In photographic terms, digital is still very new. So perhaps it seems a little odd to talk about digital cameras as being either ‘vintage’ or a ‘classic’. But then, digital photography is so far paced with new innovations and so-called improvements coming out all the time, I think it is more than plausible to consider older models as exemplars. Indeed, when I started to offload my digital gear a few years ago as I re-entered the film world again, I found myself not being able to part with one particular camera. Here, I present the Lumix LC5, which in my mind is a classic.
The LC5 was launched in 2001 as joint venture between Panasonic (hence Lumix designation) and Leica (badged as Digilux 1). Its 4mp sensor seems ancient nowadays as does its small LCD screen for reviewing images and even i’s optical viewfinder. But as a film photographer who fancies the occasional foray into digital, it’s all I need.
Actually, I appreciate the fact that it is comparatively rudimentary by modern standards: it means I can just go about my business making images without over complicating things. Rather like using a point and shoot compact film camera, I guess. No need to worry about meeting the modern expectations and standards that the digital world demands.
I must point out at this stage that I do only use it very sparingly, when I get the urge. I am almost exclusively an analogue photographer, mainly film, usually 35mm. I love the physicality of film. Yet, sometimes I just want to take out a camera, fire the shutter and see the images – without the need to finish a roll, get it developed, printed or scanned etc.
Rolls of film can remain in one of my cameras for weeks or even months. I suspect this will be case with the current covid-19 lockdown. At least one project that I am involved will now been put on hold for a while. I don’t anticipate doing much new photography these coming months.
So why am I attached to the LC5 so much when I hardly ever use it? Firstly, I really like the look of it. To me it’s kinda retro cool. It might be seen as slightly lumpy but is does actually feel good to hold. It’s a sensible weight and ergonomically fits in my hand nicely (does not quite fit in my coat pocket, though!). Secondly, importantly, it takes good pictures, JPEG or TIFF – nicely coloured, well exposed, reasonably sharp. Who cares about super bloody mega pixels? Not me.
I tend to shoot this camera in aperture priority mode or sometimes shutter priority depending on the available light. It is limited to ISO 100, 200 and 400. I can easily change aperture settings with my right thumb on left and right arrows. There is also manual exposure if required. Interestingly, I can even override the auto-focus manually: with a turn of a button the small lens barrel becomes an intuitive focus ring (but my eyesight is not good enough for this). An extra turn of the same button and the lens goes into close-up mode.
Speaking of the lens, I guess that has to be the standout attribute. The 33-100mm 35mm equivalent zoom is a vario-summicron. A Leica lens! I think the jury is out on whether this was a genuine Leica made optic or merely made to their spec by their Japanese partners. Either way, it is certainly not fantastic but it is very good.
The LC5 had all the expected features of its time and much more. I suspect it was a leader of its class twenty years ago (it had the price tag to match). Here’s a few more images from my LC5 and no doubt I’ll be restricted to my garden for a while, so the close-up focus will come in handy with all the spring flowers now arriving. Primulas and violets are already in bloom, forget-me-nots almost here.
The swan shot is my fave picture that I have taken with the LC5. Thanks for reading, keep safe, Rock
Some of my stuff at www.rocksreflex.com
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17 thoughts on “Panasonic Lumix LC5 Review – Occasional Forays Into Digital – By Rock”
Lovely images. I have to agree with you regarding megapixels, I own a Canon PowerShot A430,
with a huge 4mp, and am constantly surprised by the image quality. Thank you for posting this.
Glad you liked the images, Clare. Perhaps you can do a follow-up post with some from your Canon!????
Who needs megapixels when you get images like these?
I honestly can understand the appeal. For being a digital camera, it seems to produce images that are more reminiscent of film and I swear it has grain. I’m sure they are rare as a hen’s tooth and expensive but now feel the urge of tracking down one.
