Panasonic LX10 Conclusion

The Panasonic LX10 joined a crowded premium compact camera market this past fall. Equipped with a 20.1-megapixel 1-inch-type sensor, like many premium compact cameras, the LX10 also offers a quick 24-72mm equivalent f/1.4-2.8 lens. What helps set it apart from the competition is its 4K video and 4K Photo features along with a sub-$700 price tag. How does the camera's image quality, performance and overall usability fare?

15.4mm (42mm equivalent), f/2.8, 1/160s, ISO 125
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LX10's 20MP sensor impresses and so does the fast built-in lens

The LX10 is a follow-up to the LX7 and employs a larger 1-inch-type sensor this time around. The 20.1-megapixel sensor proved to be quite good and comparable to its competition, including the Sony RX100 V, Canon G7X II and Canon G9X.

When comparing the LX10 to the LX7, the LX10 represents a considerable upgrade in every way, from detail to high ISO performance. The LX10 bests its 1-inch Canon competition overall, although the LX10 does display slightly more sharpening halos at low ISOs. Compared to the Sony RX100 V, the LX10 comes up a bit short at base ISO, but the gap is small and decreases as ISO increases. Ultimately, the LX10 is a very solid competitor in its class and offers good image quality. You can make good 13 x 19 inch prints up to ISO 800, for example, which is impressive for a 1-inch-type sensor camera.

100% crop from an image taken at 26.4mm (72mm equivalent), f/2.8, 1/2000s, ISO 125
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The good 20.1-megapixel sensor is paired with a built-in 24-72mm equivalent lens, which offers an aperture range of f/1.4 to f/2.8. It is worth noting that the lens is f/1.4 only at 24mm equivalent as it drops to f/1.5 and f/2.0 at 25mm and 26mm, respectively. The camera's max aperture decreases to f/2.8 by 32mm and maintains that f-stop through the end of its focal length range. At the wide end, the LX10 is still nearly a full stop faster than the Sony RX100 V.

Center crop from an image taken at 8.8mm (24mm equivalent), f/1.4, 1/200s, ISO 125
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Offering very good sharpness across its range, the LX10's lens proves very nice for its speed, size and the LX10's price point. When looking at uncorrected RAW images, there is a lot of distortion at the wide end, as well as a lot of chromatic aberration, but that is typical of the class and the camera does a good job correcting it in-camera. Corner sharpness leaves something to be desired across the focal length range when wide open, but that isn't unusual given the lens' speed and small physical size, and corners sharpen up nicely when stopped down except at wide angle. (The in-camera distortion correction likely plays a role in the lack of corner sharpness at wide angle.) The Panasonic LX10's lens also focuses closer than rivals, which is a nice bonus for macro fans.

Overall, both the 1-inch-type sensor and the built-in lens offer a lot to like. The sensor performs well across much of the ISO range, comparing favorably to competing cameras and performing much better than its aging predecessor's, the Panasonic LX7. On the optical side of the equation, the LX10 provides a very fast maximum aperture of f/1.4 and offers very good optical performance for its type.

AF & Performance: Speedy and solid with the exception of raw buffer depth

Autofocus performance with the LX10 is solid, thanks to Panasonic's Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology. The contrast detect autofocus system offers 49 AF points and numerous autofocus modes. Autofocus performance is quick and accurate in good light and only slows down slightly in low light conditions.

24.6mm (72mm equivalent), f/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO 125.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

As an enthusiast compact camera, it should come as no surprise that the LX10 offers pretty good performance across the board, with a few shortcomings here and there. Startup times are slow, taking around 3.2 seconds from powering on to capturing the first shot, but other performance areas were much better. Autofocus speeds proved excellent despite relying on a contrast detection system, and full-autofocus shutter lag was a speedy 0.125 seconds.

When considering continuous shooting speeds, the LX10 very nearly matches Panasonic's impressive 10 frames per second speed specification, coming up short in our tests by a mere 0.1 fps when recording JPEG images. Shooting RAW photos reduces speeds slightly to 9.3 fps. If you want full continuous autofocus, burst speeds drop further to 6 fps, which is still good for its class. Buffer depths are not as impressive, however. The RAW buffer is only 14 frames in the 9.3 fps Continuous H shooting mode, and it takes nearly 10 seconds to clear. The JPEG buffer in Continuous H mode at 9.9 fps is much better, filling after 80 frames and with a 6-second clearing time.

24.6mm (72mm equivalent), f/4.0, 1/125s, ISO 125.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

The camera offers numerous additional shooting modes which sacrifice image quality for speed. You can record up to 60 5-megapixel JPEG frames at 50 fps in the Super HS mode, for example. You can also record 8-megapixel JPEG images in the 4K burst mode at 30 fps. Additional 4K Photo modes include 4K Post Focus and a neat focus stacking mode, both of which work very well.

