Two years on from the Lumix DMC-LX5, Panasonic refreshes its flagship compact camera series with a class-leading fast Leica lens and 11fps burst mode. Read the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 review...
Build and handling
At a first glance, the Lumix DMC-LX7 appears to be the same size and made to the same high quality as the LX5. Delve a little deeper, however, and there are some key changes to how the LX7 handles.
In a move that will please photographers, an aperture ring has been added to the lens, covering the full aperture range of f/1.4 to f/8 in 1/3EV increments. This control is great for those who frequently shoot in aperture-priority or manual-exposure mode. The ring is manually controlled, although its setting can be electronically overridden. For example, the f/1.4 setting is not available at 90mm, so it is changed to its widest f/2.3 aperture. In this instance, to begin closing the aperture down from f/2.3 requires four clicks down the aperture ring.
As on the LX5, the lens ring on the LX7 also includes aspect ratio and focus modes. With such a prime position on the camera, I found that I switched between aspect ratios more frequently than usual, rather than cropping the frame post-capture.
To protect the lens, a separate lens cap is included. If the lens cap is still attached when starting up the camera, a message appears reminding you to remove it before shooting is possible, although image playback and menu navigation are possible. The message is necessary because the lens extends beyond the lens cap when in shooting mode, but days after I had started using the camera I still found this a regular frustration. Many other compact cameras feature a built-in lens cover that retracts on start up.
Shutter lag is negligible, but the LX7 is not the quickest camera to ready itself for shooting from start-up. From turning the camera on to zooming and then shooting takes a little over 5secs. I prefer the set-up of the Fujifilm X10, which uses its manual zoom lens to start up and zoom, taking less than 2secs from start-up to shooting.
Another addition to the LX7 is ND/Focus control, a press of which in shooting mode employs or removes the ND filter. Given the camera’s maximum 1/4000sec shutter speed, the f/1.4 aperture lets in too much light in bright sunshine so the ND filter is vital. The same applies to the minimum f/8 aperture, which is too fast for long exposures in daylight. Pushing the switch left or right controls manual focusing, which handily activates focus magnification. In playback mode, this switch doubles up with the control dial to scroll between images.
Like its predecessor, the LX7 has a hotshoe with accessory port, which holds the company’s latest DMW-LVF2 electronic viewfinder (EVF) and external flash units. Next to the hotshoe is a stereo microphone, with stereo sound being new to this camera. The pop-up flash is on a very solid spring mechanism and has good clearance from the lens in its elevated position. The usual manual control over the flash is possible, which includes ±2EV adjustment, first and second curtain, plus auto and redeye reduction modes.
Despite using the same 1,250mAh-capacity battery as its predecessor, the measured battery life of the LX7 is 330 shots compared to 400 shots in the LX5. This is most likely due to the LX7’s high-resolution screen. All in all, though, the handling and navigation of the controls, dials and menus (including the quick menu) is intuitive.