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Panasonic Lumix LX100: First Look


Panasonic Lumix LX100: First Look

I always liked the Panasonic Lumix range of compacts. Beginning with the LX3, this range was one of the first to introduce the ‘premium compact camera’, with Leica glass and manual controls and larger-than-average sensors. Over the last couple of years, the market was taken over by the Fujifilm X-series and of course the class-leading RX100 series by Sony, but the LX7 has still remained fairly relevant, and at its price-point, competitive

But with the announcement of the Panasonic Lumix LX100, the company is clearly not satisfied with just making the ‘also-ran’ products in the category: along with the fast Leica lens, it is the first compact camera to feature a Micro Four Thirds sensor! That’s impressive. Really impressive. Did I mention that this is a compact?!

Until now, photographers had two major choices when going for a high-end compact camera: the beautifully designed Fujifilm X-series that can take really nice pictures – or the Sony RX100 that’s really compact, takes the best pictures a compact camera can take, although its design and controls are not quite as good as the Fuji. The third choice was for those not looking to spend as much: the Lumix LX7, which was nicely designed, had great controls, and took pretty nice pictures

Image from Panasonic

Image from Panasonic

Enter the LX100: yes, it’s a bit bigger than the LX7, and significantly larger than the RX100 – but it’s pretty much identical in dimensions to the Fujifilm X30, it looks to have a really nice design and a great set of controls, AND it’s got one of the largest sensors* found on any compact camera! You know what this means: the Lumix LX100, with this sensor and its Leica lens, will most definitely boast outstanding image quality

*The Canon G1 X Mk II (just released, I’ll post on it soon) as well as the older G1 X (Mk I), has a sensor size of 1.5”, which is even larger than the LX100’s, but apart from these, there’s no compact with a larger sensor. Correction: The Ricoh GR has an APS-C sensor, and has been around for a while; don’t know why I missed it. It doesn’t have a zoom lens though, but it’s a pretty awesome camera (and sells for $699 or so at the moment)

It’s not all about the sensor, though. It’s got a new lens to match the larger chip, a fast Leica 24-75mm lens; it’s now got a manual focus ring as well as the aperture ring found on the LX7; and the new Lumix now includes a high-res EVF. Awesome

But seriously, it’s the sensor that everyone’s talking about. Sensor size is one of the main contributors to image quality, like most of you probably know. It’s the reason regular compacts (and smartphones) take pictures that don’t look quite as good as those taken with a DSLR. With a larger sensor, you get better resolution, less noise, and sharper images, as well as shallower depth of field. So when you compare the rather tiny 1/1.7” sensor found on the LX7 with the Micro Four Thirds (m43) sensor from the LX100, the difference is night and day. Seriously

It’s pricey, though. At $899, it’s one of the most expensive compact cameras you can find. But if you know what you want, it’s probably worth the money. Stick around if you want to find out more about what looks like a pretty awesome camera

Buy on Amazon / Buy on B&H Photo

Of course, if you’re already sold, please use my links! You know why. It’s already available for pre-order on Amazon and B&H Photo

Specifications You Would Want To Know

  • Body: Compact, aluminum
  • Resolution: 16 mega pixels (12.8 mega pixels effective resolution)
  • Sensor Size: Micro Four Thirds (17.3 x 13mm)
  • Sensor Type: CMOS
  • Lens: Leica 10.9-34mm f1.7-2.8 (24-75mm equivalent)
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Shutter Speeds: Max 1/16000 sec (electronic) or 1/4000 sec (mechanical), Min 60 sec
  • ISO Range: 200-25600
  • Video: 4K @ 25fps, 1080p @ 50fps
  • Video Format: MPEG-4, AVCHD
  • Metering Modes: Multi, Center Weighted, Spot
  • Exposure Modes: P, A, S, M, Auto, Filter
  • Built-In Flash: No, external flash included
  • Hot-shoe: Yes
  • Autofocus: Contrast Detect
  • AF Modes: Multi-area, Center, Single Point, Tracking, Continuous, Face Detection
  • AF Points: 49
  • Manual Focus: Yes
  • Macro Range: 3cm (at 24mm)
  • Screen: 3” LCD (921k dots)
  • Articulation: No
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Viewfinder: Yes, electronic (2.764m dots)
  • Max Drive Speed: 11fps
  • File Formats: JPEG, RAW
  • Connections: USB 2.0, microHDMI, WiFi
  • Memory Card Type: SD/SDHC/SDXC
  • Dimensions: 115 x 66 x 55mm
  • Weight: 393g (including battery/memory)

