Panasonic LX100 II Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly lower than average mean saturation with about 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 II produces images with slightly lower mean saturation levels compared to most cameras when using default settings at base ISO. Mean saturation tested at 108.4% (8.4% oversaturated) at the base ISO of 200. The Lumix LX100 II pushes dark reds and blues a fair bit, orange and dark green moderately, but undersaturates yellow, light green and cyan. 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 II does well, producing natural-looking Caucasian skin tones with a slight push towards pink when Auto white balance is used. (We preferred Auto over Custom white balance for its more pinkish skin tones.) 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 II shifts cyan towards blue (to produce deeper blue skies) and it shifts orange toward yellow and yellow to green, but these shifts are all fairly minor. The LX100 II's mean "delta-C" color error after correction for saturation is 5.13 for JPEGs at the base ISO of 200. That's about average for hue accuracy these days, and a noticeable improvement over its predecessor. 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
Warm color with default Auto and Incandescent white balance settings, but good color balance with the Manual setting. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance (Default)
+0.3 EV
Auto White Balance (Cool)
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was quite warm with the default Auto white balance setting exhibiting a strong orange-yellow cast, and the Incandescent setting was much too warm as well. Colors were a little cool and magenta with the Auto (Cool) white balance option, but results here are actually better than most cameras using Auto white balance. The Manual setting produced the most accurate results, though with a slight yellow-green tint. The Panasonic LX100 II required +0.3 EV exposure compensation here, about average for this scene. (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. Above average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance,
+1.0 EV

In outdoor lighting, the Panasonic LX100 II performed well, with good though slightly cool colors when using Auto white balance. Skin tones are pleasing and realistic, with a healthy-looking push of pinks and reds which is 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, though, few highlights were actually blown in the mannequin's white shirt which is very good, however there are some very deep shadows that are a bit noisy and discolored.

Resolution
~2,400 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
~2,400 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,400 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,400 lines horizontal
ACR converted raw
Strong detail to
~2400 lines vertical
ACR converted raw

In in-camera JPEGs, our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct line patterns to just over 2,400 lines per picture height horizontally and to just under 2,400 lines vertically. Complete extinction of the pattern occurs at around 3,500 lines horizontally and 3,400 lines vertically. We weren't able to extract significantly more resolution by processing the Panasonic LX100 II's matching RW2 file using Adobe Camera Raw, and the ACR conversion shows a lot of false colors/color moiré at the limits of resolution, which are well suppressed in the in-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
Fairly conservative default sharpening with just minor edge-enhancement artifacts around high-contrast subjects. 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 II 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 is well-judged and not too overdone. 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 effects of noise suppression in the form of smudging of individual strands together in the darker areas of the mannequin's hair, as well as in areas with low local contrast. Default noise reductions appears to be a little heavy-handed, but not too bad for Four Thirds sensor, leaving a good amount of detail intact instead of blurring much of it away in an attempt to hide all 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 II 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 RW2 file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 11.4 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 visible 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
Very good high ISO performance for its class.

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 II's images are detailed and clean at ISOs 100 (extended) and 200, with only minor luminance noise and hardly any chrominance noise detectable in the darker areas, though images are a bit soft here in fairly low light. As ISO increases, noise versus detail also increases as expected, but the trade off is gradual and remains quite good until ISO 3200 where we see significant detail loss and more obvious luminance noise. However, noise "grain" is fairly fine and tight and image quality is still pretty good for its class. ISO 6400 shows a more abrupt drop in image quality, with some obvious chroma noise in the shadows as well as artifacts from strong noise reduction, producing mushy details and a somewhat crystalline effect in flat areas. 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, stippled look while exhibiting strong chroma blotching and badly smudged detail. Colors also begin to loss saturation noticeably above ISO 6400.

Overall, though, high ISO performance is pretty good for a Four Thirds sensor and improved over its predecessor despite the smaller photosites. 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 dynamic range
Somewhat high default contrast but with surprisingly good dynamic range.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Panasonic LX100 II 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 still a bit dark at +0.7 EV. Despite the bright appearance at +1.0 EV, there are only a few clipped highlights in the mannequin's white shirt, although the red channel is slightly clipped on the bridge of her nose. 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 II 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 II performed well with the wide dynamic range of this very harshly lit shot without the aid of dynamic range enhancing features (see below).

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.)

In addition to a standard contrast setting (with 11 levels), the Panasonic LX100 II 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 tone curve by +/-5 units. Above are samples using the 4 presets. Mouse over the links to compare thumbnails, and click on them to access the full-res images.


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 II: 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.


HDR Examples
Off

HDR mode
Here, you can see the Panasonic LX100 II's High Dynamic Range mode at work. 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 and +/-2 EV settings produced very similar exposures, while +/-3 dimmed the entire image. Note that ghosting of any moving objects in the frame is something to watch out for when compositing multiple images. Also notice the angle of view is narrower in the HDR images, likely the result of the individual images being slightly 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.) 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.

Unfortunately, DxOMark has not yet tested the LX100 II as of this writing, but we'll try to come back and update this section if and when they do. In the meantime, the site Photons to Photos has tested the LX100 II, and while they found that peak dynamic range improved just slightly over its predecessor's at extended low ISOs, it was significantly improved at ISO 200 and above. Nice! Click here to compare their results.

