Lumix vs. Lumix

With Dan “35hunter” James’ permission, I’m ‘borrowing’ some of the content of his recent blog about the performance of his Panasonic Lumix FX10 to compare it with my newly purchased Panasonic Lumix ZS60. I’m going to quote the salient points from his writing on the FX10, and then add my observations on the same points as they apply to the ZS60. This is mainly so you can see how one company’s similar offerings differ in actual performance (although since the ‘testing’ was done by two different people under quite different conditions it is hardly a scientific analysis). I’ve put his original text in italics, and will add my comments in bold.

What I like about the Lumix FX10

– It’s very compact and light, but not so it’s awkward or fiddly to use.

Same with the ZS60. There are a few controls that are awkward, but on the whole it’s very easy to use. The front multi-purpose control ring is particularly welcome if you’re an old film camera user.

– The camera is easy to set up and use, the menus are logical, and there aren’t many (or perhaps any) silly superfluous features to get in the way.

Not so with the ZS60. It took me a week to get the settings to where it produced what I would say are acceptable images, and the menu could use some logic applied to it. As for superfluous features, it has a lot of them. So many I’m not sure I’ve even tried them all. There is a whole section of digital ‘filters’ which would probably be wonderful for anyone who doesn’t have post-shoot processing ability, but who is that user these days?

– The FX10’s zoom lens starts at 35mm, my favoured focal length for a digital compact, so I just powered it up and started shooting, without touching the zoom rocker. No need to reverse engineer and figure out different focal lengths.

The ZS60 starts at 24mm, with noticeable distortion. It does have “zoom resume” to enable the camera to start up at the focal length it was shut down at, which could be used to preset a favoured position – if you remember to shut it down at the right setting. Nicely, the camera displays the current focal length on a sliding scale when you activate the zoom control.

– The Intelligent ISO mode is great for optimising the camera’s performance. I set the ISO limit to ISO400, then the camera always used the lowest ISO it could (starting at its native ISO100) without dipping too low with shutter speed, thus avoiding camera shake.

This newer camera also has Intelligent ISO and a lot of other “i” settings, including “Intelligent Automatic”. Now let’s think about that: it has a “Program” mode which allows the camera to pick the settings and what is essentially this other “Program” mode which allows the camera to pick the settings. Why? Are they admitting one of these is no good? Well I think yes, and guess which one it is (from my experience anyway). The so-called “intelligent” settings don’t seem to make much improvement. I like that the ISO can go down to 80 as I generally shoot in bright sun. The high speeds (above 400) are just noise-producing, typical of most cameras with small sensors. You have to have pretty low standards to accept the quality of images taken at these ‘super’ ISO settings (this observation is not limited to the Lumix).

– The reliable exposure system of this Lumix meant very little need for using the exposure compensation dial, which is certainly not the case with many of my favourite digitals where I begin with -1/3 or -2/3 to avoid blowing out highlights, and sometimes need to drop further.

I wish this held true on the newer ZS60. It has a tendency towards underexposure, and compensating for it in bright light means overexposure in low light. I spent a lot of time getting used to correcting its exposure after finally getting the white balance accurate. Admittedly we don’t have ‘normal’ light here, especially at this time of the year, but that just means the camera isn’t good at handling difficult lighting situations.

– The FX10’s lens was fast enough at f/2.8 and plenty sharp enough with decent light, in fact significantly sharper than I expected. Again the 35mm focal length at the wide end helps here – many compact cameras go wider, to say 28 or even 24mm, with a maximum aperture of perhaps f/2.8 or f/2.4, but once you zoom in to 35mm, they’re slower than that, meaning longer shutter speeds and increased risk of camera shake.

The ZS60’s lens is a dim f3.3 that drops to f6.4 in telephoto range. It is decidedly not sharp, and this is the biggest disappointment of the camera. On the whole this isn’t an issue when shooting in bright light, but this in not a camera for low light conditions considering its maximum aperture and poor high ISO performance.

– Overall the Lumix FX10 just gets on with making decent, reliable photographs, in a very portable package, there’s very little to disappoint.