First Thoughts

Well, I sort of went through my first thoughts already, didn’t I? I’ll go through it again in a bit more detail anyway. I’m sure there’s more to uncover in this camera, which looks a real beauty

Yeah, let’s start off with the looks. It looks very much like a part of the Lumix series, doesn’t it? It’s a bit larger, but the overall look is very Lumix-like. And that’s good – all the previous Lumix cameras look great

Size? Well, it’s slightly larger than its predecessor, like I said – most significantly in terms of depth: it’s quite a bit thicker. But the LX7 was never a pocketable camera anyway. None of these cameras apart from the R100 are pocketable. So if it’s not going in your pocket, slightly larger dimensions won’t matter, will it? And if you’re comfortable with the Fujifilm X-series compacts, this one is right alongside it in terms of size

Before coming to the sensor, the other features are pretty cool too. You saw the specs: it’s loaded with pretty much everything you could want

The electronic viewfinder is probably the most significant of them: a 720p EVF that’s 0.38” wide, with 1.39x magnification and (obviously) 100% coverage. This is going to be really useful for those who like to hold the camera up to the eye. I’m sure the LCD will be viewable in sunlight (most new ones do) so you won’t really need the EVF when shooting outdoors, but it’ll definitely add to the whole experience, and it’s a very premium feature to have. Nice

The lens is new too. It’s still a Leica, with a similar zoom range to the LX7(24-75mm vs. the LX7’s 24-90mm), and while the LX7’s lens was slightly faster, with the m43 sensor, the LX100 and its f1.7-2.8 lens will have the edge in terms of, well, everything – depth of field, exposure, whatever

Image from Panasonic

Image from Panasonic

The LX7 had a very nice aperture ring around the lens that manually controlled your aperture setting in manual modes. The LX100 has this same ring, as well as a new manual focus ring, for those who prefer taking everything manual. I rarely use manual focus on a compact camera, but I have a feeling it’ll add to the whole experience; the aperture and manual focus rings, along with the viewfinder, adds to the sense of using an SLR-type camera, and not a compact

Talking of controls, the LX100 has gone very hands-on and old-school, with a shutter speed dial replacing the traditional compact camera mode dial, and a dedicated exposure compensation dial being included on the top panel as well – much like the controls on my Fujifilm X-E1. These, along with the manual lens control rings, and the EVF, will give you a real old-school SLR feel when shooting with the LX100 and make you forget this is actually a compact camera! I like that a lot

Yeah, and now we come to the sensor. There’s not a lot to talk about here, actually. It’s a Micro Four Thirds size sensor, which is really large. This means very good noise control, better resolution and sharpness, and with the f1.7-f2.8 lens, you’ll get those really nice shallow depth-of-field effects without any trouble. I’m really excited to check this camera out and see the images it can produce. And with the really cool control set, handling it should be a lot of fun too

Other little features include 11fps burst shooting, 4K video, WiFi/NFC connectivity, and well – look at the spec sheet! This camera compares with anything out there in terms of features and numbers if that’s what you’re looking at

Image from Panasonic

Image from Panasonic

You should also note that the Lumix LX100 doesn’t have a built-in flash. Instead, it comes with an external flash that fits onto the hot-shoe. This is fine (although its head isn’t flexible, like the awesome RX100 flash!) but it adds bulk to the entire package if you shoot regularly with a flash. If you take this camera to a party, for instance, you’d probably need to lug around the external flash. Even if it’s not that large, it’s something additional to remember

NOTE: Panasonic are also releasing an automatic lens cap for the LX100, and this is an accessory I highly recommend. I know I go on and on about automatic lens caps like the one built in to the RX100, but it’s something I really find to be a major convenience when shooting with a compact camera. It really saves you a lot of time, and can be the difference between getting a quick shot and missing it. It may not sound like much, but if you have experience with manual lens cap vs. automatic lens cap compact cameras, you’ll know what I’m talking about. So if you’re getting this camera, check out this accessory

