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The other stand-out feature on the LX1 is a big 2.5in LCD monitor, although oddly this is in 4:3 format. In 16:9 mode it has letterbox bars top and bottom. The screen has a resolution of 207k pixels, which is excellent for a screen of this size, although it could do with a somewhat faster refresh rate - there is a noticeable lag between moving the camera and the view on the LCD catching up with it.
In terms of picture quality, the LX1 comes very close to being superb, but it does have a few annoying flaws that really let it down. The resolution of the big 8.4MP sensor is excellent, and there’s no doubt that the 16:9 format works extremely well for a wide variety of subjects. The AF system is a little on the slow side, especially in low light, but it is usually accurate, as is the multi-point metering system. Colour rendition is very good, and it almost goes without saying that the Leica lens provides outstanding edge-to-edge clarity and a minimum of barrel distortion even at wide angle.
Where the LX1 falls down is on its image processing. Even in the lowest compression JPEG mode, images display a higher than usual degree of compression artefacts, leading to a speckled appearance on large areas of plain colour, such as a blue sky or the bodywork of a car.
The LX1 does have a RAW mode, and using this it is possible to reduce the sharpening and noise reduction and produce a much smoother result, but each shot in RAW mode takes 16 seconds to write to the memory card, so it’s not really practical in most situations.
I also found a major problem with image noise. Even at the minimum 80 ISO, long exposure shots (one second or longer) showed noticeable image noise, and at higher ISO settings the problem became far worse. At 400 ISO with an exposure of 1/5th of a second image noise was among the worst I’ve seen on a recent camera.
All in all, the Panasonic LX1 is a mixed bag. Under normal circumstances it can produce very good pictures, but it isn’t really up to the kind of quality that a professional or even a quality-conscious amateur will be looking for.
The Lumix DMC-LX1 is an interesting camera, with several nice features and the ability to take a decent picture, but its image quality isn’t really high enough to compete in the kind of market that its price would suggest. For £100 less it would be a bargain, but there are better cameras around for less.
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