Panasonic LX100 Conclusion

Pros & Cons

  • Great ergonomics will appeal to experienced photographers
  • Built-in, roomy and high-resolution electronic viewfinder
  • Very large image sensor for a fixed-lens camera with zoom lens (albeit no aspect ratio actually uses the whole sensor surface).
  • Very fast wide-angle lens with decent optical performance for its type
  • Very good image quality
  • Very high sensitivity and great low-light performance
  • Good macro performance
  • Very fast and usually confident autofocus thanks to Depth from Defocus techology
  • Able to focus in very low light
  • Very good performance in other respects, too: Extremely low shutter lag and fast 11 fps burst, or 6.5 fps with AF between frames
  • Generous buffer depths
  • 1/4,000 top shutter (but only with f/4 or smaller), or 1/16,000 with electronic shutter.
  • Drop the resolution to three megapixels, and electronic shutter allows stunning 40 frames-per-second bursts
  • 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!)
  • Flash syncs at any shutter speed (but only if using mechanical shutter)
  • 4K movie capture is a rare feature in this category
  • Wi-Fi and NFC get photos onto your smartphone or tablet
  • Decent battery life for its class
  • Not truly pants pocket-friendly
  • Relatively low resolution compared to rivals (but that's mostly mitigated in low-light / high ISO shooting)
  • Base sensitivity is higher than rivals
  • No built-in neutral-density filter
  • Relatively short zoom has limited telephoto reach
  • Strong uncorrected distortion at wide angle (but it's corrected automatically when shooting JPEGs or processing raw files)
  • Soft corners at wide angle and telephoto
  • Below-average JPEG hue accuracy
  • Aperture dial is too easily bumped, and can indicate a wider aperture is set than is actually available if zoomed in past 28mm.
  • A bit slow to power on and capture the first shot
  • Viewfinder eyecup isn't generous enough
  • No built-in flash (but has hot shoe, and small, fairly weak strobe in bundle)
  • Rather basic LCD panel can't tilt, isn't touch-sensitive
  • Tripod socket isn't on center axis of lens
  • Petal lens cap is a pricey extra

With the LX100, Panasonic joins an elite club: It's now one of a small handful of manufacturers that can sell you a compact enthusiast camera with both a larger-than-average image sensor and a zoom lens. And believe us when we say that cameras like these are popular for good reason. They offer a really compelling advantage over the camera built into your smartphone, and without the bulk of an interchangeable-lens camera.

But with the LX100, Panasonic has made some very different decisions to those of its rivals, Canon and Sony. Where the Sony RX100-series and Canon G7X are small enough to fit in your pants pocket, the Panasonic LX100 won't. Yet it offers a significantly larger sensor than all of those cameras, helping it to gather more of the light which, after all, photography is all about capturing and preserving. The Canon G1X-series, meanwhile, has an even bigger sensor, but it's also quite a bit larger, pushing the boundaries of what can be considered compact. The middle ground, then, belongs to Panasonic, while its rivals opt for the headline-grabbing extremes.

And so long as you're not dead set on a camera you can slip into a pants pocket, the middle ground turns out to be a very good place to be. With a larger body than the RX100-series and G7X, the Panasonic LX100 has great ergonomics. This is, without question, a very photographer-friendly camera. Save for an aperture dial that's a little too easily-bumped -- and which can, once zoomed in a little, indicate an aperture wider than is actually available to you -- I found little to quibble about in terms of handling. An especially nice touch is the presence of twin dials around the lens barrel, one of which has click detents for aperture control, and the other free-spinning for smooth focus adjustments. It's an altogether more satisfying experience than the single dials of rival cameras.

Once you head out to shoot with the Panasonic LX100, it quickly becomes clear that its beauty is more than skin deep. It shoots swiftly and confidently, turning in a generally excellent performance all around. Seldom did I find myself waiting for the camera, at least once it was powered on. (A slightly slow startup was the one notable exception to the rule, and something we'd love to see addressed.) But after that brief delay, the LX100 focuses quickly and in very low light, and it shoots generously deep, fast image bursts as well. That, in a camera which would easily vanish in a coat pocket, small purse or bag is really quite impressive, as is the availability of 4K movie capture.

And the love story continues once you look at your images. Sure, the sensor resolution is a bit on the low side compared to its rivals, but be that as it may, the Panasonic LX100 offers really great image quality with a good measure of fine detail even at base sensitivity. And once you boost the ISO for low-light shooting, any resolution deficit can quickly be forgotten. Its larger pixels -- a feature allowed both by the lower resolution and larger sensor -- translate to lower noise levels, and cleaner, more attractive images. Where its pocket-friendly rivals have to blur out the fine detail in their quest to combat noise, the Panasonic LX100 can keep hold of more detail and really punch above its weight.

That's not to say it is perfect in every way. We did note soft corners at both wide-angle and telephoto, the former at least in part to the significant amount of distortion correction that's applied automatically when shooting in JPEG mode, or as your raw images are processed. And despite its larger size than its 1"-sensor shod rivals, the Panasonic LX100 also has one of the shorter zoom lenses among its class. This, coupled with the lower sensor resolution, mean it's not a camera you'll be using to bring distant subjects up close and personal. And I did find myself occasionally wishing for a touch-screen on which to select my point of focus, or an articulation mechanism that would let me see the display from an awkward angle.

But frankly speaking, even without these features the Panasonic LX100 is assuredly a very capable camera indeed. If you're the type who always has your camera at hand -- or who typically wears a jacket or carries a small bag in which to slip its compact body -- the Panasonic LX100 is a really great choice. It's a pleasure to shoot with, and gets really great results: A very well-deserved Dave's Pick winner, I'd say!

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