The overall design of the LX5 is virtually identical to the LX3, with only a few fairly subtle external differences to distinguish the two cameras. On the front the handgrip has been slightly enlarged and re-shaped, with a larger textured pad, making the camera easier to grip. On the back and the top panel the changes are more substantial. The monitor has been moved down by a few millimetres, and the flash hot shoe raised up, to make room for a small socket just above the screen, used to connect an optional electronic viewfinder. The LX5 can use the DMW-LVF1 electronic LCD viewfinder developed for the GF1, although at around £175 it’s a pretty expensive accessory. The optional DMW-VF1 optical viewfinder isn’t much cheaper at around £160.
There are a few other changes on the back of the camera. Like a lot of older Panasonic cameras the LX3 had a slider switch to select between shooting and playback mode, which meant that if you were reviewing your pictures but suddenly wanted to take a photo, you had to remember to switch it back to shooting mode. On the LX5 this switch has been replaced by a playback button, and tapping the shutter button now returns the camera to shooting mode.
Also gone is the LX3’s small and slightly fiddly joystick control, used to activate and navigate the quick menu and to adjust exposure settings. Instead the quick menu is activated by a separate button and navigated via the D-pad, while exposure adjustments are handled by a data wheel mounted on the newly enlarged thumbgrip. It’s a much simpler and more sensible interface, and makes the LX5 feel more like a digital SLR.
Another addition is a dedicated button on the top panel to begin video recording. The LX5 has the same 1280 x 720 pixel maximum video resolution as the LX3, shooting at 25fps with mono audio recorded by a built-in microphone, but it now records in the higher quality AVCHD Lite format.
The LX5’s monitor is similar to that of the LX3, with a diagonal size of 7.5cm (3.0 inches) and a dot resolution of 460,000. However it now has an improved “High Colour Rendering Index” LED backlight which Panasonic claims will make it substantially easier to see in bright sunlight, with better colour rendition. Comparing the two side by side I have to say the improvement is fairly minor.