Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 Review

 
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Pretty good overall color, though a tendency toward a warm or magenta cast at times. Some oversaturation in strong reds and blues, but still good results.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 pushes strong red and blue tones, but overall saturation is quite pleasing, making colors vibrant. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. Here, the DMC-LX2 did produce slightly warm, pinkish skin tones, but most consumers should be pleased with the results.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. The DMC-LX2 did push cyan toward blue and some reds toward orange, but overall color was about right.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual white balance setting, though a hint warm. Good exposure as well, with less than average positive exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance +0.7 EV Incandescent WB +0.7 EV
 
Manual White Balance +0.7 EV  

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was pinkish-purple with the Auto white balance, and quite warm with the Incandescent (Halogen) setting. However, the camera's Manual white balance option produced more accurate results, if slightly warm. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 required less than the average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +0.7 EV. Despite the slight warm cast, overall color with the Manual white balance setting is quite good, though the blue flowers are quite dark and purplish. (Many digital cameras have trouble here.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Good color and saturation, though a hint reddish. High contrast exposure, with limited shadow and highlight detail.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, in harsh lighting, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 produced high contrast, with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Detail is limited in both areas, with noise reduction contributing to the significant loss of detail in the darkest shadows. The camera's low contrast adjustment had only a minimal effect. Overall color was pretty good, if a hint reddish, with pretty good saturation as well.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,300 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,300 lines per picture height, though you could argue for about 1,400 lines horizontally, with extinction at around 2,000. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. So the lines you see at 1,800 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

Strong detail to
1,300~1,400 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,300 lines vertical

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Very sharp images overall, though some edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects, as well as noise suppression in the shadows.

Good definition of high-contrast elements, though with visible edge enhancement. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 captures good images, with reasonably good detail definition. Some edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left, however. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop above right shows this, with the darkest areas of Marti's hair showing limited detail. Unfortunately, the LX2 suffers from quite noticable noise suppression even at the lowest ISOs, becoming more noticable in the shadows. It's a trait of Panasonic cameras we wish they'd fix. The Panasonic LX2's higher resolution makes up for much of it in the printed results, however.

ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate to high noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a big jump in noise with very strong blurring at the high settings.

ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
 
ISO 800 ISO 1,600  

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 produces moderate noise at its ISO 100 setting, and more noticeable, higher noise at the 200 and 400 settings. At ISO 400, fine detail is a bit blurry, but the image is still quite useable (and noticably better than the ISO 400 images from the LX1). At ISO 800 and 1,600, image noise is so high that the grain pattern is obtrusive. Noise is so high and blurring so strong at ISO 1,600, that the image is really unusable; they'd have done far better leaving this off.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
Very high resolution with good overall detail, though high contrast and limited detail in the strongest highlights and shadows. Very good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and much darker conditions.

Default Exposure +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 produced high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows under the harsh lighting of the test above. Detail is a bit limited in both the highlights and shadows, and noise suppression is noticeable in the shadows as well. Though some areas look a little dark at +0.3 EV, I found the image at +0.7 EV much too bright in the highlights. The camera does offer a low contrast adjustment, but the effect is minimal. (Some readers may prefer the shot at +0.3 EV, although I felt the lower skin tones were a bit dark there. In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
100
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1 sec
f2.8
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2 sec
f2.8
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6 sec
f2.8
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13 sec
f2.8
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25 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
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0.5 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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3.2 sec
f2.8
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8 sec
f2.8
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15 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
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1/4 sec
f2.8
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0.6 sec
f2.8
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2 sec
f2.8
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4 sec
f2.8
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8 sec
f2.8
ISO
800
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1/8 sec
f2.8
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0.3 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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2 sec
f2.8
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4 sec
f2.8
ISO
1600
Click to see LX2LL1603.JPG
1/15 sec
f2.8
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1/6 sec
f2.8
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0.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see LX2LL1606.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
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2 sec
f2.8

Low light:
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 captured bright images down to the lowest light level we test at, at all ISO settings (equivalent to about 1/16 average city street lighting at night). Color looks pretty good with the Auto white balance setting, though with a hint of a cool, magenta cast. The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level even with its AF assist light turned off, and with the AF-assist light on, it could focus on nearby objects in total darkness. Keep in mind though, that the very long shutter times necessary here absolutely demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Slightly dim exposures at the default exposure setting; the camera required less than average exposure compensation for flash exposures. Limited flash range.

28mm equivalent 112mm equivalent
Normal Flash +0.3 EV Slow-Sync Flash +0.7 EV

Flash coverage was slightly uneven at wide angle, with stronger falloff on the right side of the frame, thanks to the position of the flash on the camera. At telephoto, coverage was more even, though some falloff was still noticeable on the right side. Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the DMC-LX2's flash underexposed our subject slightly at its default setting, requiring a small +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get bright results. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode required a little more positive compensation at +0.7 EV, though the longer shutter speed results in a stronger orange-pink cast from the background lighting. (Most cameras require about +1.0 EV of exposure boost on this shot, so the DMC-LX2's performance is quite good.)

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see LX2FL06W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
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1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
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1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
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1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
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1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL11W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see LX2FL12W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL13W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL14W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
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1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL16W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see LX2FL06T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL07T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL08T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL09T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL10T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL11T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see LX2FL12T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL13T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL14T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL15T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see LX2FL16T.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.9
ISO 100

The DMC-LX2's flash range was slightly limited, with bright intensity only to about 8~9 feet at wide angle. At telephoto, flash power was dim even at six feet.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see LX2FL_MFR135WA0500.JPG
13.5 feet
Auto ISO 500
Click to see LX2FL_MFR075TA0320.JPG
7.5 feet
Auto ISO 320

Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims. In the shots above, the DMC-LX2 performs as Panasonic says it will, producing good exposures at the rated distances with its ISO set to Auto. Note though, that the ISO is boosted to 500 at wide angle, and to 320 at telephoto

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, good 11x14 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 8x10, ISO 800 shots are marginal at 5x7, good at 4x6. ISO 1,600 should be avoided.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the Panasonic LX2, we found that it had enough resolution to make good looking 11x14 inch prints. At 13x19, its prints were softer looking, but probably fine for wall or table display. At high ISO, image noise levels are held in check up to ISO 400, producing usable 8x10s, but the jump to ISO 800 gets quite a bit rougher. ISO 800 shots under daylight-balanced lighting look okay at 5x7 inches, those shot under incandescent lighting are really only usable as 4x6 inch snapshots. (The very warm color balance of incandescent lighting forces the camera's already-noisy blue channel to work harder, producing higher noise.) As we've said, ISO 1,600 should have been left off of the Panasonic LX2, as even its 4x6 prints at this setting are rough and blotchy regardless of lighting.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 Photo Gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

Panasonic DMC-LX2

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