Panasonic LX100 II Conclusion
Panasonic LX100 II Conclusion
In 2014, Panasonic stepped into the large-sensor, compact camera marketplace with the LX100, a Dave's Pick-winning camera which we lauded for its image quality, performance and ergonomics, even if it wasn't quite as compact as some of its nearest rivals. The Panasonic LX100 II hones the design still further with an overhauled imaging pipeline, a touch-screen, Bluetooth connectivity, in-camera charging support and more, while retaining much the same body design as before.
In many respects, the LX100 II is a fairly modest update, and indeed at first glance it's quite similar to its predecessor on the outside. Its lens and viewfinder are unchanged, and the biggest visual cue to indicate that this is a new model is the reprofiled handgrip on the front deck. But on the inside, the new 17.0-megapixel, Four Thirds image sensor and Venus Engine image processor work together to provide a significant step forwards from its predecessor's already-good image quality.
That improvement isn't restricted just to shots captured at or near its ISO 200 base sensitivity, either. Although the 17.0-megapixel LX100 II crams a lot more pixels onto its sensor than did the earlier 12.8-megapixel LX100, it nevertheless bests its predecessor even once you dial up the sensitivity to shoot in low-light conditions. And if you're a raw shooter, even better results at higher sensitivities can be attained with a little work in the digital darkroom. Nearer to base sensitivity, though, the in-camera JPEG engine is more resistant to moiré than is Adobe Camera Raw, so you may want to stick to JPEGs here.
Performance is ample in most respects, as well. The Panasonic LX100 II does, admittedly, take a little longer to start up than did its predecessor, which was already somewhat sluggish in this area. But once it's ready to shoot, the LX100 II's autofocus system performs noticeably more quickly than did its already-swift predecessor at all focal lengths we tested. And it also matched or outperformed the earlier model for single-shot and burst-capture performance, as well as recharging its bundled flash strobe more quickly. (Unfortunately, it does still penalize the photographer if you press the shutter button before it's ready to capture another frame in single-shot mode.)
That's not to say that the news is all good, however. While battery life when shooting on the LCD monitor is unchanged, viewfinder shooters will likely notice a modest decrease in the number of frames that they can capture on a charge. You'll want to be sure to pick up an extra battery pack or two alongside your LX100 II purchase, if you're planning on extended shooting sessions. And while the addition of in-camera charging is a nice touch that will help you to pack light when traveling, there's no longer a standalone charger in the product package, so you'll want to buy one separately if you want to be able to keep one pack charging while shooting with another.
Nor is this necessarily your best choice if you're more interested in video capture than stills, even though it offers in-camera 4K video recording with pretty good image quality. Its autofocus system shows slight but noticeable contrast-detection hunting in videos, even with relatively static subjects, and the lens' zoom mechanism isn't the smoothest, either. Nor does the LX100 II offer support for external microphones or a headphone jack for levels monitoring, let alone more advanced features like a clean HDMI output for external recorders.
But these are all relatively minor quibbles for a camera which offers great image quality and ample performance in a coat-pocket friendly design. At the end of the day, the Panasonic LX100 II has a lot to offer enthusiast photographers or less-experienced shooters looking for room to grow. Whether you're looking at the LX100 II as a more compact second camera to accompany a DSLR or mirrorless model, or as a much more capable alternative to your smartphone's built-in camera, there's a lot to love here.
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, the LX100 II is another pretty clear Dave's Pick!
Pros & Cons
- Compact enough for a coat or jacket pocket
- Generous selection of physical controls
- Built-in, roomy and high-resolution electronic viewfinder with very good accuracy
- Swift 11 fps continuous shooting with mechanical shutter
- Improved raw buffer depth despite larger files
- 4K Photo mode offers eight-megapixel shots at 30 fps
- Very fast and usually confident autofocus, even in low light, thanks to Depth from Defocus technology
- Low shutter lag
- Bright, compact wide-angle 3.1x zoom lens with decent optical performance for its type
- Very good macro performance
- Very large image sensor for a fixed-lens camera with zoom lens (albeit no aspect ratio actually uses the whole sensor surface)
- Impressive image quality for the size of camera, and a very noticeable step forwards from its predecessor
- Very good high ISO performance and good dynamic range
- Improved JPEG colors
- Raw files offer plenty of latitude for highlight and shadow recovery
- Dedicated aspect ratio control means you'll actually find yourself changing aspect more often (and since there's no "native" sensor aspect, you feel no pixel guilt when changing aspects!)
- Menus are easy to navigate
- High-res touch-screen makes light work of AF point adjustment
- Video image quality is good, especially at lower sensitivities
- Decent battery life for its class, albeit less than its predecessor when using the viewfinder
- Not truly pants pocket-friendly
- Some controls are difficult to locate by touch
- Stiff transition from auto to manual control on aperture dial
- No articulation for LCD
- Field-sequential EVF panel can cause tearing artifacts
- Base sensitivity is higher than rivals
- Relatively short zoom has limited telephoto reach compared to some rivals
- Strong distortion correction reduces resolution at wide angle
- Lens is a bit soft even at the center of the frame when shooting wide-angle at f/1.7
- Soft corners at both wide-angle and telephoto ends even when stopped-down
- Max aperture quickly falls to f/2 by the 27mm position
- No aspect ratio uses the whole sensor surface, so sensor size is Four Thirds in name only
- A bit slow to power on and capture the first shot, or to clear the buffer
- Contrast-detect AF hunting is quite noticeable in video capture, even in good lighting conditions
- Lens doesn't zoom very smoothly, making it less conducive for video
- No built-in flash (but small external flash is included)