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Looking for a good versatile and compact digital camera? Look no further.
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Looking for a good versatile and compact digital camera? Look no further.

It wasn’t long after I started writing this blog that I realized I needed a new camera. Something more versatile than my reliable but not very versatile point and shoot. I needed something that had full manual capability, a fast and wide lens and took good HD videos. Plus I wanted something light and portable..I just wasn’t ready to make the commitment a full blown dSLR would require.

It didn’t take long to narrow my choices down to two worthy contenders. The Canon Powershot S95 and the Panasonic LX5. They form a new category of camera variously called prosumer or advanced compact they offer bigger sensors and dSLR features in a compact package. Both cameras met all my requirements and would do the job. It was a tough choice. But in the end the Panasonic Lumix LX5 emerged as the clear winner.

For starters the f2 24-90mm lens is the fastest and widest so it fit the bill for the closups of gadgets using available light. It also meant I didn’t need to mess with extra lighting to get good pictures. As well, the format choices of 1:1, 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 gives me a lot of versatility when it comes to properly framing the various gadgets. The lens performance is topnotch, at its best at 24mm and macro distances..down to a hair over 1cm..the pictues are really sharp and I didn’t notice any fringing at any focal length. Since this is a still camera I didn’t expect all that much from the video performance. Colour me impressed.

This camera feels really good in the hand, nicely balanced with a good weight and a nice leather grip on the raised bump on the right hand side. This feel sold me as much as the technical features. The shutter release, zoom and recessed video switch all are in comfortable positions and I really like the little raised wheel to control the manual settings..press to select the setting and rotate to set it..in my hand it falls nicely under my thumb and couldn’t be easier to use.

Performance is pretty impressive. the LX5 starts up in a quick 1.6 seconds. Focusing and shooting in good light takes about 0.4 second, increasing to 0.8 second in dim light. Nonflash shot-to-shot time is very good: 1.4 and 1.6 seconds for raw and JPEG, respectively, jumping to a pokey 4.6 seconds with flash. Continuous-shooting frame rate outpaces its class, but at 2.6fps still a long way the 6-7fps a dSLR will deliver. the LX5 delivers better than average battery life..you can expect close to 400 shots on a charge.

The LX5 has a hot shoe if you need extra..more versatile lighting and the hot shoe also accomodates a Live View Finder that displays LCD data..great for those places where the LCD is difficult to see but, at $200 it is definately a luxury accessory. I found the 3″ LCD screen works fine unless the sun is shining directly on it. I found the menus clear and intuitive and I liked the push button navigation.

If the LX5 has a shortcoming it is the snap on lens cover…almost guaranteed to be immediately lost. So your first purchase for this otherwise delightful camera should be the JJC ALC-5B Auto Lens Cap. It screws on to the lens ring and opens and closes as the lens extends and retracts. I bought mine for $17.95 on eBay.

I am very happy with my purchase and I recommend the Panasonic Lumix LX5 for anyone who wants something more versatile than point and shoot but don’t want to go all the way to a dSLR. If you already have a dSLR and want a backup the LX5 is a perfect fit. It is lightweight and versatile, feels good in the hand..and it takes great pictures.

The Panasonic Lumix LX5 has a suggested list price of $499 but I bought mine at Astral (Black’s) Fairview for $449 and today March 23 that price is still valid.

Bob Benedetti

Former RCAF Fighter Pilot Bob worked for CTV Montreal as a Reporter, Producer and Executive producer for 35 years retiring in 2004. Bob started reporting on personal technology in 1995 at CTV and continues today at Home Technology Montreal

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