Over-all the Lumix ZS60 just about manages to take decent snapshots in good light. If the lens were sharper and the exposure more accurate it would excel as a camera, especially if they removed the superfluous functions (and their associated buttons). The specifications held such promise, but the camera failed to deliver on them. It’s usable, but it does disappoint.

What I didn’t like about the Lumix FX10

Really, there’s only one thing, and that’s something shared by the majority of cameras I use, so it’s unfair to isolate the FX10 for this exclusively.

The b/w mode is just too middly muddly grey (technical terminology!), only starting to show the deeper blacks and crisper whites I like in high contrast scenes with bright light and strong shadows.

I realised to avoid writing off 95% of the b/w shots I made with the FX10, I’d need to run them through one of my b/w Snapseed presets, something I increasingly want to avoid when I have a number of cameras that deliver b/w images I love straight out of camera.

The newer camera has the same failing. In fact, most newer cameras do. I think it’s down to the CMOS sensors they use these days as opposed to the old CCD sensors. (Be warned: some cameras with CMOS sensors are advertised as having CCD sensors; check multiple specification sources before you buy.) The CMOS sensors are ‘harsher’, without so many gradients in tone. As such they try to compensate by losing extremes, so absolute black turns to deep gray and bright white becomes dingy. The tones in between get shuffled into a limited range, and the picture comes out lacking ‘snap’. This is what we used to call “crispness” when it was a factor of the lens (yes, the lens design can affect image contrast as well as sharpness).

BW126

To the ZS60’s credit you can adjust the image type presets, and so give the monochrome setting some extra contrast. On the whole I tend to shoot in colour anyway, and desaturate to B&W if I think the image will look better that way. Otherwise if it would look better in colour and you shot in B&W – you’re stuck.

Aside from this, no complaints with the little Lumix!

I think I’ve made my complaints about the one I bought clear. If there is a lesson here it is “don’t be fooled by good specifications; get some user opinions before you buy”. Except that the user opinions I found for the ZS60 were inaccurate to my own subsequent experiences. When it comes to specifications, would it kill them to give some resolution numbers for the lens? The lens is, after all, the most important aspect of a camera. They stuck the Leica name on this because the lens design is from them, but the execution of that design is sadly lacking. Perhaps manufacturers think people won’t understand numbers like “67 lines per millimeter”, or perhaps they’re worried they will.

P1000175
Lumix view of Luna

That moon picture is the ZS60 pushed to the limits of my ability to get an ‘impossible’ shot out of it. In all honesty its more a testament to my abilities as a photographer than to the Lumix’s quality as a camera. The only other digital camera I’ve bought that disappointed me so was the Nikon W100, and that cost 1/3 the money, yet still does a better job of living up to expectations.

8 thoughts on “Lumix vs. Lumix

  1. Marc, an interesting comparison, and I’m really disappointed for you that your Lumix hasn’t really delivered.

    I guess it’s of a later era of cameras where the commonalities are CMOS sensor with higher MP than it needs to be, far too many features, ISO settings going higher than the camera can make reasonable pictures, and a decrease in lens speed/spec, include having a wider zoom range at the expense of image quality.

    Most of these can be labelled as “gimmicks” that the manufacturer added to try to sell more cameras, but ultimately made the cameras worse. Panasonic are of course not alone in this.

    My old FX10 has a 6MP CCD sensor, so it’s tendency to middling shades of greys can’t be blamed on a CMOS sensor on this occasion. And I do like my b/w shots to be pretty high contrast. I would be good if the FX10 had at least some contrast adjustment in camera, but it doesn’t.

    I’m finding increasingly that there was a kind of golden era of digital cameras, for me. Roughly speaking, 2004/5-2011/12, 4-10MP CCD sensor, and a sensible zoom range where the camera performs decently (and is fast-ish) at all focal lengths.

    Perhaps the best example of this I’ve found is the Lumix LX3 from 2008. 10MP 1/1.63″ CCD sensor, fantastic 24-60mm lens (starting at f/2 at its widest), Zoom Resume (so I can use it almost always at 35mm and not touch the zoom), and also featuring some very useful film modes, of which I use the Dynamic B/W one extensively, in fact almost exclusively. I can barely envisage a better camera for me and my needs.

