Panasonic LX100 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly higher than average mean saturation with below average hue accuracy.

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 toward 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. Click image for a larger version.

Saturation. The Panasonic LX100 produces images with slightly higher mean saturation levels compared to most cameras with default settings at base ISO. Mean saturation is 113.2% (13.2% oversaturated) at the base ISO of 200. The Lumix LX100 pushes dark blues a fair bit, dark red and dark green moderately, but undersaturates yellow and light green. 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, the Panasonic LX100 does reasonably well, producing fairly natural-looking Caucasian skin tones with a slight push towards pink when either Auto or Manual white balance is used, giving a healthy appearance. Darker skin tones have a small nudge towards orange, but overall results are pretty good. 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 LX100 shifts cyan towards blue by quite a bit and it shifts dark red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow to green, but these shifts are fairly minor. The LX100's mean "delta-C" color error after correction for saturation is 7.37 for JPEGs at the base ISO of 200 (100 is an extended ISO). That's below average these days, but again, most of the hue shift was in cyan to blue which is a common tactic to deepen blue skies. Hue is "what color" the color is.

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

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Cool color with Auto white balance setting, warm with Incandescent, but very good color balance with the Manual setting. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was a little cool and magenta with the Auto white balance setting, but results here are actually better than most cameras using Auto white balance. The Incandescent setting produced a color balance that was much too warm, with a strong orange-yellow cast. The Manual setting produced very accurate results. The Panasonic LX100 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation here, about average for this scene, though face detection was accidently enabled in these shots which could impact exposure accuracy. (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
Pleasant if slightly cool colors overall, with a tendency toward high contrast under harsh lighting. Above average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance,
+1.0 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Panasonic LX100 performed well, with good though slightly cool color in the Far-field shot (above right). Skin tones are fairly realistic in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot (above left), with a healthy-looking push of pinks and reds which is usually preferable to too flat or yellow. The camera required +1.0 EV compensation for our "Sunlit" Portrait shot to keep facial tones reasonably bright. That's a little higher than what's typical for this shot (+0.7 EV). Despite the bright appearance, few highlights were actually blown in the mannequin's white shirt which is very good, though there are some very deep shadows that are a bit noisy, discolored and posterized. The default exposure is good, just slightly dim for the Far-field shot, but as a result there are very few blown highlights, though again there are some very deep shadows that are somewhat noisy and discolored.

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

Resolution
~2,150 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
~2,150 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,150 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,150 lines horizontal
ACR converted raw
Strong detail to
~2,150 lines vertical
ACR converted raw

In camera JPEGs, our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct line patterns to about 2,150 lines per picture height horizontally and vertically. Complete extinction of the pattern occurs at around 2,800 lines horizontally and vertically. We weren't able to extract significantly more high-contrast resolution by processing the Panasonic LX100's RW2 file using Adobe Camera Raw, as the ACR conversion shows a lot of false colors and color moiré at the limits of resolution, which are well suppressed in the camera JPEG.

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.

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

Sharpness & Detail
Fairly conservative default sharpening with just minor edge-enhancement artifacts around high-contrast subjects. Mild to moderate noise suppression visible in the shadows even at base ISO.

Good definition of high-contrast
elements, with just slightly visible
sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The Panasonic LX100 captures fairly sharp, detailed images overall, with relatively conservative default sharpening. Only minor edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the sharpening "halos" along the lines and text in the crop above left, so default sharpening here is fairly tame and not overdone, more in keeping with the camera's pro target buyer. 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 the effect of noise suppression in the form of smudging of individual strands together in the darker areas of the model's hair, as well as in areas with low local contrast. Still, this is good noise versus detail processing performance for a Four Thirds sensor, leaving plenty of detail intact instead of blurring much of it away in an attempt to hide noise. 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.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Panasonic LX100 produces fairly sharp in-camera JPEGs with good detail for the resolution. As is almost always the case, though, better 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:

Base ISO (200)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare an in-camera, best quality JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to a matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 8.7 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

As you can see, the in-camera JPEG contains pretty good detail, however ACR extracted additional detail in both the mosaic crop as well as in our troublesome red-leaf swatch. But ACR also revealed more noise, especially in flatter areas (keep in mind base ISO is 200, though). You can always turn up the luminance noise reduction (default of zero was used here), or process the files in your favorite noise reduction program or plugin if you find the noise objectionable. Bottom line, though, as is almost always the case shooting in RAW mode provides better detail, color, and control than in-camera JPEGs when converted with a good RAW converter.

ISO & Noise Performance
Good high ISO performance up to ISO 3200.

