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My Ricoh GRD IV replacement: The Panasonic LF1

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Occasionally, ex gear addicts have genuine reasons to buy new gear. Mine is that my Ricoh GRD IV is coughing blood. It has a large blob on the left of the frame (something on the sensor that is not dust) and it’s starting to seriously lag like crazy. I mean shot missing kind of lag. Unlike my marriage, which is forever, my marriage with the Ricoh GRD IV is till death do us part. Gotta think about a replacement because it’s on it’s last leg, I can feel it. I believe I have found it in the Panasonic LF1 camera, here’s why.

We all know that the smartphone market is eating up the P&S market, and I believe it’s a good thing. It means no more generic point and shoots but thoughtfully designed and executed cameras like the Panasonic LF1.

The LF1’s Bad PR

panasonic_lf1_model
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First things first, I had no idea this camera ever existed, I don’t even know how I got to know about it. In my opinion that’s bad PR. Searching on-line, there is no reviews from the usual blogging suspects, only consumer-corporate type blogs like Trusted reviews and all. On youtube, the videos are mostly german and some other European languages. Nobody who’s serious about their photography seems to have it yet. So I couldn’t find shots that were not sample shots. That camera is pretty much a blip on the radar, it’s out yet there is not much buzz about it. Bad PR I believe.

Why I’m considering an LF1

Here is why I am considering getting a Panasonic LF1 to replace my GRD…

It looks like a Mini NEX7

panasonic_lf1_nex7
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My Photography kit is the Sony Nex7 and the Ricoh GRD IV. When I looked at this camera the first thing that came to mind was “Mini NEX 7”. It has a viewfinder just like the Nex7 and it has a control ring in the front of the camera. It reminds me of my manual focus on my Nex7 when I had some manual Voitlander lenses. It’s incredible what can be done in such small package! To me it seems the perfect companion to the NEX7.

It has a zoom lens

The Lens is a 28mm-300mm f/2.0-5.9. I personally hear two things: 28mm and f/2. That’s as fast as the Ricoh GRD IV’s f/1.9 in my book. The camera will probably be stuck at 28mm for me, but the has an interesting feature that I like in the Ricoh GX series: The step zoom. So the camera can go to a specific focal length instead of just sliding between standard focal lengths. I do not feel limited in any way with the 28mm, but other focal lengths are sure nice to have. I’ve always wanted a Ricoh GRD II for the 40mm adapter, but the attaching lens makes the Ricoh GRD II non portable. I once considered the Ricoh GX as a Ricoh GRD alternative but they are most definitely not the same thing. In the end the Panasonic LF1’s zoom lens is a nice touch, but for me the deal maker is 28mm f/2.

Good ISO Handling

I kinda always break a sweat when I go to ISO800 – 1600. But seeing these high ISO shots, I think I would be comfortable going to ISO 3200 on the Panasonic LF1. Maybe not 6400. Thanks, cedits and copyright to Darren Rowse @ DPS

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From Digital Photo School. Click to go to original article
Panasonic_LF1_6400
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From Digital Photo School. Click to go to original article

Consistency in the look

I like small sensor cameras! Most of my work is done on small sensors, and I always see the difference when I shoot APSC vs 1/1.7 inch sensor. The Panasonic LF1 is the same sensor size as the Ricoh GRD IV, so the image out put should not look that different.

Ricoh GRD III
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Ricoh GRD III

Portability

Well that’s the biggy for me. I can’t get anything bigger than a Ricoh GRD IV. I have sort of tight jean pockets so I need something small. Look at the Panasonic LF1 compared to the tiny Canon S95. Amazing! Thanks, credits and copyright to Monox.jp [now defunct]

Side of a Panasonic LF1 camera compared to a Canon S95
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Front of a Panasonic LF1 camera compared to a Canon S95
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Click to go to original article (Japanese)

Viewfinder

I’m a viewfinder guy, even if I can shoot without looking. It puts me in the zone when I close my eyes. It’s the same feeling when you put a large format cloth around your head and only see the frame. You zoom out to zone in. Love viewfinders!

BUT, one thing I absolutely hate, it’s when I come with presuppositions on the table. The Panasonic LF1 has a viewfinder in it. My presupposition is that it’s like a Ricoh GXR viewfinder or something, but it’s not. It’s 0.2inch, 200 dots. I really cannot tell you what it means besides that it’s small. This I’ll have to see for myself when I go to B&H in Manhattan. I think I will be so glad such a small camera has a viewfinder that I wouldn’t care. I don’t expect much but I do plan to use it often.

View inside the viewfinder of an LF1 camera
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That versatile ring

There’s a ring in the front of the camera that is like a lens focus ring. It can be used to change effects, aperture, shutter speed, etc. I care more about manual focusing, but no one seems to mention that in their review. I take it it’s not the interest of popular photography websites to check if you can manually focus with the ring thingy, I am sure it can, or at the very least they will implement it into a firmware update. I can’t see why you wouldn’t be allowed to manual focus with the ring.

Distance Scale

According to reviews, the Panasonic LF1 contains a distance scale, yippee!!! Zone focusing and hyperfocal, here I come! Snap focus on the Ricoh GRD is a sort of shortcut to these things, but since there is a distance scale in the Panasonic LF1 I should be ok.

Panasonic_LF1_sample-0
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Processing:

On the offcicial Panasonic LF1 website I hunted down an Image sample from the official , and processed it the way I would my images. It looks reeeeal good in my opinion! Processed with Inspired Eye Street Photography Presets.

Panasonic_LF1_sample-1
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There’s not much to go on as of posting sample image wise. I’ll try to contact Panasonic for a sample. We’ll see.

Ricoh GRD IV: What will be missed

I know from the bottom of my heart that nothing beats Ricoh in terms of interface and ergonomics. I will sorely miss those. But above all what I will miss is the Snap focus feature, more specifically the full press snap. What a beautiful system. I know the Ricoh GRD IV like the back of my hand, so I know the Panasonic LF1 will take some time to get used to.

Ex Gear addict tip:

Here’s a tip from an ex gear addict: If you really want a camera, make yourself work for it. I don’t mean money wise, but do things you don’t want to do or things you want to put off and make the new camera a reward. Put the carrot in front of the donkey in other words. I need to work on certain pages of my website for example, and I won’t buy the Panasonic LF1 until I do….I’ll have to debate if my hard drive gets fixed first (I’m cool about it now) or do I get the camera….. That will take months but it’s highly beneficial when you defer buying a camera after some work: Buying does not become an impulse, the camera will by then drop a few dollars, you will enjoy it more 🙂

So this is the next camera I will get. But not now. There’s a bit of juice left in the Ricoh GRD IV. But I must admit that the Panasonic LF1 is pretty darn unique, long life these kinds of cameras!!! Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.

Click here to get it at Amazon

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