Panasonic Lumix LX5 Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Image Quality
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Fair overall color and hue accuracy. Manual white balance is not as accurate as most.
Saturation. The Panasonic DMC-LX5's Standard film mode produced pretty neutral saturation overall, with mild to moderate oversaturation in blues, purples and some greens. Bright yellows, lighter greens, aquas, cyans and unusually, some reds were actually undersaturated by a small amount. This can make some images look slightly muted compared to most compacts. 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.
Skin tones. Here, when using Auto white balance, the Panasonic LX5 rendered brighter Caucasian skin tones a touch cool, while darker skin tones had a yellow/green cast. 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.
Hue. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 pushes cyan toward blue, red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow toward green. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) White was also slightly shifted towards cooler tones, indicating manual white balance performance was not ideal. With a mean "delta-C" color error of 7.75, overall hue accuracy was slightly below average. Hue is "what color" the
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto white balance was slightly cool while incandescent was very warm; best color with the Manual white balance setting. Average exposure accuracy.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting had a slight magenta tint with the Auto white balance setting, though it wasn't too far off the mark. The Incandescent setting produced very warm results. The Manual setting was the most accurate color overall, though it was a touch cool. The Panasonic LX5 also has a Kelvin temperature option, as well as white balance fine tuning, so better results may be achievable. The Lumix LX5's exposure system handled this lighting well, producing good results with +0.3 EV exposure compensation, which is about average for this shot. 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.
Average exposure accuracy outdoors. Auto white balance struggled with skin tones.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 produced some hot highlights in the harsh lighting of our "Outdoor" shots. In the Portrait shot above left, detail is fairly strong in the shadows despite some visible noise, though some highlights are lost in the white shirt and flowers. An average amount of exposure compensation (+0.7 EV) was required to keep the model's face bright. The Lumix LX5 struggled a bit with color though, producing bright skin tones that were slightly cool, while darker tones had a yellow/green tint. In the Outdoor House shot on the right, the default exposure is pretty good, but again some highlights are clipped in the white trim. There are some pretty deep shadows as well. Color is pretty good though, just slightly on the cool side.
Very high resolution, 1,600 lines of strong detail from in-camera JPEGs, about 1,700 to 1,800 lines from ACR processed RAW files.
Strong detail to
1,600 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,600 lines vertical
|ACR converted RAW:
Strong detail to
1,800 lines horizontal
|ACR converted RAW:
Strong detail to
1,700 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,600 lines per picture height in both directions from in-camera JPEGs. Extinction of the pattern occurred between 2,400 and 2,600 lines. We were able to extract a bit more resolution (1,700 to 1,800 lines) with fewer sharpening artifacts by converting a RAW file with Adobe Camera RAW. 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.
Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp images overall, with only minor edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Noise suppression limits definition in the shadows, though detail is still relatively strong here.
|Definition of high-contrast
elements is affected by
noise suppression and there's
evidence of minor
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.
Sharpness. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 captures reasonably sharp images with a lot of fine detail, though noise reduction reduces definition in the finer details. Slight enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows moderate noise suppression, as the darker areas of hair and regions of low contrast show less distinct detail. However, individual strands remain fairly well defined in higher contrast areas. 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.
Like other recent Panasonic models, the Lumix LX5 offers three levels of "Intelligent Resolution", which essentially sharpens fine detail while leaving areas with little or no detail (such as a cloudless sky) untouched to keep visible noise to a minimum. To see how well this localized sharpening works, compare the crops below at each setting.
In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above, and clicking on the link will load the full resolution image.
As you can see, fine detail has progressively stronger sharpening applied as the setting is increased, while the noise in the sky is not affected. The increased sharpening does tend to coarsen fine detail at higher settings, though. The pine needles in the trees behind the house are a good illustration of this effect. For critical work, we'd be inclined to leave Intelligent Resolution Off and do selective sharpening in post processing. For folks printing JPEGs straight out of the camera however, Intelligent Resolution should really produce very crisp looking prints without the increased noise that usually results from just cranking up the camera's conventional sharpening setting.
RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As is almost always the case, quite a bit more detail can be obtained from carefully processing RAW files than can be seen in the in-camera JPEGs. Take a look below, to see what we mean:
In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above, and clicking twice will open the full resolution image.
The first image on the left is an in-camera Fine JPEG taken with default settings. The second was a RAW file processed using the included SilkyPix converter at default settings. The third is a RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 6.2 (with default noise reduction), then sharpened with Unsharp Mask of 400%, radius 0.3 in Photoshop. SilkyPix at default settings produces results that are softer than the in-camera JPEG, though it does reveal a bit more detail. The Adobe Camera RAW version shows the most detail, but also shows quite a bit more noise. You can increase the noise reduction settings in ACR, but you'll probably want to use a good third-party noise reduction program such as Neat Image, Noise Ninja or Noiseware to perform more advanced noise reduction for best results.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, with very good results up to ISO 400. Strong loss of detail at the highest settings, however.
