One Month, One Camera – December 2019 (I) – Panasonic Lumix LX3

At the start of this calendar year I set out to try a new project, using just one camera for a month of photography.

Sticking to my usual simple approach, I called the project One Month, One Camera.

You can read the intro post from January here, and see all related posts here.

So far I’ve done this for five different months, so I thought I’d like to finish the year with a final month of monogamy, camera-wise.

The camera I have chosen for December is not new to me, and it’s one of my core favourites that I’d likely never part with – The Panasonic Lumix LX3. 

This is a camera I didn’t get off to the best start with, and struggled with the, in my opinion, poor handling – especially the lack of grip on the front of the body.

Experiments with foam and grip tape resulted in me fashioning a grip for the LX3 that makes it handle almost as well as my Ricoh GRD III, my undisputed yardstick in compact camera ergonomics.

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Since the above image was taken, I’ve removed the plastic insulating tape again so my fingers grip the, er, grip tape, for a more secure hold.

Once this was resolved, everything else fell into place, and the LX3 is an absolute gem.

For December, I’m returning to the Lumix for a number of reasons – 

1. The season.

With the autumn rapidly turning to winter, and colours vanishing daily, I’m back in a black and white photography mood, to capture the starkness of this season.

The LX3 is the first camera I discovered that could deliver me moody, inky b/w images straight out of camera, with its Dynamic B&W film emulation.

Previously the otherwise magnificent GRD III had fallen between two stools in this regard.

Its standard b/w mode was still too grey and low contrast for my liking, so I needed to run every image through my Snapseed preset. Not a major chore, but a step I could avoid.

The GRD’s own high contrast mono mode was too strong, with intense, smudgy blacks that make images appear almost like they’re from a charcoal sketchbook, rather than a camera. Just a step too Daido Moriyama for my tastes.

So the Lumix’s Dynamic B&W mode, like Goldilocks snuggled up in baby bear’s bed with a tummy full of warm porridge, feels just right. Especially for winter.

2. The size.

Again, here the Lumix seems perfectly balanced.

Vastly smaller and less weighty than a DSLR, but not so tiny and lightweight that it feels fiddly and unmanageable. The impression of quality is very good too.

Despite its pocketable dimensions, the Lumix still packs a good sized lens, which expands on powering up the camera, zooms from 24mm at f/2 to 60mm at f/2.8. And is pretty fantastic, especially combined with its modest, by today’s silly standards, 10MP CCD sensor.

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3. The simplicity. 

I’ve loved my DSLR adventures over the last few months, especially the Pentax siblings, the K100D and K-m, and the wonderful colours their sensors produce.

But again with the season, lower temperatures and less desire to be standing around for ages fiddling about with exposure settings with half numb fingers, the far more direct and reliable (exposure wise) LX3 appeals hugely.

I shoot it aperture priority, but rarely change it from the maximum, which at my favoured 35mm focal length is f/2.3.

The camera has an excellent zoom memory so returns to the same focal length you left it at, even after being switched off.

I wrote about this far more when I was delighted to find the same feature in its more humble sibling, the Lumix TZ2, back in March.

For nine of out 10 shots, the only button I need is the shutter button, the rest is all about composition, and focus.

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4. The pictures. 

You might recall that the final image isn’t my main motivation with photography, and I’m more interested in the overall experience, and its positive impact on my life.

Well, that said – and the experience with the LX3 is very good – it also happens to make pretty excellent photographs too.

I’m really looking forward to shooting with the Lumix LX3 again this month, and whilst I plan to stick to b/w, I might experiment with different focal lengths.

The maximum aperture is still f/2.8 at 60mm, whereas most DLSR lenses I’ve used tend to be around f/4.5 or even smaller at this kind of focal length, limiting their appeal.

With that zoom resume function, I can easily set up the LX3 for one focal length then use it consistently for a whole photowalk.

I’ve never been one to zoom in and out with each shot.

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I’ll post updates here in due course, plus any photographs I’m happy enough with.

How about you? Which camera(s) are you planning to use this month? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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24 thoughts on “One Month, One Camera – December 2019 (I) – Panasonic Lumix LX3”

  1. I lent my first digital camera (Canon Ixus) to my daughter, who had it stolen, the LX3 was my deeply considered choice for its replacement.

    I loved that camera and went to some good places with it, so I have lots of great memories. However, although this has changed now, I was obsessed by the lack of an eye level viewfinder, so I was always nagging at myself that the camera was not what I wanted and GAS got the better of me, as has so often happened.

    That’s life (as they say in France).

    1. Thanks Stephen.

      I must say for me I see DSLRs and compact cameras quite differently, and never think about a viewfinder when I’m using a compact. I began photography shooting camera phones for about five years, then a Nikon Coolpix, then a Sony NEX and since then a couple of dozen other compacts. I can’t recall any of them having a VF even. I love the screen aspect of a compact, how you can frame 100% and the lower angles you can get compared with a VF camera – which I often use photographing flowers, leaves etc on the ground.

