Do you have a camera with you every day? Do you take a camera everywhere you go? Why not? Is it too big? Too much bulk? Your DSLR (or 4x5) not fit in your briefcase?
That used to be me too. I had a DSLR but it stayed at home on a regular day and only went with me when I was going out photographing (donít even talk about carrying the 4x5). It was too big and bulky to take with me to work all week. Even walking the dogs with a DSLR dangling around your neck was a pain in the neck. In short, despite owning a DSLR, it was only with me sometimes.
What I kept finding was there were times I did not have a camera, but I had found a potential image. I wanted to have a camera with me all the time, but there were so many times that taking a DSLR was not convenient or it was difficult to do so and it caused me to miss images.
What I wanted was a camera that I could put in a pocket, take in my briefcase, etc. I wanted something I could easily take to work or when walking the dogs in the park. It should be small but could still able to deliver a decent image, have a wide-angle lens, a fast lens, image stabilization, ability to shoot raw, and with aperture priority. It seems like a demanding list, but I found that camera and now I always have that camera with me - every day.
I think of it as a photographer's every day camera. Many point-and-shoot cameras are designed to be either really small, or SLR-sized and not designed with the features for the advanced photographer. However, these few cameras are designed as a photographer's pocket camera. Cameras that offer more SLR-style controls and great results in a tiny package you can easily carry. I read a Dewitt Jones article in Outdoor Photographer where he talks about treating them like a lens, based on their small size and cost. Look at it like that and they become a bargain.
While there are many models of point-and-shoot cameras, when you are seeking raw capabilities, your choices drop to only a handful. Cameras like the Panasonic LX-3, Canon S-90 and Canon G-11 are the most popular. The Micro 4/3 cameras are starting to get close to this category in size, but in my opinion they are still too big to be a pocket camera and are really more like small SLRs.
I spent a few weeks researching and then after deciding on the Panasonic, spent several weeks of waiting for the LX-3 to be in stock.
Now I have a camera with me that has a 24mm f/2 Leica lens with a 24-60mm total zoom range (love that wide angle), PASM modes, raw shooting mode (Actually it can do raw + jpeg), 720P video capability, 1cm Macro, built-in image stabilization, and a hot shoe, with great ergonomics too. It's easy enough to hold and work the controls, but still small enough to fit in a cargo or shirt pocket.
The results it delivers are fantastic. Beyond all the specs, however, a camera still has to deliver results. This camera does. I can do 12x18 inch prints that look as good as, or better than, 35mm film ever did. I have done bigger prints yet and still get good results.
Noise is an issue for small sensor cameras, but one of the things I notice about the LX-3 is that the noise looks more like film grain and less like digital noise. In other words, it does not really bother me much as it looks "natural."
Something else I have noticed is my normal DSLR set up is my Canon 50D with a 17-50 f/2.8 lens. During a hand-holding situation, where I might be at ISO 1600 and wide open at f/2.8 with the DSLR, I can be at ISO 200 and f/2 on the LX-3 because of the faster lens and IS.
In the six months with this camera, it has become my constant companion. I take it to work every single day. At least once a week, I am getting an image on my way to the office or on my way home. I no longer have those "I only wish I had a camera" moments. I now get images instead. I take it when I walk the pups and can bring home snapshots for my wife. It also goes with me when I am out on a hike. I usually have the SLR gear in my pack but the LX-3 is handy and always ready too.
When I go out with my large format camera, it is the perfect little companion. The zoom range of the LX-3 (24-60mm) closely matches my large format lens lineup (75mm,125mm, 210mm). It has a 4:3 ratio mode that closely matches the ratio of 4x5 film. I can scout with it before setting up the view camera. I can use it in raw + jpeg to capture a B+W for previsualization and still have a raw file to play with at home.
Finally, I can use it to make images of my camera for my large format blog (yes, I totally geek out and have a blog of images of my large format camera on location).
So now I have a small, simple, easy-to-carry, easy-to-use, and very effective camera.
Itís the everyday camera!
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Darren Huski is a landscape photographer from Fort Worth, Texas. He photographs the far reaches of the Lone Star State and throughout the American West and Midwest. He works with a 4x5 view camera and a modern digital SLR. His work and travels can be seen at www.WildernessPhotographer.net.
Darren also maintains the Wilderness Photography Blog, where he documents his travels throughout the West and Midwest with both pictures and words.