Darwin has long been a fan of digital point-n-shoot cameras and, when he still had his Canon G11, he took it with him nearly all the time. I wasn’t so keen on that camera. Although I really liked the tilt-swivel LCD screen which made low and high angle photography easy, I wasn’t a big fan of the controls on the G11. I found there was no good place to grip the camera without accidentally bumping a button (especially with gloves on) resulting in constantly having to readjust settings. Also, some of the features that I like to use required pressing multiple buttons or pressing the same button multiple times — and that means missed shots! Perhaps if I could’ve pried the camera out of Darwin’s fingers more often I would have become more familiar with it, but I do appreciate a camera that not only has intuitive ergonomics (so I don’t have to memorize where a particular function is) but also ‘gets me to my shot’ as quickly as possible. No more did I feel the pain of a slow-handling camera than on a summer backpacking trip; by the end of that multi-day trip, I wanted to pitch the camera into the lake.
Maybe it’s too much to ask for a point-n-shoot camera with user friendly controls, raw file capability and passable file quality. I was even prepared to settle for a camera without a tilt-swivel LCD! I decided to not give up (or drown the G11) and started searching for a point-n-shoot that would meet my needs. Darwin and I tried out two compact digital cameras; the Fuji X10 and the Panasonic GX1. Both were wonderful cameras and we were impressed by them (see our review here), but neither fit my needs for a small pocketable camera (they were both too big for my needs). Several people wrote to us here on the blog and suggested we try the Panasonic LX-5 since it might fit the bill for a user-friendly pocketable point-n-shoot with raw file capabilities. Although the camera was introduced over two years ago, it is still widely used by many photographers especially more advanced photographers who appreciate the raw files and level of manual control.
Our good friend Alan Ernst of Aurum Lodge has owned and used a LX-5 for nearly two years. He swore by it not only for ease of control and logical layout but also because he loved how fast it was to switch formats from 16:9, 3:2, 4:3 or 1:1 ratios. Alan lent us his LX-5 to try and I gave it the ‘Sam’ test. If there is something that does not work well with a camera, I’ll find it!
I was pretty stoked to find that the controls make sense and I could access them quickly. The camera makes fairly nice files with natural colours. Like Alan, I also came to appreciate the ability to quickly change formats so I can frame the scene with a format (square, rectangular or wide screen) that makes sense for the composition. The exposure compensation is fast and easy to use and the camera is small enough to take anywhere. The only think I didn’t like and apparently all point-n-shoot digital cameras suffer this problem is the fact that macro mode works best when the lens is at its widest setting. In macro photography I rarely want a wide angle view! I wish point-n-shoot digital cameras allowed macro focus even when the lens is extended to its longest telephoto setting. I don’t design ’em, I just use ’em, I guess.
In the end we bought the LX-5 from Alan (he replaced it with a GX1) Not only did we follow our own advice about the minimal upgrade (waiting and buying an older, used and proven camera model), I now have my own little pocket camera that I am happy to use. Now if I could just get Darwin to stop stealing my camera!