Panasonic Lumix LX7 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Panasonic Lumix Cameras / Lumix Point & Shoot i Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
Resolution: 10.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.7 inch
Lens: 3.80x zoom
(24-90mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 80-12800
Shutter: 250-1/4000
Max Aperture: 1.4
Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.8 in.
(111 x 67 x 46 mm)
Weight: 10.5 oz (297 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $500
Availability: 08/2012
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Full specs: Panasonic LX7 specifications
10.10
Megapixels
3.80x zoom
1/1.7 inch
size sensor
image of Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
Front side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 digital camera Back side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 digital camera Top side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 digital camera Left side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 digital camera Right side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 digital camera

LX7 Summary

It's not just beautiful, the Panasonic LX7 is a serious photographer's camera in a small package.

Pros

Fast lens; Sharp lens; Rock-solid image stabilization; Fast autofocus and shutter lag; Level gauge.

Cons

Sluggish startup; Battery life lower; Switches can change accidentally; Slow buffer clearing.

Price and availability

Available now, the Panasonic LX7 comes in black and white and has a suggested retail price of US$500.

Imaging Resource rating

5.0 out of 5.0

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Panasonic LX7 Review

by Shawn Barnett, and Zig Weidelich
Hands-on Preview posted: 07/18/2012
Review posted:

Panasonic intensifies the battle for the top pocket digital camera with the Lumix LX7, a camera they've carefully improved with new external controls, Full HD 60p video, and an 11-frame-per-second full-resolution still mode. Most notable, though, is the new lens: At 24-90mm equivalent, it's still a conservative focal range, but is one stop faster, at f/1.4. Quality optics and great low light performance are incredibly important to enthusiast buyers, so Panasonic has definitely come out swinging with the Lumix LX7.

Many will cheer to learn that the resolution is still 10.1 megapixels, while others might be ready for an upgrade to at least 12, but Panasonic says that even though the sensor is slightly smaller it's improved for better low light performance, which again is the Grail of the pocket camera market.

Fans of the LX series of pocket digital cameras will find the design of the Panasonic LX7 familiar, with mostly cosmetic tuning. Thinner than before, the grip rises as a single pillar with a textured rubber grip. The narrower shape offers a little more comfortable room for the pads of your fingers between the grip and lens.

The new lens looks a little larger from the front, but not dramatically so.

The first real dramatic difference in the Panasonic LX7's controls appears in the top view. Whereas many competitors have adopted a moving ring around the lens, Panasonic is the first to lock it to controlling aperture, a function users of manual cameras will find familiar. This creates an unusual dilemma when you zoom the lens, because the aperture is not constant, so f/1.4 is only available at wide angle, and the maximum aperture available changes to f/2.3 at 90mm. You can physically set it to a lower aperture, but the LCD will display the maximum available aperture for that focal length. The ring's movement is stiff, with firm detents and loud clicking sounds at 1/3 stop increments.

Still available via a switch on the top of the Panasonic LX7's lens barrel is the aspect switch, a popular feature. The switch's smaller size makes it less likely to change accidentally while in a bag or pocket, something I experienced with the LX5; I still managed to change it accidentally, though, while carrying it by the lens barrel. Supported aspect ratios haven't changed, including 1:1, 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9. Left of the lens is the Autofocus Mode switch, selecting from AF, Macro AF, and Manual Focus.

Stereo mics appear in front of the hot shoe, which has taken up a position a little further back from where it was on the LX5. The flash still opens the same, though, with a sliding switch, and the Power switch, Shutter button, Zoom ring and Movie Record button are all in the same positions. Though it's not shown above, the Panasonic LX7 comes with a hot shoe and accessory port cover with a push-button lock that releases with a press from the top. The Mode dial is essentially unchanged; it's good and stiff, unlikely to turn in a bag.

One strange thing about some Panasonic cameras is that their LCDs often seem to not fit the space carved out for them. It's almost as if someone changed the size at the last minute and they just made a mask to shoehorn in the available display as an afterthought or make-good. Still, the LCD is arranged and framed nearly the same as it was on the LX5, so they probably meant for it to look this way. The good news is the LCD is gorgeous, with a 920K-dot resolution and great color and contrast that gives your images a sense of depth and beauty; ideal for an enthusiast camera.

