This is part three of my 4MP digital classics experiment.
With 36MP digital cameras widely available, and even smartphones offering 19MP plus, the manufacturers try to tell us the more MP, the better your photography will be.
But after coming to love a small collection of classic digital cameras in the last year or so, mostly around 10MP, I’m starting to wonder how many MP we really need to make pleasing images.
So the answer to the question at the top of this post has already been answered. Yes a 4MP 10 year old plus camera can still deliver in 2018, and be great fun to use along the way.
The third in this series then is a different brand again.
The Panasonic Lumix range are cameras I’ve admired from afar, not least of all the LX3, which I’ll talk about in a future post.
My perception of them is a classy, quality range of cameras, with very capable lenses (due in part to their Leica connection).
This is the LZ1 is from 2005, with a 4MP 1/2.5″ CCD sensor.
That’s all I really want to say about the spec.
In use the camera is compact, yet satisfying in the hand, and can easily be used one handed. The curved grips front and rear are very well contoured, and there’s plenty of room for your thumb to rest without feeling like you’ll drop the camera, or inadvertently press buttons. Very well designed.
This is helped too by the 2″ screen being big enough to compose and focus, yet small enough to not dominate the entire camera back, and also gives adequate space for the simple controls within thumb’s reach.
The shutter button is exactly where your trigger finger expects it to be, and the mode dial can easily be changed with the tip of your thumb.
Here, I’ve found no need so far to stray from the macro mode, which allows shots down to 0.05m, but still up to infinity.
In the simple menus I set the ISO to 100 (after some experimentation to find the look I liked best) and “Colour Effect” to b/w.
You can adjust exposure compensation direct from the main cross pads, and as always pleases me, one of the display modes you can cycle through hides all icons so you can focus purely on composition. When you do settle and squeeze the shutter button to lock focus, the focus confirm light is displayed, along with aperture and shutter speed. Again, simple, intelligent design.
You can also set the minimum shutter speed which is handy to avoid camera shake, if you don’t want to rely on flash (which I never use), and it tells you when you lock focus you’re below the min shutter speed you’ve chosen with a SLOW icon.
To review photos taken you can either press the down button on the main cross pads for a quick view, or switch the mode dial to play mode to see them fully.
There are various scene modes which you can set under SCN1 and SCN2 on the mode dial, and it remembers which you set. I haven’t really explored these.
Or, as I’ve been doing, just set up the camera how you want it and when you power it back up, everything is remembered. This makes me very happy.
The lens zooms from 37mm at the widest to a rather ridiculous 222mm. So I left mine at the default start position of 37mm and never touched the zoom control. The maximum aperture of f/2.8 is wide enough, when combined with that close focus, to get some soft background blurring going on, even with its tiny sensor.
Other pluses include the fact the Lumix is powered by a couple of AA batteries, and takes SD cards. All very mainstream, and because you likely already have these it means you won’t need to buy or maintain any new batteries, chargers, leads or memory cards/sticks.
The 1GB SD card mine came with is good for over 500 photos, about 5-10 times what I’m likely to need on a single shoot.
This 4MP experiment has allowed my to further refine what I look for and like in a camera these days, and what can be a deal-breaker.
The Lumix has tons going for it in this regard – compact size, very good handling, simple and logical controls, good sized screen, remembers your settings, fast enough and wide enough lens without needing to zoom (in or out), easy to support with the mainstream AA batteries and SD card compatibility. It ticks nearly all of my boxes.
It’s also helped me realise that features like a large screen (over 2.5″), high MP sensor, wide zoom and abundance of features can actually count against me enjoying a camera.
Too big a screen can encroach on handling if your thumb has no room to rest.
Too many MegaPixels means larger files, which take up more memory and are slower to process.
Too wide a zoom without any zoom step or memory function and you’re nearly always having to zoom in to get the focal length you want (say, 28 or 35mm on a camera with a zoom lens that starts at 24mm).
Too many features means the menus can be overwhelming and simple functions like changing the ISO or exposure compensation become too fiddly.
In fact this little Lumix is an absolute and elegant epitome of “enough”.
It does all I need in all departments, doesn’t ever get in my way through awkward handling or controls, over complexity, slow response speeds, bloated files or anything else. It’s enough.
The only potential downside I can think of is it doesn’t give me images I like straight out of camera, I still need a little tweak in Snapseed. But it’s in good company here, alongside the Olympus and Sony also in this 4MP experiment, and my beloved two Ricohs.
Oh and it cost me £6.50 plus postage. About 20% the cost of my GX100, and 7% of the GRD III. Further food for thought to take from this 4MP experiment.
I have no real reason to keep this Lumix LZ1, having my holy trinity of digital classics – the Ricoh GX100, GRD III and Pentax Q.
As well as the 4MP Olympus and Sony cameras, both of which have their own abundance of charm and both deliver images that make me smile.
But it seems a shame to let it go yet, when it does so much, so right. So it stays for now.
Have you used a similar Lumix camera, or indeed any other 4MP digital camera lately? How did you find it?
Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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