It’s no secret I adore my old Pentax CCD DSLRs.
Whether with vintage lenses like the Helios 44 series, and any number of Asahi Takumars, or modern marvels like the “Plastic Fantastic” SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4, they give me an enormous amount of pleasure, both in use, and in the final (unprocessed, crucially) image.
But there comes a time each year when these DSLRs no longer thrill me in the same way.
I can simplify this down to a couple of reasons.
1. Even the petite (for a DSLR) and nearly perfectly formed K100D and its brethren sometimes feel too bulky and heavy to be carrying on a photowalk.
2. It just feels too easy to make a pretty picture with them, especially with those magical old lenses, a shallow depth of field, and the lovely natural colours those CCD sensors produce.
So on these occasions, I revert back to a digital compact, and there are few more compact than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS1.
We’ve spoken about this little Lumix gem a number of times before, but here’s a quick lowdown of why I love it.
- It is super compact, about the size (and weight) of six credit cards stacked on top of each other. Smaller than any camera I’ve used for any length of time, and probably the only camera I have that I don’t mind carrying in my pocket, it’s so invisible.
- It’s wide, and fairly fast, with a lens starting at 24mm and f/2.8, which is exactly where I leave it 99% of the time. And in the right conditions, the lens is capable of lovely results. (In fact I just discovered, quite cleverly, the lens only has a two step aperture, so at 24mm it either chooses f/2.8 (nearly all of the time) or f/9 (if it’s super bright.))
- It has Panasonic’s Dynamic Monochrome mode, something I discovered years ago in other Lumix models like the LX3 and GF1. In fact, the primary reason I researched then purchased the XS1 was I wanted a very compact camera (there are hundreds) that had an on board b/w mode that didn’t need post processing (there are very few).
- It focuses close, down to 0.05m (about two inches) at its widest 24mm.
- It has the right balance of user control versus simplicity. In the Dynamic Monochrome mode, I can still adjust AF mode (spot), the “MEGA OIS” image stabiliser (on), flash (off) and exposure compensation (-0.3). Everything else I leave up to the camera and knowing its preferences with auto exposure.
Oh and it also has a CCD sensor, though I’m not sure at this size of sensor (1/2.33″) and relatively high MegaPixels (16) how much difference this makes to the images compared with a similar CMOS sensor, especially as I’m shooting b/w too.
As a bonus, it was a steal at £12.50.
Looking on eBay today they seem readily available at around £35-40 which I would say is still tremendous value.
So, after recovering from the shock that the last image on the memory card was from about 15 months previously (I would have guess maybe seven or eight months), I charged up the XS1 and took it on a few new photowalks.
The images in this post are some of my favourites.
How about you? Which camera do you reach for when others seem too large, too complex, too sophisticated?
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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