Jun 162011
 

Returning to the theme of the inferiority of LCD screens, as compared to a viewfinder of a DSLR when it comes to the ease of viewing camera settings, I picked up my Leica D-Lux 3 yesterday to take a shot of the haze hanging over Jacksonville.

Wildfires in Florida and Georgia have filled the air with the acrid smell of wood smoke for the past three days. Yesterday the smoke formed a haze that reduced visibility at street level.

I decided to use the little Leica, thinking that I would probably need its zoom capability to frame the shot. Indeed, I ended up shooting at the equivalent of 42 mm.

I set the camera to Aperture Priority and framed the shot. I could tell from the image on the LCD screen that it looked somewhat overexposed. I looked at the f-stop and it was almost impossible to read. I eventually managed to discern it was f/4.0, which should have given a decent exposure.

I took a second shot and once again the image looked washed out. There was only one thing for it – set the camera to Program AE mode and let it work out the aperture and shutter speed for a perfect exposure. Success!

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved. B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro.

While there is a lot I admire about the Leica D-Lux 3, the problem with reading information on the LCD has plagued me from the start. And the 207,000 dots LCD screen doesn’t cut it in the bright sunshine of Florida. Many a time, I have virtually shot blind, being unable to compose my shot on the screen because of the reflection from the sun.

Using the D-Lux 3 yesterday did remind me, however, of what a superb camera the Ricoh GRD III is. Its 920,000 dot LCD screen really does stand up to bright conditions and the choice of an amber colour to depict aperture, EV compensation and ISO also helps to make the information easily readable 98 percent of the time.

The strengths of the compact Leica are its lens, image processing engine – Leica seems to handle blue skies like no other camera – and optical image stabilization rather than sensor shift.

But with its larger sensor, fantastic user interface, and customized settings, the Ricoh GRD III leaves the D-Lux 3 standing. The improved D-Lux 4 and D-Lux 5, both boasting large sensors, might equal the GRD III in terms of image quality but would still be hard pressed to match Ricoh’s handling.

Jun 132011
 

As an experienced photographer I like to think I have all the bases covered when taking a shot. Most times I do but every now and again, I am prone to a moment of madness, forgetfulness or call it what you will. Senior moment is the phrase I like to use.

On Saturday, I attended a social function at a gated community on Fleming Island, which afforded me access to Doctor’s Lake and the chance to fire off a few shots.  It was a bright sunny day. I lined up my first shot in aperture priority mode  and the camera told me I needed to set  a smaller aperture. I turned the aperture wheel to f/5.6. That wasn’t enough for the conditions. Eventually, the camera was happy with an aperture of f/8.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved. B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro.

Now in all the time I have owned the Ricoh GRD III, the smallest aperture I have shot with is f/6.3. I just assumed that surrounded by a large area of water on a bright day, light was reflecting off the water to create even brighter conditions than normal.

It is to the credit of the LCD screen of the GRD III that I was still able to frame my compositions with ease. Reading the shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting was a little more difficult. And therein lay my problem.

The day before I had been shooting indoors and ramped the ISO setting up to ISO 400. Usually, when I get the camera ready for my next shoot, I first delete the previous files and check the camera settings. On this occasion, I did the former but forgot about the latter. I was shooting in bright sun with ISO 400. Small wonder that I was having to use f/8. It was only when I came to work on the RAW images that I discovered my oversight.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

This kind of scenario sums up why I much prefer to shoot with a camera with a viewfinder. On my Canon 40D, I would have noticed the high ISO setting instantly and made the necessary change. But the small numerals on the LCD of the Ricoh don’t always register, especially following cataract surgery. And I refuse to wear reading glasses because I would be constantly putting them on and taking them off for each shot. My distance vision is good.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved. B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro.

In a nutshell, that is many a photographer’s dilemma. We don’t always want to carry the weight of a DSLR with us, particularly at a social function, and so resort to compact cameras where we are reliant on the LCD screen. Like I say, the Ricoh GRD III LCD does an excellent job 98 percent of the time and is a thousand-fold better than the LCD on my Leica D-Lux 3 where both settings and composition are in the lap of the gods on a bright sunny day.

Ricoh’s GXR camera comes with an EVF, at a price, which does contain the same kind of information visible in the viewfinder of a DSLR. Maybe that is a compromise worth making to avoid my kind of senior moments, although I have my doubts whether I would take to an electonric viewfinder. My only experience of using one was with a Panasonic LC1 camera in a pawn shop. It was better than nothing but I didn’t like it. Of course EVFs have made rapid strides since Panasonic’s early model and Ricoh’s EVF has the second highest resolution after the EVF for the Olympus PEN cameras. Maybe it is time to check out EVFs again.

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