When I was telling people I wanted a compact camera which could perform well at a high ISO, I think many misunderstood. What I really should have said is, I want to be able to take low-light pictures without a flash. This picture was taken using my DMC-LX2′s intelligent ISO mode, which selected an ISO rating of 250. There is no reason for me to have wanted to go any higher with this shot – especially with all lights in the night market. With a shutter of 1/125 and optical image stabilization, a remarkable amount of detail is still preserved, the most important being the expression on the woman’s face.
Now, my old camera could do OK at ISOs up to 200, but it couldn’t go any higher. More importantly, however, the FX7 only took pictures at 100 or 200, while the LX2′s intelligent ISO setting fine-tunes the ISO at 125 or 250 etc. depending on the shot. It is smart enough to emphasize aperture speed for moving subjects and to lower the ISO for still subjects. This seems to be more important than the fact that the camera can theoretically do ISO 1600. Considering the noise you can already see in the above picture, I’d be hesitant to use anything above 300, but when you consider that most compact digitals on the market can’t do much more than 100 that’s pretty good, and even that extra 50 percent boost gives me a much wider range of options.
My guess is that 2008 will see much better ISO performance across the board, including the long awaited LX3, but if you bought your last camera a few years ago you will be pleasantly surprised and how much better the new cameras perform.
UPDATE: I rewrote the last couple of paragraphs after looking through my old photographs.
After much deliberation I finally got a Panasonic DMC-LX2. The main competitor was the yet-to-be-announced LX3, and what finally made my decision was spending some time looking at this timeline of camera product announcements which made it pretty clear that it was unlikely for any new camera to be announced before the new year, and certainly not in time for me to get one before my January trip to India.
I’ve only spent one day playing around with the camera, but I already love it. It is a huge improvement over my old FX7. The biggest downside is the fact that the lens sticks out a bit from the camera which makes it a bit bulky to stick in my pants pocket, but the detachable lens cap isn’t as bad as I thought it would be and it is still a very compact camera.
The two things I wanted most, a wide angle lens and better ISO performance, are particularly satisfying. The 16:9 wide screen format offered by the LX2 gives it a cinematic quality to the wide angle shots which I really like. (See above.) And while pictures shot in low light are still pretty noisy, I find I can dispense with the flash far more often than I could before. (And the flash gives a much more even and diffuse light than on the FX7, with less red-eye.)
The pictures I’m uploading to Flickr these days are still mostly from the FX7 as I’m still learning how to use the LX2, but I’ll try to get some more LX2 photos up as soon as I can.
As I said in my last post, owning a dog has gotten me out and about a bit more. That and the fantastic weather we’ve had the last few days. There is a mountain path right behind the house, and from here you can see a panorama of the entire valley surrounding Hualien city, with the Central Mountain Range on the left, and the Pacific Ocean and Costal Mountain Range off in the distance. I like taking Juno on this path because even though it is well maintained, nobody else seems to use it! I’ve also included a more recent picture of the dog – a few months older than she was in the last one I posted.
With my dissertation, job hunting, filmmaking, moving to Taiwan, starting a new job, etc. we haven’t had a vacation since our honeymoon seven years ago … so we decided to take a break and visit Kerala after working on the film last month. It was just 10 days, but we had a fantastic time. I’ll write more about Kerala later, but here are our photos from the trip:
Click on the photo to see the complete set, or here to see the slideshow.