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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