Lately again, I’ve been fairly actively involved in forum discussions at DPReview, posting these comments. For some reason, aspect ratios are important to me — the shape of the rectangle or square. Most cameras only work best in one aspect ratio. I was thrilled to see Panasonic continue their multi-aspect ratio feature in this camera. This is some of what I’ve learned.
Panasonic is releasing its latest compact camera in the LX series, the LX100, that also has their multi-aspect ratio feature, introduced in the LX3 in 2008, which I tremendously enjoyed in the LX5.
The LX100 uses the huge M43 sensor from their GX7 camera. In the video below, Gordon Laing briefly explains what Panasonic has done, including some of the drawbacks and advantages at minute-5.
The huge advantage of the multi-aspect ratio sensor is that at 24mm, the LX cameras maintain true 24mm field of view diagonally in the 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios! In comparison, the Sony RX100 series camera loses field of view in the 4:3 and 16:9 ratios, so getting a true 24mm wide is impossible, except in 3:2. Having been shooting with the RX100 for a few years now, I greatly miss this feature.
This article points out how fun this is for 16:9 at 24mm:
Panasonic going down with a fight: the new LX100
At 24 mm-e, the 16:9 aspect ratio of the LX3 has the same horizontal angle of view as a 22.8 mm-e lens on a 3:2 aspect ratio sensor (or 135-format film). That’s seriously wide for a compact camera with a zoom lens. The LX100 retains this fun feature.
I discovered this anomaly. Like with the LX7, Panasonic used a 4:3 ratio sensor, instead of the ideal sized 3:2 sensor, so the 16MP sensor is a bit too tall for maximum efficient use of its pixels, so it loses more megapixels with their multi-aspect ratio tweak, which results in only 12+ MPs, much lower than the 20MP 1-inch sensor competition.
Panasonic’s aspect-ratio madness
Now the LX7 has an off-the-shelf 1/1.7″-type sensor (PDF) like the rest, but it uniquely treats that sensor as ‘oversized’ (the image circle never fills the sensor). The result is that the active sensor area in the LX7 is noticeably smaller than direct competitors, never mind the likes of the Sony RX100 with its 1″-type sensor.
What’s more, instead of having a sensor of the ideal ~3:2 aspect ratio, the LX7 sensor has the usual 4:3 aspect ratio. That means more of the sensor area is never used. And that’s why the difference between the ‘total megapixels’ and the ‘effective megapixels’ has risen compared the LX5: those figures are now 12.7 and 10.1 (compared to 11.3 and 10.1 in the LX5).
The LX100 is large, and only zooms to 75mm. That and with only 12+ MP makes it less than compelling, unless the image quality ends up being superb because of the lens — results aren’t out yet.
The bigger pixels of this sensor will probably make it the low light champion in a camera of this size.
THE ULTIMATE COMPACT
I’d prefer to see a multi-aspect ratio camera designed from the smaller pixels that the Sony 1-inch sensor has, or an oversized 1-inch sensor version. Panasonic could do this in the LX8, if they still have plans for it.
If the current 1-inch 3:2 sensor was used in a multi-aspect ratio design, a 3MP or so loss in pixels would result, but the smaller image circle wouldn’t stretch the limits of the small lens so much (like the G7X*), and greater image quality could result, or even greater zoom range if the lens were made larger (the RX100 III only zooms to 70mm). It still could be smaller than the LX100 and have superb image quality.
*It’s too soon to see if the G7X has sacrificed image quality in order to get the very useful 24-100mm zoom range in a 1-inch sensor camera of this small size. Gordon discusses the G7X at minute-43 in this video.
The ultimate would be made with an OVERSIZED version of the 1-inch sensor, so it wouldn’t take a MP hit in the 3:2 format, and would gain MPs in 16:9 and 4:3, and allow the same aspect ratio diagonally in 16:9 and 4:3 as in 3:2.
THE SUPREME ULTIMATE
I can’t understand why this hasn’t happened yet.
My passion is for all mirrorless cameras, including full frame to have either ROUND sensors that capture everything the lens throws into the camera (the sensor would be the same size as the image circle), or an OVERSIZED SQUARE sensor, which would be just as wide as Panasonic’s multi-aspect, but taller, so that 1:1 would also completely fit into the image circle, and would also not lose pixels or field of view. An oversized square sensor has many other advantages too, especially for tripod mounted cameras, discussed here:
Square sensors for mirrorfree cameras
THE GOLDEN RATIO (also called the golden mean)
1.618:1 has been known for 2000 years to be the most pleasing rectangular shape, but no camera offers this ratio. Panasonic could add it to their ratio options without hardly any extra cost. One photographer suggested 3:2 is close enough, but to me, 3:2 looks like a fat golden mean, not close enough at all.
The golden mean wouldn’t always be the preferred ratio, because the subject often determines the best ratio, but it could prove to be more preferable than 3:2 in many situations, if camera companies would only give us this option. It’s difficult to shoot in the golden ratio currently, because we would only be guessing where the borders are.
I’ve been saying: “THINK OUTSIDE THE (SLR mirror) BOX,” now that mirrorless cameras are no longer so limited. We may as well use the entire image circle with sensors big enough to capture all that the lens sees.
This is even more important in full frame, interchangeable lens cameras in which lenses are big and heavy. Why are we only capturing the 3:2 horizontal strip, and not what’s above, below and on the sides?
It makes no sense. Camera companies are stifling artistic creativity, big-time!
The LX100 is apparently the first compact to sport 4K video. Gordon explains in the video at minute-7 two advantages of shooting in 4K that many don’t realize.
LX100 at minute-5The best new cameras and lenses at Photokina 2014! Canon, Nikon, Sony and much more!
Published on Oct 1, 2014
In this video I’ll show you all the most exciting new cameras, lenses and accessories launched at the Photokina 2014 show! You’ll find out about all the latest camera gear that’s coming soon! It’s a big video, lasting 53 minutes, but I’ve divided it into sections for each company, so if you want to skip to your favourite, you can use the guide below. As always you can find my latest reviews at http://www.cameralabs.com
7:46: 4K Video
10:39: Red Digital Cinema
22:44: Three Legged Thing
33:18: LEE Filters
[videos] Charlie Waite: Watch what can be done with a compact camera | The LX5 to replace my G11?