Archive for June, 2009

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Thanks to its Leica-logo’d f2-2.8 lens, the LX3 has proven itself to be a stunning low-light camera. There’s a feeling amongst many that shooting in low-light is a relatively rare requirement, and that most photography – literal translation from latin being ‘drawing with light’ – takes place when there’s some light to draw with !

Well, for those of us in the UK who are finding that, this week at least, there’s some real summer weather, we all know that this can’t generally be relied upon, in this green & pleasant land;  conditions are more normally much cooler, wetter, and often overcast. Thus, there’s a real need here for ‘low-light ability’ in a camera, and the light-gathering capability of an f2 (at 24mm equiv.) to f2.8 (at 60mm equiv.) lens really makes a difference.

The fact that it’s a really sharp one, with little noticeable distortion following processing, really helps to produce what I feel is a way better quality of low-light image than the output of the previous champ – the infamous Fuji F30. As I still have my F30 (and amazingly still in pretty well ‘as new’ condition), it’s been easy to make a direct comparison. LX3 has far more detail, less smearing, and its fast lens allows a lower ISO to be used, further reducing the possibility of noise that needs noise reduction, and the artifacts associated. If you want to replace an F30/31, the LX3 is also a far better performer in bright light conditions.

This dusk shot, from my collection of Canary Wharf/Docklands images, is a good example of what’s possible, handheld, under such conditions. That the full gamut of colour remains intact is also testament to the quality of LX3, that just wasn’t possible on a small camera even 18 months ago – we have much to be thankful for !

More LX3 low-light (and ‘normal-light’ !) shots in new & updated galleries … just go to http://nickbland.zenfolio.com and choose from the many subjects, each in their own folder for ease of use.

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For today, rather than a comp, a rant about DSLR mags, or some particular LX3 feature, advantage, benefit – just an image.

Walking along Coventry Street in London this morning, close to Leicester Square, there were two particular groups of people. One was an ever-growing queue awaiting the appearance of Johnny Depp for the film premiere tonight – they had a long wait in the 30C heat – and the other, captured here, was paying tribute at a memorial for Michael Jackson… his death certainly a sad loss.

Although often controversial, especially in recent years, there’s no doubting his songwriting & performing talent – and his innate ability, like so many like him, to surround himself with world-class players.

For those of you like me that may appreciate great guitar-playing, just think of some of the guitarists that have graced several of his best-known tracks … Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Steve Lukather, Steve Stevens… some of my favourite players of all time.

This photograph – captured by LX3 on my way through, in challenging light conditions – is here for the very many that appreciated his music.  Capturing a small slice of time – in a technically high-quality image – is made all the more easy with an LX3 as constant companion.

For an interview with Steve Lukather on the subject of the star’s untimely departure, check out his site at http://www.stevelukather.net

DxO FILMPACK KODACHROME COLOUR SHIFTS

DxO FILMPACK KODACHROME COLOUR SHIFTS

Having been in production since 1939, with the demise of Kodachrome a few days ago, and as digital photographers that really care about how our shots look (one of the reasons we use LX3), there are thankfully some superb replications available via software – and this no doubt helped fuel declining sales of the film itself.

If you’re an LX3 jpeg shooter, you’ll surely be delighted with the different ‘film’ looks built-in to the camera, especially as these are user-adjustable to your own tastes. But these are more to do with the final output (as a jpeg) … which you could of course also then run in DxO or similar, but with a different character from an accurate version… because the starting point was different.

Above are examples of Kodachrome versions in my favourite DxO Labs FilmPack software, shown side-by-side against an original file, so that you can see the comparative colour shifts and character applied in each case.  In these versions, I didn’t increase contrast or saturation. For those interested in the history of Kodachrome, go to  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodachrome for an accurate summary.

If you’re interested in trying DxO FilmPack for yourself, go to www.dxolabs.com for a free trial or purchase. There are of course many other types of software that aim to do the same thing, but the DxO version is so accurate and so easy to use & adjust to taste (and relatively inexpensive as well), that I find it the best one out there for my own use.

For a complete & constantly updated gallery of LX3 files that have been converted in FilmPack, just go to http://nickbland.zenfolio.com. There are currently 104 comparative images up there, showing the ‘Normal pp’ (original/post-processed) file, then the DxO version, with its description below.

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For all LX3 users out there – have you ever actually had large prints from your files ?

I just received today 3 prints that I’d ordered via upload the other evening. They’re 24″ x16″  (that’s the paper size …my images are in 16:9, so they’re printed full width, shorter in height) … and all look fantastic.

But the real killer ?    That’s a 30″ x 20″ print of  one of my recent Canary Wharf favourites (16:9, same again), top left, which looks absolutely stunning ! Thought I’d try it, just to see … being used to prints from my D3, I really wasn’t expecting this – and there was no special post-processing, just my usual, and the results really are spectacular – I’ll be organising frames this weekend.

