Luminous Landscape Reviews DP1

22 04 2008

Luminous Landscape has reviewed the DP1, coming to many of the same conclusions that we saw with the TOP (The Online Photographer) review last week. Namely, that the camera feels nice in the hand, takes outstanding photographs, but is slow to use and ergonomically annoying in terms of menu layout and access to functions.

Hmm. The bloom is definitely coming off the rose when it comes to my view of the DP1. I would still like to try one out, and I suspect I would really like it if I had one, but as a priority it is rapidly fading. This is due to a number of things, including the fact that I have become re-infatuated with my Lumix DMC-LX2, despite it’s lousy sensor.

I’ve been using manual focus on the LX2 a lot lately, where it is quite nicely integrated. You switch from auto to manual by sliding a button on the lens barrel (no poking through menus), and there is an on-screen magnified preview that works reasonably well, and a focus depth indicator. Also, there is very little chance of the focus drifting once it is set (unless you turn the camera off and on again). On the DP1, the focus button apparently moves quite easily, so it can be knocked out of place without you noticing.

The one glitch in LX2 manual focusing involves the toggle you use for focusing; it is the same one you use for setting aperture and shutter speed when in manual, shutter priority, or aperture priority mode. Therefore, when in those modes you can’t manually change focus (or at least I haven’t figured out how), because the toggle controls those other things. I get around this flaw by snapping the camera into P mode, focusing, then snapping back into the other exposure mode. Not exactly elegant.

Go Habs! I’m learning to love my DMC-LX2 all over again.

I should mention that I firmly believe it is the photographer that makes the photograph, not the camera. However, the photographer needs to know and understand his or her equipment, and feel “at one” with it in order to make the kind of photographs he or she wants to. You don’t get that very much with badly designed or ergonomically challenging cameras. If you’re always fighting with menus, or if you’re never sure what the camera is “thinking,” or how it might butt in on your process by imposing a limitation or a setting other than what you want, or if it is just too damn slow to respond at the rate that you are, then you won’t be happy and your photographs will suffer.

Besides all these usability issues, there are a number of personal factors weighing on my budget; medical things and other demands that take a higher priority.

I haven’t given up on this camera yet. But my interest is definitely waning, at least for now.

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15 responses

14 05 2008
Britton

You do realize that the DP1 has three focus modes. you rotate through those three modes by pressing a single button on the back. you do not need to go into any menu.

14 05 2008
Ed

Thanks, Britton. At the time I wrote this post I did not realize that. One of the things I complained about earlier was that the initial reviews of the DP1 didn’t discuss usability very much, so how was I to know?

I think I still prefer the LX2. With the LX2′s sliding button on the lens barrel you can change the mode without even looking at the camera. In fact, the camera doesn’t even have to be on. And you can double-check the mode while the camera is still in your pocket because it is a physical button with tactile feedback.

27 07 2008
Matt

This won’t help you now since you’re without your LX2, but it may be useful if you pick up another one or an LX3:

When in A, S, or M mode plus MF, bumping the joystick left or right toggles between aperture and/or shutter and/or focus adjustment. (Same deal as switching between shutter and aperture adjustment in M mode.) Which one is active is indicated by the colour of the aperture, shutter speed or MF indicator across the bottom of the screen.

OK, this is based on the LX1, but I’d be shocked if it weren’t the same on the LX2 and, soon, the LX3.

28 07 2008
Ed

Wow, Matt, that’s an excellent tip! BTW, I somehow managed to fix my LX2 a couple of days ago, so I’m up and running again. I just checked your suggestion and it works. In fact, there’s essentially three joystick modes when in A, S, or M (with MF on): centered controls shutter speed/aperture, bumped to the right switches into MF adjustment mode, and bumped to the left controls exposure compensation. (I.e., if you bump right for MF, you bump once to the left to re-center, and a second time to get exposure compensation.)

Man, I wish I had known about this all along. Thanks!

28 07 2008
Matt

Glad it worked out for you and that the camera isn’t a write-off!

As for your third function, sounds like the LX2′s joystick does something that the LX1′s doesn’t. In A or S, I can bump left/right to toggle aperture/shutter and MF control; exposure comp is accessed via the “up” arrow button. Exposure compensation is not available in M (except in a roundabout way [bracketing], also accessed via arrow button, not joystick).

Anyway, IMO the joystick is one interface element that Panasonic executed particularly well, though they probably dropped the ball on documenting everything it does. (Not to mention other features: I had the camera for over a year before I noticed that when WB is set to anything other than Auto, you can fine-tune it by clicking the up arrow a couple of times. Who knew? I thought I’d read the manual cover-to-cover…)

I’m also looking forward to the LX3. I passed on the LX2 because the upgrades weren’t compelling enough, but the new model is very appealing. Pity it’s too wide/not long enough for you, but I think you’ll probably have teleconverter options eventually, and maybe even right away with third-party products.

There are two unknowns I’m concerned about:

- will the accessories be reasonably priced?

