One thing about the digital camera revolution; it’s certainly opened up the photography market to companies that previously would only have touched a camera to take their holiday snaps. As shown by the examples of Sony, Casio, Samsung, Epson and HP, companies that previously specialised in home and office electronics have been able to carve out very respectable chunks of the market, while some traditional camera manufacturers have found it hard to compete. With several companies shedding staff by the thousand and respected brand names such as Contax and Minolta having fallen by the wayside, the camera market today looks very different than it did 10 years ago.
Another electronics brand that has made a name for itself in the world of digital cameras is Panasonic, better known for quality hi-fi components and televisions., Panasonic entered the digital camera market in 2001 in partnership with legendary German camera maker Leica, and since then has turned out a successful series of high quality cameras that have positioned themselves near the top end of their respective market sectors.
The Lumix DMC-LX1, launched toward the end of last summer, is a high-end zoom compact which is aimed squarely at the field dominated by the Canon S series. It features a superb 4x optical zoom Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens equivalent to a 28-112mm lens on a film camera, and a maximum aperture of F2.8-F4.9. It also has an innovative 16:9 widescreen 8.4 megapixel CCD and Panasonic’s proprietary Optical Image Stabilization system, Mega OIS. Naturally all this technical and optical sophistication comes at a price, and the LX1 will cost you a hefty £449.99 on the high street, or around £330 shopping online. It’s a lot of money, but it compares well with the reigning king of power compacts, the Canon PowerShot S80 at £498.99.
There’s no denying that the LX1 is a very nice looking camera. Available in either black or a sort of metallic champagne colour, it is well put together, with a strong aluminium shell and firmly mounted metal controls. It has an unusual slider switch for main power, a nine-position dial on the top panel for selecting the main exposure mode, while zoom control is via a collar around the shutter button.