They are defo becoming rare, Rob, simply because many have suffered the same problem that they just seem not to hold charge for very long i.e can’t be removed from the plug without instantly dying! Mine is not that bad but I do have to give it a long charge first if I want to use it. A search on ebay nowadays for either the Panasonic LC5 or Leica Digilux 1 will produce 1 or 2, but loads about 5 years ago. Need less to say, the Leica version is costly now. The (expensive) sensor was made differently from digital offerings that followed (cheaper) which meant it was sensitive to twice the visible spectrum and received twice the number of photons. If you can’t find one, you might want to consider an Olympus SP-350 from 2005 or thereabouts. Similar in some ways, quite cool looking, nice images. It will eat through AA batteries in no time at all so you would really need to get a lithium. Should be cheaper than the LC5 and fun way to shoot digital without being too serious.
Such a shame because the images it produces look excellent. Obviously the sensor has a lot to do with it but a Leica-designed lens is always going to play a big part. And thank you for the Oly recommendation! Despite having just started high school when the LC5 came out, my knowledge of digital cameras is basically zero. So any recommendation for a vintage pocket rocket is always welcome.
Rob, I’m sure that there will be a number of “pocket rocket” digital cameras from the vintage era. If you’re looking for something from the early days of vintage cameras, the Sony DSC-V1 5mp camera could fit the bill. It is certainly petite for its spec. It was reviewed by DPR here: https://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sonydscv1
Memory stick only, and no RAW, but batteries are still available.
Oh a Zeiss lens to boot! Thank you for the recommendation!
Thanks to the directory Hamish has put together, I’ve now also started the prawl for an OG Ricoh GRD as it fits the bill perfectly as a B/W pocketable digital (and would compliment my Ricoh 500G analog pocket companion). Images may have a lot of noise but I just see it as digital version of grain and who doesn’t love grain?
Love the colors of the old CCD sensors, I have an old Kodak of the same era I sometimes use.. Great photos especially the swan shot …
Interesting walk through memory lane. Thanks Rock.
I am not sure to understand the first sentence of the text (and as a result of its position in the text very visible) : “In photographic terms digital is still very new.” Regarding visual representation it is even newer and for an activity, photography, that is now some 180 years old, digital photography that started with Steve Sasson at Kodak in 1975 (45 years ago) and whose first “serious” cameras on the market date back to 1991 (used then by the Japanese press). I must miss something, so what did you mean by that?
Same with “meeting the modern expectations and standards that the digital world demands” which could start an interesting discussion, don’t you think? For instance, are those expectations and standards different from what the silver-halide-based film world demanded? And if we look at the tools used to take most photographs these days (cell-phones) how does your remark apply?
in any case, I think that the aforementioned (cell-phone) users do completely agree with you (so not that many differences) that their “cameras” “take good pictures” where “good” is absolutely subjective and as such indisputable and “good pictures” are taken by the tool and not the person behind it. [Allow me this little smile and reaction to the echo you create to what I have sometimes heard from people seeing my camera and making the same comment… which I somehow find frustrating after decades of study, practice and hard labor in the field].
I’m all for interesting discussion! Maybe the digital expectations are not actually real among the majority of DSLR/CSC users (I’m no longer one) but only with the manufacturers who want to sell more and more!? And the magazines!? And advertisers etc!? I don’t know.
The swan pic ????????????????
I’ve used Panasonic cameras (FZ-150, LF-1, and DC-FZ80) and what I like best is their characteristic of soft sharpness or if you prefer sharp softness. Their sensors generate a pleasing grain/noise.
Older digital cameras were more diverse and varied greatly in how they rendered color. Some greater than others. A subjective matter of course. If anyone is interested in picking up an old digital camera I would like to suggest anything with a Fujifilm Super CCD sensor. Cheap as dirt!
Hi there, first time replying here. I love the look of the photos and the look on the camera, i was scavenging for a point and shoot and found a fujifilm x10 for 80€ but i will have my eyes open for the LC5, Oly and that Leica. Someone have more recomendations?
The good thing about the LC5/Digilux1 is that can be operated as Saudi either a point and shoot or as a manual camera with total control.
Also interesting group of cameras from Olympus called camedia i.e C-8080 , 5060 , 3030 , 4040 , etc
What is your opinion on the Canon Powershot G5? If Canon packed a little better glass they would be getting a lot of love now.