The control clusters on the back look the same, but unfortunately for upgraders many of the buttons are remapped. The Q.Menu and Display buttons swap places, the ISO button moved from the right nav button to the top, and the Function button moved from the bottom nav button to the left. The latter can be programmed for: Photo Style, Quality, Metering Mode, AF Mode, Focus Area Set, One-shot AF, I. Dynamic, Level Gauge, Guide Line, Video Recording Area, Remaining Display, Flash, Flash Adjust or Aspect Bracket.

One good change: the Focus button now has its own toggle control. You can see it there popping out from under the Mode dial. In Manual focus mode, just toggle left or right and the camera zooms to let you focus manually, with a horizontal scale appearing on the bottom of the LCD. Pressing the toggle in activates the ND filter, a nice place to put it for quick access on bright days when you want to take advantage of the camera's wide aperture. Another good change is White Balance now has a dedicated button.

Also available in white with silver/gray accents, the Panasonic LX7 is a good looking camera, with that old rangefinder look and feel that so many find enticing. I prefer the understated black model, but those spending more time in the sun might do well with the white model, which will absorb a little less light as heat, keeping the noise floor a little lower (perhaps).

The lens really is the story with the Lumix LX7, and our tests show it to be remarkably sharp corner-to-corner at both wide and telephoto. Panasonic says it's their first camera to use dual-sided aspherical surface ED glass, and it has nine aspherical surfaces. The lens also receives a Nano Surface Coating to reduce lens flare.

The Panasonic LX7's lens is also fast, one stop faster than the LX5 and Canon S100, but only 2/3 stop faster than the Olympus XZ-1. In addition to improved low-light performance, that gives you a little better bokeh than you see in most small cameras, but it's only with very close subjects that you'll see reasonable background blurring when shooting wide-open.

 

Lumix LX7 Shooter's Report

by Shawn Barnett

Corners. The Panasonic LX7's corners are very sharp, which let me compose my images without worry.

In its latest iteration, the Panasonic Lumix LX7 premium pocket camera fulfills more of the promise made by the line's retro, manual rangefinder appearance. Many who've asked me to help them choose between the Canon S100 or S95 and the Lumix LX5 leaned heavily toward the LX5 thanks to its handsome, serious appearance. I think that'll remain true with the LX7, and I think the end-user satisfaction with the overall experience will increase. The Panasonic LX7 just has more of what you want when you buy a premium pocket camera.

Not only does the Panasonic LX7 look serious and capable, it has good heft. Its metal body is tight and its grip feels great, with just the right amount of tack to the rubber to enhance hold. One of my favorite aspects of any camera is its lens. I love cameras with substantial lenses. In some cases it goes beyond their ability to capture a great image; in this case, it's deep admiration of the beauty of its glass, the engineering and careful processing required, and the way light reflects from its many surfaces. Though the LX7's lens isn't particularly large, it doesn't disappoint in the aesthetic department. Optical quality, as you'll see in the test results and images like the one at right, is also quite good.

Wide. f/2.3 was the best I could do at telephoto to demonstrate the kind of bokeh available when shooting close up. Not bad.

Control. Other premium pocket cameras led the way with a control ring around the lens, offering multi-faceted control over many camera aspects, ultimately giving the user a mechanical interface to the digital controls. On cameras starting with the Canon S90 and now including the Sony RX100, the ring is programmable, setting everything from ISO to scene modes to aperture, depending on the model; but Panasonic kept the ring limited to a more traditional role: that of adjusting the aperture alone. They even marked the ring with f/stops and limited its range of motion. Click-stops are firm and make a satisfying sound, bringing to mind cameras of the past.

Two other switches, controlling focus mode and aspect ratio, also lie on the lens barrel. They're a little more firm, and mounted close to the camera body making accidental activation less likely. I really like having access to focus and aspect ratio via a switch rather than a menu setting. With the Panasonic LX7's new Focus toggle on the back, switching to Manual focus is also really quick: Just feel for the switch on the left of the lens barrel and pull down to enter Manual mode. Move the toggle left or right and the image zooms so you can rapidly adjust focus on the 920K-dot screen. I find it starts adjusting a little slowly, but can then zoom past focus too quickly. It will take some getting used to. I wish there were a peaking function; because once it's close it becomes harder to pinpoint exact focus.

