Embracing The Winter Lover

For the best part of six months I’ve used only one camera, aside from the phone camera that’s always with me.

That camera is the Panasonic Lumix FZ38.

In many ways it’s my photography end game, my soul mate, the ideal balance between the handling and image quality of a DSLR, and the compact size, light weight, and simplicity of a digital compact.

During this period, after some initial experimentation, I’ve shot the Lumix almost exclusively with its b/w “Film Grain” mode.

I love the high contrast, the added graininess, and the directness. Click on the photo below and view it larger in Flickr to see what I mean about the grain, especially in the background.

Despite trying to embrace spring colour with the FZ38 in recent days, I’m not feeling it.

This camera, for me, was just made for that b/w film grain mode.

So I decided to switch back to using that.

And here I ran into problems.

Because one of the reasons the images have additional grain (or noise, before a film purist points out that grain is a feature of film only, and with digital images the equivalent is noise) is the camera sets the ISO to 1600.

This is fine during dim winter days, but show the camera some spring sunshine and the combination of ISO1600, a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000s and minimum aperture of f/8, means it often maxes out.

In other words, to capture the scene with the correct exposure, at least one of these three variables in the exposure triangle would need to go beyond the camera’s limitation.

I could instead use one of the more standard PASM modes, and fix the ISO at a lower setting, perhaps at its native ISO80, which would solve the issue in all but extremely bright scenarios.

This, combined with the standard b/w mode, would give me b/w photographs of even exposure.

But having explored this before, the output is very much shades of grey and lacking in contrast for my tastes, and would need processing in Snapseed to get a look I liked.

Plus it wouldn’t have that extra grain I like from the film grain mode, again something I don’t want to add afterwards.

But before I label the FZ38 as only a winter lover, because I do like this mode (and this camera) so much, my next plan is to persist with the film grain mode, but try not to point the camera too directly into the sun.

So, finding more shady nooks is on the immediate horizon.

The other thing I could do is get an ND filter.

I remember speaking with a fellow photographer a few years back who lives in Greece where it’s sunny more often than not, and he always used ISO400 film, plus a couple of different ND filters on his camera during the brightest conditions to retain the consistent look of the fast ISO400 b/w film he liked.

The Lumix’s lens has a filter thread, and there’s a dedicated Panasonic Lumix ND filter for it. I’ll see how much this is, and whether an other brand filter with the right thread size would fit – I see no reason why not.

Having only 1/4 or 1/8 of the light coming in would likely mean even in direct sunlight I could shoot with the film grain mode.

I’ll keep you posted.

How about you, do you have cameras you only use in specific seasons? If not, how do you adapt your shooting (and your camera) to cover a wide range of exposure ranges and lighting conditions?

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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8 thoughts on “Embracing The Winter Lover”

  1. If you want noisy/grainy photos it’s better to add it afterwards. All those super-high ISOs do is mess things up, in my experience. Although the 1Ds actually does perform at 1250 without much noise due to its excellent noise-cancelling system.
    The other day I read a blog where the photographer was talking about using “a low ISO of 400”.
    My advice to digital photographers is to learn to shoot as if you are using film. That pretty much guarantees better results because the technology isn’t really up to the claims.

    1. I completely agree that if you want the camera to perform at its best, always try to stick to the native ISO. Especially with older digital CCD cameras, which can deliver glorious results like this. This Lumix I see far more as a point and shoot though, and one of its charms is that b/w mode which forces a fairly old camera to use ISO1600 and uses the noise at this ISO as a feature. I’m not interested in making all pictures deliberately grainy, and I can’t recall that I have ever added grain in post processing, it’s more that I really like this mode of this camera.

  2. I don’t feel comfortable adding grain in software so I always used digital noise when I wanted a kinder rendering. I would use a not high end polarizer, this because the cheaper ones are darker, then underexpose the photos at low iso so when I would raise the shadows the digital noise would be notorious. Using high iso in compact cameras usually means any natural digital noise will be automatically overpowered by noise reduction. Sadly it requires some editing.

    1. Wherever I have the option I tend to turn noise reduction off, and any other kind of attempts to clean up the images in camera. I know to get the best and cleanest look from most of the old CCD cameras I use, they need to be at or close to their native ISO. But I just really like this Lumix in this b/w film grain mode, with zero post processing.

  3. You have better color cameras… not sure why you are attempting to do it all with the FZ38, unless you’re thinking about selling everything else and sticking with it as your only camera.
    Me, as you know I just use Pentax DSLRs for everything… having a good selection of zooms and primes, larger and smaller lenses to choose from depending on what I’m about to do…

    1. Thanks Chris, yeh I guess I was wondering if the Lumix could be the one and only do it all camera. The colour shots with on board adjustment are fine, or I could shoot neutral colour and then tweak in Snapseed. But cameras like the Pentax CCDs give colour images straight out of camera that I love, and the Lumix can’t compare to. Its place in my arsenal is assured for the film grain mode if nothing else, and that more often than not is the kind of shot I like to take anyway.

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