Video: 4K UHD video recording in a compact form factor

Speaking of 4K Burst, the LX10 also of course records 4K UHD video. 4K UHD video can be recorded up to 30 fps, and the video quality is impressive. Relying on a contrast detect autofocus system, although fast for stills, poses some problems when recording video as the autofocus has a tendency to hunt during recording. It is also worth noting that when recording 4K UHD video, the camera crops-in and doesn't utilize the full width of the image sensor. The camera also has a 15 minute continuous recording limit when capturing in 4K resolution, primarily due to heat in such a compact camera body. Overall though, 4K UHD video quality is good and a nice feature to have in your pocket.

The LX10 has many features for sub-4K UHD video recording as well. Full HD video can be recorded at up to 120fps, and the LX10 utilizes its 5-axis image stabilization when recording non-4K video (4K video only uses optical I.S.). In addition to stabilized video, the LX10 can also record 1080p video with automatic leveling and 4K Live Cropping, which entails moving a Full HD frame around during 4K video recording, providing the user a lot of flexibility in-camera for framing and cropping. The camera also offers high-speed video, albeit at lower resolutions and with very limited control of settings, focus and zoom during recording.

Overall, while video autofocus leaves a little to be desired, we were impressed not only with the LX10's video quality, but also its wide range of video recording features. It offers a lot for its class.

Build Quality: Sleek and slippery camera body with a nice touchscreen

As a "premium" compact camera, the LX10 should have a good feel in the hands, and we found it to be a comfortable camera to hold and use. The LX10 has a seamless metal body, with the top panel being constructed of the same piece of metal as the front of the camera. This gives the LX10 a sleek look and a robust feel. The body is press-forged, rather than injection molded. While sleek and solid, the LX10 is also a bit slippery, and there is not any sort of grip material on the front of the camera.

On the back of the camera is a very nice 3-inch touchscreen display. The display tilts upward to act as a selfie screen, but does not tilt downward. There is also no electronic viewfinder, a feature found in Sony's more expensive RX100 V compact camera.

Overall, the Panasonic LX10 looks great and feels quite good. It is solidly-built compact camera with numerous features, including its nice touchscreen display and good user interface. The camera does not have many physical controls, but the on-screen Quick Menu works well enough to act as a suitable substitute for many functions that otherwise might have dedicated buttons.

Summary: Panasonic LX10 is a capable, full-featured camera and a great value

The premium 1-inch compact market is a busy one, making it hard for a new entrant to distinguish itself. Panasonic doesn't break much new ground, but it does offer a very fast built-in lens that opens to f/1.4 at the wide end as well as very good 4K video and 4K Photo functionality. The overall user experience proved to be good, and the camera offers a wide array of great features, such as an excellent touchscreen interface and speedy continuous shooting.

12.8mm (35mm equivalent), f/3.5, 1/80s, ISO 320.
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Besides being a very good compact camera, the LX10 is also a great value. You can find the Panasonic LX10 for under US$650 brand-new, which is a very good price. If you're in the market for a premium compact camera, we recommend giving the LX10 a long look, as it is a very strong option.

As a pick for a "Camera of Distinction" trophy in our 2016 Camera of the Year Awards in the Premium Compact category, the Panasonic LX10 definitely earns a spot as a Dave's Pick as well.

Pros & Cons

  • Very good image quality for its class
  • Great low-light performance thanks to the fast lens and good high ISO performance
  • 24-72mm eq. lens has very good optical performance
  • Exceptionally fast f/1.4-2.8 maximum aperture
  • Very fast autofocus
  • Focuses closer than rivals
  • Able to autofocus in extremely low light
  • Low shutter lag
  • Fast ~10fps burst mode (with autofocus locked)
  • Generous JPEG¬†buffer depth
  • Compact, sleek camera body
  • Good touchscreen functionality
  • 4K video capture
  • 4K photo modes
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • In-camera battery charging via USB
  • Good value
  • No viewfinder or EVF
  • No hot shoe
  • Tilting display does not tilt downward
  • Camera has a slippery finish
  • Continuous autofocus performance underwhelms
  • Shallow RAW buffer depth: limited to 13 or 14 frames when shooting RAW
  • Power-up to first shot a bit sluggish
  • Limited telephoto reach
  • Strong uncorrected distortion at wide angle
  • Slightly soft corners at wide angle even stopped down
  • Below average saturation levels
  • Small, weak flash (typical for the class)

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