Friday, January 3, 2014

Street Photography Using the LX7

I am rather new to street photography, however, I think I got some basic understanding of what seems to be the thumb-rule for getting the shot in the street.
  1. Speed, the shutter needs to open a quickly as possible.
  2. Monochrome images are typical for this genre.
  3. Depth of field, usually pretty deep.
Let's see what we can do with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7.
This camera, as you probably already know, hast got 4 memory position for custom settings. In my camera, C1 is taken by bracketing, cf. earlier post. This leaves us with the 3 additional spaces under the C2 position of the quick dial, I choose C2-1, later more about that.

Lets look at what we primarily need, control over the camera with the fewest possible interactions.
The camera sports a nice aperture control ring, so, lets go for aperture priority mode (there are actually more reasons for this, you will see).
=> Step 0: set the camera to "A".

Being as fast as possible, the first priority to me was to use manual focus (MF), which is to be selected by the switch at the lens barrel, in order to loose the time any auto-focus takes. "Manual focus?", you may ask yourself, "the one where you have to fiddle that little 'FOCUS'-thingy?!". Yes, precisely that!
Here comes the trick: in the Setup-menu (page 4), there is an entry 'Lens Resume'. This entry refers to 2 options: 'Zoom Resume' and 'MF Resume'. Both come in very handy for street photography purposes.
=> Step 1: enable lens resume for both options (Setup-menu, page 4), see below

We want monochrome, right? Well, yes and no. B&W images in such cameras are produced by processing data that is provided by sensors having a Color Filter Array (CFA) printed on them. Those filters are red green and blue filters, where green occurs twice in a pixel (cf. Bayer filter array). The individual filter dye used on said array will of course have a specific attenuation.
When recording photos in RAW, we record the data provided by the sensors, as the name suggest. This data, however, represents light filtered by the Bayer CFA. 
I hope that camera manufacturers make use of the knowledge of the light attenuation created by the respective dyes and take it into consideration for the algorithm to convert RGB-data into monochrome images. Consequently, you would want to store not only the RAW file, but also a monochrome JPG file.
=> Step 2: in the Rec-menu, set 'Photo Style' to 'Monochrome'
=> Step 2.1: i the Rec-menu, set 'Quality' to 'RAW + fine'

Point 3 of the above list points towards depth of field. Well, since we are on our way programming the camera in aperture priority, we do not need to bother about that, you will take care about the D.o.F. by using the aperture dial on the lens barrel.
=> Step 3: enjoy the aperture dial of the LX7!

Some further stuff may come in handy:
  • ISO limit 800 (Rec-menu, page 1), ISO 800 may already be noisy... hence don't go beyond that
  • Quick AF ON (Rec page 2), in case you engage auto-focus
  • Metering Mode [(.)] (Rec, page 3), evaluative mode, there is not time for spot metering, still we want to meter where we point, roughly...
  • Step Zoom ON (Rec, page 4), see below
  • Stabilizer ON (Rec, page 4), good idea, in particular since in this type of photography the photographer is moving quite often
  • AF Assist Lamp OFF (Rec, page 4), don't alert your subjects!

Now, save your settings into a convenient custom memory. As mentioned above, I went for C2-1. This can be done by on 'Setup' page 2, item: 'Cust.Set Mem.'. I leave it up to you to figure out the rest.

SEE BELOW points:

Lens Resume
Both settings, the focal length and the focus could/should be set before going on the street.
I recommend a focal length equivalent to either 35mm or 50mm, depending on your preference. This setting will be recalled when you switch on your LX7. Depending on your training, you will see for yourself w/o engaging any viewfinder, what the framing will be.
The more important setting is the manual focus (MF). Put the camera into manual focus mode and set the focal distance to about 3m (using a wide open aperture... the on screen display will show you the range). Now stop down the iris, and you will see how deep the D.o.F. will be. Judging the distance to your subject is just a matter of experience, be it 3m, you may open the lens to the maximum, if you are not sure, just stop it down, thereby increasing the D.o.F.

Step Zoom
Depending on your training, you will see with your own eye what the frame will be when knowing the equivalent focal length of the lens. Helps a great deal when shooting from the hips!

- Those particular setting will produce a colored RAW image and a monochrome JPG.
- The camera is only controlled by the aperture ring, only defining the D.o.F.
- The settings can be recalled by the mode selector.


  1. Joachim, Nice write up, I have just set my LX7 in a very similar manner for Street Photography. Aperture priority mode, resume focal length at 24mm and manual focus set to resume at 1m to infinity at f2.8 with Auto ISO.
    Important addition IMHO 'Fn' button can be programmed for 1Shot Auto Focus. To set this up go to Menu/Set, Spanner, page 2 of 8, second line down set the dedicated function button. Now one press of the function button gives you direct access to focus on the target if you think it is out of your zone focus range.

  2. Mike, this post, a year ago, was written with the insight of a year ago. I am sure that your settings are much more refined! Will try those out soon! Thanks pal! Have a good one! Cheers, Joachim