Bundled Flash and Low-light AF
Good performance from the bundled flash. Excellent low-light AF performance.

Normal Flash,
ISO 200, 1/60s, f/4, +0.7 EV
Normal Flash
Auto ISO (800), 1/60s, f/4, +0.7 EV

Indoors under incandescent background lighting, the Panasonic LX100 Mark II's bundled flash produced a bright exposure of our standard Indoor Portrait scene at ISO 200 with +0.7 EV flash exposure compensation. The typical amount required for this shot is +0.7 EV, so the LX100 II's performance is about average here. When using Auto ISO the camera selected ISO 800 and also produced a good exposure with +0.7 EV flash compensation, though with a much warmer cast from the ambient background lighting.

Low-light AF:
At maximum wide angle, the LX100 II's autofocus system was able to focus unassisted on our low-contrast legacy AF target down to about -6.4 EV, and down to about -8.0 EV on our newer high-contrast target, which is the lower limit of our test. Outstanding results in the lab! Be aware, though, that low-light autofocus won't be as impressive at longer focal lengths, where the lens isn't as bright, though it should still be pretty good given the lens' speed. Note that the Panasonic LX100 II 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.

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.) The LX100 II 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 cameras with phase-detect systems. That said, though, the larger, more sensitive pixels of the LX100 II's sensor do better under dim lighting than do the tiny pixels of most point & shoots.

Output Quality

Print Quality

Excellent 24 x 36-inch prints up to ISO 400; Pleasing 16 x 20-inch prints at ISO 1600; Usable 5 x 7-inch prints all the way up to ISO 12,800.

ISO 100/200 images look practically identical, offering lots of fine detail and rich, vibrant colors. While the LX100 II uses a higher-resolution image sensor, because of its multi aspect ratio design, the highest resolution image file is around 16.8 megapixels. As such, the largest print we're comfortable with is 24 x 36 inches -- a rather impressive size for this sensor type and resolution. A 30 x 40-inch print is simply too large for this sensor, causing more visible pixelation than we are comfortable with -- even for such a large print that would be viewed from a distance. At 24 x 36 inches, you can see a slight bit of pixelation, but detail overall is excellent at this size and sensitivity.

ISO 400 prints also work great up to 24 x 36 inches. Despite the increase in ISO sensitivity, noise is basically nowhere to be seen. Detail is just as sharp and crisp as the lower ISOs. A 20 x 30-inch print here looks excellent.

ISO 800 images, at last, begin to show just a hint of shadow-area noise, but detail overall is barely affected, leading to excellent, large prints up to 20 x 30 inches. Colors are still vibrant, as we'd expect. With careful processing, a 24 x 36-inch print may be doable here, as well.

ISO 1600 prints top-out at a pleasing 16 x 20 inches. We begin to see more apparent noise-related softening as the ISO level rises here. Visible noise and grain are well controlled, however, as noise reduction does its job. We do see some detail loss throughout, but it's still quite minor.

ISO 3200 images definitely show a more noticeable jump in noise and noise-reduction processing effects, and thus a visible softening compared to the previous sensitivity. An 11 x 14-inch print just passes the "okay" mark for our eyes; anything larger and the detail we like to see just isn't there. Also, colors, in general, are still quite good, but there's a slight greenish tint now that we didn't observe at the previous sensitivity.

ISO 6400 prints really start to show effects of noise and noise reduction softening, with noticeable detail loss becoming quite an issue at prints larger than 8 x 10 inches. Nonetheless, an 8 x 10 print at ISO 6400 from a Four Thirds-based camera is quite good! NR processing does a nice job of eliminating distracting noisiness but at the expense of fine detail.

ISO 12,800 images just pass the mark for a usable 5 x 7-inch print. Noise and the effects of NR processing are quite strong now, making images too soft and noisy for usable prints at larger sizes.

ISO 25,600 prints are, unfortunately, too noisy and too devoid of enough sharp detail for us to consider them usable for printmaking. You might get away with prints here if detail isn't critically important, but we don't recommend it.

Overall, the updated Panasonic LX100 II does an excellent job in the print quality department for a Four Thirds-based camera. While it uses a higher-resolution sensor that's technically a 20-megapixel chip, the maximum 4:3 image resolution is around 16.8-megapixels. With those images, we see similar print quality performance to other 16 megapixel-based Four Thirds cameras, such as the E-M10 III. However, we do see improved print sizes for several sensitivities here compared to the original LX100 model. At extended low up to ISO 400, the LX100 II offers excellent prints up to 24 x 36 inches, which pushes the resolution of the sensor, but nonetheless offers detail-rich prints with vibrant colors. As the ISO climbs, the NR processing does a nice job keeping distracting graininess away while retaining a decent amount of detail. At ISO 1600, the camera is capable of 16 x 20-inch prints, and even at ISO 6400, the LX100 II offers a good 8 x 10. At the camera's maximum native ISO of 12,800, you can still get usable prints up to 5 x 7 inches. However, at the expanded ISO 25,600, images are too soft and noisy for our liking and are best avoided for prints.

 

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