I'll say right at the start that I love my DSLRs and all the gear that goes with them: lenses, filters, flashes, tripods and so forth. But, to be honest, even just the DSLR with a lens attached can be more bulk around my neck than I'd wish if I'm not heading out specifically to take photos. And, of course, it's a rather conspicuous item if you don't wish to draw attention.

So, several years ago, I purchased a little pocket camera. Although it claimed to have some controllability, that proved to be limited and in reality it was a "Point & Shoot". It was very nicely made, with a robust and very compact metal body but there it stopped. Images always had blown out areas; the colour balance was poor particularly for skin tones; the usable ISO range was limited; and the lens was softer than I'd have preferred. You can guess the result: it usually stayed at home!

Over the past year or so, in idle moments I have found myself looking at camera review pages and magazines, progressively more impressed by many new offerings and wondering if any might be suitable for my needs. So I made up a general list of what I wanted (not all in priority order):

1: pocketability (a must)
2: a viewfinder
3: good ISO capabilities
4: a good lens
5: control over settings
6: image quality
7: water resistance (least important)

With much of the 'non enthusiast' camera market now taken by smartphones (just hold it at arm's length and point it in the general direction, the little gnomes called apps will do all the messy photographic stuff) the camera makers have been working furiously to meet photographers' needs. Strangely though, including viewfinders seems to have been a low priority: maybe because it seems the 'home' Japanese market are happy to take 'arm's length' photos. If, like me, you're "chronologically gifted" and need to wear bifocals, this arm's length approach is unworkable. Yes, I hear you cry, some makers do include viewfinders - but I'm talking about pocketable cameras, not the "electronic viewfinder with interchangeable lenses" (EVIL) cameras; all very nice but approximately as large as the DSLRs against which they compete.

Finally, I found a mention of a camera that met all my requirements, other than water resistance. It was released about a year ago, but seems to have had very little attention from the camera media. It is the Panasonic Lumix LF1 and is also released as a Leica model. Mine arrived in the mail this week and, so far, has exceeded my expectations though I have not tested all the functions by any means (and some, such as the WiFi/NFC capabilities, I shall have to ask my grandchildren about).

The EVF has a diopter adjustment, for those of us needing optical assistance, and I am fully able to use it wearing my spectacles. Despite some negative comments about the eye level viewfinder in one review, I find it excellent and it has twice as many pixels, at approx 200,000 as did my old 2005 vintage Lumix FZ20, which did (still does) a great job for me: the important thing is that I can see it!

Most of all though, the LF1 does indeed fit in my jeans pocket and it does take excellent quality images up to 800 ISO. And that will do me nicely! It won't be replacing my DSLR, but I'm sure it will complement it well, and already is making it easy to have a camera handy when otherwise I'd have been saying "I wish I had my camera here!" You can expect to see images from it in my stream, the first is already up (and in Explore).

With a little experience using the LF1, I feel I now can give some positives and negatives. I'm not about to do a full review, but there are links to those below.

If you've only time to read a few words, the quick answer is yes, I'm happy with it. The more detailed answer is that it's not perfect (is there such a thing?) but it meets my needs and expectations very nicely in most circumstances. The further details are below as positives and negatives.

It is good and, importantly, pleasant to use. It fully meets my requirement for 'pocketability'. The ergonomics are generally good and the systems are reasonably straightforward with just a little experience.

The controls and screen displays are very useful, as shown by these two shots of the rear display (the viewfinder shows the same and is easily activated with a button). They indicate:
1/ the range of settings for a correct exposure in manual, with the (optional) composition grid and green line camera level indicator.

2/ the depth of field available (yellow arc) at the aperture and focus setting.

The image quality is generally very good, as I think some of my recent postings have illustrated. The focus is fast and accurate, the AWB also is reliable except in extreme conditions, such as some artificial lighting.


I don't wish to overplay these points, but they should be made: 1. The lens is prone to light flare (and sometimes sky burn-out) as shown above. I have also found purple fringing in a shot of tree branches against the sky (which is a fairly tough test for many lenses and cameras)

2. The battery life could be better, so it would be useful to have a spare battery handy if going for a full day's shooting.

3. The position and style of the on/off switch can result in the camera being accidentally turned on (I'm learning to be more careful). As the lens extends, in a pair of jeans this can be a problem. Who knows, it could lead to the following variation on the Mae West line "Is that a Lumix in your pocket or are you glad to see me?" :)

Taken overall though, it meets my needs well and I am indeed very pleased with it. I'd be happy to recommend it for anyone with similar requirements.

In case anyone wishes to read full reviews on the LF1, you might care to look at these links.
"Inspired Eye review" tinyurl.com/m548yqq (detailed and highly recommended) "Sydney Morning Herald" tinyurl.com/kmdc7ku (clear, concise and positive)
"Camera Labs" tinyurl.com/m5nypzu (detailed, mostly positive, rates at 86%).