So I spoke the other day about my Panasonic Lumix LX3 and how it was amazing in so many ways, but for three flaws, in my eyes.
First, the handling.
The front grip is too narrow and the wrong shape and the rear thumb rest is tiny, virtually gripless and too close to nearby buttons/switches.
Second the zoom lens is magnificent in performance, but the camera doesn’t tell you which focal length you’re at.
There’s no logical step zoom between common focal lengths (the LX3 has 26, 41, 44 and 57mm amongst others) and it defaults to 24mm (generally too wide for me) when you turn it off.
Third, a strange distracting high pitched sound akin to what old CRT TVs used to emit, even when muted, that I’ve never heard from any other camera.
Aside from this, the camera is to be celebrated in abundance, not least of all because it delivers delicious b/w photographs straight out of camera with its customisable Dynamic B&W mode. Even my Ricohs can’t do that.
So, not one to be easily defeated – especially following my recent experiments with the 2001 4MP Olympus C4040 – I looked at each of the problems and considered how I could overcome them.
First, the handling. I know what a great grip looks like – every Ricoh GR since the mid 90s has had one. So with a combination of double sided foam tape, insulating tape and grip tape (like on skateboards) I’ve fashioned a new front grip.
It now fits my hand about 90% as well as my Ricohs, and in all honesty is possibly fractionally more comfortable than my Pentax Q.
The rear grip was more difficult as there’s so little space to work with. Here I’ve just added a square of grip tape which makes it far more, well, grippy.
I have the option to sacrifice the switch that goes between camera and playback modes – I’d just leave it on camera mode and tape over it with more grip tape, then set the Fn button to be the “Review” button to see shots afterwards, instead of the ISO button it is now.
I’m pretty set on ISO400 so this is no big deal, and if I did need to change ISO I could still do so in the menu settings.
I could also add tape to the right hand side of the camera to give my thumb more space in that direction. The only flap on this side is for ports I don’t use. I remove the battery to charge it and the SD card to upload to my MacBook via a card reader. Both of these are accessed via the bottom of the camera.
Anyway, these further options aside for the time being, I now pick up the camera and it makes me smile, rather than gnash my teeth and tut.
Second, the lack of step zoom and knowing which focal length you’re at. As I said in my main first impressions review, once I discovered that my favoured 35mm was the only focal length that had a max aperture of f/2.3, I could reverse engineer the zoom until I was at 35mm.
Combined with the zoom memory function that a firmware upgrade gave me, now I can just leave the zoom alone and it’s in effect a 35mm prime lens.
If I do want other focal lengths in the future, it’s only really likely to be 28mm, or perhaps 24mm.
The latter is the widest zoom so easy to get to. 28mm I know has a max aperture of f/2.1 and min focus of 0.03m, both of which are displayed as you zoom. So I have ways of figuring out 24, 28 and 35mm fairly easily, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever use any other focal length, especially 26, 41, 44 or 57mm!
Finally, the ultrasonic high pitched dog whistle.
All sounds are off and all volumes at zero, so the only other thing I could think to do was put some tape over the tiny three hole speaker on top of the camera. The sounds is still there when you’re up close, but certainly less than before. I’ll just to have to learn to tune out of certain frequencies, which shouldn’t be too challenging based on my wife’s beliefs about the superbly selective hearing I seem to summon at will.
So… These three major gripes almost overcome, the Lumix LX3 suddenly does seem like a contender for for my top three.
I wouldn’t say it’s better overall than any of them, and top spot probably still remains with the GX100 as it’s the only one of these other three (which also includes the Ricoh GRD III and Pentax Q) that I can use at my favoured 35mm, and it still delivers on all other fronts.
The GRD III is an utter masterpiece, and when I’m in the mood for 28mm, it’s simply my favourite camera I’ve ever used. The handling, the interface, the compact size, that stunning 28/.19 lens with a close focus of 0.01m…
The Pentax Q is super small and cute, a DSLR destroyer with the 01 Prime 47/1.9 lens I have, and a lo-fi legend with the 07 Mount Shield lens. If there was a 28 or 35mm prime available, it might even send the two Ricohs packing.
Anyway, this experience just reminds me that with a bit of persistence and ingenuity – and a fair bit of various varieties of tape – we can help some cameras become even greater and more personalised than they are already.
The LX3 now has me thinking about what other Lumix cameras exist that could well and truly despatch my two already quivering in their cases Pentax DSLRs.
I’ve come a long way from owning 50+ cameras, but can’t see currently how I can become just a one camera guy.
But with my holy trinity of the two Ricohs and Pentax Q, my fondness for the LX3 growing by the hour, and the potential of another Lumix that I could use my beloved M42 lenses with and get great results straight out of camera, the future promises a very exciting five camera arsenal.
What mods have you made to cameras in the past to overcome their shortcomings?
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