And yeah, that’s the Lumix LX100. And it really looks to be a top product. A challenger to the Fujifilm X30, for sure. The RX100 will remain a camera to beat purely for being the only premium compact camera that fits a pocket – while also having an image sensor nearly as large as this one, and that takes absolutely stunning pictures. But if true compactness doesn’t mean that much to you – and you can afford the hefty price tag – definitely take a look at the Lumix LX100. At this time, I really can’t find much wrong with it

Controls

Like I mentioned earlier, Panasonic completely changed the control layout when designing the LX100, from the LX7’s rather typically point-and-shoot controls to a more SLR-type set of buttons, dials and rings. This camera is going to be a lot of fun to use, I can tell you! All these manual controls plus the EVF – magic

On top, we have quite a few interesting controls. There’s the power switch, the shutter release button with a zoom rocker around it, a filter button, an iA (Auto mode) button, and the hot-shoe in the middle. The rest is all pretty unconventional for a compact camera: as I said before, the mode dial is gone, replaced by a shutter speed dial – and there’s also a dedicated exposure compensation dial on top. Coupled with the controls on the lens – an aperture ring and a manual focus ring – this lends a traditional SLR feel to the camera, and quite unlike a typical compact

Image from Panasonic

Image from Panasonic

Also around the lens is the AF selector switch, and (like on the LX7) an aspect-ratio selector switch that has four options: 1:1, 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9.

Most of the rest of the controls are obviously on the rear panel – let’s go there now. On the top left corner is the large electronic viewfinder. On the right side of the EVF, you’ll find two of three Function buttons (Fn2 and Fn3), a movie record button, and a very useful AF/AE Lock

Image from Panasonic

Image from Panasonic

On the right of the 3.0” LCD are the rest of the controls: a very useful Q-menu button (which is probably customizable), a Playback button, a Display button, and the third Function (Fn1) button (which is also the Delete key). In the middle of these four buttons is the four-way directional pad, which doubles as a control wheel. The four directions control ISO, WB, Drive/Self-Timer, and…I’m not quite sure what. A customizable 4th option? Possibly. The center of the directional pad is the Menu/Select button

There’s nothing on the front of the camera – so yeah, that’s it for controls. I find it to be very comprehensive without being overwhelming. The shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial together with the lens rings make it very easy to access basic shooting functions without needing menus – and the three Function buttons let you access three more regularly needed settings without delving into menus. And just in case that’s not enough, you have the Q menu for the rest of it. A really nice system

Performance

Having used the LX7, which was excellent in all areas of general performance, I expect the LX100 to be very snappy too. And it’ll probably be faster, thanks to the new processor and all that

Power-on speed with the LX7 was fast, and this should be even better. The automatic lens cap accessory will really help you here – don’t forget it!

Burst shooting is rated at 11fps, which is as fast as the LX7, no faster. And that’s as fast as anyone needs, really. I’m not sure of the buffer size just yet – but I have a feeling it’ll be perfectly adequate for anyone who uses this camera

The AF system has been improved from the LX7, but it’s still contrast-detect. It should be fine, as some of the fastest AF systems I’ve used in compact cameras (like the RX100 II) are contrast-detect. The LX7 was fast, and this should be as fast or even quicker

Yeah, I’d say the LX100 perform great in all departments – faster or at least as fast as the very quick LX7. That’s all you’re going to need

Conclusion

Is the Panasonic Lumix LX7 the best compact camera on the market? It’s hard to say. It packs in a sensor bigger than nearly all of the competition; it’s got one of the faster lenses found in compacts, with a very useable zoom range; it’s quick, in terms of focusing, burst shooting, and everything else; it shoots 4K video; it has WiFi and all that; it has a very SLR-like control set. Doesn’t that sound like everything anyone would need in a compact?

Yes it does. The only drawback for me would be the size, which isn’t truly compact. If I carry a camera bag, I’d probably pack my mirrorless camera and be good to go. The only time I need a quality compact camera is when I leave the bag at home – so I need it to fit the pocket. And the LX100 won’t do that. But then again, no other camera of this nature, except my RX100 II, would. So it’s hard to call this a real drawback. But yeah, it’s an issue for me

The other possible issue that some would have with the LX100 is the price: at $899, it’s (as far as I know) the most expensive compact camera in the market

If you can afford it, and if you don’t mind it being the size it is, this is as good as it gets. I really can’t argue with someone who calls this the best compact camera in the market right now

