Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Getting up close

Whilst I'm still getting to know my new "proper" camera, a Fujifilm XE-1 I've also just said goodbye to my old Leica D-Lux compact camera, which has found a new home with my step-daughter.

My compact cameras have a hard life.They usually live in my pocket or thrust into a bag and get used pretty much every day. The D-Lux has stood up to it well, and bears the scars to show it. In four years it has only let me down once. It sits in the select group of compact cameras I've owned  that produced photos that punched above their weight.

However, technology moves on, and earlier this year I realised that I was using the camera on my Galaxy S4 phone more than the D-Lux, even when I had the D-Lux with me, as on the  Crich grice.

With a  lot of travel planned for the rest of this year I decided it was time for a new travel camera. As usual I went for last year's model to get a good price, and opted for the Panasonic TZ40 I've been using Panasonic compact cameras for ten years now and they've all been good. Even the D-Lux is a Panasonic under the Leica branding.

After the D-Lux, it does feel rather light and plasticky and although it promised a massive 20x zoom range I wasn't expecting most of that range to be usable. It has built in GPS, which I find useful when taking photos on cycling trips and WiFi, which perhaps is a bit of a gimmick.

Or is it?

One thing you can do is link it with your mobile phone and as well as using it as a remote viewfinder and shutter release you can also use the phone to operate most of the other camera functions. Combined with a surprisingly good macro capability and touch screen focusing this suddenly opens up the possibility of taking some interesting layout shots with the camera crammed into otherwise inaccessible positions. Like this one taken with the camera right against the backscene.

I'm still getting to grips with it as a general purpose camera, in particular trying to work out the limits where image quality starts to suffer. The large zoom range is more usable than expected, thanks to good image stabilisation. In fact in good light even the further extended  "digital zoom" is usable sometimes. On the downside low light performance isn't anything to write home about, and the in-camera processing of the JPEGs is a bit extreme for my liking, especially since saving images in RAW isn't possible.

Although as usual I went for a camera that allows full manual override I have been very impressed with the Intelligent Auto setting that chooses settings for you and I'm beginning to trust it. Oddly using the XE-1 I find myself setting everything but ISO to manual but I'm not proud and don't mind using automatic settings when they are available.

All in all I'm relatively pleased with it, whilst sad to see the D-Lux go.


  1. Both Petra and I have used Panasonic TZ40 's and other earlier variants of the range for a long time. They do indeed shoot above their weight...ours have been dropped in mine-goo and got soaking wet and still worked. I think, given the intelligent preferences of the TZ40 you can, most times, trust the auto feature, although I began to prefer the bracketing feature. One word of caution though, the TZ40 is susceptible to dust in a dry atmosphere, that killed one of Petra's cameras as the lens had too much dust in it. Damp, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be a problem. I went on to a Samsung WB700 which takes excellent photos underground (it has a 30 sec timer feature) and also has a good macro, but is crap at landscapes! We haver both gone over to Nikon SLRs now, but I still use the Samsung underground and for my model shots...the Nikon, for all it's superb features, is just hopeless at model photography! (and I would have another TZ40 any time.)

    1. Iain,

      I had an early Canon Ixus that I loved. Pocketable, stylish and produced some great photos, but the damp of a typical cycling trip in Ireland killed it. I suspect the period I had problems with the D-Lux was down to dust somewhere in the lens mechanism, so I'll look out for that. The TZ40 has already survived being dropped off the bike on to the road. How it wills tand up to Cuba, Australia, India and Ireland will be interesting to see. I did consider a ruggedised compact instead.

      There is an argument that the DoF provided by a small sensor size, and the slim casing make a mobile phone camera very capable for model photography

    2. James, that's a very interesting point about the DoF I hadn't thought about that. Cuba, Australia, India...you are an adventurous chap! And I thought I was " livin' on the edge" going to Aberystwyth for the afternoon :-) I hope you will be blogging about your adventures?

    3. Iain,

      Cuba at least is a holiday, as is the Irish cycling trip. I don't seem to get out much when I'm in India, and my Australian is mostly going to involve a convention centre and hotel, oh yes, and The Puffing Billy!