Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-LX100 combines a fast zoom lens and a four thirds sensor, in a stylish body with enthusiast-friendly controls and a built-in viewfinder. Andy Westlake finds out whether it lives up to its considerable promise
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 Review – Performance
With its four thirds sensor, the Lumix DMC-LX100 has one of the largest imagers in any current zoom compact. Because larger sensors generally give better quality at any given ISO setting, this means the LX100 produces unusually good images for a camera of this type. I found it produces good-looking JPEG files straight out of the camera at sensitivities up to ISO 1600 at least, with low noise and excellent levels of detail.
Thanks to the exceptionally fast lens and effective image stabilisation, I could keep sensitivities surprisingly low a lot of the time. This is a real advantage, as it means you can use lower ISOs compared to shooting with an SLR and a slow kit zoom, reversing any advantage of a larger sensor.
The lens is a decent performer, although not surprisingly it is a little soft towards the edges at large apertures, so you’ll want to close the aperture down a stop or two when sharpness across the frame is paramount. Its can give intense purple flare in some situations, which could be a concern if you like to shoot into the light.
Colour rendition has not historically been Panasonic’s strong point. However, the LX100 brings something of a change to all that – it renders skies in a richer blue, and brings more natural-looking skin tones. The auto white balance gets things right more often than not, and if it doesn’t, a well-implemented in-camera raw-conversion module lets you produce corrected versions without needing a computer.
The LX100 is a remarkably fast camera in most respects. The one small fly in the ointment, though, is start-up time. I found that the camera takes a second or two to fire up and be ready for shooting. Compounded by a slightly awkward positioning of the power switch, this could possibly result in some missed shots.
Budding movie-makers will be pleased to hear that the LX100’s video quality is excellent, giving exceptionally detailed footage in 4K mode. Indeed, it’s disproportionately better than the camera’s full HD output, meaning you’ll get better 1920×1080 movies by shooting in 4K and downsampling. The specialist 4K Photo mode works well, too, recording at the user-selected aspect ratio, rather than just 16:9, and providing an easy-to-use interface for extracting still images.
In a way, there’s not much to say about the Lumix DMC-LX100’s autofocus system, simply because it works very well indeed. Focusing is fast and silent, and focus tracking on moving subjects works unexpectedly well for a fixed zoom camera, aided by Panasonic’s DFD (depth from defocus) technology. The photographer can move the focus area manually to almost any point in the frame and change its size to match the subject. Overall I found the AF system never gets in the way of shooting.