Winter in Yosemite with the Panasonic LX7

Discussion in 'Panasonic' started by Stan, May 23, 2013.

  1. Stan

    Stan Regular

    Apr 19, 2013
    Hi all! Here's a little mini user review of a fine compact camera, the LX7. I'm sharing some images from the incomparable Yosemite from a trip I made last winter, where all the photos were taken with the Panasonic LX7. I also brought along a Canon FF camera, but that kit is certainly not a serious compact. More like seriously non-compact!

    The LX7 is a camera I like very much. It's not a camera that can replace a larger sensor (m43 or larger) camera for my purposes, because sometimes I print large, need high ISO, or need DOF control. The current 16MP Oly Pens are my favorite cameras at the moment. It's just the right size, feature set, and IQ for most of what I do. What's useful about the LX is the size and the lens. The 24-90mm zoom range is fantastic, OIS works, the lens is sharp, and the multi-aspect sensor encourages different compositions. In the cold, I keep the LX7 it in my outer jacket shell, and take it out for when opportunities arise.

    Snow, Cook's Meadow and Half Dome. In this scene I was in a long, long snowball fight with my son. It was mostly cloudy, but I kept my eye on the tree. While dodging flying spheres of wet snow, I saw from the corner of my eye the light break through. I called time, took a few frames, and then resumed the snowball fight.

    Earlier that same day, I made it out before sunrise. Fresh snow made the hike around the meadows a challenge, and it was very cold. But Yosemite always brings you gifts if you go out when the light is good. Below is the Merced River on a cold winter morning. The lowest of the Three Brothers is on the right side.

    As the daylight started to makes itself seen on the granite monoliths, I found myself in a commonly visited area near Swinging Bridge. The image below was a tough exposure, with the light hitting Yosemite Falls in the background and the trees and snow in shade. The LX7 handles fairly well lifting of shadows. (Highlights are a not nearly as malleable as shadows in my experience.)

    At the end of this wonderful day, I made it up to Tunnel View. It's a spot that is one of the most visited in the park. Millions of photos from this exact spot are taken each year. My goal when I go here is really more like a pilgrimage or paying homage to Yosemite, as a person and as a photographer. I don't think of it as a place to really do something new, different, or whatever. I go to Tunnel View to feel Yosemite. When the light is good, it's a special place to be. The LX7 handled this scene well. The highlights are delicate -- that's the best way to describe the files, which is expected given the sensor size. If you push the highlights much it falls apart. Luckily the clouds seemed to have helped soften and spread the light so dynamic range wasn't an issue. In many ways, this is an easy shot to get. There aren't many photographic choices, it's obvious where your subjects are, and technically it's wasn't challenging since the light was good. Literally point and shoot. It just goes to show that being there when the light is good is such a huge part of it.

    You're never alone in a place like Yosemite. I knew the light would be good when the pros came up from the valley with their FF, MF, and LF gear. I also am guilty as charged, and had a serious non-compact on a tripod. Why not if it's in the trunk?

    The previous day, when most all the snow fell, I went out for an afternoon walk. It was just turning from rain to snow, so the ground was wet. I left my FF gear in the room, since I planned to only go out for a walk and just enjoy some fresh air. Then I happened to see a couple getting married and their wedding photographer, heading towards Lower Yosemite Falls. Rain or shine, they're going to get their photos. A special moment for them indeed. I was able to get out my LX7, jog to get the falls into the frame, boost my ISO (it was fairly dim and fading), zoom in, and grab a few frames. OIS helped here for sure.

    Overall the LX7 is a fine camera. It works for deliberate landscape photography, although I still lean on larger sensors most of the time. Two thumbs up.

    Yosemite is one of my favorite places. If you have not been yet, then I recommend winter or spring, ideally being there the day after a snow storm.

    Thanks for reading and looking!
  2. wolfie

    wolfie Veteran

    Sep 19, 2010
    Some very nice images there, thanks for sharing!
  3. deckitout

    deckitout Regular

    May 19, 2013
    Great images and write up, many thanks
  4. Lovely shots, I especially like the colour ones, the first of the colour, particularly, with the reflections in water and distant mist. Very moody.
  5. nippa

    nippa Top Veteran

    Aug 7, 2010
    Cheshire UK
    Nice write up and I love the colours
  6. ReD

    ReD Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    I like these a lot
  7. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Beautiful stuff Stan. I'm pretty sure I remember seeing these previously. The last shot of the bride and groom really stuck in my memory.

    I fundamentally agree with everything you've written about the LX7. I love almost everything about it and can't wait for the day they design the identical camera a slightly larger body with the 1" sensor from the RX100.

    BUT, I have to admit that as much as I like this little camera, I'm back into my typical compact conundrum - I almost never actually USE IT!

    Particularly now that we have cameras like the Nikon Coolpix A and Ricoh GR that are the same size (notably smaller, actually, because of the retracting lenses), I'd just about always rather have a similarly pocketable APS camera than a 1/1.7" sensor camera, no matter how great the feature set and how sublime it is in use. There's the issue of the zoom, and you've used it nicely here. But I almost never shoot with zooms on my other cameras and tend not to think like a zoom. I like to get locked into a focal length and just go with it. Zooms confuse me - they give me too many choices. Obviously there are times when a zoom makes a LOT of sense, but my bottom line is I don't enjoy them enough to take advantage of them enough, at which point a fixed lens 28mm in a smaller camera with a WAY larger sensor just makes more sense to me. In the month that I had a Nikon, I had it with me a huge amount of the time. I've never used the LX7 or any other camera that way before.

