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Panasonic Lumix LX100 review

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Panasonic Lumix LX100
  • Panasonic Lumix LX100
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Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Pros

  • Excellent manual controls
  • Great build
  • Great image quality and dynamic range

Cons

  • Oversaturated EVF
  • Slightly slow start-up
  • Susceptible to purple flare in highlights

Key Features

  • 16-megapixel Micro Four-Thirds sensor
  • 3-inch 921k dot display
  • 2.36M-dot EVF
  • Manufacturer: Panasonic
  • Review Price: £699.00

What is the Panasonic Lumix LX100?

The Panasonic Lumix LX100 might be considered a natural evolution of the Sony RX100 series. This, too, is a small compact that offers performance comparable with a compact system camera.

Panasonic has moved the genre on by packing an even larger Micro Four Thirds sensor into a slightly larger body that offers much better manual control than on any camera of this large-sensor-in-small-body class.

At £699, it may seem expensive for what initially appears to be a normal compact camera. But rarely do you see small solutions like this that are so geared towards the real enthusiast. There are some issues Panasonic could solve in a Lumix LX100 II – some of them serious – but this is the sort of camera that could rekindle your love for photography.

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Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Design and Handling

The Panasonic Lumix LX100 is a small camera, but one that exudes far more credibility than your average Lumix compact. It's metal-bodied, chunky and has the sort of manual control dials that are fairly rare in a camera of this size.

Some of you may be disappointed to hear that the Lumix LX100 is noticeably, significantly larger than both the Sony RX100 III and Canon G7 X. Those are this camera’s two obvious rivals, and where they're borderline pocketable, this one is slightly larger. Still small, yes, but you lose a degree of convenience.

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The Panasonic Lumix LX100 looks and feels a little bit more like a shrunken Fujifilm X100S, an excellent fixed-lens APS-C model. Its proportions are very similar to the new Fujifilm X30, in fact.

There are handling benefits to being a bit larger, though. First, there’s a handgrip. It’s a small one, but offers a slightly more traditional feel that many of you may appreciate.

It also makes room for the Panasonic Lumix LX100’s manual controls. On the top plate are dedicated dials for exposure compensation and shutter speed.

SEE ALSO: Best Cameras Round-up

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Add to these the manual focus and aperture rings around the f/1.7-2.8 lens and you have everything needed to take full control over many of the camera’s most important settings. The level to which the Lumix LX100 lets you feel you're getting your hands dirty with the mechanics of photography is simply fantastic.

The direct thunks and clicks of these dials offer a sense of mastery you just don’t get when you’re reduced to thumbing a D-pad through menus – like you are with most smaller cameras. Both the Sony RX100 III and Canon G7 X offer lens dials, but neither gets close to the pure physical joy of the Lumix LX100.

You may have been lured in by the promise of a larger Micro Four Thirds sensor – the Sony and Canon both have 1-inch sensors – but this manual handling is really the star of the show.

Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Sensor and Lens

The Panasonic Lumix LX100 uses a 16.8-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, but it doesn't use the whole sensor when taking shots. Instead, it offers a few different aspect ratios of picture, each of which uses a slightly different chunk of the full sensor.

When shooting in the standard aspect, you end up with 12.8-megapixel photos. It’s effectively a sensor of this resolution: don’t be fooled by the full resolution count.

Why not use the full sensor? It’s a trade-off, needed to get the LX100 down to its current size while still offering a very fast lens. The glass likely doesn’t actually properly cover the entire sensor module. Panasonic LX100 15

Next to the Sony RX100 III and Canon G7 X, you end up with fairly low-resolution shots that'll limit how much you can crop into your photos without seeing compromise.

The Panasonic Lumix LX100 lens is quite remarkable. With a maximum aperture of f/1.7 when shooting wide open, you have great control over the depth of field for a camera of this size, and comparatively excellent low-light performance – on the lens’s part at least. We’ll look at high ISO performance later.

