Panasonic Lumix LX7 Review
Panasonic LX7 Image Quality
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Typical mean saturation levels, with slightly below average hue accuracy.
Skin tones. Here, the Panasonic LX7 does fairly well, producing healthy-looking Caucasian skin tones with a noticeable push towards pink. Darker skin tones are nudged toward orange and red, but overall results are still 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 LX7 struggles a bit with hue accuracy, pushing cyan toward blue, red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow toward green. As is often the case with Panasonic models, the yellow through orange shifts were especially apparent in the yarn of our Still Life test image. The camera's average "delta-C" color error after correction for saturation is 6.0 for JPEGs at ISO 80, a bit below average. As we've seen with other Panasonic models, the orange-yellow shifts are significantly mitigated by shooting in raw format and using a good-quality raw converter. Click here to see a Adobe Camera Raw conversion of the same Still Life shot and compare the yarn to see what we mean. Hue is "what color" the color is.
|See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Cool color balance with Auto white balance, very warm with the Incandescent setting. Very good color balance with the Manual and 2,600K settings. Average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance is cool with the Auto white balance, setting exhibiting a slight magenta tint, though the Panasonic LX7 does better than most cameras in this regard. Results with the Incandescent setting are much too warm for our tastes, with a strong orange-yellow cast. The Manual setting produces neutral white balance with good color, though greens are pushed a bit. Color balance in the 2,600 Kelvin shot is also pretty good, just slightly cool. The Panasonic LX7 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation here, 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.)
Slightly cool colors overall, with a tendency toward high contrast under harsh lighting. About average exposure accuracy.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Panasonic LX7 performs well, with good though slightly cool color. Skin-tones are fairly realistic in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, with a healthy-looking pink tint. Exposure accuracy was about average, as the camera required +0.7 EV compensation for our "Sunlit" Portrait shot to keep facial tones reasonably bright. That's average for this shot, but it led to some blown highlights, though not as many as we're used to seeing from a compact. The default exposure is very good Far-field shot, with very few blown highlights, though some shadows are very dark and plugged. Default contrast is on the high side, but that's how most consumers prefer their photos. Color is pleasing, just slightly cool.
High resolution, 1,700 ~ 1,800 lines of strong detail in JPEGs, about 1,800 ~ 1,900 lines in converted raw files.
|Strong detail to
~1,800 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
~1,700 lines vertical
|Strong detail to
~1,900 lines horizontal
ACR converted raw
|Strong detail to
~1,800 lines vertical
ACR converted raw
In JPEGs, our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct line patterns to about 1,800 lines per picture height horizontally, and about 1,700 lines in the vertical direction. (Some might argue for higher, but aliasing artifacts begin to interfere at those limits.) Complete extinction of the pattern doesn't occur until just over 2,400 lines in both directions. An Adobe Camera Raw conversion yields slightly higher numbers (about 100 lines more in both directions), though the ACR conversion also shows significantly more color moiré than 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.
Sharpness & Detail
Very good sharpness and detail for its class, though some visible edge-enhancement artifacts on high-contrast subjects. Moderate noise suppression visible in the shadows even at base ISO.
|Good definition of high-contrast
elements, though some visible
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.
Sharpness. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 captures sharp images with a lot of fine detail, though edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the sharpening halos around the branches and pine cones in the crop above left. Still, pretty good performance here for its class. 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. The pine needles in the crop above left show some very fine detail, though, so performance is actually pretty good in good light. 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 LX7 produces sharp in-camera JPEGs with good detail for its class. Because small sensors like the LX7's are quite a bit noisier than Micro Four Thirds or larger, processing raw images for better detail than in-camera JPEGs can be tricky. Sure, more detail can be preserved, but often at the cost of higher visible noise. 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 on the link will load 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 was also converted with SilkyPix, but sharpening was turned off in the editor, and strong unsharp masking of 300% with radius 0.6 was applied on the output. Finally, the fourth was converted with Adobe Camera Raw (using default noise reduction), then sharpened by the same amount as the third image.
As you can see, SilkyPix at default settings produces results that are softer than the in-camera JPEG. Sharpening does help, but SilkyPix tends to smudge fine detail in the pine needles, giving them an almost watercolor look. The Adobe Camera Raw version preserves 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
Very good detail versus noise performance to ISO 200, though detail drops off quickly at higher ISOs.
Default Noise Reduction
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1,600|
|ISO 3,200||ISO 6,400||ISO 12,800|
The Panasonic LX7 performed well for its class here, holding on to fine detail and keeping noise in check up to ISO 200. ISO 400 is a little softer than 200, but fine detail is still quite good and chroma noise better controlled. ISO 800 shows further softening to noise reduction, as well as more chroma noise, but performance here is still pretty good for a compact. At ISO 1,600, detail retention is fair with more obvious luminance noise, though chroma noise is still well controlled. Noise is quite strong at ISO 3,200, and combined with the LX7's default sharpening, it produces a noticeable peppering effect, though some detail is still intact. At ISO 6,400, much stronger noise reduction kicks in, blurring out most detail. Chroma noise is also a lot stronger. ISO 12,800 is so noisy the LX7 drops resolution down to 3-megapixels, but images are still very soft and chroma noise very strong.
Compared to the LX5, the Panasonic LX7's default noise reduction appears more sophisticated, holding on to better detail while avoiding the demosaicing artifacts its predecessor produced, though it does leave behind a little more noise. We prefer this over the more aggressive and less sophisticated noise reduction the LX5 applied, at least in these indoor shots.
