Getting back into photography

Pretty Flower!I used to really enjoy photography back in the pre-digital days.  I still have that old 35mm film camera, but I haven’t used it in a very long time.  For years now, I’ve gotten by with the camera in my phone for snapshots, but I have not done any art photography.

Recently, I decided that I wanted to buy a good digital camera.  I had two main requirements.  Both were equally important to me.

The first was that the camera had to be very portable.  That meant that a big DSLR camera with fancy lenses were out of the question.  I wanted something that I could tuck in my bag or carry with me easily almost all the time.  I’ve heard it said that the best camera is the one that you have with you, and I decided to take that to heart.  How could I expect to capture great images if I never had my camera with me?

Sushi!Second, while portable, the camera had to produce excellent output.  That meant that it needed to have a quality lens, a good sensor, and give me the control I needed over the camera’s operation that I was accustomed to having with my old film camera.

I finally settled on the Panasonic Lumix LX-7.  It has a Leica lens that is capable of f-stops (1.4-2.3) that are generally reserved for much larger more expensive lenses on DSLR cameras.  Optical zoom range is equivalent to 24-90mm on a 35mm camera, giving me more flexibility than I expected to find without sacrificing portability.  The 10.1 MP sensor isn’t the highest on the market, but it produces good images without too much noise.  Low light is always a challenge, but the wide f-stops help to mitigate that problem.  HD video quality is quite good too.

Golden Gate in the fogI have been carrying the camera with me regularly for about two months now.  To protect it, I bought a small carrying case from Mega Gear called the “Ever Ready”.  I love the retro style.  It looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.  Quality is good, and the price was very fair.

My only complaint so far is that it makes some strange decisions in point-and-shoot mode.  The exposures are great, but it has an affinity for very low f-stops.  This can make focus an issue at times due to the shallow depth of field that results.

Alcatraz!Now that I have become comfortable with the camera, I’m starting to learn more about digital processing.  I used to use Google’s Picasa application.  It’s a great option for most people who want an easy tool to process, manage, and share photos.

To get the most out of the camera, I have started shooting in RAW mode instead of JPEG.  The reason for this is simple: JPEG is a lossy image format and I don’t want the camera to throw away any data that it captures.  Keeping all of the RAW data gives me the most flexibility when I “develop” the photo.

Boats on the bayI quickly outgrew Picasa, so I purchased a copy of Adobe Lightroom 5.  Lightroom is a professional grade tool for processing digital photos.  It supports plugins and includes knobs and buttons for just about any setting that I could possibly ever need.  The learning curve has been a little steep, but I’m getting the hang of it.