Program HDR

The built-in HDR mode evened out the high-contrast situation here.

Those desiring to shoot in Aperture priority mode will enjoy the Aperture ring. At first I tried turning the rear dial to control aperture via visual feedback on the LCD. But that did nothing. Instead, I could ignore the nifty scrolling scale on the LCD, going only by the numbers etched into the ring. Of course, that's not entirely true. When the lens is zoomed to its widest 24mm-equivalent setting, the full range of apertures shown on the ring is available, but once you zoom even a touch, the largest available aperture changes to 1.5. Then 1.6. All the way up to 2.3, even if you have the dial set to 1.4. It's a minor nuisance, bug, anomaly, call it what you like. The simple truth is that you can't force a mechanical ring to move when you zoom the lens, but at least its maximum aperture value can change digitally, something you can check on the LCD as you compose your image. If you want to make sure you're always shooting wide-open, just set the ring to 1.4 and it'll remain at the widest setting as you zoom in and out.

Advanced features. As I tried out a few of the Panasonic LX7's more advanced features at a US Open tennis match, I found some of them more fun than usual, like the miniature mode. I'm not often in stadiums or on tall buildings, so my first thought when I found myself high up in the bleachers was: Let's make this look like a diorama. Because the camera's refresh rate goes way down in this mode, I had to frame the image, then look over the camera to watch the action so I could better time the shutter release.

Next, while on a court with a lower-angle view, I switched to the 40 and 60fps modes to capture a swing or two. It's amazing how long that ball hangs in the air as they draw their arm back for the serve, and the buffer frequently ran out before the racket connected with the ball. Eventually I got the timing down and captured a few sequences. I was also shooting the Panasonic G5 at the same time, and it offers similar features, so I switched between the two cameras with ease.

Serve. Check out the English on that ball, captured at 40fps, 1/1,600 second, f/2.8. Click to see first image in the sequence; see the Gallery for all of the images.

With the G5 hanging around my neck, I just slipped the LX7 into my slacks pocket as we moved to the next venue. I had to remind myself it was there, not because it's not a great camera, but because it rode along so naturally. I'd have been plenty happy to just have the LX7, around my neck or in my pocket. Its features nearly matched the G5, and with the 12-35mm lens mounted, even the focal lengths were similar. Autofocus was also sufficiently fast with both cameras.

Lens. Zoom the Panasonic LX7's lens all the way out to telephoto and look into its lovely glass: You won't be disappointed. It'll mesmerize you with its apparent depth. Though its diameter is somewhat small, it's a real beauty, not just any postage-stamp optic. It's the stuff of camera-lover dreams. My only concern is how small and unsupported the barrel seems as it zooms to full length. It's probably better and more stable than a multi-stage barrel design, but it seems vulnerable.

Speaking of stable, holding up a camera in a crowd intent on watching the game is delicate business. I tried to minimize my intrusion into the view of others while yet avoiding heads that were in my way. I also moved the camera a lot to adjust my perspective. The Panasonic LX7's image stabilization is so good, though, that sometimes my minor adjustments--even more major ones--were resisted by the image stabilization system. It's so rock solid that micro-adjustments disappear as if they were illicit motion. That makes for incredibly stable shots, which really builds confidence. Panasonic's Power O.I.S. remains the most impressive I've seen.

You can see the stabilization in my video shots above (click to download; you'll require an AVCHD player and a fast computer). Image stabilization is pretty amazing in a few when you consider they're totally handheld. The one where I zoom from wide to tele is pretty rocky, but the others are impressively solid. Helpful in shooting shots of buildings, the Panasonic LX7 includes a built-in Level gauge as well, a feature I relied upon quite a bit to get straight shots as I walked around.

Overall, my brief time with the Panasonic LX7 was better than I've experienced with any of its predecessors. Panasonic made a great camera even better.

 

Panasonic LX7 Technical Info

by

The Panasonic LX7 is based around a ten megapixel 1/1.7-inch MOS image sensor. That's approximately the same resolution as used in the LX5, but it's actually a brand-new design that's said to offer a 1.5 dB improvement in noise levels versus the previous sensor. Total resolution is 12.7 megapixels, providing high pixel count at multiple aspect ratios.

