Posts Tagged ‘LX3’

HDR IMAGE FROM A P&S JPEG

Well, here’s an HDR-processed image from a camera that I’ve recently made a return to. The original was a jpeg – there’s no option, as this camera doesn’t support RAW files – and I’ve really enjoyed the convenience of not having to spend ages on a pc, processing RAW files from those cameras from manufacturers that seem to rely on their models’ RAW capability to get away with dreadful in-cam jpeg processing.

One notable exception is the Olympus E-P1 ….although RAW-capable, I seem to always be very pleased with its jpeg output, needing little in the way of post-processing to get the results I’m after. As you know, I’m taken with its colour output as well – exceptional is the word. Just not pocketable.

This camera I’ve recently returned to is also able to offer exceptional colour output – but it’s certainly not OOC (‘out-of-camera), and the files need a little work to achieve their potential.

And the camera – it’s the Fujifilm F200EXR.  

Why ? Simple.  Just great dynamic range capture that rivals that of some DSLRs, in a single exposure without any fuss. I thought I’d look elsewhere – mainly in seeking great colour output from a pocketable compact – and managed that with the Canon S90…no doubt, a great piece. But not-so-great DR is noticeable, and even the RAWs don’t enable quite the DR of the F200EXR with such clean images. That’s quite something, as we’re comparing in-cam jpegs with pc-processed RAW files. Hmmmm.

So, one should never assume that the latest, greatest RAW-enabled compact is gonna do it everytime. Progress with caution – because sometimes, it’s not necessarily ‘progress’.

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PANORAMA FROM M43 (E-P1) FILES

(Click for XXXXL version …19MB file …OK, compressed for web use)

I’ve already stated before that files from my E-P1, at its lowest ISO setting, are not a million miles away from those of my Nikon D3 – as was, now sold because of that very fact ! I still use a pair of D200s, which produce fine results for any DSLR- type shooting …weddings/sport … anything where very fast AF is essential for static or moving objects/subjects !

Shooting with my Olympus E-P1 yesterday, in very bright sunlight (yes, I could see what I was doing with that lowly 230k res screen, and from heights & angles I couldn’t easily have achieved with a DSLR), I took six individual shots for this example.

Stitched from these six images, this panoramic could be successfully produced as a huge high-resolution print, with great colour accuracy and sharp detail. Using the E-P1 in this way enables its already great 12.3 MP output to knock at the door of medium-format in terms of quality and image size …but there are caveats :

  • MF offers greater dynamic range, with less shadow noise … although multiple m43 files can get close with careful software usage
  • MF offers smoother output, from that relatively huge sensor …  combined m43 files can approach the look, again with careful setup
  • MF requires a very substantial investment : from c£12k to £25k, plus lenses from around £3k each …m43 is affordable for most
  • MF currently has a relatively low ISO capture range, typically topping-out at 1600
  • MF is hefty & unwieldy to cart around for long

Medium Format has so far been the choice of many high-end published architectural &  fashion photographers – where the commissions are often consistently & suitably lucrative to make the investment in MF worthwhile, and editors are extremely demanding relative to output quality and fine detail.

Continuing from my last post, the relevance here is that the next generation of cameras with a Four-Thirds sensor – the new Panasonics about to be formally announced, and the inevitable Olympus versions that will follow – will also enable very many keen photographers to attain a breathtaking standard of very large output quality … where of course the subject & lighting lend themselves to being photographed with multiple files, to then be stitched.

If you’ve not tried image stitching yet, with your own m43 setup, try three vertical shots – or three horizontals – allowing around 20-30% overlap on each image. These can be stitched in software : PS, Arcsoft (which I use myself), or one of many others out there. These days, this software has been developed to the point where little if any manual intervention is required, even without close attention to tripod use/nodal point etc at time of capture. A final crop is often all that’s needed to complete your own masterpiece.

PS : For optimal quality, whereas these were six very quick, hand-held shots, one should always use a tripod for ultimate quality (don’t forget to turn off the IS !). It’s also then preferable to work from TIFF files (these were o.o.c. jpegs), and to set your camera to manual, to choose optimal aperture & exposure settings. These do all count, none of which I did for the example here. The final large image has also been compressed for web use. But you get the idea ….