Zoom range is 24-70mm, which is spot-on what you get with the Sony RX100 III, but with slightly greater maximum aperture at 24mm – the RX100 III is f/1.8 wide open. A telephoto star this is not, but for landscape, street and portrait shooting, the LX100 has it covered.

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Maximum aperture drops down to f/2.8 at the further reaches of the zoom, but so do this camera’s main rivals. Having that extra bit of lens versatility at 24mm is another attraction for serious photographers looking for an everyday shooter. The LX100 is perfect for those times – which are many, if you’re like us – when you simply can’t be bothered to take out the DSLR with a couple of lenses.

Nanda Linn Aung

October 2, 2014, 12:52 am

I love it.. I had LX7 and I enjoyed using it.. perhaps I might get one as a second camera when the price goes down a little bit. :D

Cliff Wolfstenhammer

October 2, 2014, 6:27 pm

Amazing how they can get such a fast lens on that 4/3 sensor. Would make for an excellent travel cam I think. I think this is the one I've been waiting for. Looking forward to seeing some samples.

winger.steve

October 2, 2014, 7:41 pm

Sony RX100 III is a compact and you can take anywhere. The Panasonic LX100 is closer to the Canon G1X; they are not compacts, not even close, "little brick" actually just call it a brick!

Lucid Strike

October 9, 2014, 9:45 am

If you know anything about fast zooms on ILC's, you'll retract that stement about the LX100 not being 'compact'. :|

winger.steve

October 9, 2014, 6:35 pm

Can you stick the Panasonic LX100 in your jeans pocket? I rest my case!

Lucid Strike

October 10, 2014, 2:39 am

It's LESS compact than other compact cameras, but it is a compact camera. Clearly.

winger.steve

October 10, 2014, 4:47 pm

It’s a compact by 2010 standards but as we head towards 2015
that size of camera is going to become as dated as Sony Walkman cassette player.

Lucid Strike

October 10, 2014, 5:20 pm

That's what I used to think about cell phones, but you see where things have been trending there.

I'm just sayin' it's literally a 'compact' design. Bridge and ILCs generally won't even fit in a jacket pocket (especially with a bright zoom lens).

winger.steve

October 11, 2014, 2:03 pm

The word ‘compact’ is a relative word; yip the LX100 is
compact relative to a bridged camera but by compassion to the Sony rx100 it’s big and certainly not compact enough to continually have on your person; and most people who take photographs for a reason, mine being I am a painter and printmaker, want a camera for that shot which always appears when you are camera’less. If I am going out looking for shots then I am prepared to take my canon 5D with me and so I just don’t see what slot the LX100 fills becauseyour either going out looking for shots or you just want a camera for the unexpected and LX100 is just too big to fill that space.

Lucid Strike

October 11, 2014, 5:38 pm

Fair enough. One of the main differences in our use scenarios is that you already have a large main camera and are sticking with that. The LX100 will save our project thousands of dollars, because we were about to invest in two GH4's and two 12-35 f2.8 lenses. For our purposes -- docs, street, and the occasional portrait -- the LX100 is in fact better than that combination for a lot of things, because, while it may not fit in pants pockets, it IS a LOT more compact than a 5D or GH4 and WAY less conspicuous.

toboev

October 30, 2014, 4:56 pm

It would be amazing, except by all accounts they don't in practice have the lens/sensor combo you describe. Sure they have a fast lens, and a 4/3 sensor, but the lens does not actually cover the sensor - according to the review. It gets much easier to bolt a fast lens onto a large sensor if the lens does not, in fact, cover the sensor!

Roger Poulet

November 8, 2014, 12:07 pm

I've just taken delivery of one. It has an in-finder level gauge (a very valuable feature, but not mentioned in the review) and a solid, precise look and feel. Shutter response and LCD/EVF refresh are DSLR-quick, though I'd have preferred a slower zoom lens but longer at the long end, and fully user-specified auto-bracketing.