Default Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

The Panasonic LX100's images are very detailed and clean at ISOs 100 (extended) and 200, with only minor luminance noise and hardly any chrominance noise detectable in the darker areas. As ISO increases, noise versus detail also increases as expected, but the trade off remains quite good until ISO 3200 where we start to see noticeable detail loss and more obvious luminance noise, however noise "grain" is fairly fine and tight and image quality is still pretty good. ISO 6400 shows a more abrupt drop in image quality, with some obvious chroma noise in the shadows as well as the results of strong noise reduction, causing artifacts that produce a somewhat crystalline effect. Loss of detail and noise reduction artifacts increase rapidly from there, to the point where the ISO 25,600 setting produces a very noisy image with a peppered look while showing strong chroma blotching and smudged detail. Colors also begin to desaturate noticeably above ISO 6400.

Overall, though, high ISO performance is excellent for a Four Thirds sensor, though as expected, not quite as good as leading APS-C models. We're of course pixel-peeping to an extraordinary extent here, since 1:1 images on an LCD screen have little to do with how those same images will appear when printed. See the Print Quality section below for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

A note about focus for this shot: We shoot this image at f/4. To insure that the hair detail we use for making critical judgements about camera noise processing and detail rendering is in sharp focus at the relatively wide aperture we're shooting at, the focus target at the center of the scene is on a movable stand. This lets us compensate for front- or back-focus by different camera bodies, even those that lack micro-focus adjustments. This does mean, though, that the focus target itself may appear soft or slightly out of focus for bodies that front- or back-focused with the reference lens. We know this; if you click to view the full-size image for one of these shots and notice that the focus target is fuzzy, you don't need to email and tell us. :-) The focus target position will have been adjusted to insure that the rest of the scene is focused properly.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Somewhat high default contrast but with surprisingly good dynamic range. Excellent low-light performance.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Panasonic LX100 did quite well with the deliberately harsh lighting of this test. Contrast is a little high at its default setting as with most cameras, but dynamic range is actually quite good. We felt the +1.0 EV exposure is the best compromise here as skin tones around the eyes are a bit dark at +0.7 EV, though there are a few clipped highlights in the mannequin's shirt. It's really the photographer's choice here as to which direction to go in. Pros would probably prefer +0.7 EV for its better highlight retention but for those Panasonic LX100 owners that are going to want to print with little or no tweaking, the +1.0 image would produce a better-looking face uncorrected. Exposure preferences aside, though, the Panasonic LX100 performed well with the wide dynamic range of this very harshly lit shot.

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.)

Tone Curve Adjustment (0 EV)
Lower Contrast Higher Contrast Brighten Dark Areas

In addition to a standard contrast setting (with 11 levels!), the Panasonic LX100 also has a curves setting which allows you to adjust the shape of the tone curve to tweak shadows and highlights independently. There are 4 presets (Standard, Higher Contrast, Lower Contrast, and Brighten Dark Areas) as well as 3 custom settings that allow you to adjust the highlight and shadow ends of the curves by +/-5 units. Above are samples using the 3 non-standard presets.


Far-field iDynamic Examples
Off
Low

Panasonic's Intelligent Dynamic Range
The above shots are examples of Panasonic's Intelligent Dynamic Range Control (or iDynamic) at work, with no exposure compensation. Note that the camera does not take multiple shots and merge them as HDR mode does (see below). It's a system that adjusts local contrast and exposure more akin to Nikon's Active D-lighting, Canon's Automatic Lighting Optimization or Sony's Dynamic Range Optimization.

There are three levels of iDynamic available on the Panasonic LX100: Low, Standard and High, plus Auto and Off. It's automatically invoked in iAuto and manually selectable in PASM modes. Here, you can see darker midtones and shadows were progressively boosted as the strength was increased, without blowing many highlights in the process.


Far-field HDR Examples
Off

HDR mode
Here, you can see the Panasonic LX100's High Dynamic Range mode at work with our Far-field shot. HDR mode takes three images at different exposures and combines them to increase dynamic range. Options include strength settings of Auto +-1EV, +/-2EV or +/-3 EV and whether or not the camera auto aligns the images. Mouse over the links, and click on them the view the full resolution files.

The Auto, +/-1 EV and +/2 EV settings produced very similar exposures, while +/-3 dimmed the entire image. Notice the ghosting of moving objects like the flag, as is expected when compositing multiple images. Also notice the angle of view is narrower in the HDR images, likely because the images have been cropped and upsized during the alignment process.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

In the above graph we compare the Panasonic LX100's normalized dynamic range to its interchangeable-lens sibling, the GM5, as well as to the Sony RX100 Mark III, one of the most popular enthusiast compacts based on a 1"-type sensor.