    So I share your findings and even your enthusiasm, but I don't find myself picking the little guy up very often. I'm keeping it because for $300, its too good not to have a compact zoom available for those occasions when you really need 'em, rare as those may be for me. And sometimes I just like to use it as a calculator for different fields of view at different aspect ratios! That's one of the coolest things about it - the multi-aspect ratio. Realizing that a 24mm equivalent at 16:9 is as wide as a 21mm at 3:2 has been a really useful piece of information for me. Anyway, thanks for the observations and particularly for the great photographs!

  8. Azon

    Azon Regular

    Mar 15, 2013
    Great pictures, interesting story and very good camera indeed!
    It's always covers me when on the main camera (OM-D) I have 75mm or 10-300mm, this little guy as a last chance knife and it allows me not to loose an interesting shot that would be missed without it.
  9. Boid

    Boid All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    A most compelling case for the LX7. Gorgeous images. Thanks much for sharing your experiences with it.
  10. Livnius

    Livnius Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jun 3, 2012
    Melbourne. Australia
    Fantastic set Stan, love the tones and variety of textures in the first shot...I think it works brilliantly in mono.

    Never knew that. Certainly makes the case for multi aspect sensors even more compelling than I had thought previously.
  11. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Oh yeah, they're wonderful. If you have a 4:3 sensor and you prefer 3:2 or 16:9 just in terms of the composition, you can get it, but all you're doing is cropping off the top and bottom of the 4:3 image - you're not actually covering a wider area. Similarly, if you have a 3:2 sensor and want 4:3 for a particular composition (I personally almost always prefer 3:2 for landscape format shots and 4:3 for portrait format), you're just cropping off the ends (or top and bottom in portrait mode), and just losing area. With a multi-aspect sensor, when you go from 4:3 to 3:2 to 16:9, you're actually getting a wider field of view with each step. The exception seems to be for 1:1 shots, which even on the LX7 are simply cropped out of 4:3. But still, if I want a square image I'd rather pull it out of a 4:3 frame than a 3:2 frame because you're getting more pixels and more height and width to the FOV...

    On balance I prefer 3:2 cameras to 4:3. But if every camera could be a multi-aspect sensor, I'd like that a lot better. It was the one thing I absolutely LOVED about the GH2, a camera I otherwise didn't particularly enjoy shooting with.

  12. Biro

    Biro Super Moderator

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Kind of makes one wonder why Panasonic doesn't do this with all of its better cameras. It's a difference that makes a difference.
  13. entropic remnants

    entropic remnants Hall of Famer

    Mar 3, 2013
    John Griggs
    Fantastic work with the LX7 -- or with any camera, lol! Very nice.
  14. Stan

    Stan Regular

    Apr 19, 2013
    Many thanks! The first color one, Merced River in Winter, is the one I ended up printing. That morning was a very special Yosemite moment for me.
  15. Stan

    Stan Regular

    Apr 19, 2013

    Thanks Ray! You've definitely seen these before on DPR, but now that I've moved, I thought I'd share here.

    We are in 100% agreement with the LX7. I don't use it much. It's my B camera, while I carry something else most of the time. Otherwise, I might jam it in my jacket pocket or backpack when I head out. One area where the LX7 also is special is fill flash and fast sync speeds. I may post some examples in the near future. For action portraits of kids, it can be a special camera in broad daylight.

    Multi-aspect sensor -- too bad this feature hasn't been pumped up more. It's overlooked, and it's too bad. I also like 3:2 for landscape orientation (sometimes 16:9) and 4:3 for verticals. I found a pro lab that prints 15x20, so my 4:3 verticals come out nice.

    Zooms: I find them useful in the field for landscapes obviously. I actually only own primes for M43. The glass is just so much better, and I can live with restricted focal lengths. Most of the time I can be slow and deliberate, so changing lenses isn't an issue, although if it's windy or dusty... But when out and about with the 24-105 and 17-40 on Canon FF, it's much more of a landscape photographer's tool in my area with cliffs, walls, fences, etc. to deal with. Well except for the weight. If I hike long hills, I'm grabbing the M43 kit. It is striking how much our environment actually affects our gear choices.

    Your choice of a 28mm equivalent with an APS sensor makes a lot of sense. Your style tends toward a moderate-standard wide, and you are part of the environment when you're doing your street photos. Plus in poor light, the bigger sensor is needed. It's a no brainer for you.

    For these kinds of landscapes, I was almost always at ISO 80 (the only exception being the bride-groom image in fading light). So the small sensor issue is mitigated. This is probably why I can easily work with M43. On a sturdy tripod, base ISO, good glass, deep DOF, it's not going to be all that different than even FF. Photographic considerations dominate.
  16. serhan

    serhan All-Pro

    May 7, 2011
    Excellent shots.
  17. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Awesome awesome awesome photos Stan!! You captured Yosemite's beauty quite well. Now I just need to go visit Yosemite!
  18. john m flores

    john m flores All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    Nice shots Stan! I'd love to see similar shots taken with your larger cameras for comparison.
  19. Yeats

    Yeats All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    Goodness, these are wonderful. :hail:

    Each time I look, I have a new favorite.

    Panasonic could sell a million LX7's if potential customers saw your work.
  20. retow

    retow All-Pro

    Jul 24, 2010
    Great work.