Output from the LX7's sensor is processed by an updated Venus Engine image processor. ISO sensitivity varies from 80 to 6,400 equivalents at full resolution, and can be boosted to 12,800 at reduced resolution. There's also an Auto ISO mode, and an Intelligent ISO function. The latter detects subject movement, and boosts ISO as needed to freeze motion.

Venus Engine has an Intelligent NR function varies noise reduction levels depending on scene detail, while Multi-process NR determines noise reduction levels based on subject brightness. The new sensor and Venus Engine processor combine to allow full-res burst shooting at 11 frames per second, for as many as 12 frames. If tracking autofocus is enabled, after the first frame this falls to five frames per second. High-speed Burst mode captures 5-megapixel frames at 40 frames per second, or 2.5-megapixel frames at 60 frames per second.

The sensor and processor are only part of the story, though. On the front panel is the other big news: a really bright zoom lens that bests even the recently-announced Samsung EX2F for both maximum aperture and zoom range. Where Samsung managed a 3.3x zoom with f/1.4 to f/2.7 maximum aperture, the Panasonic LX7 triumphs on the spec sheet with a 3.8x zoom. At the 24mm-equivalent wide-angle, maximum aperture starts from f/1.4 max. aperture at wide angle, but it only falls to f/2.3 at telephoto.

So... the same wide angle, but Panasonic's lens is brighter at telephoto, despite the extra reach. It also bears LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMILUX branding.

Panasonic notes that this new lens is its first ever--not only for a compact, fixed-lens camera, but even including interchangeable lenses--to include a double-sided aspheric extra-low dispersion lens element. The design features 11 elements in ten groups, five of them aspheric, and all but one of the aspherics double-sided. A Nano Surface Coating minimizes reflections.

The lens has both an aperture control ring, and an optional neutral density filter controlled with a lever on the camera's rear panel. The lens design also includes Panasonic's Power O.I.S. image stabilization system, retained from the previous LX5 model. The Panasonic LX7's contrast detection autofocus system offers a 23-point autofocus system, which can also operate in a single-area mode with adjustable point size. Face detection and tracking functions are included, and there's an AF-assist lamp to help out in low light.

Like the LX5 before it, the Panasonic LX7 can accept an external, hotshoe-mounted electronic viewfinder. It's the same DMW-LVF2 model available for the Panasonic GX1 system camera, rather than the earlier DMW-LVF1 model. It still has a 100% field of view, but with a much higher resolution of 480,000 pixels, and 1.4x magnification. (By way of comparison, the earlier LVF1 model had somewhere in the region of 67,000 pixel resolution, and 1.04x magnification.) As with the LVF1, the DMW-LVF2 has adjustable tilt angle (0 to 90 degrees).  Eyepoint is 17.5mm from the eyepiece lens, and there's a diopter adjustment with a generous -4.0 to +4.0m-1 range.

The LX7's LCD monitor, meanwhile, is a new design since that of the LX5. Resolution increases significantly from 460k to 920k dots, with the same three-inch diagonal. The panel has a 3:2 aspect ratio, approximately 100% coverage, and a wide viewing angle (although Panasonic doesn't specify the actual horizontal / vertical viewing range).

On the top deck are both a built-in popup flash, and a flash hot shoe for external strobes. The built-in flash has a range of 8.5 meters using Auto ISO, at wide angle. By telephoto, this falls to 5.2 meters.

The Lumix LX7's exposure modes include Program (shiftable), Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual, plus two Custom modes. There's also an Intelligent Auto mode, a Scene position, and a Creative Control mode that tweaks the look of images by automatically adjusting variables such as color, saturation, contrast, brightness, and tone curve. Multi-shot modes such Handheld Night Shot, Panorama, and 3D photo mode are also offered.

The LX7's uses Intelligent Multiple metering by default, and you can also opt for Center-weighted or Spot modes. Exposure compensation is available within a range of +/-3.0EV, in 1/3 EV steps. There's also a bracketing function, providing for three frames with a step size of 1/3 to 3 EV.