    I would be very curious to hear your thoughts on an LX3 if you ever come across one!

    I’ve actually been half-looking at early Lumix bridge cameras, like the FZ5, 7 and 8.

    Like

    1. Dan, It’s obvious I was spoiled rotten with my Nikon P610 experience; I keep expecting other digital to live up to that standard, and they just don’t. Nikon really nailed it with that camera!
      I have managed to get the ZS60 to where it makes nice pictures, but it sure took a lot of experimentation. It makes you wonder if companies ever try their own products before they sell them! *LOL*
      We don’t have any good used camera market here as it’s too far from population centers. Used stuff … well a two hour drive to the big city or mail-order. Prices are basically crazy; people ask as much for a 10 year old point-and-shoot as you can but a new one for!
      I am considering a Fuji F80EXR right now. I sort of want a Fuji to “come full circle” as my first 35mm camera was made by them. It has some interesting specifications and sounds like a quirky little thing. It is also <$100, and the cheapest new offering from them is over $300 here!
      I also have "a plan" that the next time I'm in the city I'll stop in the thrift store and buy whatever digital camera they may have for cheap just to play with. But as you know the best laid plans of mice and men …

      Like

      1. Yes I wonder too if with some companies if any of the designers are actually photographers. That’s another element common to my favourite cameras from that “golden age” – they appear to be designer by photographers, for photographers, not by some advertising committee trying to figure out what the next gimmick they can add is to sell more units.

        I guess I’m fortunate to have a wealth of used cameras only an auction win away! I must have bought perhaps 200 cameras on eBay, maybe more, and most were under £20, many under £10. Can’t you bid on the US eBay and have shipped to Canada? Surely for much of the north of America, Canada is closer than the southern states?

        I don’t know that Fuji model, but have been very impressed with the images I’ve got out of the two old Fujis I have used –

        https://35hunter.blog/2019/05/30/bridge-of-surprise-the-fujifilm-finepix-s7000/

        https://35hunter.blog/2019/02/05/one-month-one-camera-february-2019-i/

        Neither though were amazing on the user interface front I have to say. Although they are similar to each other, despite being very different types of cameras, so I think once you get used to the Fuji layout/design/buttons you’ll feel at home with any of them. Just find they have about a dozen buttons when half that will do.

        The combo of lens plus Super CCD sensor on both of the above though is pretty special.

        I like your thrift store idea, I keep toying with a similar idea of buyng something super cheap on eBay but there are so many options I don’t want to just buy the first thing for £1 and it be complete rubbish! So I tend to like to do my research first…

        Like

      2. Dan, the problem with ordering anything in from outside Canada is the infamous “border horror”. I sent a couple of boxes from my Dad’s in NY in 2017 and it was $50-60 per box shipping! Same size/weight package sent to a friend in the USA was $20. It stops being fun when the shipping and infamous import duties exceed the value of the item.
        I have to agree about the too many buttons. That is definitely not what a photographer wants. Nor do I like the “user defined” buttons as I can never remember what they are set to when I shift from camera to camera. The photographer wants the basic controls, labeled and dedicated, for what he needs to adjust when shooting. Anything beyond that is superfluous and gimmicky. A lot of it I think is meant to fool people into thinking they can be “pros” because they have all these options. Instead it just confuses them, and the typical user sets their camera to Automatic and ignores the rest.
        As far as the quirkiness of certain cameras, whereas it may be no good for the serious photographer it might be an asset to the artistic photographer as the camera then influences the result. That quirkiness is one of the reasons I’m looking at the Fuji; it has some rather unusual functionality aspects. In general though, the on-line asking price for used cameras here is crazy – like over $100 for ten-year-old cameras whose replacements can be bought for the same money, or sometimes less!

        Like

      3. Marc, that does seem crazy about postage costs. I have bought a few photography bits from Japan before, and the postage used to be very sensible, perhaps £10 or £15 for a camera. About 18 months ago maybe I bought a lens for my Pentax Q, which was only something like £30, and the shipping was reasonable, say £15.

        But then instead of it being delivered I had a note through the door from Royal Mail saying I needed to pay import tax before I could collect it, which amount to about £35, more than the item itself!