- will the OVF be electronically coupled to the camera via the hot shoe, allowing zooming, focusing and (dare I hope) data displays, or will it be a relatively simple, essentially passive device? Surely it has to be coupled for focusing, at a minimum?

I’m actually not too concerned about image quality. I expect it to be very good for a small sensor, albeit not slr quality.

30 07 2008
Ed

Matt, on the LX2, the joystick matches the three bits of info at the bottom of the screen; from L-R: Exposure comp, f-stop/shutter speed, and focus. Depending on which is active, you nudge it left or right to go to what you want it to affect. In MF, all the way to the right gives you the manual focus adjustment. In AF, all the way to the right puts you into the mode where you can change the focus area (on a matrix of nine areas).

Pretty slick. Thanks for pointing me to it. (BTW, the AF focus area is useless for me, as simply using focus lock and recomposing is infinitely faster than doing all that nudging on the joystick).

As to your questions:

“- will the accessories be reasonably priced?”

HA HA HA HA HA. That’s funny. When have brand- and model-specific accessories ever been reasonably priced? :-) the DP1 optical viewfinder is about $150, so I expect the one for the LX3 to be about the same. Hopefully less.

“- will the OVF be electronically coupled to the camera …”

Nope. I’ve read quite a few things about it, and not one mentions electronic coupling. Most specify that it is just a straight viewfinder, set at 24mm. There might be markings for 28mm and 60mm, but I doubt it. Definitely no focusing coupling. It really is just a pointer, like the viewfinder on cameras like the Canon G9 or the Nikon Coolpix 5 series. It’s not intended for general use; it’s more for things like street photography.

What I’ve seen is that Panasonic is borrowing heavily from the DP1 hype. They’re overstating the “larger sensor” thing, riding on the buzz that the DP1 created (even though the DP1′s sensor is WAY bigger than the LX3′s which is only marginally bigger than the LX2′s). That optical viewfinder is a direct rip-off of the DP1′s although I like the funky round look of it much better than the DP1′s.

30 07 2008
Ed

BTW, regarding the markings on the optical viewfinder, it is likely just for 24mm, and any markings will be to show 16:9 vs. 4:3, vs. 3:2. I don’t think you could have those three variations PLUS show different forcal lengths (given that there is no electronic coupling).

The optical viewfinder on the DP1 is simple because there’s only one aspect ratio and one focal length.

30 07 2008
Matt

Ed, the joystick function sounds exactly as on the LX1, plus exposure compensation and focus-zone selection in AF. Likewise, pressing on the joystick gives you some handy menus on both cameras, and I know they added an item or two as part of the upgrade from LX1 to LX2 (metering mode, for one… not sure what else).

I’m sure you’re right about the price of accessories, unfortunately. Hopefully retailers will have some ability to put together bundles that reduce some of the sting.

But where have you found details about the viewfinder? I’ve been poking around and turned up very little that seems definitive or based on hands-on experience. Even Panasonic simply says you can use it to save battery power by turning of the screen when using it — no real specs or features.

I was shocked to see that the optical finder on a $200 Canon p&s zooms with the lens, though you do have to trust that AF has done its job properly… and of course the framing is terrible. Surely the same holds true for the G9? I realize it’s not so simple for a shoe-mounted device, but here’s hoping it’s something we’ll see sooner or later. Or maybe there will eventually be a shoe-mounted EVF…

30 07 2008
Ed

Matt, I don’t remember where I saw details about the viewfinder, but you’re right that it’s hard to find anything specific. To me that’s a clue; if it was electronically coupled, Panasonic would make a lot of noise about that. I did read a post in a forum that claimed the Japanese site for the LX3 said the viewfinder zoomed, but there was no proof and no follow-up. It could easily have been a mistake.

Personally, I think I prefer it to be simple. The viewfinder is not intended to act like the viewfinder in an SLR; it’s more like the viewfinder in a Leica rangefinder. You use it as a guide, to make sure you’re pointing in the right direction, but that’s all. Just very basic framing for street photography and fast-moving candid people pictures. Again, it’s not intended to be the primary way of composing.

The battery saving thing just means that when you’re using the viewfinder you can power-down the screen to save the battery. That has nothing to do with electronic coupling.

1 08 2008
Matt

Ed, looks like you’re right about everything, damn you, except the Leica rangefinder: those have a sophisticated focusing mechanism; they’re anything but basic.

Panasonic’s page describing the accessories in Japanese has more details than the last English version I saw. I had a glimmer of hope when a Google “translation” said the OVF *does* zoom (no doubt this is the basis of the forum posting you saw), but a Yahoo “translation” said the opposite. I’ll assume that’s the more accurate rendering until hard info starts coming out in English. Also, it seems that the OVF and its framelines are 3:2 ratio. Although I love shooting at 16:9, I don’t have a problem with that.