The fastest shutter speed for the Panasonic LX7 is 1/4,000 second, and the slowest shutter speed varies depending upon ISO sensitivity. At ISO 1,600 or below, you can shoot images with exposures as long as 250 seconds. At ISO 2,000 to 3,200, this falls to just 30 seconds. At ISO 4,000 or above, it falls still further to the minimum of just eight seconds.

There are nine white balance modes on offer in the Panasonic LX7: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Flash, Incandescent, two Manual modes, and a direct color temperature setting. White balance settings can also be fine-tuned on two axes.

Compared to its predecessor, the LX7 offers expanded creative options. There are also more than twice as many filter effect functions. New filter effects include High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Soft Focus, Star Filter, One Point Color, Radial Defocus, and Smooth Defocus. A few modes have been removed: Pure, Elegant, Silhouette, Film Grain, and Custom Filter. There's also a time lapse function, multiple exposure support, and several photo style choices.

There are both Intelligent Auto and Intelligent Auto Plus modes, the latter of which allows control over background defocus, exposure compensation, and white balance. Also new is the Panasonic Lumix LX7's level gauge, which helps you get level horizons and prevent converging verticals.

The LX7's video capabilities have had a pretty radical overhaul since the LX5. Most significantly, it's now possible to record AVCHD movie clips at up to 60p frame rate at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) or HD (1,280 x 720) resolution, and that's using 60 frames per second sensor data. You can also opt for 30p capture at either resolution, as well as at VGA (640 x 480), in MPEG-4 mode. (PAL cameras replace 60p with 50p, and 30p with 25p.)

Additionally, there's a high-speed video mode which captures 720p MPEG-4 video at 120 fps, and this plays back at about 1/4 speed for slow-motion effects. Audio is recorded with a stereo microphone located in front of the hot shoe, using Dolby Digital Stereo Creator technology. Another interesting feature is built-in zoom noise reduction, and there's also a wind cut filter. Unusually for a compact, it's possible to control both shutter and aperture for videos manually.

Connectivity options include a combined USB 2.0 / AV port, and a Mini HDMI (Type-C) port with VIERA Link support.

Images and movies are stored in 70MB of built-in memory or on Secure Digital cards, including both the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types. Images are stored in JPEG or raw file formats.

Power comes from a 3.6 volt, 1,250 mAh lithium-ion battery pack, said to be good for 330 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards. An optional AC Adapter (DMW-AC5) and DC Coupler (DMW-DCC7) are available.

 

Panasonic LX7 Creative Effects

Below are a subset of Creative Control effects, compared to Program and iAuto modes. Not shown are High Key, Low Key, Soft Focus, Star Filter, One Point Color, Smooth Defocus, and Radial Defocus.

Program Intelligent Auto
Expressive Retro

Sepia

Dynamic Monochrome
Impressive Art High Dynamic
Cross Process Toy Effect

 

Panasonic LX7 Image Quality

The crops below compare the Panasonic LX7 to the LX5, Canon S100, Canon G1 X, Nikon J1, and Sony RX100. Though we normally start with ISO 1,600 here, we thought we'd start with base ISO to show the best each camera can do.

Note that these images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction.

Panasonic LX7 versus Panasonic LX5 at base ISO

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 80
Panasonic LX5 at ISO 80

Overall, the LX7's image quality is slightly improved over the LX5, with a little less noise and a bit more sharpness. The red leaf fabric looks a little softer, but also brighter, and the pink swatch beneath looks more pink and shows hints of thread patterns. The mosaic image is also noticeably sharper.


Panasonic LX7 versus Canon S100 at base ISO

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 80
Canon S100 at ISO 80

Compared with the S100, the difference in resolution creates a larger image, but the Panasonic LX7 may have an edge here, with more fine detail. There are a few more artifacts in the LX7's shadow image, but both show residual noise.


Panasonic LX7 versus Canon G1 X at base ISO

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 80
Canon G1 X at ISO 100

The advantage to the larger sensor in the Canon G1 X is crystal clear here, with more detail overall, including threads in the pink swatch. Still, the LX7 looks good, with surprisingly better color, particularly that pink swatch, which is not supposed to look purple.


Panasonic LX7 versus Nikon J1 at base ISO

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 80
Nikon J1 at ISO 100

It's a different aspect ratio that affects the image size when comparing to the Nikon J1. Although I like the quality of the J1's image overall, it's hard to deny that the Panasonic LX7 shows more detail and less noise.