        If I ever ordered anything that was hundreds of pounds from Japan, it might still be worth it and cheaper than getting it in the UK, even with the import taxes. But it seems a bit of a gamble. I’d like to get a Ricoh GR Digital, the original one, and they’re pretty rare over here. There are a few available on eBay from Japan, around £80-90 with free postage, which I’d pay in the UK, but again I don’t quite know how much import tax I’d pay, so for now I’m holding off. If it was say £50+ it wouldn’t be worth it.

        Re user defined buttons, I think the two Ricohs I have are near perfect. They are very similar, but to use the GRD III as an example, it has a mode dial with MY1, MY2 and MY3, so you set up the camera however you want – PASM, ISO, AF, metering, flash, exposure comp etc, then save it into one of the MY custom slots. Then you just need to use this each time you use the camera, and can pretty much forget needing to change anything else. If you do change anything and want the camera to remember, you just register it in one of the MY slots again once you’ve made the changes, you don’t have to start from the default/auto settings again.

        In addition, they have a little ADJ (adjust) button that you press to call up on screen the most often used settings, like ISO, picture size/aspect, colour mode, exposure comp, etc. When you press the button, the five different settings appear top of screen and you select going across them, then up or down once in them to change a setting.

        But even better, you can choose what setting is in each of the five “slots” that appear along the top of screen, including setting any of them to “blank”. I have my GRD set up so these show exposure comp in slot one, ISO in slot two, and picture size/aspect in slot three. In practice these are the three things I change in the camera. Slots four and five I have empty.

        So then just via that one ADJ button I can access and easily adjust my three most commonly used features. This, combined with the MY1 user mode on the dial, and setting the Fn1 button as exposure lock, means the GRD feels like a super simple P&S to use shot to shot, but is set up to my rather specific needs – it’s not like picking up a camera and setting everything to auto.

        The GX100 I have set up similarly, but this has a 24-72mm zoom lens instead of the 28/1.9 prime on the GRD III. I have MY1 set to 28mm and MY2 set to 35mm (it has step zoom, and remembers where you left the zoom). Everything else is set the same in MY1 and MY2. So I basically have a 28mm lens and 35mm in one P&S, at the turn of the mode dial.

        It’s simply the best design/interface I’ve used in any camera. Genius!

        Oh finally, I think you’re right about loads of options making people feel like pros. It seems the majority of photographers measure their (and their camera’s) photographic “status” by how many buttons and modes their camera has and how many big numbers are on the spec sheet (36MP! 20x Zoom! ISO 256000! 128GB SD! 10k images shot today and all of them crap!)

        Like

      4. Dan, one good thing about the ZS60 is that you can ‘adjust’ the presets and they stay, so in essence you can have your own custom ‘standard’, ‘natural’, ‘vivid’, and ‘monochrome’ – at least to some extent. My old Kodak has 3 user-defined settings and the newer cameras usually have 1 or 2. Unfortunately my memory isn’t what it was so I can forget what I had “Custom 1” set for, etc.
        I really wonder about these ridiculously high ISO ratings; is it normal to shoot pictures in the dark these days? Every camera I had save the Canon just turns to noise at anything above 800, and 400 is the better upper limit still. As an old film photographer this seems the normal maximum to my way of thinking. Five stops more from ISO? Maybe you should use a flash, right?

        Like

      5. That is helpful, it’l like the film presets on my LX3, you can tweak contrast, saturation etc, then use the “memory” function to save them. Or you can reset to their defaults.

        I think this is (yet) another reason for me to stick to very few cameras – I don’t have to try to remember a whole different set of buttons and menus and quirks across a dozen different machines!

        I’ve been looking at a few old Kodaks, they seem to quite well revered.

        I was using Flickr’s camera explorer to see the most used, then researching individual models from there –

        https://www.flickr.com/cameras/kodak/?s=photos#models

        Re the high ISOs, I don’t know really why people want to see in the dark, in effect. I’m much more of a natural photographer, I like to capture in natural light, so if it’s dark to my eyes, I want the photo to be as dark to reflect that!

        I guess there are some genres where this is very helpful (astro photography?) but mostly I feel it’s another way to try to seduce camera buyers with big numbers.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s