Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lumix v.s. Leica

This doesn't look like a fair test, but bear with me....

After about three years of trusty use, my little Lumix FX9 broke. This is the camera I carry to art fairs and events and slip in my pocket whenever I need to snap something at better quality than my iPhone. It performed like a champ (in fact this was a camera Annie Leibovitz gave to all her friends when it first came out).

As someone who loves to buy new gadgets, this was an opportunity as well as a sadness, so off I went in search of the next great thing! As the FX9 has long been replaced by newer models, my criteria were that the camera had to slip into my back pocket and it had to take good pictures.

My first try was a little Sony which distorted straight lines so badly it went straight back to Best Buy. Next was the smallest Lumix which was just a little too small to handle easily and now lives happily in my wife’s handbag. I then tried the littlest Leica, the C-Lux 2 (also too small and noisy pictures) and the next size up in the Leica range, the D-Lux 3 (above) which is not only problematically large for a pocket camera but does just terribly in low light situations.

By this time I was properly mournful of my old camera and went on Amazon where to my surprise I found plenty of FX9s both new and used. So I ordered a barely used one for $149 and now I feel restored. Apart from revealing my psychosis, the whole point of all this is to recommend getting an FX9 while they’re still available. The "more pixels doesn’t necessarily mean better pictures" thing may not make sense logically but it does in practice.

I’m aware that I didn’t try any Canons. Something about their design just didn’t work for me. But any comments or recommendations on the best pocket size digital camera are welcome.


Anonymous said...

How about trying the Canon SD1000 (or IXUS70 as it's called in Europe)? The design is nice (I love that it's completely square!) and it takes tremendous pictures, considering the price...

Anonymous said...

I love my Lumix, too and had the same experience when my daughter lost mine--the "discontinued" ones are a great value.

Anonymous said...

The Canons have one great advantage: They have a viewfinder so you aren't holding the camera at an unsteady arms length peering at a washed out screen.

Unknown said...


Recently purchased my first pocket digi since a Sony cybershot DSC-3mp I picked up in 2000.

I went with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30, for precisely all the reasons you laid out - specifically size.

However, I've grown to become very frustrated with it. Aside from being a little cumbersome to handle, with the position of the controls having obviously been positioned to accommodate it's luxurious display - it under performs in low-light and night photography, and while the pictures come out crisp, they're flat, almost 1 dimensional as if there's no curve in the lens.

Very odd.

But, performs suitably for blogging, and everyday use.

However, I've been on the prowl for my first entry into the Digi SLR market, and after having driven myself crazy for over a year, believe I've decided on the Nikon D200.

11 points of focus, 5fps everything one would get with Scott's Canon, except I found the grip and feel of the body to be a lot more natural. Plus, the price was exactly where i wanted to be as an amateur.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on either set up. Or if anyone else has had a similar experience with the Lumix DMC-FX30 for that matter.

Enjoy your work immensely, James. Look forward to more from Year in Pictures.

Anonymous said...

as someone who loves film and the darkroom, i held out until this summer for a digital. then i met an olympus fe280 (gasp!). it's a the perfect size, takes decent photos, is priced right, has an excellent battery life, and can withstand two year old hands (well, almost- i had to purchase a new one at christmas). still am not sold on the digital revolution, but i do love snapping the two year old all over and not lugging about large cameras and baggage.

Anonymous said...

i would urge you to look at the lumix "dmc-lx2", (don't they all sound like dishwashers or something) anyway i was recommended this by my trusty camera man in madrid, it's got a really big screen and impressive picture quality and fits in your pocket!

good luck.

brown-griffin said...

Nice entry. I have been tempted by the Lumix LX2 also, but it appears to be exactly the same camera as the Leica D-Lux 3—lens, body, and controls.. Reports of heavy noise on both (obviously) of those cameras has made me steer clear and wait—like the rest of the interwebs it seems—for the hopeful prospect of a Lumix LX3.

In the meantime, I'm going to pick out a sub-$200 Lumix for my daily jacket pocket.

Anonymous said...

I have had a difficult relationship with my Canon S70. Bought it chead, had to take it twice to be repaired, and neede about six months to get used to it. Now I am very happy with it, specially with the combination of the 28 mm. end of its zoom and the 400 ASA. Suits me fine. Image quality is not that great, but it's discrete and silent and I've shot 4.000 pics in two years.
Tried the Lumix, great camera but pretty bad in low light. Used some Oly's, cheap ones. Great colour and quality for its price.
Still, I ca't forget my XA and my pentaxes and my jewel, an old Mamiya 6. Take them out ocasionally just for old times sake. One day digital cameras will satisfy me as much as they still do. At least, I hope so.

Milena Jesenska said...

I have a Canon Power Shot S1 IS from 2005 I bought in USA and I shot 20.000 since then!
The great thing is the movil display so you can take pictures from diferent angle, specially from the floor o high up to your head and see what you're doign, plus most of the time nobody seems to realize about what you're doing with your camera.
Is small but not pocket size but it goes well in my bag (one women's advantage!).
My perfect accesorie is a mini tripod that goes with the camera all the time so I can take pictures at night with an iso 50 and goes perfect.
The 3.2 pixel is fine too.
There are many ultra new versions now but here in Argentina is too expensive and I'm just in the process to evaluate my next step. Maybe I'll try one lumix if I can find here.
Congratulation for the blog, I love it!

Anonymous said...

ricoh gr-d. designed like a real camera, best lens you'll find on a compact.

Anonymous said...

I had to carry my camera with me everyday for a year for a project and chose the Canon PowerShot A720. Didn't want a big DSLR, but also not something too tiny. The 720's battery holder makes an easy grip and also allowed me to use rechargeable AAs for the whole project. The camera has a lot of great features and at 7 megapixels decent quality. For online, I often set it lower just to improve upload time. Not sure about the back pocket, but being a woman, it fit in my bag. Now, for another project, I want higher image quality and raw file capability. I am considering DSLR, as I don't need as much portability. However, the new PowerShot G9, which seems to pack a portable punch for $500, has seriously caught my eye with 12 megapixels, raw capability and what seem to be pretty strong reviews.

duncan said...

for a small and durable camera I think there is no right decision but an Olympus sw series camera. I have a 790, but several newer models promise to be better. They are waterproof. One is allowed to drop them on the ground. One who weights less than 200 pounds is allowed to stand on them. They are small and look nice enough. The programming leaves some things to be desired, but it is possible to learn to use it quickly and well.

mauthra said...

The new Sigma DP1 is definitely something you should check.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, just lost my camera and am going on Safari in two weeks...I would like a good zoom and fairly light and unobrtusive possibly low light also? Any advice?

Many thanks!!

The Year in Pictures said...

Yes. Lumix have come out with a new smallish camera with an amazing zoom and good video capture. It's the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5K 9MP Digital Camera with 10x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom.

I've tried it out and can vouch for the great results.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks! I have bought it and am excited to try it on safari next week. Any idea about waterproof cases for snorchelling??

Thanks again :-)