      I do have a FujiFilm FinePix S7000 bridge camera which has an electronic VF plus screen. The EVF is quite neat, but after I tried it out for a few times, I reverted back to using the screen. Just makes more sense to me, and is more practical and versatile, as I explained above.

      But I know many people can’t stand not having a VF whatever the camera!

      1. Hi Dan, I realised why I had formerly objected so much to screen based cameras over those with viewfinders. The clue was in your answer to jon campo below when you wrote:

        “You can frame exactly as you wish, get the exposure right before you shoot, then move on.”

        I am at an age where my eyes are starting to go a bit wonky, as opposed to completely wonky. In other words, I need to wear glasses for some things but mostly not at all. One of those things of course is attempting to focus on a mini version of the scene in front of me… Viewed through a viewfinder it is normal sized, but a 2.5″ square LED display, however many dots, requires the glasses. So just as the craze for rear displays takes hold, my eyes join the queue for their pension.

        The situation as it stands is that I will use the display as a rough guide, and put on glasses if I want to see detail…. Or… just point in the general direction and hope for the best.

        On the other hand, when using my rangefinder, I have no need for the glasses,(or a rear display) I can see all of my settings, and either guess, s16, or go aperture priority. It is also worth paying attention to focus, although even that is less critical than we think, unless one is using microscopic dollops of DOF, as in macro. I do that with an iPhone or the Ricoh as I don’t have any macro M lenses… So glasses on for those rare occasions.

      2. Stephen, thanks for the further details. This has made me realise more about how I use a camera with a screen these days, and why I avoid the problems you’ve spoken about.

        When I had a NEX and was using it with vintage lenses and adapters, I relied heavily on focus peaking, which worked very well indeed. Just focusing by eye with a manual focus lens was more difficult, and usually meant opening up the lens, focusing on the critical point, then stopping back down. With focus peaking I could leave the lens on the aperture I wanted (f/5.6 is my typical start point for most lenses, especially 50/55mm lenses) and see what was in focus with the peaking overlay.

        With virtually every other camera with a screen, I’ve used AF lenses. As long as I can see where the AF point locks on to (I nearly always use simple spot AF rather than those multi point types that always seem to lock on the part of the scene you don’t want them to), and that it comes into focus, I don’t need to see with my naked eye the exact precise focus, I can trust the AF.

        I have tried manual lenses on my Lumix GF1, with mixed results. Essentially I found it to be too much faffing about.

        https://35hunter.blog/2019/08/04/using-vintage-lenses-on-digital-bodies-a-compromise-too-far/

  2. I feel like I haven’t really come to terms with my LX7 (The only camera I’ve ever bought new when it was discontinued) because of the viewfinder problem Stephen mentions. I solved the grip issue by buying a used leather case and only use the bottom half. We just had our first snowfall here, maybe I’ll get mine out give it a whirl this month.

    1. Jon, interesting to read of another viewfinder lover! As I said above to Stephen, I never really give it a second thought with compact cameras, and see the screen as a positive aspect. You can frame exactly as you wish, get the exposure right before you shoot, then move on. It’s more practical and efficient for me than a DSLR. With a DSLR it’s a different experience and I do love the greater immersion it gives. This is why I keep oscillating between DSLRs and compacts every few months!

      1. Dan, I’m older and have vision problems, if conditions are perfect I love the screen. Often outdoors I can’t make out anything on the screen at all. SLR’s aren’t ideal either. Best for me is Rangefinders and TLR’s. I just ordered a EVF for my LX7, so we shall see how that works.

      2. I guess I don’t seem to often be in bright sunlight with the light on the screen so I can’t see it. My eyesight isn’t as good as it was, but in low light I find a screen easier than a VF as the image you’re looking at on screen is more illuminated than the scene viewed directly though an optical VF. If that makes sense!

        I’m interested to hear how you get on with the LX7 EVF.

        If my LX3 ever broke, I’d likely look at the LX7 as a replacement.

  3. As it happens, I will be using a radically different camera (for me) this month. Rather than one of my little old screw-mount Leicas, I will be using my wife’s ginormous all-singing all-dancing Nikon F6. She shot six frames on the 36-exposure roll of HP5 Plus on our trip to Florida and handed it to me to do whatever I want with the 30 remaining frames and, of course, develop, scan, edit and upload her six frames. Snow is forecast for today into tonight. If there is enough for the plows to come out I might try for some action shots taking advantage of the F6’s motor drive and auto-everything else.

      1. Only 3″ of snow, so no plows. I took six boring pictures of the snow, complete with deer tracks, with everything on the F6 set to auto. Then, knowing it would take forever to finish the remaining 24 exposures, I put the camera in the changing bag and loaded the first 30″ or so of film into the developing tank. The film is developed and hanging up to dry. At first glance the exposure of the snow pictures looks right on – a tricky subject.

