Saturday, 13 June 2009

Gotcha

R0015669 (Medium)

Hey, you're jaywalking.  Gotcha!

Today is Sunday.  Have a nice day!

Last Words Before Parting

P1010484 (Medium)(An ISO800 shot with nice image quality unmatched by the GX200)

This is the last post about my reflections on the LX3 on loan to me.

Having used it for five days now, I'm a bit in love with this camera.  Well, it is not as flexible as the GX200 in terms of ergonomics.  But that's only because GX200 is at the top of the class on that front.  The LX3 is nonetheless a camera in its own class.

What I like about the LX3 is the mindset the engineers have  put in it.  This is a camera targeted at the people from the common folks to fellows just into photography, while reserving some nice features to cater for the more creative mind of the old hands.  Well, probably it is more for the sake of marketing and sales.  The common folks make for a bigger market.

P1010472 (Medium)(The LX3 is not responsive for a sudden scene.  I was unable to get the exposure right when the bike passed by.  With the GX200, a press on the button will set the exposure at the right level for me to step it up or down)

Its quick access menu at a press of the 4-directional button is rather restrictive to me, having been taking photographs for two decades.  But it just suits the less experienced.  I have come across some GX200 users who, understandably, can't figure out what's best suited to themselves on the customisable menus and modes.  A fair bet is that they are taking photos on occasions not too varied from one and the other.  Or else, they have not found out the differences between this setting and the other.  It is all about experience.

So, given a relatively short experience in photography, tyros would probably find customisability not really meaningful to them.  They just wish for the most commonly used functions be there when the camera is handed over to them.  With this logic in mind, the LX3 succeeds.  Of course, my opinion remains that old hands would prefer the ergnomics of the GX200.  I think that given the slight differences in image quality between the two, the GX200 (GRDs too, for that matter) is more preferable.

P1010465 (Medium)(Another example for an underexposed image because of the un-user-friendly interface for doing the exposure combo in Manual mode.  I was walking past them while releasing the shutter)

This is just the same case as in any other habits.  If you play a guitar, you start with a guitar which suits the needs of a novice.  When your techniques advance, you'll wish for another guitar of which the character you like.  The character of a guitar doesn't matter much to a novice, however good it may be.

In the hands of an advanced enthusiasts, the LX3 is enticing for its fast lens and nice high ISO performance.  That said, the photographers will need to pre-set the settings before they can get ready for the decisive moments which may emerge in any instant.  This is less so for GX200, which is swift in making adjustments.

Particularly noteworthy is the mind-boggling design of the customisable Program mode in the LX3 menu system.  For C1, a turn on the mode dial will get you there.  For C2 and C3, the user is obliged to turn the dial to the C2 and then select and comfirm the C2-1 or C2-2 modes.  That's forbidding.  The point of having the customisable modes is to allow quick access to the required setting, more often in urgency.  Those extra presses are anything but helpful.

P1010470 (Medium)(This shot is a bit blurred because the miniature multi-functional button of the LX3 toggles between several functions and the display on the LCD screen doesn't supports the toggling well.  I mean, the indication is not clear enough)

Previously I think that the 60mm focal length at the longest is forbidding.  Well, if you read the menu, there is an option for you to use the extended optical zoom mode at the expense of the pixel size (image reduced to 3M).  Anyway, the GX200's is just a wee bit longer.  The G10 has a longer zoom but I personally prefer a wider start at 24mm because the scenes are restrictive more often for walking backward than forward.  A wider focal length is definitely more preferable.

One last point is that the sliders on the lens casing may not be a good idea for a small camera like the LX3.  They are way too inconvenient for the big thumbs or fingers.  For the LX4, Pany definitely needs to listen to the inputs of experienced photographers for the design.

So, I haven't got a chance to try the multiple exposure function.  But this is time to part with the LX3.  Maybe next time if I still can manage to borrow a LX3. (How about a G10?)  Until then, I am returning it now.

Links to LX3 User's Impressions

Panasonic-LX3-FULL

1) Love Xate-3 Relationship

2) Joy and No Joy

3) Fumbling Like Forever

4) Best Scenario

5) Last Words Before Parting

Friday, 12 June 2009

Best Scenario

P1010450 (Medium)(This is the popular graffiti Hongkong-style. At least, these bills make the streetscape less boring and more lively. In the de facto red light districts, which are prohibited here, in Mongkok, bills of young girls scantily clad are galore. Probably most sexually-sound men have the intuition to agreeing with their existence. Taken with LX3 through the window on a bus)

This is the forth post on my reflections after using the LX3 on loan to me.

