One Month One Camera – March 2020 (II) – Lessons With The Little Lumix XS1

This month I’m using a Panasonic Lumix XS1 as my only camera. You can read the first post here.

After using the little Lumix more, I have a few further observations. 

First, did I mention it was tiny?

I don’t have a particularly large smartphone, but the XS1 is smaller, and feels lighter (I haven’t weighed them!).

Whilst cameras like the Ricoh GRD III and Lumix LX3 are pretty compact too, you know if they’re in your hand or squashed in your pocket. With the XS1 it’s about as small and slender as a camera can get, and still be very usable, ergonomically.

Second, the AF is great overall.

Sometimes though, for very close objects, if there’s not a very clear difference in contrast between the subject and the background, and/or the background is very busy and cluttered, it struggles to focus, and will default to the distance of the largest area of the composition.

This has only happened perhaps three times in a few hundred photos, so it’s nothing major at all, just something I’ve noticed.

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Third, that Dynamic Monochrome mode is a joy.

This is what sets the XS1 apart from 95% of other digital compacts I’ve tried – the look it gives the photographs, without me then needing to further moody them using Snapseed afterwards.

Also, in this mode the camera is essentially shooting auto everything too.

So all I do in practice is compose, squeeze the shutter button to lock focus, recompose if necessary, then push the shutter button all the way to capture the shot.

Now and then, maybe 1 in 50 shots, I might use the exposure compensation to force it brighter or darker, but mostly I leave this at -1/3, just to take the edge off highlights.

This automated mode suits the tiny nature of the camera too, and emphasises that it’s meant to be a grab and go, fun to use camera, not something you endlessly tinker with.

Fourth, there only seem to be two apertures available in Dynamic Monochrome, at least without zooming.

The maximum, f/2.8, and the minimum, f/9.

Put simply, if I point the camera at bright sky, it goes with f/9, minimum ISO (100) and whatever shutter speed is required. For every other situation, the XS1 reverts to f/2.8, the lowest ISO it can without the shutter speed falling too low, and the required shutter speed.

Which suits me brilliantly, because it means, combined with the minimum focus of 0.05m (2″), I can force the camera into some pretty shallow depth of field shots with highly blurred backgrounds.

Fifth, and lastly, the focal length range of the lens.

At first I tried a simplified variation of the experiment I’ve done with previous zoom lens cameras like the Lumix TZ2, to work out how to know when the camera is at a focal length of 35mm.

For the XS1 it’s when the minimum aperture is a reasonably fast f/3.3.

But honestly I’ve shot so much with 35mm lenses, it’s actually a refreshing change to shoot at the XS1’s widest 24mm – the next natural step wider than the 28mm lens of last month’s Ricoh.

So I haven’t touched the zoom control (which is my preferred way of using zooms anyway!), and have enjoyed that, as detailed above, at this focal length, the maximum aperture is f/2.8 and minimum focus distance is 0.05m.

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Overall, the XS1 is another Lumix triumph that’s greatly impressing me. 

Aside from the excellent two Ricohs I have, the GX100 and GRD III, I would say my favourite compacts hands down are Panasonic Lumix, and my favourite DSLRs are Pentax.

If I could never venture from these two brands in these two formats for the rest of my shooting days, I’d be more than happy.

Back with the Lumix,XS1, if I had the choice, I probably would have preferred a black paint job. But since the camera only came in white, purple or red, I think my red example is the most anonymous and least flashy of those three colourways!

Oh, just finally, as you know I love a bargain.

I don’t think I mentioned this camera cost me £12.50, in good as new condition.

I did have to buy a Micro SD card, which set me back another £3.19, but for around £15 all in I consider this Lumix excellent value.

And, as with any digital camera, the ongoing costs are next to nothing.

More in the coming days once I’ve made more images with the XS1.

Which camera of yours is the most fun to use, the one you just love to grab and go?  

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).

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8 thoughts on “One Month One Camera – March 2020 (II) – Lessons With The Little Lumix XS1”

  1. Okay now I have to try my ZS60 in monochrome. I’ve been shooting with it again, and it’s like one good picture to fifty mediocre-lousy ones. The lens is terrible for near or far and only passable at medium. It’s a shame too because I really like the way the camera handles, other than that infernal touch screen (which I can avoid using for the most part).

      1. If I find one sometime I might. I think the complexity of the ZS60 is its downfall. If they’d concentrated on what makes a good camera it would be a great camera; the ergonomics of it (save the touch screen) are terrific and I really like using it. But photography is all about the results, and it doesn’t give them without major struggle with every picture.

      2. Complexity is a killer in any camera. The only time I can accept it, in a way, is if you have a great depth of options, but also a way to access the key ones easily and/or customise the camera to do so.

        My Ricoh GRD III probably has more options than any other digital compact I’ve ever used, but after spending some time to set it up and use the MY1 and MY2 custom memory settings on the mode dial, it feels like picking up a familiar point and shoot, and is as easy to use.

  2. My Fujifilm X100S is fun because is broken, I tried to repair it but just could improve it a bit. The end result is that I am the only one that knows how it works so is like having something personal that forces you to think. I appreciate much your discovery path with the Lilliputian lumix, I feel that discovery makes quite fun to shoot. King regards, Dan : )

  3. I have to confess I don’t usually like the very high contrast black and white (sorry!) but I’m actually enjoying the pictures you’re taking with the XS1.
    But I also think that once you try the XS1 in color mode, you’re going to be amazed. I’ve seen some really inspiring pictures taken with it. That little camera and lens are a true gem.
    Which makes me sad to see that here int he US it’s quite rare and commands a pretty penny even in the used market! And even the ones that come from Japan are demanding over 200 dollars – used!
    The only seemingly affordable ones (and I don’t consider over 60 dollars shipped for this camera to be truly a bargain) – are coming from the UK.
    Now finally, to answer your question… lately my “grab and go” camera that I just love to take with me is the… Pentax K-S1 with a DA 35mm f/2.8 Limited Macro lens on it. Overkill? Probably 🙂 But still light enough that I don’t mind walking around all day with it hanging on my neck…
    I should probably try a K-m/K2000 for a similar light setting with a CCD sensor but those aren’t as easy to find as I’d like, and people are also asking way too much money for them, I think…
    People must be reading your blog…. 🙂

    1. Thanks Chris, glad you’re enjoying the Lumix’s dynamic mono mode! I haven’t yet dabbled with colour, either in the standard mode, or any of the creative modes, aside from a few quick shots of blue sky with the cross process mode, which has given pleasingly vivid blues. I haven’t yet taken a huge amount of photos with the XS1 this month, so I might roll it into next month too, and switch to colour more. It’s that time of year where tulips and other flowers are starting to poke their heads up, begging to be photographed, in colour of course.

      I’d really like to try that K mount lens. I have the 35/2.4 which is very impressive for its size/weight/cost.

      I’m not sure I’m influencing the US eBay too much! As I’ve said before, the XS1 was only £12.50, and the K-m I think was about £30. There are four of five XS1 cameras on eBay UK currently for Buy It Now between £25 and £45. Even at £45 I think it’s still decent value, but I can’t see why some are listed at over $200, I don’t think they cost that much new! All the K-ms seem to be around £100+ currently, with kit lens, similar to the K100D. But again if either of these were the only DSLR you bought, they’re still a lot of camera for your money.

      I guess I was lucky with what I paid for my K100D (£26!), K-m and XS1!

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