      2. Ha, our kids would love “only three inches of snow”!

        I’ve no doubt with all the heritage behind it that the Nikon F6 would make beautifully exposed pictures whatever the conditions.

        So do you then reload the rest of the film back in the camera?

      3. She asked me to put the rest of the roll in her N75 “plastic F6.”

        The focus on the deer footprints was spot on, as I expected. I digitize my negatives as RAW files with auto exposure. The histogram is skewed to the left as it should be with all of that snow (these are negatives, remember) but well contained within the boundaries so I can do anything I want with the exposure and contrast in post. So all in all, no surprises.

      4. I think the fact that I have the use of both my little collection of all-manual Leicas and my wife’s little collection of all-automatic Nikons and only three of the twenty rolls of film I’ve developed this year were shot with the Nikons pretty much sums it up.

  4. What’s weird is; I’ve gone back to using a variety of cameras after being fixated on individual ones most of the year. I suppose it started with getting the Canon and wanting to explore that to the fullest, then resurrecting and rediscovering the Kodak P850. Then I got worried the V1003 was going to quit suddenly so I’d better make best use of that. Realizing the Nikon was being ignored, I brought it out for some shots. Now I’m trying to make a concerted effort to use the appropriate camera for the intended shot. Sort of the opposite of your experiments, you might say.
    Your comments on the in camera B&W qualities made me think of the different printing papers there used to be and how you could change the result of a shot by using one over another. Not sure if the fancy processing programs do that exactly, as it’s a bit hard to say “creamy whites with jet blacks, please” (Kodak Medalist) or even “F2 results, please” to a computer program. One day I shall look at Lightroom or Photoshop as I’m curious as to how close to a photography program either are, as opposed to being a computer graphics program. It’s all about the terminology and interface. Meanwhile I muddle on.

    1. Marc, I think if you can get by without getting into software, continue to do so! I stopped using LightRoom nearly a couple of years ago now, and haven’t looked back. Where I can, I set the camera up to get the results I like in camera (Colour – Pentax K100D and K-m DSLRs, B/W – Panasonic Lumix LX3, Pentax Q) then with another few I use Snapseed (Sony Xperia phone, Ricoh GRD III, Ricoh GX100). It’s all I need. Software has too much potential, too much choice!!

      I think there are times when you want to use a certain camera for a certain shot. The trouble I have is similar to using a zoom lens, even say a fairly modest 24-72mm like my Ricoh CX100 or 24-60mm like the Lumix LX3. If you look at the shot first, then consider which focal length to use, it’s too overwhelming, there’s too many options (for me).

      I do it the opposite way around, as you say, decide on the camera and focal length first, then my mind is in that particular frame to look for compositions that are best suited.

      Similarly with different cameras, I don’t want to lug around three or four in my bag just in case I see a shot that might be better made with one over another. It fractures my focus and attention too much.

      You can probably see a pattern with all of this – I like to really restrict my choices to make the experience simpler and more rewarding, and not be constantly choosing and changing…

  5. Love that shot of the water droplets on the leaf. The Summicron on the LX3 is really something special.

    October was a “one camera, each format” month for me. Olympus E-M10 Mk II and Nikon F3. Ironically, I shot mostly black and white on digital and Portra on the Nikon.

    November was a quiet month for me – I didn’t shoot much due to a fight with some foot pain.

    I’m using a Nikon F80 and the D90 for December.

    1. Thanks re the photo Rob. I knew the LX3 lens was a Leica design, built by Panasonic (I think!) but didn’t know it was a Summicron. It is quite special though!

      I really like that filter on the Olympus, it’s just the sort of thing I would use if I had a similar camera, and indeed I do use the LX3’s Dynamic B&W film filter, which is similar.

      Are you intentionally sticking to one film and one digital camera for this month, or this is just what you’ve started with so far?

      1. Yes, the LX3 is a clone of the Leica D-Lux4, both made by Panasonic and both having the same Vario-Summicron.

        The rendering is distinctly different than my LUMIX ZS60 with its Vario-Elmar. Not sure how much processing you did in Snapseed though.

        I like the BW filter on the E-M10 Mk II, but it’s a bit contrasty for my taste. I’ll probably see if I can tune it a bit. My Olympus E-410 has a gorgeous BW filter. Probably my favorite out of the ones I’ve used so far.

        I am intentionally sticking to the F80/D90 this month. Planning on Sony/Minolta for January. I’ve found that it really helps me get comfortable with the cameras.

      2. Ah ok, and I bet the D-Lux 4 costs more!

        There’s no processing with these images, it’s all in camera via the Dynamic B&W film options.

        There no question that I’ve benefited from this one month one camera project. Using six cameras one at a time a month each has allowed me to get to know them far better than I’d spent six months constantly rotating the same six cameras. I think like many things, we need an extended period to build the muscle memory, physically and mentally. I hadn’t used my LX3 in maybe six months, but I knew where everything was within about 20 seconds of powering it up again…

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