Having found the differences between the LX3 and the GX200, I am impressed that the two machines are niether built nor designed for the same scenarios. The question now is: What scenarios is the LX3 suited for? The GX200 is a great camera with top-notch ergonomics which makes it ideal for street shots and in scenarios requiring quick responses. But how about the LX3?

P1010452 (Medium)(Bus-stop, Rubbish Bin and Old Lady: Pre-focused, pre-metered and fired. Absolutely no problem for the LX3)

Best Scenarios

So travelling on the bus, I was contemplating the question while pointing the LX3 through the window to the street. An answer struck me just that instant.

In the hand of tyros wishing to be photography enthusiasts, LX3 may best serve as a learning tool because most tyros take a longer time to fumble for the right technical combinations before taking a shot. So the timing in tuning and tweaking the camera is less important, which is the weakest in the LX3.

It is not what LX3 lacks that makes it a good learning tool for tyros. It is of course for where LX3 outdoes the GX200. Its has a faster lens, consumers-regular controls (rather than photographer-specific like GX200's customisable quick menu), non-restrictive apertaure-shutter mechanism (restrictive in GX200), shutter-priority mode (not in GX200), multiple exposure mode (not in GX200), nice high ISOs you can really use and, this is very personal, a built which seems to be less dust-prone.

P1010454 (Medium)(This was taken with the LX3 using the multi-point focusing. It worked really well without fumbling for the logical subjects or locking in them. Focusing is a relatively weak point in the GX200)

Unfortunately, in the hands of an experienced photographers, these factors just don't weight in favour of the LX3. For them, the decisive moments matter the most. The camera is more likely to be on full manual and therefore it is their responsiveness enable by the camera which is the most important.

So, for an old hand, the LX3 is best suited for when and where the scene can wait for them to set, re-set or pre-set the technical combinations of the camera. In a nutshell, pardon me, any serious compacts can do just that and more. But I think the fast 2.0 lens is a very unique and useful feature which makes the LX3 enticing to the old hands. Surely, its imaging engine and lower pixel-density combine to produce images of a higher quality than the GX200 at the ISO 400 and above. And to many viewers, they will prefer the character of LX3's images which are generally richer in colour.

P1010457 (Medium)

P1010458 (Medium)

Big Mistake

While I was just about to finish with taking pictures of the streets and the passers-by in this cosy air-conditioned bus, I found yet another negative point about the LX3: it didn't tell me what focal length I was using!

With the step zoom function turned on, the GX200 moves the lens from 24mm to 72mm step by step while the LCD screen shows what the focal length is at the moment. This is very important unless you don't know or care about the safe shutter speed. In the film era, the safe shutter speed was important because it warned us of the possibility of a blurred shot. The safe shutter speed is denoted by <1/focal>. In essense, the safer shutter speed should be <1/the>. For instance, the safe shutter speed for 24mm is 1/20s. Of course, in the digital world where digital or optical stabilisation reigns, the safe shutter speed can go three stops past that point.

P1010490 (Medium)(The no-show of the focal length in use and some unkown reason made me unable to take a sharp image. Actually, I took three shots all together. But no matter whether I zoomed the lens in or out, the focusing didn't work until the next shot after I turned the camera off. Curious)

But no matter how it is calculated, we need to be given the focal length in use. Another reason which makes the focal length display important is that the experienced photographers can give the perspectives to the shots exactly in a way they wishes. This is important especially when a decisive moment arises and the photographers have to shoot almost instantly.

This is a big mistake, an a rather unfortunate one. Let's continue tomorrow.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Fumbling Like Forever

P1010488 (Medium)(This street tapping into an old neighbourhood presents a typical scene of the old Hong Kong: low-rise tenement buildings and signboards in a haphazard order. When you're in Hong Kong wishing to take photos of the older Hong Kong, wander into the side streets splintering from the Nathan Road)

After a break yesterday, we continue on my reflections on using the LX3. This is the third post.

Less is More

Having noticed the odd operation of the exposure indicator mentioned in the second post, I tried to use the LX3 for some street shots in a way I would have with my GX200. I walked in the street and, with the LX3 turned on, took snaps of interesting subjects when the right scenes presented.

P1010494 (Medium)It is somewhat a foregone conclusion that the LX3, with the auto on-and-off exposure indicator, is not really designed for taking street shots, which is mind-boggling as far as a serious compact is concerned. But the trouble doesn't stop just there.