|Default Noise Reduction|
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||
|ISO 3,200||ISO 6,400 (3MP)||ISO 12,800 (3MP)|
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 produced low to moderate noise at the lower sensitivity settings, with only small increases in noise as the sensitivity level gets higher. Demosaicing errors are however visible in the hair and appear as bluish smudges at lower ISOs. Detail versus noise handling is very good up to ISO 400, and even at ISO 800, detail is still pretty good. At higher ISOs however, a pronounced increase in noise reduction greatly interferes with fine detail. At ISOs 6,400 and 12,800, there is very little fine detail left and color balance is thrown off as well. Compared to the LX3, the LX5 appears to apply slightly stronger noise reduction at the default settings, as well as applying lower amounts of sharpening. This helps reduce the visibility of noise, but also makes the LX5's image look less crisp. To see how these images held up to printing at various sizes, read the Output Quality section below
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong detail, though somewhat high default contrast limits dynamic range. Good low-light performance, capable of getting bright images in near darkness.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
Sunlight. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 did fairly well in bright sunlight for a compact camera. That said, it did struggle a bit with high default contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, resulting in some washed-out highlights in the white shirt and flowers. Despite some visible noise in the darker areas, detail is still quite good in the shadows, though. Adjusting the contrast setting or employing the LX5's Intelligent Exposure feature would have likely helped tame those hot highlights. (Though from our FAR contrast series, it appears that the LX5's contrast adjustment works mainly on shadows and midtones, so an adjustment to exposure would also be required.) We preferred the exposure with +0.7 EV compensation overall, as the model's face was a bit dim with +0.3 EV, and too many highlights were blown at +1.0 EV.
|Face Detection Examples|
The table above shows results with the default exposure using Aperture Priority AE, as well as Intelligent Auto and Portrait scene modes. As you can see, the LX5's face detection in both Intelligent Auto and Portrait modes improved exposure automatically compared to the default exposure in Aperture Priority mode. Intelligent Auto and Portrait modes also resulted in slightly softer skin tones.
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.)
|Intelligent Exposure = Off
|Intelligent Exposure = Standard
The table above shows examples with default exposure (Program AE), as well as with Intelligent Exposure set to the "Standard" setting. As you can see, more highlights in sections of the sky are preserved and shadow detail in the bushes and doorway is more visible with iExposure enabled. (Note that the LX5 offers three levels of iExposure: Low, Standard and High, as well as Off.)
Low light. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 did well in our low-light tests, capturing fairly bright, usable images at sensitivities as low as ISO 80, though +0.3 EV exposure compensation was required for reasonably bright results here. Given that the LX5 is capable of shutter speeds as slow as 60 seconds, the camera should have no problems capturing usable images at much lower light levels than the one foot-candle level we tested at. Noise is very well controlled to ISO 400, and color balance looks good if slightly cool with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's AF system was able to focus unassisted below the 1/16 foot-candle light level and in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp, keeping up well with its exposure system.
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
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.
Coverage and Range
A moderately powerful flash for its size, with somewhat uneven coverage at wide-angle. Good exposure from Auto flash mode in our indoor portrait test shot.
|24mm equivalent||90mm equivalent|
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was somewhat uneven at wide-angle, with more uniform results at full telephoto. Not bad for a 24mm equivalent lens, though. The DMC-LX5's Auto flash mode did a good job with our indoor flash portrait test, resulting in a bright image at ISO 160 (automatically selected). The LX5 used a sufficiently fast shutter speed of 1/60 second to avoid subject motion blur for most portraits.
ISO 100 Range. At wide-angle and ISO 100, flash shots were reasonably bright to about 10 feet, decreasing in brightness from that point on. At telephoto, flash shots started out dim at 6 feet, and got dimmer from there.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 400
Auto ISO 800
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, results at full wide-angle are inconclusive as the bright foreground likely caused underexposure of the flash target at the rated flash range of 23.6 feet at ISO 400. At full telephoto, the DMC-LX5 produced a bright image at the rated range of 14.4 feet, but boosted ISO to 800. 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.
Printed results from the Panasonic LX5 are where you see the value of the camera's design, especially at lower ISOs.
ISO 100 shots also look good at 13 x 19 inches.
ISO 200 images can do 13 x 19 inches, especially with sharpening, but a reduction to 11 x 14 inches looks better.
ISO 400 images are still good at 11 x 14, with minor noise appearing in some shadowy areas.
ISO 800 images fall off rather quickly, and are good at 5 x 7.
ISO 1,600 look good at 4 x 6.
ISO 3,200 shots are usable at 4 x 6, but are too grainy to be called "good".
ISO 6,400 can make a usable 4 x 6 so long as there's not a lot of detail, but again, don't pass our standard of a good photo.
ISO 12,800 shots are not usable at 4 x 6, the smallest we print. There are too many artificial artifacts, as you can see in the crop from the mosiac bottle above. You can make a small thumbnail for Web publication, but that's about it.
Again, results should be even better printing from RAW, so bear that in mind.
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 Pro9000 Mark II studio printer, and on the Canon Pixma MP610 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
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-LX5 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!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.