As you can see, the LX100's dynamic range (plotted in red) is quite a bit better than the GM5 at low ISOs. For example at their base ISO settings, the LX100 manages 12.46 EV versus 11.66 EV for the GM5. The LX100 continues to best the GM5 up to the ISO 1600 setting, where the GM5 is on par, and the GM5 does a little better at higher ISOs, with a maximum advantage of about 2/3 EV at the ISO 6400 setting,

The LX100 also does better than the Sony RX100 III at lower ISOs with up to about 2/3 EV advantage at moderate ISOs, though at base ISO and high ISOs, they are pretty close. Keep in mind the Sony has quite a resolution advantage at 20.2MP, so its screen results (at 100%) won't be as impressive against the 12.8MP LX100. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Panasonic LX100 for more of their test results and additional comparisons.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
200
Click to see LX100LL002003.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see LX100LL002007.JPG
15s, f2.8
Click to see LX100LL002007XNR.JPG
15s, f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see LX100LL032003.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see LX100LL032007.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see LX100LL032007XNR.JPG
1s, f2.8
ISO
25600
Click to see LX100LL256003.JPG
1/125s, f2.8
Click to see LX100LL256007.JPG
1/8s, f2.8
Click to see LX100LL256007XNR.JPG
1/8s, f2.8

Low Light. The Panasonic Lumix LX100 performed very well in our low light tests, able to capture bright images down to the lowest light level we test at all ISOs (in the above table, we only shot down to base ISO of 200, but the camera can easily shoot at its lowest ISO with such a fast lens and the option to shoot up to 60 second timed exposures). The darkest level equates to about 1/16 the brightness of average city street lighting at night, so the Panasonic LX100 should be able to take well-exposed photos in almost any environment in which you can see well enough to walk around in.

Using the default noise reduction setting, noise is very low at ISO 200 and well-controlled at ISO 3200, though turning down NR produced some objectionable chroma noise as well as a lot of bright speckles in darker areas at ISO 200. (At ISO 3200 and 25600, even the lowest NR setting eliminates most of these artifacts.) As expected, ISO 25,600 is quite noisy and is best avoided except in emergencies.

We didn't notice any significant issues with heat blooming or pattern noise, however as mentioned, we did spot some hot or overly bright pixels seen at ISO 200 with long exposure noise reduction turned off (right-most column) that still appeared faintly with default NR at the 1/16 foot-candle level.

Auto color balance produced a fairly neutral color balance, just a touch cool.

The LX100's autofocus system was able to focus on our subject down to well below the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted which is excellent, especially for a camera with contrast-detect autofocus. And the Panasonic LX100 has a focus-assist lamp which allows it to autofocus in complete darkness, as long as the subject is within range and has sufficient contrast.

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.) Thanks to their phase-detect AF systems, digital SLRs tend to do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. The LX100 uses contrast-detect autofocus, as is found in most point & shoot cameras, so its low-light focusing ability may be less than that of some SLRs with phase-detect systems. That said, though, the larger, more sensitive pixels of the LX100's sensor do better under dim lighting than do the tiny pixels of most point & shoots.

Output Quality

Print Quality

Very good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100/200; a nice 13 x 19 at ISO 1600 and a good 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer Image ISO 100/200 prints are quite good at 24 x 36 inches, with crisp detail and rich colors.

ISO 400 shots look good at 20 x 30 inches, retaining good detail throughout our test image. 24 x 36 inch prints aren't bad, with only a minor trace of noise in a few areas, and can generally be used for less critical applications.

ISO 800 yields a good 16 x 20 inch print, which is a nice size for this ISO. There is a definite softening of contrast in our tricky red fabric swatch, common in most cameras by this sensitivity, and mild noise in a few flatter areas, but a very nice print all around.

ISO 1600 makes a nice 13 x 19 inch print, with only mild softening in the red fabric swatch and minor noise in the shadowy areas of our test target.

ISO 3200 produces an 11 x 14 inch print similar to the 13 x 19 at ISO 1600, and is a good size for this ISO, especially compared to most compact cameras! Most contrast detail is now lost in our red swatch, and there is minor noise in the usual flatter areas, but still a good print altogether.

ISO 6400 prints just pass our "good" standard at 8 x 10 inches. This is a sensitivity most compact cameras struggle with, but the LX100 handles it better than most. The most noticeable artifact is that there is a slight loss in saturation, but the amount is negligible and easily returned in post-processing if so desired.

ISO 12,800 yields a good 4 x 6 inch print for this ISO and sensor type.

ISO 25,600 prints are not usable and this sensitivity is best avoided when possible.

The Panasonic LX100 turns in an impressive performance in the print quality department, especially considering that it comes from the ranks of compact cameras. Starting with solid prints at 24 x 36 inches at base ISO (limited in size primarily by the relatively low 12.7-megapixel resolution) and then moving up to a good 8 x 10 inch print at ISO 6400, this camera can certainly deliver high quality prints. Most issues noticed are common for cameras with 4/3" sensors, and the LX100 stands in the same league with most of the best in the Micro Four Thirds class despite the fact that it doesn't use the entire sensor, and well above the crowd of traditional compact cameras.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell 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 routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 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-LX100 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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