(The shot was not properly exposed due to the clumsiness of the exposure correction with the LX3. Post-processed ot tune up the brightness.)

Ask any person who have used a LX3 and they will tell you how UN-dexterious the miniature 4-directional "quick access" button appeared to be for the first few weeks. It just takes extra time for the users to be familiar with the petiteness of that button, and with great effort. Even after using the LX3 extensively a few days and being more used to the button, I still find myself pressing the button, fumbling for the right functions and literally painfully pushing my thumb on it to adjust the exposure combo.

P1010497 (Medium)(I pre-exposed for the shot by metering a similarly illuminated scene. The image worked out better than the above one in terms of exposure correctness. However, the scene is still underexposed. This seldom happens with my GX200. Post-processed to tune up the brightness)

Then another issue arose. The exposure indicator only tells that the exposure combo was not right. It gave no cues as to whether I needed to tune up or down the exposure combo. Not that I didn't know the answer, but that it didn't do justice to what an indicator was meant to be there. For tyros in photography, this is catastrophic.

So, a button lesser in size coupled with an indicator indicating less info less often makes for more troubles in taking snapshots unless the P mode is used. But again, who need to use an expensive seriouso compact for its P mode?

P1010498 (Medium)

(After the previous shot, this scene which was in the shadow appeared. This is a case in point to illustrate the importance of a swift access to the exposure adjustments and indication for the decisive moments in photography. The LX3 was just too clumsy in this respect, and this shot was badly underexposed. Post-processed to tune up the brightness)

More is Less

There is a saving grace of the implementation of the "quick access" button. This is about adjusting the manual focus.

While the GX200 uses the zoom rocker for adjusting the manual focus, the LX3 builds the function in the "quick access" button. The implementation of LX3 in this regards has an obvious advantage.

The zoom rocker on the GX200 requires the right thumb, which normally rests on the shutter speed rocker above the LCD screen, to reach out, effectively making the adjustment process cumbersome. Worse still, the zoom rocker is placed on the far upper right corner of the camera back, which is an awkward position for the thumb. On the LX3, one press on the quick button toggles the adjustments between the exposure combo and the manual focus, effectively smoothing up the procedures. There is no need for the thumb to move around at all. Well, maybe I am not a PSP person, my thumb is not as responsive. I use my right thumb to play a guitar though.

P1010492 (Medium)(This is yet another shot to test the responsiveness of the LX3. Although I was unable to set the right exposure in seconds before the lady approached me near enough for a shot, thanks to the quick button on the LX3, the manual focus adjustment was blissfully fast to secure a clear shot)

So a button at a place more closer and convenient to the natural position of the thumb means less cumbersome for the tuning and tweaking.

The brief conclusion for today is that there is no perfect camera on earth. Near perfect maybe, but never perfect. The LX3 has made some odd ergonomics and photographic implementations. But this doesn't necessarily mean that you cannot work around them. After using the LX3 for a few days, I have come up with some ideas of how to pre-expose, pre-set the approximate exposure and pre-focus with the LX3 in taking street shots. These workaround ideas cannot be compared to the wonderful ergonomics of the GX200 though. But, well, there is a will there is a way.

Let's carry on tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Supplementary News about M4/3 Camera

image(Olympus Japan presents its business forecast)

The following are some background information to give you a better picture of the holy cause you are saving up money for.

On May 13 2009, Olympus Japan officially announced that a camera featuring the M4/3 system was scheduled for release on June 15, 2009 and for sale in early July.  Nothing was said on the pricing.

At the PIE2009 in Tokyo, Olympus put its concept M4/3 camera on show, which appeared in PMA2009 too.  The final product was said to be modified on concept camera.

penm43 (The concept M4/3 camera)

It is learnt that the M4/3 camera has an effective 12M pixels, a built-in pop-up flash, a 3 inches LCD screen and feactures 720p video recording function.  At the same time, two M4/3 lenses will be introduced.  They are 14-42mm at 3.5-4.5 and 17mm at 2.8.

Olympus presented in its financial statement as at end May that "We will focus our energy on developing and marketing unique and high-value added products such as a digital single-lens camera with interchangeable lenses that can be dramatically reduced in size and weight by way of the M4/3 system."

cosina(Cosina M4/3 adapter ring)

In parallel, if you're not aware of it, Cosina expects to (already selling?) sell its M4/3 lens adapter for VM , ZM, M and L mounts.

for lens
(Some of the compatible lens with the Cosina M4/3 adapter)

A photo on the net seen on a forum suggests that the M4/3 system will be really exciting with a wide array of lenses for choice.

