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article imageThe Digital Journal Lemon Award: Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1K

By Digital Journal Staff     Oct 30, 2006 in Technology
Point and shoot me
Digital Journal -- Psst. Need a crappy camera? Boy, do we have one for you!
When Digital Journal met with the Panasonic marketing team to learn about the Lumix DMC-L1K — the company's debut entry into the digital SLR market — we were blown away by the quality. Not the quality of the camera itself, mind you; the Lumix is actually quite lame. But their hype-soaked marketing spiel was so picture-perfect, we were almost ready to hand over our wallets.
It's a good thing we waited to try it first. Despite the hype, despite the close collaboration with Olympus, despite the decent Leica lens, this camera was a huge letdown. If we were in beer-goggle lust during the pitching phase, the actual testing was more of coyote-ugly affair.
Lumix's resemblance to the similar — but far superior — Olympus E-330 is obvious. This SLR also uses a Four-Thirds sensor, a Supersonic Wave Filter anti-dust system and the much-ballyhooed Live View function, which offers a real-time view of the action on the rear LCD monitor.
But while the E-330 had a uniquely hinged screen for precise views at multiple angles, the Lumix LCD is fixed. And from any angle other than head-on, it looks as washed out as Courtney Love on New Year's Day.
If you opt for the viewfinder instead, don't expect a saviour. While most viewfinders offer a large, bright, realistic view, the DMC-L1K's is markedly small and dim. It was like looking through a streaky peep-show window in the red-light district of Bucharest — or so we imagine.
It gets worse. Thanks to the constantly adjusting mirror mechanism needed for Live View mode, taking shots this way is laggy and noisy. The nonstop clicking and whirring make it no good for candid situations or amongst any crowd quieter than a Slipknot concert.
The camera is also slow, with a significant delay before the first shot and between snaps. As for shooting RAW files, fuhgeddaboudit. In this mode, the lag is unbearably slow for anyone but a forensic photographer shooting a crime scene — even then, the corpse will probably start fidgeting out of impatience.
Ergonomically, it also needs some work. For some reason, the shutter release is located on top of the camera in the speed dial. This position is uncomfortable as it forces you to bring your index finger up and around the body to shoot, bending your wrist back like Nathan Lane playing a French waiter.
The shots themselves turn out OK, but not great. Despite its Venus III engine including "Intelligent ISO Control," the DMC-L1K still outputs noticeably noisy shots, especially in low-light situations. It's certainly not up to snuff for a professional-geared camera.
Unfortunately, the Lumix is arriving around the same time as Sony's Alpha A100, another first-time DSLR by a well-known manufacturer. But Sony's offering is phenomenal by comparison and much cheaper — about $1,000 less than the $2,300 Lumix.
Next time, maybe Panasonic should pay more attention to what its customers need, rather than marketing the hell out of something that nobody would want. Just a thought.
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This article is part of Digital Journal's printed edition. To read more features, visit www.digitaljournal.com/magazine and purchase an electronic verison of Digital Journal magazine today for only $1.69!
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