Pricing for accessories is starting to appear on Japanese sites. Based on those prices and the street price of the camera itself (about $550 in Japan), I’m expecting to see something like this:

$175-200 for the viewfinder
$150-175 for the wide-angle conversion lens
$100 for the case
$75 for the polarizing filter
$20-30 for the other filters
$20 for the adapter

(Just realized I didn’t take Japanese sales taxes into account — included in the prices, AFAIK — and don’t have time to revise based on that, but this should be in the ballpark, anyway.)

I might spring for the adapter and filters, and pass on the OVF unless I can find a sweet deal on a bundle of all the accessories. I’ll also wait to make sure something more compelling than the LX3 doesn’t appear at Photokina.

Time to start saving my loonies and toonies… the LX1 is getting really long in the tooth and has always been sooo frustrating in low light.

Cheers.

1 08 2008
Ed

Matt, you’re correct about the Leica rangefinder; it (like any true rangefinder) does have a sophisticated focusing mechanism. But have you ever used one? All you get, really, is a tiny translucent square in the middle of the view. Inside that square is a double image that you have to align to set the focus. It’s 100% mechanically coupled (no electronics), and aside from that little focusing spot there is (as far as I know) no other information. And they don’t zoom; they just have guide marks for the main focal lengths (28mm, 50mm, 135mm, etc.).

So my point about the Leica viewfinder was that it tells you nothing about exposure settings, zoom, or even depth of field. Aside from focus (on the Leica), it’s really a “viewfinder” in the purest sense of the word. It just shows you what the camera is pointing at, not what the camera is actually SEEING. (Compared with an SLR, or an EVF, which does show you what the camera is actually seeing.)

You can tell by the Panasonic OVF that there is nothing complex in there. It’s too small to have any moving parts, and there is no mechanical coupling. Hence, I think it is just a non-moving, non-zooming, non-focusing viewfinder.

I would guess that it has guide marks for the three aspect ratios (at 24 mm). Notice that the viewfinder is round? I think it represents the lens’s full field of view (which is round). I’ve seen a graphic that shows how the new sensor relates to the optical field of view, and it shows that the three different aspect ratios are not just crops of a 16:9 sensor. Each aspect ratio uses a different dimension on the sensor (hard to explain without seeing the graphic).

Related: the screen on the back is no longer 16:9. It is also designed to match the multiple modes of the sensor, so you get black bars no matter which mode you’re in.

OK, I found the graphic:
http://www.pbase.com/viztyger/image/100570650

That graphic compares the sensors of the LX2 and the LX3 with regard to the three aspect ratios. Look at the one for the LX3 and then square it off so it accomodates all three ratios and that (I think) is how the screen in the back is. Also, I suspect that’s basically what you see when you look through the OVF: a round view with three different rectangles marked off as guide lines.

1 08 2008
Ed

(BTW, by “field of view” I mean “image circle.”)

1 08 2008
Matt

Oh yeah, I’m now completely with you that it’s a passive viewfinder with a single focal length. One dicey Google translation is not worth trusting…

I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if there’s only one set of framelines — three would risk getting cluttered. Even if you preferred a ratio other than that shown in the VF, I suspect you’d quickly adapt to the framelines. The finder’s coverage isn’t 100% anyway (80-something?), so the finder is not going to allow you to see everything in the frame no matter what ratio you’re using.

I’d expect it to be an improvement over what you get with the built-in finder on a Canon, for example, if only because the shoe is in line with the lens.

… but, for $200 or so and with the camera reportedly having a much-improved LCD with way better daylight visibility, I think you’re the one who’s going to be discovering the joys and pains of shooting with the OVF, not me!

As for the new sensor, I’d seen the diagram before. Not a surprising development, since they were already doing something similar on many FZ, TZ and FX cameras. A good idea, IMO. I was always annoyed by the way the LX1 produced 3:2 or 4:3 images (i.e. by in-camera cropping). It’ll be much better to have real wide-angle at those ratios; much as I like 16:9, I might just go back to traditional 3:2 thanks to this change.

3 08 2008
Matt

Panasonic has posted its translation of the more detailed Japanese page, so some details are now confirmed about the viewfinder:

- no zoom, as expected
- one set of 3:2 framelines
- 82% coverage

http://panasonic.net/pavc/lumix/lx3/optional_accessories.html

3 08 2008
Ed

Well, that’s nice for some folks, but a bit sad for others. I’m somewhere in between. I expect that if I had an LX3, with the OVF, I would only use it 5% of the time. Most of the time I’m very particular about framing, but sometimes I’m content to wing it. For example, a few months ago I went through a phase where I was running around shooting “from the hip” with the LX2, perfectly aware that I would throw away at least 80% of the shots. (Example, and another, and another, and another.) I got some nice ones, but that was mostly an exercise in “thinking different.”

I suspect that with the OVF I would (will?) learn by memory how my 16:9 mode translates to the OVF’s 3:2 view, and will use it when doing fast grab shots in the “street photography” vein, or when grabbing candids in social situations, where framing is a matter of luck and cropping. But it will never be my primary way to compose and shoot.

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