PenFzuiko

Time to save up more money. Otherwise, start selling your old stuff now!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Joy and No Joy

P1010448 (Medium)(The man is waiting for the bus. For reason of saving time or whatever, it seems that he is taking a standing nap at the edge of the sidewalk next to the busy Nathan Road, the lifeline of the Kowloon Peninsular. This city works people really hard)

This is the second post about my reflections on using the LX3 on loan to me.

In comparison to the GX200, the LX3 works more like a consumer item than a photographer item. If you haven't a chance to get a hand on a GX200, you'll think that the LX3 has superb controls. It does. But if you've used a GX200 like me beforehand, you will feel otherwise. I will write more on this later. The consumerism as epitomised by a bagful of superfluous fun modes is obvious in the LX3. On the other hand, the GX200 is very much designed with the photographers in mind which is evidenced in its renowned ergonomics and exclusion of nonsense functions.

Joy

That said, two of the LX3's fun functions sound useful: the Lomo-simulated mode and the multiple exposure mode. So, wandering along the street, I took some photos using the Lomo-simulated mode of the LX3. The multiple exposure function of it would be a fun to try. But I have yet to find the right scene to try it out.

Before trying the Lomo mode, I was like "Is it wise to let the camera engine do what a proper PP software could fair much better?" At the end of the day, I would say that even though a PP program is set to do the processing in a more flexible and superb way, there is a very cogent argument for adding in the Lomo mode.


P1010509 (Medium)(The Lomo mode is not extreme in its effect. On the contrary, it leaves a nice, soft tone on the image. It is a very handy effect to make a ordinary scene look much better. I gather that it can serve to give some soft focus filter effect in portrait works)

With the Lomo mode on, the screen darkens the four corners and presents a softened image. The instant visual clue is what makes the mode worthwhile because at the time of shooting the photographers are in touch with his or her realtime feelings about the scene. Accordingly, the image can be composed and exposed, recomposed and reexposed. This is the fun that counts in photography, IMHO. The tuning P1010449 (Medium)and tweaking in a computer software is a very different matter to me. So, I prefer the implementation of some photographically essential fun functions in a serious compact. The Lomo mode is one, the multiple exposure capability is another. For that matter, GX200's white-balance adjustment mode functioning as hued filters is also very welcomed.

So, in regard to these essential fun modes, the joy of photography counts against the effectiveness of the processing power of a software. For those who are seriously using the serious compacts (probably most are), it is a safe bet that fun modes like the portrait mode, the face detection mode and the like are seldom, if ever, used. The GX200 has a very neat menu in the scene mode slot, which comprises some of the most needed essential modes like the digital marco, the text and the skew-correction modes. The LX3's fun modes are much too glamorous and dizzying to the real photographers.

No Joy

As you age, you will have learnt to be wiser. And at that time, all the old teachings will make good sense to you: not to jump into any conclusion too soon; every coin has two sides; one swallow does not make a summer. So slowly, I discovered the no-joy part of the LX3.

An that is the pivotal part in photography: the exposure level indication.

In the two priority modes and the manual mode in LX3, the exposure level indicator will not show up until the shutter is half pressed. It will go off after a few seconds, in which case you need to half press the shutter again to check the correctness of your renewed exposure combo. It's okay for a DSLR with the swift dials and a viewfinder displaying clearly all the information. In a serious compact, that's odd and irritating because correcting the exposure with the miniature buttons on the LX3 is anything but swift. Obviously, without the viewfinder add-on, the LX3 is less than helpful with its however bright LCD screen under strong sunlight.

P1010444 (Medium)(For this contrasty scene with the crane moving, I needed to instantly know for how much the scene was under- or over-exposued with the exposure combo. However, the implementation of the exposure level indicator failed me. So I was obliged to use the emergency mode: the P mode, which I hated because it controlled me instead. Why should I go for a serious compact then?)

After all, the DSLRs and the serious compacts do not serve the exact market segment. Photographers prefer a serious compact for its small size and manual controls. Owing to its small size, a serious compact is more useful and enticing for taking candid shots and street shots, in which situation the implementation of a quick reach to the correct or desired exposure is very important. As for the manual controls, the GX200 exemplifies the highest standard to date. A serious compact with controls not helping to achieve those purposes simply, well, sucks.