LOW-LIGHT LX3

On such a warm day – it’s been 31c here this afternoon – I just took a look through some old LX3 images languishing on one of my external drives, searching for one particular photograph I remember shooting one evening in winter, when it was considerably cooler & more comfortable. It’s an image I shot soon after I bought my LX3, that has been one of the ‘most-viewed’ on my zenfolio site (where there are tons of other LX3 images as well). For more, just go to http://nickbland.zenfolio.com

The feedback I got on this image reminded me of one of the reasons I was so excited at having an LX3 – its low-light capabilities were, and still are,  proof that this Panasonic really did change the perception – and the reality – of what could be expected of a compact camera : with a superb light-gathering Leica-designed lens, in combination with a sensitive imaging sensor and cutting-edge (at the time) processing circuitry, it was at its launch pretty well untouchable.

That it still holds up is testament to its innate quality, and begs the question : Just how much better will/can the LX5 be ?

But that’s not all. There’s further speculation as of this morning that there are in fact four new Panasonics being unveiled in Sweden this week – but only to a private/dealer audience. Further details for the rest of us later in the month …you may like to bookmark this page, and check back here for more details as soon as they’re available.

Of particular interest is that there’s the possibility – and it is only that – that Panasonic will introduce two new cameras this year that will be of particular interest to the LX3 brigade :

  • LX5 (no LX4 likely …4 being considered unlucky in Japanese culture)
  • ANOther model, with m43 sensor and fixed lens, along the lines of the Leica Digilux3/Panasonic L1 in size and style

Both exciting propositions, then – and also likely to see the light of day as Leica-branded versions. More soon.

RAW CONVERSION

Chatting to a friend yesterday, he mentioned to me how he’s still enjoying his LX3 – bought on my recommendation – and, knowing I’d sold mine “Do you miss it at all ?”   Made me think – sharp Leica wide aperture lens, 24-60mm range, selectable aspect ratios including 16:9, dynamic BW setting …stunning camera, no doubt.  What also came to mind immediately was how the white balance was still ‘out’ as at the last firmware update, bringing back the dreary memory of ages spent on clunky SilkyPix raw conversions, which seemed a long, S-L-O-W process – because it was. I know many aren’t as fussy about colour as I am…but it did drive me to distraction eventually.

I’ve since replaced my LX3 with another compact camera, that happens to be smaller this time, that also shoots RAW, and has brilliant colour rendition, as well as a superb – and really fast & intuitive – RAW converter bundled with the camera. Example above. This is my ‘everyday’ pocket camera, with a 28-105mm (equiv) focal range, no lens cap, fast startup, superb 3″ LCD, and razor-sharp lens (as has the LX3). It’s a Canon S90, capable of unbelievable results from such a tiny package.

With recent rumour (again!) of an LX3 replacement from Panasonic, and a publisher waiting on me getting my hands on it for a forthcoming book, I again wondered how useful an improved, LX3-style but up-specced Panasonic may be to me….Answer : hugely !

Looking back over some of my LX3 output of 2009, I do have a lot of fond memories, and realised that mine got very heavily used – not that you’d know it from its appearance. It was sold in ‘as new’ condition, because it literally did look ‘as new’, and the guy that bought it obviously felt that that was accurate. So, add great build quality to the LX3’s many attributes.

I do think we’ll learn more about the LX5 shortly, and I’ll be up for one, no doubt. There’s still that certain ‘something’ from the LX3 that makes its images special, and I could even be tempted to just get another anyway ….if I can find a supporting RAW converter that I can live with, and that’s fast.

Regardless, when the LX5 does appear, I share the hope of many on aspects such as reduced noise, wider focal length coverage (say 24-80) whilst maintaining quality, improved colour rendition for o.o.c. jpegs, and improved controls & handling. Immediate availability of a suitable case would also be appreciated.

Not long to wait now for an ‘official’ announcement from Panasonic – likely in the next couple of weeks – and I suspect that the camera will be available fairly soon afterwards. Why ? Because competition continues to intensify, and especially in this climate, every sale counts.

SMALL SENSOR QUALITY : 2009

SMALL SENSOR QUALITY : 2009

Following my ‘AR’-style post of a few days ago, this is in response to a few requests for the ‘saturated’ version of the image, without the posterisation effect from the DxO FilmPack Polachrome simulation.

