Snap: Looking for a new camera? Let me tell you about mine.

Inspired by my blog neighbor Rebecca Hamilton, I thought I’d write about my own recent investment in a new camera.

A lot of us of a certain age remember the camera shown here: a nifty Kodak Instamatic that used up plastic flashbulbs like ice cubes.  My dad took hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures with one of those. We have shoeboxes full of curled and faded photographs, many off-center or off-kilter, from Christmases and Easters and graduations and weekend trips to places I can’t even remember. They are, in their own way, unique works of art—capturing the art of living in the 1960s. Purists may scoff.  Let ‘em. I love those pictures.

I guess that’s how I got bitten by the shutter bug. I started taking pictures myself some years back, working with a decent compact Olympus 35 mm film camera for a while before moving on to digital cameras. My first was a Canon PowerShot A610. About eight years ago, I bought myself a big fat Pentax SLR that weighed a ton and took gorgeous photographs with massive lenses. Well, lugging that thing around became a hassle. I’m pretty much a casual vacation snapshooter and wanted something more portable and compact.  The week before Christmas, I took the plunge.

I did my homework, scouted online reviews and comparisons, and traded in the SLR and a couple of its lenses at B&H in Manhattan for this: a Panasonic Lumix LX-7.

Wow. I’m a happy camper.  Let me tell you why.

First, some specifics: 

The LX7 is Panasonic’s latest ‘enthusiast’ compact, and its 24-90mm equivalent, F1.4-2.3 lens is the fastest yet seen on this type of camera. This is combined with 1/1.7″ type 10.1 MP MOS sensor that offers an ISO range of 80-12800. Full resolution burst shooting with continuous AF is available at up to 5.5 frames per second, and up to 11 frames per second with focus locked. The LX7 can also record Full HD 60p/50p video, and has built-in stereo microphones.

The LX7 offers a full set of manual exposure modes, with an aperture ring around the lens to offer quick control over that shooting parameter. There are numerous ways to adjust white balance to your liking in-camera, and three different bracketing modes are provided. Creative Control mode adds sixteen different special effects into the mix, rounding out a very strong portfolio of in-camera shooting and processing options.

Lots of bells and whistles there. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. (Okay: Forgive me. It’s Christmas and I’ve been eating a lot…) In one sentence: this little sucker just takes gorgeous pictures. It’s roughly the size of my HTC EVO smartphone — though thicker and heavier — but takes snapshots that rival my old Pentax. While the lens is on the short side — less than 4x magnification — it excels at close ups and macro and achieves that much-sought after “bokeh” or shallow depth-of-field (i.e., background blur).  Take a look. The shots below were all taken at very close range, a couple inches at most.

The LX-7 also takes some stunning shots at wider angles, too:

It also has some nifty novelty effects, like color select, which allows you to emphasize just one color, while fading the rest to black-and-white:

You can read more about the Lumix LX-7 at the Panasonic website.  There are hundreds of reviews (mostly favorable) over at Amazon.com.

You can find swankier and more impressive compact cameras with bigger sensors and more enthusiastic reviews — but you won’t find one with all this at such a good price. The one I picked up at B&H was on sale for $279; with my trade-ins, it cost me less than $100—a veritable steal.

I’m looking forward to putting this baby through its paces over the holidays. I’ll try and post more pics when I can.

UPDATE: You can find some more Christmas-y pictures taken with the camera here. 

 


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