Extremely Small And Rather Wide

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.))
  3. 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).
  4. It focuses close, down to 0.05m (about two inches) at its widest 24mm.
  5. 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).

Thanks for looking.

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10 thoughts on “Extremely Small And Rather Wide”

    1. That is unusual when most phones are wider. I think the iPhone I had (5C) a few years back was about 30mm equivalent, which was ok for general shooting but I usually found too wide for family photos, which is mostly what I use a phone cam for. With my current phone, a Realme 6 Pro, my default start up in using the camera is tap the 2x button, notch back once on the zoom to 1.9x to revert to the more capable and faster main lens, and shoot. I think the main lens is a 26mm f/1.8, so 1.9x must be 49.4mm, almost exactly the 50mm of your iPhone. Which is generally great for shots of two to four people, I find, without distorting things. And yes like you, the focal length I’m most familiar with from using film cameras.

  1. I only have one camera that I consider to be ‘too much’ to carry around while on a shoot, and that’s the 3+ lb. Canon 1Ds. My ‘go to’ camera remains the Nikon P610 due to its flexibility. I’ll never get rid of the G11 or the little shirt-pocket Fuji F80. The others are all technically for sale now as I try to re-align my photographic equipment with my altered eyesight.

    1. I think there’s always room for a “short pocket” camera, that might not give the same look as a bigger, more capable camera, but still offers more of the photography experience than a slippery touch screen phone camera can.

  2. For me… the Pentax K-S1 with a small prime or with the wonderful little (when retracted) and light HD DA 18-50mm f/4-5.6.
    I used to have point and shoots but the K-S1 with either the HD DA 21mm Limited or something like the SMC-M 50mm f/1.7, or the aforementioned HD DA 18-50mm, looks the size of a bridge camera when I’m carrying it around.
    I’m considering selling the K-3… too big and bulky and the results haven’t been convincing me…

    1. I’d like to get my hands on a K-S1 to compare size wise with y K100D, K-m and Samsung GX-1S. Though I can’t imagine it can be much smaller. My small and light go to lens with a DSLR is the DA 35/2.4 which just happens to be pretty fantastic in other areas too.

      Would you replace the K-3 with anything?

      1. Trust me, the K-S1 is a bit smaller than the K-m (I had the K-r which is about the same size and the K-S1 is quite a bit smaller). But it’s also probably about the same weight or heavier, because of the full-size pentaprism viewfinder – which is the same as the K-3 viewfinder.
        It’s a great camera with small lenses. The lack of a proper grip makes it handle more like a film camera, which I love when using small lenses. With zooms, it’s not as comfortable as other Pentax bodies.
        As for the K-3, I’m considering replacing it with a K-5IIs but not sure yet.
        I might actually get a second k200d as mine has an issue with the viewfinder (something like rust in the lower left corner) and the AF/MF button doesn’t work…

      2. Thanks Chris, I’ll give it a few more years for the prices to fall, a K-S1 over here used still seems to fetch approaching £200, though I can see a few have sold for closer to £100 in the last couple of months on eBay. Still too much for me to justify given the cameras I already have.

  3. Pentax Q7 is the pocket camera. Its so hard to get past how easy it is to use, but still has full controls for when you want them. And with the small prime lens, it fits in my pocket. Throw another lens or two in the other pocket, and you can be out and about with a three lens kit and it fits in two pockets.

    1. Great choice Steven! I have one of the original Q bodies and love it. Mostly use the 01 lens, but also have the 02 zoom for a bit more focal range, and when I want something really compact I use the 07 Mount Shield lens, which is huge fun and makes the Q smaller than many compacts.

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