were mightily underwhelmed by its capabilities, performance and user experience.

    We passed on the Mk2 (no viewfinder) but did get and have been using a Mk3.


    This has many improvements over both the previous versions and in many respects is now a competent device.


    But to me it appears to be an answer looking for a question.


    It is not super compact like the RX100 series.  It has a small aperture (f2.8-5.6) lens and a sensor which is no better at high ISO settings than the LX100M2 so it is not well suited to low light work.


    In operation it has some quirks which diminish the user experience.

    Each of these is minor but together they are significant. The mode dial has a lock button which has to be pressed before it will turn. In P mode the camera behaves erratically sometimes selecting ISO 800 outdoors and sometimes 100.  This forces the user to set A mode which is more reliable. But the auto ISO algorithm is very basic so I often have to switch to S mode indoors.  The front dial is covered by the middle finger when the camera is held normally so I must shift my hand down to work the dial.  Raw files are quite prone to green/purple fringing at high contrast edges.


    The list goes on but you get the idea.


    Canon got some things right with the G1X3. The DPAF is very reliable. It ticks several boxes for specifications like the  built in EVF with a decent eyecup.



    It is the best of the three models here for vloggers with a fully articulated monitor and mic socket.

    But after spending a year with it I find the G1X3 to be somewhat less than the sum of its parts. Which is a pity because if Canon had been bolder with the design it might have been much more appealing.

    Which brings us to the


    Lumix LX100M2  I rate this as the least unsatisfactory of a compromised trio of models and the one most likely to appeal to enthusiast users.


    My apologies to fervent LX100 lovers, of whom there are a few out there, but “least unsatisfactory” is the best I can say about a camera with plenty of  issues which could have been fixed by the manufacturer but have not.


    The touch screen does improve usability considerably. The AF area can be moved quickly and easily. 

    The cursor buttons can retain their labelled functions.


    The modest improvement in image quality is appreciated. On my tests with Raw files at ISO 6400 (which by the way I hardly ever need to use on theLX100M2 because of the wide aperture lens) I rated the LX100M2 as having the least amount of luminance noise, the G1X3 had about ¼ stop more noise and the RX100M4 about 1/3 stop more noise than the G1X3.

    Autofocus on the Mk2 is more reliable than the original.


    All these things are welcome and just get the LX100M2 over the line as my recommendation for best currently available enthusiast/advanced zoom compact for general photography, street, family and documentary work.


    It has the trademark Lumix multi-aspect-ratio sensor, a fast processor, is responsive, interesting to use with lots of external controls, gives a reliable firing solution (aperture x shutter speed x ISO) in P mode (actually A-A-A mode as there is no mode dial) and it makes nice looking pictures.