If you’ve not yet bothered to ‘print large’ from your LX3, treat yourself – I can’t recommend it highly enough …and I reckon you’ll be really surprised by what can come from a carefully designed small-sensor camera, with albeit an amazing lens – EVEN if you’re a DSLR owner/user as well.

By the way, these images were all shot handheld.  Many more LX3 16:9 images at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com

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In a way, I’m revisiting here a couple of recent posts with new comment below added in the light of news over the last week or so … three hot topics as the title of this entry.

DSLR publications – can these be at all relevant to LX3 users ?

On a positive note, in observing a few of the recent/current mag covers I’ve shown above – some from the USA, but mostly UK issues, I still really enjoy learning all I can on photography, and getting different angles (ouch!) on imaging, as well as gaining an insight into maybe some new piece of software, or a different technique, that deserves attention. Sometimes it can be just for inspiration, or can trigger an idea that had been filed away in the grey matter.

The ‘DSLR’ mention – in mag name(s), front cover headlines, and of course inside … well, you know my opinion on that from my June 9th post – but there is something valuable in these issues, that can be very useful to all LX3 users, especially new ones that may have moved up from a standard pre-set point & shoot. No, it’s not a DSLR …there’s no interchangeable lens for starters – although it has a lens spec : f2-2.8, 24-60mm full-frame equivalent – that every SLR user would love if they could afford it. Some might say it’s the perfect range anyway, so no need to change. As a comparison, the lens I use most of the time on my D3 covers 24-70mm, but at f2.8 all the way …and is the best of that range that Nikon makes/has ever made !  Back to LX3, there’s no pentaprism, so reduced weight, no mirror slap, smaller form factor… ok, and a smaller sensor, for now. 

But, LX3 is a fully-manual camera, if you want it to be. That means that apart from all the ‘consumer’ stuff on there, you’ve Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority settings on the dial, as well as the crucial ‘M’ …so you can control lens aperture and shutter speed independantly, exactly as on a DSLR. And record a high-quality RAW file. This means that you may find such mags a great help in getting into the Manual settings on your new LX3 , to get the very best out of it – and I recommend you do that asap for better, & much more creative results. Promise I won’t mention magazines again today.

E-P1 … the first of many new m4/3 models

These designer types – you know, the guys (and girls, no doubt) that we are all deeply appreciative of, for their frankly amazing technological achievements, are extremely talented, but in my own experience are often not very good at communicating with real people.

Olympus is different. Their verbose technical guy/spokesman has seemingly been quoted in the last few days that E-P1 is the first of many m4/3-design cameras that will see the light of day in the relatively near future – for all of us, this could be very good news. Different models, different specs and features, smaller cameras, larger models ….very good news indeed.

Because this means that Panasonic will have to already have their competing range well into the prototype/pre-prod stages if they’re to fight their corner on such cameras, and meet what are now, thanks to LX3, G1, GH1, etc very high global market expectations.

So, you can wait a while … or, you can just buy (or keep on using, if you already have one) the LX3, safe in the knowledge that so far, at anywhere near its price point or form factor, there’s nothing to touch it for the range within which it works. But then, you expected me to say that.

The reality is that the LX3 will remain a totally valid tool even later on … the E-P1/2/3 etc lens line-up so far doesn’t get close to the LX3’s stunning built-in Leica 24mm f2, and that, in combination with the LX3’s 16:9 format, remains a real favourite of mine.

Go to http://nickbland.zenfolio.com for many new & updated LX3 galleries, separated into different subject areas for your ease of use … and enjoy !  Incidentally, they’re pretty well all in 16:9 format, my own preference.

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And for those that see the world in black & white (and, photographically speaking, I increasingly do), here’s a mono conversion done in DxO Labs FilmPack, on the Ilford XP2 setting, with the relevant film grain added for authenticity.

More info on the excellent DxO Filmpack software at http://www.dxolabs.com, and for more LX3 mono images, see galleries at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com

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We know how versatile the LX3 is, and in capturing the detail on this old pot, I was really pleased to not only get the level of fine detail I’d hoped for, but also a very accurate white balance. I’m not obsessive about this, but there was definitely room for a lot of improvement on the LX3, and Panasonic have done a fantastic job of it.

Some who’ve been reading LX3 Imaging will know that I’ve been using RAW files lately, wherever possible (ie time allowing), and that on such files, the wb can be changed at will in the SilkyPix raw converter software. Fact is, I’ve left it on the ‘camera default’ setting in SP most of the time – and my LX3 is set to Auto White Balance, with the latest firmware installed.

On this image, there’s the tail end of the warm evening glow coming in from the r/h side, while on the left is the much cooler ‘shadow’ side, with evening daylight from a back window. The LX3 has captured this exactly as it appeared, without advertising a featured ‘Multi-Pattern White Balance’ setting, as say on the Ricoh (and which, incidentally, does work very well on the CX1) … nevertheless, the result speaks for itself.

Many more new LX3 images & galleries at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com … hope you find something there that you’ll like !