One great advantage of small-sensor cameras – whether LX3, F200EXR, CX1 or a swathe of others – is that they always exhibit great depth-of-field, even at their largest aperture :

LX3 : f2 at 24mm equivalent

F200EXR  : f3.3 at 28mm equivalent

CX1 : f3.3 at 28mm equivalent

This makes small-sensor cameras absolutely ideal for shooting subjects like architecture & landscapes, or for maintaining decent depth-of-field in night & low-light shots, where the camera’s maximum aperture is needed to let the light in.

Add to this the huge benefit these days of in-built image stabilisation – whether sensor-shift or optical IS – and the result is a very useful photographic tool that supplements an SLR very well. On some occasions, it’s definitely my preference – usually no need for a tripod – and in 2009, the results can be very impressive.

Certainly a far cry from my first Fuji 0.95 Mp (!) digital clunker that was pretty well only able to produce thumbnails through to 6×4 at a push !

The market is maturing well, and 2009 has seen some excellent & innovative compacts, SLRs that are more highly-specced with better high-ISO capabilities than ever before, and more recently, the new ‘Hybrids’ …Micro Four-Thirds cameras such as Panasonic G1/GH1/GF-1, and of course the Olympus E-P1.

So far, I own several compacts and SLRs ….But why no hybrid (yet)?  

See my next post for why I’m holding off (for now!)

Many small- (and large!-)sensor camera images at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com  and much more information for the camera-inquisitive at http://1001noisycameras.com

COMPACT IMAGE QUALITY

COMPACT IMAGE QUALITY

Despite all of the interesting stuff on the ‘net, I still enjoy reading a magazine – especially one that’s been really well printed onto high-quality paper …and when I say ‘reading’, I suppose I mean looking at and appreciating the photographs. Most people – around 80% of the population – respond much more to an image than to text …so we’re not alone !

When a magazine image is so well-printed that you can almost appreciate the quality of the equipment used to make the image, as well as the photographer’s clear ability, some individuals can be convinced that it’s the gear that made the difference, and invest in new kit accordingly. Known well to the musical fraternity – and also being a musician myself – there’s a syndrome that has many ‘sufferers’ …G.A.S.  That’s Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

It’s as applicable to cameras & associated gear as much as it is new musical instruments, amps etc, and it’s all too easy to be drawn in. And it’s not as if I’m immune, it has to be said.

But that’s sometimes what can make things really interesting. If you read the previous post, re Hasselblad H3D/Leaf, Sinar & PhaseOne backs etc, and their place in the commercial photography world, you’ll know that I see it as a challenge. Yes, I have a D3 – one of the finest cameras on the planet – that’s usually to be seen connected to a Nikon ED24-70 f2.8 lens – one of the finest lenses on the planet ….but as a combo, not always the most convenient to cart around. And they’re in for lens repair and calibration at the moment.

My F200EXR is these days pretty well always with me. There’s no RAW file capability, no off-camera flash facility (although it could be ‘slaved’) …it’s little more than ‘point & shoot’. But the quality levels being achieved these days in compact cameras mean that its uses go way beyond taking ‘snaps’. 

Careful setup & usage – and image processing – can result in some great image quality that would have been strictly SLR material in the not-too-distant past. But that’s all changed. I’ll be going into some detail in future posts about achieving ultimate quality from a compact – some readers (of the 82,000 so far) have asked for an e-book, which I may well consider if there’s enough demand. Let me know if that might be useful to you.

The image above is another of my ‘personal challenges’ – visualising what I’d aim for if I had the D3/24-70/tripod with me, and all the time in the World for careful set-up, composition, processing etc ….all the things that happen at the start of the process in the commercial photography domain – and how I could achieve not dissimilar results from one of the very best compacts around – could be with the LX3, or in this case, the Fujifilm F200EXR ‘pocket rocket’.

Job done.

Much more on Fujifilm’s F200EXR (and F100fd/F30), Panasonic LX3, Ricoh CX1, Nikon D3 & D200 at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com.

LONDON COLOUR : AUTUMN IN REGENT'S PARK

LONDON COLOUR : AUTUMN IN REGENT'S PARK

And here’s the colour version – shot on the F200EXR’s ‘Standard’ (Provia) film mode – that I’m pleased with, especially considering that I’ve not yet updated the firmware ….which apparently lends some warmth to the Auto White Balance rendering.

Much more at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com ….images from F200EXR/LX3/CX1/D200/D3 …you get the idea