The best camera is the one at hand - testing the Lumix LX5

How many times to we see a great shot and wish we had our camera with us?

I purposely bought a micro four thirds camera (Lumix DMC-G2) knowing that I'd most likely have it by my side more often then a full sized mirror DSLR.

The G2 with a "pancake" lens like the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH is very compact although its not exactly pocket able. And it looks enough like a professional camera that in certain situations people notice when you have it around your neck.

So for pure stealth ability and for even more portability, I looked for a camera that I could keep attached to my hip. I'm also considering that my wife might use the camera on our various outings. An every day, every hour point and shoot that would also have the quality needed for stock photography. I zeroed in on the Panasonic Lumix LX5.

The LX5 is a point and shoot designed professionals and serious enthusiasts. Is a 10 megapixel camera with a fast 2.0 Leica lens.

The key here is the quality of the lens over more megapixels. I've seen a lot of low price point cameras (in the $100 range) that boost more megapixels but they fall short in the lens department.

Here the LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMICRON lens minimizes distortion for stunning, true-to-life images with outstanding resolution and detail. The 24mm wide angle offers extraordinarily large viewing space and the optical zoom extends to 3.8x (90mm) making the LX5 even more versatile.

The F2.0 lens is about twice as bright as the F2.8 lens. The LX5 has a small pop up flash unit but with a lens this fast you will rarely have to use it.

One area for this camera seems to excel over my G2 is in macro. There is a macro AF setting on the lens that allows one to get really close to subjects.

The 4/3 format lens currently on the market are very expensive. So basically at the price point of the mid $300s, I could have bought half of another lens for my G2 or this camera. So adding the macro capabilities of this camera to my equipment inventory is a nice bonus.

How portable is the LX5? Its not as small as a lot of point and shoots because the lens sticks out a bit. In fact I had a hard time finding a small case for it and ended up ordering a case made just for the LX5, but it can fit into a coat vest pocket or into your purse.

Plus its not as intimidating as a full sized camera. Some places frown on professionals but welcome tourists. With this camera you can look less threatening and capture some great shots of people more at ease.

One reason I leaned towards the LX5 over something similar from Canon (Canon PowerShot S95 or Canon PowerShot G12) or Nikon is that I'm already familiar with Lumix cameras so the learning curve is faster as menus and controls. The control layout and menus are similar to what is found on my G2. You'll want to learn how to get the most out of your camera because when shooting for stock your going to have to override the cameras controls to minimize noise.

Other reviews of this camera indicate the camera seems to have been optimized for an ISO of 200. If you let the camera pick an ISO automatically you might end up with a high ISO and noisy shoots. Something to look out for on any camera.

The LX5 allows one to shoot RAW which is a good thing because many reviews have panned its internal JPG conversion software. To the the best out of this camera you should expect to be shooting in RAW and processing in Photoshop or Lightroom. Offerings from Cannon, reviewers say, give the photographer more ready to use files.

For me the only real draw back of the LX5 is the lack of a viewfinder. There is a nice 3 inch LCD screen on the back of the camera which is fine in indoors but in full sun its hard to see. You can buy a "live" view finder for $145 that plugs into the hot shoe or a optical view finder.

Here are few of my recently accepted photos taken on the LX5:

Boy playing with autumn leaves

Toadstools in grass

The LX5 is the upgraded version of the very popular LX3 so if you are on a budget (who isn't) you might want to consider picking up the older model if you can find one used or in stock anywhere. The LX5 has an upgraded sensor hat improved sensitivity by 31% and saturation by 38%. So keep that in mind.

So for stock photography I would recommend this camera as a second camera for the DSLR pro (keep one in the glove box) or as a high quality camera for someone starting out in stock (if you are willing to do post processing in Lightroom or Photoshop which you should be doing anyway).

Photo credits: EMFielding.
  • EMFielding

Edward Fielding is a photographer based in the Upper Valley area of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Fine art prints are available from my website.


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March 06, 2012

Problem with noise on your LX5? Try resetting the settings:
Here's how to reset the LX5's settings: Put the camera in (M)anual mode ("M" on the Mode Dial on top of the camera, then press the MENU/SET button, the center button in the middle of the 4 buttons on the back of the camera which are arranged in a circle. This will bring up either your Recording or Playback Menu, it won't matter which one comes up. When either the RECORDING or PLAYBACK menu comes up, press the DOWN arrow key (the one labelled "Fn") until the Wrench or Spanner icon is highlighted. The "SETUP" MENU will be highlighted. When it is, press your Right Arrow key (labelled "ISO") in order to enter the SETUP Menu. Next, scroll to either page 5 or 6 of the Setup menu (it will vary depending on if your menus are displayed in the Standard or LARGE font. You'll see the word "RESET". Again, press the RIGHT ARROW (labelled "ISO") button, and it will ask you if you want to "RESET REC. SETTINGS?" The "NO" choice will be highlighted by default. Use your UP ARROW button (labelled "FOCUS") to highlight the "YES" choice. When it is highlighted, press the center MENU/SET button. You've just reset your LX5 to the intended factory defaults. After that first question the menu will ask you if you want to "RESET SETUP PARAMETERS? Following the same procedure as when you decided whether or not to "RESET REC. SETTINGS?", this question is asking you whether or not you want to reset things like the default language, time and date etc. . Highlight NO (unless you want or need to reset something like that), and press the MENU/SET button to exit back into the SETUP menu. Press the center MENU/SET button for a final time to take you back into either the RECORDING or the PLAYBACK mode.


October 29, 2011

What a timely blog. I too, am looking for a stealth camera and the LX5 and the G12 are my top two contenders. I'm going to have to think about this more. This has been really helpful to me. I really appreciate you sharing this!


October 28, 2011

I fully agree, in my opinion, the LX5 compact is the best practices currently on the market, I possess from July this year, has given me many satisfactions, I confirm: only flaw is the viewfinder.
Congratulations for your images!


October 27, 2011

Hi Edward, many, many thanks for this blog, I truly appreciate your advice. It is very, very tempting, I do a lot of cycling and DLSR is just not so easy to pack in your camelbak :-) so i miss a lot of photo opportunities in great forest settings. Ewapix


October 27, 2011

The photos I posted don't seem to be showing. Yours look great - beautiful detail. Very impressive for a point-and-shoot!


October 27, 2011

Great shots and sounds like a great little camera. Good advice to have a small backup so you're not without a camera when you see something you just have to shoot.
I bought the Nikon Coolpix P7000 for the same reason - not quite pocket-sized but small enough to keep handy. It has some great tools for a point and shoot, though ironically I find the menu more confusing than the one on my D700-Nikon changes their menus from camera to camera - I didn't mind the expected learning curve moving from my old D70 to the D700 but I feel silly when I can't remember how to do something with a point-and-shoot! I've managed some decent shots with it:
[imgl]http://www.21678769[/imgl] [imgr]http://www.21678767[/imgr](post processed to give a grunge feel)[imgl]http://www.18559551[/imgl] (not bad in low light when you're shooting RAW). I've even had some printed in local and NYC newspapers.
Thanks for sharing your review of the LX5. From what I've heard it beats the P7000 - you can't beat that Leica lens.