Panasonic LX7 versus Sony RX100 at base ISO

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 80
Sony RX100 at ISO 125

Further proof that a larger sensor helps comes in the Sony RX100, a fact driven home by the significantly larger image of the mosaic label. The RX100 just has a lot more pixels on the job.



Most decent cameras produce very good results at base ISO, so we like to see what they can do at higher settings. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1,600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1,600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Panasonic LX7 versus Panasonic LX5 at ISO 1,600

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 1,600
Panasonic LX5 at ISO 1,600

ISO 1,600 looks very different, but it's easy to see that the LX7 is using less noise suppression, presumably because less is required as Panasonic claims. We prefer the approach of leaving more luminance noise, particularly in the shadow areas, mostly because it still looks photographic, whereas noise-suppression blur just looks like blur.


Panasonic LX7 versus Canon S100 at ISO 1,600

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 1,600
Canon S100 at ISO 1,600

The Canon S100 struggles too, though its higher res retains just a tad more detail in the mosaic image. But I can't really pick a winner here, as they're both pretty soft.


Panasonic LX7 versus Canon G1 X at ISO 1,600

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 1,600
Canon G1 X at ISO 1,600

The larger sensor in the G1 X again shows its mettle, with greater detail overall.


Panasonic LX7 versus Nikon J1 at ISO 1,600

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 1,600
Nikon J1 at ISO 1,600

Though it's not larger by as much, the Nikon J1's larger sensor captures more detail in the mosaic image, and retains more color information (it is slightly pumped in some areas, but it's there).


Panasonic LX7 versus Sony RX100 at ISO 1,600

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 1,600
Sony RX100 at ISO 1,600

They both badly blur the red leaf swatch, but the RX100 has a lot more detail in the mosaic image.



Today's ISO 3,200 is yesterday's ISO 1,600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3,200.

Panasonic LX7 versus Panasonic LX5 at ISO 3,200

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 3,200
Panasonic LX5 at ISO 3,200

ISO 3,200 reveals a bit more about the improvements to the LX7's sensor. Some of what you see can be achieved by just pumping up the sharpening, but there's noise-suppression blur in the LX5 image that's probably indelible.


Panasonic LX7 versus Canon S100 at ISO 3,200

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 3,200
Canon S100 at ISO 3,200

Two strategies at work here. Though the Canon S100 retains the smallest bit more detail (notice the face on the character in the mosaic image), the LX7's hyper-sharpening will likely print quite well, with a more snappy appearance than the S100's image.


Panasonic LX7 versus Canon G1 X at ISO 3,200

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 3,200
Canon G1 X at ISO 3,200

Not much to say that the images don't show clearly: the G1 X produces a smoother image with more detail.


Panasonic LX7 versus Nikon J1 at ISO 3,200

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 3,200
Nikon J1 at ISO 3,200

The image from the Nikon J1 would be easier to clean up, with better color retention overall.


Panasonic LX7 versus Sony RX100 at ISO 3,200

Panasonic LX7 at ISO 3,200
Sony RX100 at ISO 3,200

It suffers from Sony's over-aggressive image sharpening, but the RX100's image comes out on top.



Detail: Panasonic LX7 vs. LX5, Canon S100, Canon G1 X, Nikon J1, and Sony RX100

Panasonic
LX7

ISO 80
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Panasonic
LX5

ISO 80
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Canon
S100

ISO 80
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Canon
G1 X

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Nikon
J1

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Sony
RX100

ISO 125
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Detail comparison. High-contrast details are often sharper as ISO rises, so they're worth a look as well. The Panasonic LX7 is indeed improved over its predecessor the LX5, and offers a healthy challenge to the Canon S100, but the larger sensors manage to pull out more detail at ISO 6,400; even the Nikon J1 edges just a bit with a smoother rendition of the red letters in the bottle label. Overall, the Canon G1 X wins at ISO 6,400. Still, the LX7 holds its own, maintaining consistent high-contrast detail as ISO rises.

 

Panasonic LX7 Print Quality

ISO 80 shots look great at 13 x 19 inches. Prints made at 16 x 20 are fine for wall display.