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.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
Somewhat high default contrast and limited dynamic range. Very good low-light performance for its class.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
Sunlight. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 struggled a bit with the deliberately harsh lighting of this test, though not as much as most compacts. Contrast is a little high at its default setting, with some blown highlights in the mannequin's shirt and flowers, and deep, somewhat noisy shadows. Although skin tones around the eyes are still a bit dark at +0.7 EV exposure, we preferred it to the +1.0 EV exposure overall, because there are fewer clipped highlights. It's really the photographer's choice here as to which direction to go in. For those Panasonic LX7 owners that are going to want to just print an image with little or no tweaking, the +1.0 image would probably produce a better-looking face uncorrected. The bottom line though, is that while the Panasonic LX7 had difficulty with the wide dynamic range of this shot, it performed fairly well for a compact.
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.)
Panasonic's Intelligent Dynamic Range
The above shots are examples of Panasonic's Intelligent Dynamic Range Control (or iD-Range) at work, with no exposure compensation. Note that the camera does not take multiple shots and merge as some cameras' high dynamic range modes do. 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 iD-Range available on the Panasonic LX7: Low, Standard and High, plus Off. It's automatically invoked in iAuto and some scene modes and manually selectable in PASM modes. Mouse over the links to compare images and histograms, and click on them to get to the full resolution images.
As you can see from the image and histogram, the Low setting worked mainly on shadows and darker midtones, essentially leaving lighter tones alone. The Standard and High settings also boosted shadows, though not quite as much as the Low setting. The two upper settings however boosted highlights significantly, improving overall exposure but clipping more highlights than the Off and Low settings. All three settings were however an improvement over the default exposure.
Oddly, changing i-D-Range had no effect on our Far-field shot.
The Panasonic LX7 also offers a high dynamic range mode (iHDR) which combines multiple images taken at different exposures, however the lab did not test that mode. See the examples in the shooter's report.
|Aperture Priority, 0 EV, f/5.6
Face Detection Off
|Aperture Priority, 0 EV, f/5.6
Face Detection On
|iAuto, 0 EV, f/2.8|
Like most cameras these days, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 has the ability to detect faces (up to 15 in a scene), and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. The LX7 does it automatically in Intelligent Auto (iAuto) mode, when a Portrait scene mode is selected, or when Face Detection AF mode is enabled. As you can see from the examples above, it made a difference in Aperture Priority mode, but iAuto mode performed even better where the camera had control over aperture.
Low Light. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 performed fairly well in our low light test, capturing bright images down to the lowest light level we test at, at all ISO settings. This darkest level equates to about 1/16 the brightness of average city street lighting at night, so the Panasonic LX7 should be able to take well-exposed photos in almost any environment in which you can see well enough to walk around in.
Using default noise reduction setting, noise is well-controlled up to ISO 800, which is very good for a compact. ISO 1,600 isn't bad, but low light performance drops off quickly at higher ISOs. Some minor horizontal banding was visible in the shadows at higher ISOs and lower light levels, but nothing unusual. We didn't see any issues with hot or stuck pixels.
Automatic color balance was pretty good (just slightly cool), something that's not a given at such low light levels.
The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted, which is excellent, especially for a camera with contrast-detect autofocus. We can thank the Panasonic LX7's very bright lens for that. The LX7 does have a focus-assist light option which allows it to autofocus in total 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 LX7 uses contrast-detect autofocus, as is found in most point & shoot cameras, so its low-light focusing ability is less than that of some SLRs with phase-detect systems. (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.)
Great 13 x 19-inch prints from ISO 80-200; ISO 1,600 shots look good at 5 x 7; ISO 12,800 prints, however, are not usable even at 4 x 6.
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.
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.)
Panasonic LX7 Flash
Flash Test Results
Coverage and Range
Good range for a small flash thanks to the bright lens, but with uneven coverage at wide angle. Auto flash produced a bright exposure.
|24mm eq., f/1.4, ISO 200||90mm eq., f/2.3, ISO 200|
Coverage. Flash coverage is uneven at wide-angle, leaving the corners of our flash target image darker at 24mm equivalent, thought that's not unusual. Coverage is more uniform at full telephoto (90mm eq.).
Exposure. Indoors under incandescent background lighting, the Panasonic LX7's Auto Flash mode produced a bright, slightly overexposed image. You can adjust flash output +/- 2 EV in 1/3 EV steps.
ISO 200 Range. At wide-angle, our flash target is quite bright out to 10 feet, then exposure decreases at 11 feet, but increases at 12 feet. Exposure decreases gradually with distance from there, so we'll call the wide-angle range 12 feet. At full telephoto, flash exposures are bright out to about 9 feet, and brightness falls off from there.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 200
Auto ISO 500
Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range Test. Panasonic rates the LX7's built-in flash range as 8.5m or about 28 feet at wide-angle, and 5.2m or about 17 feet at telephoto, using Auto ISO. In the shots above, the Panasonic LX7 produced a dimly exposed target at wide-angle, despite using spot metering mode. However at full telephoto, the target is just slightly underexposed, so we conclude the flash rating is credible but perhaps slightly optimistic. Our standard test method for flash range uses either a fixed setting of ISO 200, 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 (at Auto ISO if so specified), to assess the validity of the specific claims.
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 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-LX7 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.