P1010442 (Medium)

P1010441 (Medium)

No, I am not being extreme enough to say that LX3 sucks. Far from it. LX3 has been a joy to use so far. I am just saying in this No Joy section that maybe Pany has overlooked the common way in which a serious compact is best used for. If it is difficult for the photographers to suss out the effect of the exposure combo and instantly set for the desired one, the compact camera is defeated in being a compact.

That's all for today. I shall try the LX3 out again tomorrow to see what I'll feel about it.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Love Xate-3 Relationship

P1010447 (Medium) (Shot in Marco mode of the LX3, the picture of these bamboo scaffolding sticks proves that a digital marco mode for a shorter focal distance is preferrable for a more intriguing image of the marco world)

With a LX3 on loan to me for a week, I am doing without the GX200 for some days. Instead of trying out all the functions of the LX3, I intend only to use it in a way just as I have been with the GX200 for purpose of doing some comparisons between the two.

I will play with the LX3 for a few more days and post the photos here, with my reflections on the particular days about using the LX3. The posts are not intended to be a proper review. It is just interesting to get some hand-on experience in the implementation of the comparable aspects of the two cameras targeted at the same market segment. This is just for fun.

Elegance

In my hand, the LX3 emits a quality of elegance which is rather understated (lacking of?) in GX200 or even GRDs. The elegance probably comes from the LX3's glossy finish, the sturdy build and the casing of its lens. In comparsion, the GX200 assumes a lower profile (the lens feels relatively wobbly too; but not the lens of the GRDs).

In a way, this elegance is to my liking. At the same time, the shiny camera body attracts too much attention of the passers-by than I would prefer. After all, the "stealthness" of the serious compacts possesses the advantage of the contrary. I for one don't wish to alarm subjects in the street when I shoot pictures of'em.

P1010503 (Medium) (I chose to take a test shot for the colour performance of LX3 with the big Fa Pai, or literally, Coloured Board. Fa Pai was once the popular way among the local shops to mark their openings or promotional sales before the 1980s, the likely reason being the commissioning of the underground railway at the time here introduced to Hong Kong the imaging technology to print extremely oversized posters for ads on huge bilboards. The billboards eventually edged in from the underground to the outdoor ad market)

P1010499 (Medium)

Colour
GX200's images have a character same as the camera itself: unassuming. Some argue that the colours in GX200's photos are less vivid to the point of bland, or even hazy. It is probably a matter of personal taste, what the viewers are used to and sometimes the exposure combos or the lighting situations. To me, the GX200's images are just right, nicely balanced between vividness and the details. Bearing this in mind, I have found that the images produced by the LX3 are more likable in terms of colour which is reasonably vivid without noticeably sacrifying details in the images. It has something to do with the new Venus imaging engine, I think, which is head and shoulders above its predecessor. There are no photos in the first lot which require any post-tuning for the colours. But since I've been using the GX200 for some months, it seems to me that GX200's handling of colours in the images is more loyal to the actual hues of the scenes. I don't expect many non-Ricohians to find the same though.

Marco

With a faster Leica lens, the LX3 produces marco photos with a wee bit more beautifully defocused background. One thing which I wish for, as compared with the GX200, is a digital marco mode enabling the photographers to zoom in closer to the subjects.

P1010495 (Medium)

In theory, the focus-mode switch on the casing of the lens is a plus for photographers since it saves users the trouble of diving into the menu system. However, in actual operation, the small size of the camera makes it a bit difficult for my big (not really big) thumb to slide the switch without turning the camera sideway and holding it tight with my other hand. So this solution is not necessarily better than the implementation of a clear menu system. For example, I can hold my GX200 with one hand and press the Marco button with my thumb while composing for a scene.

P1010496 (Medium)
(The back of an old bus shows signs of rusting. There only a small number of simialr old buses serving the old areas. They are not air-conditioned and popularly known as the Hot Dog for a reason. This can make another special post to tell the story of it)


P1010459 (Medium)

Body Mass

The LX3 is not much bigger than the GX200 but it feels much more heavier. I prefer to lightness, however. The LX3 feels just less secure when held with one hand due to its heavier weight. The slightly protruding lens casing makes it less possible to fit into a shirt pocket, which I do sometimes with the GX200. But every coin has two sides. The protruding casing somehow makes me feel just right because I can hold the LX3 in a way I do with a DSLR: with my left hand grasping the bottom of the lens. This position feels more natural to me as a long-time SLR user. Another advantage is that I can steady the camera better with such a holding position when the situations oblige.


P1010461 (Medium) (The bus driver of the rusting bus just alighted at the terminus to take a breather, which is as brief as a pee stop)