ISO 100 shots look about the same as ISO 80, with the same 13 x 19 recommendation.

ISO 200 images have a little less contrast, and low contrast reds are slightly soft, but not bad, still printing just fine at 13 x 19 inches.

ISO 400 images are softer at 13 x 19 inches, looking better at 11 x 14.

ISO 800 are usable at 11 x 14, but given the softness of many colors in the scene, 8 x 10 inch prints look better, although most all contrast is lost in our target red swatch.

ISO 1,600 prints look good at 5 x 7.

ISO 3,200 are usable at 4 x 6 for less critical applications, but are not clean enough to meet our standard for "good".

ISO 6,400 prints are only usable at 4 x 6 inches. I think a night scene would be acceptable at this size, but a more brightly lit scene might be off-putting, particularly for face detail.

ISO 12,800 prints are not usable at 4 x 6 inches. Prints look like you spilled water on the image, so this ISO setting is best avoided altogether.

Overall, the Panasonic LX7 does about the same as its predecessor at higher ISOs. Remember the Panasonic LX7 is capable of more if you process images from raw, which is an option, so use the above information as a general guideline.

 

In the Box

The retail package contains the following items:

  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 digital camera
  • Shoulder strap
  • Lithium-ion battery DMW-BCJ13
  • Battery charger
  • USB cable
  • Lens cap
  • Cap retaining strap
  • Hot shoe cover
  • CD-ROM
  • 34-page basic manual

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra battery pack for extended outings
  • Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. These days, 8GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 16GB Class 6 should be a minimum
  • Medium camera case

 

Panasonic LX7 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Fast lens, one stop faster than predecessor
  • Lens sharp corner to corner
  • Image stabilization is rock-solid
  • Very close Macro mode
  • Very wide lens at 24mm
  • The lens is "the stuff of camera-lover dreams"
  • Fast autofocus and shutter lag
  • Very fast burst modes
  • Mechanical switch for aspect ratio
  • Gorgeous 920K-dot LCD
  • Optional EVF
  • Good stiff mode dial
  • Real, mechanical aperture ring
  • Built-in hot shoe for use with Panasonic or aftermarket strobes
  • Full HD movies at 60p with optical zoom and O.I.S.
  • Stereo microphones for movie recording
  • Good grip
  • Good heft
  • ND filter
  • Level gauge
  • Short telephoto lens at 90mm
  • Physical aperture ring can confuse, as maximum aperture changes when you zoom
  • Sluggish startup
  • Slow buffer clearing, does not appear to be UHS-I compliant
  • Battery life not as good as predecessor
  • Slightly below average hue accuracy in JPEGs
  • Aspect ratio or focus switches can change accidentally as you hold the camera

 

Sometimes you don't want to carry a big SLR to get quality images, and that's why cameras like the Panasonic LX7 were born. Small enough to fit into a biggish pocket, the Lumix LX7 has an excellent lens and a good quality image sensor, both tuned to capture good images even in reasonably low light. Though its highest ISO of 12,800 is a bit too optimistic, its other settings turn out good quality images that are surprising for the camera's size. And the Panasonic LX7's fast lens -- a full stop faster than the LX5. Optical quality is also better, and the lens itself is gorgeous to behold. Given that so many lean toward the LX-series cameras, it doesn't hurt that the lens is pretty too.

But it's important to remember, the Panasonic LX7 isn't a good-looking point-and-shoot camera, but a serious photographer's camera in a small package. Those who know their way around shutter speed and aperture will feel right at home here, and they'll quickly start to have fun with the LX7. Many photographers I know carry cameras in this category for their personal photographs, and show off their work with pride.

New enhancements like the level gauge, Full HD video with stereo recording, panorama, HDR and other special modes make the Panasonic LX7 that much more interesting as a travel camera, or even when you're just out and about and get a creative idea.

Overall, the Panasonic LX7 stands as the best iteration of the LX-series, putting its emphasis on two critical factors: Lens quality and Control access. After just a short time, I was as at home with the LX7 as I was with the larger Panasonic G5. Most photographers would be pleased to have the LX7 along on any trip; those shooting raw will also get greater image quality from the new sensor, important to remember when looking at our JPEG samples and crops. All of these factors add up to an easy Dave's Pick.


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Panasonic LX7

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