The only camera that can compete with the LX100 would be the RX100 series, which is still really awesome, and maintains true compact form. The Canon G1 X Mk II comes close in terms of sensor size and potential image quality, but the controls and handling on the G1 X doesn’t seem to be nearly as impressive as the LX100 – or even the RX100 for that matter – and it’s by far the biggest of the lot

Yeah, I’m very impressed with the Lumix LX100. It’s really got it all. It comes at a price, but for the money you get a LOT. In a line, my suggestion would be to get the RX100 if you want it small, or get the LX100 if size isn’t an issue


And I’m done. I hope you found this post useful. If you have any questions to ask, or anything to add to this post, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you in no time. And keep an eye out for a full review

Buy on Amazon / Buy on B&H Photo

If you’re buying this camera, please use the links I’ve shared above. You know the reason! And that’s that. Until next time

By Heshan Jayakody
All content in this post is my own, except images (from Panasonic)

Discussion

10 Responses to “Panasonic Lumix LX100: First Look”

  1. Oh wow, yes. This is the cam I have been waiting for 😀 😀

    Thanks for posting about it, I was looking out for your preview on it, it looks amazing! Like you say, like a SLR but compact

    How do you think the sensor will match with the likes of the RX100 1″ sensor? It is a lot bigger?

    Posted by Vasquez | September 30, 2014, 07:48
    • Yeah…it’s a pretty revolutionary camera! Technically, the m43 sensor should perform better than the RX100’s 1 incher. It’s not a LOT bigger, but I’d say it is significantly larger, and there should be noticeably better image quality – especially in terms of high ISO noise performance

      I’ll have to wait to do a full review before I know for sure, though!

      Posted by pixelogist | September 30, 2014, 09:41
  2. Yup its not RX100-sized but its as compact as many other prosumer compacts or high-end point n shoots like the X30 etc or G1 X. I doubt size will concern many. The sensor is impressive, I really do hope it lives up to expectations. I also hope the controls are manageable on a small body like this…

    Posted by Brock | September 30, 2014, 08:22
    • That’s true – most compacts of this nature are around this size, or even larger. The sensor is significantly larger than the competition, apart from the G1 X by Canon (which is a bit larger) – so you really should get better high ISO noise control, shallower DOF at the wider apertures, and overall better sharpness/resolution! Can’t say for sure till I review it though

      Posted by pixelogist | September 30, 2014, 09:43
  3. I still prefer Ricoh GR. Oh, yeah, yhe zoom…

    Posted by Ivan Maranov | September 30, 2014, 10:49
    • Good point, I missed the Ricoh! Sorry guys, there’s one more compact camera with a larger sensor – even if it doesn’t have a zoom lens. The Ricoh GR has an APS-C sensor

      Posted by pixelogist | September 30, 2014, 11:09
  4. I recall panasonic catching a lot of flack for the tiny sensor on the LX7 which really put it way behind competition likes of which the RX100 and X20. Happy to see they have listened and fixed it with an MFT sensor and all the new design features. Love it!!

    Posted by Anand | September 30, 2014, 19:29
    • You’re right. I was one of those to criticize the LX7 for the smaller-than-the-rest sensor. This time around, they’ve gone and put themselves right on top of the pack. I can’t wait to give this thing a full test drive and review it

      Posted by pixelogist | October 2, 2014, 07:04
  5. Ahh finally a Lumix that competes with the rest of the pack. The LX5 was one of the best at the time but since then Lumix hasn’t been doing well. RX100 killed it. Now they are making a return!

    Do you think it is worth the money for the LX100 or should I go for the RX100M2 or 3? Those model numbers are similar lol

    Posted by Krys | October 1, 2014, 07:49
    • Yeah, that’s spot on – the LX5 (and even the LX3) were really good at the time, and were some of the first ‘premium compacts’ in the market. The Leica lens and all the manual controls really stood out back then. The LX7, not so much.

      As for what’s best for the money, well…it’s not a LOT more than the RX100 III, so I don’t think price should be what you base the decision on. The RX100 is really compact, and takes pictures probably as good as the LX100. The LX100 will have the benefits of the larger sensor, better controls, but it won’t fit in your pocket or small bag. Base your decision on that. If you really want to save, get the RX100 (original) or the Mk II

      Posted by pixelogist | October 2, 2014, 07:08

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