Get and fit a 43mm UV filter to protect the (very vulnerable) front element of the lens. The (normal) filter thread on the lens also allows close-up supplementaries to be used - giving the LX100 a true macro capability at the long end of the zoom, where the subject can be out of the photographer's shadow.

Simon Harris

December 17, 2014, 6:23 am

I find it funny how people make a big noise about things like the buttons not being in the most comfortable places or the EVF not being super IMAX quality: IT SHOOTS 4K MOVIES - Do you even know how amazing that is? aside from the great lens and many other capabilities in such a tiny and affordable camera, but oh wait it doesn't fit into someones jeans pocket and their giant paddle hands might push the wrong button . . . . The RX100 Mk3 is not a fair comparison either, totally different specs, smaller camera and no 4K. The LX100 is pretty unique in the market right now.

jefrs

February 6, 2015, 5:47 am

I can get a GX7 into my jeans pocket. You must wear tight pants.

The LX100 is about the size of a GM1 and I've just dropped that into a shirt pocket. Ok, so it looks silly but it does fit.

jefrs

February 6, 2015, 5:47 am

Yes

jefrs

February 6, 2015, 6:01 am

It may be less conspicuous but it is not a replacement for a GH4.

The GH4 can do anything and everything you want of a camera including things you have yet to think of; the GH-series are Panny's professional range.

The X12-35 is simply the better lens, on the basis that the X12-35 is one of the world's best lenses and the Leica on the LX100 is a folding lens; the X12-35 is a Leica design.

There is a place for small inconspicous cameras, I use them myself. Btw a "compact" camera refers to a film size, 35mm roll film is by definition a compact size smaller than 120 film and very much smaller than full frame plate which is something like 10x14 inches: a compact film camera used 35mm film.

jefrs

February 6, 2015, 6:06 am

Not really, they've got these magicians at Leica ...

Cropping the 4/3 sensor down to 1-inch helps
The wider the lens, the faster they can make them, restricting the zoom range helps keep the aperture wide.

FWIW the Leica on the 1.2/3 FZ200 is a constant f/2.8 all the way to 600mm equivalent and the FZ1000 can shoot 4K too.

winger.steve

February 6, 2015, 9:40 am

Ball oaks!

yousdamoose

March 18, 2015, 3:24 am

yep by compassion.

Lucid Strike

January 16, 2016, 3:35 pm

The LX100 cannot do everything the GH4 can, no. However, for our purposes, it literally has replaced it. It was technically less capable but about as capable for our purposes and more appropriate. When you make decisions based on actual usage, the best camera for the job may not be the one with the best specs. Were we supposed to buy the much more expensive camera, despite the fact that it wasn't going to fit our ACTUAL use case quite as well? So that we could have more to brag about on gear forums? No thanks.

Lucid Strike

January 16, 2016, 3:42 pm

As for GH4, I'm quite familiar with the GH-series. Been a big fan since GH2. You're preaching to the choir. The GH4 and the 12-35mm are wonderful gear, and I'll probably get them personally, for narrative film projects. I'll also have an LX100 though, for most of my ACTUAL use cases.

As for 'compact', evidently, it refers to a number of things. I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of using the same word for different meanings. No one calls, say, the Canon 5D a 'compact', and you know it, so let's not. Let's just 'not'.

Rick

May 16, 2016, 11:35 am

Looking for a new 'compact' ... (sold off my Canon G16) .... unlike some comments here I don't find it being bigger than Sony RX100 an issue, I find it a big positive.
Reason I went for G16 over RX100 last time - was RX100 was too small for my hands - too difficult to operate, also just did not feel right - G16 was street ahead.
For the same reason having the larger size compact format of the LX100 makes it particularly interesting.
A VF is a must ... whether optical of EVF does not really bother me .... as long as it gives me a reasonable view on the occasions I need it.

4K video is a great step ... and with this 4/3 sensor be good to see some test results.

Think I need to go find one to take a closer look.

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