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Panasonic LF1 Preview

Posted: 04/23/2013

If you've been shopping for an enthusiast compact, but you've been put off by the lack of a viewfinder, Panasonic has the camera for you. Let's face it, we don't all like shooting at arm's length -- the traditional camera-to-the-eye stance has a number of advantages, not least of them the better visibility under harsh sunlight. It's also easier to hold the camera steady in low-light shooting, and you feel more intimately connected to your subject. The Panasonic LF1 provides all this in an enthusiast compact body, thanks to the addition of an in-camera electronic viewfinder -- and yet it's significantly lighter and smaller in every dimension than Panasonic's existing Lumix LX7.

Although it's not as bright as that on the LX7, with a maximum aperture varying from f/2.0 to a decidedly dim f/5.9 across the zoom range, the Panasonic LF1's lens provides a much more versatile range of 28 to 200mm equivalents. (The actual focal length range spans everything from 6.0 to 42.8mm.) The lens has 10 elements in eight groups, including four aspheric elements, three of which are double-sided aspherics. Panasonic's Power O.I.S. image stabilization is included.

Behind the lens sits a twelve megapixel, 1/1.7-inch MOS image sensor. That's the same size and type used in the LX7, but the Panasonic LF1's image sensor has just slightly higher resolution. ISO sensitivity varies from 80 to 6,400 equivalents, and full-resolution burst shooting is possible at 10 frames per second for as many as twelve frames. Even should you enable the LF1's tracking contrast detection autofocus, it's possible to shoot at five frames per second.

At the very top left corner of the rear panel sits the viewfinder, based around a 0.2-inch color panel with 200K-dot resolution. (We don't currently have any information on the panel type used.) There's also a 3.0-inch, 640 x 480 pixel LCD panel with anti-reflective coating, for those times when you do prefer arm's length shooting, such as with the camera overhead or low to the ground.

As you'd expect on an enthusiast-friendly camera, the full complement of Program, Priority, and Manual exposure modes are available. Exposures are metered by default with an Intelligent Multiple metering system, with options of center-weighted and spot metering available. Shutter speeds range to as fast as 1/4,000 second. To keep size to a minimum, the Panasonic LF1 lacks any external flash connectivity, opting instead for a fixed strobe on the front panel. At wide angle, this is manufacturer-rated for a working range of 0.6 to seven meters with automatic ISO sensitivity control. And you can also shoot movies at up to Full HD / 1080i (1,920 x 1,080 pixels; 60 interlaced fields per second).

Connectivity options include USB, NTSC composite, and Micro HDMI ports, and if you're not a fan of cables, you'll be pleased to find both 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Near Field Communications provided for as well, for simple image sharing with smart devices. Power comes from a 3.7-volt proprietary lithium-ion battery pack, which recharges in-camera via USB. Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types.

Good image quality, enthusiast controls, an electronic viewfinder, all in a truly tiny body; what more could you want in a pocket camera? The Panasonic LF1 ships from June 2013 in black or white, with a suggested list price of about US$500.

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