Panasonic Lumix DMC L1 | Digital Camera Review | Adjustments
During the testing procedure, I discovered countless of new ways in which to use the Panasonic Lumix L1, something that is one of the camera's most significant characteristics. Working with the camera, from the very first encounter until the end of the testing period, proved to be process that brought both photographic fun and new, innovative challenges. The camera features a truly staggering amount of settings. Prospective users will therefore benefit from carrying the user manual along, at least at first, and should consult it frequently. In addition to the well-known setting options like ISO, manual white balance etc., the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 offers a wide variety of extraordinary features.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 - Image formats
One of those unique options concerns the size of the photo. Not only are you presented with a generous amount of settings for JPEG, and the option, naturally, to capture your images in RAW; it are the image ratios that prove to be one of the camera's most remarkable assets. In addition to the familiar 4:3 format, the camera allows you to shoot in 3:2 and even 16:9. Note, however, that this can only be done when photographing with Live View. Logical in fact, as the viewfinder cannot adjust itself to the different ratios, or one would end up with a truly miniscule viewfinder. A shame really, considering the fact that 16:9 in particular is a terrific format in which to capture your photos. In fact, the Panasonic Lumix L1 even permits you to do so in RAW. This last feature in particular will likely be a significant surplus value for landscape photographers. It allows the widescreen format to produce considerably more captivating photos.
Panasonic DMC L1 DSLR camera - Digital zoom
Another noteworthy setting that can only be used in combination with Live View is the extra zoom. This does require you to set the camera one step below the maximum image size. Consequently, it cannot be used in JPEG Large. Allow us to explain the procedure. Normally, you have the option to shoot in JPEG Large with 7 Megapixels. If you are to set the size to Small, you will be left with 3 million. Instead of decreasing the image, and thus squeeze the 7 million pixels to 3 million, the camera simply makes a crop. In fact, it is sort of like a digital zoom, without losing out on quality. Better said even: it creates a real crop. However, if we are honest, this function isn't all that valuable in practice; after all, you can also capture your shot in the highest resolution, and then crop the image yourself in Photoshop. We should point out that the Panasonic Lumix L1 also offers a genuine digital zoom, with which a crop is enlarged to 7.4 Megapixels. However, this isn't really my cup of tea.
Panasonic Lumix L1 - White balance settings
Naturally, all regular settings are available on the Panasonic L1. As far as these are concerned, the Panasonic L1 is perfectly up to par. The pictogram modes and the green mode are the only things that are absent, but for a camera of this calibre, that can hardly be seen as a problem. Let's start with the white balance, which is very extensive indeed. Not only are you presented with a large amount of pre-programmed scenes, each scene can also be corrected to your own preference. Here we see yet another clever use of Live View; if you press the navigation button, the camera displays the photo via Live View, with the colour cross projected over it. The navigation buttons then allow you to correct the white balance, whilst keeping a close eye on what is happening. A remarkably useful and practical tool. The manual white balance, of which two can be set, also proves very easy to work with. Simply point the camera with Live View at a white subject, push the shutter release button and presto! I must say I have never seen a simpler, more straightforward approach. The automatic white balance is reasonably accurate in most cases. It is only when working with fluorescent light that the distortion proves a little too much. On these occasions you can always opt for a pre-set white balance. Considering the ease with which a manual white balance is created, however, I would certainly go for the latter option.
Panasonic Lumix DMC L1 - Colour rendition
Besides the white balance, the user has the option to adjust the colour rendition through the familiar parameters. Panasonic call this the Film mode, a reference to the different kinds of film and their characteristics. The camera comes with quite a few already, but you do have the additional option to program one in colour and one in black-and-white yourself. Furthermore, you can choose to use the setting for one time only.
Personally, I prefer to switch off as much saturation etc. as possible. I'd rather have too little than too much, especially as that can be more easily corrected afterwards. The concept is quite logical indeed. The colour rendition, even with everything switched to neutral, proves very decent, although a little saturated at times. The colour space, AdobeRGB or sRGB, has to be set in a different spot in the menu. It has to be said this is a little confusing; it would undoubtedly be handier to keep these things closer together.
Panasonic L1 reflex camera - ISO 100 up to 1600
The sensitivity of the Panasonic L1 runs from ISO 100 up to and including ISO 1600. In comparison to most other DSLRs, the sensor is tad on the small side; the L1 features a crop factor of 2. Fortunately, the amount of pixels also remains limited to 7.4 million. Moreover, the sensor does not feature 10 million image elements. Therefore, the Panasonic Lumix L1 can be put to excellent use up to and including ISO 400. You will find your images to be virtually free of noise. If you select a higher value, however, the noise quickly increases. Personally, I would try to steer clear of ISO 1600. Instead I would prefer a slower shutter speed, and hope that the MEGA O.I.S. gets the job done properly, which, we should point out, proves to go very smoothly indeed in practice. You may opt to activate the noise reduction, but this will affect the details in the image, which would be an unwanted effect. After all, with a lens as striking as the Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5, you will be keen to maintain the sharpness. It is quite stunning indeed! Both when working with an open and closed aperture, the lens performs excellently. Although this is of course exactly what one would expect considering the price-tag, I must say that it is without question the best kit lens I have ever worked with.
Panasonic Lumix DMC L1 - Light metering systems
The camera offers three light metering systems to help achieve the desired exposure. Standard, you will be working with the multi-segment metering, which produces an accurate exposure in most cases, although it does lean somewhat towards an underexposure. However, this would still be preferable to an overexposure. The photographic connoisseur will be able to work with a centre-weighted metering. A metering system that seems to have lost some of its appeal, but certainly is pleasant to work with, provided you know how. The image in the centre, which is displayed by a circle in the viewfinder, counts the most. Generally, this will be about 60%. The rest of image counts for about 40% as far as the light metering is concerned. The spot metering system is the most accurate option. It allows you to measure the light in a small part, which then plays a very significant role in the actual metering. This is particularly useful when working with high contrasts. For standard images, I can imagine users might find it a little too much hassle.
Panasonic Lumix L1 - Clear menu
Because almost all features and functions of this camera be set through buttons, it is unlikely you will have to resort to the menu often. However, you will need to do this to set the image quality, unless you have assigned it to one of the function buttons. The menu itself is very comprehensible, and everything that can be set on the camera via buttons has been left out. This certainly keeps things simple. The large screen ensures everything is easy to read, after all, there is plenty of room for large letters. Unfortunately, the amount of available languages proves to be very limited.